§ MR. BIGGAR
, who had given Notice that he would move—That a Select Committee he appointed to inquire into the dealings of Lord Kenmare with his tenants, and whether or not certain of them have not been committed to prison as suspects for the purpose of having unfair rents extorted from them,said, that the reason he selected his Lordship in preference to other landlords in Ireland, whose conduct might have been equally objectionable, was that Lord Kenmare was a Member of the Government; and he, at least, should have acted in a way towards his Kerry tenants that would not have necessitated complaint; also, he mentioned him because he saw in the newspapers that he was one of the promoters of a public company, which proposed the wholesale eviction of tenants, their object being to depopulate Ireland as much as possible. It was for this purpose that he 435 thought it very desirable to draw the attention of the House to his Lordship's conduct; and he would undertake, from the statement of the parties concerned, and who had been arrested as "suspects" under the Coercion Act, to charge Lord Kenmare with using his position as a Member of the Government in order to treat his tenants tyrannically, and for the purpose of extorting unfair rents from them. Lord Kenmare had figured very much in the Law Courts during the last 12 months, and especially in matters before the Land Commissioners, who had set aside several of the noble Lord's leases, charging his Lordship with having acted unreasonably towards his tenants. He maintained that no Member of the Government had any right to use his official position to get more consideration or more assistance than other landlords; and it appeared very much as though this was the case from the fact that three of the tenants evicted by his Lordship were, soon after their eviction, placed in gaol as "suspects"—a very much larger proportion than was shown by any other landlord in Ireland. If this was so with regard to Lord Kenmare, who passed as a Member of the Government, and a highly religious Roman Catholic, what might they not expect from other Gentlemen of Liberal politics, and who had no special connection with the Liberal Government, or any particular love of religion or the Irish people? It should be understood that those tenants were none of them very largely in arrears. If they had been, there might have been some excuse for acting in the manner stated; but they were evicted for one year's rent. It might be alleged, on behalf of Lord Kenmare, that he was a Nobleman who dealt very well with his tenants, and would not willingly do a tyrannical or unfair act; but he had intrusted his affairs to an agent who had the worst possible reputation of any land agent in Ireland, and if Lord Kenmare employed an agent of that description he was liable and responsible for his conduct, and it was no use his attempting to shelter himself behind the statement that he had not personally consented to the outrages committed in his name. In letters which he had received from the tenants evicted by his Lordship, these unfortunate men detailed the circumstances of their arrest. One 436 walked on part of the farmland, from which he had been driven, soon after the eviction, and was almost immediately taken into custody under the Coercion Act. One of the tenants said that he was served with a writ for the running gale, was arrested under the Coercion Act four days after the rent was due, and a few days after was served with a writ for the amount of the rent and costs, judgment having been obtained against him. He said he wrote to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, asking to be released on parole, in order to make an estimate of his improvements, and was refused. Another tenant, Pat Murphy, was ejected for non-payment of rent; his house was then burned down, and he was arrested for putting up a hut near the farm. The hut was erected on waste ground, by the side of a passage which led to some land of Lord Kenmare's, and to land of some of his tenants. After burning the house, Lord Kenmare had Murphy's wife summoned for occupying this hut; she was summoned five different times in one month, and ultimately sent to prison for seven days, because she was not able to pay the fine imposed on her. Mrs. Murphy's child died from exposure, and she said it was Lord Kenmare's harsh treatment which killed the child; but the attorney on the other side said that, as the woman had a sick child, Lord Kenmare did not wish to deal harshly with her, and he waited a few weeks before sending her to gaol. Such was the conduct of a Liberal Catholic landlord, who held Office in Her Majesty's Government. He thought that he had shown that Lord Kenmare had used his high official position for the purpose of inducing the then Chief Secretary for Ireland to send his tenants to prison upon trumped-up and dishonest charges. He had also prosecuted the unfortunate wife of one of the tenants to such an extent that she lost her child. He hoped the Government would give a caution to Lord Kenmare not to be bringing ridicule on his Party, and that he would resign a position which he was disgracing.
§ MR. HEALY
said, he thought the subject introduced by the hon. Member for Cavan involved a much wider question than the question of the individual tenants he had referred to, bad as their cases might be. Lord Kenmare had acted in a manner which tended to de- 437 feat both, the Land Act and the Arrears Bill; and he asked what could they expect from a Government, one of whose Members treated the Land Act as a nullity, and the Arrears Bill as if it was never about to be passed? He would take the case of a man named Daniel Shea, who formerly held land under a middleman, whose interest he bought out, and then paid a rent of £6 per annum. When the middleman's lease expired his rent was raised by about £30, and he was obliged to take a lease. Of that lease Mr. Justice O'Hagan said that it was so iniquitous that it would be broken by any Court of Equity; and in the course of further comments on the case, and on the fact that though Shea was wholly illiterate, the lease was never read over to him or inspected by anyone on. his behalf, his Lordship said that the instrument contained more stringent provisions than any lease that had been brought to the notice of the Commissioners. "No doubt," he added, "it had been accepted by the tenant under undue influence." When the lease was broken Shea was still obliged to pay the exorbitant rent at which he had held previously. He therefore determined to serve an originating notice to get his rent fixed by the Commissioners; but before he did so Lord Kenmare promised a re-valuation of the land and an offer of an amicable settlement. That offer, however, was never made; but in its place came a notice of ejectment, the landlord, to make the writ legal, claiming not only the rent for the last six months, but the hanging gale also. Anything more flagitious than this attempt of Lord Kenmare to defeat the Arrears Bill introduced by the Government of which he was a Member he had never heard of. The noble Lord was a pious Catholic. Such "pious Catholics" were a disgrace to the country which produced them, and to the religion which they professed. This, as he knew, was by no means an isolated case of ill-treatment. What really could the tenant obtain in such circumstances from the Land Act? If he served an originating notice for a fair rent, it might be years before the case came on for hearing, and meanwhile the old excessive rent would have to be paid. Now, with regard to the Sub-Commissioners, he had often asked for a return of their names and qualifications; 438 but he found that no information was given as to the districts in which they were operating. What had happened was that Members for Tyrone and. other Northern constituencies had gone to the Government, and had represented that their constituents were suffering injury from the delay in the hearing of their cases; and the Sub-Commissioners had been transferred to these Northern districts, to the detriment of the districts from which they had been removed. In these circumstances the people were justified in asking whether the Land Act was a fraud, or was it a reality? Were the Government going to allow notices to be served for ejectments, when Sub-Commissioners might declare the rents to be exorbitant, and were tenants, in the meantime, to be put on the roadside? Did the Government honestly intend to carry out their own Act, and, if so, why did they not do so? There were plenty of briefless barristers and hangers-on about Dublin Castle to make Sub-Commissioners of. Only a paltry number had been appointed, while there were 80,000 tenants in the Courts, so that some of them must wait for several years. The Government did not appreciate the importance of this matter; or did they occupy the time of the House with the Prevention of Crime Bill in order to prevent Irish legislation being criticized? Were the men whose rents might be exorbitant to run the risk of ejectment, which might be a sentence of death? Was the Land Act a joke? Certainly, there was no greater joke in "Laputa," or the pages of Swift. It was costing the country £100,000 a-year to carry out the Act, and the amount by which the rents had been reduced in one year would not amount to three-fourths of that sum, which might, perhaps, be doubled or raised to £250,000 if the legal costs of landlords and tenants were added. The organizations of the tenants had been suppressed as being illegal; but the landlords' organizations—the Property Defence Association and the Orange Emergency Committee—were permitted to carry out their operations without let or hindrance. The landlords had appealed against decisions, and had carried appeals to the highest Court, so that the unfortunate tenants were left victims of the law's uncertainty. A proposal was now made to raise £750,000 for the purpose of ejecting tenants from their 439 holdings. The Prevention of Crime Bill would not reach landlords who were guilty of cruel evictions, or who forced unjust leases on their tenants; and though the Government had stated its action would be retrospective, he supposed it would not apply to such men as Lord Kenmare. That "measurable distance" from civil war which the Prime Minister some time ago declared to exist in Ireland had been shortened considerably by the document just issued from the landlords' committee. Mr. Arthur Kavanagh spoke of colonizing the districts from which Land Leaguers were evicted with loyal people from other countries. Did Mr. Kavanagh propose to repeat the Plantation scheme of Cromwell's time? Perhaps he intended to turn the Chinese into "loyal people from other countries." The Alien Act was about to be re-enacted; and he thought that Act could never be more properly used than if it were applied to the Chinese, whom Mr. Kavanagh proposed to introduce into Ireland. That gentleman also proposed that where a single holding had been "Boycotted" the whole townland should be evicted and swept away; and he declared that he considered "land was in the most valuable condition of all when it was, for the most part, free from tenants." They were, therefore, to have a corporation of landlords, with its "A" shares and its "B" shares, and £750,000 to bring the land into that "most valuable condition of all," as it was called. Were the Government, he asked, going to look on calmly at that state of things? Were they still to potter away with their Commissioners and Sub - Commissioners, deciding only one case out of every 100 before them; while the tenants were being subjected, in the meantime, to those notices of ejectment and turned out on the roadside? The Government were passing their so-called Prevention of Crime Bill; but they allowed those crimes against the Irish tenants to be committed in the face of Heaven. When the Attorney General for Ireland rose to reply they would, no doubt, have some of those pacific and benevolent declarations which usually fell from him, and which, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman reached the Judicial Bench, he trusted would be continued. Still, words, however benevolent, would not restore to evicted tenants their holdings. 440 He therefore asked the Government to make some statement that they intended immediately to put an end to the block in the Land Courts, and to require landlords like Lord Kenmare, while they continued to act as Members of the Administration, to conduct themselves at least with something like common decency.
§ MR. DILLON
said, he was glad that the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) had seized that opportunity for bringing under the notice of the House the conduct of one of the largest landlords in Ireland, because Lord Kenmare was, in a great measure, a type of Irish landlordism and its action at the present moment. He believed that while that noble Lord was acting in a way that was thoroughly disloyal to the present Government he was, at the same time, enjoying a considerable official salary out of the public taxes. He had heard from unfortunate tenants on Lord Kenmare's estate, whose fellow-prisoner he (Mr. Dillon) was for six months, that his Lordship's understrappers boasted over the estate that, inasmuch as he was a Member of the Government, he could live on his salary of £4,000 and leave his tenants to starve. Would he be allowed to continue in the enjoyment of that £4,000 a-year? He charged Lord Kenmare with endeavouring to counteract and destroy the effect of the Land Act passed by the Government at an enormous expense of labour and of public time, and also with being one of the great landlords who were now deliberately attempting to render useless the passing of any Arrears Bill by, as it was called, taking the bull by the horns and dealing with the tenants before any Arrears Bill became law. He concurred in the condemnation pronounced by the hon. Member for Cavan on Mr. Samuel Hussey for the mode in which he managed his estates; and having conversed with many a poor man who had the misfortune to be born under his rule, the impression left on his mind was that Mr. Hussey was one of the men in Ireland whose proper vocation would be to go out and take charge of a slave plantation in Brazil; and he doubted whether he would not get into trouble with the Government of Brazil if he treated the slaves there as he treated his Irish tenants. One of the worst features of the system of large agencies was that, 441 when it fell into the hands of men like Mr. Hussey, it helped to educate a nest of young ones, who spread themselves over the country to disturb districts which had previously been peaceable. Not content with inflicting unmitigated tyranny on the tenants of Kerry, this agent sent his sons and protégés broadcast over Ireland. He regretted to say that one of them had alighted in the county of Mayo, and, in a district hitherto peaceable, had stirred up such a feeling of hatred between the tenants and the landlords who employed them that troops and police had to be drafted into the locality to prevent disturbance. It had been complained of as a grievance that some of the Sub-Commissioners sitting in the South had been sent to the North of Ireland at the solicitation of Northern Members. He thought that was a very questionable advantage to the Province of Ulster. Indeed, he doubted very much if the majority of the tenants of Ulster were not sorry that they ever laid their cases before the Courts at all. He had been informed on good authority that a large landlord in the county of Tipperary was now proceeding against his tenants by writ in the most expensive mode from the Superior Courts of Dublin to levy a half-year's rent, being the whole sum due. How could they expect to have peace and quiet in the country while such cruel and selfish proceedings on the part of landlords were allowed to continue? A case, typical of a vast number described by the Sub-Commissioners in Ireland, came before the Sub-Commission Court at Armagh recently, in which the presiding Commissioner, Mr. Romney Foley, said—"I fix the rent at the value of the farm as sworn to by the landlord's valuation." In thousands of cases the same thing had occurred in Ireland; and was it any wonder, having regard to such a proceeding, that a spirit of discontent rankled in the breasts of the Irish tenantry? At Maynooth, a few months ago, Lord Cloncurry, after personally contesting a number of cases brought before the Sub-Commission by his Kildare tenantry, stood up in Court and said he would consent to a certain reduction—20 or 25 per cent—and the Court immediately fixed the rents at the sum he consented to accept. He mentioned that as a sample of how the majority of the 442 Sub - Commissioners administered the Land Act; and he mentioned it also to show that Lord Cloncurry, after hearing the evidence in the cases of his tenantry at Kildare, consented in open Court to a greater reduction than that for asking which his unfortunate tenants at Murroe were cast out on the roadside. If he could have got the least hold upon his Kildare tenantry he would have treated them in the same way. How could the Government expect the people to be loyal to the law, or to abstain from agitation, when they were subjected wholesale to such a system as that? The Land Act, in its present shape, had proved a complete failure; and unless the Government took some steps at once to bring about an interval of peace in Ireland, during which the House could approach the settlement of that measure, he was afraid that next year they would find themselves in a very much greater embroglio. If the Irish Members had been listened to last year, instead of being danced upon and laughed at, the House would have been spared many months of wasted time. If the Government only listened to them now, and if they but realized the fact that the course they were pursuing must inevitably end in failure, many disagreeable scenes might be averted in the future. He was assured by a gentleman in whom he placed the greatest reliance that at that moment in North Kerry the prospect of the Arrears Bill was stimulating evictions to a feaful extent; and if the Government did not take some measures immediately to stop the eviction of the people there and elsewhere, they would have to regard the Arrears Bill as a curse rather than a blessing. The landlords were taking care that the Arrears Bill should not come between them and the land in the most valuable condition it could be found—namely, "without tenants." The same observations applied to the Province of Ulster, where such landlords as the hon. Member for Carrickfergus (Mr. Greer) were extremely rare. Any doubt he might have had about what he had stated was completely removed by an article which appeared in The Standard of Saturday last, giving a semi-official explanation of the new Land Corporation of Ireland. This article, which was evidently written with the knowledge and sanction of the promoters of the scheme, stated that this 443 new Corporation, would induce those tenants who were an incumbrance on the soil to quit the country. They all knew the fearful meaning of that, and that if the Land League made fresh efforts to prevent that object it must be dealt with by the Prevention of Crime Bill. The landlords let the cat out of the bag too soon. They now saw why the Members for Dublin University watched the Coercion Bill night after night to prevent any alteration being made in it. The desire of these Gentlemen was not that the measure should be effective in putting down crime, but that it should be used to assist the Land Corporation in "inducing" a great number of the tenantry of Ireland to leave their country. He read the document issued by Mr. Kavanagh with astonishment. Up to this, he had a very much higher opinion of Mr. Kavanagh's intelligence, not to say of his public decency. Often when addressing that House he boasted that he was proud of being an Irishman; but no Irishman would have hand, act, or part in a scheme for sweeping away the majority of the population of his country, and replacing them by Englishmen, Scotchmen, and other foreigners. Would the Government allow this Corporation to do what the Property Defence Association and the Orange Emergency Committee did before—to maintain an armed force in their pay in Ireland while the whole population lay disarmed? No quibbling about legality or otherwise should be allowed to justify such a course in face of the stringent Coercion Bill about to be passed. The document went on to state that the passing of this Coercion Bill would inspire confidence in the Irish landlords, who were now timid aud hesitating. That it had done so already was proved by the number of evictions that had recently taken place. The writer of the letter went on to remark that he had submitted the proposal to a Resident Magistrate, who had said that such an association would do more to pacify the country than a whole army could do. Then this was the work in which these Special Resident Magistrates, with their salaries of £1,500 a-year, were engaged. They were approving a scheme which would result in the extermination of the people of Ireland. As long as he had a seat in that House, he would press night after night for the removal from 444 office of that Resident Magistrate. They had proof now, out of the mouths of the landlords themselves, of the manner in which the "Special Resident Magistrates" in Ireland were dealing out even-handed justice between the landlords and the tenants. They had proof positive of what he asserted in that House before. When this Coercion Bill became law these Special Resident Magistrates, who ought to act impartially between the rich and the poor, would be dining at the tables of the landlords, and would concoct with them the decisions to be given the next morning, and would arrange with them what men were to be arrested under special warrants, and who were to have six months' imprisonment with hard labour. As long as that system went on it was useless to expect the Irish people to have confidence in the law. He found amongst the subscriptions to this fund the name of the man who had given rise to this debate—the Earl of Ken-mare—and he must protest against the public money being applied to such a purpose. The Earl of Kenmare could not afford to give £500 to this fund unless he received some £4,000 per annum for some undefinable service which he performed for Her Majesty; and when that Vote came up he should call on the Committee to refuse to grant that sum to the noble Earl, in order that he should not use the public money in exterminating the poor people of Ireland, who had paid him or his father before him thousands and hundreds of thousands of pounds in rent. The noble Earl, by his conduct, was doing his utmost to render the attempts to bring peace and tranquillity to Ireland an utterly impossible task.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, that the Motion of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) was a peculiar one; but more lay behind it than appeared on the surface. The Motion placed the Government in a difficulty in one respect. In itself it required nothing more than a plain denial; but three speeches had been delivered which made it necessary to give more than a plain denial. The hon. Member had attempted to draw a distinction between Lord Kenmare and other landlords, on the ground that the noble Lord was a Member of the Government. The hon. Member had charged Lord Kenmare with using his 445 position, to exact unfair rents. Then the hon. Member had gone on to say that Lord Kenmare passed as a Liberal and an ardent Roman Catholic. First he must protest against the fact of Lord Kenmare being a landlord being mixed up with his being a Member of the Government. Whether a man was in business in general, or in the special business of a landlord, he had a right to carry on his transactions exactly with the same freedom, whether he was a Member of the Government or was a private individual. Having made this protest with regard to Lord Kenmare's connection with the Government, and having said, once for all, that no idea could be more preposterous than that the official position of Lord Kenmare could weigh on the minds of the Land Commissioners, or of the authorities at Dublin who were charged with the duty of imprisoning persons under the Protection Act, he would proceed to defend Lord Kenmare exactly as if he were a private landlord. The hon. Member for Cavan had taken an exceedingly partial view of the relations between Lord Kenmare and his tenantry. The charges were not definite, although two or three of them were definite. The hon. Member began by representing Lord Kenmare as a sort of tyrant, who devoted the £4,000 a-year which he drew as Lord Chamberlain to oppressing his tenants in Ireland. The hon. Member's accuracy in other matters was on a par with his accuracy in that statement. If the hon. Member had taken the trouble to study the Estimates, he would have found that the noble Earl received only £2,000 from his official position. Then the Government absolutely refused to admit the slightest responsibility on Lord Kenmare's part in the operations of the Protection Act. It was the business of the Government to see whether or not certain persons should be sent to prison. The Government were, as a Government, responsible. He could not even conceive what part the Government could have in the matter, except to judge at what time they could safely let out such of Lord Kenmare's tenants who had been imprisoned. But among all the tenants, who numbered some 1,400 or 1,500, only three had been arrested under the Protection Act. Two had been released—one on the 19th of April, the other on the 22nd of May. The third was still 446 in custody—William Walsh was his name—on a charge of being reasonably suspected of being concerned in an attempt at murder in a proclaimed district. That was not the first time that the question had been brought before the House. It had been introduced on a former occasion by the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), who had drawn attention to the fact that only two of the tenants had served originating notices on their landlord. The fact was that Lord Kenmare's tenants had shown no desire at first to enter the Land Court, and it was only after 940 tenants in the same district had commenced proceedings that they thought of doing so. The consequence was that those 940 had precedence over those of Lord Kenmare's tenants who served originating notices. Then there was the case of John Kernan, which had been referred to. Kernan was served with a writ in January, 1881. He was evicted in May of that year. He was seized in June, and charged, as he said, with trespassing on the farm. According to the public records, he was charged with "maliciously demolishing certain walls and fences, and committing other damage to property." He was kept in prison till April last, when he was discharged. After his release he, not unnaturally, entertained bitter feelings against his landlord; and it was brought against Lord Kenmare that an unfair rent was exacted from this man. But it appeared that Kernan sub-let a portion of his land, and charged a higher rent for the portion sub-let than he paid for the whole. That was rightly enough, as he thought, taken by the Land Commissioners as a reason for not lowering his rent, and was a sufficient answer to the suspicion of the hon. Member for Cavan that he was imprisoned as a "suspect" for the purpose of having an unfair rent extorted from him. The other person mentioned was charged with intimidating persons in order to prevent them paying their rent. He was relased on the 22nd of last month. Then the hon. Member referred to a case which, as far as he could make out, had nothing to do with the terms of the Motion—he meant the case of Mr. and Mrs. Murphy. That case, as described by the hon. Member, appeared to have a great deal of hardship in it; but when it came to be examined by the light of the actual facts, it assumed an entirely different aspect, 447 and did not in any way tend to the discredit of Lord Kenmare. Murphy was in close relations with, one O'Callaghan, his brother-in-law, to whom he owed nearly £60. O'Callaghan was the tenant of the farm, and Murphy took it over from him. They came to be on very bad terms, and Lord Kenmare did his best to reconcile their differences. Ultimately they agreed to refer the matters in dispute to their respective parish priests, who gave their award in favour of O'Callaghan. Murphy would not, however, pay the money, but retained possession of the farm with all the advantages accruing there from. It was O'Callaghan, and not Lord Ken mare, who took proceedings against Murphy and got him turned out of the farm. Afterwards Lord Kenmare ejected O'Callaghan; but by that time Murphy had ceased to be a tenant, and was the forcible occupier of a hut which had been formerly used as a dairy. Lord Kenmare considered that he had a responsibility for Murphy and his family on grounds of humanity; and accordingly, when Murphy was put out of possession on this occasion, Lord Kenmare offered to give him £60 in cash in order that he might remove himself and his family from the country. This offer Murphy rejected. With reference to Mrs. Murphy's child, he protested against cases of this kind being brought forward in the House of Commons without better evidence than had been adduced in the present discussion. So far from acting inhumanely in this matter, Lord Kenmare really acted with rather exceptional humanity. He directed his own medical adviser to report on the condition of the child, and then offered to send it, at his own expense, to a hospital at Dublin. With regard to the case of Daniel Shea, it had been stated by the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy), with the most perfect accuracy, as far as the judgment of Mr. Justice O'Hagan was concerned; but the fact that a lease of Lord Kenmare's had been broken did not prove that his Lordship was in general tyrannical to his tenants. As to Shea's rent being excessive, Lord Kenmare's agent asserted that it bore exactly the same proportion to the Poor Law valuation as the judicial rents fixed by the Sub-Commissioners a month before, at Bantry, for seven tenants. [Mr. HEALY: The worst Sub-Commissioners 448 at Bantry.] He now passed to the question with regard to Shea and the other tenants, on which the hon. Member for Wexford and the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) had founded a general argument. The hon. Member for Wexford said that, as soon as Shea's lease was broken, Lord Kenmare served an ejectment upon him; but the object was to make him pay his rent, which there was no reason to believe he was unable to pay. Then the hon. Member seemed to think that Shea was badly used because he could not at once get his rent lowered and a judicial rent fixed. Shea served an originating notice, and, like other tenants, he would have to wait till that notice was dealt with. Hon. Members opposite talked as if the Land Court were not proceeding with any amount of rapidity and promptness; but the Government, which incurred great obloquy in passing the Land Act, watched its operation with the greatest interest. In point of fact, those Courts were getting through their business with something very like reasonable rapidity. According to the last account, about 1,000 cases were being got through every week—about one-half of them in Court and one-half out of Court. The last time he spoke to the Land Commissioners they told him they hoped to get through the entire arrears by the middle of 1883. It would be a long time indeed if, during all that period, the Irish tenants were liable to eviction; but any tenant who served his originating notice was as secure against eviction as if he had had his case dealt with, and his judicial rent fixed. ["No!"] Of course, that was as long as he paid his other rent. He had great sympathy with the Irish tenant; but that sympathy did not extend so far as to think he was exceptionally ill-used in having to continue for another twelvemonth to pay his old rent, when, at the end of that twelvemonth, he was to have what was intended to be a fair rent fixed for him. He was glad that the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) showed considerable appreciation of the Land Bill; but, in his comments upon the want of rapidity in the proceedings of the Land Court, he had left out of sight the important consideration, the very large number of cases that had been settled out of Court, and in which the tenant had reaped quite as much 449 advantage as if he had applied to the Court. The Land Commissioners had not been able to furnish him with a statement of the number of settlements out of Court; but it appeared, even from the daily papers, that there were frequent cases in which settlements of a most advantageous kind to the tenants were made upon the large estates. The hon. Member for Wexford also told him that £100,000 was spent in reducing £75,000 of rent; but it must be remembered that that reduction of £75,000 was for 15 years, and that it could only be increased if the value of the land increased very considerably. Then an attack had been made upon the Sub-Commissioners, and the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) had said that in some cases their decisions were unfair against the tenant. But, on the other hand, they were attacked for having shown too much favour to the tenants. From these attacks, coming as they did from opposite Parties, it was only fair to draw the deduction that the Sub-Commissioners were acting impartially. The hon. Member for Tipperary had drawn attention to a recent circular announcing a landlords' association, and he asked what steps the Government were about to take with reference to that organization? It would be very premature and very improper for him to speak on this occasion at any length on this question, because he had not actually read the circular through; but there were certain principles of government which were so undoubted that one could boldly lay them down at any moment. So long as the organization of landlords—if it deserved that name—kept within the law, so long it would not be interfered with by the Government, just as no organization of the tenants would be interfered with by the Government so long as it kept within the law. It was said by the hon. Member for Wexford that the Prevention of Crime Bill was directed against the tenants; but that he denied. It was directed against the minority of miscreants at present tyrannizing over the people of Ireland, both landlords and tenants. The hon. Member asked whether the Government would proceed to disarm the Emergency men, or those called by another name? As a broad principle, the Government asked for powers to disarm no one who used arms for legitimate purposes or self-defence. The hon. 450 Member referred to the prospectus which, he said, was published by Mr. Kavanagh, and said a Special Resident Magistrate was quoted in the circular as having given certain advice. Well, he (Mr. Trevelyan) did not know about those passages. The hon. Member quoted from the circular another passage, so worded that it certainly gave an idea to the tenants of Ireland that the intention was to make wholesale evictions of whole districts. That sentence was undoubtedly a very unfortunate sentence, and it was a most unfortunate thing, if it was the case that this was a genuine document, that in a sentence of that sort in the document any allusion was made by Mr. Kavanagh to a Special Resident Magistrate. No Special Resident Magistrate and no Government official ought to have allowed his name to be mixed up with a document which contained such a sentence about evictions; but, at the same time, he might state the general principle that, so long as any organization of landlords and tenants continued to be a business association, and kept within the law in every respect, so long it seemed to him to be a question not for the Government, and the Government would not interfere with it. The hon. Member had, however, asked what the Government were going to do in order to protect the tenants from the spirit expressed in that sentence—no doubt an unfortunate spirit? The Government had already done something for the tenants. For, in the first place, they had passed the Land Bill; and if the tenants only chose to serve originating notices, and to claim the benefits of the Land Act, all the societies and associations in the world, even though actuated by the spirit of the sentence which had been referred to, would not be able to remove them from their holdings. Then the second thing the Government had done for the tenants was to introduce the Arrears Bill, which they intended to press forward with as much thoroughness as they had ever pressed forward any other Bill. The Government were asked why they did not step in between Ireland and misery, and stop this state of things, and that if the turmoil continued it would be the ruin of the Liberal Government? The ruin of a Government meant very little. It meant to them that they should go back to some sort of leisure and enjoyment of life; but it meant a very diffe- 451 rent thing to Ireland. It meant misery and turbulence, and an almost indefinite postponement of any choice of genuine amelioration and happiness; and in order to avert this, the Government brought in this Arrears Bill, which would enable a very great majority of the tenants to place themselves in this position under the Land Bill—that they would have no longer anything to fear, and would be safe from evictions. If hon. Members opposite would only believe that the Government meant well to Ireland, they would help the Government to pass the Prevention of Crime Bill, and so enable the Government to direct its whole strength and its whole courage to passing the Arrears Bill, which hon. Members knew was the utmost that any Government could do at the present moment for the pacification of Ireland.
§ MR. FITZPATRICK
said, he thought a great many inaccurate statements had been made regarding the new Land Corporation. He could only imagine that the object of the hon. Member who had brought this question before the House (Mr. Biggar) was to induce the people of Ireland not to avail themselves of the advantages which this scheme would confer upon them. The hon. Member had referred to the scheme as one of extermination of the present class of tenants, to be carried out by eviction. As one of the promoters of the new association, he (Mr. Fitzpatrick) denied that it had anything whatever to do with eviction, or had any reference to it. No farm could be taken up by the Corporation, except the tenant had completely sold his interest, realized his profit, and left the country. Then, if the Land League chose to "Boycott" the farm, the Corporation would take it up and work it for the landlord. The hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) had asserted that the Corporation had been formed to carry out evictions. That assertion was totally devoid of foundation, and if Parliamentary usage permitted, he would characterize it as it deserved, for it was most unfair to make statements which were well known to be untrue. The hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) had asserted that the association was a declaration of war against the tenants, and spoke of the circular declaring the necessity of carrying the war into the enemy's country. Who began the war? [A VOICE: The 452 landlords.] It was begun by the Land League, and the hon. Member had once told them that it was now war to the knife against the landlords. [Mr. DILLON: I said nothing of the sort.] He (Mr. Fitzpatrick) maintained that if there were any war at all, it was a defensive war only, and directed against the pernicious counsels of the Land League and the agents of those who sought to prevent honest tenants from paying their debts, and to hinder them in the performance of their duties. Upon one point, hon. Members had made a great outcry. They said there was a clause in the scheme directed against townlands, from which there would be wholesale evictions. There was no such intention by the promoters of this scheme; indeed, it was impossible. The intention was only to interfere in case there were a few violent bankrupt men, who were determined to keep the town-lands in a state of turmoil and to annoy their neighbours. In such a case the Corporation would become agents for the townland. The hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) professed to have read a prospectus of the Corporation. That he could not have done, as three drafts only were in existence, all of which were in his (Mr. Fitzpatrick's) own possession. The articles of association empowered the Corporation to purchase and acquire land and hereditaments in Ireland, and generally to carry on all business necessary to agriculture. Among the objects of the Corporation was—To lend money to proprietors, to tenants, occupiers of land, and others in Ireland, or connected with Irish property, upon security of land in Ireland or other security.Thus the Corporation could be made use of by tenants as a loan fund to enable them to buy their own farms. As regarded the objects of the association, he would refer to a letter from Mr. Kavanagh to a Nobleman, who wished to know whether there was any chance of the Corporation being utilized for carrying out evictions? Mr. Kavanagh stated that it was very far from his intention to encourage landlords to evict their tenants; his personal influence, so far as it went, would be directed to preventing any case being taken up by the Corporation in which there was any proof of harshness on the part of the landlords. So far from the charges brought against the Corporation being substantiated, he (Mr. Fitzpatrick) 453 maintained that the Corporation would promote the good of the country, and that the object of its promoters was as much the good of the tenant as of the landlord.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, that it was nothing new to hear protestations of patriotism, and of their regard for the interest of their tenants, from hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Conservative Benches. The time had passed, however, when they could be regarded with seriousness, for the most positive and palpable fact on the surface of Irish life was the hideous contrast between those protestations and the acts of those who made them. He (Mr. Sexton) had known an hon. Member of that House come there, fresh from his estate in Ireland, where his tenants and their wives and children were huddled on the roadside, clothed, fed, and sheltered by the Land League, and deliver protestations of patriotism and love such as he had now listened to. This new Land Corporation, judging from the proclamation it had put forward, wore frankly in the daily Press the countenance of the wolf; that night, however, it had been presented to them by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Portarlington (Mr. Fitzpatrick) as a wolf in sheep's clothing. That hon. Gentleman had shown his faith in the Corporation by subscribing, or promising to subscribe, £500 to its funds, and that was a practical reason for his zeal in defending it, and why he took such a warm interest in its welfare. Any gentleman would be desirous, if possible, of obtaining a dividend on his investments. The hon. Member asked who had begun the war? No doubt, the hon. Gentleman would reply the Land League began it; but, in reality, that base and hideous war began before any of them were born. It began in the misery and the oppression of the last century, in the days of George III., when the sturdy farmers of Ulster were driven forth from their humble homes to fight in the American War of Independence, to die of want on the roadside or in a distant land. If the landlords were indignant now, and were losing their heads and embarking in exploits which could only lead them to shame and disaster, why was it? Because they wanted a breathing-space in that long war, in which all force had been on the landlord's side; they wanted 454 a breathing-space, because the people had risen up and banded themselves together to claim the rights of men in their native land. They spoke about the Land League. It was a well-known historical fact that the Land League was suppressed last year. The Land League had done its work, and though suppressed, it was not killed in a sense, for it seemed to excite greater terror now it was dead than when it was living. The secret was that during the brief space the Government allowed it, the Land League successfully accomplished its mission, which lay in conveying from the minds of the Irish Leaders to the Irish people, those principles of combination of action which must get rid of landlordism. It would take a great deal more than subscriptions of £500 from the hon. Member for Portarlington and others to undo what had been done by the Land League. That hon. Gentleman had given a touching account of the benevolent motives of the Irish landlords; but it was idle to attempt to get rid of the Circular of Mr. Arthur Kavanagh, or to limit the character of the Land Corporation by references to prospectuses which the hon. Member for Portarlington still retained in the seclusion of his pocket. In the circular which had been given to the public in The Times and The Freeman's Journal Mr. Kavanagh made no secret of the object of the Land Corporation. The object was clearly to replace the tillers of the soil by a new Plantation, by separating the Irish tenants from the soil and extirpating them. That was the object of Oliver Cromwell. It was strange that after two centuries of complete and irresponsible power, the landlords of Ireland should have to return to a policy which was never mentioned by humane or honest Englishmen without shame. The landlords had published a bogus list of subscriptions of money which had no existence in the landlords' pockets or elsewhere, in the hope of inducing the financiers of London to join them. It was a strange thing that at this time the landlords of Ireland should be attempting to expel from Ireland a people than whom none on earth were so thankful for small mercies. What did the Land Corporation propose to do? In the first place, it proposed to stimulate and develop the system of grazing farms. The system of grazing farms 455 did not give employment to the people. It was altogether a loss to the country. They knew in Ireland what the system of grazing farms meant. It meant a depletion of the population of the districts in which it had been adopted to an extent unequalled in the whole world. It was a system which would give employment to one herd where before 20 labourers might be employed to till the soil. If that system were adopted, he warned the Government that it could only spread disaster through the country. What did it propose in the second place? The hon. Gentleman said the Corporation did not propose to go into the occupation of any farm, unless the tenant had sold his interest. It did not matter at all, however, to this Corporation whether or not a farm became vacant by sale or by eviction. A farm was vacant; that was enough for them. There were at this moment in Ireland 1,000 families and 10,000 people who were waiting patiently for the coming into operation of the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill, in the hope that landlords might be induced to take them back. This new Corporation was Me-phistopheles stepping in between landlord and tenant to prevent a return of good feeling, and to anticipate and kill the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill. Great would be the responsibility and great would be the guilt of any Government that did not interfere, but, on the other hand, allied itself, however remotely, with such a Body as the Land Corporation, which was so unpatriotic in its conception, and which would be so morally murderous in its future. The Chief Secretary for Ireland said he would not interfere with the Land Corporation. Well, that did not square with justice. It certainly did not square with justice if, on the one hand, the Chief Secretary for Ireland refused to interfere with a scheme for a wholesale expulsion of people from Ireland, while, on the other hand, he made no provision to enable the people to apply the law in self-defence. The right hon. Gentleman gave credit to the Land Courts for settlements out of Court by a combination of tenants. He (Mr. Sexton) said, with equal confidence and with more reason on his side, that settlements effected out of Court by a combination of tenants were due, not to the Land Courts, but to the Land League. 456 Would the right hon. Gentleman or the Government do any one of three things? Would they suspend evictions? Or, if they would not suspend evictions altogether, would they suspend them in such cases as the Resident Magistrates might report to be cases of hardship? Would the Government, on their own responsibility, in such cases as the Resident Magistrates reported to be cases of hardship, cases of cruelty, prohibit the carrying out of evictions, and refuse to lend the armed Forces of the Crown to assist in carrying them out? Would the Government push on the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill into law? There were thousands and thousands of unfortunate families in Ireland living in miserable huts, into which they had been driven, who were waiting for the passing of the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill. Would the Government push on that Bill, and thereby settle the dispute which formed the whole core of the Irish, difficulty, instead of pushing on the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Bill, the first effect of which had been the formation of this Land Corporation, this sinister Land Corporation for the expulsion of the people, the working of which would enable the minions of the landlords to carry out the oppression of the people without fear of reprisals? What was the third object of the Land Corporation? Why, it was simply diabolical, and he wondered that any man of respectable position would attach his name to it. They said not only that they would take isolated farms, but that wherever they found the farm of an evicted tenant which had not been taken up, they should be placed as agents of the tenants in that townland, and should have power to evict them if necessary. It was also proposed by the framers of the scheme that the evicted people should be replaced by loyal farmers from other countries. [Mr. GIBSON: Hear, hear!] He could understand that the right hon. and learned Gentleman regarded the whole proposal with undiluted joy. The Irish race had found just judges in England, and people who sympathized with its sorrows. But to neither of those classes did the right hon. and learned Gentleman belong. In fact, he had never concealed his dislike and even his hatred of the Irish people; and whatever plan promised to banish the Irish people from the land which 457 was their own would be certain to command the approval of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. For the purpose of working their nefarious scheme with greater safety, the new Corporation hoped to be allowed to turn out all the surrounding farmers, in the belief that to garrison a townland would be cheaper than to garrison a single farm. He (Mr. Sexton), however, told the House, the Land Corporation, and the country, that although the scheme was a bold one—one not marked by any religious, moral, or patriotic principle—yet it would fail, for its promoters were entering upon a fight in which the odds of probability were all against them. They seemed to face the contingency of outrage with light hearts, and he should have expected it from their antecedents, their only care being to get possession of the land and to bring in tenants from foreign parts. Such was the plan of the Land Corporation. Outrage would, of course, result from it. If whole townlands were cleared of people, a new policy of Cromwellian Plantation being openly avowed, could anyone suppose that the ignorant classes in Ireland, having in their ranks men of violent nature, would not be induced to retaliate in a manner which might appal humanity? He warned the Land Corporation, and all who might be inclined to support them, to beware and pause before taking a final step. The people of Ireland had funds at their disposal, and union reigned among them. Though a Liberal Government, false to its former principles, might refuse to defend the people against this nefarious combination, he did not hesitate to foretell the disgraceful failure of a movement which was the most cynical and heartless to which men of position had ever given their support.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, that the course of the discussion for the last hour or two had been somewhat desultory. It had commenced with a rather laboured condemnation of Lord Kenmare, and that condemnation had since been used as a kind of peg upon which to hang an attack upon the Land Corporation. He (Mr. Gibson) could not but think that all who had listened to the speeches of the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) and of the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) must have been struck by this fact—that whereas, up to 458 the present, they had been accustomed in former speeches to a good deal of extraordinary language, and to show a great amount of hatred to landlords and landlordism, that night they had discovered some indications of fear and terror. It seemed from that there was reason to believe that it was felt that, censurable as the individuals composing it and the institution of landlordism might be, its members had at last hit upon something which, at all events, made the Leaders of the Land League reflect. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland said that he had not read the papers to which hon. Members below the Gangway had referred. He (Mr. Gibson) regretted that that should be so. The matter had been before the public many days, and Mr. Kavanagh had stated his views very frankly and very clearly upon it in a letter to The Times, and on two days they had been made the subject of leading articles in that journal. Besides that, The Freeman's Journal had written upon it with considerable vigour. But as he had not read the literature on the subject, the right hon. Gentleman had acted wisely in refraining from passing judgment on the scheme, for it was obvious that a scheme such as that under the consideration of the House, which must necessarily have an extensive operation, could only be judged as a whole, and that it was unfair to fasten upon particular sentences a meaning which they could hardly bear, even when read apart from the context. He (Mr. Gibson) was not a member of the Land Corporation; but he had read its literature with great attention, because it affected Ireland; and because he had the honour and privilege of being a close and warm friend of Mr. Kavanagh; and the meaning he placed on the transaction was, that it was a strong, vigorous, and successful attempt at self-defence; that in no sense whatever could it be regarded as aggressive. If farmers should choose to pay their rents, and to demand the liberty to do so—a liberty which they had foregone for so long in consequence of the terrorism under which they groaned—or if they should choose to appeal to the Land Court to fix fair rents for them, they would have nothing to fear from that or from any kindred organization. But when farms were lying idle from which tenants had 459 allowed themselves to be evicted in obedience to the behests of the Land League—"Boycotted" farms which the Land League or the leaders of the people said must remain unoccupied—surely, then, it was not unreasonable to say, if no tenant was allowed to touch those farms under the existing terrorism, that an organization should be allowed to come into existence for the purpose of introducing a better state of things under wise and just conditions. His view of the organization was, in fact, this—that it might in many cases save the landlord from ruin, and enable the tenant to regain the liberty which he had lost. The hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) said that the association was a society for the extirpation of tenants. He forgot that its operations were only to commence when a man should have ceased to be a tenant, and when his former farm should be lying idle.
§ MR. DILLON
explained that what he had said was that one of the objects of the Corporation, judging from the prospectus, was to keep the land in the most valuable condition, or, in other words, free from tenants.
§ MR. GIBSON
, continuing, said, that the hon. Member for Sligo had characterized one portion of the scheme as simply—and the hon. Member paused in order to find a word that was sufficiently bad for his purpose—it was simply diabolical. ["Hear, hear!"] Well, "diabolical" was undoubtedly a good word. The hon. Member applied it to the scheme because, he said, the Corporation was to have the power of evicting. But if a tenant should please to go through the vulgar and commonplace process of paying his rent, he could not be evicted; or, if he did not like his present rent, thinking that it was too high—and naturally tenants did not like to pay rent—he had only to go into the Land Court, and, almost for the asking, he would get his rent cut down a quarter or nearly a third. So that he did not see the force of the charge that this Corporation would have conferred on them powers of eviction. What was the state of things with which this organization sought to cope? The hon. Member for Sligo said that the landlords of Ireland had been so long petted and pampered. Had they been petted and pampered during the last two years? The hon. Member con- 460 trasted the proceedings of this Land Association with the merciful proceedings of the Land League—the expression he used was "the charity of the Land League." Charity was a very noble thing, and it sometimes cost money; but the charity which took the form of taking other people's property was open to a certain amount of criticism. He had not heard that the Land League had shown any great charity, as regarded their own funds, either to tenants or labourers. And here he might say, in passing, that there was a remarkable contrast between this Land Corporation, which published the names of those associated with it and the subscriptions—in short, everything connected with it—and the Land League, which had never condescended to anything so petty and small as the publication of a balance-sheet. When people heard those expressions about "the charity of the Land League" they were apt to forget where they were living. Had they not been told from numerous platforms, and also, he thought, in that House, that the object of the recent Land League agitation had been to bring landlords to their knees, or to abolish landlordism? And he thought the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) used the expression that he was for war to the knife with the landlords. [Mr. DILLON: No, no!] He never for a moment hesitated to accept any statement of the hon. Member, who always spoke with the utmost frankness; but the hon. Member said something like it, and always expressed a resolute determination to get rid of landlords root and branch. That being the reality that had to be faced, they were driven to talk about just and unjust evictions. [Ironical Irish cheers.] He supposed those cheers indicated that all evictions were unjust, and he was now dealing with the statement put forward by the Land League. There were some evictions, of course, that might be open to criticism; but he was dealing now with the broad proposition that all farms from which tenants had been evicted were substantially "Boycotted," wherever the power of the Land League enabled it to be done; and an absolute reign of terror existed where the agents of the Land League could bring it about. Well, under those cirumstances, was it not rather unreasonable to say that the 461 tenants had a full right to organize, sometimes with great criminality and great cruelty, and that the landlords were bound idiotically to remain isolated? He ventured to think that was an argument which could not for a moment suggest itself to any man of commonsense. It was necessary for self-defence that something should be done by landlords within the limits of the law, according to the dictates of justice, and never forgetting what was due to fair play. As far as he had been able to read the correspondence in the papers, he must say he found everything connected with the Land Association thoroughly open; the names were there, the subscriptions were there, the association was proposed to be registered according to law; and, under those circumstances, was it not a little extravagant to talk of Oliver Cromwell and Barbadoes in connection with this transaction? The name of Mr. Kavanagh would, he ventured to say, be a great guarantee to the fair public opinion of England as well as Ireland. [A VOICE: Carlow!] Yes; and in Carlow, too, it would be a guarantee that nothing but what was just and fair and honourable would be done. He had the honour, as he said before, of intimate friendship with Mr. Kavanagh, and he never met a man more fair-minded, able, or thoroughly patriotic; and he was as satisfied as he could be of anything in the world that if this was not a fair scheme between man and man—between landlord, tenant, and labourer—the name of Arthur Kavanagh would in no way be mixed up with it.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gibson) had objected to the use of the word "diabolical," as employed by his (Mr. T. P. O'Connor's) hon. Friend (Mr. Sexton); but the phrase was justly employed, for it was a diabolical offence to starve the poor and drive the people into exile; and by the natural interpretation of this document, the object of the Corporation was to do both if it could. What would the right hon. and learned Gentleman say to these words—"The security offered would be the land in the most valuable condition?" That certainly meant free from tenants; so that the land in Ireland would be only valuable when the Irish tenant was driven from it. And, again, "If, however, they 462 persevered, the result would be that Ireland would be colonized by farmers from other countries." Was not that a scheme of depopulation? The people would be driven from the land, unless they agreed to pay rents, one-fourth of which had been declared by the Courts to be robbery on the part of the landlords. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that those people had nothing to do but to pay the rent, or apply to the Court. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must know that it was impossible for them to pay such rent; and in the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill there was an admission by the Government that large numbers of tenants were so poor, and over-burdened by rent, that it was impossible for them to pay. As for applying to the Land Court, it would take years before that tribunal would be able to deal with a tithe of the applications before it, and meantime the Land Corporation would use all its efforts to turn men out. He would ask the two Irish Law Officers now present whether they had read the Circular; and, if so, whether they did not consider that this association came under the 4th clause of the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Bill, which made a combination illegal which injured any man in his business? The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, although sympathetic, was not satisfactory, for he had said that he could do nothing towards expediting the work of the Land Court; and under the Bill they were now passing they might prevent all discussion, and stop the mouths of the leaders of the people. If the Government employed the Coercion Act for the enforcement of rents, they would have to deal with a state of things more serious than they would care to acknowledge, and would have to leave the people to their own dark devices and fierce passions. One of two results would be brought about from the organization to which he had referred—either the people, broken in spirit, would submit tamely to the action of the landlords; or else, driven to desperation, they would resort to crimes as extreme or terrible, if not darker, than any which had yet disgraced the annals of the country. The best means of meeting and anticipating that dreaded evil would be just and remedial legislation; and he sincerely trusted that the Government would make 463 some statement as to their future intentions upon this Land Question, which would give the people of Ireland a certainty of relief at some future day. Such a Bill would be a greater and better Bill than the Prevention of Crime measure they were now discussing.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) had congratulated himself on the fact that the new organization appeared to strike terror into the hearts of the Irish people and of their Representatives in the House. That the right hon. and learned Gentleman regarded as something new and satisfactory, though, as a matter of fact, it was precisely what the landlords had been doing for many generations, and what they had always been well able and willing to do. It was, indeed, just because the landlords had always had it in their power to hurt the people, that the people were to-day in their present frame of mind as regards landlordism and the system that sustained it. The new movement, said the right hon. and learned Gentleman, contrasted favourably with the operations of the Land League, in being above-board, and in the circumstance that its promoters published their subscription list. But the Land League was, in fact, as public an organization as ever existed. From the very first moment, it absolutely lived on publicity, and published its programme, its line of action, and the subscriptions it received, in every Irish newspaper. What, then, could the House think of the allegation made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman? According to him, the new organization aimed at the eviction of no one, and the tenants would be safe if they did not evict themselves. Mr. Kavanagh, however, contradicted that statement by recommending that when an isolated farm was to let, they should take possession of it only on condition that the whole town-land should be leased to them, his intention evidently being that the land should be re-peopled with another population. But they could only get possession of the townlands by the slaughter of the people, and such a scheme could not be carried out without danger to the public peace in. Ireland. If the Government tad any care for the lives of the people, they would not treat the Circular 464 in the way it had been treated in the House that night. Now, he always thought it the duty of all Governments to see that schemes of destruction failed; but the present Government had met that scheme of extermination and depopulation in an attitude of toleration, and with the declaration that if it were managed within the letter of the law it would not be interfered with. That was not the way to treat a scheme which amounted to a declaration of open war against the Irish people. But he blamed them for more than this, as he found that a distinct incitement to such combinations on the part of the landlords had come not many nights ago from one of the Members of the Government, the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), whom he charged with being the suggester and author of this perilous undertaking. Speaking recently in the House, the right hon. Gentleman had said that—Personally, he thought there was nothing of greater importance than that the landlords of Ireland should press for their rights firmly and bravely, but with justice and moderation.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
asked the hon. Member to read the passage in which he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) referred to the arrears of rent.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, he should be sorry to do the right hon. Gentleman any injustice whatever. He had quoted as much as seemed to have a perilous tendency in it.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, the hon. Member had omitted his remarks with reference to arrears of rent. It was quite true that he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had said in that speech that the landlords of Ireland were justified in demanding and pressing for their rights; but, over and over again, he said they should do so only with justice and moderation; and he indicated that they ought not to press for arrears of rent accrued in time of famine.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, he had fully intended to add that the right hon. Member put in that saving clause several times; but it really was included in the words he quoted; and the remark he had to make upon these words was that the landlords of Ireland were to be the judges of what was just and moderate in their own interests. The important point was the practical use the land- 465 lords had made of the advice he gave them to combine, and to press firmly and bravely for what they considered to be their rights, within limits of which they were to be the judges. At the time it was given, the advice struck him as having a very perilous import. He regarded this landlords' movement as due to the incitement conveyed in the reproach uttered by the right hon. Gentleman, that the landlords were too lenient; he said that in many parts of the country they were supine. That was his word. Just imagine the landlords of Ireland being supine about their rents! He told them it would be a brave thing to combine together to press for their high rents; and he afterwards said—At no time was it of greater importance that there should be co-operation among landlords in this respect. He believed the Government were willing and able to protect them, and with this protection and co-operation on their part the main difficulties of the situation would be overcome.The result was the formation of this Corporation. Mr. Kavanagh was the head co-operator; he had formed a Cooperative Society (Limited) for the purpose of exterminating the Irish people. The Prime Minister had made it a charge against the Irish Members that they were not facilitating the action of the Land Act, and that they interposed between the Act and the people in any way; but what had he to say when he was charged with so acting that this Act was proceeding at a snail's pace? Was it not from the Irish Members that had come the demand to expedite its action, to do something to bring under its protection the people who, though they might have sent in originating notices, would be paying exorbitant rents, until the Commissioners reached them? What relief did the Prime Minister offer in the cases of tenants evicted for the non-payment of rents, ultimately declared to be exorbitant? None at all. It was said that the new organization of the landlords would not be interfered with, while every organization of the tenants had been mercilessly suppressed. Yet surprise was expressed that the Irish people were not well affected to the Constitution under which they had the happiness to live! Little wonder that the Irish peasant did not sing "God Save the Queen," or "Rule Britannia," in Ireland, or that, under the Stars and Stripes, he looked 466 back with no feeling of loyalty to the order of things he had left! Disaffection in Ireland, disloyalty, or whatever they liked to call it, in America, were the natural products of such laws and such proceedings as those he had referred to; and while such laws were in force in Ireland, the Irish people would be less than human, and unworthy of the name of men, if they did not ardently desire in their hearts to end, how and when they could, the reign of oppression and tyranny in their native land.
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
said, that, so far as his knowledge and observation went, and contrary to the opinion expressed by many hon. Members in that House, not only in the North, but in the South of Ireland, the Land Act was regarded as far from a failure. So far, at all events, as the North was concerned, the people there were determined to extract from that Act all the good that was in it, although they did not look upon it as perfect and complete. The great blot upon the Act was the delay in its administration. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Trevelyan) had told them that about the year 1883 the great bulk of the cases now before the Courts would be decided; but he (Mr. T. A. Dickson) did not himself believe that when the year 1885 came, with the present rate of progress, the mass of business accumulating before the Courts would be dealt with. The great grievance to the tenants arose from the fact that during all the time they had to wait they were bound to pay what they called a rack-rent, and that the judicial rent did not date from the time of the originating notice. Again, nothing could be more disastrous to the best interests and to the peace of Ireland than the delay in dealing with arrears; and, as an Irish Member, he regretted most deeply that another Bill now before the House had occupied such a length of time as to keep back the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill, the result of which was that, to his own knowledge, hundreds of tenants who, a month or a fortnight ago, would have come under the protection of that Bill, would be shut out from its benefits, because their six months' period for redemption was daily expiring. He had always been opposed to the Land League; but he was equally opposed to the newly-formed Landlords' League or Corporation, and, with regard 467 to it, he believed it would never have been heard of if it had not been for the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill. As far as the result of the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill was concerned, in Ulster it had been most disastrous to the tenants, as the landlords were pressing for arrears in all directions. He regretted the formation of that Corporation, because he saw in the near future of Ireland, between those two opposing forces of the Landlords' League and the Land League, disaster and bloodshed.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, that the discussion had wandered somewhat from the subject of the original Notice given by the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), which proposed to deal simply with the relations between Lord Ken-mare and his tenants. It would not be becoming in him (Mr. J. Lowther), standing, as he did, opposite to the Colleagues of Lord Kenmare, to enter into any defence of his Lordship in his dealings with his tenants. He would only say that, as far as his knowledge went, derived from his experience while holding the Office of Chief Secretary for Ireland, he believed that Lord Kenmare's estate was one of the best-conducted estates in Ireland. He had been frequently brought into contact personally with that noble Lord's agent (Mr. Hussey), and he believed him to be one of the ablest, most courageous, and most conscientious men connected with the management of land in that country; but, passing by that subject, which, as his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) had just observed, had been treated as a mere peg on which to hang a series of speeches designed to meet an entirely different matter, he wished to make a few remarks on the question immediately before them. The hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson) had joined in the remarks made from below the Gangway on that (the Opposition) side of the House, in deprecation of the effort now being made to reply to the suggestion thrown out, as he (Mr. J. Lowther) thought at the time, not very fairly by the Prime Minister, with regard to the apparent apathy of the landlord class in Ireland as to the moans of helping themselves. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had not very fairly referred to the absence of self-help on the part of the 468 landlords in Ireland, and that the new organization under notice was their reply to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman.
, interposing, said, that his remark had applied to the general body of the community, and not to the landlords specially.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
believed the right hon. Gentleman had referred to the propertied and loyal classes in Ireland.
said, he had referred to the general body of those who were disposed to obey the law in Ireland.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, that, in his opinion, if the right hon. Gentleman would inquire more minutely into the composition of society in Ireland, he would find that the landlord class, and those who were associated with the ownership of land, formed no inconsiderable portion of the loyal section of the community; and the landlord class had determined that, at any rate, they would not remain under the stigma which they imagined had been cast upon their conduct. They had arrived at a sound conclusion, and had determined to deal with the difficulties that confronted them upon commercial principles, and quite apart from any political Party, by establishing a combination for the protection of their rights. He himself had ventured to think that this scheme might with advantage have been tried long ago; and he had no hesitation in describing it as far and away the best movement which had of late years been set on foot in Ireland. The hon. Member for Tyrone said that the Land Act had not been a failure; he (Mr. J. Lowther) would not be tempted by that digression into a reply, but would be satisfied with saying simply that he did not agree with that opinion with respect either to that Act, or with regard to the previous legislative effort made some 12 years ago. At any rate, it was now admitted that the attempts to deal with land tenure in Ireland had substantially failed. ["Oh, oh!"] The right hon. Gentleman would, at least, admit that they had not been wholly successful. They had been reminded, however, that the Land Corporation would facilitate the process of eviction. Now, he had often taken exception to the manner in which eviction had been spoken of by Members of the Government, 469 and especially, upon a recent occasion, by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Trevelyan), who had even described it in certain cases as unpatriotic and inhumane. Evictions, the House had been told, were divided into two classes—evictions of tenants who could, but would not pay, and evictions of tenants who were unable to pay. The first class, they were informed on the authority of Ministers of the Crown, were fit subjects for eviction; the latter, it was said, should be treated with what was called indulgence. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway approached the subject in more forcible terms; but, at all events, the House was invited to draw a distinction between the two classes. But he (Mr. J. Lowther) said emphatically, with regard to a tenant who was absolutely and honestly unable to pay, that it was the duty of the landlord to suggest to him that he should select some other occupation in life. The landlord who became a party to such a tenant continuing in occupation of land under those conditions was himself a party to an arrangement which was contrary to the public advantage. He regretted to see the tendency in several quarters of the House to view a landlord who evicted a tenant who was other than a contumacious person as guilty of an act of hardship and, as the Chief Secretary expressed it, of cruelty towards Her Majesty's Government. Her Majesty's Government, in their present unenviable position, certainly could appeal with some reason to the generosity of their fellow-men; but he must protest against the doctrine that a landlord was even justified in retaining on his estate persons who were absolutely incapable, with advantage to themselves or the community, of conducting the business of agriculture. [Laughter.] Perhaps some hon. Members might think him out of date, and a "fossil," in referring to the view that the owner of land ought to have some regard for its efficient cultivation, for he was aware that the doctrines of political economy were at present in disfavour with the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. Yet he ventured to think that a landlord who suffered his property to remain in the hands of an insolvent person was not discharging the duty he owed to society, for, in his opinion, it was to 470 the benefit of society that the soil should be efficiently cultivated. But how could it be cultivated efficiently if landlords left it in the hands of insolvent tenants? Let them, therefore, put from their minds the doctrine of the cruelty of eviction, and he hoped that henceforth the House would hear less about it. Of course, if it involved starvation, that would be a different matter; but it did not. He admitted that if there was no other alternative for the insolvent Irish tenants except remaining in possession of the soil or entering the workhouse, there would, through the inaction of Government and Parliament in the application of the proper remedy, be, at any rate, the appearance of hardship in evictions. But there was another remedy which he had pressed upon the right hon. Gentleman, urging him not to allow it to rest; he referred to emigration. He confessed that at the time of its introduction into the Land Act, his opinion was that the clause was not inserted with any bonâ fide intention, and he had since discovered that his conjecture was only too true. If the Government were really desirous of helping those unfortunate tenants who, as they considered, were suffering a real hardship in being evicted, they should be prepared to offer some alternative to those tenants than the alternative between starvation and the paupers' roll. If Government would devote a portion of the Church Surplus towards giving tenants who could not meet their engagements facilities for obtaining a living elsewhere, instead of using it in objects which would be an inducement to dishonesty, by paying the debts of the dishonest, as well as of the unfortunate, he thought they would, in this instance, deserve the thanks of the community. He would refer the Government, not to the views of their political opponents, but to what had been said on the subject by writers like Mr. Tuke. Those writers had shown the true solution of the difficulty. His noble Friend the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) had recently asked the Government whether emigration was among the subjects with which they proposed to deal, but had not succeeded in getting a satisfactory answer from the right hon. Gentleman. If the Government directed their attention to that subject, there might at last be one part of their Irish policy upon which they would be 471 able to look hereafter with satisfaction. He hoped the result of this discussion would be that Government would desist from attempting to discourage landlords from the exercise of their legal rights, and that they would support the patriotic and public-spirited movement to which reference had been made in this debate.