§ * MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
Mr. Speaker, in rising to move the Motion which stands in my name, I, with all sincerity, ask the indulgence of the House. The chances of the ballot have placed this matter in my hands; but, knowing how it affects the welfare of so many fellow-subjects, I should have hesitated to have proceeded with it were I not well aware that any imperfections on my part will be compensated for by the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Rowntree), who will second the Motion, and by other hon. Members who will speak in support of it. The House has always shown itself ready and willing to discuss the matter of Irish evictions; and, recollecting that, I cannot help expressing regret that at this moment, save for the presence of the Chief Secretary and the Solicitor General for Ireland, the Ministerialist Benches are absolutely empty. The great Unionist Party are constantly assuring us that the House will give Irish questions a candid and earnest treatment, but, as a matter of fact, what we see to-night; empty Conservative Benches are the usual response when Irish subjects are brought forward. I was saying that this subject has always received the willing attention of the House of Commons. I might make good that observation by many references to past debates in the House, but I will only make one. On the 29th April, 1856, in the very middle of a debate which was then proceeding, attention was called to the evictions on the Pollak Estate, which resulted in the whole clearance of that great fertile triangle between Athenry, Ballinasloe, and Portumna. In the debate which was proceeding, the fate of the then Government was challenged; but the leaders of both sides of the House, Lord Palmerston and Mr. Disraeli, expressed themselves perfectly satisfied with the conduct of the Irish Members who called attention to the evictions. Those statesmen acknowledged that the 474 subject was one which might wall be intruded on an occasion of that kind. At all times there are special causes for watchfulness in regard to these evictions. As has been pointed out by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, the House has made the power of ejectment so swift and cheap on the other side of the Channel that evictions have been excessive in number to a degree almost incredible. The Irish landlord, who has spent nothing to create the rental value of his property, has for many years had in his hands a power which is unknown on this side of the Channel, and which has never been asked for by the landlords of England, Scotland, and Wales, who, as we all know, have done so much to increase the rental value of their property. What use has been made of this power? During the first 12 months of the life of the present Government—from July 1st, 1886, to June 30th, 1887—there were 23,585 persons in Ireland turned out of house and home. It will be answered, no doubt, by the Chief Secretary that many of them were reinstated as caretakers; but the position of a caretaker is like that of a man who is struggling for life on a raft at sea. If his career be followed he will very shortly after be found disappearing in the back streets of a great city, either here or across the Atlantic. In 1888 the procedure was somewhat altered under the 7th section of the Land Act of 1887, which was a truly deadly weapon, forged by the Unionist majority of this House and made ample use of. No fewer than 10,752 tenants received notices under that clause during 1888, and that number were deprived, so far as that clause could deprive them, of their property in their holdings. My Resolution contains three declarations and one proposal. It puts humanity in the forefront. It asserts the just rights of property, points to the insufficiency of existing Land Acts, and asks for a competent, impartial, and conclusive arbitration or award between the two parties. I do not intend to dwell long upon the point of humanity. The country has been horrified many times at the stories of the brutality resorted to at evictions in Ireland. The country, too, is well aware of the distress of large numbers of the poor people who are evicted. 475 I will gladly concede, for the purpose of the debate, that all Members are equally desirous of putting an end to those painful scenes; and I will pass at once to what I confess is my main point, and that is what I conceive to be a defence of the just rights of property. It is in the interests of property I make this Motion; and the question I raise is, to whom does the property really belong? Property, I admit, is, and always must be, one of the elements of civilization, and the man who tampers with the rights of property is no friend to his country. On the other hand, the rights of property must be consistent with the rights of humanity, and any right which is not will be admitted by hon. Gentlemen opposite to be doomed in the present state of our civilization. Well, now, what is the case that is always presented in this matter? The Government and their supporters tell us that the persons who are evicted are men who are fraudulently withholding sums they have agreed to pay for the use of certain property. I shall present the matter thus, and I think it is a more correct description. We have in this Irish agrarian matter two parties struggling as to the amount of their respective shares in a certain kind of property of which they are joint owners; and the first thing the State has to do before it lends its aid to either side to, in any way, hurt the other, is to afford to both a perfectly competent and impartial and conclusive arbitrament as to their respective rights. Until that has been done the forces of the Crown ought not to be lent to either side. Let us see how this property which the landlords claim has been mainly created. The Member for South Huntingdonshire, to whose action in regard to certain evictions I am about to allude pretty closely, will not controvert the proposition that the rental value of the landed property in Ireland has been mainly created by the toil of the tenants. That has been laid down conclusively by the Devon, the Richmond, and the Bessborough Commissions. It was stated by Earl Cowper, the President of another Commission, in April, 1887, in his place in the House of Lords. The common use of the expression "dual ownership" admits the whole case. The Chief Secretary for Ireland is constantly telling us that the Act of 1881 476 was the greatest possible mistake; but it is admitted that there is a dual ownership in this property. I do not see the landlords' emergency man, the Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), in his place; but even he will probably admit that the Land Act of 1881 created no rights for the tenants at all, but merely recognized the equitable rights he had before. Now, does this Act furnish us with any indication as to whether the landlords have been claiming too much of this property? Under that Act, up to August of last year, an aggregate rental of £3,851,891 has been reduced to £3,093,807, or a reduction of something like 20 per cent, during the seven years of the existence of the Land Courts; in other words, the Commissioners have officially declared that the landlords have been exacting £5 where they ought to have been exacting only £4. The earlier reductions in the rents were nothing to the later ones. The average reductions during the last two years have been 30 and 31 per cent., but there are many individual cases in which the reductions have amounted to 50, 60, and even 70 per cent of the rents charged. Therefore, judging from the decisions of Land Courts, it is quite clear that the landlords have been appropriating to themselves too large a share of this property. But further, I entirely and absolutely deny that in the majority of cases in which the people have been, or are being, evicted the people have made any agreement whatever to pay the rents sought to be exacted. The very essence of the validity of a contract is freedom to enter into it on both sides. In the words of the Report of the Bess-borough Commission, "freedom of contract in the case of the majority of the Irish tenants, large and small, does not exist." I think, then, I have given some good grounds for the opinion that the just rights of property are being grievously imperilled by recent events in Ireland, where there have been going on, under the guise of law, proceedings which amount to neither more nor less than confiscation of the rights of property. But in these matters actual facts are the strongest arguments. Hon. Members will have seen in the papers of the last few days mention of an estate in the south of Ireland of which during the last two or three years we have heard 477 a great deal. I refer to the Ponsonby estate in County Cork. The area of the estate is between 9,000 and 10,000 acres. The character of the soil is more or less good; perhaps it is not the very best, but still it is a very good average specimen of au agricultural estate situated on the old red sandstone and mountain limestone. I spent considerable time last week on the property, conversed with a large number of tenants, and, in fact, did my best to make myself thoroughly familiar with the nature of these Irish holdings. I will give a few facts and figures with regard to the persons who have been, and are being, evicted on this property. It will be admitted by those who know the facts that this landlord has spent nothing in improving the tenants' holdings. He has borrowed money, and improved his own demesne, but he has not done what an English landlord would do to help his tenants. Here and there he has granted a loan for drainage purposes; but, speaking broadly, the whole value of the holding has been created by the toil of the tenants. There is a man named James Mahony, whose valuation was £42, and rental £63 15s. The improvements he made on his holding cost £300. There is Catherine Mahony, a widow, whose rental was £66, and who, with her husband, spent £668 in improving the holding. There is John Flynn, whose valuation was £68 15s., and rental £97, and who spent in a very few years £300 in improvements. There is Peter M'Donough, whose rental was £64, and who, with his father, spent, upon an embankment to keep the tide off his land, £300. There is Callaghan Flavan, whose valuation was £66, rental £104, and who spent £500 in improvements. Maurice Doyle's valuation was £258, rental £370, cost of improvements £600. Martin Loughlin's rental was £93; cost of improvements, as certified by Land Court in 1882, £800; and William Forrest spent £793 in improvements. All these are cases, as the House will see, not of poverty-stricken tenants, but of persons who I am free to admit might, or probably could, pay the rents they were asked to pay. All the tenants hold over a £50 rent, and therefore the Chief Secretary will not be able to say, "Why not appeal under Clause 30 for a stay of eviction." 478 They all hold under forced leases. Directly the Act of 1870 was passed, the Irish landlords set themselves the task of creating leases with cunning covenants, which largely paralysed the operations of the Act. These tenants largely hold under leases at higher rents than they did previously, leases which are as usual so worded as to deprive them not only of many of the benefits of the Act of 1870 but of many of the benefits of the Act of 1881, and in that way to forestall any good or advantage the Legislature may possibly in the future convey to the Irish tenants. There has been going on, and there is going on this week, on the Ponsonby estate, what I do not hesitate to describe as sheer and downright robbery of property. I will not go through the history of the years 1887 and 1888, because it seems to me rather ancient history now; but at the end of January last, after some weeks or months of negotiations carried on on behalf of the landlord by Mr. Brunker, and on behalf of the tenants by Canon Keller, who I must confess has proved himself to be a most faithful friend of the tenants, this point was reached—that Canon Keller agreed to give for the property £104,000 at the end of January, and both the parties believed that they were at the end of a most unhappy struggle. Then there appeared on the scene the hon. Member for South Huntingdon (Mr. Smith Barry). He is, I believe, a landlord in the County of Cork who had his rents largely reduced in 1882 by the Land Courts. In the month of February last he announced at a dinner, or some meeting in Cork, that he could say that Mr. Ponsonby would never settle with his tenants. The attention of Mr. Brunker was at once drawn to this remark, and the reply sent by him was as follows:—
§ 18, Grafton Street, Dublin,
§ Feb. 20th, 1889.
§ "My dear Sir,—I do not lose a moment in setting myself and Mr. Ponsonby right with you as to the matter referred to in yours of yesterday. My attention was called to Mr. Smith Barry's remarks, and I immediately expressed to Mr. Ponsonby my annoyance that such untimely language should have been used. That language is in no way authorized by Mr. Ponsonby, otherwise I would first have been relieved of any part of these negotiations. This is one and about the least of the inconveniences arising from the long delay against which I have repeatedly protested. Unless I receive final instructions before the close of this week, 479 I must withdraw from what I had hoped would be a successful and useful work, and this I have formally communicated. I still hope, however, that our labours will not have been in vain.—I remain, dear Sir, truly yours,
§ J. E. BRUNKER.
§ Rev. D. Canon Keller, P.P."
The very next day Mr. Brunker wrote to say that he had heard from Mr. Ponsonby or his agent that all negotiations were at an end. During March and April certain correspondence appeared in the Cork papers respecting the part the hon. Member for South Huntingdon was playing in the matter. Mr. Townsend, the agent of the syndicate with which the hon. Member is associated, and of which he told his constituents he was chairman, admitted that he had told the hon. Member he was a "foolish man" for the course he was taking in the matter. The upshot of the matter is that when these tenants wore on the eve of completing a very satisfactory arrangement to both parties, the hon. Member for South Huntingdon by means of capital he had raised over here, and by means of the syndicate of which he is the head, put a stop to the negotiations in order that the estate might be cleared for the syndicate. Unless the hon. Member is able to put a very different complexion on the matter, it does seem to me an extraordinary thing for an English gentleman or an Irish gentleman to interfere in a matter of this kind for the purpose, which the hon. Member has avowed, of wreaking vengeance on tenants, or of "teaching them a lesson;" which is the expression used in the paper reporting the hon. Member's speech to his constituents. Some of the incidents of these evictions are remarkable, and will have to be further inquired into. The day before yesterday I received a letter from Canon Keller, in which he says:—
''At this place three young girls were arrested (who had been in the evicted house)—pure, innocent creatures. While under arrest Colonel Caddell and some of his police and also a strange gentleman, said to be a Times reporter, addressed those girls in licentious language.
I want to know whether the forces of the Crown are to be employed in Ireland to draw a ring round these unhappy people that they shall be exposed to all sorts of insults without anyone being allowed to see what takes place? I think the country will require
a good deal of explanation on that point. I only wish the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would go there himself, instead of taking his facts from Colonel Caddell and these police, who, I do not hesitate to say, furnish him with mendacious reports. As to the precise terms offered during these negotiations on either side I will not speak. The figures I am about to give speak volumes as to the rental of the holdings. I find that in four cases Griffith's valuation and the rental are respectively £42 and £63, £68 and £97, £66 and £104, £258 and £370, the total of the four being valuation £434, rental £634. The valuation includes the letting value of the improvements of the tenants, and, therefore, the rental certainly ought to be less than the valuation, unless the tenant is charged rental on his own improvements. I think, therefore, I have made good my contention as to the rights of property. I now pass to the third declaration of the Resolution, respecting the inefficiency of the Land Acts. If I wanted any proof of that assertion I should find it in the fact that there are, or have been, no less than seven Bills before this House, several of them proceeding from Gentlemen opposite, amending or extending the privileges conferred by the existing Irish Land Acts. Even the Government announced in the Queen's Speech their intention to deal with the matter. The reasons for this state of things are to be found in the state of the law, in the advantage the landlords take of that state of the law and in the imperfect character of the tribunals created by the Act of 1881. In reply to the question, "Why do not you appeal to the Courts?" I say there are a large number of specific exceptions to the Act of 1881, arising from pasturage, meadow land, from tenancies which have come into existence since the Act was passed, from leaseholders' covenants, and other incidents of tenure. Above all, there is the question of arrears. It appears from the returns of the Courts that of those who apply to have a fair rent fixed about 14 per cent are dismissed or struck out as being outside the Act of 1881. I dwell rather, however, upon the use made by the Irish landlords of the technicalities of the law. The law is difficult and expensive, and to a man who has not a long purse
it is a very difficult operation to secure justice. There was a curious case from the North of Ireland. A man named O'Neil had covenanted not to apply for compensation, and it was held by the Court that that covenant enabled the landlord to rent him upon his improvements. Why, I ask, should there be any distinction drawn between Ireland and Scotland in regard to arrears? Up to the 31st of December, 1888, no less than nearly 70 per cent of the arrears were wiped off as bad debts in Scotland. Why cannot we have such an operation carried out in Ireland? There is also the case of the hanging gale which needs to be dealt with. One of the tenants on the Ponsonby estate had paid a year's rent every one of the 30 odd years he was on the property, and had this hanging gale brought forward to aid in his evictions. Then take the case of new holdings since August, 1881. I have investigated a case of that kind in which a strengthening of fences by the tenant with the concurrence of the landlord's agent having brought about a slight alteration of boundary was held to have turned the holding into a new holding. The only way to get at the truth in these matters is to visit the country itself. There were some words spoken in this House by a Member to whom I well remember having listened to years ago from the Strangers' Gallery long before I was myself in this House, and who never spoke or wrote without saying or writing something worth noting. I refer to Sir George Cornewall Lewis. He said:—
To discover what the liberty of a people is one must live among them, and not look for it among the Statutes of the realm. The language of the written law may be that of liberty, but the situation of the poor may speak no language but that of slavery.
And he added:—
There is too much of this contradiction in Ireland.
That is as true in 1887 as it was in 1852. And now, in conclusion, I may be asked what I mean by the proposal with which my Resolution concludes. Well, I am a young Parliamentary hand; but I have learnt that while it lies with us on this side of the House to point out defects in the law, it is for those on the other side who control the votes of this House and the forces of the Crown to
remedy those defects. I do not mean to convey by the use of the word "arbitration" any sign of blenching or of weakness on the part of the Irish tenants. I do not moan that a Court should be set to work here and there, in an isolated manner; but that there should be some comprehensive scheme, under which you would be certain before sending the forces of the Crown to aid any landlord in evicting his tenants that that tenant has had a fair field and no favour, and that the rights of the matter had been fairly settled between the two. I now formally bog to move the Resolution which stands in my name, in the confidence that it indicates a policy which if it were adopted would bring peace and happiness to many an Irish heart, that it would remove a just reproach from the Government of that country, and tend to promote that social order which we all agree is essential to national prosperity.
§ MR. ROWNTREE (Scarborough)
In seconding this Resolution I am satisfied that there must be many hon. Members on the other side of the House who would be just as earnest as Members on these benches in their endeavours to remove a great injustice in Ireland if they had personal knowledge of the suffering which exists among the tenants, and not simply hearsay evidence as to the state of the country, and if Ireland had not so long been the battle-ground for the rise and fall of British Ministries. Every one must acknowledge that it is very difficult to legislate wisely and well for any class when we have personally but little knowledge of the class to whom the legislation will apply. This difficulty is surely amazingly increased when we come to deal with the tenants of Ireland. I think hon. Members who have looked into this matter must admit that the distance of space is nothing at all as compared with the great distance between the ordinary conditions of life in Ireland and England. We are continually judging of the standard of action in Ireland by a standard brought about by a wholly different condition of things in England. Occurrences in Ireland are continually regarded in this House as improbable and exagerated, although to the people of Ireland they are terribly real and of constant occurrence. I wish hon. Members had read a letter from Judge 483 Curran published in the Dublin Daily Express of Tuesday last, and which shows that the County Court Judge is now administering with extraordinary pains the business on the civil side of his Court in order that business may be kept down on the criminal side. It shows, too, that there is extreme difficulty in doing justice to the two parties under the existing law. It shows that the necessity of adding arrears to the present rent whenever a tenant comes for a stay of eviction is simply a means of increasing the rental which it is quite possible the tenant is at present barely able to meet. It goes on to say that under the present law, no matter how punctual the tenants may be in paying the accruing rent, the non-payment of one of the gales after the lapse of six months gives the landlord the right to the land without any equity of redemption. It shows also that at a Court held only the other day a tenant who applied for a stay of eviction had had to walk 40 miles to do so, although the proceedings might have been taken in a Court nearer the homes of the tenants. It shows, too, that the Judge was compelled to send the tenant back for an immediate instalment of rent, so that he had to go 84 miles on foot. It shows that in the majority of cases brought before him this session the balance of arrears has largely accrued during the bad years of the present decade, and that one year's rent, for the arrears in respect of which the tenant had to make his weary journey of 84 miles on foot, dated back to the famine years of 1843 and 1847. In the book published at the end of last year, by Judge O'Connor Morris, it is definitely stated that the Land Acts have been, in their general features, very imperfect, that they are too tentative, too complex, and far too costly in their administration. Many Members of the House seem to have forgotten the Constitutional principle that the voice of the people should be listened to in this House through the Representatives they have sent here, and hon. Members are asked to accept instead of the voice of the Irish people the police news of the Irish Executive. There are many hon. Members in this House who could give case after case, and illustration after illustration, confirming the views of these two 484 County Court Judges of Cork and Roscommon. They could refer to numbers of poor tenants who have been toiling all their lives to do the best for themselves and those who belong to them and who have found it nopeless to think of appealing to the Land Court because of the arrears. I think the strongest indication of the necessity for some remedy of the existing state of things between landlord and tenant is to be obtained, not from the tenants, but from the landlords. I had a conversation with a landlord, who said it would have been a terrible thing if all the tenants on his estate had gone into the Land Court and taken advantage of the Act of Parliament passed for their protection. The tenantry there are poor and ignorant, and the ownership of the seaweed, the turbary, and the mountain grazing is in the landlord.
§ MR. ROWNTREE
No, it is not the Kenmare estate. I shall be happy to communicate the name of the estate to the hon. and gallant Member. I could give statements from my own knowledge as to the condition of things in Donegal which would show conclusively that the Land Act is no protection to individual tenants, and that their only salvation is in combination. When it is said that tenants threatened with eviction can apply for a stay of proceedings it should be borne in mind that the Judges have only felt themselves able to take a most restricted view of their powers in that respect. The Government—as was argued by the hon. Member for South Kilkenny before the Easter Recess—should give some attention to the question of the cost of the peculiar procedure under the Act of 1887, which amounts to £9 for the plaintiff, and £5 for the defendant, both of which the plaintiff has to pay. The attention of the Solicitor General for Ireland was drawn to this matter, and he promised to consider it, but on his return after Easter he said the Government did not see their way to altering the procedure. Still, he made no complaint that the facts bad been over-stated. I maintain that the tenants of Donegal are incapable of paying such costs. In yesterday's papers, 485 side by side with news dealing with Ascot races, which was set out in large type, I saw 10 lines of information which, though only printed in small type, appeared to me to be of great importance. It was stated that nine evictions had been carried out on the previous day in the Portumna district of the Clanricarde estate, and so secretly had the arrangements been made that what was about to take place was unknown in the neighbourhood. It was further stated, however, that two persons had been seriously injured, one with a bayonet thrust, and the other with the stroke of a rifle. Everyone knows the land war has been raging in that district for the last four years. I will not go into the controversial question as to the cause of this, but this much I think has been admitted and will not be disputed from any quarter of the House—namely, that the land agent, Mr. Joyce, had on the spot advertised a small reduction of rent when the great fall in prices came on. He admitted that the bad feeling which ensued arose in consequence of Lord Clanricarde's refusal to act on this advice. This war has been going on, I say, for four years, and if the tenants have not been paying rent for the past four years in Woodford they have been paying something which comes to very near the amount of a rent, in the shape of an enormous county cess, and an enormous poor rate. It is said that the Clanricarde tenants cannot be suffering from poverty and inability to pay their rents, as the money deposited locally in the savings banks has increased. Well, I am prepared to assert that there are not half-a-dozen tenants on the Clanricarde estate who have accounts in the Post Office Savings Bank, and in the only other bank at Woodford the deposits in the name of the Clanricarde tenants have decreased by one half during the past two years. It is true there has been a decided increase in the amount of the deposits in the Post Office Savings Bank at Woodford, but that is not at all to be wondered at, seeing that there are some 60 constables in the district drawing excellent pay and some 20 emergency men. I believe that not only do the surplus wages of these men go into the Post Office Bank, but that when the men are removed from one district to another they have the power—and they exercise 486 it—of transferring their account to the new district. There is a new state of things on that estate, as Father Costello, a priest who was not implicated in the previous transactions, is now at Woodford and must anxious to settle the existing disputes, while at Portumna the tenants, as is perfectly well known, have placed their case in Bishop Healy's hands, Bishop Healy being an ecclesiastic who takes a most Conservative side in this struggle, and has for years past been anxious to bring about a settlement. But in Woodford alone 36 tenants have already been put out, and 147 persons from that place have suffered imprisonment from one cause or another. Even if the Woodford tenants have sinned, as we have been told they have, they have at all events been punished to an extent that I should think would afford satisfaction to the most rigid disciplinarian. I have seen the letters which have passed on behalf of the tenants, and I am sure no one that sees them—not even hon. Gentlemen opposite—can think them other than moderate and reasonable. Apparently, however, the answer is the nine evictions I have spoken of. I ask hon. Members to consider whether this warfare is really to be pressed to the bitter end. A fortnight ago to-day I was in the house of one of the tenants under notice to quit, and in conversation with this tenant he told me the history of the tenancy of his family since his grandfather first settled there on the moors. It appears that this man, John McDermot, voted at one election for Captain Nolan, as he then was, and within a week an increase of rent was demanded of him by Lord Clanricarde's agent. And this was not a solitary case, for every one of the tenants on Lord Clanricarde's estate who were yearly tenants and voted for Captain Nolan at that election had their rents raised in consequence. The fine inflicted upon this tenantry for an act which, as orderly citizens, they were perfectly at liberty to perform, was an extremely heavy one. This house that I was in was such as would have done credit to any tenant in Ireland. Whilst I was talking to the tenant, the agent of Lord Clanricarde came into the yard with his guard of constables, and demanded possession from the tenant. It is hardly necessary 487 to say that when this happened some hot expressions fell from one of the inmates of the house, but one of the daughters at once used a quotation which is familiar to every Member of this House. She said, "We know well force is no remedy." Well, I want to submit this to the House. I believe the tenants there and in other parts of Ireland have learnt that lesson. I wish the English people had learnt it as well. If it is true that we have from the very force of public opinion in England acting on that condition of things in Ireland, happily disarmed the Irish peasantry of the old bad weapons which seemed alone their only miserable refuge in the past, it appears to me there is a very heavy additional responsibility resting on the Members of this House, and on all Englishmen at large. Are we to stand aside idle whilst these people are looking to us for better things, and for a new end—having to such a marvellous degree turned away from the wild revenge of the past, which threw so much discredit on them, and the condition of things which brought them to that pass having so much improved? Is there not urgent call on the House to endeavour to find some better remedy for the existing evils than evictions? There are many other facts which might be mentioned as showing the state of things existing in this part of Ireland. In conclusion, all I would say is this—there are about a hundred processes in some stage or other out against the Woodford tenants. There are some 87 processes fur eviction out against the Portumna tenants. Apparently a clearance campaign against the tenants has begun. Are the forces of the Crown to be lent to carry it out? There is scarcely a single person, save Lord Clanricarde's agent, who disputes that from the beginning of the struggle it has been the landlord living in London, and never going near his estates, who has been in the wrong, and that there is no justification for the refusal to make any concession. We had it from the Cowper Commission that for two years the rent could not be raised from the soil; the priests have been trying to bring about a settlement, and the magistrates and the police are looking forward with misgiving to the future. It is under these circumstances that we are led to-night to ask the Government whether, follow- 488 ing out the policy of the right hon. Gentleman who last held the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland, some stay cannot be put to these clearances, which must bring extreme suffering on those concerned, and affect public opinion throughout the country. When we are told that next year there is to be a great land scheme brought forward, is it too much to ask that these clearances should not be made now, and Irreparable damage done to people who certainly do not deserve such a terrible punishment?
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the interests of humanity and of the just rights of property, and inasmuch as the provisions of the present Land Acts are inadequate for the purpose, it is expedient that steps should be taken without delay to ensure such a competent, impartial, and conclusive arbitration between the two parties to the present agrarian struggle in Ireland as will diminish the necessity for evictions and the costly and humiliating employment of the Forces of the Crown thereat,"—(Mr. John Ellis)—
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ * MR. SMITH BARRY (Hunts, S.)
I should not have taken any part in the debate were it not for the personal attack made upon me by the hon. Member who moved the Resolution, an attack which calls upon me for some reply. I will not follow that hon. Member into the question whether the rental value of land has been created by the tenants or not, although I must, to a very considerable extent, traverse that statement, made as it is in a general way by the hon. Member. Neither will I follow him into the question whether the reductions of rent made by the Sub-Commissioners has been fair and just, or whether they are excessive, as I think I could show. But I would like to tell a story of a particular farm upon my own estate, the rent of which passed under the hands of the Sub-Commissioners some few months ago. It was purely a grass farm close to the town of Tipperary. It was fine grass land, had no tenants' improvements upon it of any kind, and so there were no complications in connection with the case. It was a farm of about 200 acres, held under lease from 1867 at a rent of 489 £464 a year. It was re-valued by the Land Commissioners last year, and the rent was reduced to £386, the result being that within three weeks of the reduction the tenant got for his interest in the farm £2,400, so that the incoming tenant had actually to pay a larger rent than the outgoing tenant. The hon. Member has gone very largely into the details of the Ponsonby estates and the rentals of the different tenants. I will not follow him into those details whether the rents of individual tenants are too high or too low. There has always been very strong reasons for believing that the rents upon that estate were, on the whole, fair and just. In the first place, the rents were fixed by valuation in 1872 by a well-known valuer, Mr. Harris, of Cork. They were at that time barely altered from the old rents existing upon the estate up to that time. Again, in 1881 there was a re-valuation by another well-known valuer, Colonel Heard, and the result was that there was a reduction of some 6 per cent. Then some 70 tenants went into the Land Court, and 30 of them received such very small reductions at the hands of the Sub-Commissioners that the rest, about 40, withdrew their notices and went on under the old rents. After that time Mr. Ponsonby again gave reductions in the year 1882, and, I think, 1885. In addition to that 20 per cent. on the non-judicial and 10 per cent on the judicial rents were the reductions offered when the Plan of Campaign was started. But Mr. Ponsonby told his agent at that time that he did not believe in all-round reductions because he thought the pressure might be greater upon some tenants than upon others, and that he might give further reductions in individual cases where he thought fit. Well, the Plan of Campaign was then instituted upon the estate. I will not follow the history of it until we come to the two months in the beginning of the present year when negotiations were carried on on behalf, Mr. Ponsonby on the one side, and the tenants on the other. The honourable Member has charged me with being responsible for the breakdown of these negotiations. He has stated, in the first place, that the offer made by Father Keller was £104,000 and that Mr. Ponsonby was prepared to take £110,000, and that consequently the only difference between the parties 490 was £6,000. Now, that is an absolute misconception. There was beyond this a sum of £18,800, representing charges for drainage, commutation of tithe rent-charges, and other Government charges in dispute, and which Mr. Ponsonby said the tenants should pay, and which Father Keller said Mr. Ponsonby should pay. So instead of there being only a difference of £6,000 there was really a difference of £24,000 between the parties.
§ * MR. J. E. ELLIS
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon for interrupting him, but he will admit this is an important point. Does ho mean to say that Mr. Brunker, who was Mr. Ponsonby's agent, did not admit that he would take £110,000, and that Father Keller offered, on the part of the tenants, £104,000?
§ * MR. SMITH BARRY
I admit that perfectly; but this sum of £18,800 was allocated to the land and should have been paid by the tenants, and not out of the pocket of Mr. Ponsonby.
§ * MR. SMITH BARRY
That was the statement. I do not know whether Mr. Brunker made it particularly, but Mr. Brunker was perfectly aware of the facts, and Mr. Brunker will not deny it. The point upon which the negotiations split was a difference of £24,000, not of £6,000, as stated by the hon. Member, and by Father Keller. I think it is scarcely necessary for me, after having made that statement, to follow the hon. Member into the charge that it was I who broke off the negotiations. The negotiations were practically broken off, because it was perfectly evident that no agreement could be come to between Father Keller on the one hand, and Mr. Ponsonby on the other, on account of the large sum in difference between them, at the time I made those remarks in Cork, which have not been correctly quoted by the hon. Member. I never said that Mr. Ponsonby would never settle with his tenants. Mr. Ponsonby has always been anxious to settle with his tenants. What I did say was 491 that I was confident Mr. Ponsonby was not likely to surrender to the Plan of Campaign. I think that I may now pass on to the question of the charge against Mr. Townshend, and through Mr. Townshend against me that a company was formed for clearing the estate of tenants. There has never been the slightest wish to evict one single tenant from the estate, if the tenant would come to reasonable terms, if the tenants would accept the very reasonable offer made on behalf of Mr. Ponsonby. As to the statement that I said I was prepared to wreck vengeance on the tenants, I never made use of such an expression. I did say that if there was an estate where the question whether the Plan of Campaign—an acknowledged illegal conspiracy—was to be broken or not this was an estate upon which that question should be tried [Cries of "Try it" and "Order."] I should like before I sit down just to state to the House what were the offers that were made to the tenants on the Ponsonby estate since the negotiations were broken off or rather since the negotiations came to an end in the month of February last. I will take first the offers made to the judicial tenants whore the rent was £100 a year. On this estate there has been no rent paid for four years, so that the tenant's arrears come to £400. The offer made to the judicial tenants was that on their paying one year's rent of £100 and the interest on the arrears which would be calculated on £275, that is to say, deducting the judicial allowance on the last two years of 16 per cent and 8 per cent respectively, and thus reducing the £300 to £275; then instead of having to pay up the capital sum of the arrears they would be only required to pay interest on the moderate rate of 3 per cent on these reduced arrears. As an alternative to this they were offered the choice of purchase, and the sum demanded would then be calculated on a future rental reduced from £100 to £76 under the terms of Lord Ashbourne's Act. With regard to the non-judicial tenants, and taking a similar typical case where the rent was £100 and the arrears £400, if the tenant would agree to pay £80 down, that is one year's rent, minus 20 per cent offered at the time the Plan of Campaign was started, then he should be allowed to go on paying at that rate, 492 and his arrears should be computed at £240 instead of £300 as they would be if demanded in full, and similarly he would be allowed to pay interest at 3 per cent on these arrears instead of being required to pay the capital sum. But this was not all; there was a further clause in the offered agreement which ran thus:—Should you consider it probable that you would obtain more advantageous terms from the Land Commission, and if you pay the sum of £80 before the date named,a given time was fixed after the receipt of notice—I think a fortnight—and now apply to have a fair rent fixed, the landlord will not require payment of the arrears due to the 25th March, 1889, if you pay 3 per cent thereon. He will also be prepared to regard any reduction which may be made in your rent as retrospective; and that the interest referred to will be calculated on the abated rent and not on the actual amount of arrears due.Now the real contest on the estate is, who is to value the rent of the farms? Mr. Ponsonby offered the tenants the opportunity of going into the Land Court in 1882, and some of them went into Court. [Cries of "No!"] Well, I do not think I am open to correction on that point; but those who were non-leaseholders had the opportunity and could have availed themselves of it, but the majority of them did not persist, but withdrew their notices because the reductions given were so small. After the Act of 1887 was passed, and leaseholders were admitted to the benefit of the Act of 1881, they again had the opportunity of going into Court. They issued notices, but they withdrew them again. They have now the opportunity again if they desire it, and are not satisfied with the offer of Mr. Ponsonby and those who act for him. If they are not satisfied with the terms, they can go into Court and have a fair rent fixed, those fair rents being made retrospective as well as prospective. Now I think that I have answered all the allegations against me in regard to my conduct in reference to the Ponsonby estate. These tenants can go into Court, their arrears can be settled on a generous basis, they can purchase their holdings on extremely easy terms, but we mean to insist that these rents shall be fixed by the proper legally constituted tribunal appointed by Parliament for the purpose, and not by means of an illegal conspiracy called the Plan of Campaign.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin County, N.)
Should anyone in the House or in the country be surprised that the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken was kicked out of the representation of Cork, an explanation may be found in the speech we have just heard. He was Member for Cork for several years, and when he no longer represented principles such as he then professed, he transferred his energies to an English constituency, but he left behind him the lasting contempt of the Cork people. He has been forward in platform speeches, in references to Members of the Party to which I have the honour to be connected, as disturbers of law and order, but I charge against the hon. Member to-night that he is himself the real cause and fountain-head of all the disorder and all the crime committed in the county of Cork. There were parts of the speech of the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division that demanded a reply from the hon. Member, but no reply did he give; the hon. Gentleman diverged into another subject altogether, and left untouched the grave charges made by the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division. I take the liberty of repeating those charges. The principal charge is this—that this man, who has no connection with the Ponsonby property, who is as much an outsider in reference to that property as I or any Member of this House, with deliberation and malice aforethought stepped in between Mr. Ponsonby and his tenants and prevented a settlement of the dispute between them. This is not the first time he has been challenged in this House, and I now challenge him again to answer the charge of having put the Government of Ireland in motion in order to put down a public movement of a perfectly legitimate character in Ireland. Let me recall the charge made against him last year. The charge was that when a meeting was about to be held of the Ponsonby tenants to consider their position, a certain telegram was dispatched to Captain Sarsfield in Cork, asking him to get an information sworn saying that if the meeting were held it would be followed by disorder and crime. The charge which I now repeat is that this telegram was sent by the hon. Member or at his instance. And this is done by a gentleman having no connection with this estate, who is a mere outsider, a 494 planner and fomenter of disorder, who has the audacity to come down here and pose as a Member of the party of law and order in this country. I see the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh laughs, but there is no contradiction of the statement I have just made, that by discreditable means and with discreditable motives the hon. Member for South Hunts sought to suppress a public meeting. This is not contradicted; it is only met with laughter. We have had to-night the usual landlord's defence, such as we have heard in Cork a hundred times; but the real charge made against the hon. Member for South Hunts has not been met, and I invite the Leader of the loyal minority in Ireland, now represented by three persons in this House, to answer the charges the hon. Member neglected to answer. The charge is, that Mr. Brunker, acting for Mr. Ponsonby—it is not denied that he did act as Mr. Ponsonby's agent throughout these negotiations—was prevented from arriving at a settlement by the hon. Member for South Hunts. Up to the beginning of the present year two attempts had been made for a settlement by purchase. At first the landlord demanded 23 years' purchase on the old unreduced rents. That was in the early days of coercion, before that weapon had broken in the hands of the Member for Manchester, and when it was thought the people of Ireland could be terrorized and intimitated into buying out the landlord's rack-rents at his own figure. Subsequently, in October, 1887, the landlord offered a reduction of 35 per cent, or 1½ year's rent, if the tenants would pay 17½ years' purchase. This was what three months of coercion did for the Ponsonby estate. Mr. Ponsonby reduced his demand under the influence of the Coercion Act from 23 years' purchase, on the old rents to l7½ years. Towards the end of last year Mr. Brunker, who acted as the trusted agent of Mr. Ponsonby until he resigned his agency disgusted, he representing the landlord while the Rev. Canon Keller represented the tenants, renewed the negotiations for purchase. For two months the parties corresponded in the most amicable spirit. Mr. Brunker started with a demand right and proper from his point of view as representing the 495 landlord for £127,000, but eventually he came down to £110,000. The highest offer the tenants under the Coercion Act could be induced to make was £104,000, so that the difference between the parties and the hon. Member for South Hunts cannot deny it was just £6,000, which, at 4 per cent, was a little less than £1 per tenant annually. Well, I say at that moment a point of agreement was almost reached when a certain Primrose League banquet or some other gathering of the same sort, some 60 or 70 strong, was held in the City of Cork. That is about the size of Unionist gatherings there—in a city of 110,000 inhabitants. At this Tory banquet and at the time when an agreement on the Ponsonby estate had been almost reached, Mr. Smith Barry—I do not know if it was the Member for South Hunts, the hon. Member can deny the identity if it was not—I assume it was the Member for South Hunts, announced that Mr. Ponsonby intended to repudiate the settlement and continue the fight.
§ MR. CLANCY
Of course, I must accept the hon. Gentleman's contradiction; I am not able to give the exact words, but I quote from a newspaper; the hon. Gentleman ought to believe the Cork Constitution. As in the case of a certain Dublin banquet, there were no reporters there, but perhaps special Castle stenographers cooked a Report. But it was stated on the authority of a newspaper that represents his Party, that Mr. Smith Barry—probably the Member for South Hunts—announced that Mr. Ponsonby intended to continue the fight, and I have a letter here from Mr. Brunker, the agent to Mr. Ponsonby, showing as clearly as a letter can, that Mr. Brunker was as much astonished at the announcement as was Canon Keller himself. In this letter Mr. Brunker expresses his surprise and regret, and acknowledges the kindly spirit in which Canon Keller in conversation and correspondence had carried on the negotiations, and sympathizes in the disappointment the rev. gentleman must feel at their efforts being in vain. If further proof is wanted there is explicit testimony as to the motive that actuated 496 this disturber of order and of friendly negotiations. At the very time when Mr. Townshend, the agent of Mr. Ponsonby, was still the owner of the estate, the hon. Member for South Hunts, speaking at Brompton, Huntingdon, stated to an audience some 60 strong, according to a local newspaper—about the strength of his Cork audience—thatThe estate had lately been bought from the landlord by himself and a few friends, and they had bought it for the purpose of defeating the Plan of Campaign. They hoped to inflict such a lesson on those who had to their own great misfortune taken part in the Plan of Campaign as would, he hoped, deter tenants on other estates from embarking upon such unfortunate and criminal adventures.Now, I hope to hear no more language of this kind spoken. I hope there will be more talk of the Derelict Lands Trust Company, or of the Land Corporation, or of the Cork Land Defence League, or anything of organizations for the purpose of getting distressed landlords or ladies their rents. The openly avowed object of loyal combinations in Ireland is to wage war upon the tenants. The object of the tenants of Ireland, who have been taught lessons they will never forget, is to combine for their own protection. The hon. Member for South Hunts has gone over the familiar facts of the case, and he has misstated them as usual. I have not the least hesitation in saying that he has not given a correct statement regarding the Ponsonby estates. Colonel Herbert valued these estates and reduced the rents. Who is Colonel Herbert? Was he an impartial valuer—was he a tenant's valuer? On the contrary he was a landlord's valuer, paid by them, I suppose, pro ratâ. He was paid by results. There is no pretence whatever that the landlord has any more right than the tenant to judge his own case. Is the valuation of Colonel Herbert, who was appointed and paid by the landlord, to be accepted as the standard of rents on the Ponsonby estates? The thing is perfectly absurd. The hon. Member for South Hunts made a statement in Huntingdonshire that the tenants were at perfect liberty to enter the Courts. So they were, and so are the "spirits of the vasty deep," but will the spirits come when called? Mr. Ponsonby took care by evicting, not relieving, all the tenants before the 497 Act of 1887, that they should never have an opportunity of going into the Court. In face of this fact, which is perfectly notorious, we have the arch-exterminator and the arch-fomenter of disorder on the Ponsonby estate to-night trying to brazen out his position by misstatements of this case. I do not envy the position of the hon. Member for South Hunts. He has undertaken a gigantic task. There are 400 tenants on this estate; they are combined, and all the forces of the Government and of the landlords of Ireland will fail to break their combination, so long as there are recources in the Irish of America and Australia, by whom these tenants will be supported to a man. It is a gigantic task, evicting 400 tenants, their wives and children, putting them out on the roadside to perish rather than apply the principle of arbitration to this estate. But there is a more serious reason, and one more personal to the hon. Member. He owns estates in the County of Cork himself and in the County of Tipperary. The men of Tipperary, in the past, at all events, have given evidence that they know how to protect themselves. It occurs to me—and I call the attention of the hon. Member to this fact—that these tenants are acting very foolishly for themselves and for their class in continuing to provide the sinews of war to the hon. Gentleman to exterminate their brother tenants. If there is to be a combination of landlords who have no connection with this case, or the affairs with which they meddle—as is the case here—then there may he a combination of tenants under similar conditions. The Member for South Huntingdon has no connection with the Ponsonby estates; it is not his business; it is for the purpose of vengeance and war, as I have shown. I am reminded that at one time or another in the remote past there was some title like Lord Ballymore, and by some circuitous and subterranean channel he may be able to recover the title to the family again. But, I say, if there is to be a combination of landlords, who have no concern in this estate, out of pure malice, and for the purpose of war and vengeance upon the tenants, it may very well occur to the tenants of the hon. Member and such landlords, that they, too, are entitled to combine in the matter, whether their 498 combination be legal or not. ["Oh."] I hear some observations on the other side as if I ought to be ashamed of what I have said. ["No," and "Certainly not."] Hon. Members opposite seem to forget that acting by illegal means was for centuries the only method of redress open to the people of Ireland. They seem to forget that for centuries the practice of the Catholic religion was illegal in Ireland. The education of the children of Ireland in the faith of their fathers was illegal. The manufacture and export of Irish products was illegal. Why, it was said the other day that illegality was the very breath of us, and we are not ashamed of it. It is you who ought to be ashamed of it—you who imposed those infamous laws upon Ireland. Who denies that they were infamous? Does the solitary Catholic who sits for England (Mr. De Lisle) deny that the law which made the Mass illegal was an infamous law? Association with certain companions produces strange changes, and we might hear of the hon. Member for Mid Leicestershire declaring that the Mass should be again made illegal. If we are obliged to act by illegal means in this matter, on your heads will be the responsibility. One word regarding the question of arbitration. It is a notorious fact that for the last month or two the strongest efforts have been made by his Grace the Archbishop of Dublin to get the landlords of Ireland to consent to the adoption of this principle. What was said? Why; that we were hanging out the white flag, that the Plan of Campaign way broken, that the National League was being supplemented, and that the people of Ireland were being liberated, and were taking their own course. As far as I am concerned—I speak only for myself—I will never again make an offer of arbitration to any landlord in Ireland. If the landlords of Ireland want arbitration they will have to ask for it. We were not opposed to arbitration. We shall welcome it, but offer it we never will again to such men a Mr. Ponsonby or the hon. Member for South Hunts.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian has been in the House during the last speech. I happened myself, in bygone 499 years, to support the right hon. Gentleman when he brought forward his Land Bill of 1870, and I remember that the right hon. Gentleman was exceedingly satisfied to have at least one Irish landlord on his side on that occasion. I remember the right hon. Gentleman's speeches then. I also remember the time when the right hon. Gentleman brought in his Bill for the disestablishment of the Irish Church. I remember, too, the speech in which the right hon. Gentleman brought in the further development of his Land Act of 1870—the Land Act of 1881. And what was the hope, and the just hope, which the right hon. Gentleman then candidly expressed? It was that those remedial Acts would be a final settlement of the Irish question. And what was the result? We learn from his ally and follower on the opposite side that all those remedial efforts on the right hon. Gentleman's part have resulted in forcing Members below the opposite Gangway to a course of illegal illegality—whatever that means. So far from conciliating the Irish people, every one of the concessions made by the right hon. Gentleman—some of which I have myself supported—were but steppingstones on which hon. Members opposite mounted to make fresh and more extreme demands. The hon. Member made a strange admission in his speech, for a practised lawyer. He absolutely denied that the £18,000 was to be added to the landlord's price, and immediately afterwards he said that the first demand of Mr. Ponsonby was exactly £18,000 more than was last demanded. He, therefore, admitted that this £18,000 came into the transaction, and that the final demand of Mr. Ponsonby was the original demand, minus the £18,000, and now he wants the House to believe that the demand was altogether £110,000, minus the £18,000.
§ MR. CLANCY
What I stated was that Mr. Brunker started the demand for £127,000, and came eventually down to £110,000, and that the difference between Mr. Ponsonby's original demand and the offer of the tenants was exactly the 18 years' purchase.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
That is exactly what I said. I believe that the landlord who owns an estate has the right to make the bargain; but the hon. 500 and learned Member appears to think that Mr. Brunker had a right to go behind the landlord's back and make some private arrangement with Father Keller. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to contend that this offer of Mr. Brunker was a final offer.
§ MR. CLANCY
I read Mr. Brunker's letter in which he said he hoped, as the result of further negotiations, to obtain a settlement of the matter.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
The hon. Gentleman seemed to me to contend that the offer was a final offer, and the contention of the hon. Member for South Hunts (Mr. Smith Barry) has not been shaken by that of the hon. and learned Gentleman. As to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who moved this Resolution, he appeared to be altogether ignorant about this £18,000; and every day I live the more I seem to realize what children hon. Members opposite are in the hands of their allies the Irish Members. I challenged the hon. Mover of the resolution to say whether or not this question of adding the £18,000 to the £110,000 was proposed by Father Keller. The hon. Gentleman made no allusion to it in his speech, and I conclude that the hon. Gentleman has shared the fate of many of his colleagues and was hoodwinked when he got over to Ireland.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. Well, the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite has said "What right has the hon. Member for South Hunts to meddle with property with which he has no personal concern?" My answer is that we Irish landlords conceive that we have a personal concern in every property of every landlord in Ireland. Surely hon. Gentlemen opposite will admit that this is perfectly reasonable. The Irish landlords stand or fall together. I want to show how weak-witted the "patriots" are. If the House declares that it is legal to rob one landlord, then it is legal to rob all landlords; and if the law refuses them power to secure their rents, then all landlords will fail to secure their rents. That is perfectly clear; and hon. Members opposite ought to be awake to the fact that Irish landlords and every man in the empire 501 who is in favour of that which supports law and order would—[Opposition cries of "Oh, oh."] If I were to advise any novice in the art of speaking who wanted to raise a laugh in this House, I should say he has nothing to do but say "law and order." Why, Sir, it is a joke, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt), laughs at the very idea. A short time ago the hon. Member for East Cork (Mr. Lane) said that law and order sounded to him like the refrain of a comic song, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby seems to agree with him. I say that every supporter of law and order in this country is gradually beginning to see that he must back up the Irish landlords in the fight we are undertaking. I want to point out that there is a larger issue at the present moment than simply the fight about one estate which is at stake. I am glad to find that hon. Members on the opposite side of the House agree with me on this point. This is not solely a question as to whether an Irish landlord knows too much for the other parties or not, it is a far greater and wider and deeper question than that. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have chosen the field on which to fight their battle, and they have of late been more candid than they were before; for now they do not conceal what their ultimate object is, nor how they intend to obtain it. They have fought us on what they have supposed to be our weakest point, and that undoubtedly is landlordism. I admit it. A landlord is not supposed to have many friends in a democratic country, and so hon. Members opposite have attacked various estates, which estates they have had the advantage of being able to choose for themselves. Having considerable—almost supreme—authority in certain parts of Ireland in the past—though I am happy to say that that is not the case at present—they have settled and arranged the estates as to where these various fights are to take place, and they have consequently set up the Plan of Campaign on those properties in order to concentrate the eyes of the Empire on the weakest point in the enemy's line of defence. In these cases they have forced the landlords either to give in or to evict. I say that if a landlord has one particle of British 502 pluck about him, he would break stones on the road sooner than give in to hon. Gentlemen opposite. With regard to the Ponsonby estates, I think it has been clearly shown that Mr. Ponsonby has not been an extortionate, harsh, or exterminating landlord. On the contrary, hon. Members opposite know well that until the Plan of Campaign was put in force on that estate, Mr. Ponsonby and his forefathers lived on perfectly amicable terms with the tenants; and that far from being an un improving landlord, in 16 years Mr. Ponsonby has spent £9,000 on the estate. The other estate on which hon. Members have fought this issue is the Luggacurran estate. I hope I may here be allowed to say a word in reference to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion before the House. There is no doubt that he spoke to the subject to the best of his ability, but he certainly did not appear to understand much about Irish questions. I say, with all respect for the hon. Gentleman, that if he had consulted his friends below the Gangway, they would have set him right. The hon. Gentleman imagined that the Irish landlords were burdened with arrears that have been gradually accruing for 40 years. This, of course, is not the case, and this is the sort of slip hon. Members make who do not understand the subject on which they speak. Now, when the hon. Gentleman said the Lansdowne estate was one of the best estates in Ireland, and Lord Lansdowne one of the best landlords in Ireland, none of his friends cheered that remark. It was as to this estate that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) pointed out, in one of the speeches he recently delivered in the South of England, a fact of which I was previously in absolute ignorance. He said, in a place, the name of which I forget, but I think it ended in "mouth," that the real authors of the Plan of Campaign wore the Irish landlords. Now, I did not know that before. I always thought it was the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on the Opposition benches who were the authors of that movement. I do not pretend to quote the right hon. Gentleman with verbal accuracy, but merely give the gist of what he said.
§ MR. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
The hon. and gallant Gentle- 503 man is mistaken. I said the real authors of the Plan of Campaign were the Government and the majority of the House of Commons.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I at once accept the correction of the right hon. Gentleman, and I can only say that the report of his speech in the Times was inaccurate. It comes, however, to the same thing, that the landlords' representatives in this House, and in the Government, were the authors of the Plan of Campaign, and became the authors of that Plan because they rejected the Bill brought in by the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), whereby they forced the Plan of Campaign on the Irish tenants.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
I said it was because they had rejected that Bill and all other proposals whatever. [Cries of "Order" from the Ministerial Benches.] I beg pardon, but I am reciting what I said. I did not assume that it would meet the hon. and gallant Gentleman's approval, which I should think very doubtful.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
The right hon. Gentleman has given an explanation of his speech by saying the Plan of Campaign was due to the action of the Government and this House in rejecting the Bill of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork, and all other proposals whatever. Now, I do not know what "whatever" means; but evidently the effect produced on one's mind by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is that the main reason for the Plan of Campaign was the rejection of the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman can deny this; and if that be so let us test the statement by the Luggacurran estate. That will be admitted to be a test estate, because two distinct emissaries were sent across the Atlantic to Canada to bring home to the Canadian people the barbarities of the Irish landlords in the person of their Governor General. Now, let us take the tenants on the Luggacurran estate, and see what is their position under Lord Lansdowne as compared with what it would have been under the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork. Lord Lansdowne offered to receive from his tenants as a settlement £917. If the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork had passed, the tenants would have had to pay £2,264. That is to say, they 504 were the better by £1,347 for the loss of the Bill, which loss, the right hon. Gentleman says, has forced the Plan of Campaign on the Irish people. Why did not the tenants on the Luggacurran estate pay their rent? Was it because they could not pay? Was it because the rents were excessive? I hear no assent from hon. Gentlemen opposite; probably they know what is coming. The hon. Member for South Kerry (Mr. Kilbride), who was a tenant on the Luggacurran estate—[An hon. MEMBER: And now in gaol.] Well, it is hard to know who is in gaol and who is not; but hon. Gentlemen must not complain if they go to Ireland with the deliberate intention of going to gaol. I wish to be fair, and therefore I quote what the hon. Member for South Kerry said on this point. Speaking on March 30, 1887, he said:—The Luggacurran evictions differ from most of the other evictions to this extent—that the tenants are able to pay the rents, but it is a fight of intelligence against intelligence, of diamond cut diamond.To show how valuable were the tenants on the Luggacurran estate, one of those evicted is a distinguished Member of the Party opposite, and another victim to the rapacity of Irish landlordism. Mr. John Dunn ran a horse at the Curragh two months after his eviction. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman mentioned that fact in Canada. In reply to the charges made against this Irish landlord, I think we may rely on what has been said by Members of the Party opposite. But the question at present at issue is graver far than simply whether rents are too high or too low, whether this landlord or that is to be condemned or acquitted. The landlords are fighting the battle of the law of the land. ["How"?] Wait, and I will show you. Is it true that we, the Irish landlords, deserve the obloquy, the vituperation, the condemnation that has been heaped upon our heads, not only by hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway, whose profession it is to do this, but by right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench who ought to know better? Why, if I wanted a character for the Irish landlords I need not go to the Government Bench, I would go to the Front Bench opposite. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian himself in 505 bringing in his Land Bill bore testimony to the character of the Irish landlords. The right hon. Gentleman did not justify his legislation by the expressed or implied misconduct of the landlords of Ireland generally. "On the contrary," said the right hon. Gentleman, "as a rule they have stood their trial, and as a rule have been acquitted." Then, as to the charge of extortionate demands for rent, and as to whether they should ask for the rents the Legislature has declared they ought to receive, I will recall the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, who about the same time said,—The Liberal Party never will have anything to do with attacks upon the property, any more than on the persons, of our fellow-citizens. Landowners have just as good a right to a fair rent as you or I have to the coat upon our back. Whenever the Liberal Party has allied itself with socialistic ideas, when-ever it has followed"—I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley) to listen to this—Some of these misty philosophers into courses that would destroy the safety of society it has come to grief, as it deserved to come to grief"—as it has come to grief. The right hon. Gentleman said we have as much right to a fair rent as to the coat upon our back, but he said that before he turned his coat, and from a comparison of his speeches it appears to me that he abandoned his coat and his principles together. I think I heard some hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House express approval of the idea that we are entitled to a fair rent, and of course the question is what is a fair rent? I will give an example of what a distinguished Member of the Party below the Gangway opposite considers a fair rent to an Irish landlord. This is what the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool said when he visited the other side of the Atlantic, and I conclude he holds the same opinion on this side of the Atlantic, and I suppose he used the words for some purpose, whether good or not I do not say. The hon. Member said this:—I want you to understand that the reduction of rent we require is not a small, or a petty, or a legal reduction, but the total abolition of rent.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
In the first place, I never used the adjective legal; and, in the next place, the hon. and gallant Gentleman has dragged this sentence from its context, and thus conveyed a wrong impression as to my meaning. I spoke in 1881, before the Land Act had begun.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Well, practically before the Land Act had begun to operate. I speak of a speech delivered nearly eight years ago. My intention was to convey that what we wanted was not a petty sporadic or small reduction of rent, but that we wanted a large reduction of rent. When I said we wanted the total abolition of rent, I meant that we desired to see the rent-paying tenantry transformed into a peasant proprietary, which now I understand is advocated most warmly by the present Government.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I took the quotation from a paper called United Ireland, and in that interesting journal there is no mention of the various sentiments upon which the hon. Gentleman has given us information. Of course I could not tell what the hon. Member meant. I could understand what the "total abolition of rent" would mean to the landlord when at the end of the year he totalled up his banker's book. "Total abolition of rent!" let the hon. Member explain that, if he intended any meaning.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
The hon. and gallant Member has no right to quote a speech and challenge its accuracy without accepting my statement. I say that at the time I used the words he has quoted what I meant by the total abolition of rent was the transformation of rent-paying tenants into peasant proprietors, with full and fair compensation to the landlords.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I am not aware even now that the hon. Member has denied the accuracy of my quotation. He tells us he meant certain things—
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
The quotation was made in the House of Commons two years ago. It was not denied then, and I naturally imagined it was 507 accurate. But I pass on. What I want to point out is this—the reason why we Irish landlords are subjected to these attacks is not because we are grasping; it is not because the tenants are suffering; the reason we are attacked is because we are looked upon as the principal prop and assister of the rule of Great Britain in Ireland. I do not make this statement rashly. I will do hon. Members the justice to say they have never changed their attitude, and all along the line their action has been continuous in this respect. When the "union of hearts" took place they did not change, they changed others. From the first, and up to now, they have candidly acknowledged that the attack on the landlords was a synonymous term for attack on the British Government. What did the hon. Member for Long-ford say? I am sorry to weary the House with these quotations; but it is important that the country should know the reason why we, and the class to which we belong, are so fiercely attacked. What did the hon. Member for Longford say twice in America, when he went to enlist the sympathy of his friends there? He said, speaking at Boston on December 24, 1881:—We believe that landlordism is the prop of English rule, and we are working to take that prop away. To drive out British rule from Ireland we must strike at the foundation, and that foundation is landlordism.A month later he was at New Orleans, and there he repeated the words with emphasis. Speaking at New Orleans on February 4, 1882, he said:—We wish to get rid of British rule in Ireland. Landlordism is the prop of that rule. It must be abolished.This may be looked upon as ancient history, but all along the line and up to the present day hon. Members and their friends have pointed out to the Irish people that the end and aim of their efforts was not to reduce rents and to get rid of landlords, but to throw off the hated rule of Great Britain. The Rev. Mr. Cantwell, P.P., on September 23, 1886, in Dublin, said:—All our action with regard to this intermediary question of the landlords and tenants is only a step towards the great goal of Irish nationality.Even the other day the hon. Member for Wexford in a speech—I want to show how continuous is the line of 508 thought and action of hon. Members opposite—on the 12th May the hon. Member for Wexford said:—I have always held the view that the farmers of Ireland, once they become independent and are no longer serfs, will be strong in the desire for Home Rule. So, I repeat, this is not a land movement; it is a National movement, and even if to-morrow the land question were settled, and the farmers showed apathy to the National cause, we should denounce the farming class as we denounce the landlord class who stand in the way of the National cause.["Hear, hear!"] I am glad hon. Gentlemen acknowledge the accuracy of the statement; it shows that they, at any rate, have the courage of their convictions; but I think it is a very grave thing when we find right hon. Gentlemen opposite who have held high positions in the State adopting principles which, in recent times, they so utterly condemned. What did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian say the other day at Torquay? He said this:—Never, I think, gentlemen, in my recollection, has there been so interminable a series of details of the painful processes connected with eviction processes, which in many cases, I fear, have been put in motion for the purpose of enforcing claims in themselves impossible and unjust.Impossible and unjust! And he himself established these claims by the Act of 1881!And processes which, even when they may be excusable, can never be otherwise than odious in the eyes of a free people, because we ought to feel that if we cannot manage the affairs of Ireland in such a way as to avoid social evils of this kind perpetually recurring and having such a tendency to promote general disaffection, we ought to allow the Irish to see whether they cannot manage their own affairs better.What does that mean? It means that the Irish people are to go on from day to day perpetuating the recurrence of these scenes; and if, by a perpetuation of these scenes, they can show and prove to the British people and Parliament that the law of the land cannot be enforced, and that the hands of British Government are effete and nerveless, and allow the reins of Government to fall into the dust, then, forsooth, the men who have defied your authority and contemned the law are to be made the rulers of Ireland. I say no statement more reckless was ever made in the course of political controversy. 509 We who are now in the front of this battle are fighting that the authority of the law shall be maintained. We may be shattered with the cause we seek to sustain. We may fall; our position is not a happy one. As the right hon. Gentleman said, in times gone by, "the hour glass is turned and the sands are sinking." Well, we may fall; but if we do we shall have the proud consciousness of this—that we fall like Irish gentlemen, contending for the cause for which our forefathers fought, and for which we are not ashamed to fall.
§ MR. SEXTON
When the hon. and gallant Gentleman talks about himself and his friends being prepared to fall like Irish gentleman, he, no doubt, means that they will fall backwards, borne down with the weight of 23 years' purchase in their coat-tail pockets. The Chief Secretary is in the habit of claiming for himself the credit of some improvement in the state of Ireland, and whatever deficiency in that claim is due to his modesty is always made up by his friends; but happening to know something of Ireland, I venture to say that any improvement that may be visible is due, not to the efforts of the Chief Secretary, but to the extent to which his evil policy has been counteracted by the feelings and action of representative Englishmen, like my hon. Friend the Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. J. E. Ellis), the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Rowntree), and others. Whatever may be the issue of the Motion before the House, the wise and kindly action of hon. Members above the Gangway will be sure to bear good fruit. I am not surprised that the Motion does not meet with the approval of the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh. Touching the substance of his speech, I must say that he has emptied before the House the same old wallet of mouldy scraps, and I shall not disgust the sense of the House by turning over the decayed materials. He has indulged in the same old jokes in the manner of a circus humourist; but I will not take notice of them, because the profession of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, so far as he has any discernible profession, is to defame his country. I thought I discovered in one part of his speech an allusion to a certain great process now going on, and to the inefficient manner 510 in which it is conducted; an attempt to eke out the poor forensic powers of the Attorney General, and the inefficient judicial conduct of Sir James Hannen and his colleagues, by trying to decide before the House of Commons a cause now before a great tribunal. The hon. and gallant Gentleman would have better followed the professions of his Party by leaving these matters to the decision of the tribunal itself. I do not expect the hon. and gallant Gentleman to give countenance to arbitration. The hon. and gallant Member claims to be an Irishman; but he is at present engaged in the promotion of joint stock speculations for providing the capital to banish Irish tenants from their homes. I do not expect an Irishman who goes so far in malignity against his own people to give any countenance to the attempt by arbitration to secure them in their homes. Moreover, nothing but fighting will servo the turn of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and only should he stoop from his Olympian height and assist in arbitration for Irish tenants when he has at his back a squad of anonymous British officers who are pledged to any extent to follow him even to the height of offering forcible resistance to the will of the Irish people expressed in a Parliamentary manner. I regard the fighting characteristic of the hon. and gallant Gentleman with tranquillity, though it may yet bring him before the termination of his career to breaking stones, not upon the road, perhaps, but in a more inconvenient place. I call to mind that when fighting had to be done as a matter of duty, the hon. and gallant Member managed to keep very clear of it. He had then a little Plan of Campaign of his own—a sort of "no fight" manifesto. Well, if the case of the Ponsonby estate was left in a bad condition by the hon. Member for South Hunts, the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh put it in a worse condition. The omissions of the hon. Member for South Hunts were remarkable. He told the House that he would not attempt to argue whether or not a great part of the value of the estate had been created by the tenants; he told the House he would not argue as to the sufficiency of the reductions; but even in the meagre narrative he gave, there were some remarkable facts. What where the terms offered by Mr. 511 Ponsonby according to the hon. Member? First, that every penny of the arrears admitted and proved to be unjust by the voluntary action of the landlord and by the decisions of the Courts should remain as a debt against the tenants upon which they were to pay interest; and, secondly, that the tenants wore to purchase on such a calculation that the annual instalments payable to the Government would be far in excess of Griffith's valuation. Does the hon. Member attempt to argue that that is, or even can be, maintained as just? I speak within the knowledge of the House when I say Griffith's valuation was made as a valuation of the rent which a solvent tenant would pay from year to year for the holding as it stood, including tenant's improvements; and it was made, moreover, when prices were high and buoyant, and not as they are now, low, and sinking lower. The offer of Mr. Ponsonby was not an offer that the tenant could fairly accept. An attempt has been made to confuse the issue by introducing a number of figures; but I put the case broadly before the House, when I say the tenants on the one hand offered £104,000, and the agent offered to accept £110,000. The hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hunts has been unsuccessful in an attempt to define further sums he mentioned. He has spoken of certain charges on the land, but he has not defined them.
§ MR. SEXTON
The information in my hands leads me to the conclusion that these charges were included in the £128,000 first stated by Mr. Brunker. It is remarkable that the difference between the first offer of Mr. Brunker—£128,000—and his offer of £110,000 corresponds with the sum of £18,000, the charges stated by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Smith Barry). But whether that be so or not, the agent asked £110,000 and the tenants offered £104,000. We have a letter under the agent's hand in which he says that the negotiations had almost reached the point of settlement; that he would make every effort to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion; and that he had no doubt his efforts would be successful. I ask 512 this assembly, why at that moment did the hon. Member for South Hunts, who had no connection with the estate, step in as the Mephistopheles of peace? It is perfectly manifest that if the agent had been allowed to continuo to negotiate these tenants would before now have been settled in their holdings. There is no English landlord opposite who would not be ashamed to have it said of him that he had interfered in such a way with the tenants of other people. I do not think there is one English landlord opposite who, however he may be constrained by Party exigencies to vote upon this or any other question, will not in his conscience and heart condemn the hon. Member for South Hunts for the cruel and wanton course he has taken—a course unworthy of a representative man, unworthy of a generous minded gentleman, and manifestly opposed to the public interest and public peace. The hon. Member made a bad case for himself; but the case was made worse by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson). In reply to the challenge, "What business had the hon. Member for South Hunts to interfere," the hon. and gallant Gentleman said "the Irish landlords have a personal concern in the property of every landlord in Ireland." Now, if Irish landlords, with all the law upon their side, with all the administration upon their side, with juries packed in their interest, every recourse of law and Government at their service, have such a personal concern in the properties of each other that it is right of them to combine or to form themselves into a joint stock company to drive the tenants of any one landlord from their homes, then I ask, have not the tenants on any particular estate a personal concern—I do not go so far as to say in the affairs of all tenants in Ireland, but only in the affairs of their fellow tenants upon the same estate. Have they not a right to combine with one another not to evict other people from their homes, but to save themselves from expulsion? That is the morality of the Plan of Campaign, make the legality of it what you like. Speaking for the Irish landlords the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh said, "We stand or fall together." Well, and so do we. So do the tenants. If the observance of that 513 laudable maxim on the part of the landlords is patriotic and Constitutional, is it immoral and criminal on the part of the tenants? The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke of law and order being treated as a joke. Who have made law and order a joke? The Party opposite. They pass laws to suit the interests of their Party. They allow those laws to be administered according to the will and caprice of the most discredited and incompetent of their servants. Law and order a joke! Why, when the Government have reduced law and order in Ireland to the position of an instrument or servant of a class, it has become a very bitter joke indeed for the masses of the Irish people. The hon. Member for North Armagh referred to a speech my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) delivered in America eight years ago, and said my hon. Friend declared for the total abolition of rent. I declare for the total abolition of rent. The whole Irish Party declare for the abolition of rent, and the curious part of it is that the Party opposite do the same, for what else does the Ashbourne Act, and £5,000,000 one year and £5,000,000 another, and the Land Purchase Scheme, involving £50,000,000 or £100,000,000, which will be introduced next year, mean? I wish to ask the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh whether the hon. Member for South Tyrone is an accredited Member of the Unionist Party? The hon. and gallant Gentleman discloses a prudence incompatible with military dash in not answering the question. This morning there is reported in the Times a speech of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, in which he states as the first article of what he calls a constructive policy for Ireland the termination of dual ownership. What is that but the abolition of rent? Now, what is the genesis of the Plan of Campaign? The Chief Secretary for Ireland refused in 1886 to pass the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). He passed the Bill in a modified form next year. If he had passed that Bill, or founded any reasonable legislation upon it, at the time it was introduced, we should never have heard of the Plan of Campaign. If even in 1887 the right hon. Gentleman had in- 514 serted in his Bill any provision to liquidate arrears, if he had allowed the Court to deal equitably with arrears, arrears which according to the voluntary action of many landlords and the Judgments of the Courts were impossible and could not be collected, the Plan of Campaign would have come to a speedy end. That is the genesis of the Plan of Campaign. The tenants found themselves driven to desperation, they felt that their last chance was the Plan of Campaign, and they adopted it. I maintain that the responsibility for the Plan of Campaign and its sequel rests solely upon the shoulders of the right hon. Gentleman. But I claim for the Plan of Campaign, and I challenge the Chief Secretary to deny it, that it has led to many settlements. Landlords in Ireland by the dozen have admitted in the most practical way the justice of the Plan of Campaign by yielding to the demands of the tenants. Can the right hon. Gentleman say that in any case any landlord has ever declared the claims to be unjust, or has expressed regret for yielding to them? But that is not all. I claim that the demands of the tenants under the Plan of Campaign have in every case been justified—firstly, by reductions freely granted by many landlords in the same district to tenants under similar conditions, and secondly in the reductions granted in the Land Courts to tenants able to seek the intervention of these tribunals. I see that on the Munster estates of Lord Kenmare fair rents have been fixed on 19 holdings, and that the rents have been reduced from an aggregate of £577 to £430, a reduction of 25 per cent. Thus, Sir, what the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh stigmatises as an illegal conspiracy stands justified in the most formal manner.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
Will the hon. Member state the percentage taken off the rents of the tenants of the Corporation of Dublin, of which he is Lord Mayor?
§ MR. SEXTON
The Corporation of Dublin are forbidden by law to make abatements of rents; but when the Land Act passed, they not only gave every facility to the tenants to go into Court, but they actually extended that right to leasehold tenants. If the landlords of Ireland had followed the example of the Corporation of Dublin, the land 515 question would have settled itself. The reason why I think the policy of arbitration is one of urgent pressure, is because of the course being pursued in Ireland by the Government and the landlord party—a course which I think shows rather the temper of the gamecock than the prudence of the statesman. They are fighting the Plan of Campaign, and want to beat it; and as long as they think they are beating it, they care nothing for order or for peace. If that course of conduct be continued, evictions will be continued which will gravely imperil the public peace. What happened last week on this very Ponsonby estate? While some tenants were being evicted, a number of people assembled in an enclosed piece of land belonging to the parish priest and raised a cheer. Colonel Caddell ordered the police to break into the ground, which they did, and batoned from the ground the people to whom the parish priest had given permission to go there. I want to know whether in Ireland the mere fact of cheering entitled the police to break into that private ground. Canon Keller, in respectful language, complained to Captain Plunkett, who told him to go about his business. Captain Plunkett then gave an order to the police, who assaulted the priest in the presence of his congregation, and the Member in the presence of his constituents, by pushing them along the high road. I will mention another incident. Four girls, the daughters of a widow, had been evicted from their home. They were arrested, and were inside the lines of police, when a person named Crockett, who would appear to be some one of importance, as he was admitted inside the lines, asked one of the girls to kiss him. Colonel Caddell was standing by when the low-lived rascal made this proposal. Would anyone have blamed him if he had kicked that fellow out of the place, or at least rebuked him and placed him under arrest? Colonel Caddell, a magistrate in the execution of his duty, turned to the girl, and, pointing to some whitewash on the back of her dress, said, "You must have been kissing the police inside"—a vile insinuation. I denounce the conduct of Colonel Caddell as unmanly and disgraceful, and I say that he ought to follow Captain Segrave out of the Public Service. But 516 why should we talk of subordinates when the responsibility rests upon the Minister who countenances, favours, and stimulates these blackguards? By his conduct the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) proves himself to be not a friend, but an enemy of the public peace. Some time ago I endeavoured to induce the right hon. Gentleman to favour the method of arbitration and to use his influence on the Vandeleur estate, but he refused to say a single word to promote or encourage arbitration. The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Henniker Heaton) told me a few days after that the landlord was disposed to arbitration, and the tenants on that, as on every other occasion, proved themselves ready to facilitate every offer of the kind. The hon. and learned Member for Hackney (Sir C. Russell) was named arbitrator, and the first result was that 26 tenants were restored to their homes, and the second result was that 500 tenants went in and paid their rents, not in consequence of the action of the Chief Secretary, but in spite of it. I admit that it was a most unpromising case. Many evictions had taken place on the estate, and many persons had been thrown into gaol; but the moment the landlord consented to arbitration everything was plain sailing, and the situation became tranquil. There was one case of an evicted tenant in which Colonel Vandeleur was anxious to come to a settlement and to restore him. But Colonel Turner, accompanied by Captain Welch, went to the house and urged the tenant not to settle with the landlord. So that Colonel Turner, at the critical moment of negotiations upon which depended the security of 500 tenants, interfered, not for the purpose of promoting peace, but to prevent it, just as if the right hon. Gentleman, having passed a Coercion Act, thought it necessary to provide work for it. Three years ago, and every moment since, the Archbishop of Dublin has applied his eminent abilities to induce the landlords to consent to arbitration. But he was told that his plea for arbitration was a cry for mercy, that the tenants were beaten, that they were driven to the wall, and that they would get law and nothing but law. A private agent of the Government, one who turns up at evictions when the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. 517 Hayes Fisher) and the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) are engaged in festive scenes, told a tenant the other day that the Plan of Campaign was beaten and that Dillon had not got enough money to bring him home from Australia. The right hon. Gentleman will be glad to hear that the mission of Mr. Dillon has turned out a splendid success, that the Plan of Campaign is not beaten, and that the tenants are not driven to the wall. Their claims are just; to those claims they will adhere, and they will win justice, if not with the concurrence of the right hon. Gentleman, without his consent and against his will.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I am sorry that this debate upon certain important questions connected with Irish land was not destined to come to an end without being seasoned with some of the familiar calumnies against the Ministers of the law in Ireland. I do not propose to go in detail into the allegations made against Colonel Caddell and Colonel Turner. In both the stories which the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Mayor of Dublin (Mr. Sexton) has told, he has been utterly and entirely misinformed; and it would be well, before he gives currency to calumnies in this House, that he should take pains to acquaint himself with the truth of what he says.
§ MR. SEXTON
I have taken what I consider to be sufficient pains to ascertain the truth, and I have evidence which I will be willing to submit to the right hon. Gentleman if he so far departs from his usual course as to grant an inquiry.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am perfectly willing to listen to any statement of the right hon. Gentleman, but he cannot have a Commission of Inquiry upon every subject. Leaving the personal questions which the right hon. Gentleman has thought fit to foist into the debate, and coming to the more general issues, it appears to me that in the course of the discussion to-night most of the old familiar fallacies with respect to the land question have been raised and aired afresh. The hon. Gentleman who initiated the discussion asked why I never replied to the argument that as there was an Arrears Act dealing with the crofters there ought to be an Arrears Act dealing with the 518 Irish tenants. I have answered that question till I am sick of answering it. In the case of the Irish tenants, as in the case of the crofter tenants, this House determined in its wisdom that rents should be fixed by a legal tribunal. Holding that view they thought it right that the new system should be initiated by wiping off the old arrears which hung round the necks of the tenants. They did not adopt in the crofters' case, and they did not adopt in the Irish case, a policy which would involve the passing every five or six years of another Arrears Act, which would not only re-open all the old questions, but should wipe off not rents accruing before judicial rents became possible, but arrears which accrued after that period. That is a perfectly clear and definite statement. The case of the crofters and of the Irish tenants is, I grant, broadly speaking, on all fours, and when the hon. Gentleman again talks on this subject I hope, at all events, he will not say I have shirked the argument put forward, or was afraid to give him an answer which I believe is adequate and complete. Then the hon. Gentleman went on to state what, in one sense, is undoubtedly true—namely, that in Ireland the improvements are largely the work of the tenants, in a degree in which they are not the work of the tenants either in England or Scotland. I do not think it is so good a system as the English or Scotch system, but it is not a correct deduction to say that the tenants are the true owners of all the value of the soil which is not prairie value. I say the existing system of law, by which the tenant is amply protected, whether on eviction or on leaving his farm voluntarily, from losing any part of the value of his improvements, is the true system, and that the tenant has no right to the increment in the original value of the soil which is not due to his efforts. The third point is the conclusion that is to be drawn from the fact that the Irish Land Courts have lowered the rents of the Irish landlords. The hon. Gentleman, following in this case the bad example set him by many hon. Gentlemen who sit near him, stated that because the Irish Land Courts have reduced the rents 20 or 30 per cent, the Irish landlords were exacting before those deductions unjust rents. The hon. Gentleman must be perfectly aware that 519 coincidently with the passing of the Act of 1881 there was a large fall in the value of land in England, in Scotland, and in Ireland. In England and Scotland, where rents are not fixed by a Court, the lowering of rent was arranged by mutual agreement between landlord and tenant. In Ireland you provided a Court to carry out that operation; and because that arrangement is made, and because the results with regard to the lowering of rent have followed similarly to the results which have happened in England and Scotland, you hurl the monstrous calumny against the Irish landlords that they have been robbing their tenants. I hope hon. Gentlemen will no more accuse the Irish landlords of robbing their tenants because, in 1881–2–3 or 1884, the rents were lowered, than he would accuse the English or Scotch landlords of robbing their tenants because, in consequence of agricultural distress and the fall in prices, there has been a fall in the general value of land. This is a debate on the subject of evictions, and it appears to be assumed by all the speakers that the question of eviction is in a specially acute form at the present moment. It is nothing of the kind. There have always been evictions in Ireland, and there always must be evictions in any country where either land or house property exists, and where the tenants of either land or houses refuse to pay their rents. That proceeding necessarily ends in eviction, whether it be in England, in France, in Germany, or in America. But hon. Gentlemen are greatly mistaken if they think that this difficulty is in a specially acute form. The hon. Gentleman appeared to think that since 1886, when this Government came into office, there had been a special number of evictions, meaning by that the process by which a man is turned out of his home. I find, however, according to the best calculations, that the number from 1882 to 1884 inclusive was 6,887, and that in 1886–88 inclusive, the corresponding three years of the present Administration, the number was 3,951.
§ * MR. J. E. ELLIS
Has the right hon. Gentleman included the notices under Section 7 of the Land Act, 1887, which, as he well knows, have the force of eviction?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
When I talk of evictions I mean evictions—namely, 520 the tenants being turned out on the roadside, that process with regard to which the feelings of the people of England are stirred by hon. Gentlemen's rhetoric, and I say that the number of evictions in these years under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was nearly double the number in three years under the present Government. I hope nobody will infer that I attribute any blame to the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. I do not, of course. Just as I am not to blame for evictions, so he is not to blame for the evictions which took place under his administration. But let it be understood that this difficulty of evictions is not in a specially acute form at present; on the contrary, it is far less acute than when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was in office. Almost all the difficulties we have in regard to evictions are on the Plan of Campaign estates. The chief specimen of a Plan of Campaign estate which has been brought under the notice of the House to-night is that of the Ponsonby estate, and we have had a great deal of bandying backwards and forwards of figures on this subject. It appears to me that the facts are very simple. No human being can deny that Mr. Ponsonby had a perfect right to dispose of the estate as he pleased. The question is not whether Mr. Ponsonby had or had not the right to sell his estate. The only question is whether the new owners of it are or are not dealing harshly with their tenants. On that essential point there is not a shadow of justification. I will just remind the House, as it is now a good deal fuller than it was when the hon. Member for South Hunts spoke, of the broad aspects of the case. These tenants owe four years' rent. They have not, broadly speaking, paid 6d. of rent for four years. The landlord is prepared to accept in the case of non-judicial tenants one year's rent, less 20 per cent down, and to capitalize the remainder at 3 per cent. But the right hon. Gentleman says that it is capitalized on unjust arrears. Well, if they are unjust arrears, why did not the tenants go into Court? [Cries of "Leaseholders."] There are leaseholders, and there are judicial tenants, but it is not necessary to decide that point, and I will give the 521 House reasons that will even permeate the mind of the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. J. E. Ellis). The landlord has offered all those tenants to go into Court, and make the reductions of the Court retrospective. So that not only are the arrears to be capitalized at the rate of 3 per cent, which is in itself a most generous proposal, as the hon. Member opposite will admit—if he is the owner of cottage property I do not know whether he would always be prepared to accept arrears in this capitalized form—but the arrears are not unjust arrears; they are arrears the amount of which is practically determined by the decision of the Land Court. The only pretence to argument that I have heard against the justice of this proposal is that Griffith's valuation is lower than the rents. This is a little excusable from the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division, but it is not what I should have expected from the Lord Mayor of Dublin (Mr. Sexton). The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that Griffith's valuation, speaking generally, is not a test of rent. Sometimes it is far too low; but it was never intended to represent the full letting value of the holding. It was supposed to be a third less than the letting value. ["No, no!"] It was always intended to be a good deal less than the letting value. ["No."] To that statement I adhere: but, apart from that, the conditions of agriculture have so changed—[Mr. SEXTON: For the worse]—in Ireland, sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better, that in no part of Ireland is it ever safe to take Griffith's valuation as a fair test for the proper rent. This is a commonplace, and I have heard that very fact brought forward by the Irish Party, when it happened to tell in their direction, though we might have Griffith's valuation urged against the justice of the proposal for the Ponsonby estate. The most vehement invective has been brought against my hon. Friend the Member for South Hunts because he, not being the landlord but a stranger to the estate, has chosen to mix himself up in its affairs. I am amazed that that argument should be used by hon. Gentlemen. What have they got to do with the estates in which they mix themselves up? Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to make this House 522 believe that the Plan of Campaign is, as a rule, the spontaneous act on the part of the tenants of the various estates?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman corrects me; he thinks the action has been spontaneous on the part of the tenants. All I can say is that their spontaneity is shown in a very singular manner. We have the tenants loudly-promised support out of the Central Land League funds. I am not aware that it is either a tenant or a landlord; this organization is a stranger which promises support to the tenants. They send down a gentleman expert in the art of fortification to arrange for the defence of the holdings. Is that a spontaneous act on their part? Is that leaving each estate to manage its own affairs?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think the right hon. Gentleman will hardly get the House to believe that. We know well enough that directly the tenants of any estate show the slightest desire to abandon the Plan of Campaign, some hon. Member goes down to make a violent speech denouncing those persons as traitors to the national cause, using language which, however it be intended, is on the spot interpreted as an inducement to intimidation and outrage. Am I to be told that estates on which this is done are acting spontaneously? And how am I to reconcile this supposed spontaneity on the part of the tenants with what we know of tenants going to pay their rent secretly to the agent and every device being adopted by those persons who wish to be honest, but dare not be honest in the face of day, in order to break loose from that disgraceful and illegal conspiracy—the Plan of Campaign? The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, in one of the speeches he recently made, appeared to give his hearers to understand that never before in his experience bad there been so long a series of painful details connected with evictions in Ireland. I have told the House that the numbers of evictions are fewer by far now than they were in the time of the right hon. Gentleman him- 523 self, and if there are painful details who is responsible? It is those who organize from a distance those elaborate scenes. It is those who send out orators to inveigh and intimidate. It is those who send out agents to barricade and organize resistance. They are the people who are responsible for the long series of painful incidents in which I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in deploring. The time at my disposal has elapsed. The Lord Mayor of Dublin told the House that the landlord had the law on his side, but that the tenants had no law on their side—that they were not protected. The Irish tenants are protected as no tenants in the world are protected. The law which protects their interests is a law more detailed, more elaborate, more carefully contrived to protect every interest they have than the law of landlord and tenant in any other civilized country of the world. The hon. Member (Mr. J. E. Ellis) told us tenants were robbed of their improvements. Their improvements are protected by every conceivable method. If they leave voluntarily, or if they are evicted, it is the tenants' fault alone if they do not get compensation for the improvements they or their predecessors in title have made on the farm. That their rents are not unjust is the proud boast that hon. Gentlemen opposite have made of their legislation. Are they then not protected in the matter of evictions? We have had a debate of nearly four hours, and I have hardly heard an allusion to Clause 30 of the Act of 1887. Under that clause every single tenant who has been threatened with eviction or has been evicted since the month of August, 1887, nearly two years ago, has the right—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
With holdings under £50—that is, the enormous mass of the tenants—can before actual eviction apply to the Court to have eviction stayed and to have their arrears spread over, if necessary, an indefinite number of years [Cries of "No."] over any number of years the Court may thin) fair. In a recent case they were spread over ten years. ["Never before."] It is in the power of the Court. I am talking of the law. They have a right to go to the Court, and the Court can 524 spread the arrears over any period it likes. These are privileges no other tenants in the world have got, and if they have not availed themselves of them the reason is that they have been ill-led, that it has been thought more profitable for a Political Party to have evictions in Ireland than to let the tenants feel that they owe to a Conservative Government their protection from harsh and capricious eviction. Now, what is the present proposal? The Front Bench opposite have not informed the House of their views on the subject. Do they desire that the law shall he inforced? Silence—I perceive they do desire that the law should be enforced. All that we are doing is to enforce the law, and what, therefore, is the complaint against us? We have been told by the hon. Member for North Dublin and by the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Mayor of Dublin that the system of purchase is the true remedy. In that they agree with us. That has long been my creed, avowed in this House many years ago, before I thought I should have anything to do with the practical government of Ireland; but how is a purchase scheme or any other plan to succeed if you teach the tenants of Ireland they may settle their own terms by illegal combination and if you denounce every attempt to enforce the law? This will not only be fatal to a settlement of the land question, not merely unjust to landlords, but it will carry a curse with it that will make absolutely impossible or barren of any good result any effort this House may subsequently make to substitute some better system of land tenure than that which now unhappily prevails in Ireland.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 248; Noes 178.—(Div. List, No. 150.)
§ Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair"
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ It being after One of the clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.
§ House adjourned at ten minutes after One o'clock till Monday next.