Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [27th February], that the Question then proposed,
That Parliamentary inquiry, at the present time, into the working of the Irish Land Act tends to defeat the operation of that Act, and must be injurious to the interests of good government in Ireland,"—(Mr. Gladstone,)
—be now put.
§ Previous Question again proposed, "That the Original Question be now put."—(Mr. Gibson.)
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
said, he would ask the permission of the House to state the grounds upon which he intended to vote for the Motion of the Prime Minister and against the pro- 228 position of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson). He desired at the outset to point out a misconception as to the character of the Prime Minister's Resolution, which appeared more than once during the course of the debate. It was not a question of conflict between the two Houses of Parliament. It was not a case in which the House of Lords was infringing upon the domains belonging exclusively to the House of Commons; neither was it a case in which the Commons were seeking to infringe upon any domain of the House of Lords. It was a case in which the Lords had an undoubted right to inquire into the matters proposed. But the Executive Government of the country, upon their responsibility, had come to the conclusion that in the present condition of things such an inquiry would be prejudicial and injurious to the public interests, and in the discharge of their duty they (as was their equally undoubted right) asked that Assembly—the Representative House of Parliament—to endorse their disapproval of the inquiry, as calculated to lead to injurious results. In "another place" a noble and learned Lord likened the conduct of those who had pressed this inquiry to that of children who, having planted flowers in the ground, proceeded in a few days to pluck them up by the roots in order to see whether they were growing. He (Mr. Charles Russell) might be permitted to say that they seemed him to be mischievous children who were seeking to pull up flowers they had not planted, and which it was shrewdly suspected they did not desire to take root. In judging of the probable scope and effect of this inquiry it seemed to him to be essential to look to the language of its advocates in and out of Parliament. It seemed to be lost sight of that the agitation for the inquiry dated from a great meeting of landlords held in Dublin at the beginning of the present year. At that meeting the Land Commission was abused in language neither dignified nor just. Fault was found with the social status of the Sub-Commissioners, protests were made against their decisions, and resolutions were passed declaring against further reductions of rent, and crying out for compensation. The logical outcome of arguments like these would be a Resolu- 229 tion asking for a repeal of the Land Act. In fact, such a Resolution was submitted to the meeting, but not carried. How was the discussion carried on by the Representatives of the landlord class in the House? A right hon. Gentleman who lately filled a responsible Office in connection with the Irish administration did not think it unworthy of his position to apply to the Land Act of 1881, passed after such protracted discussion in that House, and assented to by the other House of Parliament and by the Sovereign, language describing it as confiscation and robbery. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) likewise strongly abused the Act, and if his arguments pointed to anything, they pointed to a repeal of the measure altogether. The senior Member for the University of Dublin, feeling the cogency of the arguments addressed to the House by the Prime Minister, attempted to put the question upon a much lower platform. He, in fact, said they desired to make no attack on the judicial administration of the Act; but he pointed out that there were many matters which could be properly inquired into without touching that question. He (Mr. Charles Russell) begged leave to point out that that was not the object indicated in the speeches of those who advocated the inquiry in "another place." But it very soon became apparent that the cautious limits within which his right hon. and learned Friend desired to keep the discussion were outstepped by other Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. That the object which he described was not the real object of the inquiry appeared notably in the speeches of the hon. Member for Coleraine (Sir Hervey Bruce) and the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Brodrick), but still more notably in the speech of his Colleague the junior Member for the University of Dublin. If the inquiry was to be a real inquiry, directed to the objects of its promoters, the arguments of the Government against its impolicy were strengthened tenfold; and if it was not to be a real inquiry, but the harmless and innocent thing described by his right hon. Friend opposite, it was clear that it could not satisfy the objections of those who projected it, and it would be more becoming and dignified for the House of Lords to yield to what, he had no doubt, would be the emphatic expression of the opinion of the House 230 of Commons, that such an inquiry would be impolitic and obnoxious. He did not think it was within the competence of the Committee to give any assurance like that contained in the letter of the ex-Lord Chancellor, that they would not inquire into the decisions of the Sub-Commissioners. The Committee was merely deputed by the House of Lords to make the inquiry, and if an assurance was to be given which would be regarded as authoritative and binding, it should be by a Resolution of the House of Lords itself; but though the Committee had given an assurance that they would not re-hear cases already tried, which was not in their power, they were still at liberty to inquire into the grounds and facts of the decisions, which would have a very injurious effect on the minds of the people of Ireland. These might be matters proper to be inquired into; but an inquiry regarding them could not take place without materially weakening the status and the independence of the Commissioners. As showing the alarm with which the proposed inquiry was viewed in Ulster, whose people had evinced the strongest desire to avail themselves of the benefits of the Act, he read the Resolution lately adopted by a meeting of the tenant farmers of Tyrone protesting against the inquiry in the strongest manner, and a telegram from a gentleman in Antrim, who stood as tenant farmers' candidate at the last election, stating that if the Act was to have any effect, confidence in it must be restored by the House of Commons. It seemed to him that the Commissioners had been very unfairly treated in the discussion that had taken place in the House. He had probably watched their decisions as carefully as any man, and had addressed tenants' meetings since they had been given; and at those meetings he had carefully avoided expressing any opinion as to the judicial action of those gentlemen, and for the reason that it was impossible for any man, however desirous of being fair-minded, to give judgment in a case as to which he had not before him all the facts. He desired to point out that the course that had been adopted in criticizing the action of these Commissioners was without parallel. They were a judicial body appointed to administer an Act of Parliament; and if they did not administer that Act with a due regard 231 to the intention of the Legislature when passing it, the Act itself provided the proper remedy for the Constitutional review of their decisions—namely, the Court of Appeal. He held it was unjust to the Commissioners, and unworthy of those who made these criticisms upon them, to treat them as they had been treated in those discussions. He was of opinion himself that if the Commissioners erred at all it had not been in favour of the tenants, but in favour of the landlords. It was said this inquiry was necessary, because the Act had falsified the promise by which it was obtained. It was said that the responsible Ministers of the Crown had expressed the view that it would not be followed by a large reduction of rent. This line of argument seemed to him to be extremely curious. The Act was passed for the relief of the tenants; and if responsible Ministers of the Crown had expressed such a view, all he could say was that it was only another proof that Ministers in that House, whether they were Ministers in esse or Ministers in posse, had a great deal still to learn about the condition of Ireland and how to deal with it. He had objections to any inquiry at all at this time; but he had special objections to an inquiry by the House of Lords, because he had no faith in their impartiality. He did not desire for one moment to suggest that any Member of that House would knowingly yield himself to an unfair bias, but because the occasions were few on which men could lift themselves above class interests and class prejudices. When he looked at what had been the persistent and consistent action of the House of Lords in reference to this question it was an amazement to him how the Irish Members opposite, of whose intelligence he had a high opinion, how they could hope that an inquiry by the House of Lords could redound to the benefit of the tenant. What had the history of the Lords been in relation to this question? They opposed the Land Act of 1870, although their opposition did not go to the extent of throwing out the Bill; but they took from it a valuable provision with which it had left the Commons. In 1872 they appointed a, Committee to inquire into the Act; and that inquiry, as anyone who took any interest in the history of this question must have known, either 232 had, or was supposed to have, a prejudicial effect in paralyzing the action of the County Court Judges in administering the Act and in minimizing the advantages it bestowed upon the tenants. Could any hon. Member forget their action in 1880 in regard to the Limitation of Costs Bill, brought in by the hon. Member for the County of Longford (Mr. Errington)? That small measure of protection for the Irish tenant passed the Commons, and the House of Lords did not thing it unworthy of their dignity and position to scout it, and it had never been passed since. There was another and more important Bill to which he should refer. It was the Compensation for Disturbance Bill. That unquestionably was an Act of exceptional legislation, based upon principles which should only be invoked upon rare and exceptional occasions. The House of Lords threw out that Bill after the Government had said in this House that it was necessary for the protection of the Irish tenant. That conduct of the House of Lords was, in his judgment, the strongest justification, and one of the strongest sustainments, of the action of the Land League. It would have been a generous act on the part of the House of Lords to have given that mild protection to the Irish tenant thought by the Commons to be so needed. Taking this to be the history of the House of Lords in reference to this question, could the Irish people look with other than distrust upon any inquiry initiated by them? There was another matter with regard to which he desired to say a word. That was as to this cry for compensation. He might, at least, express the hope that this cry would not play the part that had been played by another question, that of "Fair Trade," which was a fruitful theme for platform speeches outside the House, but which had found very weak and inarticulate expression in the House. He hoped this question would be formulated with precision and brought to an early decision. It had possessed the minds of Irish landlords and prevented them from arranging with their tenants outside the Court, as they imagined that by doing so they would be prejudicing their position, or prejudicing themselves as to some question of compensation. Compensation for what? Compensation by whom? Was it compensation for being, by Act of 233 Parliament, prevented from continuing a system of rack-renting? Was it compensation for being deprived of the right to confiscate the property of the tenants? In connection with this question he might mention an agreement voluntarily arrived at in the West of Ireland between some tenants and their landlord, where the rent under which they had struggled for existence for years and years had been reduced 50 per cent. Nature had not been kind to the place. It was upon the shore facing the Atlantic. The climate was not propitious. The people paid their rents by toiling in England and Scotland during the harvesting operations. Out of their holdings they could not do it. Of late years the labour market had been closed to them; and in view of such a case as this, he asked whether a claim for restitution might not be based upon juster grounds than this claim for compensation of the landlords? Upon the principles of compensation now proposed, the greater the rack rent to which a landlord had subjected his tenant the more he would get, whilst the fairer had been his rent the less. He wished to refer to the conjunction that had taken place on the other side of the House with reference to this Motion. It was a strange conjunction, arrived at by a diametrically opposite course of reasoning. Hon. Members above the Gangway said that this inquiry was absolutely necessary, if the ruin of the Irish landlords was to be averted. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway said that the inquiry was absolutely necessary, because the Land Act was perfectly worthless to the tenants. It was perfectly clear that both of these propositions could not be proved; and neither proposition, on being examined, would be found to be true. He believed that this Land Act did contain elements of great good to the Irish people and to the Irish tenant class, if they could secure them. He was of opinion that there had been gross exaggeration with respect to the decisions of the Commissioners; he did not mean wilful misrepresentation, but misrepresentation arising from a mistaken idea of what had occurred. It had been said that they proceeded upon a stereotyped plan of reducing rent. Nothing of the kind. In some cases they had small reductions, in some cases large reductions, in some very large reductions, in others they had made no 234 reduction at all. He might quote an instance from the property of the representatives of a deceased proprietor in the County Antrim. That gentleman purchased the estate at a price which paid 5 per cent on the existing rental. Within 20 years, notwithstanding that neither he nor any of his predecessors expended 1d. on improvements, even the dwelling-houses and farm-buildings having been erected by the tenants, the rents were all nearly doubled. These tenants, the Commissioners asserted, could not pay those increased rents out of the produce of the soil. The reductions of rent made by the judicial action of the Courts were less than the reductions made out of Court between the landlords and tenants themselves. On the Montgomery Estate, near Bally Bay, in the County Monaghan, the agent, Mr. Reeves, met the tenants, and, after inquiring into each case on the merits, allowed reductions varying from 25 to 50 per cent, to commence from September last. The tenants were so delighted that they chaired Mr. Reeves from the hotel to the railway station. From a Return which he had taken the trouble to calculate he found that the reductions made, either by what he would call the compulsory decisions of the Courts, or by the mutual consents which received the sanction of the Courts, amounted to only 25.65 per cent. Those reductions made out of Court varied between 3 per cent and 58.35 per cent. The general average of those reductions was 36 per cent, as against only 23 per cent on the cases judicially decided by the Sub-Commissioners. This was a complete answer to the exaggerations of those who spoke about the "sweeping reductions of the Sub-Commissioners." This demand for an inquiry resolved itself, he believed, into an attack, upon the administration of the Act by the Sub-Commissioners. Its administration, strange to say, by the County Court Judges bad not been attacked, although the reductions made by them averaged more than the reductions by the Sub-Commissioners. [Mr. SEXTON: How was it with the County Court in Mayo?] He was not at that moment able to speak of Mayo; but he believed his statement of the average to be thoroughly accurate. He was not aware of a single instance in which rent had been judicially reduced where the laud-lord or his witnesses came forward to 235 maintain that the existing rents were fair. [An hon. MEMBER: Mr. Bence Jones.] He (Mr. Charles Russell) thought Mr. Bence Jones was no exception; indeed, he thought Mr. Bence Jones applied himself to ventilating his opinions in English newspapers, rather than to maintain, before the Sub-Comsioners, that his rents were reasonable. He felt bound to ask, were the Irish landlords the only landlords who had suffered from reduced rents? He had lately read, in The Mark Lane Express, returns from 16 counties in England showing the rents of new lettings, and the rents at which those farms were held previously. The figures showed an average reduction of 30 per cent. Surely, in face of this fact, there was no foundation for the statements so rashly made outside that House that the reductions of the Sub-Commissioners had been unreasonable. Turning to his hon. Friends from Ireland below the Gangway he asked, how could they justify their statement that the Land Act had done no good? Was security against arbitrary and capricious eviction on the notice to quit no benefit to the Irish tenants? He said sincerely he had too much respect for the intelligence of those hon. Members to believe that they for one moment thought the Land Act was no good; and the strange alliance they had formed in opposition to the Prime Minister's Resolution found its reason—he would not say its justification—on some other ground, that other ground he believed to be implacable hostility to the Government. He himself believed the Land Act contained elements of future good to the Irish tenants. For much of this good he looked to a wise and liberal application of the Bright Clauses. His right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) spoke of the failure of the Bright Clauses, and contended this was one matter for inquiry. The great, though not the only, difficulty existing about the application of those clauses was the question of price. The landlords would be perfectly willing to sell at so many years' purchase on existing rack-rents. The tenants would be willing to buy at so many years' purchase of the new judicial rents. Until these differences were settled the Bright Clauses could not work and be thoroughly successful. He desired to 236 call attention to what he believed to be the real and crucial difficulty in this whole matter, and that was the question of arrears. This question had not been adequately dealt with by the Act, and he said so when the Act was being passed. The mass of accumulated arrears was lying like a nightmare on the breast of the country. He did not doubt the existence of dishonest refusal to pay rents in many cases in Ireland. He regretted to be obliged to admit also that a certain amount of demoralization existed over the country; but, nevertheless, the fact remained that a great mass of the Irish tenants could not pay, and ought not to be expected to pay, the arrears of the present rent. But while he held those strong views he said no inquiry was necessary into the matter of arrears, because no delay could be brooked by the tenants, and the Government by this time ought to have sufficient materials for dealing with the question. Another weakness of the Act arose from the fact that, even in the most sanguine view of progress, years must elapse before the 70,000 cases now in Court could be settled. What would be the result? The Act contained no provision by which the reduction of rent could be made retrospective, and the man who had not got a reduction now must go on paying presumably unjust rents for one, two, three, four, five years, until a decision was arrived at. The landlords had not loyally sought to have effect given to the Act. Cases had been communicated to him in which landlords, when tenants went into the Land Court, resorted to a counter-move by issuing writs from the Superior Courts for the recovery of arrears. By proceeding in the Superior Courts and getting judgment of fieri facias those landlords were entitled, for the arrears of what the tenant believed to be unjust rents, to sell the tenant's interest and deprive him of all benefit under the Land Act. And so this career of extermination went on; and, further, the manufacture of future tenants went on from day to day and from month to month. He submitted, as strongly and as earnestly as he could, that this was a matter which ought to be dealt with by the Government, if they desired to remove that friction which now existed as to the relation between landlord and tenant, if they wished to give their Land Act scope and full effect. 237 There certainly would be some risk of loss to the Treasury; but, on the other hand, it would have a compensating effect. It would be a pacifying agency. In the interest of the tenants, in the interests of landlords, many of whom he admitted had been hard pressed and sorely tried in the crisis through which they were passing, but, above all, in the interest of the peace of the community, he said this was a question that ought to be dealt with. He ventured to refer to a speech made on this very question by the late First Lord of the Admiralty, upon the discussion of the Bill in Committee, in which he did not hesitate to to say and declare that, in his view, in order to give this Land Act fair play there ought to be a "clean sheet." The question should be dealt with as if a national bankruptcy had taken place. As regarded the small tenants, there should be a composition of arrears spread over a number of years, making it a charge on the tenant, the State taking some risk in the matter. That would be a scheme which would receive support on both sides of the House, and a scheme which would be just to the landlord and the tenant. He (Mr. Charles Russell) desired to point out the unreasonableness of the impatience with regard to Ireland which had possessed the English mind, because all at once there was not instantaneous peace and universal pacification on the passing of the Land Act. He wished to convey that that feeling of impatience was un-just and unreasonable, because, however quick the administration under it might be, however just and liberal its interpretation, the effect of the Act must be a matter of slow and gradual progress; and at the present time, in view of the figures he had just laid before the House, it was perfectly obvious that but a very small portion of the people of Ireland had been touched by these provisions, and unless this question of arrears were dealt with, a very large class of them would be, practically, debarred from its provisions altogether. He very much doubted whether the Irish landlords had realized the serious crisis through which they were passing, and the obligations which that crisis had placed upon them. He desired to make no attack. He desired to make no imputation that could be avoided; but he said that the history of Irish landlordism had not been creditable 238 to the Irish landlords. There was probably on the face of the earth no parallel of a small class gathering into their hands, as the Irish landlords had gathered into theirs, the dignities, the power, the fixed property of the country. Their power for good or for evil was enormous; and he feared, speaking of them as a class—but he admitted the existence of many exceptions—he feared it must be said of them, and history would record judgment against them, that they had not used their power well, but misused it. He did say that to a large extent the misuse of their powers—so enormous, so uncontrolled—a misuse which, so long to its shame be it said, had been sanctioned by the Legislature and public opinion, was the condition of Ireland to be attributed to-day. In the face of the existing crisis, what was their attitude?—they still stood by their rights, opposing all reform. They called aloud to the Executive to give the full weight of the Executive power to carry out their civil rights; and, without offence he said it, they did not content themselves by inveighing against those who had sought to reform the law, but proclaimed, as it were, from the housetops their own loyalty. He did not doubt their loyalty; but the safety of the community rested not upon the loyalty of the few, but on the loyalty of the people—a loyalty resting on the assured foundation of the content of the people from a sense of benefits received. It was because he felt that this Act was intended to give the Irish people some stake in the country, some interest bound up with the interests of peace and order, that he was opposed to an interference, however slight, with its beneficent operations. The great bulk of the Irish people had little to lose. To the great bulk of them the law had shown only its stern visage; and it was hardly too much to say that the embodiment of the law to them, and the embodiment of the glories of this great Constitution, were too often but the landlord's agent and bailiff, and the posse comitatus of the evicting sheriff. It was because he believed that this Land Act was calculated to do good that he asked the House to join in this Resolution, which was an expression of condemnation of the proposed inquiry at this time by the House of Lords. He looked upon this inquiry as calculated to awaken distrust in the Irish mind, not to strengthen, 239 but to weaken the operation of the Act. He regarded it as inopportune, as premature, as likely to be injurious in its consequences; and he believed it would be looked upon by the bulk of the Irish people as an attempt by the landlord class to minimize the benefits of the Act, and as an attempt to exercise a baneful terrorism upon those who were charged with its administration.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
observed, that the hon. and learned Member who had just spoken said that the safety of a country did not depend on the loyalty only of a few, or of a small class, but upon the loyalty of the whole people. In those words he most cordially agreed with the hon. and learned Member; but the House would have observed that, throughout this debate, those hon. Members who spoke on behalf of Ireland had alluded to only a portion of the population of Ireland; and in the course of this debate he had not hoard one word said, so far as his memory served him, of any other class than those of the tenants and the landlords. The tenants and landlords of Ireland, taken together, formed only a moiety of the population of Ireland. If the Government went on in its course of legislation, founded on unsound principles, without making any attempt to cure any of the principles on which that legislation had been administered, they would find that they had to reckon not only with tenant farmers, but with the labourers, both in the towns and in the country. The hon. and learned Member gave an historical resume of what had taken place in Ireland during the autumn; and he said this Committee of the House of Lords dated from the time of the landlords' meeting in Dublin. He (Lord Claud Hamilton) was not at that meeting; but he had seen many gentlemen who were there. He had carefully read, over and over again, the report of the proceedings and of the speeches delivered at that meeting; and he ventured to say that, in the whole of the present century, no meeting of men who had been robbed of their private rights for the supposed benefit of the community at large had been conducted with so much moderation, and in a spirit of so much fairness. With the exception of one speech, the whole tone of those speeches was one of the greatest moderation possible for men suffering under great wrong. The hon. 240 and learned Member criticized some observations which had fallen during the past two years from his right hon. Friend the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther). He was bound to say that on some occasions his right hon. Friend had spoken in a very outspoken manner; but from the introduction by the Prime Minister of his Land Bill in 1870, his right hon. Friend had been entirely consistent in his views regarding that measure and all kindred legislation connected with Ireland, and though some Members might occasionally doubt the wisdom of such outspoken observations in large assemblies, he gave his right hon. Friend credit for consistency in the expression of his views. The hon. and learned Member, he thought, was inaccurate in stating that the inquiry into this Act dated from the time of the landlords' meeting. What really took place? It would be in the recollection of the House that, at the close of the debate on the Land Bill last Session, the Conservatives in that and the other House strongly pressed the Government to announce the names of the gentlemen whom they intended to appoint as Chief Commissioners to administer that Bill. They all felt that it was essential to the interests of all classes in Ireland that the Act should be administered with perfect fairness and integrity; and it was, therefore, necessary, before finally agreeing to the passing of the Act, that they should know who the three gentlemen to whom that office was to be intrusted were. It was believed, on the whole, that the names of those three gentlemen were entitled to the confidence of the landlords, the tenantry, and all classes in Ireland. But what occurred after their appointment? The Land Act had been in operation for two months without almost any participation in the proceedings by the Head Commissioners. They had instead Sub-Commissioners, giving decisions all over the country according to their own ideas, and not based upon reasons or principles, laid down by the gentlemen whose appointment had been sanctioned by Parliament. Those who contested the Act in the beginning then felt that they had been deceived; and it was not with regard to the Head Commissioners, but with regard to the action of their subordinates, that the House of Lords projected this inquiry. The whole object of the Com- 241 mittee of the House of Lords was to ascertain the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as to the general principles on which the Land Act was administered in Ireland. He quite admitted that the House of Lords adopted a very unusual course; but it should be remembered that the legislation they proposed to inquire into was unparalleled in history. The First Lord of the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who were the prime movers in this legislation, had not such a knowledge of the Irish people as would justify their recommending the adoption of such a measure as the Land Act to the House of Commons. The two right hon. Gentlemen between them had lived some 140 years, and both resided within a few hours' distance of Ireland, yet they had not spent six months in the country which they now were turning upside - down by their legislation. He could not believe in the sincerity of legislators when they failed to make themselves acquainted with the character of the people for whom they made laws. The Irish legislation of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had been condemned by many eminent statesmen, and notably by Lord Grey—a wise and experienced statesman, who had warned the right hon. Gentleman prior to his accession to Office of the result of his policy. But what did the right hon. Gentleman say? He said these were the apprehensions of an old woman.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he would bring the speech down, and show it to the right hon. Gentleman to-morrow evening. Of course, as the right hon. Gentleman had denied, he could not proceed with it then. The right hon. Gentleman had referred at Knowsley to the refusal of the Corporation of Dublin to confer the freedom of the city on Mr. Parnell and Mr. Dillon; and he had no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman at that moment entirely believed what he said. [Mr. GLADSTONE: And I do so 242 still.] The Dublin Corporation was not a "focus," and never had been a "focus," of real public opinion in Ireland very luckily. There was, shortly afterwards, a fresh municipal election in Dublin; and this focus of national public opinion, with two months' experience of the working of the Land Act, at its very first meeting after the election, passed, by a considerable majority, a vote giving "the freedom of the city" to Mr. Parnell and to Mr. Dillon, and so, he thought, had once more convinced the right hon. Gentleman that his knowledge of the Irish people was extremely superficial indeed. Hon. Members for Ireland sitting below the Gangway on that side of the House represented the opinions of the South and South-West of Ireland, and the Government was every day playing into the hands of those hon. Gentlemen. Every single pound that was unjustly reduced from the rent of a landlord was so much in the hands of those hon. Gentlemen. They were playing their game in an able and judicious manner, and that he confessed, although he absolutely dissented from their views in almost every particular. What was the effect of the Land Act? It had produced a fearful amount of litigation; every man's hand was at his neighbour's throat, and tenants who had hitherto lived in amity with their landlords were now forcing them to incur law expenses through the instrumentality of the local solicitor. Rents would be reduced throughout Ireland, and landlords would, consequently, be compelled to leave the country, after discharging those who were now employed upon their estates. He believed, also, that the country would suffer from a widespread demoralization, and that tenants would soon cease to be particular about the truth of their statements when striving to obtain a reduction of rent. Already the Chairman of Quarter Sessions in Monaghan had stated in Court that the value put upon their holdings by some tenants desirous of having their rents judicially fixed was so high as to shock and horrify him. The hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O' Donnell) had recently made some personal allusions to him in the House, with reference to the management of an estate belonging to his noble Relative (the Duke of Abercorn). He had since ascertained that the hon. Member had made those allusions in no offensive spirit; and, although the hon. 243 Member was somewhat severe in his exterior, he was sure he possessed a kindly heart, and he had made those allusions on the spur of the moment, without thinking of the pain they were liable to inflict. At the commencement of this Parliament a Question was put upon the Paper in that House reflecting upon the conduct of his noble Relative; and, although the Question was entered on the Minutes, it was never put, because there was no truth in it. The tenants on the Donegal estate of his noble Relative were so much annoyed and disgusted at the imputation contained in that Question that they met together and passed a resolution eulogizing his noble Relative as a landlord. On this very property, since the passing of the Act, some 50 or 60 of these very tenants had gone into the Court to claim a reduction of rent from the landlord whom, but a short time ago, they had described, in a spontaneous resolution, as a just, superior, and model landlord. He did not blame these tenants, for they would hardly be human if, after seeing such a measure of confiscation passed by Parliament, they should abstain from having recourse to the Court, utterly regardless of whether their landlord was good, bad, or indifferent. The power of landlords was a power for good. He regretted that this power, as far as concerned Irish landlords, would soon cease to exist. Landlords at present were often represented by agents, to whom they intrusted large powers, and who took a prominent part on their employers' properties, and in promoting in the neighbourhood charitable and philanthropic movements. Soon, however, landlords would dispense with agents and conduct their business with their tenants in a strictly rigid and legal manner through the medium of attorneys. Would that conduce to a kindly feeling between the landlords of Ireland and their tenantry? Yet such must be the inevitable result of the interference of the Court between the parties. When tenants should have had their rents judicially fixed, how, when bad seasons recurred, would landlords be likely to entertain their petitions for a reduction? The landlord would feel disposed to say—"I will have my pound of flesh; I will stand upon my rights, or such of them as the Prime Minister has left me." There would be thousands of cases where the charitable feel- 244 ings of the landlords would be tied up, owing to the measure of the right hon. Gentleman. The great charities of Ireland would feel the change also. It was not to be supposed that the tenant farmers would bestow any of their remitted rent in supporting them, and they would languish in consequence. Did the Prime Minister imagine that his measure would endear their homes to Irish landlords? They had heard a good deal from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster with regard to absenteeism. Did the right hon. Gentleman believe that the landlords would live in a country where all the enjoyments of life had been taken from them, while they had only to cross the Channel, leaving their rents to be collected by an attorney? Landlords had been treated as almost a proscribed race, and, except on the large properties, they would leave the country; and when the "garrison," as they had been termed, had been driven out, the Government would find Ireland not quite so secure an appanage of the Crown as it was now. When that came about, how would they dispose of the general business of the country? Even hon. Members below the Gangway would admit that country gentlemen discharged their county business with efficiency. Many of them were Chairmen of the Boards of Guardians in their districts; and to that fact, and to the presence of other landed proprietors and their agents, the Prime Minister was indebted for not having votes of thanks and sympathy passed to Mr. Parnell and Mr. Dillon, and other gentlemen, at a very large number of Board meetings in Ireland. Every one of those would now be turned into a little political debating society, for the purpose of discussing the separation of the two countries. The fact was, the Act conferred no benefit of any kind upon any person except the present occupier. He would read a passage from a judgment of Mr. Litton, given in Belfast, on January 18, 1882, in which he laid down the principle that a fair rent must be one on which a solvent tenant could thrive, and must be irrespective of any special value the land might have for any particular purpose to any particular tenant. Such value was to be regarded as the tenant's property solely. But the House would remember this. If 245 any landlord chose to break up an estate into farms and let it, or to let farms hitherto held under his own management, he might exact a full commercial rent for it. There would be growing up side by side two different kinds of rent; and he appealed to the House to say whether such a state of things would not create dissatisfaction. And hon. Members must not suppose that the fixing of a judicial rent would really benefit the tenantry of Ireland permanently. In proportion as the rent was reduced the tenant right would rise in value, and an incoming tenant would have to purchase it at a greatly enhanced price. Where would he get the money from? From the gombeen man; and the interest he would pay him, plus the reduced rent, would about equal the amount of rent he would have paid under the present system, with this difference—that a large portion of it would go to the hated gombeen man, who would flourish under the auspices of the right hon. Gentleman. He would like also to ask the Government how many votes they expected to secure when they had managed to get rid of the landed proprietors? Why, over the whole of Munster and Connaught he did not believe there would be a single Member returned to the next Parliament who was not in favour of Home Rule, under which there was really a strong feeling for Repeal of the Union. Leinster would be in very much the same position. As regards Ulster, the right hon. Gentleman would possibly have a certain number of supporters ready to follow meekly in whatever course he chose to lead them, always remembering he had many pleasant gifts at his disposal with which ultimately to reward them. Politics, indeed, as understood in England and Scotland, had ceased to exist in Ireland. At the Londonderry Election the Solicitor General for Ireland occupied the position of a man who had led astray a young woman, and then, to ease his conscience, proceeded to give her good advice. The hon. and learned Gentleman descended to court the votes of the people by appeals to their pockets, by flooding the districts with placards of rents reduced, and holding out hopes of still further reduction if they would vote for his return, and then in this House he proceeded to condemn in the strongest terms those who appealed to "the avarice and 246 greed" of the Irish people. The difference between these principles and those of the Land League was only one of degree. Could the House suppose that the influence of those principles would decrease in Ireland? Why, they were becoming more popular every day, and at the next General Election Ulster would join the South of Ireland in demanding an extension of the Land Act in favour of the tenants, and the Prime Minister would find it all but impossible not to accede to the demand. At first, no doubt, Parliament would reply that all had been done that could be done safely; but they would have some 80 Members speaking on behalf of the people of Ireland, asking for Home Rule, and then Parliament would have to decide whether it would give these hon. Members Home Rule, or have that House, in spite of any clôture they might venture to pass, turned into a perfect Bedlam, and all useful legislation rendered impossible. The result would be that, if the present Prime Minister was in power, he would go to the mob and would say—"You shall have your demand;" and he would be the one who would first grant Home Rule to Ireland. What did Home Rule in Ireland mean? Home Rule in Ireland, as was said by the recent convert to Liberalism (Lord Derby), meant separation in a very short time. ["No, no!"] Did they mean to tell him that they could give these Irish Gentlemen a Parliament in Dublin to manage their domestic affairs, without in a very few years their throwing off their connection with England altogether? ["No, no!" and cheers.]
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he must invite the noble Lord to speak to the Question before the House. He was going very far indeed from the Question before the House.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he was endeavouring to show that if the right hon. Gentleman allowed the Sub-Commissioners to continue in the course they were pursuing, they would inevitably drift Ireland into a state in which a demand for Home Rule would be made. He was perfectly convinced, speaking as one who had lived the better part of his time in Ireland, that, unless the Prime Minister paused in his career of so-called remedial legislation, the time was not far distant when a 247 serious attempt would be made in that House for the Repeal of the Union which they held so dear, and so necessary for the interests of this country. He believed that the future of Ireland, as far as its relations with England and Scotland were concerned, was most melancholy, and that for that state of things the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster were mainly responsible. His only hope was that these two right hon. Gentlemen might be spared long enough to drink to the dregs the cup of remorse for the misery and degradation that their misplaced policy had inflicted on Ireland, and for the fatal blow that had been dealt by them at the United Kingdom.
§ MR. J. N. RICHARDSON
said, he thought the House must congratulate the noble Lord (Lord Claud Hamilton) on one of the most outspoken, courageous, high-and-dry Tory speeches to which it had listened for a very long time. He could not profess to agree with much that had fallen from the noble Lord; but he should not follow him through many of the points of his speech, but would only allude to his statements respecting the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland. The noble Lord expressed his surprise at the ignorance of Irish affairs on the part of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, after a united lifetime of 140 years. Well, he (Mr. Richardson) thought that, notwithstanding all their faults, if there were a General Election, a seat could be found for both of them somewhere in Ireland. But the noble Lord, though he told them that he had passed most of his life in Ireland, and knew all about it, sat not for an Irish, but an English constituency. Again, the noble Lord said that his (Mr. Richardson's) hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland had appealed, during the Derry Election, to the greed and avarice of the electors, or words to this effect; but even supposing that during a heated contest his hon. and learned Friend had at times used language which was not discreet—a thing which he was by no means prepared to admit—even if he had done so, was he any worse than Sir Samuel Wilson, who praised the Land Act of 1881, said it was not good enough 248 for the tenants, and he would vote to enlarge its scope; and then, had he been elected, would have sat down among hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who said it was confiscation and robbery? He (Mr. Richardson) would have preferred being silent during the debate, and might have remained so had it not been for the remarks of the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) the other night. The hon. Member rarely allowed a chance to pass of flinging a taunt across the floor of the House at the Ulster Members, and on this occasion he selected the one who least deserved it for his attack. The hon. Member said that the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson) had advanced greatly in his views since the late election for Tyrone. Now, if there was one man whose views on the Land Question were always advanced, it was the hon. Member for Tyrone. The contest in Tyrone convinced him (Mr. Richardson) that the welfare of the tenant farmers was not the principal motive which hon. Members opposite had at heart. No doubt, they had that interest at heart; but there was something more than that at which they were aiming, whatever that something might be. Artemus Ward said of the wives of the Mormons that they were very singular and also very plural, and so with the speeches of Irish Members opposite during the Tyrone Election. They were very plural in number, and they were very singular, inasmuch as they absolutely tried to convince the farmers that it was their interest to oppose the present hon. Member for Tyrone, one who had advocated their cause for 10 years unceasingly, and to put in his place a Gentleman (Colonel Knox), who, however personally estimable, certainly never showed himself very vigorous on behalf of Land Reform. But he (Mr. Richardson) must pass to matters more germane to the actual subject before the House, else he might be called to Order. The whole course of the debate rendered it evident to him that Her Majesty's Government had acted wisely in bringing forward the present Resolution. Various criticisms had been delivered upon the Act, with many of which he agreed; but none of them were very fierce, except that of the noble Lord. The hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) had, in a manner with which, no fault could be found, 249 brought the subject of arrears before the House, and he agreed with many of his remarks. He also most cordially agreed with what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) regarding the fuller development of the Bright Clauses, and the formation of a peasantry proprietary by the rapid purchase of estates of landlords who were willing to sell: But let him point out to the House that the first essential to this end was to have rents rapidly fixed. What man would buy—whether landlord, tenant, or Land Company—unless he knew the rental he was purchasing; or what bank or insurance office would lend towards the purchase of a property on which rents were unfixed? But very different was the tone of a debate to which he had listened "elsewhere" a fortnight ago. There the tone was not one of mild criticism; but the whole gist of it was directed against the Sub-Commissioners. On that occasion a noble Lord said—"What they wanted the Committee to do was to revolutionize the working of the Land Act." No wonder such a statement, coming from such a source, should strike terror into the minds of the Ulster tenants, and lead them to fear that the Commissioners would be biassed in their decisions. Not 10 minutes ago a telegram had been placed in his hands, which read as follows:—"Decisions bad "—that was, adverse to the tenant. The Commissioners were, apparently, afraid of the landlords. [Laughter.] Eight hon. Gentlemen opposite did not often do him the honour of laughing at his remarks, and he saw no great cause for laughter, so far as they were concerned. Now, what would the effect of this be? Here were tenants who, if things had been let alone, would, perhaps, have been satisfied; but now they had got it into their heads that the Commissioners were frightened, and they would not be satisfied. There was nothing laughable there. Well, the Earl of Kilmorey, in "another place," said as follows:—The Chairmen of the Sub-Commissioners were generally briefless barristers, while the Sub-Commissioners themselves were taken from all classes, the one qualification they seemed to have being the wish to reduce the rents of the landlords in Ireland."—[3 Hansard, cclvi. 939.]
rose to Order, and submitted that the hon. Member was not at 250 liberty to make quotations from recent speeches.
§ MR. J. N. RICHARDSON
begged pardon; but he (Mr. Richardson) could hardly think that the noble Lord was serious in making that charge, especially as in the one case tried upon his estate the rent had been increased. He (Mr. Richardson), who well knew what it was to feel nervous when addressing such an Assembly as the present, could well understand that in the heat of debate an expression might fall from even noble Lords "elsewhere," which, in calmer moments, they would not have used. He could only speak for those Sub-Commissioners with whom he was personally acquainted; but he could assure the House that among those there was no jubilant desire to reduce the rents of landlords. When the Sub-Commissioners, having put the best construction in their power on the Land Act, and having viewed the ground, found themselves compelled to reduce a rent, he was certain they did not do it with any such feeling as had been described, but with a feeling of nervous and anxious responsibility. If hon. Gentlemen and people out-of-doors would go and see some of the farms for themselves, they would not cry out so loudly about injustice. He had not been much in the actual Land Court; but he had made it his business, during the Recess, to visit a good many farms which had been adjudicated upon. He would be sorry to pose before that House as one who professed any great knowledge of land, for that would be untrue; but he had been accompanied by one who did possess such knowledge. He had been always accompanied by the land steward of a near relative—a Mr. Davies. He was an Englishman, who had been 20 years in Ireland, and had been all his life in the employment of a landlord; and when he (Mr. Richardson) and his friend had visited farms in Down and Armagh, and inspected them for themselves, he was bound in honesty to say that, in most cases, the decisions were not, certainly, unjust towards the landlord. He could give plenty of figures, but the House did not like statistics; but he would mention one as a sample of others. It was the case of Atkinson, landlord, Cullen, tenant, and would be 251 found in the Return for County Armagh, laid upon the Table. The old rent was£25 18s.; the new judicial rent was £14. Now, that was an enormous reduction; and, before going on the farm, he would be inclined to say—"Surely the Commissioners have made too sweeping a reduction here." But when he went upon the ground and saw the place, he was compelled to admit that the rent was not too low. He saw in his place the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), who, though they seldom agreed with him on their side of the House, was, nevertheless, a true and just English Gentleman. He would venture to say that if the hon. Gentleman, with his knowledge of agriculture, were to visit that farm of Cullen's, he would admit that the rent was not too low; and he would even allow him to bring with him, as his legal adviser, the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton). It seemed to be taken for granted, because 25 per cent reduction had been made up to the present time, that, therefore, this must continue in every case. Again, they could only speak for Ulster; but there very few of the estates of the old Nobility—whose boast it was that their estates were low-rented and humanely managed—very few of these estates, such as the Marquess of Downshire's or the Marquess of Londonderry's, had yet been before the Commissioners. He was aware that there were large estates besides those owned by men of title; but it was natural to suppose that they owned the largest estates. He had counted up the cases, and out of 530 cases tried in Ulster up to the 28th January, only 33 were owned by the Nobility. He had detained the House too long, and would merely conclude by hoping that the Government would press forward with their Motion, and that it would be carried by a large majority. The tenants of Ulster were watching the present debate with the greatest anxiety; and he could emphasize the solemn declaration which the Prime Minister had made respecting the tenantry of Ulster. The Ulster farmers, loyal as they had been in the past, and loyal as he trusted they would be in the future, had had their loyalty often sorely tried by the state of the Land Laws; and they looked to that House to insure to them the benefits of the Act of 1881.
§ MR. REDMOND
said, he felt it necessary to offer a brief contribution to the debate in consequence of the manner in which the action of the Irish Party and the vote they intended to give had been misstated in various parts of the House. They had been charged with a desire to hand over to the tender mercies of a Committee of the House of Lords the interests of the tenant farmers of Ire-land. He believed no Member of the House could believe such an accusation, when it was levelled against the Party to whose exertions the Government were indebted for the passing of the Land Act. They had no desire to hand over to a Committee of the House of Lords the interests of the tenant farmers of Ireland. The attitude they took up was easily explained. The Resolution of the Prime Minister laid down the proposition that any Parliamentary inquiry into the working of the Land Act at present would be detrimental to the interest of the country, and that was a proposition against which they must protest. If they were to vote in favour of the Previous Question, it might be supposed that they were indirectly supporting the Lords' Committee, and that was an attitude they did not wish to take up. Therefore, they would take no part in the division on the Previous Question; but when the Main Question was put they would feel it to be their duty to protest by their votes against the statement that no inquiry was needed. He would sooner have an inquiry by a packed and hostile Committee than have no inquiry at all. No matter how hostile the tribunal would be, it would be possible for those who were interested on behalf of the tenants to bring forward evidence which would show incontestably what a miserable failure the Land Act had been as regarded some of its professed objects. He did not say that the Act had done no good and could do none. He quite admitted that there were in it germs capable of development into great good for the tenants; but still he and his Colleagues contended that, as matters stood at present, the great majority of tenants were shut out from the benefits of the Act, evictions were on the increase, and many hardships had not been mitigated, even in an appreciable degree. Some of the most rack-rented tenants were leaseholders, with leases made before 1870, 253 and these were deprived of all benefit. The great majority of tenant farmers in Wexford were such leaseholders; and nine-tenths of the leases were excluded from the operation of the Act, because they were forced on the tenant at the expiration of old leases, and not on tenants from year to year. The very fact of the Act leaving untouched so numerous a body of the Irish tenants brought about the state of things which was predicted by the Prime Minister when he said that if the proposal to exclude all leaseholders was carried every one of these men would become a centre of agitation in Ireland. These were some of the grounds upon which they thought an inquiry should be held into the Act. Another ground for inquiry was the increase of harsh evictions for arrears of rent. At one time the Government spoke of avoiding sentences of starvation, and deprecated their being placed in the odious position of using the power of the Executive to do injustice; but now landlords were called upon to be brave in asserting their rights, and in driving out the poor, half-starved tenants. Words like these were driving to despair the 100,000 tenants who were hopelessly involved in arrears of rent. If they went into Court and asked leave to sell their holdings, the landlord pocketed the full amount of his rent. The tenant farmer was turned out penniless, and thus the process of eviction was made easy and respectable by the Land Act. The Arrears Clause of the Land Act required immediate inquiry and amendment. Its main defects were that, in the first place, it was optional, and the landlords did not take advantage of it; and, in the next place, it provided that a year's rent must be paid by the unfortunate tenants, who, in many cases, were unable to pay a single farthing. Last year, when the Land Act was under discussion in the House, he had proposed that the arrears should be adjusted on the basis of the fair rent which was to be decided for the future; that when the arrears had been thus reduced wherever it could be proved that the tenant was unable to pay them they should be absolutely wiped out; and he had admitted that the landlords would have some claim to compensation for the loss of that part of the arrears which was just. His proposal had been received with disfavour; and it had been asked 254 whether the money for giving such compensation would not have to come out of the pockets of the taxpayers. But would it not be better for the taxpayers to have their money spent in that way than on the maintenance of an Army for carrying out harsh and unjust evictions? Another reason for inquiry into the Land Act was that its provisions were not being carried out in a proper spirit by its administrators. The clause known as Healy's Clause was a thorough provision; but it had not been carried out in a thorough spirit. He had gone through the election for the county of Derry, and he found that, in many cases, extreme dissatisfaction was felt because the Commissioners were not interpreting Healy's clause honestly and fairly. In the North of Ireland rents had been reduced by the Land Court to somewhere about Griffith's valuation; but Griffith's valuation was completed some 17 years ago, and it included the improvements made by the tenants up to that date. Therefore, the property of the tenants in their improvements up to 16 or 17 years ago was entirely confiscated. The noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Lord Claud Hamilton) had alluded to the management of the estate of his noble Relative, and had cited, as a conclusive proof that the management of that estate was satisfactory, the fact that in June, 1880, an address was presented to his noble Relative by his tenants characterizing him as a model landlord. There was hardly a landlord, he might inform the House, in the whole of Ireland, no matter how oppressive he was to his tenants, no matter how rack-rented they might have been, who could not produce from his pocket some resolution of this kind passed at some time or another by his tenants. He understood that on the St. Johnston estate of the noble Lord's noble Relative, the agent of the estate made a visit to each tenant, and requested that each of them would spend a few shillings apiece in purchasing a portrait of the noble Lord's noble Relative, which they accordingly did. Again, with regard to the St. Johnston estate, about the same time there was a relief committee established on the estate of the noble Lord's noble Relative—a proof conclusive of the poverty of the tenants. Moreover, shortly before the address was presented a number of notices to quit were served on the tenants, and the ad- 255 dress was signed by some people who thought it was simply a prayer to the landlord not to exercise his power harshly towards those tenants. Fifty per cent of those tenants were in the Land Court, and every man on the estate was more than 20 or 30 per cent over Griffith's valuation. He thought it was unfair for hon. Members to stand up in that House, and quote such addresses as serious arguments. They were told that 70,000 tenants had entered the Land Courts. But did the Government suppose that the 500,000 who did not enter the Courts were satisfied with their rents, and that they had transferred their allegiance from the men who had done so much for them in the past, and were suffering for them in the present, to the right hon. Gentleman? The daily increasing number of evictions, the daily despatch of troops to Ireland, the almost hourly arrest of respectable farmers, formed a crushing refutation of any such proposition as that. So long as the great bulk of the tenant farmers of Ireland were shut out from the benefits of the Act, so long as Healy's Clause was dishonestly interpreted by the Commissioners, so long as the Government imprisoned the leaders of the people, and suppressed the organization of the tenants, so long would confidence in the Land Act be an impossibility in Ireland. The Land League had survived the worst blows the Government could strike against it. The Leaders of the Land League, in their prison cells, were to-day more powerful than before they were arrested. Of one thing the Government might rest assured—until they had restored the Constitution of Ireland, neither their Land Act on the one side, nor their Coercion Act on the other, would be able to cajole or terrify the people of Ireland from the attitude of determination and defiance into which they had been driven.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
said, that, before he passed to the immediate question before the House, he wished to refer to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell), who spoke earlier in the evening. He must say that statements more rash and unsupported by facts and sentiments, more ungenerous to landlords, he had never listened to, either in or out of Parliament. He did not propose to inquire how the legal knowledge and the training of the hon. and learned Mem- 256 ber justified the principle that, because it was asserted that a wrong had been committed, it was better to continue the perpetration of many other wrongs in support of it rather than to inquire into, and, if necessary, to redress the one that was complained of. Looking at the mode in which the hon. and learned Member had himself conducted certain investigations in the South of Ireland previous to the commencement of last Session, he was not surprised that the hon. and learned Member should have endorsed the action of those whose procedure was so nearly allied to his own, although it was certainly not in accordance with his (Mr. Tottenham's) ideas of judicial investigation, whether by a public official or a private individual. The investigation to which he alluded had been conducted in a spirit the very reverse of impartial or judicial. The hon. Gentleman had made the extraordinary statement that no landlord or agent, whose judicial rents were being fixed, had been able to come forward and say that the existing rents were fair. A more astounding statement, or one more utterly unwarranted by the facts, was never made. The hon. Gentleman went on to say—and this he looked upon as one of the most ungenerous and indefensible statements that could be made—that the landlords of Ireland borrowed money under the Relief of Distress Acts at 1 per cent; while they charged their tenants 5 per cent. [Mr. CHARLES RUSSELL: I said some.] Whether some or many, such a statement ought not to have been made unless the person who made it was prepared to give names, dates, and particulars. Then the hon. and learned Member said that the tenants in Ireland, just as in England, had been dragged down by bad seasons; and that one good harvest among four was not sufficient to repair their losses. That might be the case; but it was a well-known fact that, whereas England had a succession of bad harvests for several years, Ireland had been blessed by two of the most bountiful harvests within the memory of this generation. The hon. and learned Member said, not only that arrears should not be paid, but that they should not be asked for. He did not understand the hon. and learned Member, when he made that observation, to suggest that the arrears ought to be paid by the Government out of the State funds. He would like to know what 257 the hon. and learned Member proposed the landlords to do in default of receiving their arrears? How did the hon. and learned Member expect landlords, who had charges and liabilities to meet, to do so if they did not get that upon which they depended for their livelihood? The hon. and learned Member had said that the landlords had met the originating notices by service of writs in the Dublin Courts. Did the hon. and learned Gentleman mean that landlords were not entitled to assert their just rights? He had also said that the landlords had misused their powers. But did he forget that the Leader of the Party to which he belonged had said that the landlords had stood their trial, and had, as a body, been acquitted; and was he going to take his stand on a different platform from his Leader? It would appear that the debate was to be conducted to the end on the footing that the bare assertion of the Prime Minister that his Resolution was expedient and equitable was sufficient for those who thought that the ruin of a few thousand families, more or less, was a trifle compared with the gratification of his wishes; and, further, although "force was no remedy" for lawlessness, the application of the principle of force in silence by a majority to arguments which they could not answer was considered a justifiable and dignified course. If any justification or apology were required for the action which had been taken in "another place" and for the present opposition to the Resolution, it was to be found in the spirit in which Her Majesty's Government had met what had been shown to be a grievance of the first magnitude, requiring immediate and impartial inquiry. The spirit of the Government had been that of burking all inquiry, and permitting the daily increasing growth of an evil and an injustice which it was wished to keep hidden from the light of day. He ventured to say, however, that the course they had adopted would neither commend itself to the wisdom of Parliament nor to the country which had permitted such blindfold legislation, and they now proposed to keep the administration of it from the healthy ventilation of public opinion. The Prime Minister had given reasons why the legislation of last Session should not now be called in question; but, in all the arguments of the right hon. Gen- 258 tleman, he failed to find any sufficient reason why Parliament should continue to permit the perpetuation and daily extension of the continued injustice and wrong which was admitted on all sides to exist, except where such admission would be inconvenient to the credit of those responsible for it. So far from impeding inquiry, the extraordinary course adopted by the Government had afforded facilities for opening up the whole question; for while inquiry was proceeding calmly in "another place," in the House of Commons, by the favour of Her Majesty's Government, hon. Members had been placed in a position to discuss their case at much greater and more convenient length than they could, under ordinary circumstances, have hoped for. The right hon. Gentleman's Resolution stated that inquiry into the working of the Act tended to defeat its operation. As loyal subjects they were prepared to submit to the Act as it was intended by Parliament; but what they sought to prevent was its continuation in its present unexpected and totally unauthorized system of administration. He presumed that the latter part of the Resolution meant that a sufficient number of landlords had not yet been immolated on the altar of sedition, and that it would be injudicious, from the Government's point of view, to stop the supply at present. There was no other way of reading between the lines of this further edition of attempted clôture, and it was one which he believed would be very generally adopted. Before he sat down, he hoped to be able to convince some of those who supported the measure last year that their confidence in the statements of its supporters had been grievously misplaced. The Act was presented to Parliament under a flourish of sentiments and principles which had only been conspicuous by their absence in its administration. The main principles put forward by the Prime Minister were that justice was to be the guide; that the Court was not to be a onesided one; that the administration would be confided to capable and experienced hands; and that no confiscation or injury to owners was intended or anticipated. He maintained that every one of those principles had been violated, and he should be able to show that justice had not been so blind as she was usually depicted; that the Court had 259 been essentially a one-sided one; that the administration had been confided to hands incompetent to exercise judicial functions; and that confiscation in the most arbitrary and universal form was the rule of procedure by these so-called judicial bodies. In the case which he had to set before the House, he desired especially to guard himself against the imputation or assumption that either he himself, or the landlords of Ireland generally, desired to assert that there were no cases in which the action of the Land Courts had been justified; on the contrary, they were fully alive to the fact that there were some cases—admitted by the Government last year to be a minority, in which what was known as rack-renting had been carried to an inexcusable and indefensible limit, and that these cases might have justly received some restrictive supervision. He had never denied that such cases existed, and he had no sympathy for the man who had exacted a rent which the land was not calculated to bear. But what he did find fault with was the indiscriminate manner in which the cry of reduction had been carried out, good and bad landlords having fared alike, and the "rule of thumb principle" having been equally applied to the rack-renter as to him who, in the words of the Prime Minister, Parliament had not a shred of title to interfere with. This was the man who was the greatest sufferer under the present administration of the Act. Having always let his land at moderate rents, he had not received the same return as his neighbours who had let at a higher rate; but he now found himself cut down in the same proportion. In addition to this, he found that his relations with his tenants had suddenly undergone a great change, and that where mutual confidence and goodwill existed before the decisions given in the flying visits of the Sub-Commissioners had raised up distrust and ill-feeling, together with a prospect of litigation and costs, which to many was, in itself, an element of grave fears and anxious consideration. He now came to the action of the Commissioners appointed by Parliament and named in the Act. Their first proceeding was to appoint as their Solicitor Mr. Fottrell, a gentleman who was notoriously connected with the Land League, and who had since culminated his exploits by the authorship of the dis- 260 graceful pamphlet which had already astounded Parliament. This was a bad start, and boded little good to those whose interests were to be reviewed by officials of such a stamp as this. Their next step was to issue a Circular, which was distributed all over Ireland, setting forth the advantages which had been given to tenants by the Act, and which was, in plain English, a most direct and pressing invitation to them to come in and avail themselves of what they would do for them. It was headed "Benefits conferred on Irish Tenant Farmers by the Land Act." He would trouble the House with one or two extracts from this remarkable document, as it bore directly upon the proposition, whether or not the Court was a one-sided one—Benefits conferred on Irish Tenant Farmers by the Land Act (Ireland), 1881.The New Land Law effects a great and most beneficial change in the position of Irish tenant farmers. The benefits it confers may be briefly stated as follow:—Security of tenure—Whenever a fair rent is fixed either by the Court or Commission, or by agreement, or by arbitration, the rent cannot be raised or altered for 15 years, nor can the tenant be disturbed during that period. In the last year of the 15 years the tenant can again get the rent settled, and a new term of 15 years granted, and so on. It is not, therefore, merely a term of 15 years which the tenant gets; but practically a term renewable every 15 years.Further on, at different points, other similar passages occur—If he violates any of the other conditions, the landlord may serve notice to quit; but the Court has power to stop any proceedings on such notice to quit, allowing the landlord damages merely for any injury done him.Unfair Leases.Where leases have been taken by tenants since the passing of the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1870, containing unreasonable or unfair provisions, and such leases were accepted by the tenant under threat of eviction, or through the undue influence of the landlord, the tenant is entitled, at any time before the 22nd of February, 1882, to apply to the Court to be relieved from the lease, and to hold as present tenant, with all the rights and privileges of such tenant.The above are some of the great advantages conferred on Irish tenant farmers by the Land Act (Ireland), 1881, which provides for all security in their holdings, the fixing of fair rents, and the right of free sale; and affords the opportunity to occupiers to become the owners in fee of their holdings.It is not intended by the foregoing statement to set forth or include all the provisions of the Act; but only to afford a general view of its more important provisions.261Any person requiring information can apply-by letter to the Secretary, Land Commission, 24, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin.Now, if any other Court of Law in the United Kingdom had ventured to issue such a tempting programme of the advantages offered to intending suitors, and what they could and were disposed to do for complainants generally of a certain class, he should like to know what would public opinion have thought of the tribunal which could act in such a manner? He would pass on to the opening day of the Court, which a lapsus lingua of the Court official declared be a Court of the Land League, and where the still more extraordinary Charge of Mr. Justice O'Hagan was delivered. That Charge set forth the new doctrine of "live and thrive," which the Chief Secretary for Ireland had endeavoured to show was an old and well-established maxim, and expressed surprise that anyone could object to such a just and sensible proposition. Put into plainer terms, it simply meant this—and had been so interpreted by thousands of those who had heard or read the words of the learned Judge—that the tenant was first to live, and live well, upon the farm, whether it was capable of supporting him well or not, and if he happened to have anything to spare, to let the landlord have it. That was the principle, not only on which it had been interpreted by the public, but also by some of the Sub-Commissioners. Here was an instance. In giving judgment at Castleblaney, Mr. Commissioner Kane said—That the rents were not excessive or exorbitant, nor could the landlord be charged with harsh treatment.He went on to say—That, even if they paid no rent all, the tenants could not support themselves on their holdings.Mr. Kane said, in effect—"The holdings have a value; they are rented already below that value; but as the tenants could not make a living out of them, even were there no rent at all, I will reduce the already insufficient payment to the landlord. At the same time, to show my splendid impartiality, I will add half-a-crown to the rent of one of the smallest of these wretched farms." If that was not a ludicrous emanation from a judicial mind, he should be glad 262 to hear what possible argument could be put forward in its defence. They started by saying the rent was not exorbitant or unfair; but, nevertheless, though the rent was a fair one, the tenant could not thrive upon it, and they forthwith proceeded to mulct and punish the landlord, and they positively gave costs against him for what? For having, in their own words, only charged the tenants a fair rent. He had only introduced this instance to drive home a case in point of the "live and thrive" doctrine, as he should have more to say in regard to the Sub-Commissioners by-and-bye. Mr. Justice O'Hagan had endeavoured to show that "live and let live," and "live and thrive," were synonymous terms; but the words could hardly convey any other meaning to the hearer than that the tenant, and he alone, was to "live and thrive," and they bore no analogy whatever to the maxim of "live and let live." But there was another curious incident in connection with it, and that was that in the semi-authorized published report, or record, of the proceedings of these Courts, these words were omitted altogether, clearly showing that Mr. O'Hagan had realized the effect of his dictum, and had directed them to be expunged from the records, so that they might not be brought up in evidence against him. With this theory of "live and thrive" for a starting point, he came to the next step taken by the Court, which was to bring forward in the most marked manner, and with the evident intention of its being taken as the base of operations by the Sub-Commissioners, the Government valuation of Ireland, better known as Griffith's. In every form of the Court, in every notice and every judgment they found this made use of, and a column set apart for its notation. This valuation, which was made 30 years ago, and which they had its author's own words for, was one-third under the fair letting value, a valuation which was based on a schedule of prices of agricultural produce, averaging 61 per cent lower than they were five years ago, and when beef was 35s. 6d. per cwt., against 70s. now, and butter 65s. against 120s. 4d. He mentioned these as the two principal products of the country, which showed the greatest increase in prices. A valuation which had been condemned as unreliable by successive Royal Commis- 263 sions, and reported on by the Bessborough Commission asMost thoroughly demonstrated that the Government valuation was not a trustworthy standard for the settlement of rents, and that even when it was made it was considered as below the fair letting value of the land.It was reported on again by the Richmond Commission in the following terms:—And it was conclusively proved that the annual value, as set forth in that document, was not intended to represent, and did not represent, at the date the valuation was made, the rental value of the property.It was further discarded by the Prime Minister himself as of any value or guide; and in spite of all that evidence against it, it was placed by the Chief Commissioners before their subordinates as a basis for their guidance and decisions. There was too much reason to believe that Her Majesty's Government were well advised as to the probable effect of a general re-valuation on the working of their Act when they declined to have one made, as he said it was their bounden duty, in common honesty, to have done. He had the highest authority for saying that if a general re-valuation were now made the effect would be to raise the value of rateable property in Ireland by a sum of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000. Such a course as that would, at any rate, be intelligible and straightforward, instead of thrusting down the throats of suitors and the public a State record based upon false and condemned issues. The Sub-Commissioners had stated on several occasions that they were acting on imperative rules. If so, they, of course, must be laid down by their Chiefs, who, on the other hand, said that they had given no instructions, and the Chief Secretary repudiated the idea on the part of the Government. He, however, admitted that each candidate had had a private séance with him in his private room, where he put him through his facings, and held a private competitive examination. He asked which version of the probable were they to accept, and what were the inferences to be deduced from these antagonistic statements? If they were sent out without any instructions to create precedents, and lay down rules according to their own sweet will, was it the intention of Parliament that a horde of inexperienced and incompetent subordi- 264 nates should suddenly be let loose over every Province and county of Ireland to interpret a difficult and complex Act of Parliament in a dozen different ways? Did not Parliament fully expect that a lead should be given and a definite and distinct mode of action laid down, and the first cases heard and decided by those it had specially named to administer the Act, rather than by the crowd of irresponsible agents called into existence by the Government? He held that the intentions of Parliament had been distinctly set aside, and that the faith upon which these pledges were accepted had been most undeniably violated. He now came to the appointment of the Sub-Commissioners, and in dealing with them he wished to be understood as making no charge against the personal character or integrity of any of those persons as individuals in private life; and, for aught he knew to the contrary, they might be most amiable and harmless people in their several walks of life, looking at them from a non-political standpoint. His endeavour would be to show that from their status, experience, personal proclivities, self-interest, and previous employment, many of them were wholly incapable of exercising impartially and fairly the judicial functions with which they were charged. The Prime Minister had laid down the principle that the Court should not in any case be a onesided Court; and the right hon. Gentleman stated that it had been the object of the Government to avoid what would be justly stigmatized—namely, "partizan appointments." When the House heard the case completed against many of these appointments, it would have, he thought, very little reason to hesitate as to its verdict on both these points. Taking the legal Sub-Commissioners first, he found that there were two Queen's Counsel, eight barristers, and two solicitors. Of the two Queen's Counsel neither of them had any knowledge of land, or the dealings with land. One of them had been a Chancery lawyer, with small practice; and the practice of the other had been principally conveyancing. He did not suppose it would be asserted that either of these employments gave any man, totally unconnected with practical dealings with land, any special qualifications to act as valuator, nor did he think that one or two cases, which he 265 would cite, gave a very high view of one of these gentlemen's idea of impartial justice. In a case heard at Edenderry, judgment was delivered at Maynooth, January 11, in the case of Henry Fitz-George Colley, landlord, aggregate rent of 14 farms, £861 15s. 4d. Mr. Foley, in giving judgment, said—Mr. Law, on behalf of the landlord, declined to go into evidence; we were consequently left without any evidence as to the value of the land, except what was given on behalf of the tenants. Under these circumstances, inasmuch as there is no conflict of testimony, Mr. Doyle and I are of opinion that the Sub-Commissioners are not obliged to go beyond the evidence adduced before them, and should not alter an independent valuation of the land upon their own judgment for the purpose of determining a fair rent. The judicial rent which we have fixed is accordingly based on the uncontradicted evidence of the tenants' valuators, on which, in our view of the matter, we are bound to act, and it is not to be considered as fixed upon our own opinion of the absolute value of the holdings. We feel called upon to notice the fact that, although the landlord is not resident, he seems to have always taken a great interest in the well-being of his tenantry. Sums, varying from £75 downwards, were given at 5 per cent to several of the tenants for building and other purposes; to others slates, timber, &c. were given. On the bog lands main drains were opened at the landlord's expense, and a schoolhouse built on the property. It further appeared in evidence that, though an income of from £40 to £80 a-year had been received by the landlord for the sale of turf, he voluntarily gave this up lest the bogs should be cut out, and the tenants, who are permitted to have turf free of charge, be left at any future time without that advantage. Having made inquiries as to the dwellings of labourers on the property, we have been informed that the landlord has set aside several houses, with small allotments, to workmen at low rents, and these houses are kept in repair for them free of charge. These observations, we think, are due to Mr. Colley. We fix the judicial rent as follows:—£666 2s. 6d.This, it would be observed, was a reduction of £201 12s. 10d., or nearly one-fourth of the rental. This, however, was not unanimous, and—Mr. Commissioner Howlin said he dissented from his Colleagues in these cases, inasmuch as he thought they should have inspected the land, and fixed the judicial rent upon the said inspection. He did not agree in the tenant's estimate of the fair rent. He abstained, however, from giving his own idea, as he was a minority of the Court; but he wished it to be understood that he had taken no part in determining the judicial rent in these cases.Upon what principle of law, justice, or equity could such a decision as this be based? He thought any fair-minded man must be open to admit that the acts of 266 this impartial Judge were, at least, deserving of close and searching scrutiny, and that inquiry was imperatively necessary before such gross cases of malversation of justice were permitted further to inflame the minds and the cupidity of an excited peasantry. Of the eight barristers there was not one whose experience, standing, position, or performances at the Bar, would justify his appointment as County Court Judge, where the jurisdiction of the Judge was limited to £100; whereas in this case interests had been ruthlessly cut down and mutilated by these unsworn quasi-Judges, amounting, in one single case, to no less than upwards of £4,000. One of Colonel Gascoign's cases in County Limerick was that of a farm of 463 acres of the best land in Ireland, let at a rent of £840, and of which no complaint had been made before. It was held by a man who, it might fairly be supposed, was perfectly well able to make a bargain for himself. The tenant appealed to the new tribunal, and, by a stroke of the pen, he was cut down to £660, which sum, if capitalized at 4 per cent, was equal to a dead money loss to the landlord of £4,500 on that one farm alone; and yet it was said there was no claim for compensation. He would quote a passage from the writings of one of the Commissioners (Mr. M'Devitt), which would show whether his appointment was that of a man with an unbiassed mind—The average yearly profit, and the average yearly cost, of maintaining the tenant and his family to be computed; and after deducting from the amount of profit a liberal provision for the maintenance of the tenant, and such a share of the profit as would be warranted by his interest in his holding, to allot the remainder for rent.And yet this was the class of impartial and judicial mind to which the interests of the landlords were given over. What would the House think of a solicitor who, in open Court, said that the Court did not care a straw for the evidence of professional or scientific witnesses. This was the statement of Mr. Commissioner MacCarthy; and an astounded and bewildered owner thereupon wrote to the Chief Commissioners to know what he was to do, and whether these opinions were endorsed by them, upon which they were obliged to repudiate, by a letter from their Secretary which appeared in the public Press, the opinions of their own 267 subordinates. The local bands serenaded this Commission at their hotel. Applause in Court, at the decisions, went unchecked; and speeches from the Chief Assistant Commissioner, as to the merits of the Act and the benefits it conferred upon the tenant, were of regular occurrence. This official did not pretend to know anything of the value of land, and he did not go out with his Colleagues when they went through the farce of paying flying visits to the farms in dispute. Coming now to the lay Sub-Commissioners, he thought a more medley crew was never misnamed "judicial or eminent persons." They consisted, among others, of: Tenant farmers—Messrs. Rice, O'Keefe, Garland, Doyle, Lynch, Morrison; Shopkeepers—Messrs. Weir, Ross; Timber merchant—Mr. Cunningham; and a Publican—Mr. Garland. Some of these appointments were such monstrous parodies on the administration of justice that it would be sufficient for his purpose to particularize one or two of them, in order to show the crying necessity for Parliament being fully informed as to the procedure which was being adopted. Mr. Rice was a farmer in the Kanturk Union, County Cork, and several of his relations held farms in the district in which he acted as Commissioner. One brother was a farmer at Conna, County Cork; one brother and one cousin were parish priests; two brothers and one cousin were local attorneys; and one cousin was a prominent speaker at Land League meetings. And to show the favour with which he was now regarded by his Land League friends, he would read an extract from The Cork Daily Herald of February 22—A Peculiar Demonstration.Fermoy, Monday.Mr. James Rice, P. L. G., Killally, recently built a fence on the roadside on his Ballincarriga farm, near Kilworth. Soon after it was finished he was summoned at the suit of the County Surveyor, and lined a nominal penalty, on the ground that the road was encroached on. Mr. Rice's numerous friends, considering him badly treated, assembled at the place to-day, and, with several thousands of their workmen, tumbled down the fence and rebuilt one far more substantial in the place indicated by the County Surveyor. It took Mr. Rice's employés four weeks to build the first fence; but the second one, half-a-mile long, was completed in an hour.Yet that man, belonging essentially to the farming class, and naturally hav- 268 ing the same sympathies and instincts, was positively sent to adjudicate in a county full of his own relations and friends, and where his own interests also lay, and where he would be almost more than human if he did not lean exclusively to the tenants' side of the question. He should probably be told in reply—in fact, it had already been stated in argument—that one of the strongest recommendations of this gentleman was the fact of his having been a member of the Richmond Commission. That was no argument in his favour, but distinctly the reverse, as he was placed upon that Commission as the representative of the farmers' interest, and as one who would take up and bring out the points on which they might be supposed to feel strongly. And, having been there as a farmer's representative, why should he now be supposed to have changed his skin? But the constitution of this extraordinary Commission did not improve when he came to the other Assistant Commissioner, Mr. O'Keefe, who, notwithstanding the glowing eulogium passed upon him by the Chief Secretary, turned out, in addition to his other qualifications, to be also a farmer in the very district in which he acted, holding a farm himself from Colonel Bernard, within a short distance of his father's farm, which was still held by a member of his family. All his relatives were farmers in the county, and he gave judgment in the case of his father's next door neighbour. If his own landlord's cases went into Court they would be heard by him; and he had adjudicated on a case within four miles of his own farm—namely, Daniel Murphy, tenant, and Captain Morgan, landlord, rent £43, judicial rent £29, or a reduction of 32 per cent. He had been a resident in that district all his life, and the friend and associate of farmers. He (Mr. Tottenham) had stated recently that he should be perfectly prepared to substantiate what he said when he spoke of a chemist's assistant; and he submitted to the House whether a man, who had been assistant to a professor of chemistry, at a salary of £80 a-year, which lucrative office he was obliged to give up in order to obtain the more lucrative one of county and city analyst, at a salary of £100 a-year, was or was not a chemist's assistant? Having half the letters of the alphabet after his name as associate 269 or licentiate of societies of apothecaries or chemists would not alter the fact which he (Mr. Tottenham) had stated; and the House might judge for itself how far all these various diplomas and high-sounding qualifications agreed with a remuneration of £100 a-year and the possession of a small farm in the neighbourhood. He emphatically asserted that it was nothing short of an outrage upon justice, upon public decency, and the intention of Parliament, to send two men, drawn from a class with whom their sympathies and interests might naturally run, into their own native districts and county to play ducks and drakes with the property of a class whose interests in that respect were diametrically opposed. To say that such men were not necessarily partizans of the most advanced type was mere childish reasoning; but he had not done with that Commission yet. He had, as the third member of it, that distinguished conveyancing lawyer, Mr. Reeves, Q. C.; and he really must trouble the House to listen to one of his judgments, which showed how, not only in matters of valuation and fact, but also in matters of law, he allowed his two farmer Colleagues to rule him absolutely, and to influence his better judgment, if he had any. This gentleman had previously told Sir George Colthurst, who owned property in the district, that he left the valuation of rent to his Colleagues. He then proceeded to deliver this remarkable judgment in the case of Hannah Forrest, tenant, and Eliza Morgan, owner, rent of farm £300. Mr. Reeves said—He had not taken part in the fixing of the rent, as he believed this was not a ease contemplated by the Act of Parliament. He did not think this was an agricultural holding of the description meant by the Act. It was worked by Mr. Forrest, on behalf of the tenant, in connection with the other lands. In his opinion, it was, to a certain extent, accommodation land, and the parties contracting were the best judges of its value. He saw no reason, however, why he should differ from the valuation which his brother Commissioners had made; but on the question of law, which was a very important one, he could not concur with them.The rent was therefore reduced from £300 to £225, the usual standard figure of 25 per cent off. For all practical purposes, both in regard to questions of law and fact, the Act was administered by the two lay Sub-Commissioners; and they had, therefore, this almost incredible 270 composition of the Court in that district—1, legal cipher, who admitted that he knew nothing about value, and would not enforce his opinion, and direct his Colleagues on the legal points before them; 2, interested tenant farmers, who, themselves and relations, held land in the district, and had a direct interest in reducing the rents. It seemed to him that further comment on these facts was superfluous, and that they were in themselves alone the strongest possible argument for negativing the Resolution which they were now discussing. But his case did not end there, and to almost every one of the Sub-Commissioners the same class of objections applied, with greater or less force. They had the case of Mr. Garland, who, up to a short time since, kept a small public-house, called the "White Cross," by the wayside, near Newtown Hamilton, in the county of Armagh, and who, it was believed, was still the actual, though not the nominal, owner. He was also a farmer, holding two farms in the same county, one under Mr. Synnott, of 63 acres, and another from Mr. Cope. He was appointed to the Commission of the Peace in opposition to the Vice Lieutenant of the county; but Lord Chancellor O'Hagan exercised his prerogative, as he had often done before, and appointed him, in spite of the Lieutenant of the county's refusal. Mr. Garland gave up the lucrative office of Coroner of the county, which was worth less than £100 a-year, to become a Commissioner; and when he was canvassing the county for the Coronership, and again in the interest of the present Members, he used the strongest partizan expressions, and made the statement freely that he had always been a tenant righter, denouncing landlordism at the same time. Take another case. Mr. Ross was a small shopkeeper in the town of Monaghan. He afterwards occupied a farm in the same county. He bought a few acres of property in the neighbourhood, on which the rents were promptly reduced—on his becoming a Commissioner—by 20 to 45 per cent. Acreage, 75 Irish, gross rental £108. The cases of two of the tenants would be sufficient to quote. A. Clarke, 45s. per acre to 30s. per acre; J. Hughes, £12 to £7. He could, if necessary, cite numerous other cases of equally, or more, improper appointments; but it seemed to him 271 that he had already given more than sufficient reasons for full Parliamentary inquiry into this branch of the case, and he believed that other cases would also be cited by other hon. Members in support of that view. He would now examine some of the sayings and acts of that body of eminent persons who were carrying out a judicial and impartial policy, at the expense of the class who have, or rather had, in favour of those who had not, but who now have. One of the first points to be considered was the manner in which the valuations of these farms were made. One instance would suffice. Cleary (tenant), Gascoigne (landlord): 527 acres, best land in Ireland; rent £840, judicial rent £660. This is a fair sample of the mode in which the new system of valuation by electricity is being carried out. The Commissioners in this case having occupied one hour and three-quarters valuing 527 acres—an operation which can be designated by no other name than a reductio ad absurdum, but which was of daily occurrence. In the case of John Brady, tenant, which came before the Sub-Commission sitting at Cavan; Mr. Hodder, legal member. The Commissioners delivered the following decision:—In John Brady's case we consider his farm worth its present rent and more, and fix the judicial rent at £19 l9s. 8d. for the next 15 years.Could anything be more inconsistent than this? If John Brady's farm was worth more than the present rent, why did not the Commissioners do their duty, and state what they considered it to be worth in addition, and fix the rent at its true value? But he now passed on to a more extraordinary case still, that of Mr. Lalor and others, decided upon by the Sub-Commissioners at Urlingford. Mr. Reardon, Chairman, in his judgment, said—As far as we know, or have been informed, the rents have not been altered within the century, and they appear to have been paid with tolerable regularity, except in some rare instances and in bad years. …. There is the clearest evidence in the soil of the lands themselves that they always have been of excellent quality. Improvements, in the way of building houses, making fences, and some not very extensive draining have been proved to have been made from time to time by the tenants and their predecessors in title, and no claim to these improvements had been made by, or on behalf of, the landlords. …. Moreover, we find that 272 the tenants and the landlords were on the best of terms, and, as far as we could discover, no unpleasantness had ever occurred between them with respect to the rents paid. …. All the facts appear to point to one conclusion, and that is, that the rents on the estate are fair, and that we shall accordingly declare.Mr. Reardon went on to say—and this was especially worthy the attention of the House—In my opinion a fair rent should be such as, having due regard to the property and interests of the landlords, an intelligent and industrious tenant can pay out of the return from the labour and capital expended on his holding, through good years and through bad, without having to apply in bad years for any abatement or reduction. …. I am satisfied the present rents are not fair rents according to my interpretation of the term. …. There is evidence that the landlords gave the tenants a substantial reduction in a bad year; and it appears to me that if they thought a reduction proper to be given to them, it is sure evidence that the present rents are too high to be paid by the tenants through bad years and good.Mr. Reardon concluded as follows:—Making my calculation on this basis, I have come to the conclusion that the following are the fair rents that ought to be fixed.And then he proceeded to cut down a total existing rental of £208 7s. 10d. to £174 19s. 10d, the reduction being £33 8s. In this case, also, one of the Commissioners disagreed with the decision. Mr. Seymour Mowbray said—I regret I am unable to concur with my brother Commissioners in the decision they have come to. … It appears there has not been any rise of rent on this estate for generations, and the tenants have always paid their rents regularly. This I consider some proof that they were not over-rented. …. After a careful inspection of the holdings I came to the conclusion that the rents were not excessive.The legal Commissioner here admitted that the rents had not been altered within the century; that the landlord had made no claim in respect of improvements; that the relations of landlord and tenant were most cordial, and that the rents were fair. But he laid down the principle that the rent a tenant could pay in a bad year should be the standard for fixing the judicial rent. Could anyone imagine a greater perversion of economic law than this? There were also cases where the rents had been reduced by such a trifling amount as to be an absolute judgment on the part of the Court that the rents were fair, and that they had disturbed them out of a spirit of mere wantonness; and, 273 from a numerous list, he would give two or three cases. In Donegal a farm of 215 acres was let at a rent of £53, and the Commissioners fixed the judicial rent at £50, being a reduction of 3¾d. per acre over the area of the farm. In another case of a farm of 43 acres in Fermanagh, which was let at a rent of £22 2s. 6d. the Commissioners fixed the rent at £22, the reduction being less than ¾d. an acre. The last case of this kind he would refer to was that of a farm in Kilkenny of 30 acres, the original rent of which—£26—wasreduced by the Commissioners to £25 10s., or at the rate of 4d. per acre of area. How did these decisions tally with the statement of Mr. Law, formerly Attorney General for Ireland and now Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who, in the debates during last Session on the Land Act, said—The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) put the case of a landlord asking a pound or two too much. But could anyone suppose that the tenant would rush into Court for such a sum as a pound?"—[3 Hansard, cclx. 1401.]It appeared that in one of the cases he had quoted the Commissioners did not think half-a-crown too little for the tenant to rush into Court for, and they accordingly reduced the rent by three farthings an acre. Now, with regard to reductions of rents by landlords out of Court. It had been stated that settlements out of Court were being made in many instances, and it was argued that this was a proof that the rents were too high. He (Mr. Tottenham) asserted that it was a proof of nothing of the kind, and that they were the most involuntary transactions on the part of the landlord that ever took place between man and man. They had been entered into, in most cases, by those who had been starved out, who were driven to the last extremity for the means of subsistence, and who so acted at the pressing call for food for their families. This had been done in other instances by those who watched with dismay the Sub-Commissioners on the war-path against their class, and who saw that no justice would be shown them; and it had been done by others to avoid the ruinous cost which was being piled up to add to their deprivation of property. But what was the total number of such cases? He discarded for the present entirely the 274 Return quoted by the Solicitor General for Ireland the other night, and which they were told they might now have in a few days—that Return which had been cast on the back of the printers in default of a better reason why it was not in the hands of Members. He said it was not fair that Members of the Government should avail themselves of information and figures contained in Papers to which other Members of the House had not access for the purpose of debate. They had had the same proceeding last year, and the year before, in the debates on the Land Act and the Compensation for Disturbance Bill. On one occasion the Prime Minister, just at the close of the debate, quoted from a Return which was not in the hands of Members, and hoped it would be in their possession next day. He would therefore proceed, in the absence of any later information, on the only Returns which were before them, and which came down to the 28th January last. From those Returns he could only find that 60 cases were described as having been "settled by consent," and registered by the Courts. He thought the House would require some further reasons and explanation for the extraordinary increase in the number of such cases in last month—which were quoted the other night by the Solicitor General for Ireland as 2,180—before they accepted unreservedly the accuracy of those figures. There was another phase of this Act to which they must also look, and that was its relation to the County Courts, which were incorporated with it as a part of its machinery. The resort to these Courts more or less depended upon the proclivities of the County Chairman; and if the case of the County Mayo were taken as an instance, it would not be difficult to decide what were the views held by the Chairman on the Land Question. Of this Court Mr. Richards, Q.C., was the Judge. There were 1,800 cases for hearing in his Court. He sat from the 24th January to the 17th February, during which time he heard 286 cases, and reduced the rents all round on an average to the extent of 16 per cent. He never went to view a single farm, and there had not been 10 appeals from his decisions. And why not? Because experience showed that if the landlord appealed to the Land Commission it was 275 useless, and worse than useless; it was out of the frying pan into the fire, and only entailed additional costs, and the tenant was too well satisfied with what plunder he had got to risk further litigation. It had been stated that the first cases which had come before the Sub-; Commissioners were the very cases of rack-renting which the Act was meant to cover. He said that the cases which he had quoted had not borne out that statement. Had the opinions of the Sub-Commissioner—recorded in open Court that the rents were fair, and that all attending circumstances showed consideration on the part of the landlord, and cordial relations between him and his tenants—borne out that statement? Had the fact that, in 42 cases which had already been heard, the existing rents were so unquestionably low that they could not, in common decency, interfere, and had been confirmed by them and the applications dismissed, borne it out—or had the 12 cases in which they had increased the rent sustained this theory which the House was most disingenuously asked to accept? And how would this insinuation agree with the fact that among the antics—for they could be called by no other name—which had been committed by the Sub-Commissioners, they had in 19 cases reduced by an average of 22 per cent rents which had been fixed prior to 1840—over 40 years ago; that in 12 cases they had reduced by 19 per cent rents fixed from 30 to 40 years back—that was, between 1840 and 1850; and that in 24 cases they had reduced by 25½ per cent rents fixed from 20 to 30 years ago—that was, between 1850 and 1860? Here was a total of over 100 cases, which alone gave a flat contradiction to the assertion that only rack-rented cases had as yet been heard. There were plenty of other cases showing a smaller percentage of reduction; but he was content with those to which he had alluded. Chapter and verse for all his figures could be found by any hon. Member who would take the trouble to analyze the Blue Book of judicial rents which had been laid upon the Table of the House. A Return had recently been moved for in "another place" which, after taking several days to consider, the Government had refused to give. The object of that Return was to oblige the Sub-Commissioners to show to what amount they had valued the 276 tenants' improvements, which they had deducted from the rent. But, no; the deeds of this inquisition would not bear the light, and the Government declined to give any information as to the misdeeds which were being committed, and for which they were responsible and were making themselves accessories. Some of the reasons given for the reduction of rents were amusing. He would take the report of the reasons given by one or two Commissioners, out of the many remarkable utterances they had been guilty of, as the best justifications they could give for their more remarkable decisions. In a case at Loughrea Mr. MacCarthy said—The landlord has recently made a considerable expenditure in drainage, under the superintendence of the Board of Works. This work has been well carried out, and tends considerably to increase the value of the holdings. No additional rent has been charged in respect of it. We observe with pleasure the cordial relations which appear to exist between landlord and tenants.But, notwithstanding all this, the rent of the holdings was cut down from £74 2s. 10d. to £63 9s.—a fact which he regarded as but a small inducement to the landlord to spend money on improvements to the estate in future. The next case was even more remarkable and amusing still. In deciding with regard to certain claims at Athlone on the 13th of February last, Mr. Commissioner Roche said—The Court took into consideration that this and other farms on Lord Castlemaine's property were adapted for and used as sheep farms. As a consequence of the prevalence of sheep disease for a number of years, sheep farms would naturally he depreciated in value, and the Court would fix the judicial rent at £23 6s.—where it had formerly been £42 3s. 10d. The same remarks, the Court said, would apply to the farm of James Fagan, tenant, and the judicial rent would be £33, instead of, as before, £41 13s. 10d., and so on in the case of two other tenants. He said that nothing could be more puerile than this decision, which was in effect that, because sheep had had a disease, the land was not to be supposed suitable for anything else, and that its inherent capabilities must therefore, of necessity, have deteriorated 25 per cent for 15 years. There was a very remarkable case which was heard at Newcastle West on the 8th of December last, relating to a farm of 91 acres, in 277 the occupancy of John and Patrick Sheehy. The farm was held in 1819 by John Sheehy at a rent of £91 17s. 6d. per annum. In 1841 a lease for 31 years at a rent of £89 12s. was granted. After the Famine in 1856, the rent was fixed at £84, which was regularly paid until 1865, when it was further reduced to £70. In this case the Commissioners held that the several reductions of rent were evidence that the original rent was excessive, and they accordingly fixed the judicial rent at £58. So that the rent of a farm which, by the consideration of the landlord, had been three times reduced in 62 years, and which was, at the time the case came on for hearing, let at a rent more than 25 per cent lower than in the year 1819, was further reduced by the Commissioners 16 per cent upon its reduced value of £70, because they thought the original rent of 60 years ago, but which was not the present rent, might have been too high. There was a further class of decisions for which there was no sort of justification. The Sub-Commissioners had, wherever they could, given costs against the landlord. Surely, where the application of the tenant was dismissed, and the rent found by the Sub-Commissioners to be fair, they had no ground for not meting out equal justice and giving costs against the tenant. Yet such was not the practice, and in these cases, out of many others, surely their manifest injustice must appear. On the 20th February last, in the case of M. O'Kane, tenant, the Mercers' Company, landlords, Mr. Commissioner Bourke said—Mr. O'Brien and I have, on the whole, come to the conclusion that the present rent is a fair rent, and gives the tenant the benefit of his improvements. We therefore fix £10 10s. as the judicial rent, to commence from the 1st November, 1881, sporting rights reserved, and each party to bear their own costs.He would be sorry that the words of wisdom which fell from the mouth of Mr. Davison, the timber merchant, should not be heard by the House. That gentleman said, with reference to the case just cited—In this case it is my misfortune to be obliged, for the first time, to dissent from the judgment arrived at by my Colleagues. We visited and carefully inspected the holding. It is very well farmed, and it presents the appearance of great reclamation having been effected. It is naturally a very bad farm, and it is diffi- 278 cult to labour. It consists of bogs reclaimed from heather, and it is interspersed with steep gravelly hillocks, from which stones have been quarried and whins stubbed, and when left for a short time in grass, it has a tendency to return to its original state of whins and heather. I am of opinion that Mr. Murphy's valuation is too high and Mr. Harvey's too low. In my judgment, the fair rent of this holding is £9 10s. I am, therefore, very sorry to dissent from the judgment just delivered.But the action of the Sub-Commissioners was more extraordinary when they gave judgment in favour of the landlord. In a case heard at Tinahely, County Wicklow, before Mrs. Wylie, Barry, and Kenny, Mr. Stafford, tenant, the rent was raised from £19 10s. to £24, and yet the costs were given against the landlord. This point of costs also embraced a much larger and more serious aspect than was presented by these cases. The Government were repeatedly warned last year that they were opening the door to untold litigation, and had not that turned out to be literally and absolutely true; and was it not a well-known fact that the country solicitors, and, indeed, almost every lawyer in Ireland, had their fingers in somebody's pocket in connection with land cases of some sort or another? An extract from a letter from a solicitor employed for a landlord in a Northern county would illustrate this in a practical manner. He said—I had 19 cases entered at last sittings; two of them were struck out, one adjourned, and 16 heard—the average rent of the latter being £8 10s. The expenses at that sitting, including valuations, amount to about £100.Which gave an average of £6 5s. for each case. He had in his hand an extract from another letter written by an agent, who said, with reference to the expenses connected with fixing fair rents in two cases in the county of Antrim—We were detained four days waiting for our cases to be tried. Valuator, four days at £5 5s., £21; maps, £1; counsel's fee and consultation, £12: solicitor for brief, &c. say £8; agents' travelling and hotel expenses, £4—making a total of £46. The total rents amounted, on the two holdings, to about £100 a-year. They were under Griffith's valuation. The judicial rents have not yet been fixed.He would now take the case of the county of Mayo alone, where there were upwards of 8,000 applications; and, putting these at the very low figure of £4 each case on each side, they had the land at once saddled with an incubus of £64,000, in addition to the 279 other burdens which it had to bear, and that was exclusive of the cost of appeals, which was not yet known. It was useless to reply that the Commissioners had fixed a Schedule of fees, as they could not, and, as a matter of fact, had not, bound the solicitors practising in the local Courts; and it was a matter of notoriety that the solicitors made their own bargains with the tenants—payment in advance being a sine quâ non. The Kerry Schedule of fees, determined on and published by the solicitors of the county, showed that the average charge agreed upon was £2 12s. 6d. per case, and that was exclusive of outlay for counsel's fees and every other expense. One solicitor alone had lodged 1,100 notices, which represented in round figures £2,900 as that gentleman's share of the plunder up to the present, within five months of the beginning of the administration of the Act. Another solicitor that he (Mr. Tottenham) had some personal knowledge of had within a few of 1,000 eases, which, at say £3 per case, would bring up his share of the plunder to £3,000. He was also aware of the case of another solicitor in Belfast, who had lodged between 8,000 and 9,000 cases, and it would be an easy calculation for any hon. Member to ascertain how much would fall to this gentleman's share; and, taking the whole 70,000 cases at the same average, they had the sum of £184,000 already passed into the pockets of the attorneys. That sum was exclusive of outlay, counsel's fees, valuators, witnesses, and the hundred other items which litigation of this kind occasioned. In the Cahiraveen Union 673 notices were lodged by four attorney's, and the costs came to £2,000, or thereabouts. The Commission sat for, he believed, one day, and three cases were heard, and rents reduced to the amount of £27 10s., or three months' interest on the costs that went into the pockets of the attorneys. There was a further question, which was a very serious and important one, and that was the number of cases sent down by the Chief Commissioners at Dublin and listed for hearing at the several places where the Sub - Commissioners held their Courts. In no instance had more than 50 per cent of the cases been heard; and, in very many instances, a much smaller proportion than this had been tried. The landlords and 280 tenants made all their preparations. Each side brought down their solicitors, counsel, valuators, and witnesses, and incurred various expenses, and after hanging about four, five, or six days, were told that their cases were postponed or adjourned until next sittings. This was a subject which demanded the anxious and serious consideration of the Government, on behalf of the tenant as much as on behalf of the landlord. As an instance of the animus which existed against the landlords in Ireland, he would read to the House a document which had been served upon a noble Lord, an owner of property in a Southern county, which document he thought the House would agree was one of the most monstrous which had ever emanated from a solicitor's office. The agent wrote—I send you a copy of Patrick Ryan's claim; it is well worthy of being exhibited as showing the animus as against the landlords. The solicitor who signs it is the solicitor to the Land League. Ryan holds 65a. 2r. 5p. Irish plantation measure, for which he pays £13 2s. 0d. a-year, or at the rate of 4s. an Irish acre. This man was served with a writ, and is amongst the first, unless he pays, to be dispossessed.The man had not paid, and the sheriff being about to obtain possession from him, this document was served from the solicitor's office:—Form of a Notice of Claim for Disturbance.