§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [25th April], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
And which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, while willing to consider any just measure, founded upon sound principles, that will benefit tenants of land in Ireland, is of opinion that the leading provisions of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill are in the main economically unsound, unjust, and impolitic,"—(Lord Elcho,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
Sir, I desire to apologize to the House for my having requested my hon. and learned Friend 586 the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. W. M. Johnson) to permit me, instead of himself, to address it at this early portion of the evening—though not quite so early as I hoped it would have been. Various observations have been made by hon. Members, who appear to think there has been either a purpose or unnecessary reservation on the part of the Government with respect to some questions of interest raised in the Land Law (Ireland) Bill; and I have made up my own mind that it is well for me—though I do not see the justice of the objection—to do all that lies in my power to obviate its repetition. I have, therefore, determined to take advantage of the opportunity secured by my hon. and learned Friend, and to solicit the privilege of addressing the House tonight; and being somewhat indisposed, and not able to remain in the House throughout the evening, to venture to make a change in the arrangement as to the person by whom the debate is to be resumed.
Now, Sir, before I speak on the Bill, with the second reading of which we are concerned, I wish to refer to two words which we have heard often repeated in this debate. The first word is "confiscation," and the second word is "compensation." They are words that are, and ought to be, in close association together; for I certainly should be very slow to deny that where confiscation could be proved, compensation ought to follow. But, Sir, I must say that those words are used too frequently and too soon. They are almost the stock expressions of debate upon certain classes of questions. They have repeatedly, again and again, been urged with the greatest confidence where, in some cases, no proof has been shown, and where, in other cases, disproof has been furnished abundantly. I will not refer now in detail to the charges that were made upon the very limited measure that we introduced last year with respect to Compensation for Disturbance, because that remains as it was 12 months ago—a matter of opinion—having been nipped in the bud, and having been prevented from doing the extended evil which was anticipated from it by hon. Gentlemen opposite, or the great good which we, on our part, confidently believed that it would have produced. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know—I need hardly remind them—how 587 this charge of confiscation was raised on the repeal of the Corn Laws; and how it was raised last year upon the very humble, though useful, measure introduced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department in respect to Ground Game. It is more to the purpose that I should remind them how freely it was raised when the Land Bill was under discussion in 1870. ["Hear, hear!"] It was used on that occasion by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin); but I had not intended to quote him in regard to it had he not invited me by his cheer. It was, however, used by others, who may be considered as representative men of the Party. Lord Salisbury described that Bill as bribing one class by plundering another. He said—"You are bribing one class and plundering another, and you are setting an example easily followed." Lord Cairns used much the same language. He, spoke candidly, and said, "You allow me the option of purchasing my own property"—words which themselves imply confiscation. Indeed, he quoted with praise a declaration from a certain publication, that there would be no settlement of the question without something which would be called confiscation. ["Hear, hear!"] Well, I am very glad that I am not mis-stating anything as regards the case. "Confiscation" was the word applied to the leading enactments of the Land Bill of 1870. Did the Land Act, when it became the law of the land, confiscate the property of the landlords? Did it injure the property of the landlords? We affirm, on the contrary, and upon evidence, that it improved the property of the landlords. [Dissent.] A shake of the head is less authoritative than the Returns made of authentic transactions in Courts of Justice; and authentic transactions in an Irish Court of Justice from year to year show us two things. In the first place, the rents have increased under the action of the Land Act. I am not speaking now of undue increase; I would say rents have grown under the action of the Land Act. And, in the second place, upon the increased rents, with the larger rental, a larger number of years' purchase has been obtained where the property has come into the market. And that, Sir, has been the end of the charge 588 of confiscation with respect to the Land Act.
But I humbly think there have been cases much more like confiscation than the Land Act. I find a case in my own experience in 1874, though it was on a more limited scale: I refer to the confiscation of the advowsons in Scotland under the Church Patronage Act. I mentioned it at the time, and I never knew a clearer case in my life. I allude to the confiscation of advowsons in the Church of Scotland under the Church Patronage Act. But that is a small matter. Confiscation has come nearer to Ireland in previous legislation. When, in a country where it is now admitted that the improvements upon the holdings are, as a rule, the work of the tenants, we allowed and encouraged the landlord to carry those improvements into the market and to sell them for his own benefit—then, indeed, there was something like confiscation. I never heard, Sir, on that occasion that the Members for the University of Dublin or anyone else belonging to their Party was scandalized at the proceedings of Parliament. It was a most unfortunate and deplorable business. I do not say, and I do not believe, that those who made the recommendations which led to it—the Members of the Devon Commission—were actuated by any evil motive. I believe it was a sheer error, arising out of a sheer want of regard for existing facts. But I want to point it out as teaching a lesson of caution and circumspection to those who so freely and so readily use these hard words and east them at the head of men who also consider that to propose principles of confiscation would be a disgrace—a disgrace to the Ministers who suggested and the Parliament which would tolerate them for a moment.
I own that I go myself further than what I have stated with regard to the Encumbered Estates Act. By it we have established a system in Ireland, during the present century, which essentially altered the position of the Irish tenant without his permission—I may say without his knowledge. The old system of the Irish law made it hardly practicable for a landlord, without the greatest delay and difficulty, to put into force extreme measures against the tenant. I do not make that statement upon feeble or doubtful authority. 589 I make it on the statement of a Preamble of an Act which altered that state of things. The Act of 1816, which did that, recited in its Preamble that such were the expenses and delays of ejectment that it was entirely and absolutely impracticable as a remedy. We must not, therefore, refuse to look at the fact that if the recital of that Preamble be true, there was a permanence and security of tenure then attaching to the Irish tenant which you have since taken away. He has never acquiesced in that abstraction of such security which he possessed and enjoyed; he has maintained against it a continual protest; he has certainly not allowed it to lapse into abeyance. What I wish to say is that we are endeavouring, and it is time to endeavour, to establish the order of something like equal justice in Ireland in those matters; and that those who plead on behalf of landlords—and they have a perfect right to plead against anything that they think trespasses on those rights—should recollect what is clue to others who have so long suffered from a course of legislation continued through generation after generation, endured too long without complaint, and now resulting in difficulties with which we are endeavouring to cope, and in the endeavour to cope with which I think we are entitled to some tittle of consideration on the part of this House.
Now, first, with regard to the charges of confiscation. I will only say that the Government cannot admit that they make any confiscation, or in any way approach confiscation, in this Bill, and are not prepared in consequence to admit any plea for compensation. The proof of confiscation—the proof of damage resulting from the action of the Legislature—is the very first step that must be taken and that must be established beyond doubt before the House can fairly be called upon to consider whether it will grant compensation or not. In 1846 the Irish landlord was not inconsiderably compensated at the time of the repeal of the Corn Laws, notwithstanding the enormous benefits conferred upon him by Sir Robert Peel in that measure. There was not a single commodity reared in Ireland for export that has not increased in price under the action of Free Trade, and yet for the change that brought about those results the Irish landlords were compensated by 590 the transfer of a moiety of the charge for the Constabulary to the Consolidated Fund, a moiety which then, I think, amounted to £300,000 or £400,000, but now amounts to more than £1,000,000. I will now pass from the question of confiscation and compensation, and come to the Bill.
Now I wish to observe, Sir, that I have never known a case of so large a measure debated for such a length of time of which so few points have been brought into serious discussion. The points that have been brought into serious discussion, in very different degrees, are, as far as I know, these. We have heard much of fair rents, and we have had reference to the question of arrears. On the question of arrears I will say nothing, except that it is an important question; but there will be no advantage, indeed there would be a difficulty, in dealing with it in detail on the second reading of the Bill. In the same way, another bye-question which we have considered, and the result of which consideration appears in the Bill—but it may be worthy, noth withstanding, of further consideration—is the question of current leases. That also is evidently a question which, in my opinion, ought to be reserved for the Committee on the Bill. Another question, Sir, that has been repeatedly raised has been the apparent unfairness and hardship of refusing to the landlords, as it is said, the power to go into the Court. That is certainly an obvious and plausible question. If you permit the tenant to come into your Court, why do you not permit the landlord? That question seems to have caused much difficulty, and one hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Antrim (Mr. Macnaghten), was so struck with the force of that question that he said he should propose that the landlord should be permitted to go into Court. But how did the hon. and learned Member propose to do so? His speech was characterized by great critical and logical power. But he proposed to give an experimental proof of his constructive powers, and that was a much more dangerous task. He said it was a hard case that a landlord having 150 tenants should be liable to 150 suits. What he proposes is this—"I will let the landlord go into Court and exhibit to the Court the state of his rents, and get from the Court a certificate that his 591 rents are fair. But the landlord must undertake not to raise his rents for a certain number of years." Did the hon. and learned Gentleman, who is a lawyer, propose that that proceeding should take place behind the back of the tenant? [Mr. MACNAGHTEN: Certainly not.] That is the answer I get. I am glad to find that the hon. and learned Gentleman, when under criticism, is not insensible to comment. He means then that there must be notice to the tenant. Very good. The consequence is that the hon. and learned Gentleman proposes, by way of giving favour to the landlord, that he shall have 150 suits on at the same time, in order that he may be rewarded by the privilege of having the rent established, which rent he must not raise for a certain number of years. I cannot conceive that the hon. and learned Gentleman was serious in making such a proposal as that the landlord should be allowed to come as a privilege into Court and raise the question of increasing every rent on his estate.
But, Sir, we have proceeded on an entirely opposite principle—the principle of disturbing nothing that we could avoid disturbing, and of leaving outside the Court and the action of the Court all those who are willing to be so left, in order that they may settle their affairs without the intervention of the Court. That is the frame of the Bill. The Bill does not open the Court to the whole tenantry of Ireland; it leaves the initiative of going before the Court to the landlord. But still that is not an answer to the question. Why not allow the landlord to go into Court? In the first place, you are entirely mistaken in the idea that the landlord has no power to go into Court. That is a mistake made by many hon. Gentlemen who have made eloquent speeches on the other side of the House, evidently without having read beyond the first page of the Bill. Now, Sir, what is the interest of the landlord in this matter? His interest, in the first place, lies in keeping up his rent to a fair and just standard. That interest is secured to him by giving him the power of raising his rent, and throwing it upon the tenant to go into Court in order to obtain a judicial rent against him. Some people say—"Why don't you allow the landlord to escape the odium of raising of rent by obtaining 592 a judicial sentence from the Court?" They think—it is the first time I ever heard it—that any landlord in this country believes that lie is diminishing the odium of some proceeding that ho takes against a tenant in his own interest by founding upon it a lawsuit in which he involves the tenant. The fact is, that so far from diminishing odium, he would, in my opinion, largely increase it, when he mingles the action of the Court with his own pressure upon the tenant.
Then, again, there is the interest of the landlord, if he wishes to avoid the risk of having a tenant rack-rented, not only in his own rent, but in the tenant right for which he pays to the outgoing tenant. The landlord may fairly plead—at any rate, the Bill admits it—that the tenant right may rack-rent the incoming tenant as much as an extravagant rent. Be it right or wrong, we have provided in the Bill for that, and all that we have heard of successive sales of tenant right—rising one above another—is utterly inapplicable to the Bill. The 1st clause of the Bill provides for it. Hon. Gentlemen who have spoken on this subject have only read the first limb of the first sentence of the 1st clause. It says that the tenant shall be allowed to sell his tenant right for the best price that he can obtain. Hon. Gentlemen read so far, and no farther. But if they went on, they would find that the tenant is required to give notice to the landlord, and the landlord, on receiving that notice, may agree with the tenant on the amount of the tenant right that the outgoing man is to receive; and, if he cannot agree with the tenant, he may take him into the Court for the purpose. Thus the two items of the landlord's interest are secured—his interest as to the rent, by his power of raising the rent his interest as to the tenant right, by his power of taking the tenant into Court. But it may be said—"Why don't you give him a wider power still, and allow him always to go into Court?" That is a fair question for discussion, and we have well considered it. But I think the House will probably agree in our conclusion that the wiser course is that which we have adopted. In the strange state of things which has prevailed in Ireland the Court has been looked upon as a sort of Paradise into which everybody would rush. That is not our view at all in the matter. We conceive 593 that the action of the Court must impose considerable burdens on small owners who cannot undertake to pay the expenses of civil litigation; and the expenses of civil litigation, however you may control them, must be severely felt by the poor man and the small man. To the landlord the expenses frequently may be light; to the tenant they may be very severe. But, be it understood, it is in the indiscriminate power of the landlord to go into Court. Let that matter be argued in Committee if there is any question about it. We shall hear what is to be said, with perfect willingness to be convinced if good and sufficient reasons can be given; but we have not acted without reason or consideration in the course we have taken. I have shown also that it is totally inaccurate to say that the landlord has no power of going into Court, because, in the matter of tenant right, which he can check in no other way, this Bill authorizes him to go into the Court. [An hon. MEMBER: Where?] In the 3rd sub-section of the 1st clause it is stated that, on receiving notice, the landlord may purchase the tenancy for such amount as may be agreed upon, or, in the event of disagreement, as may be settled by the Court. The resort to the Court is there as clearly indicated as can be. [Sir R.ASSHETON CROSS: When is that power given?] When there is a change of tenancy. The 1st clause says—On receiving such notice the landlord may purchase the tenancy for such sum as may be agreed upon, or, in the event of disagreement, may be settled by the Court to he the value thereof.That contemplates most distinctly the case when the tenancy passes from one person to another; but I do not believe the words convey that it is to be a resumption of the land by permanent possession on the part of the landlord. The landlord may agree with the tenant upon the sum to be paid for the purchase, or he may have the sum fixed by the Court.
And now I will take the question of the constitution of the Court. I own this matter has received from one of the Members for the University of Dublin such discussion in detail as I have hardly ever known given upon the second reading of a Bill, and with a warmth and vehemence such as I have scarcely ever seen exceeded even by him. This is a 594 matter necessarily of detail, for consideration and adjustment. The state of the case is this—I am bound to make an admission. In one point this Bill, for which, I think, the draftsman cannot be too much praised, whatever judgment its authors may deserve, does not exactly correspond with our intention. Our intention was to give an option of passing by the Civil Bill Court, if it was decided so to act; but it was also thought there should be power of going into the Civil Bill Court. The tenant, we thought, should have the power, if he pleased, of going to the Commission, or the agent of the Commission, at once. I put it respectfully to hon. Gentlemen, whether it is desirable to go further than that? I am not now raising the question of the arrangements to be made for the conduct of proceedings in the Civil Bill Courts; but I submit it would not have been wise wholly to pass by a body of gentlemen who have had an opportunity under the Land Act of acquiring a mass of experience such as is not possessed by any other body of gentlemen in Ireland. I will go one step further, and say I cannot for myself—it may be owing to my ignorance—think, upon the figures, that the result of actions in the Civil Bill Court have been very discreditable. Hon. Gentlemen who are lawyers will be able to form a much better judgment than I can in this matter; but I invite attention to these facts. For the four years previous to 1877—before that time we have no available account—we have the number of land claims which were entered before the Court. These claims were 1,688. The appeals tried from these cases were 212. The judgments confirmed were 140, and, so far as I can make out from the figures, there were 50 judgments which have been reversed, upon a total of 1,688 cases tried—that is to say, 3 per cent, which means that 32 out of every 33 men who came before the Civil Bill Court had justice done to them. I cannot suppose that will be considered a very unsatisfactory result. I can hardly think the Court deserves the severity of judgment which has been pronounced by some. Great fault is found with the Bill because of what it is said may be done by our Commissioner or by his deputy, and the most dreadful pictures have been painted of the consequences of placing power in the hands of incompetent 595 men. We shall be very glad to hear in Committee of any safeguard that can be provided; but the House will bear in mind this fact. It is hardly possible, however, to forecast the details of the probable transactions under this Bill. No one can tell where they will rise—how they will rise—in what part of the country they will rise.
This leads me to another remark on the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Antrim. He complained that the Bill was not sufficiently elastic. How does he propose to make it more elastic in this matter of the Court? He said, Why do you not appoint two Commissioners for each Province? How do we know what will be requisite for each Province? In one Province there may be little or no demand. In Leinster and Ulster, for example, it is possible the demand will be very different from what it will be in the other Provinces. What we propose is, not that a multitude of public officers shall be created before we know whether there shall be any duties for them to perform, but that officers of the Court may be appointed as necessity arises and according to the measure of the necessity. So much for certain of the points raised. And as to the very important point of a fair rent, one of the Members of the University of Dublin condemns our proposal as undoubted confiscation tempered and flavoured with cowardice; while other hon. Gentlemen, more moderate in their mode of looking at the measure, think that the words we have used are defective and even dangerous. I see the senior Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket) in his place, and I must pay him a deserved compliment. I do not think it was possible to submit arguments more calmly, clearly, or more fairly to the consideration of the House than he did.
Let me endeavour to go through the points of this question, and, in doing so, I shall make another more agreeable reference to the hon. and learned Member for Antrim. He made a remark with which I, for one, most cordially agree. He said the very terms "fair rent" conveyed their own meaning. They are really the charter of those who are interested in fair rents; but it is a question, and a very difficult question, to know how far we can go in development, in restriction, and in direction. I 596 have to admit, however, that the Government are not very proud of their workmanship in this portion of their undertaking, and I hope it may be amended, mid materially amended, in Committee. But, at the present moment, my wish is to draw in the clearest manner a distinction between that which is essential and that which is secondary and accidental in this clause. And here I must complain of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the late Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson). He holds that, according to the best legal construction, the proceedings of the Court would be carried on thus: a certain rent would be fixed, and then a tenant-right outside Ulster equivalent to seven years' rent will be deducted from that original rent. Now we protest altogether against that method of deduction; it is not the tanner, so far as I know, in which these things are conducted in Ireland now. In this very difficult business it is some comfort to recollect that this subject of rents is not new to Irish lawyers and Irish Judges; in Ulster it has been before them for some time, and in other parts of Ireland it has come before them in eases of eviction under the operation of the Land Act. I must go a little further and complain that the right hon. and learned Gentleman not only put a construction upon the clause by interpolating words of his own into it that are not there, but he then went on to exhibit his own method in a supposed case, stating his argument on an altogether fallacious basis. He imagined a case in which he supposed the fair rent in the market was £24. The fair rent in the market! That was his starting-point in this great argument; but that starting-point is poisoned with a fallacy from the beginning. Our whole contention is, that these words, applied to Ireland generally—"a fair rent in the market"—are words involving a contradicion in terms, for the rent in the market is not a fair rent. Consequently, everything that the right hon. and learned Gentleman founded upon that fallacious assumption was as fallacious as the assumption from which he started. The essence of this clause really must be considered apart from particular words which one person or another may desire to add to the description of that essence. I believe we were right in requiring that the Court shall hear and take into consideration 597 all the circumstances of the case. Beyond that, what we feel is this: there is one circumstance of the case so important, so paramount for every settlement of the question, that we must take notice of it, and that is the tenant's interest. We cannot leave that covered up by any general expression of "all the circumstances of the case." We are bound to point to the tenant's interest. Now no one can say, I think, that there has been any reticence on the part of the Government as to what the interest of the tenant is. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland said most truly that if you were to admit this doctrine of deduction it would be a deduction from the top market rent, and not from the fair rent. Now, supposing the case of a top market rent in Ireland, what does that include as a general rule? In the first place, it includes annual payment for the value of the tenant's improvements, and that is the first and the greatest element of legitimate tenant right. In the second place, it includes the excess which is found in open biddings for holdings in Ireland, in consequence of the scarcity of land as compared with the demand for it—just as in buying a curiosity in this country, simply because the article is rare, the buyer will go far beyond the intrinsic value in the price he gives, so, under the necessity of a much sterner order in Ireland in bidding for land, the bidder is ready to give more than he really ought to give, or can properly afford to give—and that excess in bidding for the land, owing to the scarcity of land in Ireland, is the second and remaining element of tenant right.
And here I come to the very fair and pertinent question of the senior Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket). I say that neither of these elements of value belongs to the landlord. Both of them form constituent parts of the tenant right, and those taken together may be said very fairly, in general terms, to constitute that which the tenant has to sell. Now it has been supposed to be absurd to make any reference in this matter to the compensation for disturbance and for improvements under the Land Act, and I admit, as the clause now stands, the words have too exclusive prominence given to them. They stand as if they 598 were the only thing to be looked at outside Ulster, at all events, as requiring definite notice, whereas they are not. But, on the other hand, hon. Gentlemen must recollect that these words are most important and operative words under the Land Act of 1870. Under that Act, as it passed this House and went to the House of Lords, it stood thus—that no yearly tenant could be evicted from his holding without being compensated for his improvements and for disturbance, on a scale with a maximum of seven years. Well, the effect of that was that the Act, as it went from this House, permitted assignment, and that assignment constituted tenant right. I challenge contradiction to that statement. The place of a man whose holding was the means of livelihood was a thing worth paying for, and the people are willing to pay for it. The complaint is that they only pay too much; and when we said to the holders of land—"We will fortify your position by taking care that you shall not be removed from it," we gave them virtually the tenant right, and a real interest in the holding. But what was done in the House of Lords? A prohibition to assign. Although, however, the property was made inalienable, though the privilege of alienation was unfortunately taken away, yet the property itself remains; and upon cases of eviction how is the thing worked? I am not now speaking of eviction for non-payment of rent, but of those cases, happily, I believe, not very numerous, where the eviction has been of a more arbitrary kind. In those cases what happens is this:—The landlord has evicted, the tenant claimed compensation for disturbance, the landlord looked out for another tenant; that other tenant, and not the landlord, has paid to the outgoing man the compensation for disturbance; and that is the basis of the tenant right. Depend upon it, under the operation of the Land Act there have been at work causes which, gradually but surely, have tended to the distinct development of a system of tenant right in all agricultural holdings of Ireland; and not only so, but have tended to give to that tenant right a form, corresponding in the main to the compensation for disturbance and compensation for improvements.
I have explained, therefore, what the tenant has to transfer. I say he has to 599 transfer these improvements; and if he is in a position fortified by compensation for disturbance, his holding being a means of livelihood, which it is worth another man's while to pay for, he has got this apart from the landlord; and it is perfectly fair and just that you should not interpose any obstacle. Therefore, in our view, the tenant right in Ireland is made up of elements neither of which belongs to the landlord, and which no landlord except an unjust landlord, and the case I trust is exceptional, endeavours to convert to his own profit. But an unjust landlord must be prepared to be interfered with. We will not undertake to respect the use he has made of the peculiar circumstances of the country, and of the long and favourable presumptions of the Legislature towards him, or allow his doing less than justice to those who stand towards him in the relation of social inferiors and dependents.
I trust, then, it will be understood that, in considering tenant right, these, and these only, are the elements which, so far as our views go, the Court will be entitled to exact. We assert distinctly and maintain that such is the legitimate basis of tenant right over and above improvements; but we assert also that that is an element which forms no part whatever of a landlord's legitimate rent, and which consequently is not to be deducted from the rent, and constitutes no interference with it at all. I will not enter into further detail on this question. We shall have other opportunities of doing so.
The principles of this Bill I have never heard once described in any speech from the opposite side of the House during this debate. Every observation that has been made has gone, as it has appeared to me, upon bye-points—for I call just and fair rent, however vital it may be, a bye-point. If we admit fair rent, you will, I hope, hold us to give a substantial meaning to those words; but it is a bye-point. But the principles of the Bill I have heard excellently described by those hon. Gentlemen who have studied the Bill on this side of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton) perfectly comprehended it. The basis of it lies in the land scarcity of Ireland, and its principle is this—in the first place, a frank acceptance of the Irish custom, and especially this custom of tenant 600 right. And now I am going to make an observation—not dogmatically; but I must say that, in my reading about land in Ireland, it has often occurred to me that the truly wise landlord in Ireland was the man who not only was liberal to his tenants, but who gave to that liberality a form and method of application adapted to the usages of the country. I do firmly believe that there are many wise, good, and enlightened landlords in Ireland, using those words in the general sense, who have freely spent money and parted with money for the sake of what they thought doing their duty, but who would have done their duty more profitably for themselves, and more advantageously to the country, if they had been less intent upon importing exotic habits into the country, and more inclined to allow the people to work according to their usages and traditions. At any rate, I hope hon. Gentlemen will see from our point of view that nothing is so plain as the duty of accepting the principle of tenant right. I cannot say with what satisfaction I listened to the able speech of my noble Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Viscount Lymington) upon this subject. His father, Lord Portsmouth, is one of those who tell you plainly, as I understand him, that he does not come before you in the character of a martyr or a victim. He does not say he has suffered by his practice to his tenants; but he has said that the frank allowance of tenant right has been most profitable to himself. That has been the result of universal experience in Ireland, and it is established by the experience of Ulster. Whatever you may say of the extensive and almost unintelligible prices which are sometimes obtained there for tenant right, it is undeniable that whereas, in general, rents in Ireland have grown much more slowly than in England or Scotland, the slowness of their growth is really to be attributed to the insecurity of the tenant. Equally undeniable is it that within Ireland itself, if you compare the growth in Ulster, where there was tenant right, to the growth in the other three Provinces, where there was none, it has been far more rapid in Ulster; and that is entirely owing to the fact and presence of tenant right.
Some hon. Gentlemen have referred to speeches of mine, and have put me back to what is a very unacceptable 601 task—that of reading them over again—but I must say that there is only one important particular in my speeches of 1870—to which I will at present refer—which I do not strictly and literally abide by. The principles upon which we have proceeded are—first, a perfectly frank acceptance of Irish custom; and, secondly, what is undoubtedly a great departure from the principles of free contract—namely, the introduction of judicial authority to settle a grievance between man and man with regard to agricultural holdings. Sir, I do not for a moment disguise the magnitude of that proposal. It is, if I may say so, the one really Radical proposal in this Bill. It is the one and only proposal that involves a strong and sharp departure from ordinary principles for the regulation of private affairs. I do not disguise it. But I ask you to observe this—first, it is required by the circumstances of the country; and, secondly, it is limited by those provisions which we have introduced, and which, in every case, though you have not thought fit to take any notice of it, have left it open to parties to return, when they conveniently can, to the ordinary principles of contract.
Are we justified in introducing this Radical proposal for committing to a Court the regulation of these private and personal appeals? In presenting this Bill to the House I stated what were not the reasons which, in my opinion, would justify it, and also what the reasons were which would. The necessity which I pleaded was a necessity, in the first place, arising from the unprecedented position of Ireland with regard to the pressure of the demand for land as compared with the supply; and, secondly, the unfortunate but inevitable results of the conduct of harsh and grasping and even cruel landlords, who, though few in proportion to the whole, have it fatally in their power to compromise the best interests of other men. I also quoted authority—and I have heard no one from the opposite side of the House make any reference to the authorities under which we are acting—I also pointed out that the Commissioners had recommended the introduction of this great innovation. I will now refer to one Commissioner who sits before me—namely, the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin). 602 He is one of the fathers of this Bill. Far be it from me to say he has ever owned it, or even made the smallest confession. But in ascribing it to him I am doing him an honour. He is not aware of the extent of his connection with this Bill. I will also refer to two persons who, when the Land Act of 1870 was under discussion in this House, recommended the reference of these matters to a Court. One of them is a Nobleman who is still alive—I mean Lord Winmarleigh. The other was the eminent man whose loss you are—and I cannot wonder at it—now deeply mourning. In 1870, Mr. Disraeli said—If a man without a lease, and who had paid his rent, is evicted, let his case go before the tribunal you shall appoint; let the Judge investigate all the elements of the equity of the case; and let him come to a decision which on one side shall guard the tenant from coercion, and, on the other, preserve the landlord from fraud."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 1821.]That, of course, is the object of the new Court. Therefore, you have in those words the substance of this tremendous proposal. I shall now read the words of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire, who has put his hand to this paragraph—Bearing in mind the system by which the improvements and equipments of a farm are very generally the work of the tenant, and the fact that a yearly tenant is at any time liable to have his rent raised by the increased value given to his holding, by the expenditure of his capital and labour, legislative interference to protect him from an arbitrary increase of rent does not seem unnatural, and we are inclined to think that by the majority of landowners, a measure properly framed to accomplish this end would not be objected to.I understand the hon. Gentleman to point to what I may call the preamble of the sentence. [Mr. CHAPLIN: Read the next paragraph.] I have not got it here; but the next paragraph treats of the three "F's," and we have not proposed the three "F's." I will come to that by-and-bye. The hon. Member is quite justified in pointing out that the preamble of this sentence has reference exclusively to improvements. That is quite true; but the enacting part has not. If the hon. Member had been content to say in his Report—"In consequence of the arbitrary increase of rent put upon the improvements of the tenant, we, the Commissioners, recommend that his improvements shall be protected by the intervention of a Court," that 603 would have been one thing. But that is not what he has done. He has recommended the intervention of the Court for the purpose of preventing all cases of an arbitrary increase of rent. But an arbitrary increase of rent is not limited to the tenant's improvements. It includes the swallowing up of the tenant's interest, and taking advantage of his property and the state of the market to get more than the commodity is worth. The hon. Gentleman, in recommending that the tenant shall be protected against an arbitrary increase of rent, without limiting that recommendation in the slightest degree to the particular case of improvements, has made himself responsible for the great and the only violent recommendation of this Bill.
I admit the Commissioners have said nothing at all excepting about rent. They have said nothing about tenant right; they have said nothing about security and fixity of tenure. Did the Commissioners really suppose that you could bring in a Court to determine rent and entirely refuse to take cognizance of the question of security of tenure'? Is it possible to say—"A Commission shall determine the rent to-day, and the land- lord shall, if he please, put out the man to-morrow?" The hon. Member will not rise and answer that question, although I paid him the compliment of ascribing to him the paternity of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman will see, if you authorize the Court to fix the rent, that it necessarily involves some duration of the rent. If you involve some duration of the rent you are fixing it, and between you and us the difference is only one of degree. We have not said rents shall be perpetual. We have introduced provisions by which they may be re-fixed from time to time, as circumstances would arise. In the same way with tenant right, I do not believe the hon. Member, and I feel sure that no Member from Ireland, will say that when a Court has fixed judicially the rent of a holding and given to that rent a certain term of years through which it shall exist indefeasibly, except by the fault of the tenant, the tenant's interest should not be an interest saleable in the market. These three things are inseparable. They are three strands of one cord, and they are absolutely indefeasible. We have largely qualified them 604 all; but to have attempted to deal with one of them, and not made a consistent whole, would, in my opinion, have proved totally unworthy of the great question with which we have to deal.
We have, therefore, I admit, with reference to the very grave circumstances of Ireland, made this great departure from the principles of free contract. But with that great departure we have combined provisions to enable the parties to return to free contract when they may find it expedient to do so. And, lastly, one of the principles of the Bill is in a set of provisions intended to promote and further the acquisition of capital and Of a permanent proprietary interest, and advances of public money for certain other important purposes. Under these circumstances, I must own it is with the deepest regret that I have observed the conduct of the Party opposite on this occasion. I am very sorry that the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) is not in the House. The Opposition are going to support him in the assertion that—The leading provisions of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill are in the main economically unsound, unjust, and impolitic.My noble Friend delivered his speech with such good humour, and was himself so obviously pleased with what fell from his lips, that it became infectious throughout the House. I myself was not insensible to the charm of it; and, I must say, it was an excellent example of a speech, in which an experienced Member of Parliament showed that you may say very strong things without giving offence. He gave no offence to me; but I am sorry to say that he misapprehended and misunderstood the case, greatly, I think, to his own prejudice. Is it possible that any Gentleman on the opposite side of the House can think that he is promoting the interests either of his Party or of the country by representing that this Bill gives perpetuity of tenure, perpetual fixity of rent, and unlimited tenant right? As a matter of fact, the tenant right is limited; the judicial rent is rent only for a term; and the security or possession given. to the tenant is not only defensible in consequence of his own breach of contract, but also after the first 15 years, which, after all, is not perpetuity. It is also defeasible if the landlord is able to make out a reasonable and sufficient case for 605 resumption. We may be right, or we may be wrong; but why begin the unfortunate course of inflaming and exaggerating your statement of the provisions of the Bill? Surely it was a case in which the public interest, and, most of all, your own interests, would make it desirable that you should understand everything in as favourable a sense as reason will permit you to attach to it.
So far as we are concerned, I am not complaining of what you have done; I am not at all sure that your conduct has been adverse to our Bill. Your censures and denunciations have gone forth through the length and breadth of Ireland as the strongest testimonials on behalf of our measure to secure to it the adhesion of the people; and I think it is very likely that you may have induced by your statements—entirely out-stripping the fact—some persons in Ireland to think that the Bill contains what it does not contain. It is a very large and strong measure; it is a measure as large, I hope, as the necessities of that country demand. But we have carefully endeavoured to prevent its wanton or its needless enlargement, and to leave every ground and every opening for the maintenance of the present social relations in Ireland, and likewise for the return of that which we know to be the best system for the cultivation of land under all normal circumstances—namely, a system where its particulars are arranged by free discussion between one man and another.
That being so, what are the Party opposite going to do? The noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) has given Notice of a hostile Amendment. Everybody knows that the meaning of an Amendment on the second reading is not only opposition to the Bill, but it is the extreme form of opposition to the Bill. The noble Lord, however, who has been a Member of several Cabinets, has not only given Notice of an Amendment, but has announced that he is going to vote for the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho). I presume that he made that announcement on behalf of his Colleagues. In the Notice of the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire I perceive the first effect of the death of Lord Beaconsfield. If he had lived that Notice would not, in my opinion, have 606 been given. I have had an experience of Lord Beaconsfield from a post opposite to me; but it has been a long experience; and you do not remain wholly ignorant of a man with whom, on a thousand questions, you are obliged, however unequally, to measure swords. When, Sir, a Liberal Government came into Office in 1868, and proposed the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, it would have been in the power of Lord Beaconsfield, if he had thought fit, to have prolonged the contest for years. On the contrary, I have not a doubt that Lord Beaconsfield thought that the issue was certain, and that for every interest—for the interest of the country, for the interests of his Party and his own—the sooner the goal was reached the better. He might have, I believe, taken the same course of prolonging the contest on the Land Bill of 1870; and that Bill, relatively to the circumstances in which it was introduced, was quite as great an innovation—quite as daring a measure of remedy—estimated with reference to what went before, as the present Bill when regarded with reference to the measure of 1870.
Well, what is intended to be done now? Do you who sit opposite think—is there any one of you who thinks—that this question will ever be settled by a measure smaller than the Bill before the House? And if by powerful combination, beginning below the Gangway, among a limited number, but still not of unimportant persons, and carried on elsewhere with stronger ties and ramifications—if you thus succeed in overthrowing this Bill, and the Government which attaches its fortunes to this Bill, and if you take their places, you will pass, not a smaller, but a larger measure. Nor am I the first person who has said this. I know not if the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) is in his place. [A VOICE: Yes.] I hold in my hand a speech which he delivered on the 6th of December last at Waterford, and which I read with great interest; but I am not going to quote from it for the purpose of making any charge against him. It was perfectly natural for him to say what he did. He began by predicting that if Mr. Gladstone should proceed to legislate on the Irish Land Question he would infallibly break up his Cabinet, "and that," he added, 607 "would be rather unfortunate, or it may seem to be rather unfortunate, for us; but I do not think the event will prove that it is unfortunate for us." He goes on to say that for England it would be unfortunate; but for him, with his views, it would not be unfortunate. The meaning, Sir, is plain. The hon. Gentleman knows well that if the Party opposite came into Office they would, under pressure, as they have done before, bring in a larger Bill than this; and that the words "Fraud, force, and folly," as applied to the three "F.'s," would gradually dwindle and grow pale, and that the hon. Member might wave his flag of triumph over a measure passed by a Conservative Government of which, perhaps, some Conservatives would themselves be heard to say, the landlords scowling in the background—"How much more liberal a measure it is, after all, than that which was brought forward by the Liberal Party."
But hon. Gentlemen opposite are judges of their own conduct. The matter, however, is one of a serious character. We are playing with edged tools in the state Ireland is now in. There is not a step which we have taken in reference to this measure which has not been taken under an overwhelming sense of responsibility. We do not mean to trifle with that which we have taken in hand. Yon must judge of your own duty; we must judge of ours. We shall use every effort legitimately belonging to us: first, to pass this Bill; secondly, to pass it speedily; and, thirdly, to pass it in an effectual form. My right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster) has been charged, I think needlessly—I do not see that his words give the slightest colour to the charge—with having given an intimation that we should haughtily refuse to discuss Amendments in the Bill. No, Sir, we have no such intention. I am not looking to one quarter of the House in preference to another. In proportion to our intense anxiety to be the bearers of some message of peace and good to Ireland is our willingness and desire to receive, from whatever quarter it may come, assistance in bringing the Bill as nearly as may be to perfection. We are not so vain as to think our first effort within the walls of the Cabinet room enable us to dispense with all the criticism, suggestions, and improvements which the intellect and ingenuity of this 608 great Assembly may furnish. But permit me to say—and I hope I shall not be misunderstood—not on the ground of any will or decision of ours, but because of the logical laws of events, that nothing appears to me so unlikely as that the Bill should be to any great extent changed. Were it to be vitally and fundamentally changed, in the sense of the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire, the people of Ireland, it may be assumed, would reject it as one man. But there is another construction to be put on the suggestion of change, and I have to suppose the case of a fundamental alteration in the sense which a portion of the Irish Members may desire. In considering that matter, among other points, I cannot exclude from our consideration that the settlement of this question does not depend on the judgment of this House alone. There is another Assembly which we must confront, where we are in a small minority; but, which will claim, and. is constitutionally entitled, to give its independent vote on the provisions of this Bill. If we hold by those provisions, I am so confident of their general character—I am so deeply persuaded of their general moderation, as well as efficiency—that I feel we can with a good conscience and with a sanguine hope address ourselves to whatever duties may belong to us for the purpose of the prompt passing of this Bill. But, if they see we are prepared to alter its character, in what is called the popular sense; and, having brought it in as one measure, to send it up to them as another; most justly might those who will have elsewhere to pronounce upon it say—"We are dealing with a set of men who do not know their own minds, and we refuse to defer to their authority."
I am therefore well convinced that the nature of this Bill, although it may be open, as I have admitted, to criticism in some particulars, is nevertheless of such a character that the ultimate choice of Parliament will be between the Bill in its essence or nothing; between the acceptance or the rejection of the Bill as it now stands. As I have said, we on this side will not shrink from the performance Of our part, for if we did there would be no condemnation too severe to pass on us for our rashness and temerity. At this crisis I gratefully acknowledge the 609 spirit in which this Bill has been generally received in Ireland. The landlords of Ireland showed in 1870 that they were not deficient in penetration. They were, I believe, at that time as much as they are now under the impression that their true interest is to have this question settled, and to have it settled at once. I gratefully acknowledge the generous reception which our proposals have received in Ireland. They have been received there as by men who have felt the force of the evils pressing upon them, and who were desirous of hailing the advent of whatever would give fair promise of offering a remedy. Let that generous reception in Ireland be met by a corresponding feeling on this side of the Channel, and within the walls of these great Legislative Assemblies. Then the year 1881 will not have passed away without adding to the Statute Book another great emancipating and redeeming measure, necessary alike for the prosperity of Ireland, the fame of Parliament, and the strength and solidity of the United Kingdom.
§ MR. FITZPATRICK
said, in rising to discuss the measure before the House, he must explain that he considered that in that Bill there were three Bills:—1st, one having for its object the extinction of the landlord by creating a new law of land tenure; 2nd, a Bill for creating a peasant proprietary; and, 3rd, a Bill for the reclamation of waste land and the carrying out of emigration. In examining No. 1 Bill, the new law of tenure, he confessed to a natural nervousness in daring to discuss or attack a measure which, up to then, had apparently puzzled even its own foster parents, if not its originator; but as very little light could be thrown upon it by anyone, he must only conclude that it was a vast web of law, in which the unfortunate landowner was to be entangled and slowly sucked to death by lawyers, Land League, and statesmen, who would thus be enabled to buy up his property at a cheap rate so as to carry out Bill No. 2 without much cost to the Exchequer. If the Bill was really meant as a remedy for the state of Ireland he could only say that, as an Irishman, he felt a deep sense of shame and astonishment that any such antediluvian measure should be deemed necessary to insure the prosperity of their 610 land. They had always been considered a shrewd, quick-witted nation. Their countrymen had always been supposed to be good hands at a bargain; and he, for one, believed they were so still; but the Bill before the House upset that theory altogether. It assumed that an Irishman had no knowledge of a bargain, no spirit of commerce or dealing. In point of fact, the Land Law (Ireland) Bill, with its three Judges, was to stand for the next 15 years in loco parentis to the whole nation. Now, possibly, this might, in some cases, be advisable. Some of their wayward fellow-countrymen did require guidance, and a check on some of the mischief done by their idle hands would be very useful; but why, might he ask, was that newly-created father not to take into equal consideration the good and the evil, the just and the unjust? The Premier had told them that the Irish landlords had stood their trial, and had been acquitted; but, at the same moment, and in almost the same breath, he mulcted the whole class he had just applauded to the amount of many millions. He said a few had not discharged their duties and had abused their rights. For their sins he would punish all. Did a just Government hang every man in a town because a murder was committed within its limits? That was not justice, it was not even expediency. It was merely the surrender of the moderate Liberal opinion to the wild Radical tail which was now the motive power in all Government actions. By the Bill before the House Government demolished piecemeal, and by studied legal devices the rights that had not only existed by prescription for centuries—his family had held the same land for over 900 years—but what was much more dangerous and unstates-manlike, they confiscated boldly the rights, and actually a large part of the capital, which was paid for land under the Encumbered Estates Court, where an indefeasible Parliamentary title was given at each sale. What was the equivalent offered? The option of selling at a reduced rate to the Land Commission; that reduction being forced on the unfortunate owner not by a fall in the market value of his property, but by the action of the Bill itself, which, after fixing his rent on the most unequal scale, flooded the market with estates for sale. A Scotch Member of that House 611 said, in an able pamphlet he wrote in 1869—The faith of Parliament is pledged to the purchasers under the Courts that they shall be sole proprietors, with all the rights of proprietors, and it will be breaking faith with those proprietors if the Legislature deprive them of any of those rights which it certainly would do if the demands of some people in Ireland were conceded.Those demands were now conceded, and the rights of those proprietors were now confiscated without any hint at compensation—the Premier himself having stated that there would exist, after the passing of this Bill, "a joint proprietorship in the soil." They were told that this measure was framed to meet Irish views. They were advised to accept it, because it was one of the first true attempts of England to meet the desires of the Irish nation. But what were the true facts of the case? Again a price had been placed on the landlord's head; a sufficient number had been shot; a good long reign of anarchy and agitation had paved the way to further concessions to the tenant, who had broken contract and renounced honest dealing; while the many landlords, who had done their duty throughout a dangerous and trying time, both by cause and country, were penalized without compensation, were condemned though acquitted. Did the Government realize what was the party to meet whose views that measure had been brought in? It consisted of all that was anti-English in Ireland, all that was violent and Communistic, and was numerically small. Were the opinions of the majority of real Irishmen not to be considered as well? Apparently not. At any rate, there was no trace of those opinions in the present measure, and even the strong, almost Radical, expositions of Mr. Stuart Mill and the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) were not represented. They, at all times, urged compensation for confiscation of the landlord's rights and privileges, as well as compensation for disturbance for the tenant; and he had reason to believe such clauses for compensation were in the Bill in the month of January, if not later. Judge Longfield, in one of the best articles published by the Cobden Club, always incalculated the idea of paying for what was taken from the landlord by the action of the State. He paid in that essay, referring to the continued 612 concession made to agitation and murder—Success acquired by such measures would not produce intended results, Riches acquired by fraud and outrage are not long enjoyed, for the qualities by which they are acquired are inconsistent with the qualities which are necessary to retain them.They had had the outrage for the last two years. In that Bill they had the fraud; and it merely required time to produce the effect he predicted. Tenants would mortgage and spend their stolen property; the banks, the loan funds, the gombeen or usurer would grow rich, the tenant poorer; another wild time of famine and murder would force some future Radical Government to confiscate again what might be left to the landowners of that day, were they fee-simple owners of large estates or peasant proprietors. Such would always be the case. They were told in Her Gracious Majesty's Speech from the Throne that the Bill was intended as an Amendment on the Act of 1870. As he read the 1st clause, it was in direct antagonism to the spirit of the Act of 1870. In that Act the owner was incited to buy up his Ulster tenant right; in the Bill that custom was extended over Ireland. When he came to the institution of a Court to fix rents, he was met by the Premier's own words, in his reply on the second reading of the Bill of 1870. First of all, he asked—"How are these rents to be valued? What is the test?" In 1881 they had the answer. By estimating and deducting from it the value that he proposed to carve out of the owner's property by Clause 1, and by estimating, not the improvements done by the landlord, adding value to the holding, but by the amount of compensation for disturbance. He finished up with a sentence very appropriate to this Bill—Two persons have a vital interest in the land. One of them is the landlord, who regards the estate as a whole, and who is very largely concerned in the development of its general prosperity; the other is the tenant, whose position it is desirable to simplify as much as possible, in order that he may be able to devote the whole of his resources and his capital, if he thinks fit, to the prosecution of his trade. But if you once adopt this principle to which I am referring, you cannot retain these two classes upon the land; the man who becomes a mere annuitant loses all general interest in its prosperity."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 1848.]The principles the right hon. Gentleman was there alluding to were free sale and 613 fixity of tenure, and he (Mr. Fitzpatrick) would confess those words were quite sufficiently sweeping in their condemnation. He had very ably also pointed out the dangers of free sale, now that a tenant could not employ his capital in benefiting his farm if he had used it in buying up the interest. And, finally, he proved that the existence of two persons on the land was impossible, once they had made the landlord an annuitant only. As that was effected by the Bill now before the House, all Irishmen who owned property must come to the conclusion that it was the object of the Government to get rid of them in a body. He had no doubt the hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Parnell) and his satellites were satisfied with that issue; but they, even, did not seem to consider the Bill clear on that point. Why, might he ask, was there all that beating about the bush? If the State wished to get rid of the landowners of Ireland, compensate them, and let them go; but do not let it be said they were driven out by legal fraud and Ministerial trickery. Why, even a Railway Company gave compensation for what it took, and also for the rights it invaded or confiscated. Could it be that the State of Great Britain was more niggardly than the Railway Companies, whom it forced to pay for what they appropriated? But, even supposing the owners expropriated, what was to be done with the labouring classes, numbering 1,444,700 souls? Were they to be left to the tender mercies of the new peasant proprietary? Anyone who knew the rural districts of Ireland was well aware that the only permanent labour given was that of the owners of large farms and proprietors. The average tenant farmer never employed anyone except as a servant boy, and even him not permanently. If they swept away the landowning class and put in their places the peasant farmers, they would not only be doing an injustice to that class, but they would have, in after years, two evils to content with—either a famine, and rates at 12s. in the pound; or else a further agitation, and most violent feuds between the labourers and the peasant proprietors. Even during last year, owing to the unsettled condition of the country and the enforced absence and poverty of many owners, the labouring population was in a wretched condition. No 614 class in Ireland except the landowners took an interest in the labourer; he was of no value to the agitator or priest, as he had neither vote nor money; and he was a continual source of annoyance to the farmer, being often a burden on the rates in winter, while in summer he naturally exacted the highest wages he could command. He could not here help expressing astonishment that no provision had been placed in the Bill to deal with the labourers' case; and he hoped before the second reading was over they would have a distinct undertaking from the Ministry on the point. He thought that everyone was agreed that some definite explanation for the introduction of the unjust Clause 1 and its conjunctive clauses should be made by Her Majesty's Government before the Bill was read a second time; and he confessed that unless some definite assurance was given that, in Committee, compensation clauses would be inserted to meet the injustice done to landowners by the clause, he should, to the utmost extent, oppose the second reading. He could not but say that there were many points in the Bill which met with his approval, and which, though radically opposed as they were to all laws of political economy, and though the Bill was completely opposed to the Bill of 1870, and not an amendment to it, as suggested by its promoter, still there was much in it that might prove of value if it was carried out in the proper spirit. Referring to Clause 1, he found that no allowance was made for the fact that many landlords had persistently prohibited tenant right on their estates by freeing every incoming tenant from any claim by the outgoer out of their own pockets. They had done the improvements in many instances themselves, over £3,000,000 having been spent by landlords on improvements since 1840. They had kept their rents low for years in order that their tenantry might be thriving and prosperous. They had been acquitted, in the Prime Minister's own words; and yet, in the same breath, he mulcted them of a large portion of the value that their toleration, their kindness had conferred on the farms and their occupiers. He did not understand that injustice, unless it was that, in the hurry of compilation, a compensating clause was omitted. Let him take an example from an estate which he was best acquainted with 615 in Ireland, and where he could produce documentary evidence to support what he said. The owner of an estate had expended in improvements during 40 years upwards of £25,000, and ho had never charged interest or extra rent, except since the Act of 1870, and then only in about 10 cases out of 336 tenancies. He had paid in cash £16,000 to compensate tenants for improvements made by them, and to assist in emigrating outgoing tenants, so that no system of sales of tenancy might creep in. Lastly, out of 336 tenancies he had not raised the rent, except in 12 cases, during the last 20 years. The total value of that increase was £321 2s. 5d. out of an estate roughly estimated at £17,000 per annum. The owner had, as he had before said, never permitted the sale of interest by the outgoing tenant to the incoming one, as he had always considered it better for the farmer to have the capital in his own pocket instead of in that of a man who was off to America or the Colonies. Here they had the instance of a landlord who, to the best of his ability, did his duty. He had improved and reclaimed, and had never rack-rented. Now, what would be the result if this Bill became law as it now stood? Every farthing the owner had spent as capital invested in the land would go into the tenant's pocket, unless he chose to raise his rents or to force a sale under the Bill to obtain the value of his improvements, To exemplify his protest, he would take one case out of the 336 tenancies as it would stand under the Bill. A was the tenant, B the owner. A, the tenant, had held for 20 years, from 1860, at same rent. B, the landlord, at some period, say five years after the tenancy was created, provided A with improvements, buildings, drainage, &c., to the amount of £200. A enjoyed the interest of that £200 for 15 years at 5 per cent—say £150—and he held the land at the same low rent. This Bill becomes law. B, the owner, must either raise A's rent, which he may not desire to do, having no wish to disturb the friendly relations that have existed; or, what was worse, he might have to force a sale on A to obtain value for his improvements—£200. But, suppose no change were made, and things should go on as they were, then A, the tenant, might at any time sell his interest— 616 namely, the £150 or more pound's worth which had accrued on the farm from B's moderation and good-feeling as to an owner's duties and rights. This was a particular case. Now, take the effect generally on the 839 estates tabulated by the Land Committee, where improvements bad been done by owner and tenant; and on the 200 where improvements had been done by owner exclusively, making a total of 1,039 estates in all, with an area of 4,861,881 acres. To this could be added 466,610 acres, being estates of gentlemen who were known to do improvements, and to be kind landlords, such as Lords Fitzwilliam, Powers-court, Monck, Portarlington, and others. This made a total of 5,228,491 acres, or over one-fourth of Ireland, in which owners had executed improvements. Rather a different result from the one-tenth, as stated by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Again, if they added to that the uncultivated land—4,630,000 acres—they found that, roughly, one-half of Ireland was represented in the tables. Numbers of estates were not returned which might be managed admirably; and, as town parks, residential farms, demesnes, and pastoral holdings for one year and under were omitted, he had no doubt that the case could have been made more powerful than it was if all those types had been included. In any case, he would merely refer for his argument to the 4,861,881 of which they had data, and on which improvements had been made by the landlords in the majority of instances, and by tenant and landlord combined in some others. Next, he took the acreage on which rents had not been raised for 20 years. According to the same tables, that was on 3,500,000 acres. If he added to that the same estates as before, which was quite fair, from everyone's personal knowledge of those landlords, they found that on 3,966,610 acres, or, roughly, one-fifth of all Ireland, the rents had not been raised for 20 years. Taking £1 per Irish acre as a low rent, and 30s. as an average letting rent, not a competition rent, they found that for 20 years at least the tenants on 3,473,098 acres had been benefiting to the extent of 10s. per acre for 20 years, making a total value of £1,736,549. That was merely the result on the few estates scheduled by the Committee; but how many millions it meant all over Ireland it was 617 impossible to calculate, there being 19,000 owners of land in Ireland. Those millions, whatever the amount, were handed over directly to the tenant by the Bill. Then, if they took the two classes of estates together—namely, those where rents had not been raised for 20 years, and where improvements had been made at large by the landlord, and, to a certain extent, by the tenant—they could prove conclusively the injustice and spoliation of the measure as it now stood. But some might say that the owners on those estates might have raised their rents, and that it was their look-out now if they lost the value. Well, that sounded to him a very queer argument. Because a man had done his best to help into a solvent and peaceful condition a country such as Ireland was 40 years ago, struggling out of misery and famine, and because he had denied himself and sacrificed his capital and his lifetime to insure that issue, they now, when the true pressure of poverty was gone, except in the far West and South, and merely acting under the coercion of lawlessness, penalized and fined that man, and forced him, by their Bill, to adopt a different course of action, or to expatriate himself from the country to which he had devoted all. He said they forced him, because, by the action of the Bill, the issue on estates of that type must be as follows. He would take the case of a holding where the tenant had given assistance in improvements, but where the owner had done the actual building and drainage, and had not raised the rent for 20 years or added interest. If the owner, finding that all amenities between landlord and tenant were done away with by the Bill, determined to raise his rent to the new judicial value, not a competition value, he was placed in one of these utterly unfair conditions by Clause 3. Under sub-section 1, supposing the owner desired to raise his rent and the tenant accepted the increase of rent, the rise in the rent might cover, in a retrospective manner, the interest on the improvements made by the owner; but at any time during the statutory term, 15 years, the tenant had the right to sell the interest in his holding—that was, he could sell the value of the money the owner had left in his hands for 20 years; he could sell the difference between the actual low rent paid for 20 years and the rent that might have been obtained. 618 But supposing the tenant did not accept the increase of rent, but sold his interest, what happened was this—He received the full value of the owner's money left out on the farm for 20 years, owing to the fact of its being a low rent, and, should the Court think fit, they could fine the owner 10 years' value of the increased rent he had demanded. That was, to his mind, the worst case. Then, supposing that the tenant did not sell, and did not accept the increased rent, but demanded compensation for disturbance. What was the effect? To show it clearly, he must refer to his first case. There the owner had a farm valued at over £100—say £150; he had effected £200 worth of improvements, had not raised rents during 20 years, and had not charged interest. The Court, in deciding the tenant's compensation, deducted, first, the £200 worth of owner's improvements from the compensation due—namely, £450. That was three times the rental, and he would add £50 as improvements made by the tenant, making £500 due to the tenant and £200 duo to the landlord. The tenant, therefore, received £300 in cash after he had benefited for 20 years from the low rent asked by the owner, that £300 being in addition to the interest on the money which the owner had left on the farm for 20 years in the shape of a low rent. If that was calculated in the same way as before—namely, £1 per acre low rent, and 30s. the full letting rent, he found that on a farm valued at £150, and of 150 acres area, each acre let at £1, the dead loss was for 20 years £1,400, so that the tenant received that as well as the £300. But supposing that the tenant refused the increase of rent and took the owner into Court. A rent was fixed for 15 years, the improvements he had made were not taken into account, and he had to look forward to the day when the tenant might sell and receive compensation in some shape. The tenant meanwhile enjoyed the interest of the capital sunk by the landlord in the farm for 15 years, at any rate, and possibly for as many more. If that was true British justice and fair play he was much surprised. The people were at present demoralized, and a Court which might have worked pretty well two years ago would not work well now. The cry at present was "Griffith's valuation," and the cry in future might be, "Down 619 with the Court which decided that more should be paid." The present period of 18 months before a landlord could reenter was too long. He thought it might with advantage be reduced to six mouths. As to the general effect of the Bill, did the Government imagine it would stop crime? It would be many years, he feared, before the country got back to the state it was in four or five years ago. But he had still confidence in his country. He had stuck to it all his life, and he trusted, if the Court did issue its mandates, the landlords would do their best by the tenants in the best spirit. As to peasant proprietors, by all means let there be a yeoman class if they could create them; but he thought harm would be done if they forced the large farmer to buy bit by bit. As to reclamation of waste land, he suggested that a large scheme of draining the large river basins should be entered upon; but he doubted entirely whether they would induce Companies, with the prospect of another agitation, to upset their property and the money embarked, to engage in the work. He rejoiced that there was to be no compulsory scheme of emigration. He regretted nothing more than to see his poor countrymen sent out of the country, and driven out of their homes. Nothing did so much harm. As Sir Robert Peel said—"These men go to America, but they will come back some day;" and that had proved true. They had come back many of them, and they were a great danger. Emigration ought not to be left to chance. Emigration should be carried out in families or in communities. The land of their adoption should be marked out for them. Their spiritual advisers should receive them. If emigration was carried out in a liberal spirit there would not be that bitter feeling which at present existed among emigrants. But the Bill said they were all to go to the British Colonies. If there was one thing that angered an Irishman it was to be told to go to the British Colonies. Tell him that and he would certainly go elsewhere. In conclusion, he would say that there were many portions of the Bill which he could willingly accept. He thoroughly agreed with the proposals with respect to compensation, the reclamation of waste land, and the establishment of a peasant proprietary. At the same time, he could not but think it 620 would be in some respects unworkable and unjust to the good landlord. But if the Government wished to deal with the question in a satisfactory manner there was one thing above all to which he thought they ought to turn their efforts, and that was the utter suppression of the mischievous action of the Land League.
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
said, he would not have ventured to follow so close upon the Prime Minister had it not been that in spite of the Prime Minister's speech the hon. Member for Portarlington (Mr. Fitzpatrick) had repeated the same arguments which they had heard from hon. Gentlemen opposite with regard to tenant right outside of Ulster. If the hon. Gentleman would not accept the Prime Minister as an authority he would give him another—namely, Judge Longfield. That eminent judge had been a Land Reformer all his life, and was a strong opponent of the Land Act of 1870. Now, however, after seeing the working of that Act, and with full knowledge that Parliament was about to legislate on the subject, Judge Longfield maintained that as that Act recognized the claim of a tenant to compensation for disturbance Parliament should have gone further and prevented eviction, except for some causes, and then only under the directions of some tribunal. Thus a tenant would have fixity of tenure, and then the rent must be regulated by the tribunal. That being so they could not prevent a tenant selling his interest to the best advantage, and therefore he would have the "three F's," free sale being the least objectionable of them. The present Bill was not a new departure; it was based upon the Land Act of 1870. He did not think it was extravagant to estimate the tenant right as worth seven years' purchase, considering that it had been put as high as 10 years by some very competent authorities, and that as the direct result of the Act of 1870; but he was afraid that if the question of arrears was not relegated to the Courts the Bill would be greatly marred. He hoped, also, that all leases made since 1868 would be subjected to the revising power of the Court. In 1868 some landlords began the practice of forcing leases upon tenants in anticipation of the Act of 1870, and since 1870 a considerable number of tenants had been compelled to accept leases exacting 621 a rack rent. It would, therefore, be a great flaw in the Bill if those tenants were left without any protection. Turning to the question of the reclamation of waste lands, he said he believed that the clauses dealing with that subject would be almost inoperative. They could hardly expect to see Companies formed for this land reclamation. The work of reclamation ought to be undertaken by a Public Department; but when done on a small scale it should be by the efforts of the tenants themselves. He regretted that no provision was made in the Bill for arterial drainage. Whatever opinion they might form with regard to the respective faults and merits of landlords and tenants, there could be no doubt whatever that arterial drainage was an absolute necessity in Ireland; and he hoped that the question would be considered by Her Majesty's Government. There was another point to which he wished to call attention, and that was with respect to the lending of money for agricultural improvements. The loans for land improvement were entirely out of the reach of the tenants, because the law required 40 years of an unexpired lease, and they all knew that such a tenure was very rare in Ireland. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would insert a provision in the Bill enabling statutory tenants under this Bill to obtain loans for agricultural improvements, and he was sure the happiest results would follow. In conclusion, he would merely observe that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had fully justified the confidence which the people of Ireland had placed in his willingness and ability to deal in a satisfactory manner with the Land Question; and he ventured to hope that the power and confidence which the right hon. Gentleman possessed would pilot the Bill through the discussions that might await it in that House, and send it from the House with a momentum which would cause it to surmount any obstacles that might meet it "elsewhere."
§ MR. RODWELL
said, he thought he ought, as a Member of the Richmond Commission, to offer a few remarks to the House on the Bill under consideration. There was a marvellous unanimity on the part of those who had addressed the House, with the single exception of the noble Lord (Lord Elcho), as to the necessity of some legislation 622 on the Land Question, and of the grievous consequences which would ensue if some legislation did not take place. He could not support the Amendment of the noble Lord, because it was founded entirely upon unsatisfactory pre-misses. The noble Lord, in a most uncompromising speech, held stoutly by freedom of contract; but there was no freedom of contract in Ireland with regard to land, so that no parallel could be formed between freedom of contract in England and Ireland. From the evidence he had heard and read he had come distinctly to the conclusion that landlord and tenant did not meet on equal terms in drawing up contracts, and there could be no real freedom of contract where the parties did not meet on equal terms. The evidence taken before the Commission showed that excessive competition for land, the unreasonable payments for tenant right, the arbitrary increase of rents, the overcrowding of the population in certain districts, and the minute sub-division of farms were the chief causes of evils to be dealt with. For 100 years Ireland had suffered severely from bad and oppressive laws. We must cast off our prejudices in favour of English law; it was an exotic, and would not flourish on Irish soil. His sympathies were strongly with the Irish people in the matter, and he was anxious to approach the question in a fair and impartial manner. With respect to the fixing of a fair rent, he was bound to say that, in his opinion, it needed a little more than the value of works done by the tenant. It was a matter of principle, and was shadowed out by one of the most intelligent and able of Irish landlords, Mr. Kavanagh, when, in his Report, he advocated a reference to arbitration. That gentleman had given it as his opinion that in all cases where the landlord and the tenant could not agree as to what was a fair rent the matter should be left to arbitration. But that was one of the things which the Bill did not propose to carry out. He must say he was surprised to hear the Prime Minister state that the Bill would put the landlord and the tenant in the same position. If the parties came to a mutual agreement that would be so; but if they could not do so, then the only chance of appeal given to the landlord was to resort to the odious step of 623 raising his rent. In that respect the Bill appeared to him to be a very one-sided measure; it certainly failed to carry out the arbitration contemplated by Mr. Kavanagh and other Commissioners. The Report went on to say—"We view the affording of such security as necessary," and what that meant was security against the capricious raising of rent; security against capricious evictions; security against the landlord taking advantage of the tenant's improvements; and security against the tenant's greed for land. The disease which prevailed in Ireland, and which had led to the injurious agitation which had prevailed, was a hunger, a greed for land; and, therefore, the security he spoke of in the Report was security against all the things he had just stated. With respect to the "three F's," they had been supported by many witnesses, but by none of them to the extent demanded by the Home Rule Party. It was very much a question of degree. The "three F's" might mean a great deal or very little. They might mean no rents or low rents, perpetuity of tenure, and perfect Parliamentary freedom to the tenant to do what he pleased with his land. On the other hand, the "three F's" existed already in the relations between English landlords and tenants. The tenants held at fair rents, they had fixity of tenure during the term of their leases, and they were entitled to something beyond the value of the improved rent they made the land worth by their capital and industry. The "three F's" had frightened a great many people; but they were not, he thought, so very formidable after all, when qualified so as not to do injustice to either party. But the "three F's" provided by the Bill went far beyond the recommendations of the Richmond or the Bess- borough Commissioners, and even beyond what Lord Carlingford recommended, and that noble Lord was Chief Secretary for Ireland at the time of the passing of the Act of 1870, and in doing so it created a difficulty in the way of those who desired to assist the Government in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) spoke of the safeguards which the Bill provided; but he had not enlightened the House as to what those safeguards 624 were. No attempt had been made to explain what the safeguards really consisted of, although the question had been asked from each corner of the House. Again, the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the "concessions" made by the Bill to the tenants. The Bill could make no concessions. What it did was to compel the landlords to make concessions, making them give up what they were unwilling to yield without some compensation. Later on the right hon. Gentleman said—The Bill is intended to guarantee to the tenant the value of his improvements, and that he should have a certain security in the defined value of his holding.Why, that was the very thing as to which for seven nights the House had been asking an explanation. The security was uncertain and undefined at this moment. The brilliant speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister left them just as much in the dark as they were before. He (Mr. Rodwell) had been occupied a great many years in construing Acts of Parliament, in preparing clauses, and in dealing with clauses; but if asked his opinion as to that part of the present Bill, he confessed that his opinion would be worth nothing. The fact he had stated he could assure the Government created a difficulty in the minds, not of the opponents of the Bill only, but in the minds of its supporters as well. Tenant right was the turning point of the Bill, and on this point it was worth while referring to something which had been written by the Postmaster General in his treatise on political economy. He said that the whole question of justice or injustice, as regarded anything more than the remuneration of the outgoing tenant for any improvement he had made, turned upon the consideration whether the goodwill of the occupation belonged to the landlord or the tenant; and he added—"We think it is the sole property of the tenant." What did the right hon. Gentleman. think of the tenant right proposed by the Bill? It was not defined; it was not pretended it was goodwill; it was an undefined something, an additional value to the property which might be owing to other causes than the capital or the exertions of the tenant; and the learned Professor said it belonged to the landlord and not to the tenant. One reason why he could not support the 625 Bill was that he could not support the provisions as to fair rent. He agreed with Lord Carlingford that in fixing a fair rent the Court should consider the buildings, fences, and other permanent improvements provided by the tenant, and that the Court should also take reclamations into account, unless the tenant had enjoyed them for a period or at a rent which had enabled him to recoup himself. But there was no such indication of fair rent in this Bill; and the late Attorney General for Ireland had discussed this question, adducing figures to show the injustice of the proposal which had never been met or grappled with. As to free sale, all the witnesses before the Commission broke down when they were pressed to support unlimited free sale, and, at the same time, justify the limitation of the rent which the landlord could get from a tenant. Professor Baldwin struggled hard, but ineffectually, to support his position on this point, and Major Robinson disagreed with the contention of Professor Baldwin. The point had not been sufficiently discussed in this debate. If it was wrong to encourage the landlord's greed by allowing him to extort what rent he could, how could they justify encouraging the tenant's greed by allowing him to sell the goodwill at a preposterous price? The system could tend only to make the worse form of rack rents, and to tempt tenants to borrow money from usurers at ruinous interest. Such a system was injurious to every interest; and, therefore, he thought the provisions as to free sale were the most objectionable part of the Bill. With these in it, he could not vote for the second reading. No doubt, there was land in Ireland which was not cultivated, or only partially cultivated, which would employ and feed a part of the population; and, though the Bill did not do all that might be desired to promote this object, it ought to have a chance of being made acceptable in Committee. There was evidence from a great number of landlords that some Bill was a necessity, and that legislation must take place. None could defend or wish to promote such relations of landlord and tenants as were admitted to exist in the case of the Portsmouth estates. Lord Portsmouth did not live on the property; he did not discharge the duties not exercise the rights or privileges of 626 a landlord; and when things were reduced to this state, and the landlord became a rent-charger, the sooner a sweep was made the better. The Prime Minister, in introducing the Land Bill of 1870, had loudly protested against such a calamity. The Bill ought to amend such conditions, and it ought not to bring them about. He could not shut his eyes to the gravity of the occasion. He would not take upon himself the responsibility of putting any impediment in the way of the Bill being read a second time; but he could not vote for the second reading. Free sale had been one of the causes of the mischief specified by the Richmond Commission, and he was asked to say it was to be one of the remedies; that was an inconsistency he could not be guilty of. He would endeavour to assist in amending the Bill in Committee, and in providing some of those safeguards to protect the interests of landlords which were hinted at in the first speech of the Prime Minister, but were not to be found in the Bill.
§ DR. KINNEAR
said, he was anxious to put before the House what he believed to be the impression in Ireland in regard to this Land Bill, which was designed to remedy the evils from which Ireland was now suffering. They were all aware in that House that the demands for legislative reform of the Land Laws of Ireland had been very loud and very long; but now that this Land Bill had been introduced into that House there was a measure of satisfaction over the entire of Ireland, and especially over that portion of Ireland with which he was best acquainted. He shared in the feeling of gratification which was felt in Ireland at the introduction of the Bill, because he was fully persuaded that the peace and prosperity of Ireland entirely depended upon the legislative adjustment of this question. Intimately acquainted as he was with Ireland, he would go further, and say the firm conviction of his soul was that the loyalty of Ireland depended upon the legislative adjustment of this question. It had been no ordinary call with regard to the necessity of this Bill. Landlords and tenants in Ireland could not be left to settle this question among themselves. He could testify that the universal consensus of opinion in Ireland was favourable to legislation. He had been privileged to hold conversations with large 627 numbers of intelligent gentlemen of the tenant farming class, and he had been privileged to attend some conferences upon the Land Question, and especially upon the question of this Bill, and in these conferences they enjoyed the fullest and frankest of thoughts and sentiments. He had had the honour of receiving a large number of letters from all parts of Ireland suggesting improvements, and suggesting where provisions might well be left out, and he was in a position to testify to the universal consensus of opinion in that country in favour of this Bill. It was desirable that there should be something like unanimity within the walls of the House, that they might frame the Bill when it got into Committee in accordance with the wants and requirements of Ireland. He had looked into this Bill with considerable attention. He had not been able to look at it with a legal eye as many hon. Members in that House had been able to do; but with the light of his own understanding he had looked at it from the standpoint of humanity. He had carried into the study of this Bill his feelings of common sense, and he had come to the conclusion that the Bill was framed in the most generous spirit, and that it honestly aimed at a hill and adequate settlement of this question for Ireland. It was seen that this Bill had not met universal acceptance out-of-doors. What Bill ever brought into the House had ever received universal acceptance out-of-doors? One thing they knew—that it incorporated a principle of vast importance to Ireland, and it was a principle which formulated concessions of unquestionable value. He looked upon the Bill as one of the best boons that Parliament ever conferred upon oppressed Ireland. Now, he would not conceal it from himself, nor should he conceal it from that House, the conviction of his mind that there were defects in the Bill, and that some portion of the machinery was exceedingly cumbrous iii its operation. There was a general desire from Ireland that when this Bill got beyond its present stage and into Committee all these difficulties would be more or less removed. There was very general satisfaction over the entire Kingdom of Ireland that these principles for which they had been so long contending were in some measure recognized by this Bill—that they had attained the 628 prominency to which they had now reached, standing at the forefront of the practical politics of the day, patronized by a strong Government, and sympathized in by the whole Liberal Party of the British Empire. It was a compliment to the inhabitants of Ireland that all these principles conveyed in the term commonly known as the "three F's" were in some measure recognized by this Bill. He should not enter into a discussion of the Bill at that hour, but would merely refer to the general satisfaction which was felt in Ireland over the facility that would be afforded by this Bill for the extension of the Bright Clauses of 1870 and the great principles of peasant proprietorship, which had been looked forward to with such great anxiety throughout Ireland; and there was a hope expressed that when this Bill got into Committee the Government would be induced to grant where required the whole of the purchase money, so that the peasant might arrive at this happy and triumphant stage. The tenant right already recognized by the Act of 1870 ought to be sufficient security for lending where required the whole of the purchase-money. He was opposed to the emigration clauses, and advocated migration from densely populated centres to unreclaimed lands, for the advantage of such a course to the British Empire would be indescribable. Thousands of homes would be created in this way, peasant labour would be utilized to a large and profitable extent, the national wealth would be largely increased, and he was convinced of it that the theory of an almost periodic recurrence of famine would be exploded. He regretted that in the Bill there was no attempt to deal with absentee landlords, who were draining the country of its thousands of the hard-earned savings of the people. He also regretted the absence of all reference to the London Companies and the anomalous position they occupied in Ireland, and begged to intimate that he would call attention to that subject in Committee on the Bill.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he would admit that the Bill was framed. with benevolent intentions towards the Irish tenant class, and not without a statesmanlike view of their case; but he denied that the Bill was adequate to the occasion, because it contemplated no subsidy whatever from the State to carry 629 it into effect, while it purported to deal with the rights, without trenching on the pecuniary interests, of the landlords. What he complained of was, that the Bill did not trench upon the rights of the landlords sufficiently to settle the question, and did not compensate the landlords for rights it took away—a thing which ought to be done for the sake of the tenants themselves. He regarded this Bill pretty much as he would a Bill in Chancery designed for the protection of one party at the expense of another, and promoted by a third, who was the real offender; but who came forward, without any tender of restitution on his own part, with a scheme of settlement to get rid of disturbance. He would not speak in enigmas. The real offender in the case of Ireland was the English Government, not the present Administration, but the English Government in its wide and permanent sense, which left out of account altogether that it was bound to make restitution. By means of a fiscal system at once insidious and oppressive, it had, within the last 30 years, drained away from Ireland unjustly £3,000,000 a-year more than the proportion which Irish taxation ought to bear to the taxation of Great Britain. The sum in excess of her fair quota absorbed from Ireland during the last 30 years amounted to three times more than would suffice to settle this question on principles which would commend themselves to every just and impartial man in Ireland. Ireland was almost wholly an agricultural and a pastoral country, and all the burdens that had to be borne by her must come from the produce of her soil and the industry of her inhabitants. The amount which remained for the support of the tillers of the soil and the profits of industry could not be more than the value of the produce minus the amount carried away for rent and taxation. The radical difficulty and unsoundness at the bottom of the Irish Land Question was one of Imperial misgovernment. Yes, he repeated, the evil was one of Imperial misgovernment. Misgovernment by misadventure and from ignorance, he was prepared to admit, and not misgovernment of conscious tyranny. He would explain the case as it appeared to him. The difficulty on the surface was that the landlords of Ireland, under the terms of lawful contracts, in a considerable 630 number of cases, claimed from their tenants higher rents than the tenants could afford to pay; and the exactions of the landlords, enforced by eviction or legal proceedings of some kind, were resisted by the tenants as inequitable, and opposed to natural justice. That was the difficulty on the surface. There was this also—sometimes the rent demanded was too high, but was not quite impossible of payment. The law, as it stood, said to the tenants—"You must pay your rent according to your contract, or give up your holding should the landlord desire it." This Bill proposed to meet such cases, and said there should be in future a new valuation, a new tenure, and a judicial rent superseding contract. He should observe this Bill would be wholly illusory if it did not, in a large number of cases reduce the rents which the landlords had been heretofore receiving, and might receive again except for the passing of this law. If they could convince the Irish people that the effect of the Bill would be merely to raise some rents and to lower others a little, and to give security of tenure for 15 years, subject to a new valuation, the Bill would not have found so good an acceptance as it had. A great deal more must be done for the tenants or the Bill would be no settlement at all. But, whatever they did for the tenants, if they trenched on the rights of the landlord, they ought to compensate him in some way for the rights they took away. It was probable that the landlords who had not raised their rents since 1852 would find themselves in no difficulty under the Bill, because the rents for 1852 were fixed on a scale of market prices much lower than the market prices at present. But the difficulty they had to contend with in Ireland was this—that, ignoring the process of impoverishment silently going on all the time, landlords had been increasing the rents, and tenants agreeing to pay those enhanced rents, without recognizing the fact that the conditions under which they lived were completely changed in consequence of the enormous additions to the taxation of the country. The valuation of 1852 was expressly based on a schedule of prices. Since that time prices had risen very considerably, as was shown authoritatively by the figures quoted in the Schedule to the Bill introduced by the Chief Secretary 631 for Ireland in the year 1877. While prices were thus advancing, the landlords were raising their rents, solely on the ground that the value of agricultural produce was enhanced; and persons who were not conversant with the statistics of Irish taxation might ads why that did not afford a sufficient reason for the action of the landlords. He wished to settle that question, and, at the same time, to show that the English Government was the real defendant in the case. The apparently anomalous fact that the value of land had not risen simultaneously with the rise in the prices of agricultural produce was due to several causes. Everyone knew that a heavily taxed people were not able to pay very high rents, and it was equally notorious that the taxation of Ireland had enormously increased in the last 30 years. In fact, so greatly had it grown during that period that if the whole Imperial taxation of the country were converted into Income Tax, the amount would be 5s. 3d. in the pound, whereas a sum of 2s. 7d. in the pound in Great Britain would discharge the entire taxation. That was a grievance that had nothing to do with ancient wrongs and bygone days of oppression, but had grown up altogether in our own times. Actually within the last 30 years, the taxation of Ireland had been increased per head of the population in the proportion of 120 per cent, though the real increase was 75 per cent, the diminution of the population accounting for the difference for the remainder. On the other hand, the taxation of Great Britain had been reduced during the same time by 6 or 7 per cent. To put the case more cogently, the proportion of taxation that a country could bear was absolute, and not relative. The 2 rupees paid per head in India weighed more heavily on the population of that country than would the same amount on the people of France or Great Britain. And so, with respect to Ireland, the actual taxation of Ireland was not greater than that of Great Britain, but relatively it was quite as great. In order to take a proper view of the country in the present day, it was worth while to notice the normal taxation as far back as the year 1841. A Parliamentary Return epitomized his argument. and showed that in 1841 the taxation per head of the population of Great Britain was £2 9s. 9d. 632 and of Ireland 9s. 6d. Between 1841 and 1851 the great Famine occurred, and the population was very much diminished. The taxation during that decade remained about the same. In 1851 it rose to 12s. 2d. per head of the population, and he did not complain of that; but in 1861 it advanced to £1 2s. 1d., and in 1871 to £1 6s. 2d. During that period the taxation had been greatly reduced in Great Britain. In consequence of the increase of taxation in Ireland, the tenants were unable to pay their rents. The gross revenue raised by taxation in Ireland, which was less than £4,000,000 in 1841, had risen to upwards of £7,000,000 in 1871. The only reason why he had ever advocated a separate Parliament for Ireland on the Federal principle was that he believed it was impossible, in the absence of some system of Home Rule, to make a fair distribution of the means of the two countries. But the Government did not propose to review the system of taxation in Ireland. Instead of doing so, they affirmed what was not the fact, for they affected to say that this was a question between landlord and tenant. When the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster found travellers weary and stricken who had fallen among thieves, he did not treat them as the good Samaritan; he did nothing for them, not even giving them 2d. in the way of a loan. He contended that if justice was to be done to Ireland, it must be done in such a manner as to administer the taxes raised in Ireland just the same as if there existed an Irish Parliament. No matter how the subject was viewed, the same lesson was learned in the end—namely, that Ireland has been impoverished by Imperial taxation. ["No!"] He said "Yes." He maintained it was now the duty of the State to use the means which it had already drawn from Ireland in excess of her fair quota to take largely the landlords' right, and constitute a yeomanry with perpetuity of tenure, a moderate rent, and to indemnify reasonably the owners of property who had to surrender a portion of their inheritance for the public good.
§ MR. SPEAKER
reminded the hon. Member that he must keep to the Question, which was the second reading of the Land Bill.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he would conclude his observations by repeating 633 that, in order to settle the Land Question, the Irish people were entitled to a liberal grant from the British Parliament.
Sir, during the time I have had a seat in this House I have never felt so deeply the responsibility of addressing the House as upon this subject. I desire to explain in a few words why I and those who act with me think it necessary to vote against the second reading of the Bill. I must, in the first place, make the avowal that it is with some hesitation on my own part that I came to such a conclusion. I know perfectly well that misrepresentation is likely to be made upon the subject—I know the course I have indicated is open to the interpretation that we on this side of the House are not prepared to consider circumstances as they exist, and that we do not consider any legislation necessary. That is a view of which I cannot approve. On the other hand, it seems to many, who entertain, as I do, a strong opinion against both the wisdom and the expediency of some of the fundamental principles of the Bill, that it is more straightforward to vote against it at this stage than to allow it sub silentio to be read a second time under the tacit understanding that we accept it as something which may be turned into an entirely different creation in Committee. The Prime Minister, with a perfect fairness from the Parliamentary point of view, endeavoured to pin those who had spoken against the measure to the terms of the Amendment moved by the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho). But I would point out that, under the Parliamentary conditions of the case, there are only three courses open to us—namely, to vote for the Bill, to refrain from voting altogether, a course which, I will venture to say, considering the magnitude of the question, is hardly consistent with decency, or, lastly, to vote against the Bill. I look at the Bill as a measure of administrative reform. I was very much struck with the manner in which the Prime Minister this evening plunged into a defence—or, rather, a repudiation—of the term "confiscation" as applied to this measure. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to find some consolation in the fact that that word has been used on other occasions, and particularly during the passage of the Land Bill of 1870. 634 Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to ask whether that Bill did, in point of fact, injure the property of the landlord? Well, I will give an answer to that question, and the witness I will call into court is one to whose opinion I believe hon. Gentlemen opposite will give full weight—namely, Judge Flanagan, one of the principal Judges of the Landed Estates Court. In examination before the Select Committee on the Land Act of 1870, Judge Flanagan was asked whether the value of land had risen or fallen since the Act had been passed; and his answer was that, taking price as a test of value, it had not fallen, but that if the Land Act had never been passed it would have commanded a higher price than it actually did, inasmuch as the price of beef, butter, and other commodities had in the interval greatly risen. From that opinion we may draw our own conclusion as to the effect which the present Bill will have upon the property of the Irish landlords. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that if the State found it necessary to take what are termed confiscatory measures, it was no more necessary to give compensation than it was in the case of the Church Patronage Bill which passed into an Act a few years ago. The right hon. Gentleman argued that confiscation in that case took place without compensation having followed; but how do the facts stand? If there was confiscation in the Scotch Church Patronage Bill, compensation was proposed in the clauses of the Bill; and, as a matter of fact, some of the lay patrons availed themselves of that compensation. We have had to-night sonic important admissions upon the point, in an explanation of which the House has been waiting for seven nights with some anxiety. I am not one of those who believe in what is easy to say and difficult to refute—that the Cabinet has been disunited upon that or upon any other point. I have heard Cabinets spoken of as disunited, which were entirely in accord, and it is difficult to prove such things, except that, in the present instance, we have actually the fact that one Member of the Cabinet has left them upon this measure. I have nothing more to say on that head; but I must call attention to one or two discrepancies with which I could not help being struck in the speeches which have been made during the debates upon 635 the Bill. I think it would have been worth while for the Government to have spent some little time in agreeing upon some common course Of argument, so that one Member of the Cabinet should not rest upon one part as the primary element in the Bill, and another upon another part. In the able and lucid speech of the Prime Minister, in which he had introduced the Bill, a great deal was said on the landlord and tenant clause of the Bill, and somewhat less on the clauses relating to emigration and the purchase of their holdings by tenants. This evening the right hon. Gentleman has spoken almost exclusively of the landlord and tenant clause, and referred to the other questions only by a passing allusion. The right hon. Gentleman went on to comment on the 7th clause; but even after the explanations of the right hon. Gentleman it is quite obvious that that clause will require to be cleared up, or at least considerably modified in Committee. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has fallen foul of my hon. and learned Friend I he late Attorney General (Sir John Holker) for having said that the Bill is difficult to interpret, and that it has been designedly so drawn. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had never heard of such a charge in all his experience being made against a Government. I observe, however, as a matter of fact, that the right hon. Gentleman did not say that the clause might not have been drawn in a simpler form. I have, however, a sufficiently high opinion of the Government draftsman to believe that he could have drawn the clause in a much simpler form if he had been allowed to do so. The right hon. Gentleman had said that evening that the Government are not proud of the workmanship of that clause of the Bill. It is true that the draftsman might have found himself in many respects hampered by the declarations of the right hon. Gentleman in 1870 in arguments which are still unanswered and unanswerable, and it seems to me that it would not be an unfair compromise if we on this side of the House agree to make no reference to the right hon. Gentleman's speeches in 1870 on the understanding that the Government consent to the modification of the clause. I say that notwithstanding that the hon. Member for County Cork (Mr. Shaw) 636 has said that he has been able to understand the Bill five minutes after perusing it. I am certainly not asking too much to ask, as that clause is to he the charter of the tenant and that by which the course of law is to be guided, that the clause ought certainly to be made perfectly clear, so as to leave as little as possible to the discretion of local Courts. I will say a word on the interposition of a Court in transactions which have hitherto been matters of free contract. I am not a holder of Irish land; but I have, in times past, been connected with property in Ireland, and from the knowledge which I possess I do not think that it would be otherwise than wise that the tenant should have some tribunal to which he can appeal. I think that in many cases it will be wise and right that there shall be a power of appeal to time Court; but what has been said of the Courts to be instituted under the Bill? It is quite true that the right hon. Gentleman told us, as I understood, there are clauses about the Courts which require to be materially altered. All I can say is that it is unfortunate that it was not thought of before the final revisal of the Bill, which has gone through so many editions. The Civil Bill Court, as it stands in the Bill, has met with the disapproval of all concerned. One hon. Member said the Civil Bill Court was an old and dishonoured institution, and it failed to do the work of 1870. The hon. and learned Member for Antrim (Mr. Macnaghten) called it unsatisfactory, and said it was not unlikely to wreck the Bill. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) said that make the Court the sole arbitrator between landlord and tenant would be productive of nothing but disaster. But the unkindest cut of all was that the right hon. Gentleman himself came forward and said that under the provisions of the Bill, in many cases, it was intended to give the Civil Bill Court the go-by altogether. Then there is another point in connection with the Courts. I confess that I am one of those who, from personal knowledge of tenants, greatly fear an increase of litigation, though, on the property with which I was connected, we had so little trouble that I have known marriage portions to be assured upon a farm of which the tenant himself had only an annual holding. The tenant, by going into Court, has all to gain, and apparently has nothing to 637 lose. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Antrim that in many cases it would be wise to give a certificate, if it were possible to do so. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the objections which have been entertained to the refusal of the Government, under the present Bill, to allow landlords to go into Court, and he alluded to the certificate spoken of by the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, to whom we listened with so much satisfaction the other night. As I understand the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, his case is not that in all cases the bringing of cases into Court will be prevented, but that the granting of certificates will enable the proprietor of an estate to give an intending purchaser, so to speak, a clean bill of health for the estate; and, at all events, it will protect any person to whom he may sell his estate from a number of actions. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about safeguards being introduced in Committee, and used other terms of the same sort. I understand that it is possible that when we reach Committee some modifications may be introduced, and that the objection which is entertained to the Courts not being as open to the landlord as to the tenant may be remedied at a future stage of the Bill. I do not wish to take up the time of the House over the very vexed question of the 7th clause. It is a question which really, after all, can be dealt with equally well when the Bill goes into Committee. But it seems to me that some of the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has used to-night and on a former occasion are somewhat extraordinary; and they hardly appear, to my simple understanding, to justify some of the conclusions which his superior intellect has drawn from them. Now, what are the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman? He said—Before the Land Act of 1870 the tenancy was determinable upon a certain notice at the close of each year, at the sole will of the landlord, and without any other consequence whatever. What the tenant had to assign was so small that the assignment was little worth giving or receiving. But in the Land Act—not, I must own, with a view to fortify the principle of tenant right, but simply with a view to defend the tenant in possession of his holding and to render it difficult for the landlord capriciously to get rid of him, we proceeded to enact a scale of compensation for disturbance, without which the tenant could not be removed. That being 638 so, a valuable consideration was, by the Act of 1870, evidently tacked on to every yearly tenancy in Ireland."—[Hansard, cclx. 902.]That was very much the case, and a still more valuable consideration is now being again tacked on. The right hon. Gentleman goes on to say—And under the Act of 1870, whether we intended it or not, tenant right has become something sensible and considerable."—[Ibid.]Therefore, because you gave the tenant a right which you disowned at that time, and which you say you did not intend to give, or did not know that you were giving, and which the right hon. Gentleman, in the most distinct terms, disclaimed in 1870—because I say that right has been given, it is upon that ground, says the right hon. Gentleman, that you have established a right—it is a right that belongs to the tenant for ever, and it must now be deducted from the rights enjoyed by the landlord. My opinion certainly is that, as was said by the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, if you make your addition wrong and your subtraction afterwards, you are not likely to come to a generally accurate result; and I confess that I believe that if you go on with this process of subtraction the interests of the landlord will, in the end, be very greatly depreciated. I do not know whether I correctly understood the right hon. Gentleman; but I think he said that this is not by any means parting with the interest of the landlord. He said that the landlord might at any time resume the property. So he can resume it in the same way that he could go into a shop and resume any article that he saw there—namely, by paying for it. I may have read the Bill wrong, and, if so, I hope to be put right; but I confess I do not see that this resumption is a resumption unaccompanied by a money payment. Then the right hon. Gentleman says that the excess of the tenant right is provided against by the Bill. But, on the other hand, he says that the excess of tenant right is so provided against by the Bill that there is no fear of its unduly depressing that part of the property which may belong to the landlord, or producing the dangerous consequences which some hon. Gentlemen apprehend. But we have to consider, not what the right hon. Gentleman thinks or intends, but what is to be the interpretation of the Bill; and my right hon. 639 and learned Friend the late Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson) showed clearly enough that any lawyer called upon to pledge his professional reputation would tell us that this must be read in connection with other clauses, and that under Clause 7, sub-section 3, the Court, whether it pleased or not, would be obliged to take into consideration the interest of the tenant, and would be bound by the regulations of the Bill. There is another argument which I must notice in connection with this part of the Bill, and I beg the pardon of the House for being obliged to go into it at such great length at so late an hour. The right hon. Gentleman said there were two things which constituted the tenant right—there were the tenant's improvements, and there was also, as part of the tenant right, the excess in the price of bidding; and he instanced that by saying that land was in the position of a rare or very valuable commodity, and that the price given for it might be far greater than the intrinsic value. But the right hon. Gentleman, to the best of my belief, did not attempt to sustain, and did not sustain any reason whatever, Why, in the case of an inherently rare and valuable commodity, you are to take away from the owner some part of the price which its rarity may have assigned to it. I wish now to say one or two words with regard to another subject upon which the right hon. Gentleman said a little—namely, the increase in the number of proprietors. That is a subject which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland gave comparatively little prominence to. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, following the lead of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, put it only as a secondary consideration of the Bill; but the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India put it as a point of vital importance; and, as far as I understood it, the whole speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was directed towards it. I think the House will agree with me that nothing could be more striking than the general concurrence of opinion there has been in the course of the present debate that it is wise to increase the number of owners of land in Ireland. To that doctrine we on this side of the House give 640 as cordial an assent as you do yourselves on the other side, provided only that the increase is brought about by natural growth, and not by a violent disturbance or a violent political change. This is neither the place nor the time to discuss the direct or relative advantages of large and small farms. All I can say is, that in my own district, with which, I believe, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is pretty well acquainted—in the northern parts of Lancashire, Westmoreland, and Cumberland, there are a good many of the occupiers who are called "statesmen"—yeomen who hold their land by as good and as old a title as any Gentleman who has a seat in this House. Now, I am not one of those who wish to see the ownership of property divided into the proprietorship of house to house, and of field to field. Nor do I think that it is desirable, on economical grounds, that all the small properties should be absorbed by the larger and greater owners; but, as a matter of fact, and I regret it deeply, that these "statesmen" in the North of England are slowly but certainly disappearing, finding, as they do, that by embarking in trade and commerce they can realize 7 or 10 or 15 per cent upon their capital; whereas they find that by devoting themselves to the cultivation of the land they can only gain 1 or 2 per cent. It is said that this is a step in the direction of free trade in land. My right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works! Mr. Shaw Lefevre) says that when peasant proprietors are created there will he an absolute free trade in land; and the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, as far as I understood them, went to the same extent. But is that the case? Not at all. As I read the Bill, you do not propose to exempt the new purchaser from any of the fetters or conditions you intend to attach to the ownership of land. It is perfectly true, as was described by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Brand), that the Bill places restrictions upon the owners of land in respect of all but what they may choose to occupy themselves. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, speaking upon this matter the other night, disposed, in a few sentences, of the nonsensical idea that there could actually be a peasant proprietorship created without the proprietorship determining, in some 641 instances, into a landlord ownership. Then, as to this free trade in land, after all, where is it? You are doing away elsewhere with copyhold. It is thought that it is not for the advantage of the public, and of the general good, that a copyhold tenancy should prevail. But although there is a Bill now before the House, and attempts have been made in past years to abolish these tenures, what are you doing by this Land Bill? You are really creating a more stringent and a closer copyhold in Ireland than any of those you are proposing to get rid of in England. Then, it appears to me that those who use the argument of free trade in land fail altogether in their propositions. To my mind, it only shows how the principles of political economy can be thrown aside at convenience in order to meet the political emergency of the moment. I will go now to another point. I have said that there was a certain amount of difference of opinion between Members of the Cabinet—I do not say that there actually was, but there appeared to be—as to the relative importance of the provisions of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, as we know, laid stress on the landlord and tenant portion of the Bill, and another Minister attaches great importance to a peasant proprietary. But the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India appears to take an entirely different view of the question, and, we are obliged to look into these various opinions in order that we may have the greatest amount of light thrown upon the real intentions of the Government in bringing forward the Bill. In the course of an investigation which I made for this purpose, I came across a speech delivered recently by the noble Lord on a political occasion at the Fishmongers' Hall. The noble Lord said, in the introductory part of his remarks, that he had intended to excuse himself from attending the dinner—that he had not intended to go there—and, as far as that is concerned, I dare say from the comments which have since been made upon his remarks that long before this debate closes he will wish that he had not been induced to change his original intention. Now, the noble Lord, as we all know, always speaks to the point. He does not speak without consideration, and if there were anything to make his remarks especially important it was the 642 fact explained by the noble Lord himself that he officially attended the dinner on that occasion as one of the Representatives of the Government in the unavoidable absence of the Prime Minister. The noble Lord, therefore, speaking in his capacity as a Member of the Government at a dinner of his political friends, and this great question occupying public attention at that moment to the exclusion of everything else, made use of these words—The evils of Ireland are too deep seated to be removed by any changes in the relations between the landlord and owner and the occupier. We believe, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy has so constantly urged that these evils will never be effectually removed until there has been established a great increase in the number of holders of property in Ireland, until the vast disproportion between the owners and occupiers has been somewhat diminished, and until a larger number of occupiers are placed in a position that would give them some participation in the rights of property.The noble Lord went on to say, in which I entirely agree with him, that our first object should be to do all in our power to enable the Irish people to become to a greater extent proprietors of the land, and that it is to such modes of legislation we must look for any ultimate improvement in the condition of Ireland. There are many other matters which require attention; but in the opinion of the noble Lord these are the true remedies to be applied, but it must take some time to carry them into effect, and they cannot be immediate. There is an interval, he says, to bridge over, and he tells us the modus vivendi must be discovered. He adds that Her Majesty's Government have endeavoured by their proposals to submit such a modus vivendi to the consideration of Parliament. According to the noble Lord, the arrangement now before the House is intended to bridge over the interval now subsisting between the landlord and tenant for a certain period. Then, why are we not told at once by Her Majesty's Government why these great proposals are put as the secondary parts of the Bill? I trust the noble Lord will believe me when I ask in no spirit of hostility why, if this is the case, the Government do not take the purchase clauses and the emigration clauses before they take the rest of the Bill? We have heard in general terms that it is intended to make an annual grant to carry out the emigration 643 scheme and to aid in the purchase of estates; but we are told, on the other hand, that the amount of the grant is to be decided by an annual Vote of Parliament. It seems to me that we are left entirely in the dark on the subject, and that the House may be legislating in one direction while the Treasury may be acting entirely in another. Therefore, upon these points I think we ought to have a definite statement upon the matter. I may say, on many grounds, in regard to the purchase of land, that I share the feeling of my right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) that it would be undesirable for the Government to undertake such purchase by their own direct agency. I confess that for many reasons I should very greatly prefer that the purchases should be made through the agency of something like a Land Bank. I do not know whether it is either expedient or necessary that I should touch further upon this part of the question; but, speaking generally, I may say that the proposals of the Government at the present moment seem to be somewhat illusory for the reasons I have already mentioned. When the creation of a Land Bank was first suggested the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw) remarked that no Land Bank could have the power of borrowing money at anything like the same rate of interest that the Government could obtain it. But if such a bank had the Government behind it so as to give a guarantee, either directly or indirectly, the money might be borrowed on the security of debentures issued upon property, or might be obtained in the many other ways in which property may be dealt with; and I must say that all I have heard, read, and seen, incline me to believe that there would be no practical difficulty in a bank of the character indicated being able to obtain ample funds, at a comparatively low rate of interest, to enable it to carry out the object of the Bill. There is, therefore, much to recommend the creation of a Land Bank, and certainly some of the arguments which have been stated against it are not of the same force as at first sight appeared. In the course of this debate one thing has struck me very painfully and very forcibly. During all the years that I have sat in this House I have carefully avoided anything in the nature of making a personal 644 attack upon anybody, and certainly I am not going to begin making such attacks now. But I must confess that I was amazed, and almost ashamed to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in the course of his remarks, make use of arguments which seemed altogether unworthy of him. I could scarcely believe that I had correctly understood the right hon. Gentleman until on referring to the usual sources of information I found that my impression was correct. The right hon. Gentleman was not afraid to import into this discussion—a discussion which his Leader asked the House to consider apart altogether from Party feelings, and as one which affects the interests of the Empire only—the right hon. Gentleman was not afraid, I say, to import into the debate arguments which I have certainly heard of as being used in tumultuous Party meetings, but which I have never heard used in places where questions were calmly deliberated upon—arguments calculated to arouse many angry feelings, which I, for one, had hoped, in the course of this discussion, would have been buried. The right hon. Gentleman did not think it unworthy of him to say, without qualification—The vast estates that are held in Ireland are estates that were created mainly at the time, and in consequence of the confiscations of which we read in Irish history.We have often heard the general proposition—"Ireland for the Irish," and we have heard it asserted that Irishmen are the real owners of the soil; but it is convenient to leave out of the question the large number of Irish families who are still among the largest owners of the soil. Let me take a few names which occur to me at the moment. We are told that this Land Question has arisen because the estates have been created only in the manner spoken of by the right hon. Gentleman. But everybody knows that that is not the case. If the right hon. Gentleman is still under that impression, let me ask him if he has never heard of the estates held by the O'Conor Don, Lord Inchiquin, the Knight of Kerry, the families of Kavanagh, M'Dermott, the O'Donoghue, and many others, whose names may be easily made known to persons who care to inquire into the subject. Does he not know that the titles of these families as owners are 645 long antecedent to any question of conquest or confiscation? Does the Land League make any such distinction as the right hon. Gentleman draws? In all the letters that have been written on the subject, and in all the speeches which have been made at public meetings in Ireland, have we ever seen any proposition to exempt from the operation of the Land League those landlords who held such an ancient or indefeasible title? But the right hon. Gentleman goes even further than that. He comments upon the fact of the land being in the possession of owners "who differ in religious convictions from the bulk of the people." But can the right hon. Gentleman really presume to say, in cold blood, that he is prepared to sustain the assertion that the question of religion has anything to do with the matter, or that there have not been just as fierce attacks made against Roman Catholic and Presbyterian landlords as against Protestants, notwithstanding the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is anxious to show that the occupiers of the soil claim a religious connection with Roman Catholics only. The right hon. Gentleman commented at some length upon this matter; but as I do not think his comments ought to go entirely unanswered, I have, to the best of my power, endeavoured to answer them. But the right hon. Gentleman continued his extraordinary statements. He went on to say that—If you complain that the Bill gives too much to the tenants and takes all that it does give from the landlords, I should make this answer—If, at this moment, all that the tenants have done were gone, and all that the landlords have done were left, that is the sort of map I should very much like to see, for its publication would finish this discussion in five minutes. Well, if that were to take place, if all that the tenants have done were swept off the soil, and all that the landlords have done were left upon it, the land would be as bare of house and barn, fences and cultivation, as it was in pre-historic times.Surely the right hon. Gentleman cannot have read the very able reports of the Commissioner of The Times, nor can he have read the statements in other newspapers as to the number of landowners who have improved their estates. Has the right hon. Gentleman never seen the pamphlet quoted with great propriety by his leader, the Prime Minister, called "Facts and Figures," in which it is shown from Returns correctly obtained from owners and occupiers, that 646 since 1840, as far as can be ascertained, the amount expended by landlords in the improvement of the land occupied by tenants is not less than £3,500,000? Is he further unacquainted with the fact, and, if so, I will make him a present of the figures, which he will find in the same pamphlet at page 33, that in Leinster out of 608 estates, in 194 the agricultural improvements have been made by the landlords, 202 by the tenants, and 212 conjointly; but of a total number of 1,627 estates, in 839 cases contributions were made both by the landlord and tenant, and in 200 cases by the landlord alone. But in connection with this point an ad captandum argument has been used. It is said that—"Taking from the amount of money spent the sums borrowed by the landlords under various Acts and securities, you will find that they themselves have spent but a very small portion of the whole amount." That is a plausible argument; but it is also true that it is covered by the fact that the tenants have not paid interest on the borrowed money. And, further, if the landlords have contracted loans without charging any additional interest to the tenant, undoubtedly we have a right to claim on their behalf that they have not been backward in effecting improvements. We know of an instance in which out of £30,000, £13,000 only was passed through the private account, the whole of the remainder being spent on the estate; and I am certain that the properties to which I have alluded more than once in the course of this debate have been dealt with in a similar spirit. I know of one case in which an amount, exceeding the whole rental of the property, was actually expended upon it in many years. The question in the minds of many persons stands thus. They say—"We are quite willing to consider fairly this question of tenant security; but, after all, is this measure intended merely to meet the evils which it is proposed to redress, or are you, under the guise of remedial legislation, entering upon a course of political change which you are unwilling openly to avow?" I cannot think the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant can be very much obliged to his Colleague at Bradford, who, the other day, connected so closely the questions of English and Irish land tenure, more especially as we have had it admitted in the 647 course of the debate that there was an essential distinction to be drawn between the English and Scotch and the Irish systems of land tenure, inasmuch as on this side of the water the buildings, and so forth, are almost without exception the property of the landlords.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman altogether mistakes my meaning, in saying that I was trying to attach the question of land tenure in England to the Irish question. I said that the settlement of the Irish question was only secondary to the English people as contrasted with the Irish people.
I was not present when the hon. Gentleman made the remarks to which I have referred, and I am very glad to hear him now make a public recantation of what has been erroneously attributed to him. We are, on our part, pleased to take note of that fact.
I said "recantation of what had been erroneously attributed to the hon. Gentleman." We are now, upon the second reading of this Bill, considering the principles which underlie its action; and I have pointed out, perhaps at undue length, why we on this side are obliged to take a course of opposition to it at this stage. We know that the two main sources of this measure have been the "earth-hunger" and the agitation which has of late been too prominent a feature in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government has said he had every reason to be thankful for the manner in which this Bill had been received in Ireland. But has the spirit in which the Bill has been brought forward been responded to? Has it caused the Land League to diminish one whit of its teaching, or have those who have acted, as they think, in obedience to its commands, abated one whit in their violence? The Government have conceded much to agitation; depend upon it, that agitation will demand more. The right hon. Gentleman asks, will this question ever be settled by a Bill smaller than the present one; and "Echo" from these Benches replies—"or by any Land Bill?" You wish to establish confidence, and you take means that, to a great extent, tend to banish all capital, except that which is tied, from the country. You wish to create owner- 648 ship, and you deprive it, as one of your ex-Colleagues has shown, of one of its most necessary attributes. The right hon. Gentleman speaks in the spirit of one of the ancients, whom he is so fond of quoting, and seems to say—"Let us go where fortune, kinder than a parent, may take us." He may be prepared to embark on a course that may, to a certain extent, allay agitation, but which can only succeed in attaining that object by drawing a Bill, so to speak, upon futurity, which posterity will have considerable difficulty in discounting. If the right hon. Gentleman does not know to what this course of concession tends, I suspect there are many hon. Gentlemen on the Benches below the Gangway who can tell him. I would venture to say that if this legislation is not conducted upon sound and right principles it must inevitably sooner or later come to naught. The right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to throw upon us the responsibility which might attend any miscarriage of this Bill, and I think I am rightly interpreting his expressions as applied, not only to a determined opposition, but to an undetermined Party. Hon. Gentlemen on this side were, he said, judges of their own conduct; and he asked us if we were amongst the number of those who were anxious to decline to carry a message of peace to "another place," adding that he looked both to this House and the House of Lords with considerable anxiety for the fate of the measure. He said, however, that the other House had always well considered questions of this kind; and it seemed to me that the sole argument which the right hon. Gentleman left out was that in which he might have asked us, in consideration of the great questions which he believed to be involved in the Bill, to take away all impediment to its course and make it as near as possible perfect, in order that it might be presented in "another place" in its best form. However tardily, it is well to find that the principles of our great Leader now departed are recognized by the right hon. Gentleman. But he added that the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) was the first notice of a change in position which had occurred in this House owing to the death of our late Leader. The great question before us may have presented some difficulties; but, as a humble Member of the Conservative Party, I will not allow that 649 statement of the right hon. Gentleman to remain uncontradicted one moment longer than I can help. I say that with reference to a Party led in this House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon since Lord Beaconsfield left us for the House of Lords—a Party, united as it is, the right hon. Gentleman was not justified even by implication in the conclusion which he drew. I have endeavoured to point out some of the main objections which I hold to the fundamental principles of the Bill, and why the holding of those objections have influenced me to vote against the second reading. This, however, I would say—nothing is further from the intention of many of us who take this course than the tactics of obstruction or delay which the right hon. Gentleman feared the Bill might meet with in its progress. We agree entirely with him in thinking that the sooner the goal is reached the better, for it is not well that this question should be dangled before the public and made the incessant theme of agitation in Ireland. Nor is it well that by new concessions to public clamour, or undue concession to foregone conclusions or Party prejudice, the measure should be damaged in its progress. Although we have thought it right to protest against the Bill at this stage, I trust that it will meet, when the practical work in Committee is reached, with the same consideration and the same temperate criticism as we have endeavoured to extend to the second reading.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he had never risen to address the House with feelings of deeper depression than at that moment. Whatever prolongation of the debate on the second reading had taken place, it was not due to the speeches of hon. Members with whom he generally acted, for they had abstained from intruding themselves in the discussion until the air had, so to speak, been cleared by the sense—or non-sense—which might come from various parts of the House. The opinions he had formed on this Bill, after long and painful consideration, were opinions not merely of a minority of Members of the House, but of a minority of a minority, for he had reason to believe that his views with regard to this measure were not shared by even the majority of Irish Members. Under those circumstances, he must claim particular indulgence 650 from the House, and would endeavour to earn it, by abstaining from a single expression that, by its heat or intemperance, might injure the cause he had at heart. Accordingly, he passed by the many hard, bitter, and unjust things which had been said by both English and Irish Members, not only with regard to himself, but also the action of the Land League in Ireland. He did not believe a Minister had ever introduced to the House a Bill of equal magnitude, or dealing with a problem of greater complexity. The Government had reason to be satisfied with the reception it had met with; for it had been praised alike by Radicals, Whigs, and Ministerialists, and by one of the ablest exponents of Irish Conservatism on that side of the House. It had also received the praises of those Irish Members who were Ministerialists first, and Irishmen a very long way afterwards. An old proverb told them that when rogues fell out honest men came by their own. When he saw Whigs and Conservatives joining together, he thought it was high time for the policemen to look after the pockets of the Irish tenants as affected by this Bill. He was not much affected in his judgment of the Bill by the predictions which came from hon. Members on the other side of the House as to its results. Was there ever an Act ushered into existence amidst so loud a chorus of approval as the Land Act of 1870; and had ever an Act gone to its dishonoured tomb amidst so little expression of even the decencies of burial? All the history of the past legislation with regard to Ireland, all the history of the land legislation that had attempted to regulate the joint interests of landlord and tenant in the soil, all the past examples of history in that respect in Ireland, and in every other country, was a lesson of warning and a beacon to those who had the interests of the tenants at heart; for nothing had been more clearly proved by the history of land legislation than that on paper everything the tenant wanted, or could fairly demand, was given, but that when the Act came into operation the tenant might be left in almost a worse position than he was before. He would not go over the stale ground of the Act of 1870; but he would take the predictions with regard to that Act on three main points. One of the predictions 651 —which came from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the senior Member for the University of Dublin—was that that Act would take £120,000,100 from the landlords and put it into the pockets of the tenants. Another calculation was that the 600,000 tenants in Ireland would obtain £100 each for improvements, and £100 each for disturbance. Those were the predictions; but what were the results? In the three years 1871, 1872, and 1873, the total amount awarded by the Land Court was £461,149; and the average awarded to the tenants was not £100 for improvements and £100 for disturbance, but £27 5s. That was the manner in which £120,000,000 were taken from the landlords and put into the pockets of the tenants. Then it was said by the hon. Member for Tralee, with regard to the effects of the Act of 1870 on evictions—and the hon. Member in the same speech uttered many wise warnings against some defects in the Act, which were not attended to—that if the Bill passed he believed it would be next to impossible for a landlord to evict a tenant, unless he had such reasons for doing so as everybody capable of discriminating between right and wrong would sanction. How tragic was the contrast between that prediction and the 1,060 decrees executed in 1877, the 2,888 decrees executed in 1880, and the 2,500 decrees which, according to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, had been issued at one Quarter Sessions in the present year! He would not go in detail into the other predictions and the contrast between them and the result; but it was said that the Bill would stop rack-renting, and rack-renting had gone on in Ulster since 1870 with a frequency and relentlessness never before paralleled. It was said that the Bill would stop emigration; and last year there was a larger emigration from Ireland than in any of the preceding 26 years. It was said by the Prime Minister that the Bill might reasonably be considered a final solution of the difficulties in Ireland; and here to-day they were face to face with the difficulties in a more threatening and more wholesale manner than in any previous period. Therefore he said there was a yawning chasm between the predictions of 1870 and the realities of 1881. Allusion had been made by the right hon. and gallant 652 Gentleman (Colonel Stanley) to the very remarkable speech made by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India with regard to the intentions of this Bill. The speech of the noble Lord was far away the most encouraging speech he had heard from the Ministers—it was far away the best speech on this question that had come front Englishmen, because it was the most Land League speech delivered on the question. The noble Lord said the ultimate solution of the land difficulty in Ireland was a peasant proprietary. That was what the Land League said; and the first portion of the Bill, according to the noble Lord, was in no sense a final attempt at solving the question, but was merely a modus vivendi to fill up the interval between the present condition of the tenant and the halcyon period when every tiller of the soil should be its owner. He should like to see those words repeated and emphasized from the Treasury Bench, because, if that was the view of the Government as to the operation of this Bill, it proved that this was a Bill which the Land. League of Ireland would be justified in gladly accepting, and nothing would more encourage the Ministers than that the Lion of the Executive Government and the Lamb of the Land League in Dublin should lie down together. The first portion of the Bill was defined by the noble Lord as a modus vivendi. He wished he could accept that definition as accurate. He had so long forgotten the study of the classics that he did not know whether he should be right or wrong; but he should rather call the Bill a modus moriendi for the tenants, and not a modus vivendi. He believed he should be able to clearly prove that, whatever might be the benefit from the Bill to the tenantry, it was a remote thing, but that the injury to the tenant was very clear and very near. What was the position of the Irish tenant? The hon. Member for Roscommon a few days ago put a Question to the Chief Secretary as to whether or not the evidence of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, the evidence of Colonel King-Harman, and the evidence of several witnesses before the Bessborough Commission did not agree in stating that the condition of a large number of the tenants in Ireland at the present moment was a condition of indebtedness which in many parts 653 amounted to absolute bankruptcy. If hon. Members would look through either the Commission over which the Duke of Richmond presided, or that presided over by Lord Bessborough, they would find that both the tenant farmer and the landlord, both the official, like Professor Baldwin, and the active politician agreed in representing that indebtedness as existing. There were three facts acknowledged by everybody. It was acknowledged that the Irish tenants had gone through three bad seasons recently; that a large portion of those tenants would have been face to face with famine but for almsgiving from all parts of the world on a scale of gigantic generosity; and the state of the Irish tenants through their past indebtedness, approaching to bankruptcy, received its final seal of acknowledgment by the introduction last year of a Compensation for Disturbance Bill, the main effect of which was to alter by law existing contracts with regard to rent. Therefore, he called the Ministers themselves to witness. His chief testimony was Ministerial utterances—that the condition of a large number of the Irish tenants was a condition of large indebtedness amounting almost to bankruptcy. His charge against this Bill was that the people for whose benefit the Compensation for Disturbance Bill was brought in last year were left utterly, entirely, and completely unprotected by this Bill. Do not let there be again any of the miserable excuses which the Government gave for their conduct on the Bill of last year. It was their statement that unless they carried that Bill the task of governing Ireland would be difficult, and well-nigh impossible. A large portion of the tenants were threatened with eviction, which, as the Prime Minister had said, came very near to a sentence of starvation. Those amounted to nearly 15,000 in number; and because of the rebuff of another Assembly which they were now trying alternately to bully and cajolo—to hold up as a bugbear and a Paradise alternately—the Government left those 15,000 sentences to be carried out, and left the government of the country difficult and well-nigh impossible. And when the Land League took up the work of government which the Government could not fulfil, and gave that protection which the Government could not extend, they were thanked by having their leaders 654 dragged through the mire and the mud. He hoped the lesson of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill would not be lost on the Government; and if, having introduced this Bill, they left the tenants still unprotected, the Irish people would know what to think of the friendliness of the present Government. The tenants were in arrear; and, supposing the Bill passed in its present shape, how did the tenant in arrear stand? The landlord did not find the collection of his rents very easy just now. He would go to the tenant and say "Here is a Bill given by the Liberal Ministry; by the friendly hands of the First Lord of the Treasury, and by the Chief Secretary," whose humanity was now a bye - word in Ireland. Here was a Bill which was approved of by the hon. Member for the County of Cork, a displaced but still adored leader; here was a Bill approved of by several hon. Members who were supposed to be extreme advocates of the tenants' cause. Surely the tenant could not object to a Bill introduced under such beneficent auspices. The landlord would say—"You owe me three years' rent. You have the right of free sale. Here is this magnificent measure; this final, this generous, this gigantic boon to you and all your fellows. Go into Court and get £30. I will take what you owe me, and the shopkeeper whom you owe for meal will try to take his £30." The solicitor would try to take £2 or £3, and how much of the £30 would remain to the tenant, upon whom this Bill was to confer such benefits? The shopkeeper might make a composition, and the landlord might give up his right of precedence; but all that would be left to the tenant might be as much as would take him to the nearest emigration ship, so that he might leave his home. What, then, was the position of the tenant? It was this—his farm gone, his house broken up, and not a penny left in his pocket. And what was the position of the landlord? The old tenant gone, and a new and a better tenant in his stead; or, if he employed the right of pre-emption, he would have the farm back in his own possession without paying anything for it, because the compensation to the tenant for disturbance would be swallowed up by the arrears. The landlord either took the farm back himself, or gave it to a new and better tenant, and the latter had to pay the 655 compensation for disturbance which, but for this Bill, the landlord would have had to pay. Further, the landlord got payment of his arrears. This magnificent Bill was a magnificent Bill, the good results of which were all on the side of the landlord, while the bad results were on the side of the tenant. Then, with regard to emigration, the tenant would be at a double disadvantage. There would be the landlord shoving him out through what was called "free sale" at the door, and at the door was the emigration agent—under the emigration clause—with a free pass, bidding him go to that land in the West, where an Irishman had some chance of success. So that there was a double agency for eviction going on. What, therefore, did this part of the Bill mean? It meant, with regard to something like 100,000 or 200,000 tenants, eviction, vast, huge, made easy and profitable to the landlord, and expensive to the tenant. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the generous reception which this Bill had received in Ireland. It had received a generous reception; but the generosity had, he thought, rather overcome the prudence and good sense of the people. What made the case in regard to the tenants worse? They were in arrear of rack rent; they were in arrear of rent which was acknowledged by hon. Gentlemen opposite to be an unfair rent. Cases of rack-renting had been given over and over again in the House. In one case the rent was increased at one stroke from £530 to £790 a-year. Professor Baldwin had told them that in the case of one farm on Lord —'s estate, the rent had been increased by 95 per cent in a few years; in 1860 the rent was £6 10s. 6d., and it was increased, year by year, until in 1869 it was £12 13s. 2d. Now, what were they going to do with a case like this, which was simply one of monstrous injustice? According to the Bill no one was going to be driven out of his house and home because he could not pay an unjust rent. But mark this, they had carefully made, with the exception of one clause to which he would presently refer, the whole effect of the Bill prospective. Hon. Gentlemen talked of compensation to landlords. He could meet them by the claim of restitution to the tenant. But there was nothing about such restitution. The Bill was almost 656 entirely prospective in its operation, because, when the landlord and tenant went to the Court for the purpose of fixing the rent, the rent should be deemed to be rent payable by the tenant from the period of the next succeeding rent day. There was not a word with regard to the past. It was only with regard to the future that the Bill came in, and accordingly the Bill would help the landlords to evict between 100,000 and 200,000 tenants for arrears of rent, the injustice of which the Government themselves admitted. He now wanted to deal with the general facts, and subsection 4 of the famous Clause 7. There were some hon. Friends of his Who were under the delusion that this section was going to make a large and general reduction of rents in Ireland. They wore under that delusion, in spite of the most express admissions from the Treasury Bench, for when the ex-Attorney General for Ireland stated that the effect of the Bill would be to leave rents pretty much as they now stood, up rose the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to confirm and emphasize that declaration. The right hon. Gentleman said that, in his opinion, in nine cases out of 10, the rent would remain exactly where it was. What was the position he and his hon. Friends took up with regard to the renting of Ireland? It was this—that unless they had a very general and almost wholesale reduction, the tenant farmers of Ireland would be utterly unable to compete with any success, under the changed condition of agriculture with American competition. ["Hear, hear!"] An English Member cheered that observation. Why was that? Because those who represented the agricultural and landed interests had been taught, within the last two or three years, to believe that if the farmers of England were to be able to compete with America they must be required to pay smaller rents; and if lower rents on a large scale be demanded in England, with how much greater force ought they to be demanded in Ireland, where they had no capital but their spade? If any of his hon. Friends were under the impression that this Bill was going to largely reduce rents they could never retain that impression under the words of disillusion which had come from the Treasury Bench. If, intrusted with the interests and hopes of the 657 Irish tenants in his constituency; if, raised by no merit of his own to be one of the executive body of their tenant organization, he were to deceive them with the false hope that they would be saved from eviction, that they would get free sale and have their rents largely reduced, what would be his position when they had had experience of the operation of the Bill? He would be very probably regarded as a deceiver of those who had put trust in him. This Bill conferred no new property on the tenant; it conferred no property on the tenant that was not already acknowledged in the Act of 1870. It provided different machinery for the protection of that property it was true, and the new machinery was no better than the old; in fact, it was the old machinery re-furnished, and no tinkering could make the machinery of the Land Act of 1870 good machinery. It conferred no new property on the tenant. It left the question of the tenant's property in the land exactly where it stood in the Land Act of 1870. The average value of the tenant's property in the land was fixed by the Land Courts under the Act of 1870 at £27 5s., and the Irish tenants might now be rejoiced to learn that the present Bill would not increase that value. [An hon. MEMBER: And after a law suit.] Yes, after a law suit; and this magnificent measure, which was to stop agitation, which was to break the reign of Saturn—he thought he had better say Satyr—this Bill, which recognized the property of the tenant in the soil, valued that property at £27 5s. each. But in order to get this recognition of property in the soil a law suit was necessary. He was delighted to hear the Prime Minister emphasize the fact that law was much more offensive and dangerous to the tenant than to the landlord. The Prime Minister well knew that the tenant was poor and the landlord was rich. What did the declaration of the Prime Minister mean? They would find the declaration would be repeated on many Land League platforms within the next two or three years, because it meant that the tenant, being poor, had been simply impotent against the landlord, and it was only by combination that his poverty could be put upon an equality with the richness of the landlord. He should take care, when he went to any Land League 658 meetings, to emphasize that advice which he had been giving consistently for the last 12 months. Litigation was made absolutely inevitable. What was the evidence of the Commissions on the question of litigation? It was to the effect that a large number of the tenants of Ireland dreaded going to law. It was said the Irish were litigious. His hon. Friend the senior Member for the City of Waterford (Mr. R. Power) told him that in Ireland it was unusual even for tenants to go through the legal process of making a will. The man would get a Poor Law Guardian to draw up his will, it was signed or not, and the whole thing went on by a quiet understanding. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) could say that to the ordinary Irish peasant nothing was more appalling or abhorrent to his imagination than the prospect of litigation; and he boldly asserted that many of the tenants went without, over and over again, compensation for improvement and for disturbance rather than face the uncertain risk of a suit at law before a landlord Judge. He had incidentally alluded to the question of emigration, and had endeavoured to show the House that emigration was a powerful ally of eviction. He wanted to show that emigration was the deadly enemy of migration. There was plenty of work for every Irishman on Irish land, and Ireland was quite able to support a much greater population than she had at present. What did emigration mean? What was meant by a family leaving Connaught for the United States? It meant, from the very lowest point of view, the exportation of the wealth-producing machine. Why was America anxious to get the Irish emigrant, and why was Canada willing to pay his passage? Because they knew that farmers who were brought from Ireland and put there would produce not only his own food, but would also very largely increase the general wealth of the community. Every emigrant who was shipped to America was lost to Ireland. Too many had left already, for there was plenty of land in Ireland on which to employ them. Until the population was congested there was no need to send Irishmen to America or Manitoba. Let them be sent on the 2,000,000 acres of unreclaimed land, and in a few years' time the present waste land of Ireland would be amongst the most productive 659 land in the country. They wanted to break up the grazing farms in Ireland. The lands which now formed grazing farms were lands held from the people. Let the Government give their Commission, as they had the right, power to expropriate these lands at a fair price, and relegate them to the surplus population in Connaught and other agricultural districts. But what was his great objection to emigration? If they were to put emigration in the one, and migration in the other scale, which would overbalance the other? Migration was a difficult process, emigration was an easy process; migration required care, emigration meant that they had only to give the emigrant a ticket and he was disposed of. The temptation to the authorities to get rid of disturbance in Ireland by the short, and summary, and easy process of sending people out of the country was overwhelming. It was evident that the emigration clauses must be struck out of the Bill. They must ask the Government to give their Commission larger powers than it had at present; they must ask the Government to make their plans of migration more definite and better. He did not think they would have much difficulty in getting leaseholders included in the Bill; and they ought to ask the Government to deal at once with the position of the agricultural labourer. They were tired of agitation in Ireland; they wanted some peace, if the English Parliament would let them have it. They did not want any mere tempestuous agitation in order to educate the mind of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and accordingly they asked that the Bill should deal at once in a large and generous spirit with the agricultural labourer. These being his views with regard to the Bill, he would be actually stultifying himself if he voted for the second. reading. He did not want to say anything unpleasant; but, between the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) and the Amendment of the ex-Postmaster General (Lord John Manners), it was evident confusion and obstruction were in the Conservative camp. The principles of the Bill were principles which no one seriously contested at this time of day. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) had said of the House of Lords—"If you do 660 not pass this Bill, worse will come." They were accused of embarrassing the Ministry; of damning the Bill in the eyes of "another place;" but when the Prime Minister requested them to do nothing to imperil the measure in "another place," he would reply to him that that which did most harm to the Bill came from himself and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The Prime Minister had said that if the present Ministry were put out of Office, and they were succeeded by a Conservative Ministry, they would have not a small but a large Land Bill. Well, he (Mr. O'Connor) was not a Conservative; he bore no love to the Conservative Party, but, on the contrary, looked on the principles of its opponents—the Liberal Party—as those of progress and humanity. He should regard the accession of a Conservative Ministry as a great misfortune for England and the world generally; but he came there not as an English Member, not as a Member for the Universe, but as an Irish Representative, and it was his duty, his desire, and his intention to watch most carefully the interests of his constituents. There were other people to take care of the interests of England and of humanity. When, therefore, they were told by the Prime Minister that if they could only get him out of his place, and secure the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) in his stead, they would get a better land measure for Ireland, there was a considerable thaw in his principles, and he felt very much inclined to do what he could to assist the Conservatives to power rather than to lend his effort to maintain the Liberals in Office. The Irish people came not here as mendicants asking for the smallest concession, but they came asking Parliament to give its sanction to the conquest that they themselves had gained. without Parliament, and in spite of Parliament. What was his duty as a Representative of what were called the extreme views of the Irish tenantry? It was not Ids conception of his duty to speak the soft sawder of the hon. Member for Cork and of the hon. Gentlemen who went with him. They stood face to face with this grim reality, that either the landlords or the tenants must go down. Neither could survive the struggle. [Loud laughter.] He claimed his right 661 to occasionally vindicate his nationality by making a blunder of that kind; but what he had intended to say was, that both could not survive the struggle. He was an advocate of the eviction of landlords. He agreed with the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington) that the eviction of the landlords was the final solution of this question, and he was not going to vote for a Bill which impeded rather than accelerated the final solution as to which he and the noble Lord agreed. He should be making bankrupt the hopes of the Irish tenants, playing false to their interests and betraying their trust, if he told them that this Bill gave them a victory for which victory they had still to fight, and he was more afraid of deceiving them than of offending the present Ministry. He would be no party to bringing them into the Fools' Paradise, where hopes would be excited only to be bitterly disappointed by-and-bye.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Chaplin.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Thursday.