HC Deb 29 July 1881 vol 264 cc133-77

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(Mr. Gladstone.)


said, he rose to move, as an Amendment to the right hon. Gentleman's Motion, that the Bill be re-committed in the terms of the Notice which he had given with regard to Clause 35. It was hardly necessary that he should do more on that occasion than shortly state the grounds upon which he asked for the re-committal of the Bill. He took that course because he was desirous of inserting in the clause to which he referred a provision to the effect— Provided always, That in case at any time after the expiration of a period of six years from the passing of this Act a Commission shall have been issued by Her Majesty under Her Royal Sign Manual to ascertain and report whether the business of the Land Commission makes it requisite or not requisite that, after the expiration of the said period of seven years from the passing of this Act, there should be, in addition to the Judicial Commissioner, one or two other Commissioners; and, in case that Commission shall report that the business of the Land Commission makes it requisite that there should be, in addition to the Judicial Commissioner, one or two other Commissioners, and that such other Commissioner or Commissioners should be appointed for a period to be stated by such Commission, Her Majesty may, by Warrant under the Royal Sign Manual, from time to time appoint some fit person or fit persons to be such other Commissioner or Commissioners to hold office during the period stated in such Report. If such Commission report that the business of the Land Commission does not require that there should be any Commissioner in addition to the Judicial Commissioner, then upon the expiration of the said period of seven years after the passing of this Act, all the jurisdiction, powers, privileges, and authority by this Act conferred upon the Land Commission shall thereafter be exercisable and enjoyable by the Judicial Commissioner alone. On a former occasion the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had courteously accepted the principle of that Proviso. Under the Bill, as it now stood, the Commission came to an end in seven years, and only the Judicial Commissioner retained office, whereas the powers conferred by the Bill would require to be administered by more than one Commissioner. Application, consequently, would have to be made to Parliament to wind up the Commission, or to transfer the powers to the one Commissioner left, or, again, to appoint other Commissioners at the end of seven years to carry out the duties under the Act. Such a state of things would lessen the weight that would be attached to the decisions of the Commission. He thought there could be no doubt, after the discussions in this House and the additions made to the Bill, that that Commission would not come to an end in seven years, and that important interests would remain to be performed by the Land Commission—duties which would probably require the attention—and the undivided attention—of more than one important officer. He ventured to think that in. matters of this kind legislation should not be enacted more often than was necessary. He thought that if legislation on this subject was not again rendered necessary at the expiration of seven years, the duties sought to be imposed on the Royal Commission would be discharged by that Commission with greater advantage to the public, with greater security, more perfect impartiality, and more satisfactory results, than if, at the end of that time, they had to resort to Parliament to determine whether there was sufficient work for one or two Commissioners besides the one Judicial Commissioner, who would remain under the Act, or whether it should be performed by one Judicial Commissioner alone. His object in asking the House to accept this proposal was to secure stability, and also permanence, for the work sought to be accomplished; for it was highly desirable that there should be the utmost stability in all the machinery of the Commission, and that the decisions of the Court should be respected. It appeared to him that if the Court came to an end within seven years, there might be an agitation in the country and discussions arise in Parliament which it would be most desirable to avoid, and therefore it was that he now moved the re-committal of the Bill, so far as the 35th clause was concerned.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the words "Bill be" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "re-committed, with respect to Clause 35,"—(Mr. William Henry Smith,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, that on a former day the Government, perhaps unconsciously influenced by a desire to reach the conclusion of the Bill, and on that account having satisfied themselves with a less minute examination of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman than, perhaps, ought to have been made, expressed themselves favourable to a proposition of this kind; but on a closer examination of the matter they had arrived at the conclusion that there was a flaw or defect in the plan which would prevent them from giving their assent to it as it stood. The machinery of the Royal Commission would be put in operation under the clause, and the Commission might report in favour of the prolongation or renewal of the functions of one or more of the lay Commissioners. In that case, the arrangements would be made complete without any reference to Parliament; and he did not know of any reason why they should withhold their assent to such an arrangement, or why they did not make provision for it. But there was another alternative open. It was that there would be no occasion for the re-appointment of either one or two lay Commissioners, and in that case the plan of the right hon. Gentleman provided that the business of the Land Commission should be handed over entirely to the Judicial Commissioner. There was involved in that proposal a principle of great importance, and one to which the Government would not ask Parliament to give its sanction—namely, that the final appeal in those cases should be confided to the single hands of the Judicial Commissioner. But it might be said—"Strike out that portion of the proposal and retain the rest." If, however, they were to do that, then the proposal became entirely incomplete, because it might happen that after having authorized the Government to put into operation the rather cumbrous machinery of a Royal Commission, it would still be necessary to make application to Parliament, in order to provide some assistance to this Commission in the exercise of its important jurisdiction. Well, certainly the Government could not agree to a proposal for additional machinery at a distant period, unless it were a complete and satisfactory proposal. As it stood it would be unsatisfactory on a very important point, and to strike out part of it would make it incomplete. Therefore, the Government were not prepared to adopt the proposal on either view. He agreed with the observation of the right hon. Gentleman that Parliament was, and probably would continue to be, amply charged with Business, and therefore that it was a good thing if they could dispose at once of something which might otherwise remain and occupy time, and give trouble upon a future occasion. He could not say that he embraced the whole of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman on the subject, for he seemed to anticipate that it would become necessary, probably at the close of five or six years from this time, to adjust the powers of the Commission. That certainly would be a very formidable affair in Parliament, and would renew all the discussions on the matter. The Government did not take that view. On the contrary, having faith in the provisions of their Bill and in the good sense of the people, they thought that as a matter of business the question would be disposed of without a great amount of trouble. On the grounds he had stated, the Government could not assent to the re-committal of the Bill.


said, the Prime Minister stated that, in the favourable language he employed a few nights ago, he was influenced unconsciously by the consideration of getting on with the Bill. He was afraid the Government had been unconsciously influenced by a good many considerations during the progress of the Bill in Committee. He did not know what the unconscious influence might be at the present moment; but he must say the objections raised to the right hon. Gentleman's proposal were not very formidable, and he should have thought that the Government might still have considered it possible to adopt the suggestion, and allow this question to be at least discussed. They would, he thought, act wisely to go into Committee, and see whether this clause would be adapted to the circumstances of the case. The Prime Minister admitted that it would be highly desirable at the expiration of seven years to renew the appointment of these Commissioners, and that the clause suggested would meet that difficulty; but the Government were now going to make it imperative on the Government of the day to bring in a Bill on the subject. The House, he thought, must be aware that when a Bill was brought in on such an interesting and important subject there was a tendency on the part of the House to enlarge the scope of the discussion. It seemed to him that the course proposed by his right hon. Friend was wiser than that contemplated by the Government.


said, he did not think it wise to occupy time now in an endeavour to save the time of the House seven years hence, because it was manifest that if the labours of the Land Commission were consummated, no Ministry in power seven years hence would have the slightest trouble in dealing with the question. He believed before three years were over they would have to legislate on this question of a Royal Commission. The business of settling rents would be complete, and the Commissioners would have nothing to do but to carry on the process of purchasing estates from landlords and re-selling them to tenants, and it would probably strike Parliament that it was unnecessary to keep up this large machinery for doing what would become a very small matter. Why postpone for seven years what probably they should be bound to do in two or three years? This Commission might be amalgamated with, some other Commission before seven years were over. He hoped the third reading of the measure would be allowed to be proceeded with.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


who had given Notice of his intention to move the following Amendment:— That the Land Law (Ireland) Bill as originally introduced and as amended in Committee, is the result of a revolutionary agitation, encourages the repudiation of contracts and liabilities, offends against individual liberty, is calculated to diminish the security of property, will not contribute to the peace or prosperity of Ireland, and tends to endanger the union, between that Country and Great Britain; said, he was sorry the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) had not taken the course which was usual when a Motion did not meet with any amount of support—namely, to withdraw it, because in that case he (Lord Randolph Churchill) could have moved his Amendment. He could congratulate the House on having at last escaped from the discussion of the intricate and complicated details of the Land Bill, and on being in a position to take a comprehensive view of the i measure before it went to "another] place." Having watched the progress of the Bill through Committee with as much care and attention as was in his power, and having offered no remarks on the second reading, he would now ask the attention of the House while he communicated to them some of the results of his observations, and made a few valedictory comments on the measure. They had been told in all the Radical newspapers, and as far as he could make out by every Radical orator, that this Bill was the greatest measure which was ever submitted to Parliament, and that its contents and its career were subjects of legitimate pride and delight to the Liberal Party, to the Liberal Government, and, beyond all, to the Prime Minister. He did not think he was exactly in a position to give complete assent to that. He might with confidence lay it down that before any mea- sure could be said to be a subject of legitimate pride to those officially connected with it, it must fulfil one of three conditions—it must be the original design of its author, represent the ratification of a great principle for which its author had long and constantly contended, or, in default of these two conditions, it must be the sure and certain means of great benefit to those who would be affected by it. He would just glance at the Bill from those three points of view. Was this Bill the original design of the Government? Was there anything in it from beginning to end of which the Government could be said to be the inventors and patentees? The Government would be doing very great injustice to certain parties in the House, and be acting in an unworthy manner, if they made such a claim. They now knew, from the indiscreet revelations of the Duke of Argyll, that when the present Government succeeded to Office the idea of an Irish Land Bill had never entered their heads. Either the force of circumstances or their own evil destiny compelled them, or as they thought compelled them, to deal with the Irish Land Question. Searching about for a programme, which they were unable to draw up themselves, they lighted upon and adopted the programme of the Irish Land League, and they determined to enable the Irish Land League to fulfil its promises and to justify its existence to the Irish people by conferring on them the benefit of the "three F's." This much was certain, that if there had been no Land League there would have been no Land Bill; and if the Liberal Government had not adopted the programme of the Land League, the Land League would not have allowed the Government to pass any Bill into law at all. The Irish people knew perfectly well to whom they might ascribe that Bill. They knew that its author was not the Prime Minister, the Member for Mid Lothian, but was the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). At every public meeting in Ireland resolutions were passed to that effect. At no meeting in Ireland worthy the name of a public meeting had any resolution been passed giving the Government the smallest credit for the Bill. He must, however, notice that one unfortunate individual whom the Chief Secretary for Ireland had let out of prison did preside at a meeting in that country, and passed a vote of thanks to the Chief Secretary. That was the only public meeting held in Ireland at which the merits of the Government had been recognized. And when the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) told the Prime Minister the other day that the Irish people owed him no gratitude for this measure—[Mr. HEALY: I did not say anything of the kind.]—when the hon. Member said that, he spoke the mature and intelligent conviction of the Irish people. He (Lord Randolph Churchill) could not help thinking that when the Prime Minister witnessed the reception of his Bill in Ireland, and the comments which were there made upon it, he would be heard sadly to say, Hos ego versiculos feci, tulit altir honores. He did not wish to dishearten the Government, nor to infuse too much melancholy into their noble minds. There was one measure which, no doubt, they might console themselves with claiming as their own—he alluded to their Coercion Bill. But while the Prime Minister and his Colleagues could never hope to have their names coupled in Ireland with that Land Bill, they would be eternally identified with the suspension of liberty and Constitutional rights. When the Bill was first brought in by the Prime Minister it embodied, in a more or less imperfect form, the doctrine of the "three F's," which was the programme of the Land League and its sine quâ non. The Representatives of the Land League in the House on that occasion, and on the second reading, expressed great dissatisfaction with the Bill on three chief points. They denounced the Emigration Clause, they blamed the Bill because it contained no provision with respect to existing leases, and they also found fault with it because it did not make any arrangement with regard to arrears of rent. What had happened? The Emigration Clause had been struck out. ["No!"] The hon. Member was severely accurate. It had not been struck out, but it had been reduced to an absolute nullity—a perfect farce; and it was impossible that emigration could take place worthy the name of emigration under that clause. On the other two points the Prime Minister had more than met the Irish view. He did not expect him to admit it; that would spoil the game; but he had no hesitation in saying that the Prime Minister had gone beyond their highest hopes, because, after that Bill became law, every lease in Ireland would be promptly reviewed by a Court of Justice in that country, and, if necessary, quashed. Further, all tenants in Ireland who at the present moment were enjoying fair and reasonable leases would, at the termination of those leases, though it might be 60 years hence, be placed in the same position as if they had never had a fair and reasonable lease at all. And with respect to arrears of rent, tenants up to a certain figure who had been wise enough to refuse to pay their rents were to have them liquidated by the taxpayers of Great Britain, and those who had been foolish enough to pay their rents were left to curse their stupidity and to vow that they would never be so caught again. He said, then, let him who deserved the laurel wear it. He felt it his duty to offer his congratulations to the hon. Member for the City of Cork on the magnificent results which he had achieved, although supported by only a small fraction of the House. He wished that the hon. Member would communicate to him the secret of his success, and he would further remind him of the views which the Prime Minister had sketched with respect to town property and absentee landlords. With that vista of splendid possibilities before him, he could congratulate the hon. Member for the City of Cork on the extended field of usefulness which remained for him as long as the Prime Minister continued in Office. All the merit which the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary for Ireland could claim in the matter was that by their Disturbance Bill of last year, and the violent language which the latter had used against the House of Lords, they had given the signal which had invited the hon. Member for the City of Cork and Mr. Michael Davitt to commence their winter crusade. Could the Government, then, make out that that Bill affirmed or sanctioned the principles for which they had long contended? In the speeches which the Prime Minister delivered in 1870, he elaborately and painfully argued against and controverted every leading provision in the present Bill. To destroy the theory of the "three F's," to cut the ground from under the feet of its advo- cates, was then the right hon. Gentleman's great object, which it must be admitted he attained as completely as any man ever attained any object in Parliament before. From the year 1870 to the year 1880 the Prime Minister and his leading Colleagues sustained the battle against the "three F's" and against the Bill of Mr. Butt, which embodied the "three F's; "and the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India and the Attorney General for Ireland rose to heights of Parliamentary eloquence and argument on that subject as high as it was possible for those two individuals to reach. They were invariably supported by the whole of their Colleagues, and by a united Liberal Party. Moreover, in all the great speeches made by the Prime Minister before the late Election, and which must be deemed to have exercised a controlling power over the issues of that Election, they found no shadow of a trace that the justice of the "three F's "had dawned on his mind. If that right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues were to abandon the principles of Free Trade and raise the flag of Protection, they could not undergo a greater or more sudden and startling conversion than they had undergone in regard to the Land Question in Ireland. During the whole course of the recent protracted debate, neither the Prime Minister nor his Colleagues had attempted to disguise that conversion or to escape from the embarrassment of their former declarations. It was a melancholy fact, which must fill anyone who reflected on these matters with gloomy forbodings. Recollecting, as he did, the great political apostacies which had surprised and shocked even his contemporaries, he was tempted to ask in despair whether it was to be the inevitable lot of public men to be compelled at intervals, and at short intervals, to repudiate in a humiliating manner the creeds by which they had formerly sworn to abide. Would the Bill produce any benefit to Ireland commensurate in any way with the time and labour Parliament had devoted to it? No doubt, it was a wise maxim not to prophesy unless you knew, and he did not intend to depart from it. ["Oh!"] He hoped the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Dodds), would not interrupt him, although he knew it would be a great demand to make on that hon. Member. The Bill was the result of agitation. That was not of itself against the Bill; but what an agitation it had been! It had been an agitation to transfer property by force from one class to another; to bring the landlords on their knees, by fair means or by foul, had long been the undisguised object of the Land League. The agitation had been furthered by speeches of a kind rarely made before, even in the history of Ireland, and that agitation had reduced the Government of Ireland to impotence, an impotence in which they were still grovelling. It had been accompanied by incidents of a kind permanently to disgrace our boasted civilization. It had been assisted, whether intentionally or not he would not say, by crimes of a frightful nature against men, women, dumb animals, and property. It had enabled terrorism, such as Ireland had been mercifully preserved from for generations, to stalk unhindered through the land. It had been acknowledged by more than one Irish speaker that it had reduced society in Ireland to chaos, that it had put an end to mutuul trust between individuals, and that it had stifled for a time the feelings of kindness, charity, and inter-dependence which ought to exist between man and man in a well-governed State. That was a terrible parent for a message of peace; and, looking at the matter in the most superficial way, he doubted whether anyone would place much confidence in the child of such a father. What, after all, was the principle established by this Bill? It was not the adjustment of rents, nor the perpetuity of tenure, but it was simply that agitation, be it audacious and unscrupulous enough, constant, and pertinacious, would suffice for the destruction of almost any of the institutions of this country. Parliament, acting on the advice of the Government, and following their lead, had invited the Irish tenant farmers to endeavour to set aside contracts which, for all we knew, were fair and reasonable. Parliament had consented to liquidate the liabilities of these men, some of whom we knew were perfectly able to discharge them, and who had merely taken advantage of the prevailing disorder to fly in the face of honesty. They had deprived the few for the benefit of the many of privileges and property which could be easily ap- preciated, and they had, at the same time, denied the claim of the smaller to compensation. They were withdrawing and alienating from Ireland those who were devoted to our rule, and who, moreover, were the only channels through which a higher civilization, a more advanced prosperity, and a nobler morality could descend upon the masses of the Irish nation. A profound thinker, for whom the Prime Minister had great respect, Sir George C. Lewis, many years ago wrote a passage which confirmed this view. He said that in Ireland improvement and civilization must descend from above; they would not rise spontaneously from the inward workings of the community. And what were the objects of this Bill? They were two—one of a temporary, and the other of a permanent character. To buy out the Irish landlord was the great object of the Bill. They had been told on authority that the first part of the Bill, complicated as it was, was only a modus vivendi, to last until the desirable result of buying him out should be accomplished. The other day the Prime Minister said he hoped in six years' time to have bought out £10,000,000 worth of Irish landlords. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Nothing of the sort.] Notwithstanding that contradiction, he adhered to the statement; but he was of opinion that it was a very low and modest estimate to make. Unless the circumstances of Ireland were greatly altered, and if the Land League were permitted to control the destinies of Ireland, it would not be £10,000,000, but it would be £40,000,000 or £50,000,000 worth of landlords who would have to be bought out. Surely, no State ever before took upon itself such a curious task. Who were the Irish landlords? They had lately been designated as the English garrison. He quite admitted that the times were not ripe for English garrisons. The Irish landlords were those who, for many generations, in spite of the greatest trials, had manfully upheld the Union in the midst of a population for the most part hostile to it. For the State to spend its substance in buying out its friends in order to deliver over Ireland into the grasp of its enemies was surely an act of folly of which it might have been thought not even a Radical Government could have been capable. If we recognized the uses of a land-owning class in a country, should we take steps to preserve them, or kill them by inches and cruelly drive them out? The Prime Minister admitted that in 1870 he made an enormous confiscation of the property of Irish landlords; but in 1881 he had gone further and deprived the Irish landlords of every right and every privilege appertaining to the ownership of land, except the right of collecting rent. Nothing else was left to the landlord if this Bill passed. And what security could be given that the liability would be discharged by Irish tenants? He assumed that the Commission would be independent of the Executive Government, and that it would be a Court of Justice. Suppose it found the great majority of rents were fair rents in the sense of the Bill, and imposed these rents for a term of years on the tenants, what guarantee could be offered that the decisions of the Court would be obeyed? If they were not obeyed, would they be enforced? What sign was there of returning peace and order in Ireland now that the Bill was all but law? Had not Crown counsel recently demanded the adjournment of Assizes and the postponement of trial on the ground that the trial was an abortive mockery? He unhesitatingly said that there was no precedence for such an Act in the whole history of the Irish Government. Did they dream that the addition of the Royal Assent to the sanction already given by Parliament to the measure would bestow upon it a Divine energy, which at present it did not possess? He further asked, had the landlords of Ireland any guarantee that the Legislature had now taken from them all that it meant to take, and that what remained to them of their property would not in another year or so be sacrificed? Would the Prime Minister be prepared to enter into a solemn pledge in the face of the House, and with the concurrence of the Parliament of England—a pledge of such a solemn nature that it must bind future Parliaments—that at any rate what was left to the Irish landlords should be absolutely secured to them and impregnably fortified? In such a state of things as now existed he did not see how any capital could be imported into Ireland, and in the absence of capital the resources of the country must languish and wither away. How could they have any guarantee that the law of the land would be respected? Let them not talk about the majesty of the law, for since the present Government came into power the majesty of the law had been as defunct as were the mummies of Ramesis and Pharaoh. He feared very much the effect of the Bill on the quick-witted Irish people, and believed that it would be to the Union what the wooden horse was to the city of Troy. It contained within it all the elements of destruction to States. In it and by it, plunder, rapacity, dishorn sty, agitation, mob-law, all received the final and solemn sanction of Parliament. Originally designed by the Land League, their mortal foe, it had been joyfully captured by the Government and incorporated in the machinery of State. And they were told that if the door of the law was not wide enough to admit the measure, the bulwarks of the Constitution would be levelled and every obstacle swept away. Furthermore, if anything was required to make the analogy complete, all hon. Members who from time to time took part in those prolonged debates and proclaimed their suspicion of the monster had been seized, and enfolded, and strangled, like so many Laocoons, in the multitudinous folds of the Prime Minister's endless eloquence, and had been denounced with increasing vehemence in speech after speech, as men, since the days of the Laocoon, had never been denounced before. Well, this great Bill was not yet in the citadel. It had still a course to travel before it received the Royal Assent; and if in its course it happened to be wrecked, he doubted whether it would have many mourners in this country. But if in the following conflict, which he had no doubt the Prime Minister would immediately precipitate, any institutions succumbed, holding, as he sincerely did, the views of the measure which he held, he still said that institutions, however ancient and respected, which in the hour of trial were not capable of protecting the country from imminent peril were, perhaps, hardly institutions in which they ought to repose very great confidence. He greatly regretted that he was unable to submit his Amendment to the House. He believed the principle of that Amendment was recognized by the oracle of the Tory Party; but the political wisdom which was sup- posed popularly to attach to the prefix of "right hon." decided that the Amendment was inopportune. Well, it was not his business to speculate upon what was opportune or inopportune. It was enough for him that the assertions made in the Amendment were incontrovertible. The Bill, it said, was the result of agitation—a revolutionary agitation. It was revolutionary, because it had been enthusiastically propounded that the Bill which it precipitated was the first rung in the ladder leading to the Olympus of Irish Independence. The Amendment further stated that the Bill encouraged the repudiation of contract and liabilities, offended against individual liberty, and was calculated to diminish the security of property. Whether it would conduce to the peace or prosperity of Ireland, or tend to endanger the Union between that country and Great Britain, he was quite content to leave to time to show. The Prime Minister, in introducing the Bill, said that it was inspired by the Divine light of justice. Well, the opposition to the Bill, of which he did not think the Prime Minister would make any complaint either as having been unfair or unduly obstinate, had been conducted by a brighter light than that of justice—namely, the light of freedom; that freedom which the Coercion Bills and the Land Bill of the Liberal Party had altogether blotted out of Irish life.


said, there was a Latin proverb which urged that it was not for the eagle to catch flies. He trusted that, in the spirit of the proverb, the Head of Her Majesty's Government would not condescend to reply to the speech which had just been delivered by the noble Lord, but would leave to men of humbler position and of less ability than his own the task of making such criticisms upon it as they thought the occasion required. He confessed that, coming rather late into the House, he was, and he remained under the impression, that the noble Lord was about to move his Amendment. It appeared, however, that that was not so, and he could only say that the speech was strongly and strikingly appropriate to the Amendment. It was, in fact, a speech conceived with a view of bringing that Amendment before the House had not the wisdom which, as the noble Lord said, was supposed to attach to the prefix "right hon." prevented him asking the judgment of the House upon it. They should, therefore, take the speech as a speech, and meet it as best they could; and he was pursuaded he was only expressing the general sense of the House on both sides and in all quarters—except, perhaps, in that exalted spot where the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) kept watch and ward over the Constitution—when he said that there was one common feeling to which he only gave very feeble expression—namely, one of very great regret that this great legislative performance of the Session should be allowed, at its close, to degenerate into a farce—he used the word advisedly; for, giving the noble Lord credit, as they all did, for abundant common sense, they could not think that in delivering that speech he was actuated by serious motives. It was out of all belief that his speech could commend itself to the moral feelings or the intellectual palate of the House. He doubted whether the speech commended itself to those hon. Gentlemen with whom the noble Lord habitually acted. Even the Members for Ireland with whom the noble Lord indulged in many passages of harmless coquetry—even they seemed tired of his humour. With regard to the effect which the noble Lord expected his speech to produce on the right hon. Gentleman who led the Opposition, it was quite superfluous to speculate; for they all knew that in the noble Lord's relations with the titular heads of his Party was reproduced, in a political form, the history of Eli and his sons. Injudicious indulgence in the days of early youth had produced in the noble Lord in later life an impatience of all control, and a determination to take the bit between the teeth, which might involve the right hon. Gentleman who stood politically in the parental relation to the noble Lord in consequences hardly less disastrous than those which devolved upon the venerable hero of the sacred story. He thought, therefore, that in thus figuring before the House of Commons at this stage of the Bill the noble Lord must have been gratifying merely his own taste for genteel comedy and light farce. Even his political enemies on this side of the House would abundantly allow that the noble Lord was a first-rate actor of third-rate parts. The noble Lord, however, alas! played habitually to the pit and gallery; he meant to say that in his performances throughout this Session they had never detected an appeal to the higher political sense of the House. What they had seen had led to the belief that the noble Lord was, perhaps, after all, wise in his generation, and was preparing himself for an emergency which might come. He was possibly looking to a time—looming in the distance—when, with a re-distribution of seats, the very few sheep of Woodstock would be left without a shepherd. It was against such a dismal day of retribution that the noble Lord was preparing himself, and making friends of the Mammon of unrighteousness in some larger and more turbulent constituency; so that when his friends of Woodstock, in a Parliamentary sense, failed, he might be received, if not into everlasting, at all events, into more enduring habitations. The effort of the noble Lord against a Bill carried through with such unexampled talent and perseverance, which had received the overwhelming assent of immense majorities of the House, was ludicrous, and he had almost said impertinent. It gained neither in decency nor in acceptability when it emanated from the Leader of a Party which in its corporate capacity was appropriately sketched in one of those inspired sentences of the late Lord Beaconsfield, in one of his earlier novels, when he spoke of "a contemptible clique which dined together and called itself a political party."


said, he believed the interests of the tenants would be placed in a more precarious position than before by the action of this Bill. It was the thin end of a wedge which was intended to be driven into the heart of England and Scotland. He was in favour of reforming the Irish landlords if it could be proved that they injured Ireland; but in reference to this Bill he thought the landlords had as much justice on their side as the agitators. As to conciliating Ireland, he believed the measure would be a total failure. The loyal Irish needed no conciliation, while the disloyal would only be conciliated by the total separation of Ireland from England.


(after a pause) said: I waited until you rose, Sir, to put the Question, in order that I might be certain, negatively at least, that there was no intention on the part of the Leaders of the opposite Party to enter into this debate. There is nothing that will fall from me, so far as I am aware, that will give them occasion to change that intention. I take this opportunity of saying that, so far as regards themselves, the bulk of the Party who act with them, although, of course, it is matter of serious lamentation to us that a large body of Members of the House of Commons, and many distinguished Members, decline to recognize the necessity of the provisions that we have proposed, yet, as to the mode of their opposition, I am bound to say of them, and of the bulk of their followers, that I do not think we have any reason to complain. There are one or two more or less eccentric and outlying individuals for whose actions they cannot be responsible, and it is not necessary for me to enter into criticisms upon conduct altogether exceptional. I have another duty to perform, and that is to return my thanks to the supporters of this measure. I am thankful to reflect that when I speak of supporters I am able to include a limited though very important portion of the Party opposite. The Gentlemen representing Ireland as Conservative Members have, in most instances, felt it their duty to give a steady support to all the leading provisions of this Bill. I am informed that out of 103 Members representing Ireland in the division on the second reading of the Bill scarcely more than seven Members took part in the division against the Bill. In the division against the 1st clause, which in its permanent operation may be found to be the most important in the Bill, four Irish Members voted only against the clause, and two of these were Gentlemen who undoubtedly voted against it because they thought that it did not confer new liberty, but limited liberty already existing; so that of the 103 Members sent by Ireland to represent her interests in Parliament only two felt it to be their duty to vote against this most important and fundamental clause. On the 7th clause—the other great pillar, if I may so speak of the Bill, and the one which in the present exigency; has excited the greatest interest—not more than six Irish Members recorded their judgment against it. I think that every dispassionate man, re- viewing the course of these discussions, whatever may be his own personal leanings and convictions, must feel that, if we be indeed a representative Assembly, this division of Irish opinion, which scarcely amounts to a division—which leaves us at liberty almost to declare it a moral unanimity of opinion—cannot, in view of the interests of the country, be considered less than a most significant and gratifying fact. Passing from that, I desire to return my respectful acknowledgments to those other than Irish Members on the opposite side of the House to whom we owe much of the steady, patient labour, and generous and encouraging support that have enabled us to bring this Bill to its third reading. I desire to make these acknowledgments, first of all, again to the numerous and well-instructed Representatives from Ireland who have so considerately made their own proposals, and so loyally and so generously helped ours; and secondly, to that mass of Members who, reckoned by the hundred, and well entitled by their knowledge and intelligence to enter into the discussions on this Bill, have yet refrained upon almost every occasion from entering into those discussions, lest unawares they should multiply the physical obstacles to its passing, and thereby prevent the attainment of the object in view. My hon. Friend (Mr. George Russell), who spoke with much ability from this side of the House, advised that I should not offer any reply to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill). I had no intention of offering to that speech any detailed reply, nor of entering into any detailed discussion of the Amendment of which the noble Lord has given Notice. The terms of that Amendment, in fact, enable me to deal with it, from my point of view, in a very convenient and summary manner. It contains six propositions, some of them negative and some of them affirmative, and my humble method of dealing with those propositions is to take all the negative propositions and to convert them into affirmative propositions, and all the affirmative propositions and convert them into negative propositions. By this most expeditious process I find that the noble Lord's Amendment, so modified, becomes an adequate and. satisfactory exposition of my own views on this sub- ject. The speech, however, of the noble Lord does not admit of being dealt with quite so briefly. That speech is a representative speech—it is eminently representative of the opinions and ideas of the noble Lord. It abounded in declamatory invective, of a large portion of which I had the honour and the distinction of being the subject. There are in creation small animals whose office it is to bite, and who are able to produce a sense of irritation on the part of the person bitten. There are also other small animals whose office it is to bite, but whose victim is left unconscious that he has been actually bitten. I must say that, so far as comparisons can be made, the effect of the speech of the noble Lord reminds me of the second rather than the first class of these small animals. Now, one counsel I venture to give to the noble Lord, and that is to keep himself to rhetoric, of which he is, at his time of life, no inconsiderable master; but, above all things, to eschew dealing with facts, for I listened carefully to everything in his speech that purported to be a statement of fact, and I believe I am literally accurate when I say that there was not one of them which would be sustained in their accuracy—from the first which alleged that the "three F's" were the plan and scheme of the Irish Land League, to those later ones, of which two there were concerning myself, the first of which I took exception to when it was uttered, and the second of which was that I had a few nights ago confessed that the Act of 1870 perpetrated an enormous act of confiscation; and, therefore, Sir, I beg humbly to decline being bound by any one of the statements of facts made in the speech of the noble Lord. I would again counsel the noble Lord to keep to rhetoric. If he does that I have no doubt he will do extremely well, for rhetoric and declamation are arts in which it is not difficult to excel, provided you relieve yourself from the fetters and hindrances which are imposed upon some men's speech by a slavish adherence on their part to accuracy of fact. I will not speak of the originality of this measure, nor will I speak of my own consistency, in regard to which I have said on former occasions what appeared to be necessary. I should be doing what would be inexcusable at this stage of the Bill were I to waste the time of the House by making a long speech. There is, however, one point to which I should wish to bring the mind of the House for a moment, and I will do so in as few sentences as possible. It is alleged in the Amendment of the noble Lord that the measure has been the product of revolutionary agitation. I have never disguised from this House that it is, in my opinion, a most grave and serious matter to bring into a Court of Justice for alteration and re-consideration private contracts entered into by private individuals, and I am prepared fully to admit that the institution of a Court for such an object is an exceptional and an extreme proceeding. I, however, entirely deny that the other main provisions of this Bill are open to the same objection. With regard to the provisions for the extension of the tenant right and for the prevention of the too frequent augmentation of rent, there is nothing extreme or exceptional in the Bill. I presume, therefore, that it is to the institution of the Court for the purpose of fixing the rent that the noble Lord refers when he says that the provisions of the measure are the result of revolutionary agitation. But how was it that the necessity for the institution of such a Court was made evident? It was made evident, if anywhere, by the Report of the Richmond Commission, which was concurred in not only by the Liberal minority, but by the Conservative majority, who, in a special sense, represented the landed interest in Ireland, and who felt it to be their duty to recommend that there should be legislative interference to check the undue augmentation of rent. That recommendation is the foundation of the provision that we have introduced into this Bill. Does the noble Lord think, when the representatives of the landed interest found it necessary to go to such a length in the recommendations they made, that even if it had been our disposition to have stopped short of that recommendation, it would have been possible for us to do so? I am quite sure his intelligence will make him perceive that the very moment that recommendation went forth from such a source it became absolutely certain—which I do not think Gentlemen opposite will deny—that any measure which was to have a chance of dealing with the question of land in Ireland must contain, within whatever limitations, provisions giving discretion to the Court with respect to contracts. That recommendation we have dealt with, I believe, in the spirit of moderation, and we have certainly attached limitations to the provisions in which we seek to give effect to it. In the recommendation itself there were no words which conveyed an idea that it was intended that the application of that principle should be other than universal and perpetual. The Bill, as it stands, however, provides that the application of that principle need not be universal or perpetual. No holding in Ireland will come within the jurisdiction of the Court except by the act of either the landlord or the tenant. We have provided that it need not be perpetual, because there are various contingencies contemplated by the Bill under which the tenants in Ireland now invested with power to go into Court may come to be divested of that power; and therefore it remains that Parliament, in its consideration of this most important recommendation, has not accepted it in a spirit of reckless vehemence, but rather, while leaving it in all the force which seems necessary to meet the emergency of the case, has made provision to keep within the limits of that necessity the action of a principle which we deem and admit to be exceptional. Then, again, there was the difficult subject of fair rent which we had to deal with. I think that it does some honour to the House of Commons—and, certainly, the compliment I feel bound to pay the House in this respect falls with full force upon hon. Members opposite—that it should have entered largely into a discussion of this subject, and should have been able finally to arrive at a conclusion in reference to it without having exhibited sharp and painful differences of opinion with reference to it. In using the term "fair rent," I believe that we have secured a rent that will really be fair to all parties. I believe that we have acted wisely in having disembarrassed ourselves of the difficulty of attempting to guide the Court in arriving at a conclusion as to what a fair rent should be, and in leaving the whole matter to the discretion of the Court. We have been able to take that course safely for two reasons. The first is this, that in Ireland the forming of an estimation of fair rent is already a matter known to the usage of the country and its Courts. In Ulster and out of Ulster, since the Land Act there have been various forms of proceedings before the Courts, which have indirectly, but substantially and effectually, raised the question of fair rent. That being so, and it having been found practicable by the Courts to handle that difficult question without dissatisfaction or palpable injustice to either party, I believe we have done wisely to leave the matter in their hands; because any efforts of ours to guide them, imperfect as they must have been, would only have tended, in all likelihood, to induce confusion rather than to facilitate the working of the Bill. But there was another reason why it was well, as I think, that we should not attempt to define scrupulously a fair rent, and it was this—that, happily, in Ireland a fair rent in many cases—I do not now enter into the question whether in the majority of cases or not—but in many, in very many cases, a fair rent is a thing perfectly well known and understood by practical experience. There is no district in Ireland in which fair rents are not known, in which the thing meant by a fair rent is not practically and popularly understood. That being so, we have deemed it better rather to rely upon the traditions of the Court, and upon the knowledge current and recognized in the country, than to attempt difficult, not to say impossible, definitions. I am very glad, if I understand aright, so far as regards any large body of Members of this House, this Bill is to be passed un-contested into the other House of Parliament. It is quite needless for me—I think it would be very bad taste on my part—to attempt to pronounce on the Bill any eulogy whatever. On the other hand, I must be pardoned for saying that against such attacks as have been made upon it I feel it needs no defence.


It is not my intention, Sir, to enter into any long discussion or minute examination of the details of this measure or to review its history. Its scope and its character, its progress, and the various debates that have taken place upon it have been amply placed before the House and the country. The measure has been described by the Prime Minister himself on more than one occasion as one exceptional in its character, and it is absolutely impossible that it can be measured or judged of by any ordinary standard whatever. I venture to think that never was submitted to this House or to any Parliament a measure of so absolutely novel and startling a character. My noble Friend the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), in a speech somewhat unfairly commented upon—in a speech certainly of marked ability—stated from his own point of view what he conceived to be the circumstances of the introduction of the Bill. I say, without fear of contradiction, that in no civilized country, not in France, Germany, Belgium, or the United States of America, is there any Laud Law having any similitude to that which will be established by this Bill; and anyone who looks at the provisions of this Bill and the exposition that has been given of its principles must recognize its sweeping character, for it includes within its purview all tenants, good, bad, and indifferent, and deals out the same standard of justice to all landlords, improving or the reverse, all landlords, whether they have charged little or whether they have charged much. The right hon. Gentleman says that this Bill leaves this House carried by a moral unanimity—[Mr. GLADSTONE made an inaudible remark across the Table.] I have not the slightest desire in any particular to misrepresent anything that fell from the Prime Minister; but I think it not unreasonable, when notice is taken of the character of the divisions on the Bill, to say that, whether or not there will be a division upon the third reading, many Members thought proper to record a protest against principles in this Bill, and that they have done so on many occasions. Many Members, I have no doubt, voted for the Bill on the second reading, considering that in the present state of Ireland some legislation on the Land Question should take place. But I venture to think that not only on these Benches, but among the Members whom the right hon. Gentleman so ably leads, there are some who took part in the divisions on the second reading of the Bill and on clauses that were challenged who felt serious misgivings as to the principles involved. The present position of the Bill is not, in some particulars, exactly the same as when examined at the earlier stages; but I am bound to say, when we come to consider the changes, they can be regarded from many different points of view. I readily admit that many things that were so indefensible that they could not be argued, and were not argued—that many things that were so unintelligible that they could not be construed—have fallen out of the Bill, and that, as a matter of machinery and administration, the Government found it necessary, to insure any working of the Bill at all, to consent to alterations. But many principles and points of a mischievous character still remain unaltered and un-amended in the Bill, and I regret to say that the catalogue of serious and mischievous points and principles was enlarged during the progress of the Bill, and notably last night. I am bound to say I think the Prime Minister himself had but a scant amount of sympathy for this most recent Amendment, because I remember that he left to the Chief Secretary for Ireland the difficulties of the task of explaining it and did not commit himself to it. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government has been the Minister who has had charge of the Bill. He has had the advantage in that overwhelming task, in addition to his own genius, his own enlightened energy, his own infinite resources, and that versatility which enables him in debate to run ''From grave to gay and from lively to severe," of having been encouraged by a strong and obedient majority ready to cheer and support him always—just as much when he is wrong as when he is right. The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech just delivered, has selected one or two points for which he appears specially desirous to obtain the approval of the House and the country. I will pass from his references to free sale without making any elaborate examination of it, but I will make one criticism upon it. Now, at the end of two months, it remains as undefined as it was on the introduction of the Bill what it is that the tenant is permitted to sell. No one who examines the Bill can arrive at the conclusion that a tenant may not be permitted under the operation of the Bill to sell a very substantial part of his landlord's property. In the very clause of free sale some changes which had taken place have been all against the landlord's interest. We were told throughout by the Prime Minister and his Colleagues that the Bill would give a right of preemption to the landlords. I am disposed to think the Bill in its present shape leaves the right of pre-emption absolutely worthless. The way in which the Bill originally proposed that a fair rent should be measured dealt with details and particulars in such a way that it was speedily pointed out that it would enable the landlord's rent to be eaten into and possibly destroyed. The Government sought to meet these objections by leaving the whole question absolutely in the control of the Court. The Government have not, however, adhered to their second proposal in its integrity, and have assented to changes which are open to much criticism. An Amendment was introduced at the instance of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell), which re-introduced, not in the same form as originally appeared in the Bill, but in more general terms, the same possibly misleading principle, and directed the Court, in measuring the fair rent, to have regard to the tenant's interest, which might be inflamed by prices forced up by giving the pretium affectionis, or by "land-hunger," of which we have heard so much. If the Court are told, without qualification, that they are to have regard to the tenant's interest, it is competent for the Court, under those words, to arrive at every one of those vicious consequences which had been apprehended from the clause as it previously stood. The way in which the matter was sought to be dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was entirely logical. My right hon. Friend took up, as the Prime Minister frankly admitted, quite a reasonable line. As late as the year 1878 a Bill was introduced by Mr. Butt—a master of this question—Mr. M'Carthy Downing, who was as well acquainted with it as any Member in this House, and the Member for the County of Cork (Mr. Shaw). That Bill, in its 44th clause, laid down this proposition, which I commend to the attention of the House—and remember that this was the proposition of the Irish tenants, repeated from year to year, and formulated by their most able advocates in Parliament, as to the mode of fixing rents— In fixing the rent to be specified in the declaration of tenancy, the Chairman shall proceed in manner following—that is to say, the rent to be fixed shall be that which a solvent and responsible tenant could afford to pay, fairly and without collusion, for the premises, after deducting from such rent the addition to the letting value of the premises by any improvements made by the tenant or his predecessors in title in respect of which the tenant on quitting his farm would be entitled to compensation under the provisions of the Land Act. Well, that proposal was presented for consideration to the House by an Amendment which stood on the Paper for weeks in the name of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. The Government, however, thought it right in their wisdom to know more about the question than those who had studied it for years. And I invite the attention of the House to the fact that all that was asked was the adoption of that proposition, strengthened and developed by words taken from the Government themselves, and possibly by the addition of others which would have made it more definite. Nevertheless, the Government thought proper to leave the matter at large to the Court, with the addition of the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk, and, also adopting an Amendment which was brought forward a few days ago, they put into the Bill a reference to improvements, not as framed by Mr. Butt, nor as assented to by the hon. Member for the County of Cork, nor as formulated by the Leader of the Opposition, but in a crude and undigested state, which obviously required revision and alteration. This Fair Rent Clause made practically no distinction between good and bad landlords, with this one exception—that a feeble, petty effort was made by the Prime Minister, by taking note of English-managed estates, to save the Bill from the charge of making no discrimination. That little proviso never was of very much practical consequence. It was rendered almost worthless because of the Amendment which had been accepted from the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). Then, the admission of the landlord to the Court was at first denied, but had afterwards to be conceded; but it was not conceded frankly and fully. The tenant can go into the Court and say, "Measure me a fair rent." But the landlord must formulate his proposition and demand an increase. Common justice required that both parties should be put on the same footing. Let each party be equally able to appeal to the Court for a fair rent; or if the landlord is required to formulate his demand, the tenant also surely ought to be called upon to state clearly and definitely what he had to object to. The Prime Minister, a few days ago, in Committee, said— They were endeavouring by an almost supreme effort to bring about a great and rapid change in the social condition of Ireland. I do not deny that the effort was a supreme one. It was so when the Bill was introduced, and it became more so during its progress. The measure was not brought in, I feel sure, without very anxious consideration. We know that the Government had been considering it for months, and that the Cabinet held meeting after meeting on the subject. As to leases, they deliberately arrived at the conclusion that they could not ask the House of Commons, no matter what might be their majority, to interfere with existing leases; and anyone who reads the original clause saving existing leases will see that a more intelligible series of propositions was never laid down. For no purpose or consideration were the Government to have tampered with the obligations which tenants had contracted by existing leases. That having been the position taken up by the Government in introducing the Bill, when did the change take place? As lately as June 29, after the second reading of the Bill, when the measure had been for weeks and months, I might almost say, in Committee, the Prime Minister, meeting an Amendment from the hon. Member for Wicklow (Mr. Corbet), said— If the hon. Member proposes to say that every provision of these leases shall be brought into Court, that is a proposition to which we are not prepared to assent."—[3 Hansard, cclxii. 1600.] The very day after that, I believe, we had an absolute—I will not say change of front, because the Prime Minister has requested that that word may not be used—but a very rapid development of opinion took place, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland, who has had some disagreeable things given him to do which must have tried his legal mind very much, had the task imposed on him of putting on the Paper Amendments with which we are all familiar. The first of those Amendments proposed in regard to every lease in Ireland, no matter when or for what time it was made, or what was the rent, or what its conditions as to improvements, or as to the valuation of the farm, that the most important covenant for the landlord is to be broken and that the tenant may hold on for all time if he likes. Under what circumstances was that Amendment moved? My right hon. and learned Friend moved it in a House not of half its ordinary strength, and he occupied just two minutes in moving it. He read it out as if it were a mere verbal Amendment that required no explanation. The Amendment spoke for itself; but it was impossible to explain or defend it. The Prime Minister is almost always able to say he is adhering verbally to everything that he has said. I have much pleasure in reading his speeches, and I find that it is the hardest thing in the world to take one of his sentences which appears to convey to the House the clearest meaning in regard to which he is not able readily to say he was only referring to some particular thing mentioned in discussion, and, no matter what the language may have been, there is some little word that enables him to point out that he was not correctly understood. On the 29th of June the Prime Minister said that if the object of the hon. Member was to bring the covenants of existing leases under the cognizance of the Court, that would be enlarging the Bill to an extent to which the Government were not prepared to assent. Accordingly, the Prime Minister, severely accurate, to quote the expression of my noble Friend (Lord Randolph Churchill), does not submit the covenants of leases to the cognizance of the Court, but he saves the Court the trouble, and he himself in the Bill breaks the most important covenant in every lease. The next Amendment was one that conferred on the Court the power of breaking every lease made since 1870. The Irish Land Act of 1870, in clause after clause, indicated to the landlord and to the tenant that they were encouraged and invited to enter into contracts by lease; and to prevent all questions or doubt about the matter the Prime Minister, speaking on the second reading of the Land Bill of 1870, used these emphatic words— The Bill will proceed on the principle… that from the moment the measure is passed every Irishman, small and great, must be absolutely responsible for every contract into which he enters…. We ought to embody nothing in it that can encourage any man to tamper with good faith or to disparage or undervalue in any shape security and solidity of contract.''—[3 Mansard, cxcix. 380.] It would be impossible for any man to use clearer and stronger words. Is the conduct of the Government in reference to leases defensible? Can any man say it is in accordance with good faith? If solemn and serious contracts, entered into as leases have been, can be broken in the summary way these leases may be, can any contract that can be made or suggested for any purpose be regarded as safe? As to the "three F's," the Prime Minister has no objection to be responsible for fair rents and free sale; but he will let no man say fixity of tenure is involved in the Bill. Why?. Because in 1870, in speech after speech, he demonstrated that if it were granted in any shape it would bring with it the right of the landlord to compensation. Accordingly, having committed himself to the principle that no matter what happens to the Irish landlord, he shall get no compensation, we have fixity of tenure in this Bill, real, substantial, but denied and very slightly disguised. In the West of Ireland there are a vast number of small tenancies, many of them under £4. What is the position of the landlord there? Under the existing laws of Ireland, the landlord has to pay all taxes and local rates for such small tenancies; and under this Bill he will have to continue paying with great certainty as to the necessity of paying, but with great uncertainty as to whether he will receive the means to do so. If there was one thing in the Bill for the benefit of this poor population, it was the Emigration Clause, which was kept before the House for three nights, and which elicited from the Prime Minister a powerful and eloquent denunciation of the delay; but on the same night that he delivered it, and as a tribute to the delay, he cut the clause down to something so shadowy and frail that, except for the principle involved, it is not worth having. These poor tenants in the over-populated districts of the West, if you freed them this moment from all rent, could not save themselves from periodic famine without relief and substantial assistance. In the face of all these changes—fair rent, free sale, and fixity of tenure—with all the other advantages in the Bill, why the Government deemed it necessary to give an increased scale of compensation for disturbance puzzles me; it is illogical, un-needed, and out of place. It will puzzle anyone to say why it was introduced except as a further anomaly in an. exceptional Bill. With all these stupendous and unprecedented changes, where is there about this Bill the element of durability, of certainty, of anything verging on a settlement? Everyone admits there is nothing final in politics; but when Parliament is asked to make a great change by a great measure they have a right to expect that great results will be accomplished, and that the measure will bear fruit for a considerable time. The Prime Minister himself, in the way he has dealt with many topics, has from time to time suggested the possibility of this being anything but a permanent settlement. Whenever it was intimated by the wily, quick-witted, sagacious Members from Ireland that a certain thing would lead to a discussion which would occupy a considerable time, there was a consultation of three wise-heads on the Treasury Bench, and shortly afterwards the wish of the Irish Members was sometimes conceded, with verbal changes, and sometimes postponed until a more convenient season. In this way have been left as legacies to the future the question of absenteeism and of town park lands. Instead of saying—"We are dealing with questions of sufficient magnitude by this Bill, and we will not pledge ourselves now as to how we will deal with other questions, or whether we will deal with them at all," as the Prime Minister was fairly entitled to do, he has said that the views of the Government were not matured, or that the matter may well come up for consideration at a future time. In one point the Prime Minister has almost taken care that this shall not be regarded as a final and durable measure. We are not responsible for the drafting of the Bill or for its shortcomings; the whole responsibility of its passage, its interference with principles, its results, rests absolutely upon the Government. We pointed out to the Government a great flaw in their new drafting which did not exist in the original drafting—that at the end of seven years this Bill would require a further Bill. But because the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Callan) said yesterday that if the Bill were re-committed to deal with this point proposals would be made for the re-committal of several clauses, the Prime Minister re-considered his position, and gave ingenious reasons for leaving the matter so that there must be a Bill dealing with this question at the end of seven years. The Government, having had an opportunity to make this Bill a final one, deliberately elect to leave it open so as to render legislation necessary at the end of seven years. Is this Bill a message of peace to Ireland? Has it been accepted as such? It will concede much that was asked for by the Land League, and more than the most sanguine member ever expected. At the meeting of the Land League last Monday, a meeting at which they acknowledged a munificent contribution of thousands from America, and of £2 or £3 from Ireland, the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) said— The Land Bill might he the business of the Government, but it was not the business of the Land League as an organization to favour any proposal for alleviating the horrors arising from landlordism, thereby making it more tolerable and giving it a longer lease of life. They did not seek to change landlordism into some tolerable shape; they sought for its extermination. And that in the face of the stupendous efforts of the Prime Minister to pass this exceptional Bill. That is the way it is received by the Land Leaguers in Ireland. Lately a new proposition has been put forward, in the form of a construction of the Bill which I am happy to say is a false construction, and that is that when this Bill is passed no rents need be paid until they have been fixed and sanctioned by the Court. Bad as the Bill is, it leaves the old rent payable and the landlord in possession of his right to recover it until the gale day next following the fixing of a judicial rent. I admit that the wretched Amendment for the suspension of writs of fi facias, which was passed yesterday, may possibly mislead some people to a confused understanding of the matter. It was passed in a House of less than half its strength, without any Notice whatever, being brought up in manuscript by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). The Land League, I believe, have a proposition for the extermination of landlords; the Government are more moderate—they seemed to favour an Amendment which would only have the effect of starving them. If the Amendment had been considered, it would have been seen that it had the practical effect of damning the Bill, for it announces to every tenant who owes money that if he goes into Court he can tie up the debt. Never before was such an invitation given to enter upon litigation. We all know that one of the great difficulties in the way of accepting this Bill, and one which may cause the most serious interference with its progress, is the serious danger of litigation; and, in the face of that fact, I decline to accept this Amendment as a serious proposal of statesmanship. I do not suggest motives, or say that the way it was accepted points to what may be expected to happen; but the Government may have remembered that an untimely birth is often followed by a premature death; and I pass by the Amendment, treating it as an unwholsome fungus in an unsound part of a not very sound Bill. There is one serious and substantial omission from the Bill. If, for high purposes of State, it was found necessary to apply this drastic measure to Irish landlords, to mutilate their property, and deprive them largely of their means of usefulness, at all events in common justice some provision might have been put in which would have guaranteed and insured the enjoyment of the small residue of property which remains to them. Instead of that, we have accepted Amendment after Amendment permitting a possible extension of the redemption period, interfering with the landlord's right of sale and with every possible right, short of getting rent; we have, on the other hand, Amendments proposed, not to give new privileges to the landlord, but to save him from some uncertainties and doubts, and we are met by distinct refusal; and the fact that the Opposition is conducted with forbearance is made a ground for denying measures of justice, which might have been conceded to Obstruction. I am bound to state that there is one thing I contemplate with satisfaction in this Bill. At all events, now that it is about to be passed, we have a right to expect and a right to insist that in Ireland we should have a firm and capable Executive. The nation will insist that the miserable scenes of last winter shall not be re-enacted, Never before in the history of a country or of Parliament has any Government been given, and that without stint, so full a measure of ordinary and extraordinary powers. They have, in fact, been given every power, coercive and remedial, which they asked for or suggested. There can, therefore, be no justification for faltering action, no excuse for feeble words or palsied hands. The responsibility of the Government, always existing, now stands out in conspicuous relief, and the nation will see and judge how that responsibility is fulfilled. The responsibility of the Government must be fulfilled by a resolute maintenance of law and order and full protection of life and property in Ireland. The Government have got all they asked for, and they cannot complain if, during the Recess, their course of administration of affairs in Ireland is regarded, not by us alone, but by the whole nation, with constant vigilance and jealous watchfulness. I am no pessimist. I have hope for the future of Ireland; but my hopes do not depend upon or centre round this Land Law Bill. I have spoken of this Bill, I hope, in no unreasoning spirit. My opposition has been frank and open. I have made already my protest by word and by vote, and shall not vote again against the progress of the Bill. I am speaking now my last words with reference to it. But in parting from this Bill I cannot say that I regard its possible future without much solicitude and many misgivings. It is a measure which has been largely procured and directly influenced in its progress by unrighteous agitation, and which involves, in the case of Ireland, the sacrifice of principles which have tended to make England herself great.


I cannot but regret, Sir, that a Member of the Opposition, occupying the high and distinguished position which my right hon. and learned Friend worthily enjoys, should have marred the generous tone he took during the Committee stage of the Bill by the course he has now adopted. ["Oh, oh!"] It may be owing to my inexperience in this House, or possibly to the fact that everything is fair in political warfare; but I think it strange that my right hon. and learned Friend, having a carefully prepared speech to deliver, seeing that the Speaker rose, and seeing, too, that the Prime Minister then rose, should not himself have first risen and allowed the Prime Minister to follow him in debate


I wish to explain. I did not see you, Sir, rise, and I was quite suprised to see the Prime Minister rise.


Of course, I accept the explanation of my right hon. and learned Friend. But what has been the course adopted by the Opposition? They have criticized severely every part of the Bill, and now my right hon. and learned Friend has delivered a strong protest against it; but will they dare now to divide upon the third reading? I have crossed swords before now with the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill); but I think the course that he has the courage to take on the present occasion does him credit when compared with the course adopted by the Opposition. Why was it left to an outsider to raise this debate? Why have the Leaders of the Opposition disappeared from the House during the debate? I say it with great respect, but I am bound to say, after observing the course which has been taken by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the Opposition has not the courage of its convictions, and the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock has. My right hon. and learned Friend has, in the absence of the Prime Minister, spoken of him in a way that, I think, might have been spared; and he has summed up his criticism by saying that under the Bill the landlord will be damnified, and the tenant assisted at the expense of the landlord. I deny both those propositions. My right hon. and learned Friend asks—What has the tenant to sell if he does not sell the landlord's property? Well, over and over again it has been explained that what the tenant has to sell is his interest in his holding—that is, his right of occupancy, and, outside that, the improvements he has effected, often by his money, and always by his labour. This is not his landlord's property. The tenant must give notice to his landlord of his intention to sell, and as the landlord can buy, in what respect is he damnified? Does he ask to get the tenant's interest in his holding for nothing? My right hon. and learned Friend says that the Court may actually have to say what is a fair price to give. I was, I confess, under the impression that a Court was the proper tribunal to resort to if a man has a right to assert or a wrong to be redressed; and I submit that an impartial Court is the right tribunal to decide the questions which may arise between landlord and tenant in the event of their not being able to agree between themselves. The next point criticized by my right hon. and learned Friend was the fixing of this fair rent by the Court. Does my right hon. and learned Friend want the landlord to obtain an unfair rent? Where is the landlord who will assert that? The provision in question is the best that could be devised for Irish land lords themselves, among whom I have many personal friends. Only yesterday I spoke to one, who said that his rents had not been raised during the 40 years he was in possession of the estate, and that, notwithstanding, he felt he should assist them by making them gifts of timber, slates, and other things. In these good relations how stands his rent. It is paid even in these times. After all, in fixing a fair rent, the Court would simply moderate—to use a University term—between the parties. But, said my right hon. and learned Friend, at least the landlord should be paid the old rent till the new was fixed. The Bill provided that such should be the case, as the new rent was not to become payable until the gale day next after the fixing of it. What unfairness was there in that? And yet, to hear my right hon. and learned Friend, it would be thought that some scheme was carefully wrapped up in the Bill for inflicting injustice on the Irish landlords. As originally brought in, the Bill did nothing more than carry forward the principles of the Act of 1870, which gave protection to occupancy. I will not delay the progress of this measure by any lengthened observations; but will simply say that, in my view, no one who has any knowledge of Ireland can deny that there is an eager wistfulness for the passage of the Bill, and a feeling of great anxiety occasioned by the delay which has occurred in its progress. It will give a security of tenure, which is most strongly desired and needed in Ireland; and it is not the visionary or disastrous scheme which has been pictured from time to time by hon. Members who are opposed to it. I deny that the measure will operate against the landlord; but the peasant as he drives his spade into the ground will feel that his arm is strengthened by knowing that wife and weans will be bettered by it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has immensely exaggerated the effect of the clauses in regard to leases, which only give power to the Court to set them aside in case it is satisfied as to their injustice, and that they have been obtained under a threat of eviction. The hour has well nigh struck when the Bill will pass, and I believe it will be a great and generous message of peace to Ireland. But to bring that peace, language must be used very different from that used by my right hon. and learned Friend. Those are not the words which will win back alienated friends or heal the wounds which civil discord has left festering amongst us. It is my belief that this Bill will give safety to person, will add to the stability of property and the security of the Constitution in Ireland, will give a more manly tone to the nation's strength, and restore a healthy beat to the nation's heart.


said, he joined in the hope that the measure would have the effect of bringing peace to Ireland, even although it sinned against all those principles that had heretofore guided legislation. He was, however, glad that the decencies of procedure had been so far maintained, that a measure of this importance was not passed through both the last stages—Committee and Third Reading—in one night; for, in his experience in Parliament, no Bill of such importance had thus been dealt with. The discussion had been a very useful one, and the House had listened to some very able speeches. He had said little in Committee, but had followed the Bill carefully, and had given his vote whenever he thought its injustice or harshness could be modified or remedied. He felt bound to say that after all the weeks of careful labour in Committee, he did not find that the Bill was any sounder in principle than when he denounced its principles in the debate on the second reading. So far from that being the case, the Bill still was a return to the legislation of the Plantagenets, and to the French Revolution law of "maximum." It destroyed individual liberty and freedom in men's dealings with each other, and confiscated property without com- pensation. And this was the act of so-called Liberals. The Bill, now more than ever, made the landlord nothing more nor less than a plundered rent-charger. Fair rents were to be fixed, not by the ordinary transactions of ordinary business, but, for the first time in our modern history, by the State. The Court was put in the position of the landlord, and the privileges of property were taken away from the landlord and placed in Commission; while the Bill severed for ever—unless he was prepared to purchase it—the labourer of Ireland from the future occupation of the soil. It further established the principle of the State breaking leases, and using State money to pay arrears of rent—that was, to advance money from public funds for the benefit of those who had repudiated their rightful contracts; while those who, through all this trying agitation discharged their contracts, were left out in the cold, without any benefit at all. A Bill such as this was not worth the support of the House. Its character and origin might be summarized thus. It was a measure "begotten by lawlessness, conceived in fear, founded on injustice, its ends corruption." They could not deny the truth of this. They could not deny that if there had been no Land League, and no resistance to the law, they never would have heard of this Bill. Was any hon. or right hon. Gentleman prepared to say the contrary? He also averred that there had been ill-concealed fear on the part of the Government, which had led them to introduce this measure; and he based his assertion on the words of the Prime Minister himself. The Prime Minister looked astonished at that statement; but he had himself heard the right hon. Gentleman say, on the 19th of July, that this Bill differed materially from the Irish Land Act of 1870, inasmuch as every line and every clause of this Bill was of vital importance, because the maintenance of law, the security of life and property in Ireland would depend upon them. He therefore asserted that it was in consequence of the fear of lawlessness in Ireland that the Government had brought in this Bill, in the hope of thus protecting life and property, which they should have been able to have secured without legislation of this kind. He maintained that the Bill was founded in injustice, and, further, that its ends were corruption, inasmuch as it was a bribe to the 600,000 tenants in Ireland to obey the law. But would the Bill have the effect of tranquillizing Ireland? He ventured to say, reasoning by the analogy of the past, that this system of concession, followed by coercion and further concession, had alone brought about the present state of things in Ireland; and what was there in this Bill which was calculated to render it more effective for its professed purpose than previous measures? He believed, on the contrary, that it would encourage greater agitation in the future; and, looking at the effect the Bill was producing in this country and in Scotland in disturbing men's minds, and in altering their views as to the rights of property, and the relationship between the different classes which had hitherto governed society, this Bill was fraught with great danger. He was not prepared to let it pass in silence, or without recording his vote against it. He intended to divide the House on the Question. A speech had been made a short time ago by a right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench, in which he denounced the Bill, root and branch; and in the good old days such a speech would have been naturally followed by a division. Now, however, we lived in different, if not better days, and the Bill was to be allowed to pass a third reading unchallenged. He admitted that the Conservative Party was in a difficulty. They, or rather their principles, found themselves between the upper and the nether millstone. The upper millstone was the fact that two great Conservative Peers and three Conservative Members of Parliament had put their names to a Report—the Duke of Richmond's—which the Prime Minister had often told the House was the basis of legislation. In their rear, and even on their own Bench, they had right hon. and hon. Gentlemen whose action had also been appealed to by the Prime Minister, as it was in similar circumstances in 1870, in reference to the Disturbance Clause of that Act. He referred to the Representatives of Ulster, whom he would call, if he might do so without offence, the Esaus of Ulster; for what was their position as regards this question of tenant right? They or their fathers or grandfathers, for beneficial purposes to themselves, had sold their birthright, and, to obtain payment of rents and arrears, established tenant right on their estates. He could not understand, for the life of him, how these hon. Members, having done that—either themselves or their ancestors—could bring their consciences to vote for this Bill, which imposed tenant right for ever on every estate in Ireland now free of it, they knowing that the tenant, and not the landlord, would have the benefit of the free sale of tenant right under this Act of Parliament. The Bill allowed tenants to sell their right in the market for the highest price; but the landlord was debarred from getting the highest price he could for his land. Thus, between the upper millstone of the Duke of Richmond's Commission and the nether millstone of the Ulster Representatives, the principles of the Conservatives were ground into impalpable powder. Now, as to the hon. Members below the Gangway on the other side, no doubt their motives were perfectly patriotic, but the fact remained that, in acting as they had acted, they had cast aside all their traditions and principles; and although they might think they were doing what was right and would be beneficial to the country, they were establishing the principle that justice must be measured, not by justice, but by votes; and as sure as they had done that, they would find, when they enfranchized the masses, that they had taught them a lesson they would not forget. In every line of this Bill they had hatched a legislative chicken, that would come home to roost in the homesteads of England and of Scotland, in the houses of the large towns, in their manufactories, in their mines, in their ships, in their scrip and stock. For do not let them imagine if the great Liberal Party thus sanctioned the principle of the spoliation of one class for the benefit of another, that when they had enfranchised, as they no doubt would do one day, an ignorant and unintelligent Briareus, he would be slow to learn the lesson they had taught him, or fail to apply it to all kinds of property alike. He had a good many Friends among what was called the old Whig school. He knew they hated this Bill as much as he did; but they had submitted to it. They were bound down by ties of Party. And these same men who bowed down before the fetish of Party, when held up by their medicine man on the Treasury Bench, laughed at those who worshipped and believed in the Black Virgin of Loretto, and sneered at the untutored Natives of the South Sea Islands who worshipped stocks and stones. [Cries of" Question!"] He was speaking so much to the question that the il-Liberals did not like it. He would venture simply, as regarded his weak Whig Friends, to say that he believed that Party, properly conducted on sound and distinct principles, was the best and soundest form of government. But he would also say this, that he believed man was not made for Party, but that Party was made for man. Holding these views, he believed that this measure, whilst outraging all sound principles of government, would be more hurtful than beneficial to Ireland. This Bill would absolutely destroy the foundation on which our social system had hitherto rested. [Mr. HEALY: Thank God for that!] He accepted that expression in support of what he was saying. It was the truth, and he hoped it would be taken to heart by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. The Bill would destroy liberty of contract and the security of property, the only sound principle upon which nations could hope to prosper and progress. Holding these opinions strongly, he must record his vote against it. He did not care whether more than half-a-dozen hon. Members accompanied him into the Lobby. "The fewer men the greater share of honour." And if evil should come of this legislation, they would at least be able to say that they had taken advantage of all the Forms of Parliament to resist unprincipled and pernicious legislation.


said, that notwithstanding the strong eloquence poured out by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) against the Bill, it struck him forcibly, when listening to that speech, that after all there was an undercurrent of feeling that, on the whole, it was not such a bad Bill. But the noble Lord who had just sat down had the courage of his convictions, and had taken a very different course. He had attacked it root and branch. The noble Lord believed it to be a bad Bill, and, that being his be- lief, he would not be justified in adopting any other course than that which he had mentioned. The noble Lord said that the lawlessness existing in Ireland was the result of the operations of the Land League; but did the noble Lord think that in any country, even in Ireland, a body of young men of no social position, and no wonderful powers of eloquence, could have got up such a state of things as existed in Ireland if there were no social wrongs in Ireland that gave them power? The social state of Ireland which had brought about this measure sprang from the effects of a series of bad harvests and the action of the landlords themselves. He had by his side the original first copy of the Bill of 1870, and on the margin of it were the notes he made when it was discussed, and they embodied precisely the principles that were involved in the Bill now before them. The noble Lord said the Government had adopted the programme of the Land League. Nothing could be more absurd or incorrect. Why, the Land League at their meetings ridiculed and made it a special point to attack the "three F's." The noble Lord said the Bill would not pacify Ireland. Well, it was very hard to prophecy about Ireland. He thought he might say he had a fair knowledge of the country; and his opinion, which was fortified by letters which he received every day from all parts of Ireland relating to this Bill, was that the Land League was not Ireland; that there was in Ireland an amount of common sense; that the Land League had an amount of common sense; and that when this Bill became law they would see it to be their duty to lay hold of the real principles of amelioration in the Bill, and try to apply them for the benefit and welfare of Ireland. He could not think so meanly of the men at the head of that League as to believe that they would be so lost to all patriotism and right principle as to keep up the agitation for the mere sake of agitation, independently of the good or evil to be effected. He firmly believed that in the Bill there were many things which would tend to cure the sores and evils of his country, and also many things which would improve the system of land tenure. It was true there were points in the Bill that he would like to see improved; but he believed that in the circumstances, with all the surroundings and difficulties that Ministers had to contend with, no better or more complete Bill could possibly have been passed. He earnestly hoped and believed that it would do much in the direction of pacifying Ireland; and, so far as regarded himself, he could honestly say that nothing that one man could do would be left undone to bring its provisions fully and fairly before the minds of the Irish people. He expressed the feeling of every Member of the House when he said he was astonished by the ability with which the Prime Minister had conducted the Bill. The oldest Member in the House had never seen anything like it, and the youngest Member, as long as he lived, would never see anything like it—the earnestness, the wonderful power of language and. expression of "the old man eloquent." The masterly grasp of facts and details, and his enthusiasm in conducting his measure had never been excelled. The Irish people would be grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman had done. He believed that in the hearts of the Irish people there was a deep feeling of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman, and a conviction that he had done his very best for the settlement of the Irish Question. During the right hon. Gentleman's absence from his Office he had opportunities of becoming acquainted with the opinions of Bishops, priests, and laymen in Ireland, and he found that there was no living statesman in whom the Irish people had such confidence as in the right hon. Gentleman, not because of his great ability, not because of his unexampled position in the world as a statesman, but because they believed he had earnest and honest principles. The Bill was about to pass to "another place." For himself, he was not concerned as to how the other House treated it. If they showed the wisdom that the aristocracy had always shown in looking at all the circumstances in the face and acting generously with the facts before them, they would send the Bill down to the House of Commons very little changed from the condition in which it was sent up. If, on the other hand, they sent it down so changed that the Government could not accept it, then the agitation in Ireland would broaden and deepen, and the settlement of the question would be as remote as ever. But they anticipated different treatment of the measure by the other House.


(who spoke amid the marked impatience of the House for a division) was understood to say that the Prime Minister, whatever charges might be fairly brought against him in other respects, had been wonderfully consistent at least in what he had said in 1870 and what he had said this year with regard to Irish ideas. The right hon. Gentleman stated in 1870, as he stated now, that there was an old Irish notion that even when the contract between landlord and tenant had expired, what was called the right of occupancy still remained in the tenant. But while he admitted the consistency of the Prime Minister on that point, he regretted it, because it showed that the right hon. Gentleman's notion of statesmanship was to give way to Irish ideas. The connection between England and Ireland ought to exercise a civilizing influence on the latter country, and there was no surer mark of the civilization of a country than the observance of contract. In a barbarous country contract was not understood, and when a contract had there been entered into it was not felt that it should be religiously respected. By this Bill the Government were perpetuating ideas which ought to be discouraged, and were not raising Ireland to the high standard of civilization which was indicated by a regard for the sanctity of contract. He looked upon this measure as a relapse from a civilized state to a state of barbarism.


said, he did not know whether the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) intended to go to a division on the question of the third reading of the Bill or not—["Yes!"]—but if he did, he could not refrain from saying a few words as to the vote which he meant to give on that occasion. He had listened to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock with great interest, because every word which had fallen from the noble Lord had found an echo in his heart. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock had been taunted by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. George Russell) with being the exponent of comedy in that House; but the hon. Member for Aylesbury appeared to be the exponent of broad farce— And it being ten minutes to Seven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till this day.

The House suspended its Sitting at Seven of the clock.

The House resumed its Sitting at Nine of the clock.