*(4.17.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central) rose to call attention to the remaining disputes between large bodies of tenants in Ireland and their landlords, which arose in the years 1885–7; and to move—
That, in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to use its influence for the settlement by arbitration of the remaining disputes between large bodies of tenants in Ireland and their landlords, which arose in the years 1885–7, and, if necessary, to propose legislation to Parliament for effecting this purpose.
The right hon. Gentleman said: I had desired to raise the question which forms the substance of my Motion by way of Instruction to the Land Purchase Bill. It seemed to me that when we are invited to enter upon the discussion of a great agrarian measure for Ireland, by which it is proposed ultimately to abolish dual ownership, and incidentally to reduce very greatly the annual payment of those tenants whose landlords agree to sell, it would be wise statesmanship to sweep away the dregs of a past agrarian movement and to conciliate Irish opinion towards the new measure by getting rid of the remaining disputes between landlords and tenants, and by restoring to their holdings the 2,000 to 3,000 evicted tenants, who, in the almost universal opinion of Irishmen, have been unjustly evicted. If, again, any estates of Irish landlords are to be bought by English money, it would seem to be wise
to buy up those whose owners have been the cause of the unfortunate disputes rather than those of the better landlords, who, under Lord Ashbourne's Act, have been clearing out of the country. When I found that I could not raise this question on the Land Bill, I delivered in this Motion. My personal justification is that I have visited, myself, many of the estates which are the subject of my Motion; that I have always come away from them deeply impressed with the importance of bringing these miserable disputes to an end, believing that it can only be effected by arbitration. I have never lost an opportunity of urging this course on both landlords and tenants, and whenever I have spoken on the subject in this House I have always urged the Government to use their influence in this direction, and, if necessary, to propose legislation on the subject. I believe I am right in saying that there are not more than 15 or 20 estates, at the outside, where these disputes exist. From these estates 2,000 to 3,000 tenants have been evicted. They are all living in temporary huts close by their former holdings, sustained by the contributions of Irishmen in every part of the world, and living in confident belief that they will be reinstated in their holdings. Except in the case of two estates, no advance whatever has been made towards re-letting the lands from which these people have been evicted. Although great efforts have been made to bribe Protestant tenants from the North at very low rents, by a free gift of the evicted tenants' interest, to take these farms, no one has been found to run counter to the overwhelming weight of public opinion of the district by taking the farms. They lie derelict and uncultivated; no one who has not seen them can have an idea of the desolation. The houses have often been burnt or razed to the ground. The land is covered breast-high with thistles; the remaining tenants in possession on these estates are living in constant expectation of being evicted; they are unable to farm; their cattle are constantly distrained and carried away. These disputes are the remnants of a very much larger number of cases where disputes arose in 1886. I believe I am right in saying that there were a hundred of such cases. I have no desire to embark
in a historical discourse, but it is necessary to remind the House that these disputes arose in consequence of the great fall of prices of agricultural produce, and the failure of Parliament to legislate on the subject in 1886. It is incontestable that if the Act of the following year had been passed a year sooner, these disputes would never have occurred; or if the Act of 1887 had been made retrospective, in the sense of dealing with the arrears which had grown up in the interval extending the period of redemption, the disputes would have been settled. In the interval the tenants finding their appeal to Parliament for remedial legislation, disregarded, turned their attention to agitation and to combination, and adopted what may be called extra legal methods. The better landlords of Ireland made large abatements of rent cases, of judicial rents varying from 20 to 40 per cent.; a minority of landlords, as is always the case in Ireland, stood on the legal rights, and refused to make any abatement. The tenants then combined together, and adopted the form of combination known as the Plan of Campaign. I am not going to defend that, or many of the things which took place. I will only say that in no previous agrarian movement in Ireland has there been so small an amount of crime in the true sense of the term. There are many who suffer from the Plan of Campaign on the brain who think that those who engaged in these combinations were actuated only by fraud. Lord Salisbury has recently said that all those engaged in these disputes were engaged in swindling and stealing their landlords' property. This, in my view, is an utterly wrong view of the case. The tenants are not tenants in the English sense of the term—they are joint-owners; they claimed that when a great agrarian crisis occurred, it was not right or fair that the whole of the loss should fall on one of the joint owners and none on the others; their claim was admitted by all the good landlords, and was conceded by the Legislature the next year. The sequel has shown that in the vast majority of cases the tenants were justified in their demands. I desire to point out that out of the 100 cases of combination, 80 have been practically settled. The cause in all was the same, the landlords refusing to make any abatement; the tenants
then combined to demand abatements; the landlords then began to evict, and the Government supported the landlords with all the powers of the Coercion Act. It will not, it cannot be, denied that the main, if not the sole, use of the Coercion Act has been to break down these combinations to enable the landlords to evict, to support them in securing arrears of full and excessive rent. Nineteen out of 20 cases under the Coercion Act have been directly or indirectly connected with these disputes. I have no desire to raise a Debate on the Coercion Act, otherwise I should be tempted to dilate on its utter failure. What I desire to point is this. In no single case that I am aware of has a combination been broken down. A large number have been settled; 80 out of the 100 have been brought to an end. So far as I have been able to obtain information, the settlements have been effected in all of these cases upon the basis of a large abatement of rent, as large in most cases as the tenants originally asked for, and such as, if offered in the first instance, would have avoided all dispute. In every single case the evicted tenants have been replaced in their holdings. In some cases settlements have been arrived at by arbitration with the happiest results; but in all the cases the arbitrators have awarded abatements as large, or closely approaching the amounts originally demanded. In no case can it be said that the combination has been actually put down. Now, Sir, there remain about 15 or 20 cases of combination, and in those cases there is strong evidence to show that the tenants on the whole were justified in their demands. There is hardly any case in which the landlords have not made offers to their tenants, which, if made in the first instance, would have avoided all the trouble. The main difficulty in these cases is, that as a rule the landlords will not concede to the evicted tenants the same terms they are prepared to give to those still in possession; many will not allow the re-instatement of the evicted tenants, while others refused to reinstate the leaders only, or else offer terms which it is not possible to accept. On the other hand, the tenants are on their part unwilling to abandon the evicted tenants, and in consequence refuse to come to terms singly with their
landlords. They ask that all shall be treated alike; they hold that as men of honour they are bound to stand by one another, and they will not desert those who have fought the battle for them. I believe that is the main difficulty in all the existing disputes. Now I wish to illustrate the position by two or three cases. First as to the well-known case of Lord Clanricarde. In 1885, when the agrarian difficulty first began, his tenants sent a petition asking for an abatement of 25 per cent. The Petition was signed by Dr. Healy, the Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese—a prelate whose sympathies are well known to be in favour of the landlords. It was also signed by the Protestant Rector. The agent, in forwarding the Petition, evidently indicated an opinion that the demand ought to be complied with; he stated that the year was a very bad one, and that neighbouring landlords were giving reductions of rent, and he hoped his Lordship would see his way to giving an abatement to the tenants who had not gone into Court. Lord Clanricarde reprimanded his agent for forwarding the Petition, and never gave any reply to it. His tenants then entered into a combination. This took place a year before the Plan of Campaign was devised. Lord Clanricarde thereupon instructed his agent to proceed against them with drastic measures. I may mention that never during the 19 years he has been in possession of the property, has he once been in Ireland to see it. Evictions being resorted to, were resisted with great force by the tenant. I need not remind the House of the correspondence that took place later between the late Chief Secretary, the President of the Board of Trade, and Lord Clanricarde on the subject, in the course of which the former refused any longer to allow the forces of the Crown to be used for the purposes of these evictions, unless he made a reduction of rent equivalent to that granted by neighbouring landlords. Lord Clanricarde then made a feeble and imaginary reduction, which certainly did not satisfy the necessities of the case, and later on, when the present Chief Secretary came into power, the evictions were resumed, the aid of the forces of the Crown being no longer
refused. After three years' fighting, and after 100 tenants had been evicted, Lord Clanricarde came to the conclusion that it would be wise to make some abatement, and for the first time he offered a 20 per cent. reduction. If that offer had been made at the commencement of the dispute it would have avoided all difficulty. His agent, before Lord Cowper's Commission, stated in his evidence that if he had been permitted to make that abatement, there would, in all probability, have been no combination on the part of the tenants. When the offer was made the tenants would only accept it on condition that the evicted tenants were reinstated. Lord Clanricarde declined positively to reinstate any of them, and accordingly this miserable dispute went on, and something like 150 more tenants were evicted. A remarkable document appeared in the Times today. It is a letter from Bishop Healy, who has been negotiating with Mr. Tener, Lord Clanricarde's agent, on behalf of some of the evicted tenants, desiring to know on what terms they could be reinstated in their holdings. From the agent's answer, published in the Times, it appears that the terms on which Lord Clanricarde is willing to reinstate evicted tenants are so monstrous that no tenant can possibly agree to them. In the first place, he will only reinstate those tenants he may think it desirable to reinstate in the interests of the estate. In the second place, he insists they shall pay rent for the two or three years during which they have been out. It really seems absurd to suppose that anybody could have put forward such proposals; but there they are, showing the spirit in which Lord Clanricarde deals with these cases. I believe I am right in saying that there are 800 other tenants still in possession, but expect to be evicted in the same manner. Many of them are already under notice. It may be said that this is an exceptional case, but that is not so. The case of Lord Massereene has a remarkable resemblance to it. Lord Massereene's agent, Mr. Wynne, one of the best-known men in the North of Ireland, and one of the ablest agents, in 1886 advised his employer to make the same abatement that neighbouring landlords had made, but he refused, and his agent was either dismissed or gave notice, and his
affairs were put into the hands of a firm of Dublin solicitors, gentlemen who have obtained a certain notoriety for the manner in which they deal with these disputes.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
The tenants next met together and sent a deputation to Lord Massereene, who refused to see them. Thenceforward the tenants combined, evictions took place, and the usual serious consequences followed. After the dispute had gone on several months Lord Massereene offered terms which the tenants would have been prepared to accept, subject to the condition that the evicted tenants were reinstated; but, unfortunately, though Lord Massereene was willing to reinstate the tenants generally, he made an exception in the case of three of the leaders, whom he would under no circumstances consent to replace. But the majority of the tenants preferred eviction to the abandonment of their leaders, and this led to the breakdown of the negotiations, as the tenants would not desert these three men. The case of the Ponsonby estate differs from that of the Clanricarde and Massereene estates. Mr. Ponsonby was not unwilling to make an abatement of 15 per cent. The tenants asked 30 per cent., and, being refused, joined the Plan of Campaign. Mr. Ponsonby thereupon began to evict. After many evictions, and after months had gone by, negotiations were opened with a view to the purchase of their holdings by the tenants under the Ashbourne Act; and, according to the statement of the tenants, terms were very nearly agreed to. At that stage the hon. Member for Huntingdon stepped in, and, on behalf of a syndicate of landlords, bought the estate with a view of carrying on the dispute. The hon. Member in a speech to his constituents has since explained that his object in so doing was to defeat the Plan of Campaign, and give such a lesson to the tenants who had taken part in it as would deter others from embarking on a similar course. The hon. Member having bought the estate, made a not unreasonable offer to the tenants. Such an offer, in fact, if it had been made at the outset, would have avoided all the difficulty. In the first 1411 place, however, he was not prepared to reinstate the evicted tenants. Later on he gave way to some extent and agreed to admit them, but insisted upon their paying the rent, for the period during which they had been evicted—in some cases as much as two or three years. Of course, this was impossible, and so all negotiations ceased, and the unfortunate dispute has gone on. During the last few months 250 tenants have been evicted. The tenants were anxious and willing to refer the dispute to arbitration. But the hon. Member for Huntingdon, on behalf of his syndicate, refuses arbitration on the ground that it would be a victory for the Plan of Campaign. The last case I shall mention is that of Mr. Olphert. In this, as in the others, the tenants originally demanded an abatement, and, the landlord offering wholly inadequate terms, the tenants joined the Plan of Campaign, and the evictions proceeded. Efforts were made from time to time to bring this case to a settlement, and I took considerable part in endeavouring to induce Mr. Olphert to agree to refer the matter to arbitration. I saw his son in London, and I also communicated with the hon. Member for South Tyrone on the subject. At one time I had great hopes Mr. Olphert might be induced to adopt this course, but it appears from a statement he made publicly in the North of Ireland that he could not do so, as he had received assistance from other landlords of the district upon the understanding that he would not give way. Over 200 tenants have during the last few weeks been evicted. Undoubtedly Mr. Olphert before the last batch of evictions made offers of a much more generous character than he had ever made before, but no agreement could be arrived at owing to Mr. Olphert being unwilling to reinstate the evicted tenants on the same terms. These are the principal cases, but I could multiply the number if necesssary. Still they fairly illustrate the nature of the existing disputes. As I have already said the difficulty is the reinstatement of the evicted tenants. But I want the House to consider is it reasonable to expect that men who have combined together and promised to stand by one another in order to get an abatement of rent should desert those who have suffered for the general good, and 1412 should abandon their evicted friends? To do so would be playing a dishonourable part. Whatever may have been the condition of the original combination—be it legal or be it criminal—I hold that when the main grounds for which the combination was started have been conceded by the landlords, when the combiners have been granted an abatement of rent, and when the only question remaining is the reinstatement of the evicted tenants, then the combination can no longer be called illegal or criminal. I do not think that any jury could be found in the whole of Christendom to convict tenants of criminal conspiracy under such conditions as these. The Chief Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have stated that if I publicly uttered in Ireland anything illegal I should be treated the same as certain Irish Members have been. Well, I have three times publicly stated this opinion in Ireland, and I presume that, as my words must have been criticised and scrutinised, they have not been found to be illegal. I have frequently said the same thing in this House, and am prepared to justify it either in Ireland or here. Is it not possible to bring these unhappy disputes to an end? Is it not a scandal that the peace of the country should be disturbed because men like Lord Clanricarde and Lord Massereene act in this unreasonable and unjust manner? Arbitration had settled the trouble on the Vandeleur estate as well as on other estates. The dispute on the Vandeleur estate was one of the most difficult I came across in Ireland, because the matter was by no means clear. The landlord offered an abatement, but the tenants demanded a larger abatement, which was refused, so that a combination was entered into, and evictions took place with the usual miserable consequences. I was invited over by the tenants, with a view to endeavouring to bring about an arrangement, and when there I found the greatest possible difficulty in coming to a conclusion as to the real merits of the case. I urged the landlord's agent to agree to arbitration, but without success; but fortunately the hon. Member for Canterbury was more successful. Colonel Vandeleur agreed to the suggestion, and the hon. and learned Member for Hackney undertook the task, his award bringing the dispute to a conclusion. 1413 The tenants received an abatement equal to that which they had originally demanded, the evicted tenants were replaced in their holdings, and peace has been restored to the district. The tenants, I am told, are most desirous of abiding by the award, and the priests are doing their utmost to promote that result. Now, I will venture to make an appeal to the Chief Secretary, and to ask him whether this course might not be pursued in other cases, and whether it does not offer a solution of these disputes. How is it to be brought about? I have no doubt that the best plan of bringing it about would be for the Chief Secretary to bring the influence of the Government to bear upon the remaining landlords who are parties to these disputes. I have not the smallest doubt myself that if the Chief Secretary were to summon these landlords or their agents to the Castle in Dublin, tell them that the peace of the country required that these disputes should be brought to an end, and ask them to accept arbitration, his influence would prevail, more especially if he were to hint that, in the event of their refusal, he would not use the Coercion Act or pack juries to support them. These disputes go on mainly because the landlords are supported by the Coercion Acts and because they know that if any case is tried the jury will be packed for them. If they knew that they would not be supported by the Coercion Act, and that they would not have juries packed for them, my belief is that these disputes would speedily be settled. I would therefore recommend the Chief Secretary to suggest arbitration to the landlords, and to couple the suggestion with a hint in the direction I have referred to. Indeed, I believe that if the right hon. Gentleman were to rise in his place tonight and say he is in favour of arbitration, and thinks these disputes ought to be brought to an end in the way I suggest, his voice would be so influential that within a few days we should hear of the settlement of all these cases. So far the right hon. Gentleman has never lifted his voice in favour of such a settlement. I hope I am not doing him an injustice in this matter; but if he can pick out from his speeches in this House any expression favourable to a settlement, or tending towards peace and conciliation, I will gladly withdraw my statement. 1414 It appears to me that the right hon. Gentleman's action has so far been in the opposite direction, and has tended to urge the landlords to maintain their old attitude. If legislation were necessary to carry out the policy l advocate, I do not think it would be difficult to frame a compulsory measure on the subject. I would suggest that the disputes should be scheduled in the Bill, and that the Board of Arbitrators should be appointed for deciding what abatements should be made in rents. I do not, however, feel it necessary to enter into the details of such a scheme. All I desire to do is to lay down the general principle that these cases would be dealt with by arbitration. I do not deny that the landlords are within their legal rights; they can claim their pound of flesh. But it is not always wise in these days to insist upon the assertion of legal rights. I suppose the Irish landlords in the time of the Irish famine were within their rights in the action they took. Let me remind the House what a great statesman of our time said on this point—I mean Lord John Russell. In Mr. Spencer Walpole's Life of Lord John Russell, recently published, will be found a letter written by that statesman in 1848, when he was Prime Minister of this country. Writing to the Lord Lieutenant in the middle of the famine, Lord J. Russell said—I am not ready to bring in any restrictive law without at the same time restraining the power of the landlords. It is quite true that the landlords of England would not like to be shot at, but neither does any landlord of England turn out 50 families at once and burn their houses down.I say that, however bad the Plan of Campaign and boycotting may be, they are not as bad as wholesale evictions and the burning down of houses by men like Lord Clanricarde. I have purposely restricted my Motion to the disputes which arose between the years 1885 and 1887, so that it does not include the Tipperary case, which comes within a totally different category, as it was a political dispute which arose in consequence of the indignation of the people in respect of the Ponsonby dispute. My confident belief is that if the Ponsonby dispute were settled by arbitration or otherwise, the Tipperary dispute would come to an end. In conclusion, I can only say that every consideration, whether of justice to the tenants, or of 1415 the interests of peace in Ireland, or of wise statesmanship, points to the same suggestion, namely, that the Government ought to use its influence in obtaining a settlement of these cases by arbitration, and if they fail to do so, ought to apply to this House for legislation. I confidently appeal to the House in favour of a policy of peace and conciliation. I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to use its influence for the settlement by arbitration of the remaining disputes between large bodies of tenants in Ireland and their landlords, which arose in the years 1885–7, and, if necessary, to propose legislation to Parliament for effecting this purpose,"—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of Question."
§ (5.9.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
In rising to oppose the Motion I may say there are two things I have no desire to do. I have no desire to enter into any thick and thin defence of Irish landlords, and certainly it is no part of my business, here or anywhere else, to attempt any defence of Lord Clanricarde. Nor have I any intention of condemning in any general way the principle of arbitration. If any landlord, having a dispute with his tenantry, chooses to submit that dispute to arbitration I am perfectly satisfied, and I think he will probably act wisely. But when the right hon. Gentleman comes forward with arbitration as a kind of specific for this disease—a kind of lymph that has simply to be injected into the Plan of Campaign to effect a complete cure of the disease—I take leave to differ with him. And it is on that ground that I oppose the Motion. I can very well understand the anxiety of hon. Members on this side of the House to have the Plan of Campaign out of the way and settled. There are many reasons why they should wish the Plan of Campaign out of the way at the present time. In the first place, it is a very costly business, and the folly of, the hon. Member for North-East Cork and the hon. Member 1416 for East Mayo in launching the Plan of Campaign has been about the most costly folly that Irish. Members have ever committed. Speaking at Chicago on November 29 last, the Member for East Mayo said—During the last two years I myself have been obliged to pay out on the average 25,000 dollars per month for food, and for the purpose of providing means for famishing people.That is to say, after having advised people to give up the means of livelihood that they possessed, and after having used means which amounted, in my opinion, to absolute coercion in order to carry out the Plan, the hon. Member goes to America and informs the American people that this costly folly tots up to an expenditure of something like £5,000 or £6,000 a month. You can well understand, therefore, why hon. Members on this side of the House wish to get rid of the Plan of Campaign. But there are other reasons. There are also contingent liabilities. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford has encouraged the evicted tenants by promising that they shall be reinstated in their holdings when the right hon. Gentleman and his friends return to political power. Now, that is a very dangerous promise for the right hon. Gentleman to make to any such body of people. In the first place, it is a promise which the right hon. Gentleman may never have an opportunity of carrying out; and even if the right hon. Gentleman attains to power he may find it exceedingly difficult to carry it out. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) has given an intimation that he sees difficulties in the way. At any rate, I am certain that the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) does so, for what did he say at Cork on the 17th of December, 1890? He said—I am quoting from the Cork Daily Herald:—What has Mr. Parnell done in the case of the evicted tenants—the men who have sacrificed all for principle, the adopted children of the nation? He has said in that manifesto that the Liberal Party could do nothing for them by means of direct action. That was a misleading declaration. If by direct action is meant legislation, of course we are all aware that the Liberal Party could not command the assent of the House of Lords, but the Liberal Party, when it comes into power, will have the control of the House of Commons, 1417 and control of the House of Commons means control of the purse, and I am not aware of any reason why the Liberal Party, controlling the Exchequer of the country, might not Be enabled to make a grant in aid of the evicted tenants, who had suffered by the unjust exercise of the law.Considering the cost of the Plan of Campaign and the bills drawn on the future, hon. Members on this side of the House have every reason to press for a settlement to get rid, first of the cost, and then of the contingent liabilities. The Member for Bradford seemed to me—I hope I did not misunderstand him, and I certainly do not wish to misrepresent him—to argue that if the Act of 1887 had been passed in time, the Plan of Campaign never would have come into operation, and these evicted tenants never would have suffered.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I have the assent of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian to that statement. I ask the House to look that statement fairly in the face, and contrast it with the actual facts. I do not believe that the Plan of Campaign was brought into operation for the purpose of relieving the tenants at all. I will tell the House why I say so. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), speaking on October 4th, 1888, in Dundalk, while the Plan of Campaign was at its height on the Massereene estate, plainly stated what the struggle meant. He said—The struggle on the land question is only part and parcel of the great struggle for Irish independence, which was fought for in "98, in '48, and in "67.That was why the Plan of Campaign was brought into operation. It was founded on a doctrine preached by Mr. John Mitchell at a much earlier date, when he said—I am convinced, and have long been, that the mass of the Irish people cannot be roused in any quarrel less than social revolution, destruction of landlordism, and denial of every tenure and title derived from English sovereigns.That is the basis of the Plan of Campaign, and not any desire to shield the tenantry. To come now to the question of the Act of 1887, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford asserts that if the Act had been passed in time all the struggle might have been avoided. Now, what did that Act do? 1418 It provided for the revising of the judicial rents for a limited period; but will any hon. Member say that the reductions in the judicial rents granted under that Act ever equalled the reductions offered by the landlords, with the single exception of Lord Clanricarde, before the Plan of Campaign was brought into operation on their estates? Much larger reductions were offered in every case, always excepting that of Lord Clanricarde, before this warfare commenced, and were declined. That can be proved. Therefore it is not fair of the right hon. Gentleman to state deliberately that if the Act of 1887 had been passed in time the trouble would have been avoided. I say that the landlords were in the main better than that Act, and this, therefore, bars the right hon. Gentleman's argument as to the Act of 1887. The fact of the matter is that the Plan of Campaign was only founded as a political machine, and it has been used as a political machine. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford has gone over several estates, and argued strongly in favour of applying arbitration, compulsory if necessary, to the disputes. Now, I would call the attention of the House to at least three cases where this principle of arbitration has been brought into operation in Ireland. First is the case of Captain Hill, of Gweedore, and that case was the origin of the whole trouble in Gweedore. I am not very sure that the Chief Secretary or his agents have not some responsibility to bear for the trouble that followed Captain Hill's settlement. Captain Hill is the owner of a small property in Gweedore, where the holdings are small and the people are poor. Trouble arose in 1887, and evictions were on the point of taking place. The whole dispute was practically left in the hands of Father M'Fadden as arbitrator, and what took place? The forces of the law were on the estate, and evictions were imminent. The tenants owed £1,914 on the decrees. They offered £1,456, and, by the way, this was the famous case where Colonel Dopping was agent. This was a reduction of 5s. 6d. in the £1 on the non-judicial rents, and a reduction of 20 per cent. on the judicial rents.' The landlord asked for £1,516, but Father M'Fadden's arbitration was accepted, and Colonel 1419 Dopping agreed to receive the £1,456. All the expenses were to be paid by the landlord; all the tenants were to sign agreements to become judicial tenants at 25 per cent. reduction, and all the old tenants were to be reinstated. In fact, every condition suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford was in this case carried out. The terms of, the tenants were absolutely conceded; but have the rents been paid? I know of my own knowledge that the agents sat for two days in the rent office last month without a single tenant crossing the door. I want to put this to the House: It is one thing to talk about arbitration, but it is quite another thing to get the award carried out. What is the Land Court, established under the Land Act of 1881, but a Court of Arbitration appointed by the House of Commons itself? And yet the judicial rents fixed by this Court of Arbitration under the authority of this House are no more sacred than the rents which have not been revised; and the awards of the Court can only be enforced by eviction. What is the use of piling award upon award? What is the use of setting up another Court of Arbitration to revise the Court already set up by the House itself? The awards can only be enforced by eviction even in that case; the eviction will be resisted, whatever the Court be; and all the same unpopularity will attach to it, simply because the Plan of Campaign is not a movement to relieve tenants, but a political engine. Another case of absolute arbitration is to be found in the Glensharrold estate. There the landlord has disappeared altogether, having been ruined long ago. Glensharrold is a miserable place, where it is quite impossible for the people on the wretched land to make the rent, or a living. They make their rent out of the bog and the sale of the turf. The dispute was between the tenants and the Land Court, with Mr. Justice Monroe at its head. The Court offered an abatement of 30 per cent., on rents that had been judically fixed in the main. That offer was rejected, and the Plan of Campaign was adopted. How would the Act of 1887 have prevented the Plan of Campaign in Glensharrold, seeing that its highest reduction was 16 ½ per cent.? The people were poor, and, therefore, 1420 extraordinary exertions were made by a number of philanthropic gentlemen to get the dispute settled. Mr. Justice Monroe was practically the arbitrator; between the landlord and the tenants; he had no interest in the land. As to what the facts were, I will quote from a letter written by the Bishop of Limerick, the Bishop of the diocese, who undoubtedly knew the circumstances of the case, and who felt for the poor people. There were arrears due to March, 1890, amounting to £2,611 14s. 9d. The payment to be accepted for this sum under the arbitration of the Court was £384 11s. The arrears to be forgiven, therefore, were £2,227 3s. 9d. No Court of arbitration could have been much more liberal than that. These were the terms offered by Mr. Justice Monroe, so far as arrears were concerned, and I will prove that they were superior to those offered by at least one hon. Member who will support the Motion before the House. With regard to the actual rent, the old rent paid by these people amounted to £738 15s. 4d.; the judicial rent was £542 6s.; and Mr. Justice Monroe offered to take and fix the future rent at £384 11s. This was an annual reduction in the actual rent of £354 4s. 4d. Here was a Court of Arbitration making reductions as favourable to the tenant as could be conceived, and what was the result? The proposals of Mr. Justice Monroe and Bishop O'Dwyer wore absolutely scouted; huts were put up, and the tenants were evicted. Now they are living in cold and starvation, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford says that if the Act of 1887, which could give no such terms as those I have mentioned, had been passed earlier, all would have been well. "You have only to arbitrate, and, presto! the whole difficulty vanishes," says the right, hon. Gentleman. Then I come to the case of the Vandeleur estate. I know that estate very well. I have been there. The right hon. Gentleman asserted that the Vandeleur estate provided a sample of arbitration for Irish landlords. I myself have no land in Ireland or elsewhere, and I am thankful for it—not as much as would sod a lark. But my desire in the whole of this land dispute is to see that the tenants get justice, and that those who wish to rob the Irish 1421 landlords do not have the chance to do so. Now, I come to the Arbitration Court which the right hon. Gentleman holds up as a pattern for those who hold land in Ireland. Who was the arbitrator? Was he an impartial person? Because in any Court of Arbitration the first duty ought to be to find an impartial person. But, instead of this, there was chosen from the very thick of the fray a gentleman whose opinions are very clearly defined. That doubtless was Captain Vandeleur's business and not mine; but when such a process as this is held up as a model for other landlords to follow, I think it our business to see what is really the case. The gentleman appointed as arbitrator was the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hackney (Sir C. Russell), with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Henniker Heaton) looking on. These persons arrive at the estate, and decide not only what is the amount due and to be paid, but they actually fix the rents for the future. I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman proposes to take any such power in regard to Courts of Arbitration to be established in the future. At any rate, that was the power set up by them. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me that the award thus made on the Vandeleur estate has been carried out? Will he say how many tenants have felt themselves bound by that award, and paid the instalments ordered? Will anyone tell me that? Will the hon. Member for Canterbury rise and give the information? Probably he could tell more than any other Member of this House. But I say that both publicly in the newspapers and privately from those who know, or profess to know, I have been informed that while a certain number of tenants really stuck by the award, and paid their instalments, a considerable number have done nothing of the kind, but have refused to pay anything at all. We had better have the truth as to this question. If these tenants have paid, those who know the fact ought to say so, and contradict the rumours that have been abroad. I know nothing of my own personal knowledge on the subject. I only say what I have seen in the newspapers, where it has not been contradicted, and what I have been informed by persons in the neighbourhood that the 1422 facts are as I have stated. Looking at the fact that the awards made, which have been highly favourable to the tenants, have been set aside in the case of Captain Hill and in other cases—I have quoted the Glensharrold case already—I say the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford cannot come here and prove that arbitration is a specific for these disputes. A good deal has been said about Lord Clanricarde, and I am not about to take on myself the task of defending him. I have been over his estate, and will say this, that whilst he has neglected every duty that can be said to belong to the ownership of property, while he has behaved in an utterly callous manner, and has cared nothing for putting the Government or any one else into difficulties—it may be said for those who have thrown this quarrel on his tenants, that their responsibility also counts for something. They knew their man, and before subjecting these people to the hardships they now suffer, having had to live through the winter which has just passed in their wretched wooden shanties, experiencing the bitter cold; being without the doles they were premised, some of them afflicted with typhoid fever and dying from day to day; those hon. Members who are responsible for all this ought first to have counted the cost. They have not suffered themselves. Whatever happened to the evicted tenants, the Parliamentary Fund has been all right. They knew that Lord Clanricarde was the last man in Ireland whom they ought to fight. They knew he had a large reserve outside Ireland, and that he could sit in the Albany not caring what happened in Galway. They knew that years hence he would issue his orders to his agent, who would be certain to carry them out, that Galway might be depopulated for all the noble Marquess cared; and I repeat that the men who promoted this quarrel between Lord Clanricarde and his tenants carry on their shoulders an immense responsibility. What has been said of Lord Clanricarde? I spent a week on his estate, doing my best to get at the facts, and I obtained them. I am wholly against his refusal in 1885 to give a moderate reduction such as other landlords gave. He was utterly in the wrong, and is about the only landlord who has been subjected to the plan 1423 of Campaign who made such, a refusal. But I found that in the district of Wood-ford the unrevised rents of Lord Clanricarde—the rents not subject to judicial process—were absolutely lower than the rents of Lord Dunsandle and other landlords in the same neighbourhood, which had been through the Court, and subject to judicial control. Gentlemen whose word would be believed anywhere, say that on the part of his estate where the war was hottest the rents were reasonable, and that the men who were at the head of the war were not Lord Clanricarde's tenants at all. But I say that the case of the Irish landlord has no more right to be judged by that of Lord Clanricarde, than the case of the Irish tenants in general has to be judged by that of the Plan of Campaign tenants. Lord Clanricarde has brought nameless calamities on his country, and the Plan of Campaign tenants have done more to injure their question than all the Irish landlords have done for a quarter of a century. Lord Clanricarde is blamed, but I hold in my hand a report from an Irish newspaper, dated the 27th of this month. A landlord in County Wexford had evicted a tenant, and in my opinion had evicted him properly. That tenant owed five or six years' rent, and the amount due was £34 5s. I have the report from a local newspaper. The landlord had given an abatement in 1885 and had done right in so doing. The abatement he gave was a large one—30 percent.—but no rent had been paid during the five or six years which followed. The County of Wexford is one of the best counties in Ireland. The landlord was not only within his right, but morally he was bound to take proceedings against such a man. In the report the landlord was asked what abatement he was willing to give on the arrears. The landlord refused to abate a farthing, but insisted on having his pound of flesh. Who do you think the landlord was? It was not Lord Clanricarde. It was not Mr. Smith-Barry. It was the hon. Baronet the Member for South Dublin. I hope he will not think I am challenging his right, or holding that he was doing wrong, but it is rather hard to find gentlemen acting in this way to protect their own property, coming to this House to vote for Resolutions interfering with other people's property, and applying to that property principles 1424 they will not apply to their own. I will now say a few words to those on the Front Opposition Bench. I suppose they will vote for this Motion. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling burghs is not in his place. He is greatly respected in his native country, although of late he has been developing into something like a Glad-stonian Rob Roy. In my native county, the right hon. Gentleman recently delivered an address to his constituents, in which arguing, not against the Plan of Campaign, but against the Land Purchase Bill, he said:—On the whole it seemed to him, that as the mass of the tenants of land in Ireland had fixity of tenure, and a rent fixed by a judicial tribunal, which could be readjusted every 15 years, he really did not see that they had very much necessity to go further in their favour.That is the policy of the right hon. Gentleman in relation to Irish land. If that is a good argument in favour of protecting the British taxpayer, it is one also for protecting the Irish landlord in his legal rights. I am inclined to regard the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) as a higher authority than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford. At any rate, he has been Chief Secretary for Ireland, and he does not speak at random. In regard to this Motion, my objection, as I have said, is not to the principle of arbitration, if the two parties wish to appeal to that principle. But the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the Olphert estate. That is an estate I know a good deal about. I have been over it frequently. I know many of the tenants, and I have heard from them what they think of what is going on. What is their story? Mr. Olphert, five years ago, had 450 tenants. I think that now he has 120. Where are the rest? They have been evicted for non-payment of four or five years' rent—just the number of years which the hon. Member for South Dublin evicted h.is tenant for. It is complained that Mr. Olphert gave no abatement. Neither will the hon. Gentleman. But Mr. Olphert did offer an abatement. He made it before the Plan of Campaign, and it was refused by both judicial and non-judicial tenants. From that day to this Mr. Olphert has never ceased in his efforts to conciliate his tenants. He has offered to the poorest of his tenants 1425 an abatement amounting to 80 per cent. That offer was made and refused in my presence. To the rest of the tenants, who are fairly well to do, he has offered not 80 per cent., but favourable terms. I deny that Mr. Olphert has ever refused a general settlement, or refused to reinstate evicted tenants. I deny in Mr. Olphert's name that he has ever done what the right hon. Gentleman has charged him with. Judged by the facts, no man has acted more generously, with small means, than Mr. Olphert has done. The right hon. Gentleman has said that there are twenty estates under the Plan; that only on two have even efforts been made to plant them with tenants, and that where efforts have been made, they have not been real, but sham. I beg to tell the right hon. Gentleman that there is not a vacant holding on the Coolgreany estate now. Not only are the rents paid for the current year, but the interest on the borrowed money has also been paid. I tell him that the tenants on the Massareene estates are bonâ fide tenants, from the counties of Fermanagh, Tyrone, and Londonderry. Two estates only! Has he not heard of Luggacurran, the Marquess of Lansdowne's estate? And what has happened on the O'Grady estate? The O'Grady has turned his estate into grazing land, and he is doing infinitely better with his cattle than he did with his tenants. Then they talk of the victory of the Plan of Campaign. Apart from grounds of humanity, The O'Grady has no reason to care if never another tenant sets foot upon his estate. Take the Ponsonby estate. There every tenant has been evicted, and l,500 head of cattle, and 700 or 800 sheep are grazed. I daresay the owner will be better off with the cattle than he was with the tenants. ["No!"] Yes, it is a matter of figures. In a monetary sense, cattle pay better than when the estates are tenanted. Go to any of these estates, and you will find that they have been re-tenanted by bonâ fide tenants, or they are being grazed by the landlord or some syndicate. That is called a triumph of the Plan of Campaign. I should not like to be responsible for such a triumph. According to the right hon. Gentleman, there are more than 2,000 tenants out of their holdings. They are suffering; some of them are making efforts to get 1426 back. Who is responsible for keeping them in idleness, for unmaking them in every sense of the word? They are living lives of wretched idleness; they are loafing about the public-houses of Youghal and other towns. Who are at the root of all this? The men who founded the Plan of Campaign. They have deprived these tenants of the means of earning their livelihood; they have caused them nameless and horrible suffering; they have sent them to the big towns of England and Scotland, and some of them across the Atlantic. Yet the men who have done all this come now to this House, and beg the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to extricate them from the difficulties they themselves have created, by means of a system of arbitration that has broken down hopelessly wherever it has been tried, and will not necessarily succeed, because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford considers it a specific for this Irish disease.
§ (5.53.) SIR T. GRATTAN ESMONDE (Dublin Co., S.)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has accused me of evicting tenants.
§ SIR T. G. ESMONDE
At all events, the hon. Member pointed out my wickedness. ["No, no!"] At all events, he pointed out the fact of my having evicted a tenant. ["No!"] He did not? I fancy he did.
§ SIR T. G. ESMONDE
Well, he pointed out the fact anyhow, of my having evicted a tenant, as a sort of counterpoise to the doings of the landlords whom he has taken under his wing. I have no doubt the hon. Gentleman desired to be perfectly accurate when he said that I offered no reduction whatever to this tenant since 1885. As a matter of fact I offered this tenant a reduction every year since 1885. His rent was reduced, and I offered him furthermore a reduction of 30 per cent., and if he did not choose to pay that, well, made a very great mistake, that is all I have to say. The other tenants on the property accepted those terms. Of course, that is 1427 only a slight inaccuracy in the speech of the hon. Member. There is another slight inaccuracy in his speech in reference to the tenants engaged in the Plan of Campaign on the Brooke Estate. It is said that these tenants were silly enough to adopt the Plan of Campaign, and that there are now prosperous tenants on their holdings. It is true that there are people from the north in possession of these farms, but it is known that most of these so-called bonâ fide tenants instead of paying rent, are paid for becoming tenants. It is also a matter of notoriety that those tenants are only too anxious for an opportunity to get away from their obligations, such as they are, and to leave the farms on which they have been placed. I think if the landlord of the particular property which has been mentioned were consulted, he would raise his voice against arbitration or an amicable settlement with his tenants. The hon. Gentleman has contended that the awards under arbitration would not be obeyed, but the hon. Member utterly failed to see that the fact of arbitration having failed in three instances, which he named, does not affect the general question of recourse to arbitration. I do not believe that the hon. Member is really serious in his opposition to the Motion, which is an attempt to deal with an urgent portion of this great subject in the way suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford. I should think Her Majesty's Government would be very well advised, in the interests of peace in Ireland, in giving a favourable reception to this Motion of the right hon. Gentleman. If Her Majesty's Government do not see their way to accept the Motion, or endeavour to deal with the spacial cases in some such manner as indicated, we must only believe that all their assertions of anxiety for peace and order in Ireland are utterly bogus assertions, that they are not really anxious for peace, but for disturbances an Ireland, in order that they may have an additional reason for continuing to work the Coercion Act to their own purposes. It may be that Her Majesty's Government will listen to the bad advice of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, and we shall conclude that the Irish tenant farmers need expect no sympathy or assistance from the present Tory Government. If this Motion is negatived by the efforts 1428 of the Government, then the Debate will have served this useful purpose, it will have shown the Irish tenant farmers and the evicted tenants who their real friends are, and how much faith can be placed in the assurances of the Party opposite. Irish farmers will be able to realise how much there is in the assurances of kindly feeling entertained by Her Majesty's Government, when they read the proceedings in this Debate tonight. At all events, this Motion, and the support we give it, will dispose of the statements that Irish tenants are not anxious to meet their landlords in every possible way; the Debate will dispose of the stock argument that the tenants are the deluded victims of agitators who desire to keep the land question open, and that but for Her Majesty's Government Irish landlords would have no chance against the organised action of their countrymen. It will show that the representatives of the tenant farmers in the House have offered to meet the landlords in a kindly way, and in the spirit of compromise, with a view to ending the disputes which have arisen upon land questions, upon which we are told agitation lives and thrives. If the Motion is negatived, it will show the Irish farmers who their friends are, and it will relieve us of the responsibility some endeavour to attach to us of carrying on the agrarian conflict in Ireland. We have, in spite of all charges and misrepresentations, in spite of taunts from the hon. Member for South Tyrone and others, refused to desert the Irish tenants, and we have not the slightest intention of doing so. We shall stand by them by every means in our power and see them through the contest in which they are engaged. Without fears or foreboding we look forward to the end. We know that practically the whole people of Ireland have pledged themselves to support these evicted tenants, and that they will fulfil their pledge. We know that the Irish nation outside Ireland, in America, in Australia, and elsewhere, will not allow these evicted tenants to starve because of the sacrifices they have made for what they and we understand to be the National cause of Ireland. We have waited long, and can afford to wait a few weeks longer, until a General Election shall replace the present Tory Coercionist 1429 Ministry by another administration, which will, we believe, do justice to all sections of Irishmen, and lend a willing ear to the just claims of the Irish people.
§ (6.6.) COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
It is an interesting experience to me to follow an hon. Member sitting below the Gangway on the other side of the House who is in possession of Irish property. The hon. Member makes a great mistake when he imagines that my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone, or any gentleman on this side of the House, felt that any blame of any kind is to be ascribed to him for the performance of a function landlords unfortunately have to perform sometimes, and which is generally found very disagreeable, namely, the eviction of a tenant who absolutely refuses to pay any rent. The hon. Member tells us that the rejection of the proposal of the right hon. Member for Bradford will, in some way or other he did not explain, relieve him and his friends from responsibility in connection with the agrarian battle now being carried on in Ireland, and which I am glad to hear him admit is carried on under the auspices of the Separatist Party. For my part, I fail to see how the rejection of the Motion can relieve the hon. Member's Party from the grave responsibility which they incurred when they drove unfortunate tenants from their farms. It will bring no relief to a starving tenant who formerly throve on his farm, and who has received no monetary assistance since disaster befel the Home Rule hat; it will be no satisfaction to him to learn that the Resolution has been negatived by the House. I believe that for years and years to come the tenants who have suffered so much from the dictates of gentlemen who have not suffered at all will curse the day when they first listened to the abominable advice which has resulted in turning prosperous tenants into beggars on the road side, depending for their doles upon the uncertain exchequer of the National League. Dealing with the speech of the right hon. Member for Bradford, the first observation I have to make is that the right hon. Gentleman has made the same speech on many previous occasions. The right hon. Gentleman's speech, however, does not become more perfect, although he so often practises 1430 delivering it. The statements of the right hon. Gentleman with reference to certain estates in Ireland are, as a rule, promptly overturned. The right hon. Gentleman appears to possess two qualities pre-eminently—great industry and immense credulity. I want, in a Parliamentary manner, to throw discredit on the arguments the right hon. Gentleman employs. Not long ago the right hon. Gentleman went to Constantinople to interview the Sultan, but instead of being introduced to the Sultan he was taken to the stable, where he was shown the Sultan's mare, and, fortified by his interview with that quadruped, he forthwith wrote a long article on European affairs. The right hon. Gentleman has also visited Ireland, and been personally conducted through certain estates by Members of the Home Rule Party. He acted on that occasion with great discretion, and showed his possession of some military capacity. He thought, advancing into this dangerous country, it would be well to secure his rear from attack and prevent his communications from interruption by the enemy. So the first thing he did was to make application to Dublin Castle to learn if the Chief Secretary intended to take an interest in his progress. Finding that the Government did not propose to supply him with a shorthand writer, though possibly they might have to afford him police protection, he proceeded on his personally conducted expedition and paid visits to three estates. He was introduced to certain priests and to certain carefully selected tenants, and then, on his return to England, the right hon. Gentleman delivered the speeches with which we are all now familiar. Hon. Members below the Gangway opposite have incurred great responsibility in moulding the right hon. Gentleman, who was very malleable, into what we see now. I believe the right hon. Gentleman is quite capable of taking in accurate information if he would only take the trouble to ascertain the facts and listen to both sides. If he had gone to tenants who had the honesty to pay rent, instead of devoting all his attention to the tenants who refused to pay, I am sure that, in common honesty he would, in the course of his patriotic speech, have informed the House that there were some tenants whose views did not coincide with his own. What 1431 does the right hon. Gentleman propose to do? Having vaguely condemned the Plan of Campaign, which he described as an "unfortunate incident," he proceeded with great lack of logic to move a Resolution which would place the land of every Irish landlord absolutely at the mercy of that organisation. What would be the result of carrying this Motion? If hon. Gentlemen opposite from Ireland took exception to the political action of some hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House, as they took exception to the action of my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon, all they would have to do would be to issue a mandate not to pay a farthing of rent; whether the rent was just or unjust, that would not matter in the least. The moment that mandate goes forth the tenants refuse to pay, and, irrespective of the merits of the case, then comes in the operation of this novel piece of statesmanship proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. Although he does not approve of the Plan of Campaign, he thus will place power in the hands of the campaigners to seek to extort from a political opponent under threat of possible ruin any demands they may choose to make. That would be the result of carrying this Resolution. Disapproving apparently of the Plan of Campaign, the right hon. Gentleman approves of placing the whole of Ireland under its influence. Any man who chooses to deal with this question in a logical shape will see that what I say is absolutely incontestably correct. There is one method adopted by the right hon. Gentleman to which I must take exception. It is his habit, when he is about to make an attack upon a landlord, to take an instance—say that of the Clanricarde estate, and alluding to the fact that this particular landlord refused to make an abatement in his rents, although a neighbour made a reduction of 20 per cent., he is held up as an example of a monstrously unjust man. But it does not follow. I know cases in a district where the taking off of 25 or 30 per cent. would not bring down the rents of one estate to the level of those in another where no abatement is made. Everything depends on what the original rent was. If it was a low rent, why should there be an abatement? So far as I have heard in the course of the Debate, I have not been able to discover a single argument to induce the House 1432 to agree to this Motion. What is it that the proposal amounts to? What is it offered to my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary as a final and scientific settlement of the land difficulty? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford tells us what he would do were le Chief Secretary for Ireland. He would summon the landlords to Dublin Castle, and then he would tell them that if they did not accept the terms of arbitration—which, I suppose, their opponents would lay down—he would withdraw from them the protection of the law, which in his position he would be bound to maintain. He would take away the protection of the police, on which their lives in many cases depended, and place them at the mercy of their opponents, unable to get any rent, unable to protect their lives. I trust the day is far distant when any British statesman belonging to the Unionist Party will consent to accept so cowardly, mean, despicable, and dastardly a proposal as that. But this is what the Member for Bradford proposes. I cannot conceive that any man with any sense of justice would consent to adopt a proposal of the kind. He would subject men to ruin, to the danger of their lives, simply because they asked their tenants to pay rent, not fixed by the landlords, but by the Act carried by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian in 1881 as "a final solution of the Irish land question." This Debate, however, is merely the preface to another Debate on Monday week, to which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle looks forward with unbounded satisfaction. It is thought well to clear the ground, but the importance of this Debate is that it saddles the Party opposite before the country with sympathising with a policy and adopting a plank in their platform which I believe they are sorry they ever stood upon. I have often, and sometimes I hope with success, pointed out that the Party opposite in adopting the policy have adopted the morality of their Irish allies, and we have proof of that in the suggestion that the policy of the Plan of Campaign should be extended all over Ireland as a happy solution of the land difficulty. The Member for Mid Lothian, in a speech in Scotland, pointed out that at the 1433 present time crime does not follow boycotting and other kinds of intimidation, and that that differentiates it from former times. Well, although violent crime may not follow the Plan of Campaign in the terrible way that it followed the League proceedings when the right hon. Gentleman was Prime Minister, although it is not followed by the crime of murder, yet to destroy the peace and happiness of a man is really a crime. It may be said that the right hon. Gentleman does not read all the speeches of his followers in Ireland, and therefore he may think that violent intimidation no longer exists. I will read, therefore, in the hearing of the right hon. Gentleman, an extract from a speech which shows the same kind of intimidation couched in the same words which were used in the days when he was Prime Minister, and these words are used to produce the same effect. This is an extract from a speech delivered at Nenagh on January 11 by the hon. Member for Longford, a speech which, like all he now delivers in Ireland, was made under police protection.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
What a happy family they are. This speech was made, and it is a curious thing that in that speech the hon. Member for Longford employed the very same expression which his former leader, and probably his future leader, whatever he may say about Parnellites, used some time ago. The Member for North Longford said—He would tell Mr. Balfour, he would maintain and tell them on every platform on which he stood, that the man who took a farm out of his neighbour's hands was a scoundrel, and that the people should treat him like a leper—the words of the Ennis speech. Well, we do not like to be treated like Iepers in Ireland, and words of that kind amply justify the stand we have taken. We know perfectly well that if the Plan of Campaign and Land League Party have the ascendency, if we have a Land League Parliament, we shall be treated like lepers. We have objected to that, and we shall continue to object to it; but what I cannot conceive is that any Radical, who is supposed to be a man who loves freedom and justice, should get up in 1434 this House, or before an audience in the country, and deliberately support the system adopted under the Plan of Campaign. I appeal to the head of the Radical Party—the hon. Member for Northampton. How can an hon. Member like him support the principle of the Plan of Campaign? Let him imagine himself a tenant in Tipperary. I observed that the Member for Bradford carefully avoided Tipperary. We shall have enough of Tipperary next week. Here were men who openly avowed that they had no quarrel of any kind with their landlord—that their rent was a just and fair rent. They did not allege that the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Smith-Barry) was a rack-renter or an unjust landlord; but because he had the audacity to confront that organisation in Ireland which is the backbone of all the policy of the Party opposite—because he did that, the leaders of the Plan of Campaign went down—the father and mother of the Plan, Messrs. Dillon and O'Brien—and ordered the Tipperary tenants of the hon. Member to leave their farms, their houses, and their shops, where they greatly prospered, and live in the wretched lath-and-plaster shanties with which the League supplied them. If they did not obey, the tenants were to be treated like lepers. And this is the policy which Radicals in this country think worthy of their support. I cannot think that the good sense and patriotism of the Radicals will ultimately allow them to consent to such a policy. No matter how they may value the necessity of supporting for a time the Plan of Campaign, I cannot believe that they will ultimately consent to place around the necks of the Irish people a yoke destructive of their liberty, their progress, and their happiness.
§ (630.) MR. T. M. HEALY
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has not been very happy in his remarks tonight. I observed he had to go to the Bosphorus for his bulls. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has been kind enough to read a pretended extract from a speech of mine. I suppose he took it from the Freeman's Journal?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The substance of the speech I admit and stick to; but I advise the hon. and gallant Gentleman 1435 when he refers to police protection to be a little more careful than he has been. It is the fact that one gentleman who attended that meeting was in receipt of police protection. He was a Parnellite gentleman, who had the night before struck me a blow on the head; and as he required to attend the meeting for the purpose of disturbance he applied to his natural allies, the gentlemen connected with Dublin Castle, to furnish him with police protection. I presume that by direction of the Chief Secretary he was protected by four constables, who endeavoured to break up the meeting, as was the case at Mitchelstown, by forcing the men into our midst. As the gentleman created a disturbance he was removed from the meeting. The speech from which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has quoted was one in which I twitted the hon. Member for Cork with the fact that while the administration of the Chief Secretary has been in full blast for five years, while evictions and murders, and all kinds of police outrages, have taken place under that Administration, the Member for Cork had not a single word of criticism of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, but has reserved himself wholly and solely for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. I stated that, as far as I am concerned, I maintain the original policy of the Land League, namely, that any man who takes a farm from which another tenant was unjustly evicted ought to be treated like a leper, and I always will treat him so; because the first principle of our movement is that, if there is a landlord rack-renting his tenants, and those tenants are put out of their holdings either by their landlord or by the force of circumstances any men who take their places, who seize their property—property which the law recognises, and which the Attorney General for Ireland declares to be property equal to that of the landlord—are coveting their neighbours' goods, and are thieves and robbers, and ought to be treated accordingly. That is a position which, neither in this House nor out of it, will I ever recede from. Let me point out to the hon. and gallant Gentleman and to his supporters on the Front Government Bench that they are in this dubious position. According to the hon. and gallant Member the Home Rule 1436 hat has broken down, and according to the hon. Member for South Tyrone the doles which have been paid to the evicted tenants have been stopped, while the much larger sums which have been paid to Members of Parliament are still being paid. Let us assume the truth of that statement. The Government's declarations are that the Tipperary tenants and the tenants on the Clanricarde, the Olphert, and other estates in the country, have left their homes under intimidation and coercion; that they are the dupes of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Having been driven out by coercion and intimidation, do the British Government and the landlords of Ireland say to them, "Fellow citizens, you have been betrayed by the Land League; you have been betrayed by Parnell, and Dillon, and O'Brien; we will come to your succour?" That is not the position assumed by the Member for South Tyrone or the hon. and gallant Gentleman. No; we are told that these men had no free will, because they went out under intimidation and coercion. Although they are unwilling victims, you are prepared to leave them in the mud. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, which is it? Which horse are you going to win on? Either they are our victims, or they are not. If they were our victims, surely now, when the evil genius has been cut down, when those who have exercised these coercive influences are beggared and bankrupt, is the time for the Tory gentleman to reap their harvest. Why do not the Member for North Armagh and his Friend the Member for South Hunts, and the row of Orange lilies I see opposite, transplant themselves? Why do they not go amongst the victims and say, "You have been betrayed by false friends, but we of the Primrose League and the Orange Lodges will use our influence with Her Majesty's Government and get you restored to your holdings, or, if we cannot do that, we will see there is a fair arbitration upon your claims?" I should have thought Ireland's difficulty was England's opportunity. I should have thought that the difficulty of the Irish Parliamentary Party, if they are in a difficulty—and I have not experienced it myself. [Laughter.] Well, there is one thing our friends opposite may rely upon, and that is that, however much we may 1437 differ amongst ourselves, we shall always be solid against the common enemy. You will find the two sections of the Party are like the two blades of a pair of scissors, which yet may take off some of your heads. If your statements be true, I should have imagined that the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford gave you the opportunity you desire. I ask Her Majesty's Government if, in the words of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, the doles have been cut off, and the tenants are fever-stricken, and ague-stricken, and typhoid-stricken, and are living in water-logged houses—though I really think they are living in much better houses than they have had before—if these tenants are so hopeless, are you not driving them to despair? I can well imagine the Member for South Hunts and his friends not being by any means anxious to say to the Tipperary tenants, "We shall never allow you back to your homes," or to say to Lord Clanricarde's tenants, "Never again"—as Lord Wolseley said to the Boers—"while grass grows and water runs shall you return to your inheritance." I challenge you to say it. I challenge the Chief Secretary to say to these tenants, "Never so long as the British flag floats over Dublin Castle, shall you or your descendants return to the holdings." If the evicted tenants have no hope from the British Government or the Irish race abroad, what will be the natural consequence? As yet, the Plan of Campaign has been absolutely crimeless in its operation; but the prospect for Her Majesty's Government will not be very pleasant if there are to be bands of homeless and desperate men encamped besides those thriving tenants who have grabbed their farms. You tell us that Lord Massereene has imported prosperous tenants from Fermanagh, Derry, and Tyrone, and that Mr. Brooke has imported them from Wicklow. If the Government instil the belief into the minds of the people that there is no hope as long as grass grows of their returning to their homes, I congratulate the Government on the prospects of peace. What has kept the peace of Ireland has been the policy of the Member for Mid Lothian. That right hon. Gentleman has bound over the Irish people to the peace, and they have 1438 kept it, because their hope has been that by some means an issue will be found where by, doing justice both to the landlord and the tenant, the difficulty can be put an end to. The hon. Member for South Tyrone has said that arbitration has broken down hopelessly wherever it has been tried. [Mr. T. W. RUSSELL: I said on campaign estates.] Even I and the hon. Member for the St. Stephen's Green Division of Dublin were asked by the Drapers' Company to arbitrate between them and their tenants, and not one landlord has put his finger on our award and said, "You have swindled the landlord." Has that arbitration broken down? The award has been loyally accepted by the tenants, and, to their credit, by the great Drapers' Company of the City of London. I should imagine that if statesmanship and common sense were equivalent terms it would be to the interest of the Government, now that they are passing a Purchase Bill, and declaring that they adopt a policy of purchase in order to deal with the most dangerous symptoms of Irish agrarian life, to take the most ulcerated portion of Ireland for the most speedy treatment. When a surgeon has to deal with a case of cancer, does he first operate upon some healthy part of the body? That is the policy of the Government. The hon. Member for North Armagh said that we are to assume that Lord Clanricarde is a good landlord. [Colonel SAUNDERSON: I did not say anything of the kind.] Well, is he or is he not? I should like to have it on the testimony of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. He said that Lord Clanricarde would not make any reduction, and added that there are many unreduced properties lowly rented. I suppose we are to infer that Lord Clanricarde's estate is lowly rented. In other words, if a landlord has been lodging in the Albany, and for 20 years neglecting every duty that attaches to landlordism, you must assume that he is a good landlord, and that his rents are fair rents. I will assume the reverse. I will assume that a landlord, for whom the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) cannot say a good word, must be a bad landlord. When the hon. Member for South Tyrone was a week on his estate, and yet cannot say a good word for him, am I to be blamed for the assumption that he must be a bad landlord? 1439 I am surprised that we never have the President of the Board of Trade present when we are talking about Lord Clanricarde. When Lord Clanricarde's name is mentioned in the right hon. Gentleman's presence it exorcises him. "Get thee behind me, Satan," was not more effective. We all remember the correspondence—not published by the right hon. Gentleman or by Lord Clanricarde, but which came out in the course of an action for libel brought by the landlord's agent, Mr. Joyce—in which the right hon. Gentleman declared that he would put pressure on Lord Clanricarde and his kin, but pressure always within the law. The right hon. Gentleman himself was the judge of the law. Those who are not in the position of Chief Secretary are not to use any pressure whatever, and are not to make themselves judges of the law. If it is found that a landlord like Lord Clanricarde neglects his duty for years, surely the State has some right of interference on behalf of the unhappy tenantry, and the more so that they are left in the hands of an agent, who is a bankrupt, a disgraced and abandoned man—[Colonel SAUNDERSON: "Absolutely untrue"]—a man who, in his own district, from his own butcher, cannot get credit for a pound of chops.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I will, to be sure, on one understanding—[Ministerial cries of "Oh!"] Listen to it: That you will not lay the venue in Belfast. Give me a mixed tribunal; that is all I ask. Even two Removables I will take. You lend a man like Tener all the forces of the law to harry and attack those unhappy tenants who, during the bad years of 1885 and 1886, were unable to pay their rents. Remember that the Bishop of the district (Dr. Healy) has always been a great friend and loyal supporter of Her Majesty's Government. I do not blame him for that. I understand that he has seen the Chief Secretary several times. That is not contradicted. He has remonstrated with the right hon. Gentleman, who, I am quite sure, wishes Lord Clanricarde at Jericho. [Mr. T. W. RUSSELL: Hear, hear!] The hon. Member for South Tyone wishes him there also. All I ask is this: When you find 1440 a landlord for whom no man in his senses, or out of his senses, can be got to say a good word, are you content to leave ten square miles of one of the habitable portions of Her Majesty's dominions at the mercy of a tiger of that description? If you were to let loose in this district a man-eating tiger, or a dozen of them, it would not be a greater misfortune to the people than to give Lord Clanricarde the uncontrolled use of the soldiers and police of the Government. The legislation of 1887 was too late for these unfortunate tenants, who had then incurred the disabilities which ensured their eviction. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford simply asks that, as regards men in this position who have been ill-treated, the Imperial Government shall, at any rate, step in and give them something like fair-play. If these things were going on in Turkey; if this place were Erzeroum, where you sent Mr. Clifford Lloyd, tears that would turn a mill would be rolling from the eyes of the hon. Member for South Armagh. As it is only Galway, as these men are only his own fellow-countrymen, Lord Clanricarde is to be allowed to do as he pleases. Take the case of Mr. Olphert. The Government are not content to give arms, soldiers, and police to these landlords. Poor Mr. Olphert is an old gentleman, and his property is almost entirely managed by Mr. Robert Olphert, who has been engaged as Crown Prosecutor in some cases at the Winter Assizes in order to put 100 or 200 guineas into his pocket, although he has never had any experience in the work he has to do. I never found fault with the Chief Secretary for going to Ireland. I was delighted that he went, and delighted that he got a good reception. And for this reason: I think it has done him a power of good. The more he sees of Ireland, the more he will come to see that there is a real Irish question, that there is ground for the earnestness with which we plead for some relief for these unhappy tenants. The more the right hon. Gentleman is brought into touch with the actual distress and miseries of the Irish people the more I shall be pleased, and I cannot think of any better performance for Her Majesty's Government than that they should spend a recess doing that 1441 which the Chief Secretary did, studying Irish problems on the spot. The right hon. Gentleman, however, drove into Gweedore at 10 o'clock on a winter's night, when he could not see the bogs, and left before daybreak in the morning. It is rather an ungenerous thing to pretend that he could gauge the true position of affairs by taking change of air in an hotel for the night. Did the Chief Secretary see the priest or the tenants? No, he only saw Mr. Olphert and a Police Inspector, and the sole result was that Mr. Robert Olphert was instructed by the Crown to prosecute in several cases at the Winter Assizes, the landlords of the North of Ireland and of Ireland generally having thereby an indication that the action of Mr. Olphert had the approval of the Her Majesty's Ministers. But I do not think there is any need on the present occasion for recrimination between ourselves and the Government. I did expect that the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) would have enabled us, through the great influence he now possesses with Her Majesty's Ministers, to hear of some scheme, whether by means of a secret understanding or otherwise—some scheme put forward by him or by, as his mouthpiece, one of Her Majesty's Ministers. [Interruption.]
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Some scheme with regard to the evicted tenants, who, we are informed, are the hon. Member's special care. It is the fact that tens of thousands of pounds were being collected in America in the interest of those tenants until the misfortune occurred to the Irish Parliamentary Party. As far as the hon. Member for Cork is concerned, he has declared his acceptance of the Bill of the Government on land purchase. That being so, I cannot conceive anything more simple than for the Government to declare that they are willing to accept the principle of compulsory purchase laid down by the hon. Member for Cork in one of his recent speeches. Such a proposal would meet with no opposition from any quarter. Lord Clanricarde, we are told, only wants cash. Why does not the Government give it him? The hon. Member for South Hunts (Mr. Smith-Barry) only wants cash. 1442 Why should not the Government let him have it? Lord Lansdowne only wants cash, either in Consols or in some other form. Why should not the Government let him have it? Because these tenants are evicted tenants, are they to be deprived of any benefit under the scheme of Her Majesty's Government? I imagine that from the point of view of the Tory Government landlords who have suffered—such as the hon. Member for South Hunts, Mr. Ponsonby, and Lord Clanricarde—are more objects of public charity than landlords who have not suffered—such as the Duke of Abercorn and Lord Waterford, who have pocketed hundreds of thousands of pounds from their Irish estates. Really I see no objection in principle or in detail to an arrangement between the hon. Member for Cork and Her Majesty's Ministers with regard to providing for these tenants. So far from criticising such an arrangement I should rejoice at it; and I think if the tenants believed that the differences of the Irish Party had led to an understanding between the hon. Member for Cork and Her Majesty's Government, they would conclude that it was an ill wind that blew nobody good. Accordingly, this is a case on which the Government can legislate with the consent of all Parties. The Tory Party will not object to the Member for South Hunts or Lord Clanricarde, or any other of these ill-treated and much-abused landlords, receiving a sum in payment for their estates. I do not suppose the hon. Member for North Armagh will object. We will not object; the followers of the hon. Member for Cork will not object; and I cannot imagine that those on the Front Opposition Bench who have brought forward the Motion will object. Nothing is wanting to complete the remedy, except the willingness to apply it. Surely as it is your position that the landlords are the unwilling victims of a conspiracy, you will be the very first, when the conspirators have fallen out among themselves, to step in and show that "Codlin's your friend—not Short." I therefore, in all seriousness, would assure Her Majesty's Ministers that I do not think this is a case for controversy, violence, or bitterness. The amount required to settle the matter is not large, and sooner or later it will have to be settled—by the present 1443 Government or by their successors. The Tories cannot expect to be always in Office—especially after Hartlepool. The clock will some time or other strike 12, and when it does perhaps you will he sorry that it is not you who have had the giving of compensation to the Member for South Hunts, Lord Clanricarde, and gentlemen of that class. I say that the Tory Party above all others, in view of their declarations, can treat this subject with freedom and success. Nobody believes there are any genuine tenants on these estates. What is conclusive on that point is the fact that the Land Purchase Commissioners, when applied to by Lord Lansdowne with regard to the Brook Estate to advance money to these so-called "planters," refused to sanction any advance on the ground that they were only bogus tenants. What, then, becomes of the declaration of the hon. Member for South Tyrone? If the case of the evicted tenants receives from the Government some amount of consideration we shall all be delighted, and I would earnestly trust that Her Majesty's Government, whether influenced by sympathy for the tenants or by the hope of quieting down affairs, or by consideration for their friends, will see that their interests, as well as the interests of Ireland, lie in providing a settlement of these difficulties.
§ (7.11.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN, Dublin University)
I do not intend to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman through a great many of the topics he has introduced into his speech. I shall not follow him into the interesting discussion he suggested to the Committee as to who was the gentleman who was under police protection on a particular occasion. I shall leave that question to be settled among themselves by gentlemen below the Gangway, as I shall also leave the question suggested by the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman as to the comparative merits of his policy and that of the hon. Member for Cork. But there are some points in the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman which I wish to notice. This I would say: I do not think that those unfortunate tenants who now find themselves in imminent danger of starvation on the roadside, when they read the speech of the hon. and learned Member, will be able to derive any very lively 1444 satisfaction from it. What comfort has the hon. and learned Gentleman to offer to these unfortunate dupes of the criminal conspiracy known as the Plan of Campaign? The hon. and learned Gentleman, with his knowledge of Parliamentary affairs, cannot be serious in suggesting a vote of public money for the relief of the evicted tenants. That is all very well as a topic in this House to draw cheers from below the Gangway opposite, but the hon. and learned Gentleman knows as well as I do that it is mere delusive mockery to hold out any expectation to these unfortunate dupes that any Government will ask Parliament for money for their relief. The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the visit of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the West of Ireland, and said it has had at least the result of showing my right hon. Friend that there is an Irish question. Now, Sir, before that visit had taken place, and before the failure of the potato crop, my right hon. Friend had given evidence of his appreciation of the existence of the specific Irish question which assumes an acute form in the West of Ireland—such proof as I venture to say no Chief Secretary before has ever given. If the hon. and learned Gentleman has forgotten, the House and the country will not forget that, in a Bill introduced by the right hon. Gentleman early last year, there was a system of provision for the congested districts in the West of Ireland which has been admitted on both sides of the House to be an effort to grapple with a question such as has never been attempted before by any Minister. That scheme was conceived and developed by the right hon. Gentleman as a portion of the programme of the Government before his visit to the West of Ireland, and before any appearance of the partial failure of the potato crop, which was the immediate occasion of that visit. This remark, therefore, of the hon. and learned Gentleman is without foundation. But does the hon. and learned Gentleman really think that these rent disputes—whether you regard them as bonâ fide disputes or as steps in the campaign against Irish landlords as the English garrison in Ireland—have any real relation to the acute crisis which had taken place in the West of Ireland? Any-one who knows these districts knows 1445 that this is not a question of the amount of rent; for on the smaller holdings, in a season like this, it would be impossible for the holder to live rent free. The two questions, therefore, have no reference to each other. An attempt has been made by the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion to show that the existence of these remaining disputes—which we all regret—is due largely to the default of the present Government. I will for a moment call attention to the position of the Plan of Campaign estates. It is a gratifying thing to those who are responsible for the administration of the law in Ireland to be able to state that there has not been a time for many years when Ireland generally has been more free from crime than at the present time, both of the ordinary character and agrarian crime. But there are certain exceptions, few in number I am happy to say; there are certain estates and districts of which that could not be said. Two important questions have been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman who has moved the Motion. In the first place, who is responsible for that state of things? and, secondly, what remedy can be suggested? I take issue with the right hon. Gentleman on both portions of his argument. The right hon. Gentleman said that the delay in passing the Bill of 1887 and the fact that legislation concerning arrears has not taken place are the causes of the Plan of Campaign. Now, on three of the estates which have been mentioned prominently in connection with the Plan of Campaign, namely, the Ponsonby, the Massereene, and the Lansdowne, there are a considerable number of leaseholders. As a matter of fact, I do not think that leaseholders are very numerous on any of the other Plan of Campaign estates, certainly not on the Olphert and Clanricarde estates; but on the three estates I have mentioned they are most numerous. The landlords of those estates offered their tenants to let them go into Court and break the leases and have the benefit of the Act. That offer had been made voluntarily, and gave the tenants the full benefit conferred by the Act of 1887. Can it, then, be said that the fact that leaseholders have not been admitted to the benefit of the Act of 1881 has been the cause of the starting of the Plan 1446 of Campaign? With regard to the question of reduction of judicial rents and arrears, it has been shown that the landlords, with possibly one or two exceptions, have in their offers dealt with the question of arrears more liberally than the tenants would have been treated if the Bill of 1886 had passed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford has suggested compulsory arbitration. If that were adopted, there would be three subjects to be dealt with—first, a fair rent; secondly, arrears; and, thirdly, the re-instatement of the evicted tenants. With regard to fair rent, such arbitration is not required; the State has supplied the means of compulsory arbitration in that respect; the Court of the Land Commission is always open to the yearly tenants, and by the offer of the landlords has been open to the leaseholders. As to arrears, how does the matter stand? The Government and the House have always laid down the principle that they will not compulsorily deal with one class of debts without at the same time dealing with others. Then the House must remember that on all these estates there are certain tenants who have honestly and fairly paid their rents, with the reductions offered, and kept their contracts with their landlords, not joining the Plan of Campaign. It would be grossly unjust to honest tenants who have struggled through bad times if those who have joined an illegal conspiracy are to be allowed exceptional terms as regards arrears. With regard to the evicted holdings, they are either in the hands of tenants now cultivating them under contracts of tenancy, or they are being used by the landlord as best he can, generally as grazing farms. Will power be given to a tribunal to turn out these tenants, or will the landlord be compelled to take the others back to the land which he is using? With regard to the injustice of the former suggestion, I think that I need say nothing; and as to forcing the former tenants back on the landlord, I would like to read to the House some words from a document which is entitled to respect—it is a letter from Dr. O'Dwyer, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Limerick, in connection with the Glens-harrold Estates. In his letter Dr. O'Dwyer used these words— 1447I beg of them (the tenants) at the last moment, before taking a step they may regret all the days of their lives, to listen to my advice. If they spend years in idleness on the side of the road, neither they nor their children will ever raise their heads again. A farmer whose home is once broken up, whose stock is scattered, and whose capital is spent, may recover his land after some years, but he will be a pauper while he lives.That is the testimony of one who knows the Irish tenants well. But it is now proposed that the landlord, who has been the victim of this conspiracy, should have compulsorily put upon him a tenantry which, according to the Bishop of Limerick, has degenerated into paupers. Such a proceeding would be an injustice to the landlord and injurious to the interests of the community. Each case, of course, depends upon its own merits; in some, arbitration might do good; in others it would be futile; the parties must be the best judges of that, and, as I have shown, the Legislature cannot interfere with advantage to the community or justice to the landlord. It may be asked what alternative the Government suggested to the Plan of Campaign. I would suggest that there is an alternative policy which has been pursued, and which has worked wonders in Ireland—I mean the policy of a firm and temperate administration of just laws. It cannot be contended that the laws relating to occupiers of land in Ireland are less favourable than those of any other country; on the contrary, they are distinctly more favourable. That is the course I would submit to the House, and I submit that it is more wise and statesman like than that of making concessions to organized lawlessness—a policy which would be impossible to work out without the grossest injustice alike to landlords and to honest tenants.
§ (7.31.) MR. ROWNTREE (Scarborough)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down began by stating his opinion that the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) would be read with dismay by tenants on those estates. I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech will as certainly have that effect. It appeared to me that he misconceived the suggestion made by the hon. and learned Member for Longford, and he repeated the misconception towards the end of his 1448 speech; for if a just and temperate administration of the law in Ireland is all that is required to settle the land war and the agitation that has arisen out of it, why are Her Majesty's Government asking us to give our time this Session to a complicated measure of land purchase? The Government recognise that new laws are required, and laws of great importance. We were told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) that no Government was justified in calling upon the sacred resources of British credit without having a very strong case behind them, and, therefore, there must be in the mind of the Government a very strong case to induce them to ask the House to give British credit for altering the land laws of Ireland. How can we justify to our constituents the fact that this new alteration of the land laws and this claim upon British credit will give the go-bye altogether to the districts which have suffered most? Surely the Government will give us some definite reason why their Land Purchase Bill will simply apply to those districts where there is no conflict between landlord and tenant, and will not apply to those where a state of social war, with heart burnings and bitterness, prevails. For my own part I should have preferred that other classes of cases could have been brought within the purview of the Motion before the House, and that the whole question of arrears, which is at the bottom of all the difficulties on the Plan of Campaign estates, as well as on other estates, where the pinch of want is terribly felt this winter, could have been raised. However, I welcome, on its merits, the proposition that has been brought forward. The hon. Member for Tyrone was much concerned about the settlement of the land question in the interest of the landlord, but unfortunately said nothing at all about justice being done to the tenant. I believe I have spent much more time on the Clanricarde estate than the Member for Tryone. I desire most strongly to avoid any taunt as to the past, but I would make an appeal to Her Majesty's Ministers on behalf of the thousands of people living on that estate. No one has ventured to say a single word on behalf of the owner of that estate. We have had his conduct denounced 1449 in the strongest manner by the Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell). I would ask the Government whether this House is expected really to give its attention to a Land Bill for Ireland, and to pass by altogether the condition of things in this district. It has been said again and again that we are not to trouble ourselves with these things because Members below the Gangway and others have really brought about these troubles by the Plan of Campaign. But I am sure that those who are acquained with the question will say that the combination on the Clanricarde estate took place, not only before the Plan of Campaign was instituted, but against the deliberately expressed wishes of the National League. It was a spontaneous movement on the part of the tenants. Some very strong observations have been made with regard to the condition of those who, it has been alleged, have been compelled or induced to form these combinations, and great compassion has been, very rightly no doubt in many cases, expressed on their behalf. I think we should be under a misconception if the idea went forth to the country that all those who have left their homes and have found shelter in the huts of the National League, are to be commiserated with on the change that has taken place in their condition. Throughout my life I believe I shall recollect meeting with the widow of one of the tenants of the Clanricarde estate—a poor woman of the name of Solon. Her husband had been a tenant at a rental of some £7 10s. For three years he had been unable to work, and was dying of consumption. A little child, six years of age, died of fever, and the husband died a few days afterwards. Six days after the death, of the husband, the widow Solon had gone to buy bread in the neighbouring town. On coming back she found the cabin surrounded by the forces of the Crown. The women said they had come too late—he whom they had come to put out had gone before; he was dead. The woman and her five children were put out on the roadside, the woman not even being allowed to stay behind in the yard to wash some linen. The hut was destroyed. I thought I had never seen such a picture of absolute despair as this woman presented as she gave me an 1450 account of these proceedings. It seemed as if there was nothing left in life that she cared about—all the brightness seemed to have gone out of her life. But last Autumn I happened to see this woman again in one of the League huts at Woodford. There was no mistaking her; but she looked infinitely better, and she and her children were distinctly in far better circumstances. It is not, therefore, the fact that all these poor people are suffering in the way we have been told, although many of them have made great sacrifices indeed. Without going further into these particulars I do ask Her Majesty's Government whether we are to look forward to these poor people being left as time goes on simply to despair and desperation? You cannot exaggerate the condition of things in that district. Put aside the statements of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, and of those who were present at these scenes on behalf of the landlord, and of those who heard the case for the police. Put these aside, and I would ask hon. Gentlemen who are interested in this question to read the Report of the Commissioners who visited this district lately in connection with the inquiry as to tolls and market rates, and see what landlordism can sink to under such a condition of things as prevails in that district. It seems to me a positive disgrace to the laws of England that such a state of matters should exist over such a wide district in Ireland. We have a right to ask Her Majesty's Government, when we hear from almost every platform from which their supporters speak so many declarations as to their remedial measures bringing about a settlement of the land difficulties in Ireland, how they can justify the conditions of these districts.
§ (7.53.) MR. SHEEHY (Galway, S.)
I was quite surprised that the right hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke from the Front Bench opposite and who came here armed with such a load of documents should have so suddenly collapsed in his vindication of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. But I was more surprised still when I found him commiting the extraordinary error that he did commit, in stating to this House what many hon. Members know not to be correct, namely, that it was not because of the action of the present Government 1451 that the Plan of Campaign was started in Ireland. As one thing follows another, as cause follows effect, so did the Plan of Campaign follow the rejection of the measure of the hon. Member for Cork in 1886. It is because the Government in 1886 refused any relief whatever to the tenants of Ireland, and refused to give the leaseholders any opportunity of going into the Land Court, and refused to revised judicial rents, and refused to touch at all the question of arrears, that the Plan of Campaign had of necessity to be started. The right hon. and learned Gentleman went on to state that the Marquess of Clanricarde had made a fair and reasonable offer to his tenants before the Plan of Campaign was started. The Marquess of Clanricarde made no offer at all to his tenants before the Plan of Campaign was started. On the contrary, he refused to allow the tenants who had leases, to break those leases so that they might go into the Court. He refused to allow judicial leases to be revised, and refused to abate one penny of the arrears. But when the noble Lord found that his tenants were serious, he came out with an offer to reduce non-judicial rents 25 per cent., and judicial rents 15 per cent., but even that was after evicting a great number of tenants, and after the Plan of Campaign had been started and the Government had refused to give relief to the tenants. The right hon and learned Gentleman says that the Government are not to blame for the condition of affairs which exist on the Plan of Campaign estates; but I very deliberately that they are, because the Plan of Campaign has been only been put in force against the worst landlords. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh does not happen to be one of the landlords who have come under the Plan of Campaign. But why? I say it to his credit, that it is because he is a fairly good landlord, and there has been no occasion to put it in force against him. But there are bad landlords who have insisted on their pound of flesh, and who have forced upon their tenants a condition of affairs which it has been necessary for them to dispute. As has been pointed out, the tenants on the Clanricarde estate started the combination in spite of the efforts of the National League and of the Irish 1452 Parliamentary Party, because they were obliged to do so, no redress being forthcoming. They had old leases which at one time were necessary to shelter the tenants from the rapacity of the landlord, and to prevent his running up the rents from year to year, pound by pound, until it became impossible to pay any longer. How does the Government take the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford? Is it an honest proposal? We have been charged over and over again with being the advocates of dishonesty, but now we bring the accusation to the test. If the tenants are dishonest, as is said, and the landlords are honest, as is claimed for them by their advocates, how is it that the tenants propose, and the landlords object to arbitration? From the first day of the Plan of Campaign until now there has never been an hour in which the tenants on the Plan of Campaign estates were not willing and anxious to submit their case to honest arbitration, but the landlords would not agree to it, believing that arbitrators would decide against them. The hon. Member for South Tyrone spoke here to-night, though not for the first time, of the Vandeleur case. I remember his once speaking of the happy condition of the tenants on the Vandeleur estate. Those tenants were "petted," and "had no wrongs to redress," and were "the dupes of the Irish Members,"—that is to say Mr. Dillon, Mr. O'Brien, and the rest. Well, the landlord was obliged after a time to look to his own interest, and thinking he had gone far enough on a fool's path, he determined to try and make a settlement with his tenants. He submitted the case to arbitration. This was the case in which the hon. Member for South Tyrone said the landlord was a just man, and the tenants were a pack of robbers—were dressed so comfortably and looked so well off that it would have been dishonest on their part to refuse to pay the landlord. What was the result of the arbitration? Why, that the tenants got better terms than they demanded in the first instance from their landlord. Then the hon. Gentleman brings forward his knowledge of the Glensharrold estate—and what astonishes me is the boldness with which some advocates introduce delicate subjects. If there is an estate in 1453 Ireland, to contemplate the condition of the tenants of which would make one's blood run cold, it is the Glensharrold and Falcarragh estate. The hon. Gentleman stated that the tenants were asked to submit their case to arbitration, but that is not the case. They have offered to do so. Even the Bishop of Limerick, whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman quotes here to-night, who sent out not a friendly valuer, but a hostile valuer to the Glensharrold estate, discovered on the valuation made by Mr. Barry that the demand of the tenants was honest, just, ,and upright. It is said it would be hard on the poor landlords to have pauper tenants forced back upon them; but who has made them paupers? I say it is the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hunts and others, who have joined in a combination to make it impossible for these and other tenants to make an honest living in Ireland. These tenants on the Glensharrold estate had their rents raised four times within a quarter of a century, until they could not by any possible means earn the rents. It was only by their industry as turf cutters and sellers that they were enabled to pay the enormous rents that were charged them. These tenants were made paupers not by their own idleness, not by their own want of thrift, but through the rapacity of the landlord under whom they had the misfortune to live. They were willing from the first hour to submit their case to arbitration. The tenants on the Clanricarde estate have also been willing from the first day to now to submit their case to arbitration, and the same thing can be said of the tenants on the Ponsonby estate. On the last-named estate the landlord was also prepared to refer the case to arbitration, but a third party stepped in—a gentleman whose object was to keep up a fictitious value of the land in Ireland for the benefit of his class. Where, then, was the dishonesty in these cases? I say it was on the part of the landlords and their advocates. We, on the other hand, feel that we have not only been honest, but generous, and we maintain that we have been justified in our defence of the tenantry. In regard to the letter of Dr. Healy to the Times, I would point out that four years ago Lord Clanricarde offered to give reductions of 20 and 15 1454 per cent., but not until the Plan of Campaign was started. Up to within the past three months he would have let the farms to new tenants, if any new tenants would have accepted them; but a change has come over him. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh thinks that this is a happy hour for the landlords, that the Plan of Campaign has been a failure, and that there are no longer any funds to support the tenants. Well, the Committee should know that the terms on which the tenants can be restored are the payment of three years' rent, the payment of all costs, and payment for the time during which the tenants had been out of possession. The landlords' honesty is this: that they would require their tenants to pay rent for the land, even when the tenants had not the land. A lovely code of morality this ! The dishonesty of it is that the tenants having been plundered for years, and years, and years, and having revolted against the extortions made by Lord Clanricarde's agents, and having been sustained by the rest of the Irish race at home and abroad, the landlords found they had come to a serious pass in the condition of their estates in Ireland, and although most of them bent to the storm, a few of them more turbulent and fearless than the rest, refused to accede to the demands of the people, and these were supported by the other landlords, who sheltered themselves behind the mask of the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Smith-Barry). But I venture to say that the tenants of those landlords, not with standing the hope expressed by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) although they may appear to him and other Members as derelict and abandoned by the the Irish race, will carry on this business to the finish, and until they have succeeded in breaking in even the wild colts of landlordism in Ireland. I would ask the House, has the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary succeeded up to the present time in breaking the spirit of the people of Tipperary? No doubt we have had bogus reports to that effect communicated to the press day after day, and I regret to say grabbed at, leaped at, and licked up, even by portions of that press which, ought not to be found on the side of the Irish landlords. But I ask has the hon. 1455 Member for Hunts got back much of his rent? Has he got back any of his tenants? We have been charged with the offences of the tenants of Tipperary, and it is said that it was a dishonest move on their part. I say that a more honourable and praise worthy act was never done by a body of tenants than that which was done by the tenants of Tipperary. They did not refuse to pay the rent, or at any rate a reasonable rent, but they refused to be his tenants at any price, even at a farthing an acre per year. Had his agents offered to let them remain on their farms for the next four years, provided they promised to pay that rent, they would not have continued their occupancy. In fact it was not a matter of refusal of rent on their part, it was a matter of revolt against his conduct in taking the lead as he did, against the people of Ireland with whom he had had no personal quarrel. The landlords' honesty comes to this, that when the landlords get their chance, they may conspire, confederate, and agree, and the Government will not bring any member of them before the Court of Removables for illegal conspiracy. No, Sir; that weapon is one which is only intended for those who stand by the weak against the strong, and by the poor against the wealthy. That is a weapon which is only used by a Tory Government against the Irish Nationalists, and it is not a weapon which the Chief Secretary would dream of applying to such persons as the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh or the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Johnston). Those are to be allowed to Conspire. Those may have their landlords combinations and confederacies, and may work their mischief against any number of tenants, and thousands upon thousands of the poor peasants of Ireland. Those may conspire for the wrong, and ruin, and degradation, and impoverishment of the people, but there is no punishment for them. No, the punishment of the law is for the poor Nationalist, who dares to vindicate the right of the tenant to any possible modicum of justice. I venture to say that, not with standing what this Motion proposes to night, it will meet with the fate of all the Motions which have hitherto been brought forward in the interests of peace, order, and tranquility 1456 in Ireland from the opposite side of the House. I venture to say that the landlords of Ireland whose advocates are so very zealous in this House, will yet regret that the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), has not been accepted in the spirit in which it is moved. I know, however, it is impossible to break the spirit of the Irish tenants. I know that the airy nonsense which has been uttered and repeated in this House in speeches made over and over again, will have no effect upon the spirit which animates the evicted tenants of my country. I would that a better spirit prevailed in the breasts of Members of this House, and that for the sake of that peace and harmony, aye, and of that humanity which, they sometimes profess to have so much, the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman would be accepted, so that in future those questions which have arisen between certain Irish landlords and their tenants who have revolted against them, would be submitted to arbitration impartially and honourably with the result that peace, happiness, and content might be brought to many parts of Ireland. (8.10.)
§ (8.40.) MR. ROCHE (Galway, E.)
I must say that the account which has been given to-night of the condition of the tenants on the Clanricarde estate is not accurate.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. ROCHE
We have been told that sickness and fever are rife among these tenants, and that the funds have been stopped. I tell the House that there is not a particle of truth in those assertions. I challenge the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who said he had been on the Woodford estate to give the name of a single tenant whom he visited. I know every person he saw. First he called on the District Inspector, then the local Magistrate, and finally the evicting landlord. From these sources alone did the hon. Member derive his information. I confess I have taken a very active part in connection with the struggle on the Clanricarde estate, and the action which I have taken will be the proudest boast of my life: I would repeat it to-morrow under 1457 similar circumstances. The hon. Member has stated to the House that the tenants were compelled against their will to take the action they did; that many only acted under threats of personal violence, and that they were, in fact, terrorised into it. But I reply that not a single step was ever taken which was not first discussed at a general meeting of the tenants, and what was done had their full sanction. We are told that all this was the work of the combination known as the Plan of Campaign. But the Plan of Campaign was not started until October, 1886, whereas the combination on the Clanricarde estate was formed exactly a year before. Again, as was proved before the Times, Special Commission, this combination of the tenants had not the sanction of the National League or of the Irish Parliamentary party: indeed, it was started in opposition to the wishes of both, on behalf of the tenantry. I went to the League Offices to ask if they would be supported in the struggle against their landlord, but I was told to advise them, to pay their rents, for they need expect no assistance from the League. I told the tenants what had occurred, but they could not pay their rents, so we issued an appeal for help, and within six months the Tenants' Defence Association at Woodford received subscriptions to the amount of £1,000. So the fight went on. In December, 1885, the tenants memorialised Lord Clanricarde for an abatement of 25 per cent, in their rents, but they got no reply. In August, 1886, four of the tenants on the Woodford estate were evicted, and I believe the evictions cost the present Government about £3,000. In addition to that, 68 of the tenants were arrested and thrown into prison, and got from 12 to 18 months' confinement for defending their own houses. Not until all this had occurred, and until the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford had visited the scene of the evictions did the landlord make any offer to the tenants. Then he declined to recognise the combination, and he would not reinstate any of the evicted tenants unless they went to the agent individually and pleaded for mercy. They refused such terms, and now at least one-third of the entire population of Woodford has been evicted, and these 1458 people are living in huts erected by their organisation. Some 22 or 23 families are in huts on the parochial plot, and Lord Clanricarde is applying to a Superior Court for an injunction in order to get them evicted again. I ask the Government, in the interests of peace and of justice, to step in and prevent this fight continuing, for, although not one serious crime has been committed in the Woodford district, yet if Lord Clanricarde persists in his vengeance against the people, they will resist, and will not allow this man, or anybody on his behalf, to continue to pursue them with such harshness and injustice. It is the duty of the Government to prevent anything in the shape of breaches of the peace or of crime in the district, and if they will only adopt the course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford they can do this. The tenants have always been anxious to settle this matter on just and amicable lines. At first they offered to purchase their holdings on fair and equitable terms. I made an offer to that effect to the landlord's agent, and the reply we got was that Lord Clanricarde would take 25 years' purchase for the estate. In consequence of the evictions, I purchased a small property right in the centre of the estate, and the price I gave was equal to only 12 years' purchase. Yet for the property surrounding it Lord Clanricarde wanted 25 years' purchase. If this landlord, who is, I believe, actuated with malice towards the people, will only act in accordance with the dictates of humanity and justice, all will be well. But I fear he will not do so, and, therefore, I say it is the duty of the Government to step in and interfere. In the many speeches to which I have listened to-night I have not heard a single argument against the principle of arbitration. The whole tone of the speeches of the supporters of the Government has been indicative of a desire to break down the combination without recourse to arbitration. But I assure the House, from my knowledge of the people on the Plan of Campaign estate—and I have a pretty intimate acquaintance with them—that there is far more life in the organisation to-day than there was four years ago. I say, too, that it would be equally in the interests of both landlords and tenants if arbitration were resorted to. 1459 I recollect a case in the locality of Woodford in which the tenants demanded 30 per cent., and the landlord offered 15 per cent., reduction. The matter was to be left to arbitration. The tenants suggested as the arbitrator the landlord' sown brother, and the Bishop of the Diocese, but the landlord would not agree to that, and resorted to eviction. He turned out five of his tenants just as the crops were ready for harvesting, and the struggle went on for seven months. At the end of that period the landlord granted a reduction of 25 per cent., he reinstated the evicted tenants, wiped out all law costs, paid for the crops on the land at the time of the eviction, and paid also £160 for the support of the tenants during the time they were evicted. Surely he would have done far better to have come to terms in the first instance. I tell the House that the tenants on the Clanricarde estate will never give in if by so doing they will have to desert those of their number who have been wounded in the fight. I take it to be admitted that long before there were any signs of disunion amongst our Party the Rev. Dr. Healy attempted, time after time, to bring about a settlement between Lord Clanricarde and his tenants. If Lord Clanricarde will not agree to arbitration, how on earth can the dispute be settled? I am afraid it never will be settled while the present Government is in power. The people of Ireland have not the slightest confidence that the present Government will assist them in bringing about a peaceable settlement of these disputes. The hopes of the people are all centred in the next General Election. They are prepared to make great sacrifices, and to endure great suffering, until the General Election. If then their hopes are disappointed I would not care to be responsible for the peace of the Plan of Campaign districts; for I am persuaded that if the people see that the Government will not come to their rescue and do them justice, they will not tolerate such men as Lord Clanricarde, who ever visits the country, and who has never seen his Woodford property, and who persists in turning them out of their homes. The hon. Member for South Tyrone says he has spent a week investigating the case of the Clanricarde tenants. I challenge the hon. Gentleman to give the name of 1460 the tenants on the Woodford estate he consulted, because I maintain that there is not a particle of truth in any one of his statements. In one case a poor boy was taken from a sick bed, and died two days after the eviction. The father of the boy tried, time after time, to obtain an inquest, in order that the truth might be known. The head of the Government in Ireland was appealed to, but the matter was hushed up. If it is of any use I appeal to the Government, even in their own interest, to go down to Woodford and investigate the facts for themselves. I confidently assert that if the Chief Secretary were to spend three days in the Woodford district, he would be the first Member to stand up in this House and insist upon justice being done the tenants.
§ (9.5.) MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I regret that while my hon. Friend was giving a categorical and clear denial to the statements of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) with reference to the Woodford estate, the hon. Gentleman left the House. I regret that the hon. Member has left, because I propose to refer to the Ponsonby estate, in regard to which the hon. Member has been betrayed into a course of systematic misrepresentations. He has spoken about the doles of money being refused the tenants, and about the tenants' miserable and impoverished condition. The fact is, the tenants on the Ponsonby estate are comparatively better off to-day than they have been at any time during the past 10 years, but it is well that the House should not lie under any misconception as to our attitude towards the evicted tenants. We are not now suing in formâ pauperis. We do not come here to beg Her Majesty's Government to establish these Boards of Arbitration. We have not approached the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, who of his own motion and in consequence of his desire to being about peace, has proposed this Resolution. We are not suing for terms on behalf of these evicted tenants, because as long as there is a dollar to be had from an Irishman in any part of the world it shall go towards the relief of the tenants. There may be a temporary disagreement amongst hon. Members here, but there is one point on which we are all agreed, and that is 1461 that we shall all stand firm in defence of those who, in time of crisis and in defence of principle, have made as gallant a stand against overwhelming odds as was ever made by any body of civilians or military. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to forget the history of the past few years. They seem to forget that in 1886, when the hon. Member for Cork introduced his measure, the fall in prices was so rapid and crushing on the greater portion of the tenants in Ireland that it was absolutely impossible for the leaseholders to pay their ordinary rents, and even for those tenants who had had judicial rents fixed to pay their judicial rents. Hon. Members opposite produced figures to show there was no fall in prices. I well remember the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Plunket) declared in this House that there could not be a serious fall in agricultural prices because the price of wool had risen. The Bill of the hon. Member for Cork was thrown out, and no attempt was made by the Government to deal with the question. It was a profanation to talk of dealing with the judicial rents that had been so sacredly and recently fixed. A short time passed, and the Government, who had denied that there was a fall in prices, appointed the Cowper Commission, and that Commission's Report we all remember. A little later on the same Government gave power to the Land Commission to reduce the judicial rents and to fix a certain schedule according to which rents could be reduced. What is the fact in regard to the Ponsonby estate? In 1885 remonstrances were addressed to Mr. Ponsonby, but all these remonstrances fell on deaf ears. The summer of 1886 was very wet, and the barley crop, which forms the bulk of the cereal produce of the district in which the Ponsonby estate is situate, was almost an utter and complete failure. I remember seeing hundreds of the tenants dragging their crops of barley to the town of Middleton. The local distillers refused to buy the barley. The tenants then took it to Cork, where they were satisfied to sell it for their food and lodging. The stuff was barely good enough to give to pigs. When the main portion of the crops was ruined, it became necessary that the tenants should get an adequate reduction of their rents. I, personally, have never regarded judicial 1462 rents as things from which there is no appeal. The tenants have not had a fair share in the fixing of the judicial rents. I am not satisfied, and I never shall be satisfied, that judicial rents are a fair measure of what agricultural rents should be in Ireland, until the appointment of Sub-Commissioners is made upon an honourable and impartial basis. The appointments made do not command confidence, and it does not finish argument or close debate to tell us that judicial rents have been fixed. When there was a fall in prices in 1886 all this edifice of judicial rent tumbled to the ground, and the Government had to find a remedy for a state of things they had before denied. I can speak from personal knowledge of the Ponsonby estate, a knowledge not derived from flying visits. I know it from top to bottom, and I knew it long before there was any disturbance upon the estate in connection with the tenants' combination. I know that some of the tenants were among the most cruelly rack-rented of the class in Ireland. I know that some of the poorest tenants paid rent on their own improvements, and that legalised spoliation had been going on upon the Ponsonby estate for generations. I have here some of the figures showing the rents that had been paid. They are furnished by Canon Keller, who has intimate knowledge of the facts, and a deep interest in the tenants, and I am willing to accept the statements of the Very Rev. Canon Keller against the statements of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who probably does not know barley from oats, or a horse from a mare. Here are some instances of the the rents that were paid. In the case of a tenant named Doyle, the largest tenant on the estate, the valuation was £250, the rent £370; in the case of another the valuation was £163, the rent £223; in the case of a third the valuation was £61, the rent £79; in the case of a fourth the valuation was £40, the rent £58. It was against rents of this kind—rents it was not possible for them to pay, rents imposed upon the tenants' own improvements—that they combined and demanded a reduction, which by the acknowledgment of the agent, Mr. Horace Townsend, would have been granted if the tenants had gone into the Land Court. The Attorney 1463 General for Ireland, who is in general a pains taking gentleman, mentioned three estates in Ponsonby, the Olphert, and, I think, the Luggacurran estates, and he said on the Ponsonby estate the leaseholders were offered by Mr. Ponsonby the option of going into the Land Court. I deny that utterly. The right hon. Gentleman is misinformed. No such offer was made until the tenants had been two or three years in combination, and a large number of them had been evicted. The offer was made only on the condition that they should abandon those of their number who had been evicted, but this, as honourable men, they refused to do. To their credit be it said, there, as throughout Ireland, the tenants refused to abandon their fellows who had been evicted, who had fought by their side, and who in the ultimate victory will have a share in the reward. I should have thought that in a free assembly like this such chivalrous conduct would have extorted admiration from opponents, but the unhealthy atmosphere of this political life seems to have stifled these feelings of generosity. The right hon. Gentleman has put the case most unfairly; the leaseholders were offered the right to go into Court, but not until a large number of them had been evicted. I can assure right hon. Gentlemen they will sit on that Bench a long time before they hear us withdraw one word we have uttered in defence of the Plan of Campaign. We acknowledge it was an extreme remedy, but it was extreme necessity drove the tenants to adopt it. On the Ponsonby estate, not a Member of this House, not even the hon. Member for North-East Cork, in whose constituency the land is situated, was responsible for the Plan of Campaign. It was only when the unfortunate people were driven to the wall that they adopted the Plan of Campaign, upon which they have fought the landlord ever since. We know the history of events. Negotiations for a settlement were coming to a satisfactory conclusion, until a certain Mephistopheles came upon the scene in the person of the hon. Member for Huntingdonshire, and then they were broken off. We have it on the authority of the agent and intermediary (Mr. Brouncker) that matters between landlord and tenants were approaching a settlement, that a very 1464 small sum divided them, when negotiations were closed with the appearance of the hon. Member for South Hunts. I do not know whether he appeared in defence of his order, or whether he was looking for dignity and honours from the Crown, as reward for meritorious action, but his appearance destroyed the expectation of a settlement. In connection with this estate the hon. Member for South Tyrone a while ago spoke of the cattle and sheep roving over the pasture lands; but I can call to mind some very vivid words of his in which, not long ago, he described the docks and weeds and thistles over growing the land. We say the responsibility lies not with the tenants who dared to stand up in defence of their rights and property, but with the landlord, who, blind to all sense of justice, and deaf to good counsel, proceeded to the enforcement of his unjust claims. There cannot be a doubt that these avenging landlords, these men who have singled themselves out by their exceptional treatment of their tenantry in Ireland, would never have persisted to the bitter extremities they have gone were it not for the demeanour, the advice and encouragement they constantly received from the Chief Secretary for Ireland. There can be no doubt that landlords such as Lord Clanricarde, Mr. Olphert, and others would not have pursued their tenants in the bitter and malignant spirit they have if they had not been aware that they had the encouragement and approval of the Government of Ireland. We claim in connection with this combination of tenants that practically there has been no crime in Ireland. We claim that for the Ponsonby estate, for the Massereene estate, the Luggacurran estate, and all over Ireland where this unfortunate necessity for a struggle has been forced upon the people. When hon. Members talk of serious responsibility, let me ask who encouraged this system of planting, of bringing men from distant parts to confiscate the property of tenants, to rob them of the fruits of their industry? I say a serious responsibility lies upon the men who encouraged this kind of thing, for a new spirit has entered into Ireland, a new spirit has been infused into the breasts of the Irish tenant; and he who once endured the cruellest wrongs ever inflicted 1465 on a body of people, no longer stands a legitimate object for the perpetration of oppression, which is as keenly felt to-day, and will be as boldly resisted by Irishmen as by any people who ever struggled against tyranny and wrong. If hundreds and thousands of these men who have made the land what it is, who have given it all the fertility it possesses, find themselves driven from their homes and debarred from all hopes, I, for one, say that if these planters from the north—that paradise of all that is loyal and good and orderly—are in the future overtaken by a swift and stern retribution, I shall not be found to raise a voice in protest. There is a serious responsibility upon those who lend themselves to an iniquitous system such as this, and I beg the Government to pause before it is too late. I beg the men who are defending a system of extermination to pause before they have created a state of things which will produce many a bitter crop of suffering, perhaps of outrage and crime. We shall support the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford. It commends itself to everyone who has any idea of justice, equity, and fair play, and who is really in favour of law and order. We recommend the Motion for this reason, and shall support it for this reason. Our duty is clear to the evicted tenant. We shall support every honest attempt for a peaceful settlement, we shall advise recourse to arbitration, and if the worst comes to the worst, it will be our duty in the future, as it has been in the past, to wait and work for the downfall of the Government and the system which has caused so much misery.
§ (9.30.) MR. HENNIKER HEATON (Canterbury)
I desire to offer a short statement to the House in reference to the Vandeleur estate, and the statement I shall make will be one that will not give much pleasure to the representatives of the landlords in Ireland, neither will it give unbounded satisfaction to those who represent the interests of the tenants. I represent a constituency which is in no way influenced by Irish votes or Irish interests, and when I feel it my duty to make a statement as to matters with which I am acquainted, I hope the House will credit me with having no bias either way. The history of the troubles upon the Vandeleur 1466 estate may be given very shortly. For generations the Vandeleur family have held good reputation in the County of Clare. They managed their estates in a kindly, but, unquestionably, somewhat haphazard manner, and no very grave dissensions, if any, appeared between the landlord and the 450 tenants. In good times the landlord obtained the fall amount of rent demanded, and in bad times he made considerable abatements. Meanwhile, these gratifying relations existing, times were changing, the country was becoming more advanced, popular ideas were more represented, and new rights or claims were put forward. Perhaps I may first direct attention to the year 1874. In that year my friend Mr. Vandeleur's father stood as candidate for the representation of Clare, and was defeated, and it is alleged by the tenants that immediately after his defeat the landlord raised his rents. It is only fair to say that on a close investigation of affairs it appears that while there is some foundation for the statement, this might be excused on many grounds, and the statement of Mr. Vandeleur was that he only raised the rents to the figures at which they stood previous to the election in which he was defeated. Whether this is true or not, all I can say of the management of the estate is that the people lived in a fairly happy manner, and it was not until the introduction of the Plan of Campaign that any real trouble arose, when questions, especially the raising of the rents in 1874, were brought forward, and these resulted in the people combining to refuse payment of rents. Writs of eviction were issued, and 1,000 police were brought on to the estate for three weeks to carry out eviction against 26 tenants. Mr. Vandeleur complains very much that he suffered a very great deal of damage in the course of these eviction proceedings; preserves were destroyed; his house injured, and tenants' houses were demolished against his wish, and the wish of the agent for the estate. I shall have a word or two to say in regard to the agent, and I am sure the House will understand I desire to give an explanation of some of the troubles. This agent, one of the firmest, most just and loyal of men, came from the North of Ireland, an Ulster Scotchman. He took the strictest views of rights and wrongs, and did not always yield to the tenants' 1467 demands for abatement. Troubles arose, relations became strained, evictions took place, and finally the whole of the tenants refused to pay a farthing of rent. After three years, efforts of various kinds were made to bring about some sort of arbitration—and it is now my duty to point out that the Government, through their agents, forced Mr. Vandeleur to come to terms in regard to arbitration—and to this end every kind of inducement, argument, and warning, was used. I think this should be known, considering the charges that have been made against Mr. Vandeleur. This correspondence shows that Mr. Vandeleur at no period agreed to arbitration until the Government agents forced him into it. On March 15, 1888, Sir Redvers Buller wrote to Mr. Vandeleur, saying he had been asked—he did not say by whom—to tell him that his tenants were anxious for a settlement, and to suggest that their offer should be accepted. Mr. Vandeleur, during 1878, also received letters to the same effect from the Resident Magistrate at Kilrush, Captain Walsh, and other Resident Magistrates, all the correspondence being to the same effect, urging Mr. Vandeleur to come to terms of arbitration. Matters drifted on, and ended in my friend Mr. Vandeleur, after a long correspondence, communicating with Sir Charles Russell, and placing matters in his hands. This came about in a very simple manner. Mr. Vandeleur determined to evict all the tenants in February, 1889, but the police said it would be impossible to carry out the evictions before June of that year, and of course, the interval before the evictions could be carried out meant a heavy loss to Mr. Vandeleur, yet still the police said the evictions could not be carried out earlier. So Sir Charles Russell acted as arbitrator, and his award in my judgment, was not so fair as it might have been, but it was such an award as Sir Charles Russell expected would place the rent beyond doubt in good and bad seasons. By this award the Government saved at least £10,000 expenses of evictions, and Mr. Vandeleur was enabled to obtain the whole of the Campaign money deposited in the hands of the arbitrator by those in charge of it. Matters then appeared to be going on smoothly. I visited the estate, and with some trouble, owing to the strained relations 1468 existing between landlord, tenants, Resident Magistrate, and Police, was instrumental in settling some minor difficulties. At this period there occurred an event upon the estate which caused me considerable pain, and will no doubt excite a feeling of indignation in the House. The 26 tenants who had been evicted, and had been living in Land League huts, were restored to their holdings. These tenants brought back such cattle and stock as they had, borrowed more, and got a little money from the bank to work their farms. Two or three days after I left, with everything, as I thought, in fair working order, an act, as I thought, of unparallelled treachery was perpetrated. The police, upon an old bill of £150, came down and seized the whole of the tenants' cattle. I made representation at once to the Chief Secretary, and he instituted an inquiry immediately, and in the result it turned out that the Resident Magistrate was in no sense to blame, but the Sheriff, in carrying out his duty, took upon himself to seize the cattle for an old bill of costs, although Mr. Vandeleur had relinquished his claim, and did not press it. I felt very much annoyed, though it was proved the Resident Magistrate had nothing to do with it. Now, I return to the arbitration. Sir Charles Russell, in giving his award, made a condition that the damage to crops should be made the subject of local valuation by somebody appointed in Kilrush, and Mr. Considine was selected, in some manner unknown to me, to perform the duty. Mr. Considine awarded a sum equal to three years' rental for the damage done to the crops, and this award is now the subject of correspondence between the hon. and learned Member for Hackney and Mr. Vandeleur. To show the gross injustice of this award, if the damage done to the crops was worth three years' rental, then the tenants' demands were exorbitant and they were well able to pay their rents. The idea of three years' rental is outrageous, and has caused considerable irritation. And now, it may be asked, How far do the results justify the statement that arbitration is a failure, and that no further arbitration should take place? I communicated within the last few days with Mr. Stothard, the agent, to inquire to what extent the award of the hon. and learned 1469 Member for Hackney had been obeyed, and I have a letter in reply stating that out of 213 tenants only 27 have obeyed the award.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON
I have the names in each case. It is only fair to mention that the 26 evicted tenants may be added; but, in that case, the total is only 53, which I do not think shows a satisfactory result, and until I have better information I must consider the award has been a failure. It may be expected that I should say something as to the future of the estate. I am bound to say I never remember visiting a more beautiful country; soil and climate offer every encouragement for success, though railway communication is required. I think Mr. Vandeleur's ancestors are greatly to blame for not having in the past devoted more attention to the development of the estate, but if this is properly carried out in the time to come, if railways are extended, and if the people are taught to be industrious instead of idle, I believe there is a great future for the Vandeleur estate.
§ (9.50.) MR. J. O'CONNOR
I think we ought to be deeply grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his interesting contribution to this important Debate. The proposition is that Boards of Arbitration should be established, and the Government contend that this proposition cannot with advantage to the country be carried out; but while they carry on this pantomime of contending with us to-night against the proposition, they, behind the scenes, have been doing exactly the thing we want them to legalise. We have heard read letters from officials in Ireland—we had letters from so high an official as Sir Redvers Buller himself—all bringing "pressure within the law on a landlord in Ireland."
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
He was not then Under Secretary.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
He was not Under Secretary, but he was a friend of the Government, and he had been in office a short time before.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
Why did Sir Redvers Buller intervene? Was it not because he was known to have had 1470 official communication with Ireland in the past, had had official intercourse with the Representatives of the Government there, that he was in such close connection with the Government that his letter might be taken as expressing the views of the Government? What does he say? That he "was pressed to make this representation." By whom? By his employers—from those from whom he held office? Undoubtedly we are justified in coming to that conclusion. Sir Redvers Buller was not the only official addressing letters to Mr. Vandeleur. Captain Walsh, the Resident Magistrate stationed at Kilrush, addressed letters of remonstrance to Mr. Vandeleur, pointing out the advisability of settling with his tenants; and when we have such an official stating to a landlord that "it is advisable," "most desirable," he should settle with his tenants, what does it mean but "pressure within the law?" We are accused of bringing forward and supporting a proposition that will, in the language of the Attorney General for Ireland, "work gross injustice." We usually meet with this declaration when we agitate for the rights of the tenant in Ireland. We were told it would be a gross injustice to pass the Land Bill in 1881. We are told by the Attorney General for Ireland that this proposition is not necessary for the reduction of rents, because there is the Land Court for the purpose. This Court was thought satisfactory in 1881, and yet an Arrears Bill had to be passed in 1883, and again in 1887 the Land Act had to be amended in order to afford the Commissioners an opportunity of still further reducing rents, and every effort that is made in this House and out of it to bring justice home to the tenants of Ireland is characterised as grossly unjust. The Attorney General for Ireland says the alternative is a firm and temperate administration of the law, a firm and temperate administration where tenants alone are concerned, but he will not adopt our proposal because pressure would be brought upon the landlords to come to settlement, and the hon. Member who first opposed this Resolution states that legislation is unnecessary. But the hon. Member (Mr. T. W. Russell) was not always of that opinion, because if I remember rightly he not long ago wrote a strong letter to the Times, and spoke in this House as to the 1471 necessity for legislation in order to deal with such cases as the Vandeleur estates and others. The hon. Member said to-night, in opposing this Motion, that arbitration had been applied to the Vandeleur estate and had failed. But why? Last year a similar statement was made in the House, and we made inquiries, the result of which was that we found that in only a few cases had the award not been acted upon. If it is not acted upon to-day we have the reason stated by the hon. Member for Canterbury, who says it is because of the imperfection of the award, the incompleteness of the award, and is not to be attributed to the dishonesty of the tenants. But no such failure could take place if we had a legalised Court of Arbitration. The hon. Member for South Tyrone says that this House ought not to come to the rescue or relief of those who have entered the Plan of Campaign upon these estates. That is the cry in this House and outside, "You must not yield to the Plan of Campaign," but it is time that cry was stilled. Take the case of the Ponsonby estate. An attempt was made at arbitration there to settle the difficulties. An attempt was made by a philanthropic gentleman from the South of Ireland, well known to the right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Bench, well known to the hon. Member for South Hunts, to buy this estate. Sir John Arnott, the proprietor of the Irish Times, a supporter of the present Government, was prepared to advance a large sum of money, as much as £10,000, with which he was prepared to bridge over the difficulty about price. A correspondence of a lengthy character was entered into between the agent of the estate and Sir John Arnott Sir John Arnott states in his letter that he was willing to lose £10,000 in order to bridge over the difficulty and difference. That letter I have read not only in print, but in manuscript. But the syndicate of landlords, represented in this House by the hon. Member for South Hunts, put on the estate a prohibitive price. No landlord in Ireland will be satisfied with anything short of beating the tenants to their knees, and I maintain it is the duty of the House of Commons to come to the assistance of the tenants who are being so ruthlessly dealt with. I must characterise the conduct of the syndicate of landlords represented 1472 here by the hon. Member for South Hunts as cruel and wrong in the extreme; but it is not a bit worse than the conduct of those who manage and are responsible for Lord Clanricarde's estate. I have no doubt a sincere and honest attempt has been made recently by the Bishop of the diocese to settle that estate, and to-day's Times contains a letter which has been frequently referred to in general terms in the course of this discussion. I beg the House to pardon me while I read a few extracts from that letter. The Bishop asked the agent a number of questions, but I will only ask the House to listen to the answers given by Mr. Tener. The agent replied—Any tenant who would be restored will be liable for all costs and arrears, even for those which accrued while not in possession of the farm.In case of restoration of evicted tenants I would at once require payment of three years' rent and costs.That makes it impossible for the evicted tenants to be restored to their houses, and the other tenants—and it is to their credit—will not go back unless their brother tenants are restored. Again Mr. Tener says—I would still give no written guarantee that the balance would not be demanded at any time.That is to say, that while the balance of the arrears or the balance of the rent that may be due would not be demanded now, it would hang like a millstone round the necks of the tenants who have been settled with, and this millstone would deprive them of all energy in the future to develop their farms; it would take the heart out of them, and spoil them as industrious men. He goes on—But I may say that no further payment of arrears will be required for 12 months. In any case I would not restore them generally speaking; each case should be considered on its own merits and with regard to the interests of the estate. All tenants in present possession, except a few against whom legal proceedings are pending, can have the same terms on paying at once three years' rent and costs. No costs under any circumstances will be remitted, and no reduction in any circumstances on judicial rents, but on non-judicial rents a reduction of 10 per cent. will be made on all payments made.That is to say, these tenants will be restored on conditions that will place them in a worse position than that occupied by those who have been in occupation all the years that they have been 1473 out, because, while the tenants in occupation have had their rents re-considered and reduced by the Commissioners under the Act of 1887, those who would be settled with would be deprived of all the benefit of the reductions. I think it is very clear from the circumstances on the Ponsonby and the Clanricarde estates, and from the conditions that are laid down by the landlords' syndicate and the agent of Lord Clanricarde that the landlords do not want peace with the tenants, that they will not make the peace outside this House, that they will not accept the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, which would bring about peace through the legalised action of this House. It is evident the landlords of Ireland do not want anything but war with their tenants. The hon. Member for South Tyrone stated that the tenants on these estates have made exorbitant demands for reductions, and that they have not acted according to awards which have been made. I will give the hon. Member an instance of a Plan of Campaign estate with which I had some intimate connection in the early stages of the Plan—I allude to the Mitchelstown Estate, and it is a fair sample of the estates that have been campaigned. After the Land Act of 1881 had been passed the tenants of that estate applied for permission to go into the Land Court. Being leaseholders it was necessary for them to ask permission, and Mr. Webber, the husband of the Countess of Kingstown, said he would select a typical case to be heard by the Court. That case was selected, and the tenant had his rent reduced by 30 per cent. There up on, Mr. Webber withdrew his consent from the other 400 tenants on the estate, and they had to continue to pay rack rents, rents which, according to the decision in the typical case, were 30 per cent. too high. The Cowper Commission was appointed, and reported that the value of agricultural produce had fallen by 20 per cent. since the rents had been fixed between 1881 and 1883. Therefore, the tenants on the Mitchelstown estate were rack rented to the extent of 50 per cent. The unfortunate tenants paid the 30 per cent. declared by the Commission to be a rack rent beyond the 20 per cent., which, according to the Report of the Commission, had been the reduction in 1474 the value of agricultural produce. What was the reduction asked for by the tenants on the estate? Did they ask for 50 per cent.? No; nor for 40 nor 30. They only asked for 20 per cent., and they were refused. The Plan of Campaign was entered upon, and bitterly fought on both sides. Men were sent to prison, men lost their lives, in the struggle, and after all this there was an arbitration and a settlement. The Land Commissioners came down and gave a larger reduction to the tenants than had been asked for under the Plan of Campaign. The rents have been paid and the award made has been acted up to by the tenants. That is a typical case, and a fair example of many of the estates that have been settled under the Plan of Campaign. Let the Committee bear in mind that some 60 estates have been settled by arbitration, and no complaints have come to this House, except those which have come from the hon. Member. I beg the Government to entertain this proposition, first, because the condition of things which demands a settlement was created by the Government themselves by refusing to legislate for these tenants, by rejecting the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork in 1886, and by the oppression of the Crimes Act, which has been placed at the disposal of the landlords of Ireland. That is an undoubted fact. We have never heard of landlords being sent to prison under that Act. I have given a few instances which, I think, ought to show that there is a cry against a settlement in the Plan of Campaign estates. That cry is kept up outside by those who are acting in the interests of the landlords, and finds an echo—more than an echo, a solid support—in this House from the friends of the landlords. But I would appeal to the landlords themselves. It is to their interest to have such a modus vivendi as that proposed this evening. It is also to the interest of the House to pass the Motion to remove the many subjects which disturb it here Session after Session. It would remove from us the necessity of carrying on such a Debate as this we have had to-night; it would remove the necessity of debating the Motion which will be proposed next Monday week by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley). It would also be to the interest of the 1475 Government to pass the Motion. It I would be to the interest of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland and his Government to have removed from then path this great obstacle to their successful administration, and it is because I believe it would serve all these interests that I give my support to the Motion.
§ (10.17.) SIR JOHN COLOMB (Tower, Hamlets, Bow, &c.)
According to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down he appears to have given up the position attempted to be established by the Motion, for, in answer to the statement of the hon. Member for South Tyrone that arbitration had been a failure, he says that arbitration has not been a failure, and he gives us most remarkable instances of its success. What is the success which has been achieved at Mitchelstown? What was the arbitration there?
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
There was arbitration—that of the Land Court, which, he says, fixed the rents at a 30 per cent. reduction. It is obvious, therefore, that, in the hon. Gentleman's opinion, the Land Court is an efficient Court of Arbitration for the reason that its action has been effective and satisfactory in the instance which the hon. Member has named. I listened with great interest to the statement of facts made by the hon. Member for Canterbury—and in matters connected with Ireland the one thing we want is facts. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down attempted to prove—and laid great stress upon it—that the Government is adopting a system of compulsory arbitration. The hon. Member thinks he finds proof of that in certain letters which have been referred to. I cannot share that view. If my memory serves me right, Sir Redvers Buller was an old brother officer of Colonel Vandeleur, and nothing is more natural than that, reading in the papers of the difficulties of Colonel Vandeleur, particularly as the Colonel was not too strong in the head, Sir Redvers Buller should write to advise him to come to some settlement. All the letters simply amount to this: that Sir Redvers Buller advised his friend to look more fully into the matter, and, if possible, to arrange a settlement. The same process may be 1476 seen any night when a policeman advises excited or tipsy men to go home. No one will make a charge against the Government of conniving, or ignoring, or attempting to avoid the law because a policeman uses a certain amount of discretion in advising a man to do a certain thing rather than imprison him. But I agree with the hon. Member for Canterbury when he says that it is to be regretted that the Vandeleur family have not done more to develop the estate, but, unfortunately, the want of security furnishes an excuse for not sinking capital, which will not be attracted to Ireland until political agitation ceases. This Debate is important to the future of our Empire, because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford committed himself at Drogheda to the distinct pledge that he would join no Government and enter no Cabinet which did not, as a preliminary to his joining it, give a pledge to put back the Plan of Campaign tenants into their holdings. We must all, I am sure, look with alarm upon the condition of a future Cabinet of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian without the ready aid, great eloquence, and suavity of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford. The Division may determine that grave issue. The hon. Member for Canterbury has given us a narrative of facts; but where is the hon. and learned Member for Hackney? Why is not the hon. and learned Member able to come and support his right hon. Friend? It certainly is very noteworthy that he is not in his place, seeing that he has taken such a prominent part in this arbitration. But, to come to the question at issue. I think when an abstract Resolution of this kind is proposed to the House we should look on it from several points of view. And one of the points of view is this: If the House passes the Resolution, can it be carried out, and will it work? Who is going to draw the terms of Reference? How can you go to arbitration on a political or sentimental brief? There are not only two parties—landlords and tenants—but there are two classes of tenants, having respectively judicial and non-judicial rents. The judicial tenant is a man who has been into the Land Court, in whose case sworn evidence has been taken, and in whose case the Commissioners have actually visited and examined the land on the spot and fixed 1477 the rent at a sum they think fair. Where is the room for arbitration in such a case as that? Are you going to start a sort of irresponsible Court of Appeal to upset the decision of that tribunal? I say you cannot work such a scheme practically unless as a preliminary you disestablish and disendow the Land Court of Ireland. The judicial tenant at present, if he is dissatisfied with the rent that is fixed, has a Court of Appeal; and if he does not appeal, you are bound to assume that he is satisfied. Therefore, in the case of the judicial tenant who will not pay, I fail to see, and challenge any one to show, where is the ground or basis for drawing up terms of reference in arbitration. As to the non-judicial tenant, it may be said that he has not had his rent fixed. That is so; but he has power to go into the Court tomorrow to have it fixed; and if it is reduced he will be recouped the amount he may have paid in excess of the judicial rent from the date of his application to the Court. Therefore, I ask again, is arbitration proposed to be established under this Resolution or is the Government to have thrown upon it, in addition to its other labours, the duty of acting as a Court of Appeal, to inquire into every case of dispute between the landlords and tenants? Is the Government to be called upon only when political capital is to be made? Can you draw a line in rent reduction where the Government is to interfere and to arbitrate and where it is not? Are you going to deal with the question in an abstract form, or how are you going to regard it? If the Motion is passed and tenants do not pay their rent, but say they are in the Plan of Campaign, what is to happen? Are you to interfere where the rent is £10, or £20, or £40, or £100, or where is the limit to be? You cannot fix a limit at all. And is the Government to arbitrate between the farmers who belong to the Boards of Guardians and the labourers who occupy labourers' cottages, where the latter refuse to pay their rents, and put themselves under the Plan of Campaign? In such a case is the Government to arbitrate and upset the decision of the Board of Guardians? Or is this Motion only put forward for political purposes to catch votes? Certainly it could never be carried out. There are, I know, some people who sincerely 1478 believe that the Plan of Campaign is only a parallel to strikes in this country; but I venture to say that anyone who went over to Ireland, not for a week or 10 days, but for a longer period, and made inquiries, and invested in some land where the Plan of Campaign was in force, would come to the conclusion that there was a vast difference between the Plan and a strike. In the case of labour in this country wages are not regulated by Act of Parliament, as are rents in Ireland; besides, in Ireland the tenant is secure in his holding, which cannot be said of the English labourer. The labourer, moreover, does not break a contract when he goes out on strike, as the Irish tenant does when he refuses to pay his rent. The Motion has no bottom in it. Instead of bringing about peace, it would intensify war, and would cast upon the Government a duty they could not perform. We may regard it as a hopeful sign that tenants are, generally speaking, content. It is within my own knowledge that a threat of the Plan of Campaign being adopted on a particular property is an immense impetus in favour of the payment of rents on the neighbouring estates, because tenants are frightened that they may be "campaigned," and take good care to pay their rents even before payment is expected. I ask hon. Members opposite how in practice they are going to apply such a Resolution as this to the position at New Tipperary? There has been no dispute there between landlord and tenants with regard to rent.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for telling me. I was not present during that part of his speech. We understand, then, that hon. Gentlemen are going to vote for arbitration under the clear and distinct pledge of an ex-Cabinet Minister of their Party that there is no bottom in the New Tipperary quarrel, that arbitration cannot be applied there, and that the New Tipperary tenants are left in the lurch and excluded from the arbitration proposal.
§ (10.32.) MR. MAHONY (Meath, N.)
I am sorry the hon. Gentleman did not read the Motion before he attempted to discuss it. Had he read it he would have seen that in terms it only applies to disputes arising between 1885 and 1479 1887. This would include the dispute on the Ponsonby estate, where the Tipperary dispute originated, and if the Resolution were put in force, no doubt it would be effective in ending the New Tipperary quarrel also. Hon. Members on both sides profess their anxiety to bring peace to Ireland, and they now have the opportunity of giving effect to their wishes. Every argument against the Resolution to which I have listened has been based on the idea that the result of arbitration is to be in favour of the Plan of Campaign. Surely this is an extraordinary ground for right hon. Gentlemen opposite to take their stand upon, and for the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh to contend that the passing of this Resolution would be a concession of anything to the Plan of Campaign. Surely that could not be the case unless in every instance the Plan of Campaign were justified. We believe it can be so justified, but hon. Gentlemen opposite take the reverse view; then let them put their belief to the test. The Attorney General for Ireland, in the course of his argument, said—and the main drift of his argument was—that whereas our contention is that leaseholders were excluded from the Act of 1881, and unjust arrears were undealt with, there were three estates to which he said the leaseholder argument would not apply, inasmuch as the landlords had offered to let their tenants break their leases and go into Court. The argument of unjust arrears would not apply, he said, because landlords had made larger concessions in arrears than any legislation would have forced them to grant. I should like a little higher authority for that statement; but if it is true, then it is due to the fact that the Plan of Campaign has been in operation in Ireland. What was the origin of the Plan of Campaign, for that is the pith of the whole matter? The responsibility for the Plan of Campaign rests not with us on this side of the House, but with Her Majesty's Government, who in the autumn of 1886 refused to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), when he said that owing to the fall in agricultural prices judicial rents fixed by the Land Court had become unfair and impossible of payment. I, as a Land Commissioner, stated that in fixing rents I had made no allowance 1480 for the unexpected fall in prices, and the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) derided me, and said I had demonstrated my failure as a Land Commissioner because I had not been able to foresee what no living man then foresaw. What happened afterwards? The Government appointed a Royal Commission which found that no Land Commissioner had had in view a possible fall in prices when he fixed judicial rents. Yes, and the Government passed into law a measure giving relief to those tenants, though not so much as they ought to have got; therefore the injustice is one you have acknowledged, and you cannot get out of it by specious argument and beating about the bush. In 1887 you admitted that the results of the Land Act of 1881 had been unjust to leaseholders, and reductions since have been larger than to ordinary yearly tenants, proving that these leaseholders had a very serious grievance, and that this existed up to 1887, and this Motion does not pretend to deal with any tenant who is not suffering under that grievance. Arrears are still undealt with by legislation. We have been told by the right hon. Gentleman that the House has refused to deal specially with debts of this kind. Yes, but the House has dealt with such in Scotland; the reductions in arrears given to crofters far exceed any reductions by judicial rents. The Attorney General for Ireland alluded to two estates on which the Plan of Campaign was introduced, the Massereene estate and Lord Lansdowne's estate, and on both he said the landlords had offered to allow the tenants to break their leases and go into the Land Court. Yes, but this was after the Plan of Campaign had been put into operation, and after people had been evicted. What good was it then? On the Massereene estate leaseholders were only a very small proportion of the tenants, and the main fight there was against non-judicial rents, rents that had never been before the Land Court. Lord Massereene refused any reduction whatever, and dismissed his agent who recommended it. It was only after the Plan of Campaign had been adopted, and after some of the tenants who had not been evicted had gone into the Land Court and had got a reduction of 23 per cent., they having asked 25 per cent; the Land Court thus showing that 1481 the quarrel the tenants had entered upon was not an unjust one. That Lord Massereene made an offer to give the other tenants a similar reduction. But this offer was coupled with a condition that two of the tenants, who had been mainly instrumental in wringing from him this concession, were to be handed over to him as victims. Is this not a case for arbitration where we have shown the tenants were in the right and Lord Massereene in the wrong, and where the landlord would only make his concession on condition of wreaking his vengeance on the tenants who brought about this concession? Now take the Lansdowne case. The landlord refused any reduction of the judicial rent, and you in this House, by your action, by the law you have passed, have shown you believe Lord Lansdowne to be in the wrong, and yet you will not appoint a means by arbitration of bridging over this dispute, a dispute I believe Lord Lansdowne would be glad to have bridged over. Allusion has been made to the Glensharrold estate, and the history of the dispute there is a very instructive one. This estate was under the management of a Court in Ireland, not of any landlord, and the Court refused to give a halfpenny reduction. Judge Boyd tried to put me into Kilmainham Gaol because I advised the tenants to stick to their combination as the only one to bring about a concession. They did stand by each other, and the Court sent down a valuer who recommended a reduction of 30 per cent. Did this not prove the justice of the tenants' claim? But you may say, why have they not accepted the offer? The right hon. Gentleman has made a great deal of the letter from the Bishop of Limerick. That Prelate has lived in the town all his life, and his knowledge of agricultural tenancies is not very great, but he sent to Glensharrold a valuer of his own, who recommended a larger reduction than did the valuer for the Court. The valuer for the Court was Mr. Murphy, of Dunfanaghy, well known as valuer and arbitrator in railway cases, and now chief valuer of one of the Courts in Ireland. He is well known as an official valuer, and is an excellent valuer on land of good quality, but a bad valuer for land of bad quality, upon which he is inclined to put too high a price. We 1482 have heard how a little fact outweighs much theory, and I will give the facts as to the Glensharrold estate. Glensharrold land is mountain bog such as is found in the Gweedore district in Donegal, and there was a flutter among the landlords when the rents on Captain Hill's Gweedore property were reduced 35 per cent. The Land Commissioners were fluttered by it even. It was supposed to be a model property. They held a special sitting to hear appeals from the district, and they sent down their own valuer, while the landlord employed Mr. Murphy, of Dunfanaghy, according to whose valuation the reduction should have been less; but the Land Commissioners, acting on the report of their own valuer, confirmed the judicial rents in almost every case. This is a proof that Mr. Murphy's valuation was at least 30 per cent, too high; but it is a fact that in Glenshull the tenants were willing to settle if they could get 10 per cent. more than Mr. Murphy recommended. Was there ever a better case for arbitration than this? But we are told that arbitration has failed. For myself, I have only been connected with one arbitration, and that was on the Pollock estate. In that arbitration we appointed an umpire, but the services of that umpire were never required, because the gentleman who acted for the landlords and myself on behalf of the tenants had no difficulty whatever in coming to terms. The result is, that the tenants are perfectly satisfied with what was done. As to the Vandeleur estate it is said that the tenants there have not paid their rents, and a sort of list of these tenants was produced. It is not the first time we have heard of these lists, which we have found to be bogus lists, because when they have been brought up before their statements have been disproved. The hon. Member for Louth and the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. J. Henniker Heaton) went over one of these lists together and found that out of 150 cases only six were genuine ones. The tenants on the Plan of Campaign estates have been alluded to as the dupes of the Plan of Campaign. ["Hear, hear!"] An hon. Member says "Hear, hear!" But I would inform that hon. Member that the Plan of Campaign has been in operation in as many as 120 different estates, and that it is still operating upon 25. What has happened to the rest? The dupes have won the 1483 victory, they have got what they could not have got but for the Plan of Campaign. That Plan of Campaign has prevented outrage and crime in Ireland. We have challenged you over and over again on this point, and you have never yet been able to produce a single case in which the Plan of Campaign has been proved to have led to outrage and crime. On the contrary, the Plan of Campaign has protected tenants in Ireland outside the Plan of Campaign estates. It is, indeed, because you know this, and because you know that you have to give way to the Plan of Campaign, that you now wish to work vengeance on those who have carried it out. We appeal now not to the Irish Members opposite, but to the English Members, who have some sense of fairness in them, to step forward and say that this farce has gone on long enough, and that the best thing for all parties is that some higher power should step in and say this must now be ended on fair terms. What is the alternative which has been offered by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General? He told us that it was important to produce an alternative, and the alternative he produced was the wise administration of just laws. This would have been a good argument if the laws had been just at the time the Plan of Campaign was put in operation. This Resolution only refers to tenants who adopted the Plan of Campaign before the end of the year 1887. Do you deny that the laws were unjust then, or that the tenants had an argument in their favour when they adopted the Plan of Campaign; and are you going to say that although they were driven to this because this House was so slow in attending to an Irish grievance, therefore these men are to continue to suffer and have no hope? Is this, I ask, a statesmanlike policy? You profess to believe in the justice of your cause, the Irish landlords profess that their brethren in Ireland have acted justly towards their tenants. Why do not you adopt with eagerness and avidity the opportunity now offered to you of establishing a Court of Arbitration, so that you may thereby show the world that the Irish landlords have justice on their side? If you refuse to adopt this proposal, if you still decline to take advantage of the opportunity it affords of a settlement with the Irish tenants, the public 1484 will form its own judgment as to the reasons by which you are actuated. I do not think they will have any difficulty in coming to a right conclusion. They will be of opinion that the real reason by which you are actuated is that you have a bad cause, and that you are well aware if the Courts of Arbitration were established they would operate to the tenants' right and to the landlords' wrong.
§ (10.55.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The question which has most forcibly pressed itself on my attention in this Debate is why it ever came on, and under what inspiration the right hon. Gentleman who introduced it was rash enough to bring it before the attention of the House. Which of the numerous sections on that side of the House did he expect to please by his action? Was it to please hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, who initiated the Plan of Campaign by informing their dupes that it was a short, a certain and expeditious method of bringing the landlords to their knees? Was it to please them that he brought forward a Resolution which, if it means anything, means that the landlords have not been brought to their knees, and that the aid of the Government is required to carry it out? Was it to please hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway that he thought himself justified in bringing forward a Motion which, if it proves anything conclusively, proves this at all events: that there never was a feebler or a more fatuous attempt at the settlement of any great question than the attempt made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in 1881? The whole of his speech, and of every speech which has been delivered below the Gangway, comes, in substance, to this: that you cannot trust the Land Courts in Ireland to fix fair rents; that the method of arbitration, which, with so much pomp and circumstance, you established in 1881, has proved a total failure; and that the Legislature must again produce a second Court of Arbitration, conducted by different principles and methods of procedure, to settle the outstanding quarrels with which the settlement of 1881 has been found incapable of dealing. I am convinced that the right hon. Gentleman, whomsoever he consulted when he put his Motion on the Paper, consulted neither the hon. Member for Cork nor the 1485 right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. Both those distinguished Members of this House must be perfectly well aware that nothing could be worse for the cause which they, more or less in harmony, attempt to represent in this House than to bring forward in this House a Resolution which will make plain to the English public the seamy side of one of the most contemptible methods of political agitation ever adopted, and make plain to the Irish public and tenants how illusory were the promises of support held out by the Irish agitators four years ago. I am aware that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford thinks that he has a prescriptive right to deal with this matter of the Plan of Campaign estates. He has trotted about Ireland from time to time, from one Plan of Campaign estate to another, and has from time to time written letters to the newspapers explaining his views. He has been in close and intimate relation with the leading agitators on those estates, and he thinks he has a right to lead the House in all its discussions upon this interesting and important question. But, for my own part, if I may speak very sincerely to the right hon. Gentleman, I would recommend him to leave these questions to the Irish Members. Depend upon it, these amateurs in agitation, these dabblers in disorder, do not really know how to play the game; let him leave it to those who do know how to play the game, and who are perfectly prepared on occasion to go to prison for their convictions; and let him not come down again with that curious hesitation of manner and intention which always overcomes him when he tries to explain to the House how very near he went to breaking the law, and how terribly afraid I and the Government were to prosecute him. He resembles nothing so much as a boy going to bathe in rather chilly water who sticks in a hesitating foot, and as soon as he finds the water rather cold takes it out again with a rapid and convulsive motion, and then goes home and explains that he was quite prepared to face the inclemency of the weather, but, on the whole, thought it better for his health to abstain. The right hon. Gentleman proposes a plan of compulsory arbitration in the case of certain disputes in Irelan 1486 disputes in cases as between landlord and tenant. But disputes in this country are not unknown. Disputes, as we all are aware, and as we all know with deep regret, have existed, and do exist, between classes in the industrial world in England. Why are not those settled by compulsory arbitration, if compulsory arbitration is to be the form of deciding disputes at all? Are the workmen of England less worthy of support in this House than the campaigners in Ireland? For my own part, there can be no question that of all persons who have engaged in these pursuits in any country in the world, probably those engaged in the Plan of Campaign are least deserving of special favour at the hands of this House. We know, at any rate, in regard to the disputes between capital and labour, that the persons concerned have acted within their rights, and aimed at a perfectly legal object. But that is not so with regard to the Plan of Campaign, and one of the most important parts of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was that in which he demonstrated the essential difference between a trade dispute in England and a land dispute in Ireland. What are the facts about the Plan of Campaign? The whole of the discussion to-night has been conducted upon the theory that the Plan of Campaign was a spontaneous movement on the part of the tenantry, and that it would not have been heard of if the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork in the autumn of 1886 had been accepted. That theory was first invented by the ingenious mind of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and it has since been repeated by almost every Member of the right hon. Gentleman's Party. I say that there never was a historic theory more absolutely devoid of the slightest trace of foundation. I will describe the Plan of Campaign in one word, by saying that it is simply a move in the Irish revolutionary movement which has been going on since 1879. After the result of the election of 1886 was known, when it became evident that the people of this country would have nothing to do with Home Rule, hon. Members from Ireland announced, and United Ireland, which then represented hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite, repeated that the time had come for instituting a new campaign against the landlords. On July 24, 1886, United Ireland said— 1487Another campaign against the landlords is inevitable;''and on July 31—Landlordism may rest satisfied that within the great ambit of the Ten Commandments, and even within the less venerable precepts of the English law, the Irish people will find means of modifying the jubilation of the landlords.But experience has shown that the gentleman who wrote that knew very little about the Ten Commandments or about English law, for every competent authority has declared that the Plan of Campaign is both inconsistent with the Ten Commandments and with every known principle of the English common law. That was before the hon. Member for Cork brought in his Bill, which has ever since been used as a stalking-horse for the legality of the Plan of Campaign. Now, let us examine how far the contention is true that the Plan of Campaign was the spontaneous action of the tenants, taken in consequence of the rejection of the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork. Has anyone taken the trouble to estimate the amount of relief that would have been given on the Plan of Campaign estates had the hon. Member's Bill become law? Sir, the relief given would have been absolutely insignificant. The Bill only applied to leaseholders and tenants whose rents were judicially fixed before 1884. Now, let me remind the House that on the Ponsonby estate 190 eviction notices were served. Of the tenants concerned, only 22 would have gained anything under the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork. Out of the 114 tenants dealt with on the Coolgreany estate only 15 would have been benefited. On the Olphert estate better terms were offered than would have been given to the tenants under the hon. Member's Bill; and on the Clanricarde estate, out of 1,400 or 1,500 tenants, there were not more than 117 who would have gained one shilling had the measure become law. If, then, out of nearly 2,000 tenants on those estates, not more than 154 would have gained anything under the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork, what becomes of this flimsy pretence that the rejection of the measure was the justification of the Plan of Campaign? The contention falls to the ground. The truth is that no farfetched explanations, no recondite investigations into the contemporary 1488 history of Ireland are required; the reason for the Plan of Campaign is found in the avowed intention of hon. Members below the Gangway opposite to make the government of Ireland impossible. They thought that to start the Plan of Campaign was a very good way of achieving their end. Could they have chosen a better method of doing that? From the beginning of the agitation in 1879 they have seen the importance of mixing up the agrarian and the political motive. Could there be a better method of doing this than by the Plan of Campaign? The objects of the Plan of Campaign are the objects which have signalized the agitation since 1879, and the methods by which it has been carried out are those which have been invariably used by the leaders of the agitation. They bribe one set of men, and they terrorise another. One hon. Gentleman, an English Member, who spoke when the House was thin, about 8 o'clock, gave his own experience of an evicted tenant in Loughrea, I think—at all events, it was on Lord Clanricarde's property—who, he said, was in a much better position two years after she had been evicted than she was before; and he told us the story with a great deal of perfectly genuine feeling, but without the slightest glimmering of the obvious inference that might be drawn from it. I have no doubt she was better off. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have said to the tenants, "You will make more out of the Plan of Campaign than you will ever make out of your holdings." Those people are to be better off now they have gone out of their holdings on the £2 or £3 a week given to them by the National League——
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
So much for the bribery; how about the intimidation? The hon. Member for Meath had the courage to tell the House that not a single crime could be alleged in connection with the Plan of Campaign. I listened to that statement with amazement. I thought my power of wonder had long been exhausted, but I have still much to learn. Why, Sir, the hon. Gentleman must know perfectly well that 1489 there is no difficulty in piling up a catalogue of offences against the law in connexion with the Plan of Campaign; and he knows perfectly well that it would be impossible to work the Plan of Campaign on any estate for six months without first bribing the tenants to come out and then terrorizing them if they attempted to go in.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Here comes, I think, "the great ambit of the Ten Commandments." I am not going to enter into a casuistical discussion with the hon. Gentleman as to what constitutes crime and what does not; but if he thinks no crime has occurred, that is, no real crime, I presume an attempt to blow up a sergeant of police and a large body of innocent gentlemen is not to be counted a real crime. I do not think any other interpreter of the Ten Commandments will take the same view. Is it not notorious, not to go into the details of the various crimes, how tenants on all estates have come by night to pay their rents, and have implored the agent or the landlord who received their money to keep that fact secret, as if it were the most disgraceful incident of their lives? Is it not true that, when the least sign of giving way on the part of the tenants was visible, some hon. Member below the gangway, the hon. Member for Mayo perhaps, or some other person, promptly rushed down and made a vehement speech against a settlement? These gentlemen want arbitration now.
§ DR. TANNER
I rise to order, Sir. The hon. Member for Mayo, Sir, has been described as a person by the Chief Secretary.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Some Member immediately went down and did his best, not merely by persuasion, but by violent speeches, to keep the yielding phalanx in line, and to prevent those who had already discovered their mistake from settling with their landlords, and from doing that which he and other Members below the Gangwa described 1490 as betraying the Irish race. The evidence that this Plan of Campaign is in no sense the spontaneous action of an over-rented and over-tasked tenantry, but is simply a move in a political game, of which the tenants are at once the instruments and the victims, is manifest from every particular connected with the progress of events. This is evidenced by the fact I have just alluded to. It is evidenced by the enormous sacrifices made under threats, as in the case of the unfortunate Duggan at Tipperary. It is manifest from the fact that the Plan of Campaign has always arisen from the Land League organisation, which is essentially a political organisation. That organisation always started and maintained it, and by it the tenants are now kept alive, so far as they are kept alive. It is evidenced by the fact that it is not left to the tenants themselves to determine whether they shall or shall not continue the fight—that some politician thinks it necessary to interfere as soon as the tenants give the least indication of a desire for settlement. It is shown, if further proof is required, by the fact that wherever you find a body of Protestant tenantry, though subjected to precisely the same economic conditions as the others, they have invariably refused to join the Plan of Campaign; and if that is not enough it is proved by the fact, the curious fact, that on the Clanricarde estate there is a small portion of the property where the population is entirely Irish-speaking, and where, therefore, the Irish patriots, as they do not know Irish, have had no power, and through all the trouble that there has been on the Clanricarde estate I believe that these, the highest rented tenants, have paid their rents in contentment from year to year. We are told that the landlords have shown I do not know what kind of malign and stupid obstinacy by not giving a reduction to their tenants, yet I believe that on the Clanricarde estate there were practically no arrears to speak of at the time the Plan of Campaign was started. Every one of those tenants could have gone into the Land Court, yet not a single one did so, and then you come to us and ask for arbitration. Was ever so flimsy a case put before the House of Commons? Parliament spent the whole Session of 1881 in passing a Land Bill fixing fair rents.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am not going to praise that Land Bill, but it was the glory of every Liberal statesman and of every Radical politician. Hon. Members below the Gangway quarrelled with hon. Members above as to who were deserving of the greatest credit for passing it. Yet when 1886 comes round we find in regard to an estate where not a single tenant had gone into Court—for the talk about the fall of prices was merely an excuse—hon. Members opposite rather than go to the Land Court started the Plan of Campaign, and asked for exorbitant reductions; and yet they asked the House to believe that this was the result of spontaneous combination on the part of the tenants, and not a political move on the part of political revolutionists. Now, in the speeches we have heard to-night there appears to me to reign considerable obscurity of ideas upon what are called the rights of the tenants. The right hon. Gentleman who opened the discussion—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford—told us that it was the opinion of the tenants, and that he agreed with that opinion, that it was a matter of right on their part to get a reduction of rent. The question of liability is one thing, and the question of right is another. I conceive that the legislation of 1870 and 1881 meant, if it meant anything, that the tenant, whatever else he had a right to, had no right to get a reduction of rent; but that every single tenant in Ireland, other than the leaseholders, who are a small number, either had a judicial rent which he was bound to pay and had no right to get reduced, or had a non-judicial rent which he could have taken into Court and got reduced. It is preposterous, therefore, to say that the Land Act of 1881 gave the tenant a right to some kind of reduction outside the operation of that Act. That is not so. I am aware that hon. Gentlemen opposite have, on this occasion, as on previous occasions, told us that, because we passed the Act of 1887 giving a reduction of judicial rents in certain circumstances, we have no right to say that judicial rents should be adhered to. But I differ from that entirely. The Parliament of 1881, acting under the advice of hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite, and 1492 to whom it never appeared to occur that prices might vary, passed a Land Act which fixed judicial rents for 15 years, and every Irish landlord was told that as he was unworthy to exercise it, henceforth the function of fixing rent would be transferred from him to a Court. The system broke down in practice, and Parliament had to interfere—I will not say to put the system right, for that was impossible—but to patch it up in a kind of way; but what right, I may ask, had the Irish tenant outside the action of Parliament to claim that the landlord was to do the very thing which Parliament told him he was not to do, and was not worthy of doing? The whole contention is preposterous. I admit that had I been an Irish landlord, and a landlord had asked my advice in the matter, I might have said to him, "It is a serious misfortune for you to have lived at a time when a Liberal Government passed such an Act. It is an extremely foolish Act: it does not settle the Irish question, but that is not your fault. Parliament says you are not to fix your own rents, and I advise you to go beyond the advice of Parliament, and to do that which, you would have done had Parliament never interfered between you and your tenants." But that would be a very different thing to coming into this House and saying that the Irish tenant had a right to demand something other than the Land Courts gave him, and that if it was not immediately granted by the landlord an illegal conspiracy would be started. I will now endeavour to bring my observations to a close; but I cannot leave the subject without expressing my indignation at the sort of language which the right hon. Member for Central Bradford, and those who have supported him, have thought fit to use against the landlords against whom the Plan of Campaign has been directed. I do not doubt that there are bad landlords in Ireland: nay, I am certain that there are. When you have to deal with such a large class of men you are certain to meet some stupid, some criminal, and many injudicious men among them. But the particular landlords whose estates have been the subject of Debate are certainly not men who deserve to be attacked as they have been to-night. Even in regard to the 1493 hon. Member for South Hunts the right hon. Gentleman was obliged to admit that the terms he offered were fair and generous, and he only found a ground for attacking him by misrepresenting the facts of the case; because, if I recollect rightly, the evicted tenants were included in the generous offer he made only a little more than a fortnight after the offer of the original terms. That is not denied.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
But the right hon. Gentleman did not give the date. There was one other point on which the right hon. Gentleman attacked my hon. Friend. He said that under the terms offered the evicted tenants were obliged to pay rent for all the time they were out of their farms. That is not so. They had to pay certain costs, no doubt; but as far as my information goes they had not to pay rent during the time stated. In my opinion, a more ungenerous statement than that could not be made. Mr. Olphert is a man very advanced in years. He lived, not merely on friendly, but on intimate terms with his tenants, until the right hon. Gentleman, and men like him, interfered between them. If the right hon. Gentleman is spared to a grateful country, as I hope he may be, until lie reaches the same age as Mr. Olphert, I hope he may be able to look back upon a life as well spent. With regard to Lord Clanricarde, the other person who has been attacked, it is not my business to defend or to criticise him. I have listened to the criticisms passed on him to-night, but I have been unable—it may have been my stupidity—to extract from these criticisms anything beyond this—that Lord Clanricarde is an absentee, that he shows not the slightest interest in or care for his property, that he has left the whole thing to look after itself, that he has never spent sixpence upon it, and that he absolutely ignores the representations made to him by his tenants and by other persons on their behalf. I do not say that is not a heavy catalogue of offences, but it is not a catalogue of offences justifying the Plan of Campaign. As far as any evidence has come before mo, Lord Clanricarde's rents were not excessive rents, and it has been admitted by the most fanatical admirers of the Plan of Campaign that nothing but excessive rents will justify it. 1494 Either Lord Clanricarde's rents were excessive or they were not. If they were not, what justification is there for the Plan of Campaign being started on this estate? If they were excessive, why did not the tenants appeal to the Land Court before they joined it? That is not, indeed, a justification for all Lord Clanricarde thought fit to do, but it is an absolute and conclusive proof, until a refutation is given to it, that those who started the Plan of Campaign on that estate are a thousand times worse than Lord Clanricarde himself. The right hon. Gentleman suggests arbitration. I think I have disposed of that. Then he says I should inform those landlords who fail to make peace with their tenants that they shall neither have justice in the Courts nor protection out of them. He asks me to summon to Dublin Castle these recalcitrant landlords. I do not know that they would come, but if they did I do not pretend to possess the commanding personality of the right hon. Gentleman, and I do not know that I could persuade those landlords who have been the victims of this criminal and perfectly unjustifiable conspiracy to make peace with their adversary and give him all that he asks for. But supposing that arbitration were adopted, what reference should be given to the arbitrators? Observe what happened on these estates. The Plan of Campaign was started at the end of 1886—or that was the period of its early honeymoon. It was then believed in by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Since then no rent has been paid at all. Where the tenants have not been evicted there is a heavy accumulation of arrears. It is probable—I am afraid it is pretty certain—that, as a matter of fact, the tenants have got rid of the arrears and have not in most cases banked them. What is the arbitrator to do in such cases? If he wipes out the arrears he is not acting on principles of equity, because, even on the principle of gentlemen below the Gangway, the landlord is, at any rate, entitled to the whole of the arrears minus what would have been a fair reduction. Practically, it may be said he is entitled to three-quarters of the arrears. But if the arbitrator orders payment of the arrears, where are they to come from? For these arrears hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway are responsible; but if the arbitrator were to 1495 give an award against them, I do not know that there is any Court of Law which could enforce it. But, even supposing these difficulties got over, have we any reason for supposing that other difficulties could be settled? I think it will be admitted that you cannot ask any landlord to accept a settlement which would by many be regarded as a triumph for the Plan of Campaign, and which would be in effect a stimulus for the same ingenious scheme being started on his neighbour's property. The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon), after the arbitration on the Vandeleur estate, announced it as the greatest triumph of the Plan of Campaign. But has the arbitration on that estate succeeded? In his most powerful speech the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) elaborated and conclusively proved that arbitration where it has been tried has not succeeded. How stands the case with regard to the Vandeleur Estate? The first instalment under the award of the arbitrator was to be paid on October 25, 1889; 255 tenants paid, and 14 failed to do so. The second instalment was due in April, 1890; 237 paid and 32 failed. The third instalment became due in September, 1890; 160 paid and 109 failed. The fourth instalment became due at the end of the year, and 20 tenants have paid it, while 249 have failed. Such are the figures. Yet the arbitration, on the evidence of my hon. Friend below the Gangway, was all in favour of the tenants; and the arbitrator was a gentleman whose ability we all acknowledge, though he is a strong politician. In this case there is a gradual increase from half-year to half-year in the number of defaulters. It appears to me that if anything were required to show the absurdity of a proposition whose absurdity is evident on the face of it, this experience would afford it. If I am asked what course ought to be pursued my answer is this: Some hon. Members have accused me of desiring to prolong these disputes, but no man in this country has a stronger personal or public interest than I have in seeing every dispute in Ireland settled. Every consideration, public and private, every consideration derived from personal credit or from public credit, would induce me to desire to see these unhappy controversies once for all wiped out. But I would never 1496 counsel any landlord in Ireland to submit to the Plan of Campaign. If I were an Irish landlord I would beg my bread before I gave in to the Plan of Campaign.
§ DR. TANNER
here uttered some words which were understood to be: The galloping snob. [Cries of "Order!" and "Name!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
Yes; but the hon. Gentleman has repeatedly interrupted. I warn the hon. Gentleman that if he interrupts the proceedings again it will be my duty to put into operation the Standing Order.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
When I was interrupted I was stating to the House what is the fact—that if I were an Irish landlord I would beg my bread rather than give in to the Plan of Campaign, and I would beg my bread rather than let any other landlord give in for want of support. But when once the illegal conspiracy came to an end I should remember that, after all, these men were acted upon by those in whose advice they thought they could trust. I should remember that they were compelled by intimidation in many cases to follow courses which they bitterly regretted; and, for my own part, even if it were not wholly to my own personal and pecuniary interest, I should desire to restore peace to that part of the country in which my property was situated, and to see that on fair and equitable, and even generous, terms the tenants were restored to their ancient homes. These are the principles on which I should act. But to ask us to have compulsory arbitration or legalised arbitration in these cases—to ask us, in other words, to bolster up the tottering Plan—is surely in the highest degree absurd; and I am certain that, if we were insane enough to propose such a course, the House of Commons would not be insane enough to adopt it.
§ (11.44.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
The right hon. Gentleman, in the last sentence of his very vigorous speech, interspersed, with some other words that were not so kind, some very kindly words towards the tenants. He said he hopes the day may come when he may remember that these men were, as he says, misled, and when 1497 he may do something to reinstate them in their position, and that, I think he said, would be one of the happiest moments of his life.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN
I am quite certain that an Irish administrator cannot hare less kindly feeling towards the Irish people than an Irish landlord ought to have. Well, Sir, when that day does come it will be too late, because these tenants will have finally and for ever lost their status as Irish farmers. The right hon. Gentleman attacked my right hon. Friend (Air. Shaw Lefevre) with great severity; but I do not think he will persuade the people of Ireland that the Member for Bradford is not a true and disinterested friend, according to his lights—[ironical cheers and laughter]—and those lights are bright lights—not only to the Irish tenants, but to Ireland, and to the cause of order in that country. The right hon. Gentleman attempted to induce the House to believe that my right hon. Friend was actuated not only by political motives but by motives of personal ambition in taking the course he has taken to-night; but those who listened to my right hon. Friend's speech, and who read his Amendment, will see that it is not a political question which he has brought before the House of Commons, but purely an administrative question, and I think it should have received a more favourable, and I venture to say a more courteous, handling from the chief administrator of Ireland in this House. We are not here to attack or to defend the Plan of Campaign. Many gentlemen opposite have spoken of this Amendment as a confession that the Plan of Campaign has failed. I will not say whether it is a confession or not, but I do say it is an endeavour to effect a practical solution of a great difficulty, which cannot be solved by any machinery at present before us. The right hon. Gentleman said he would not counsel anyone to do anything that would give recognition to the Plan of Campaign. There have been 100 or 120 cases of the Plan of Campaign. Out of them all but some very few have been brought to a pacific solution, and if the landlords of Ireland had obeyed the advice of the right hon. Gentleman he would have had on his hands, not only these three or 1498 four estates now remaining, but 100 or 120 cases, and his position as the administrator of Ireland would have seen a painful one indeed. They are now reduced to some three or four estates, and we ask the Government to re-consider its position in this matter. It is the absolute duty of the Government of Ireland to bring about a pacific settlement, and how does the right hon. Gentleman propose to bring it about? I listened very carefully to the speeches of the Chief Secretary and the Attorney General for Ireland, and the only remedy which was put forward was the just and quiet administration of the existing law. That law, the Attorney General remarked, was more favourable to the tenant than the land law in any other country. I will not stop to dispute that contention; I will grant that it is a very favourable law. But what use is there in referring us to this law in regard to the tenants on the Plan of Campaign estates? There is not one tenant on any one of these estates who is in a position to appeal to that law. He has lost his status, and he cannot get it back except by the good favour of the landlord, or without some such amendment of the law as that proposed by my right hon. Friend. What chance is there of the tenant recovering his status by favour of the landlord? There is one great district in Ireland—not as the hon. and learned Member for Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) said, in a moment of inadvertence, 10 square miles in extent, but something like 10 miles square—which is under Lord Clanricarde. It is not my business to attack Lord Clanricarde, and I am glad it is not my business to defend him. I will just read to the House the conditions which Lord Clanricarde lays down to the inhabitants of this immense tract of country before they can recover their status—Any tenant who would be restored will be liable for all costs and arrears, even for those which accrued while he was not in possession of his farm. In the case of the restoration of evicted tenants, I would at once require payment of three years' rent and costs. In any case, I would not restore the tenants, generally speaking. Each case would be considered with regard to its own merits. The tenants in present possession can have the same terms on paying at once three years' rent and costs. No costs, under any circumstances, will be remitted, and no reduction, under any circumstances, will be made in judicial rents. But on non-judicial rents reductions of 10 per cent. will be made on all payments made.1499 Now, I ask any hon. Member opposite not whether these tenants deserve to pay this enormous fine; but whether there is the least chance of their being able to pay it? There is none at all. And, as is the case of Lord Clanricarde's estate, so are practically, with less fault on the part of the landlords, all the other estates concerned with the Amendment. My right hon. Friend shows you a better way. He asks the Government to do what the Chief Secretary rightly describes as placing an arbitration on the top of an arbitration. Is there any harm in that in Ireland? In 1887 the Government had an arbitration on the top of an arbitration. Again, the leaseholders were admitted to the advantages of the Act in 1881, and everyone knows that if bad times come again in Ireland, you must have, in some way or other, another arbitration on the top of an arbitration. Now, here are some three or four arbitrations proposed which would settle this great and outstanding controversy in its present phase, and perhaps another one would not occur for a long time. But the right hon. Gentleman says, "Ah, but you cannot trust the tenants to keep to the result of the arbitration." I think too much stress has been laid upon the transactions with regard to the Vandeleur estate. It is quite true that, as time goes on, there are tenants who fall behind in their payments. But consider the character of those payments. There were the accumulated rents of something like two and a half years, to be paid within a very short time. The question is, was the non-payment contumacious or not? I do not gather that anyone has genuine evidence that it was; and we, on the other hand, have good evidence to the effect that the tenants have been trying to pay, have been selling cattle to pay, and have been borrowing to pay. We know that there has been a bad potato crop, and that some of the tenants are now behind. But as far as rebellion against the law is concerned, that is over, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman, or the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), denies that what is going on at present is not a contumacious and illegal refusal of rents. I have just had a telegram put into my hand, stating that, in the case of the arbitration at Gweedore, everything has 1500 been paid to the very last farthing. On the whole, these arbitrations have been most successful. But the Government would enjoy advantages which private arbitrators do not possess. They would be able to feel the pulse of the district to which they went, and to judge whether an arbitration would be favourable in that district. I will conclude by saying this to the Irish landlords: If you do think that the Plan of Campaign has not yet been defeated, and you do not agree with this Amendment, and endeavour to clear away all that remains of this wretched quarrel, you will be doing something that is unwise. But if you think the Plan has been defeated, then you will be doing something both ungracious and unwise in not agreeing to this proposal. To the Government I say this: Seeing that Ireland is, in their opinion, quieting down, let them remove the last relics of agrarian disorder by accepting this Amendment.
§ (11.59.) The House divided:—Ayes 213; Noes 152.—(Div. List, No. 25.)
§ Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ SUPPLY—Committee upon Monday next.