§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ *(2.10.) MR. O'KELLY (Roscommon, N.)
This is a measure brought in in the interest of the restoration of social peace in Ireland: distinctly, it is a measure of peace. It deals with the case of a number of men who may be regarded as victims in the social struggle which has been going on in Ireland since 1879, and so long as these people are excluded from the benefit of the legislation which was induced in large measure by their sufferings, there can be no hope that perfect peace will be permanently restored in Ireland. The justice of the claim made originally by these men has been amply proved by the course of legislation which has been forced upon the House, by the numerous Acts which have been passed to deal with the inequalities, the injustices, of the law as it existed in 1879. Therefore we appeal with confidence to the justice of this House, and ask that these men shall not be exposed to the, loss of their means of living—that they shall not be punished for having been the advance-guard of reforms, the justice of which has been acknowledged as necessary by the course Parliament has taken. This is a very modest Bill. It involves no new principle; but it extends the principle of Clause 13 of the Act of last year in a way that has been advocated in this House before, though it has not yet been adopted. The main object of the Bill is to give the tenants who are still out of their holdings the benefit of Clause 13, which was destined for them when the clause was proposed. The time for the application of that clause has expired, and we propose to extend it to the beginning of 1893. In addition to this prolongation of the 1666 period of application, we propose that the principle of compulsion shall be applied, in a limited number of cases and that there is necessity for this compulsion in the interest of the general peace of the country I think we shall be able to establish. We have no official data by which we can measure the benefit derived from Clause 13, but I have seen it stated with some authority that of the Ponsonby tenants, out of 214 evicted, 111 have settled under the clause. I do not know what reasons may have prevented agreements in the other cases, but these instances show that voluntary settlements were possible under the Act. Yet I hold in my hand a letter referring to another case, where it is shown that while the tenants are willing to come to a settlement the landlord—or in this the landlady—absolutely refuses to come to terms. The letter is from one of the tenantry on the celebrated Maroney estate in Comity Clare. In this letter the writer says—I conveyed to Mrs. Maroney the purport of your conversation with me on the 10th (this was in reference to the re-instatement of the tenant), but she declined absolutely to entertain the question of purchase or re-instatement.Now this landlady, Mrs. Maroney, has been under police protection some ten or more years, and she has been the cause of enormous trouble and has involved the county in enormous expense in order to support her in her frightfully unjust action towards her tenants, proved to be unjust, because when this lady has been brought before the Land Court the claims of the tenants have been justified by the decisions of the Court. It is in such cases as these that we want the law to step in and compel reasonable action. For reasonable landlords such an enactment is not required. The Bill further deals with cases where landlords have failed to effect voluntary sales by the end of 1893; then it gives power to the Land Commission to compel them to sell at a fixed price. In dealing with cases such as I have referred to, the Insurance Fund is done away with in order to somewhat lessen the cost of purchase. Another import- 1667 ant part of the Bill is the clause directing the Land Commission to issue an order for the immediate entry of the evicted tenant to his holding. That deals with a thorny subject, and it is just as well that we should face it at once. There are a number of people who have entered into the homes of these men, and they will have to give up their farms, for I hold that they have no right to take possession of that which properly belongs to other men; anyhow, it belongs to them in equity and justice, though by the letter of the law they may be excluded. Without question, the intruders by some means or other must be made to give up the farms to the men to whom they belong. The House must face this question; it is a very important one, and until it is settled there can be no hope for any permanent peace in Ireland.
§ (2.20.) MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
In seconding the Motion of my hon. Friend for the Second Reading of the Bill, I shall endeavour to imitate his example, and be as brief as possible. I shall also endeavour to avoid as much as possible repeating what he has ably stated. My hon. Friend has stated in broad outline the main provisions of this Bill; but perhaps it may be well if, in somewhat greater detail, I touch on its provisions. The 1st clause in the Bill deals with the 13th section of the Act of last year, which enables voluntary sales and purchases to be effected between landlords and their evicted tenants. That section, we must all admit, has not led to any great results; but, at the same time, it has not wholly failed. The time for making arrangements under it has, as my hon. Friend has stated, now expired; it expired on the 6th of last month. We propose to continue it until the beginning of next year, and we propose to extend to the Land Judge the powers given by it to ordinary landlords, inasmuch as there are a few estates in the Land Judges' Court to which the clause may be applicable, and it has been held that the Land Judge does not possess the power which is given to the ordinary landlord under the 13th clause of the Bill of last year. We hope it may be more effectual if re-enacted than it has been up to the present, for 1668 I confess that for myself I would prefer voluntary arrangements if they could possibly be effected, because I believe that in the long run they would be better for both parties. But there is no use in concealing from ourselves the fact that there are some landlords in Ireland who must be forced, in one way or other, to come to terms with their evicted tenants—Lord Clanricarde, for instance, will not yield except under direct compulsion, and we have heard from my hon. Friend that he has had a letter from Miltown Malbay showing that there is a female Clanricarde taking the same line. Other landlords, through a false pride, as I think, and under the influence of a class feeling, have declined to take a course which they consider as "knocking under to the Plan;" but I suspect these gentlemen would very gladly avail themselves of the opportunity offered them by legal compulsion to make peace. We propose now to apply to these two classes of landlords the same sort of compulsion as the Government itself last year applied to the landlords of the long leaseholders. We have direct precedent for the measure which we submit to the House to-day in the "Redemption of Rent Act" passed last year. Under that Act a tenant who has a lease in perpetuity, or even who holds on a fee-farm grant, is placed in this position: that he may propose to buy his holding under the Land Purchase Act; and if the landlord refuses to sell, or even if the landlord offers unreasonable delay to selling, then the contract is, ipso facto, broken, and the tenant is regarded as a present-tenant, with the right to have his rent fixed in the usual way like any other tenant. Under the 3rd clause of this Bill an evicted tenant will be in precisely the same position as the long leaseholder under the Act of last year. These tenants may propose to buy their holdings under the Purchase Act at a price to be fixed, in the last resort, by the Land Commission; and then if the landlords refuse to sell to them, or if they offer unreasonable delay to selling, then, like the long leaseholders, they may go into Court and get fair rents fixed. That is the sum and substance of the 3rd clause, which I think is the most important in the Bill. Now, 1669 if this clause was equitable in the case of the long leaseholders, I cannot see how it can be unjust in the case of the evicted tenants. I do not know who can object to it in this House. The Government cannot object to it, for they have passed a Bill themselves based on the same principle. The hon. Member for South Tyrone has given notice to move the rejection of this Bill to-day, but I think he will be very inconsistent if he moves that Motion, 'because two or three years ago he himself proposed on behalf of the Clanricarde tenants a far more drastic measure—compulsory expropriation. I do not see how landlords can object. They cannot say that the Bill will do any injustice, or deprive them of anything whatever, except that which they ought not to possess, the power of disturbing peace and order in Ireland, or of preventing their re-establishment. We provide even that the landlords shall get their arrears of rent, or so much as the Land Commission—a tribunal packed with landlords—such arrears as that tribunal declares to be justly due to them; and the only deduction that will be made from the amount payable in the shape of arrears will be a sum representing the value of the buildings which, I am sorry to say, in a great many cases, landlords have razed to the ground, or otherwise destroyed, and which any Court of Equity, under ordinary circumstances, would compel them to pay for or to restore. Well, I do not see how they can object to the Bill on these grounds, and I pass on to the 4th clause. As my hon. Friend has frankly stated, it refers to a certain class of people who have grabbed some of these evicted farms. In the great majority of cases this clause will be useless, because the evicted lands are mostly vacant. But there are a few estates, I think not more than three or four altogether, on which there are bogus tenants, or people who are known as "planters"—persons who are not so much tenants paying rent, as caretakers, paid to take care of the places; paid, I fancy, not altogether out of the funds of the landlords themselves, but to some extent, and perhaps to a large extent, out of the abounding wealth of English gentlemen, like the 1670 hon. Member for the Skipton Division (Mr. Walter Morrison), to act the part of scare-crows to the surrounding tenants, and an illustration of the danger that may be involved in invoking the wrath of an Anglo-Irish landlord combination. As regards these persons, I believe they, as well as the landlords, must be pretty sick of their respective positions; and I believe that if this clause becomes law the "planters" will immediately disappear, and will be very thankful to get off with any compensation that perhaps the hon. Member for the Skipton Division and others may be willing to give them. We propose that these "planters" shall be dispossessed at once by a vesting order made at the same time the rent is fixed, and the advantage of this arrangement is that it will save the long ejectment proceedings necessary if no such vesting order is made. The remaining provisions are intended to help the tenant when restored to his holding to pay his instalments of the purchase money in an easy fashion. These provisions are—we reduce the percentage to £3 15s., we also abolish, what we think ought to be abolished in the case of every purchase, the Insurance Fund payment, which would prevent him from getting for five years the full benefit of the Act. If there is a slight financial derangement in consequence, we balance that by the abolition of the county percentage, and we think the counties would be pleased to pay such a price for peace within their borders, and in my opinion it would be a good bargain for them to make. In brief, these are the provisions of the Bill. I do not think I have concealed a single provision of the Bill, and I believe the provisions are conceived in a spirit of equity, and certainly they are intended to bring to an end a state of things which neither the Government nor this House, nor the general community in Ireland, nor even the landlords, can possibly desire to see further prolonged. They may require amendment; possibly they do: we have not had the advantage of a Government draftsman; but if they are amended, and not emasculated, in Committee they will be effective for their purpose. For these reasons, and for those stated 1671 by my hon. Friend, and feeling like him that unless the evicted tenants are restored to their homes there will not be peace in Ireland, as in my opinion there ought not to be peace, I join heartily with my hon. Friend in commending this simple and equitable measure to the favourable consideration of the House.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. 0' Kelly.)
§ *(2.36.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
The hon. Member for Roscommon, in introducing it, described this as a modest Bill, and at all events it has one recommendation, that it is thoroughly candid and straightforward. Whether or not I am open to the charge of inconsistency, I have come to the conclusion that it is my duty to move the rejection of the Bill, and I will do my best to state the reasons that actuate me. When the Land Purchase Act was passing through the House last Session there was a long discussion on the question of the evicted tenants, and much was said about them on both sides of the House, with the result that provisions were inserted in that measure from which I did not hope much at the time, and, therefore, I am not much disappointed at the results. But, at all events, it was an effort to give landlords and tenants breathing time, during which period they might come to terms, if they felt disposed to do so. Under Section 13 six months were allowed, and during that period landlords and tenants might agree as to terms of purchase under the Act which afterwards came into operation. I have said I did not hope for much from this section. I did not think the time allowed was too limited. I remember the hon. Member for West Belfast fought a great battle for a longer time. I did not disapprove of the length of time. My fear was as to the condition of the property, and the position of the evicted tenant, and I feared that under these circumstances if the landlord and ex-tenant came to terms the Land Commission would not ratify those terms, because of the lack of 1672 security—because of the state of the land and the condition of the farmer. So far as I can learn—and my only authority is the statement of the Chief Secretary, in answer to a question—very few applications have actually been made. But, although applications have not been lodged, I also gathered from the reply of the right hon. Gentleman that two months are allowed by the rules of the Commission for the lodging of applications, and in addition to those referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, I am aware that 104 of the tenants evicted from the Ponsonby estate have signed agreements to purchase. I am also aware that the entire tenantry on another Campaign estate have signed agreements.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL:
Well, I have heard of other attempts to arrive at, agreements. I hope the Land Commissioners may see their way to ratify these agreements, and so end the state of affairs that prevail in some of these localities. But, candidly, I confess that, owing to the condition of the land and the position of these extenants, I am not very hopeful that the Commissioners will decide there is security for the State for the advances under these conditions. Now as to the Bill itself. The first clause proposes to-extend this period of six months. I cannot say that I have much objection to that, and I do not gather that the Government have much objection, for the Chief Secretary, answering a question from the hon. Member for North-East Cork, stated that if there was any desire on the part of landlords and tenants for an extension of time he was ready to consider a proposal of the, kind. So I take it that to this first clause there will not be much objection on either side of the House. But when I come to the other clauses of the Bill I find radical objection to the, whole of them. Clause 2 is the most innocent of all the enacting clauses of the Bill. It proposes that in the case of 1673 estates in the Land Judge's Court—i.e. those practically in the hands of a Receiver—that the Land Judge shall have the power, if he think fit to exercise it, to reinstate any of these tenants who may have been evicted—a compulsory power being given to the land Judge. Well, if you are going to apply compulsion to these estates, what do you come to? I myself, in the course of discussions upon compulsory sale, have advocated that compulsion ought to be applied to all these estates, all these mismanaged estates, that have come into the Land Judge's Court. I have over and over again stated in Ireland that I thought compulsion might be applied to such estates. But in what position did I find myself placed? Tenants on well managed estates at once put the question to me, "Are you going to confer on the tenants on a badly managed estate this privilege of compulsory purchase, and yet withhold it from tenants on well managed or properly managed estates?" Well, I say, as an Ulster Member, I was not ;able to answer that, and I have reluctantly by my own constituents been driven out of the position I took up.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
But I have sat in the House for six years, and I have never heard a proposal made in the House during all the discussions on land purchase in favour of compulsory purchase.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
Yes; but the hon. Member for Roscommon was not speaking of evicted tenants; he said make compulsion general.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
What is the use of putting an Amendment on the Paper and not being here to move it? The hon. Member for Roscommon said, in answer to my objection, "Make it general, and so get rid of the difficulty;" but I say the proposal has never been made with any authority in this House that there should be general compul 1674 sion, and when it is made I am ready to discuss it. But I am thankful to say that in Ulster the tenants do not, in the main, live on badly managed estates, and so they would be deprived of this privilege, and they would not tolerate it being withheld from them while it was conferred on the tenants on badly managed estates. The third is the most important clause in the Bill. It is quite true, as the hon. Member for North Dublin (Mr. Clancy) says, that the clause proposes to apply the principle of the Rent Redemption Act to evicted tenants, and I ought to be the last man to throw a stone at the Rent Redemption Act. The First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. Balfour) will admit that in and out of season I pressed the principle of that Act upon his attention, and I greatly rejoice that it has become law, and I rejoice to find from the Returns it is not likely to be inoperative. But it is one thing to apply that principle to long leaseholders, tenants who have been struggling since 1881 to pay their rents, having been excluded from the Land Act; it is one thing to apply that principle, which, I admit, was a strong principle, to those tenants who have spent their capital on their holdings, in spite of the greatest difficulties; it is one thing to give a privilege like this to these men, and a totally different thing to give it to men who, according to the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), were able to pay their rent and would not. It is one thing to give it to long leaseholders who had claims on this House, and it is another thing to give it to evicted tenants who have no claim on this House, whatever claim they may have against hon. Members below the Gangway. Now, what is the proposal in this 3rd clause? It simply gives any evicted tenant since 1879 this right, if it becomes law, that he, being evicted, no matter under what circumstances— let the House mark that—no matter what the circumstances of the eviction were, if this were to become law, any evicted tenant, evicted since 1879, would simply have the light to come to his old landlord, and, whether the farm had been re-let or not, he could say—" I want this farm back, and I want you to sell 1675 it, and if you cannot agree to my terms the Land Commission will fix terms, and if you will not sell, then your refusal to sell will constitute me a present tenant under the Act of 1881, and I shall go into the Court and have a fair rent fixed." Now, I think it must strike the House that is an extraordinary privilege to give to evicted tenants. It is conferring on them all the benefits of compulsory sale—benefits you withhold from the honest tenants who, amid the greatest depression and difficulties, struggled to pay their rent. You propose to reward the men evicted, it may be, under circumstances of sheer rascality on their part, with this great privilege which you withhold from the great mass of tenants who honestly struggled to pay their rent in times of the greatest depression. What defence is there for that? It is no argument to say we have applied that principle to the long leaseholders, the men who have striven to be honest under great difficulties. Even for them it was considered a strong order. I rejoice that they got it, and that the provision has not been inoperative. This clause goes further than that. The hon. Member implied that one reason why the 13th section of the Land Purchase Act had not been operative was that landlords had refused to come to terms. I know of one case where there was such a refusal.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
But let me put this case. I have seen a proposal made in writing by the tenants on a campaign estate in the South of Ireland and I have seen the landlord's reply to that proposal. When I saw the landlord's answer to the proposal I said and I say again, that the terms suggested by the landlord were impossible terms, and that the landlord might as well have asked the tenant to pay the National Debt. admit that. I was asked to communicate with the landlord. I knew the landlord, and I had visited the estate in bygone years. I did communicate with the landlord, and what was his reply? I confess I had no answer to it. One of the conditions the 1676 landlord sought to impose was that lie should not be asked to leave the guarantee deposit. I thought at first this was a monstrous proposal; but how did the landlord justify it? He said—Mr. Russell, these tenants were well off, and they entered into a conspiracy to deprive me of my rent, and they did deprive me of a large sum. I had to evict them. What is the proposal now made? Should I agree to the terms of purchase, a fifth of the purchase money will be held as guarantee out of my portion; and what security have I that these men will not conspire again; and if they do what happens? My fifth is the first thing to be seized. These men have conspired against me before, and why should I, of all men in the world, be security for them again? I who have been their victim?Candidly, I confess I had no answer to this. I mention this to show the difficulties landlords have in coming to terms under the 13th section as well as the tenants. Now, take a concrete case. What would be the position under this Bill? It is all very fine to talk about "planters." I do not believe that "planters" or tenants under that title are very numerous, or that it would be impossible to deal with such cases; but let me take a concrete case from the Lansdowne Estate. Lord Lansdowne was the landlord of the hon. Gentleman who represents one of the Divisions of Kerry. Lord Lansdowne has sold the farm, though the right hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) contradicted me when I made the statement last Session.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL:
It was not sanctioned, but all the arrangements were made. The farm held by the hon. Member for Kerry passed into other hands by sale. It is not vacant; it is occupied by a new tenant, and it is proposed that after this new tenant has purchased under legislation passed by this House the hon. Member for Kerry shall have the right to go back and say to the new tenant, "You must clear out of this. I am the old tenant, and this clause gives me the right; here is a vesting order which evicts you and plants me." Now, that is a strong order for this House to make after having authorised 1677 this tenant on the Marquess of Lansdowne's estate to purchase under the Act. We passed the Land Purchase Act, the Ashbourne Act, and under the authority of the Act the Marquess o Lansdowne sold the property and the tenant bought it. The transaction was sanctioned by the Land Commission and I say it is a very strong order to ask the House to pass this clause and authorise the old tenant to go back and clear out this man who has actually purchased under the authority of legislation passed by Parliament. You may call this a modest proposal, and such is the character given it by the hon Member for Roscommon—
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
Then what is the meaning of Clause 4? I may be wrong in my reading of the Bill, but I cannot be wrong in my understanding of the explanation given in this House by hon. Members who say that the clause is specially applicable to what are called planters on these farms.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL:
What is the difference in law between the tenant and the purchaser? There are but few English Members in the House just now, but fortunately there are two on the front Bench below me. Will they bestow a little thought upon this Bill? They were violent opponents of the Land Purchase Act of last Session, and on what grounds did they oppose it? Because they objected to imperilling British credit in the purchase of Irish land. They objected to the imperilling of British credit notwithstanding the checks and safeguards that almost every clause of that Act contains. Now let them look at this Bill. Here is a proposal which certainly imperils British credit, and what is your security? In the first place the land, much of which is derelict, out of cultivation, ruined. Not much security this. Next you have the security of ruined Campaigners who have been loafing about for six or seven years in Irish towns and villages and have not improved by that. Your Insurance Fund, which at all events was good for something, disappears, and it 1678 is absolutely proposed under this Bill to give these men more favourable terms than under the original Act you gave to legitimate purchasers! What do English Members, who have previously objected to imperilling British credit with all the safeguards the Land Purchase Act contains, say to this Bill to-day, which imperils British credit and includes none of the safeguards the original Act possesses? I divide evicted tenants into four classes. The first class is those who may have been unjustly evicted. Now, my previous opinion with regard to the Clanricarde estate has been referred to here to-day. I have said over and over again that I consider the Marquess of Clanricarde a standing menace to the peace of the County of Galway, and I am not going to withdraw one step from that statement. I say there were tenants unjustly evicted, but I am bound to say that I cannot impeach the Marquess of having racked higher than his neighbours, or as high. I should be very glad if those tenants could be dealt with under Clause 13, or some extension of that clause. Then there are tenants who have been evicted and have been unfortunate, who have failed to make their land pay. The second class are the ne'er-do-wells. Why should you put them back into the farms and let them imperil the credit of the State when they could not make them pay when they were in them? The third class is those who conspired, at the bidding of a great organisation, not to pay their rent; who went out of their farms on a deliberate plan and system, the system being to produce anarchy in the country, and, though I have not the exact words, I remember the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. E. Redmond) saying that the Plan of Campaign was not organised so much in view of the relief of the tenants as with the view of embarrassing the Government.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I said I had not the hon. Gentleman's exact words. And, lastly, there is another class, and I suspect the most numerous, the dupes of that great organisation, men who 1679 went out after being told they would not lose a shilling, that the resources of the Irish race were at their back, these children of the nation who were never to be deserted, like the Tipperary tenants, who have left their homes and lost their all, and have never had the honour of even a passing visit from the hon. Members for East Mayo (Mr. J. Dillon) or North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) since they came out of gaol. I admit the misfortunes of these tenants, but I deny that they have any claim on this House. They derided the laws of this House, and trampled on the peace which those laws were intended to uphold. The people these men have claims upon are hon. Members below the Gangway, who urged them to leave their homes, and told them they would never desert them, and who, raising a fund for national purposes in the name of the evicted tenants, have applied some of it to a totally different purpose. I move the rejection of the Bill with a clear conscience, and if I said a word in support of a Bill like this, all I can say is that I should never stand face to face with the Ulster tenant farmers again, and in their name I move the rejection. It is not a modest Bill, but one of the most audacious that was ever presented to a British House of Commons.
§ MR. T. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
I second the Motion.
Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. T. T. W. Russell.)
Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ *(3.10.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central): I find it difficult to reconcile the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down with his action last year on the clause to which he referred. Though he claims credit for having passed the 13th clause last year, he says that he did not hope much from it, and that he has not been disappointed in its not having succeeded in effecting anything. My recollection of the speech of the hon. Gentleman on that occasion is exactly the reverse. 1680 I find, on referring to Hansard, that on moving the clause he expressed his ardent hope that it would effect the purpose aimed at, and settle all the unfortunate disputes which had occurred on the Campaign estates. He expressed confidence that it would settle three-fourths of the disputes. He gave the House the express assurance that it would settle the disputes on the Olphert, Ponsonby, and Clongorey estates. I think his language to-day does not agree with what he said then, and three-fourths of the violent arguments he has used to-day would equally apply to the clause of last Session. The question before the House is one of very considerable importance and great delicacy and difficulty. I think there was a general desire in the House at the end of last Session that these disputes should be settled in an amicable manner in the interests of the peace of Ireland. I may remind the House that early in last Session I myself moved a Resolution for the purpose of endeavouring to effect this object. I proposed a Resolution to the House that the Government should use its influence with a view to restoring these evicted tenants to their holdings in the interests of the peace of Ireland, and with the view also of conciliating Irish public opinion, especially at a time when the Government was proposing a great remedial measure, and that, if necessary, it should adopt legislation with that object. The then Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour) replied to me in what I may call the earlier tone of his Irish administration and made a violent speech in reply, in which he said if he were an Irish landlord he would rather beg his bread than give way to the tenants, who were in combination. Later in the Session more moderate counsels prevailed and better statesmanship, and in the course of the discussion which took place on the Land Purchase Bill the clause which has been alluded to was moved by the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) and generally accepted by the House. The Chief Secretary himself spoke in a totally different tone to that of the earlier speech, and expressed great pleasure in giving his support to the 1681 clause. He said that if he were an Irish landlord he would be glad, even at a pecuniary loss, to re-instate the evicted tenants in the interests of peace. He also said that no one more than he desired that there should be a settlement of these disputes. These were wise and statesmanlike words. The hon. Member for South Hunts (Mr. Smith-Barry), speaking for the landlords of Ireland, also expressed approval of the clause, and said that it would open the door to friendly settlements, and he believed would have the effect of settling a great proportion of the disputes. What has been the result? I am bound to say that it has been an almost total failure; practically no action has taken pl ace under it. So far from the hopes arid expectations of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) being fulfilled, I find that, on the three estates he mentioned, very little has been done.
§ * MR. SHAW LEFEVRE:
I am coming to that shortly. The great bulk of the landlords on whose estates evictions had taken place had made no proposals to their tenants. The tenants had been most anxious for a settlement, and had done their very best to induce the landlords to offer them terms. In other cases the landlords made offers of such a character that it could not be expected for a moment that the tenants would avail themselves of them. What was the case of the Olphert estate? The evicted tenants, 340 in number, approached their landlord through Father Boyle, the curate of Falcarragh, and asked for terms of purchase. Colonel Olphert, in reply, said he was prepared to sell his lands if the tenants would pay in cash at once a sum representing the rent of the three years they had been out of possession, and also 20 years' purchase of the land. I venture to say that these terms were practically prohibitive, at id could only have been brought forward in the belief that they would prevent further negotiations. What was the case on the Ponsonby estate? I know 1682 something about it, for I have had communications from the excellent priest, Canon Keller, of Youghal. The offer made by the hon. Member for South Hunts (Mr. Smith-Barry)—who acts as chairman of the syndicate which has taken over this estate—I am sorry to say, hardly carried out the promise of his speech in the House. One would have expected that he would be one of the first to consider the subject in a conciliatory manner and offer reasonable terms. What were the terms offered by the hon. Member on the Ponsonby estate? They were asked to pay 19 years' purchase of their holdings, and to give promissory notes for one and a half years' rent, making about 20 years' purchase, which is considered to be an altogether unreasonable price. It is perfectly true that 102 out of 240 tenants have accepted these terms, but I am told that they accepted them under a feeling of panic, and in the hope that the Land Commission will not consent to such excessive terms. The remaining 140 tenants have rejected them. Under those terms the landlord would receive £20,000 more for the whole estate than Mr. Ponsonby was ready to accept, and had offered to the tenants to accept, three years before. That offer could hardly be said to be in the spirit of the clause of the Act of last year. So far as I have been able to learn, in the other cases no practical result has been arrived at. It does appear to me that the House having inserted this clause in the expectation that settlements would be arrived at, and having gone so far as to recognise the fact that the State credit might be used for the purpose of reinstating these tenants in their holdings, it is hardly satisfactory that the House should leave the question in its present state. Something more ought to be done towards carrying out that policy. I do not say that the measure before us is the best way of carrying it out; perhaps some better method might be devised for effecting the object. But it appears to me that the House is pledged to the policy of reinstating these tenants in their holdings. The present Chief Secretary (Mr. Jackson) spoke on the subject some nights ago in very 1683 proper terms, and expressed an earnest hope that a settlement might be arrived at on the whole of the estates. Now there is an opportunity for the House to do that. The adoption of the Second Reading of this Bill will not pledge the House to the details to how the proposal shall be carried out, By reading it a second time we adopt the principle that settlement ought to be brought about, and that these tenants should be reinstated, leaving the question as to how it shall be done for discussion in Committee. Practically the clause of last year has failed; the object the House had in view has not been carried out, and the opportunity now arises when the House may give some effect to the clause of last year, with the view of bringing about that result which Members desired last year, and which I believe they still desire. I do not think it necessary to follow the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) in his violent attacks on the tenants. I think the general disposition of the House last year was to forget what had been done in the past, and in the interests of peace, and in deference to the public opinion of Ireland, to bring these disputes to a conclusion. I venture to ask the House not to depart from that spirit—not to rake up old questions as to how far the tenants were justified or not in their combinations, but to look at the question from a statesmanlike point of view, and in deference to the public opinion of Ireland, which has been expressed on behalf of these tenants in a way in which it has never been expressed on any other question before the House, to take this opportunity of affirming the principle that a settlement should be arrived at on this important and difficult question. With a view to securing the peace of Ireland this is a time to make another effort to effect what was decided upon last year, and so bring these unfortunate disputes to a close.
§ (3.20.) MR. W. O'BRIEN (Cork Co., N.E.)
The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) has treated us to one of those attacks on the position of the evicted tenants in Ireland which he has hawked about 1684 England for the last two or three years, with the result to the Tory Party that he has changed their solid barrier. of 100 into 25. The Rossendale election is, perhaps, the best proof that the English people have begun to appraise the value of the hon. Gentleman's misinterpretation of the character of the fight we have been making in Ireland. That fight is for the peace of Ireland, and the re-instatement of these evicted tenants. When tile Bill of 1887 was introduced we promised again and again to drop the Plan of Campaign if only the evicted tenants, whose sacrifices won that were admitted to its benefits. The, Government deliberately excluded them, and that is the origin of the whole of the trouble in Ireland. That is why the struggle has been prolonged for four years with results that are slightly less agreeable to hon. Gentlemen supporting the Government than they are hon. Gentlemen on this side. The result of our fight has been that, after five years of coercion, the Government were forced, in the 13th clause, to attempt to make some provision for the restoration of these evicted tenants, but it was, as usual, imperfect and utterly unworkable, and simply enabled one or two men like the hon. Member for South Hunts (Mr. Smith-Barry) to use the credit of the British taxpayer, as he almost admitted, to coerce the tenants. If the Government are satisfied with this result of the five years' struggle to deny these unfortunate men justice they are thankful for small mercies. You have not broken the Plan of Campaign, but it has broken you. It has accomplished every object for which it was put forward. It has wrung two Land Acts from the Government. It has victoriously protected these evicted tenants year after year in face of the most fierce coercion. We have not deserted the evicted tenants; we are here still; and though the hon. Member may taunt us that the unhappy Divisions which paralyse for the moment our power in Ireland have increased and aggravated our difficulties—we have not abandoned a single evicted tenant, and we will not abandon a single tenant until you have either passed 1685 this measure or a General Election gives us the power of obtaining a just and effective 13th clause instead of the miserable and abortive clause of the Land Purchase Act of last year. I most cordially support the Bill, and warn you that if you do not pass it to-day, you will have to pass it some day.
§ *(3.27.) MR. BARTON (Armaga, Mid)
I do not think the House will blame the hon. Member for speaking with some warmth on this subject, but I desire to say a few words on the speech of the right hon. Member for Central Bradford, who is himself, we might almost say, a supporter of the Plan of Campaign. He went over to Ireland and took part in meetings and transactions in connection with the Plan of Campaign. I have no sympathy with the English Privy Councillor who becomes an Irish agitator. Irish Members cannot approach this question with a light heart. Landlords who have been the victims of the Plan of Campaign have been reduced to want, and their servants and dependants thrown out of employment. We cannot help sympathising also with the tenants who have been the dupes of designing politicians. Some of them have had to leave the country, and others have spent their time in the public houses in the neighbourhood of their old homes, losing all their habits of agriculture and of labour, so that if they are re-instated they will never be in the same position as formerly. The voluntary clause in the Bill introduced last Session was a fair clause, and I believe was an immense step towards conciliation. But as for the present Bill it is quite a different matter. It offers a premium upon lawlessness and dishonesty, for it proposes to give special and peculiar privileges and rewards to tenants whose conduct has certainly not entitled them to any special consideration. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has said that lee would not take up matters connected with the origin of the Plan of Campaign. I dare say if the right hon. Gentleman could have foreseen the results of that Plan, and could recall the last few years, he would have taken a very different view of the matter, and might, 1686 in all probability, have spared himself the cost of sundry return tickets to Ireland. I hope the House will pardon me for referring to a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian as to the Plan of Campaign. Speaking in Scotland, the right hon. Gentleman said—I believe I am right in saying that the Plan of Campaign has been declared by sufficient authority not to be legal, and I do not justify anything that is not legal.I admit that the right hon. Gentleman went on to attribute the Plan to the policy of the Tories. But this suggestion has been recently denied on the best authority. Now, Mr. Andrew Kettle, one of the promoters of the Land League, writing on the 27th October, 1891, to the Irish Times, says—It may surprise some people to learn that the Plan of Campaign was not started by Mr O'Brien to settle the Land Question, or to work out the social emancipation of the tenants. It was promoted by a desire to make good Mr. Gladstone's words, that the Tories would have, to govern Ireland either by Coercion or Home Rule, and as there was very little chance of the latter contingency the Plan was started, to force the Tories to pass a Coercion Act? The tenants and the Land Question were only means to an end.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
Mr. Andrew Kettle is a very respectable man; but he has no special knowledge of the causes that led to the establishment of the Plan of Campaign.
§ MR. BARTON
The hon. Member should have heard me out. This Mr, Kettle was one of the founders of the League. But I do not solely rely upon Mr. Kettle's statement. In a recent speech the hon. Member for Waterford said, in reference to the Plan of Campaign—It was not simply started as an agrarian movement; it was started as a great political engine wherewith to fight Balfour and to fight Coercion.But if the Plan of Campaign was a political engine why this Bill? If that is true, the promoters of the Bill are proposing to reward those who worked this great political engine " to fight Balfour and Coercion," and worked it for political purposes. This is a Bill meant to confer special privileges upon men whose policy was condemned by the Pope, condemned by the Judges, 1687 and condemned by statesmen and by the Press. The Daily News wrote as follows:—We by no means approve of Mr. Dillon's policy. His Plan of Campaign' seems to be vitiated with dishonesty. To withhold just rents because exorbitant demands are made is to take trouble to be in the wrong. The scheme which our special correspondent describes is one which attempts to cure a grievance of the tenants by inflicting a grievance on the landlords. It is doing an injustice as a protest against injustice.As I have said, the Plan of Campaign was condemned by the heads of the Roman Catholic Church, the following question having been proposed to their Eminences the Cardinals of the Congregation:—Is it permissible, in the disputes between landowners and tenants in Ireland, to use the means known as the Plan of Campaign and boycotting? After long and mature deliberation their Eminences unanimously answered in the negative and, the decision was confirmed by the Holy Father.Such was the decision of the heads of the Roman Catholic Church, and yet, for political purposes, the Rescript of the Pope was treated as so much waste paper. Again, the question came before the Courts of Law, and the Lord Chief Baron—dealing with this matter, which, according to the Daily News, was "vitiated with dishonesty"—in his charge to the jury in the case of Blunt v. Byrne, laid it down as a matter of law, deliberately and without any reservation, that—The Plan of Campaign is, in its essence, against the spirit of personal liberty, is against the law of the realm, and anyone taking part in it, aiding it, or promoting it, is guilty of an offence for which he may be made criminally responsible.That judicial deliverance has never been dissented from by any member of the Judiciary in either England or Ireland. It will surely be difficult for hon. Members opposite who are not Nationalists to support a measure meant to give exceptional privileges to the tenants on the Campaign estates, when their only claim to exceptional treatment is that they have taken part in a course of action which the right hon. Member for Midlothian has himself refused to justify, which the heads of the Roman Catholic Church have so emphatically condemned, which the Judges of 1688 the land have declared to be illegal. But if this was the way in which the Plan of Campaign was initiated, how w as it carried on? Was it conducted with a desire to arrive at settlements? hot at all. It will, I dare say, be in the recollection of hon. Members that, with regard to one estate upon which the Plan of Campaign was put in force, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Limerick wrote a letter, in which he almost prayed that a settlement might be come to. I will read the last 8 sentence of that letter—It would be easy for me to win popularity by taking another course, but even if higher motives did not restrain me, I should be ashamed to ask poor people to endure heartbreaking sorrows of eviction which I had no notion of ever undergoing myself.But how was that letter referred to in the House of Commons by the hon. Member for East Mayo? The hon. Member, speaking of the letter of the Bishop of Limerick, described it as "a most violent and dastardly letter," and said that the Bishop's conduct was "scandalous." He said—I am exceedingly glad that he stands alone among the Episcopacy of Ireland with his scandalous conduct.Remarks of that kind throw an illuminating ray upon the manner in which the fight has been kept up, and shows that the aim of the promoters of the Plan of Campaign was to keep a festering sore open as long as they could, and not to heal it. Hon. Members opposite suggest that they, at any rate, have done nothing to prevent the clause which has already been referred to fr om working; but I regret to be compelled to say that my observations of the public utterances of hon. Members in Ireland have led me to form quite a different opinion. It is true that the hon. Member for Waterford, speaking on the 14th September of last year, said—What, in my opinion, should be done is this. There are many estates where reason-ale settlements could be brought about, and whore tenants might be restored at reduced rents, and I would say that the tenants upon such estates might be allowed to accept those settlements.But how, I ask, was that received? Why, it was denounced as a most cowardly policy, and in proof of that 1689 I may be allowed to quote from a speech of the hon. Member for North East Cork, who, alluding to this advice of the hon. Member for Waterford that settlements should be made where possible, said—For what does Mr. Redmond's policy mean? Mr. Redmond puts a pistol to the heads of the Clanricarde tenants and says: 'You must surrender at discretion to Lord Clanricarde. You must throw yourself at the mercy of a ravening wolf, and if you do not, I will take care that you do not got another shilling to keep you and your children from starvation.And now, what is the House asked to do? It is asked to put the men who entered into that criminal conspiracy in a position of advantage to which the rest of the tenants of Ireland could never hope to attain. What about the tenants who resisted the Plan of Campaign? What about those honest men who, in spite of the combination, remained on their holdings and went on paying their rent? Are the men who defied the law to be brought in and given privileges that the honest tenants never asked for, never dreamt of, and which they could not hope to obtain? In August of 1887 the hon. Member for East Mayo gave a remarkable warning to those honest tenants which I may venture to quote to the House. Speaking on the 23rd August of that year, he said—I am alluding now to the combination amongst the tenants known as the Plan of Campaign. Now let me say this: that if there be a man in Ireland—and I do not believe there is—if there is a man in Ireland base enough to hack down, to turn his back on the fight, now that Coercion has passed, I pledge myself in the face of this meeting that I will denounce him from public platforms by name, and I pledge myself to the Government that, let that man he whom he may, his life will not be a happy one, either in Ireland or across the sea, and I say this with the intention of carrying out what I say, and without the slightest fear of the interpretation which will be put upon what I say by the Tory newspapers.This Bill proposes that the men who have defied the law should be given privileges that those honest tenants, who resisted temptations and threats, never asked and do not now claim. But what about the men who have availed themselves of the Act of 1891? They have availed themselves of that Act, and yet they are to be placed in a worse posi- 1690 tion than those who declined to do so. The hon. Member for South Tyrone is quite right when he said that the farmers of Ulster regard this Bill with considerable curiosity. They are men who paid their rents regularly, and frequently legislation has come in which did them no good, but which favoured the less deserving tenants in other parts of the country. [An hon. MEMBER: Name.] I refer, for example, to the Arrears Act as a specimen of the legislation which, I care not who brought it in, rewarded the landlord who managed his estate badly and the tenant who did not pay his rent. The question involved in the Bill before the House concerns, more than any section of the House, the Members on the Front Opposition Bench. Nobody can, of course, blame Irish National Members opposite for defending the evicted tenants. They would be, indeed, wanting in honour if they did not; they would be wanting in honour if they deserted the men who kept up the fight; and, so far as I know, they are not wanting in courage to stand by those who agree with them in Ireland. But it is quite different with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The misery of the evicted tenants really lies at their door, and now they are in a dilemma. They must either desert their dupes—the men who kept up the fight in Ireland, and without whom they would have found it absolutely impossible to suggest that the present Government, have had any difficulty in governing, Ireland; or, in the alternative, they will have by supporting this Bill to sanction, to justify, and to reward a course of illegal criminality which I challenge hon. Members and right hon. Members opposite to defend upon Liberal principles.
§ (3.53.) MR. J. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has treated us to a considerable, deal of ancient history which has often before been referred to both in and out of this House, and into which I have no desire and no intention of following him. In the course of his speech I could not help thinking that I had listened to similar speeches before in Ireland, and I could not help imagining 1691 myself in the dock in Green Street, with the hon. Member engaged in conducting the prosecution. Hon. Gentlemen upon the other side of the House look, I think, upon the whole subject from a very narrow point of view. They hark back to the Plan of Campaign and to various organisations and agitations which it is impossible in the limits at the disposal of the House to go into, but which have for the last ten years been agitating Ireland. The hon. Member treats these matters as if they had not been again and again debated in this House; and he asks the House to believe that these agitations in Ireland arose from no cause whatever except from a desire to give assistance to the Liberal Party and to make political capital for them. The hon. Member charges the National Party in Ireland with having started the Plan of Campaign in Ireland for the simple purpose of making political capital for the Liberals in England, and for the purpose of proving that the English Government in Ireland was impossible. I can speak as to my own intentions, and I say, speaking for myself, that I do not believe there is in the House, or in the country, a man, who knows anything at all about the matter, who believes in his heart the truth of the statement. In the autumn of 1886 when the Bill of my late leader, Mr. Parnell, was rejected, I told the House that we would be obliged to fall back on the methods of agitation, which alone, in the past, have stood between the Irish tenantry, and which have wrung from successive English Governments large measures of concession. The hon. Member opposite talks about the grievances of the Ulster tenants. Why, nobody knows better than the hon. Member for South Tyrone that there is not a single benefit gained by the tenants of Ulster that has not been won by the sacrifices of the poor people whose rights the Irish National Members have been advocating. He and others might talk in this House until their hair grew grey, and I doubt if they would have got very much by their talking or that a single one of their grievances would have been listened to, much less remedied. Those very combinations, 1692 which are a constant mark for the denunciations of the hon. Members were, I take leave to say, the only root and source of every small concession pined for Ireland; and but for these very combinations the tenants of Ulster, in whom the hon. Member opposite professes to be so interested, would be still groaning beneath the heel of the landlord classes. We say that never, in the whole history of civilised mankind, has there occurred so great an alteration in the social condition of a country with so little bloodshed and disturbance as that which has marked the change that has come over the condition of the people of Ireland during the last ten years, and which I say was brought about by one of the greatest and, I will add, one of the most beneficial agitations that is known to history. There have been great combinations and great breaches of the law, if you will, but look back over the pages of history and point out to me any parallel instance where a whole people, who were practically in the position of serfs in the land, emancipated themselves, or to a great extent emancipated themselves, without some breaches of the law. I say there is no, other country which has achieved so great results with so little disturbance, bloodshed, or breaches of the law; and because of one great combination a number of poor men, no matter whether they belonged to the Plan of Campaign or not—and the large majority of these men, I believe, did not belong to the Plan of Campaign, because there are only about 1,500 tenants on my book who did take part in the Plan of Campaign; so that the 5,000 or 6,000 tenants who would take advantage of this Bill can never have belonged to the Plan of Campaign. But whether they belonged to the Plan of Campaign or not, whether from lapse of time or from one cause or another, they have been shut out from the benefits which all the other tenantry of Ireland to-clay enjoy. I do not mean to say that they enjoy all the benefits to which they are justly entitled, or anything like it, and I hope something more will be done for them before long; but these men for whom we now appeal, and for whose benefit this Bill has been introduced to- 1693 day to save them from starvation and pauperism, have been shut out from the benefits which the law, as altered now by our exertions and agitation, confers upon every tenant to-day. And what we claim for these men is not, as the hon. Member falsely assures the House, that these men should be rewarded for a breach of the law. What we claim is, practically speaking, that a great amnesty of liberty should be extended to these people; that the voice of Justice, backed up by strong agitation—and it is worthless without that—the English Government, having been compelled by these two great forces to admit that the tenantry and the people of Ireland have been subjected for generations to a cruel and shameful wrong, they should undo that cruel and shameful wrong so far as in them lies. These poor tenantry are presumably—I say presumably, for the burden of proof lies on the other side—were unjustly evicted, because they were evicted from their holdings at e time when the law was unjust. Therefore I am entitled to say they were unjustly evicted. The law was unjust; you have altered the law, and the presumption is that before the law was altered the landlords used their powers of eviction unjustly. Our case, then, is that the tenantry evicted during the last ten years probably were unjustly evicted; and, in view of the great changes that have been wrought and the great ameliorations introduced into the law as affecting the position of the tenants in Ireland, I say it is not unreasonable, but reasonable and just, that some great measure of amnesty and healing should be extended to these tenants who, through the opposition and delay which the Irish Members experienced in carrying a measure of justice through this House, have been thrown out of their holdings and obliged to starve. I have only one word more to say, and it is this: over and over again we have warned this House and warned Governments of the danger of neglecting measures of this character, and in no instance that I can recollect have our words of warning been falsified. On the contrary, our position turned out in the main to be true. I ask the Government, and I ask this 1694 House, do they desire to have social peace in Ireland? and I ask them do they expect to have social peace in Ireland while four or five thousand tenants claim permission to regain possession of their farms, and four or five thousand half-starved families are watching those farms and determined to come back? You may think, or pretend to think, that it is not just that these families should get back to their holdings; but the question is, what do the people of Ireland think? It is not what the Members of this House think that will prevail. What must ultimately prevail is what the moral sentiment of the people of Ireland thinks. Though our ranks may be divided, and although, unhappily, things have occurred in Ireland which have weakened our position in that country, and incited landlords to act harshly and unjustly towards their tenants, that state of things will not last for ever; and the time will come again when the moral sentiment of the people of Ireland—as regards five-sixths of the people—will be able to re-assert itself through a unanimous Party with the same force as during the last ten years that have rolled by. It is not, therefore, what this House may say that will ultimately prevail, but what the people of Ireland with one united voice may say; and the time will come, be it sooner or later, when they will reinstate these evicted tenants in their farms.
§ *(4.6.) COLONEL WARING (Down, N.)
I do not intend to follow the hon.Gentleman who has just sat down in what he has said touching the moral sentiment of the people of Ireland. On that question the hon. Gentleman is an undoubted authority, because for the last five or six years he has been forming and cultivating that sentiment which he is pleased to call moral. He has complained that the view taken by hon. Members on this side of the House has been a narrow one—that it has been confined to the tenants who took part in the Plan of Campaign, and to these only. I do not intend to emulate him in that respect, and in the few remarks that I shall make I shall endeavour, as far as possible, to break fresh ground. Now the hon. Member who introduced this Bill told us that it 1695 was a modest Bill; but he also told us that it was not a new principle. As to whether it is a modest Bill or an audacious one I think there will be a considerable division of opinion; but as to whether it is a new principle or not, I am perfectly certain there can be no question of this, because the principle that underlies this Bill is the same as underlay nine-tenths of the Bill on the same subject which have emanated from the same quarter. That principle in some cases was veiled confiscation; in the present one it is confiscation absolutely unveiled and unvarnished. The hon. Gentleman said that there were only 1,500 tenants on his book as evicted tenants under the Plan of Campaign, or about one-third. How about the other two-thirds? Admitting, for argument's sake, that the former were arbitrary, what evidence have we that the evictions of the other two-thirds were in any way harsh or unjust? There were men in possession of the farms from which these tenants were evicted for breach of their legal engagements, these men, now in occupation, for many years—some ten or twelve years—have been cultivating these holdings, putting them in order, making up for the loss of time, want of energy and application, which caused the failure of the previous tenants; and they are by a process, which is euphemistically called a vested order, to be chucked out upon the road, and have all their improvements confiscated without the slightest compensation. But there are other instances. Of course, a landlord is not to expect any possible mercy from hon. Members opposite. (" Oh, oh.") Well, is he?
§ COLONEL WARING
When he deserves it? Well, take the instance of a landlord who has been obliged to evict a tenant who is hopelessly insolvent and idle, and suppose he takes that farm into his own hands, cultivates the farm, puts it in order, repairs the buildings, erects a new one, and is making a profit out of that farm—is he to be evicted by a vested order? 1696 Are his improvements to be confiscated without any return? We are told that if he pulls the house down, if he clears off a mud cottage, he has to pay for it, and I presume if he built an additional house and put it in order for a man to live in, he would be turned out of that without mercy or one farthing's compensation. I will give a n instance of that; I shall not enter into particulars; I shall simply say that I myself have got a farm of the kind, out of which I am able to make more than double the rent I was ever paid for it; and I do not think that it would recommend itself to the justice of English Members that I should be turned out of that farm.
§ COLONEL WARING
Gone to America. I heard the other day he had come back again, and I believe he is doing very well.
§ COLONEL WARING:
He was so rack-rented that I am making double the rent of the farm that he promised to pay me, but never did pay me. But, suppose another case. Suppose I let a farm from whichlsome other people have been evicted to an improving tenant, what are you to do with that man? We have great sympathy for a man who, has brought eviction upon himself. here is a man who acts under the law, has not in any way transgressed the orders of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who simply takes a farm in open market on the faith that the law of the Lind under which he has lived will be maintained. Are you to say to him because, in other parts of Ireland, there has been a collision of interests and some of our friends have one to the wall, you are to be turned out of your home and have all 3 our improvements for the last fifteen years confiscated? We were told that a precedent was made for this Bill under the Act passed last year for breaking perpetuity leases. But under that Act nobody could be evicted, and consequently the result was that no such injustice could possibly take place. We are told that this Bill is intended for peace, but I fail to see where the 1697 war is. There was war, was disturbance certainly, in Ireland; but, so far as I can judge, the only war that is going on in Ireland now is between hon. Members opposite themselves. We were told by the hon. Member who brought in this Bill that we should have universal compulsion by way of getting rid of rent altogether. Where are hon. Members going to get the money to carry out this compulsory purchase? Hon. Members opposite know that they have strained their own consciences to the uttermost in voting 33 millions last year. Call it by its proper name—not compulsion, but confiscation—at once. I can read no other meaning in this Bill but an absolute confiscation. The real object of the Bill is not the reinstatement of the evicted tenants, but the destruction of the class to which I belong, and the throwing out of employment of the labourers and artisans who depend on it and support it against their machinations.
§ (4.50.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman m ho has just sat down was pleased to refer to what he calls the war among the Irish Members. I venture to say that he has dignified it by too military a term. At any rate, I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman will find out in the long run that they are able to settle their disputes among themselves without any assistance from the hon. and gallant Gentleman or his friends. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, in my experience, rarely says anything of light and leading in a matter of large scope. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is too reminiscent. He ventured to sneer at my hon. Friend the Member for Mayo because of what he called his occupation. The particular occupation in which my hon. Friend has been engaged for many years of his life, and in pursuit of which he has uncomplainingly suffered the loss of liberty many times in the course of the last few years, has been an attempt—the noblest that any Irishman could make—an attempt to render Ireland a tolerable dwelling-place for the people, an attempt to save the mass of the Irish people from oppression, and it ill lies in the mouth of the hon. and gallant Gentleman to sneer at the 1698 occupation of my hon. Friend, because the gallant Gentleman belongs to a class of men who have more grossly and shamefully abused their powers than any class of men of whom mention is made in the history of the world, and who, as is proved by the records of the Queen's Courts in Ireland, have made themselves the curse of Ireland and the disgrace of the Empire. The gallant Gentleman asks, is a landlord to expect no mercy? If political justice were to be meted out to these Irish landlords, they need expect no mercy—they deserve none. But we, the most extreme advocates of the Irish tenants, are disposed to be more lenient to them, and from beginning to end of this Bill there is no proposal which denies justice or mercy to the Irish landlord; because there is no proposal in the Bill to commit his financial interests to any other than his own friends. Every proposal in this Bill refers the rent to be paid to the landlord, or the value of his interest, in case of purchase, to a Commission composed of landlords and their friends; and does the hon. and gallant Gentleman seriously contend that a question referred to Mr. Wrench, Mr. Lynch, and Mr. Justice Bewley is likely to be determined against the interests of the landlord? The gallant Gentleman asks what compensation a landlord is to have for improvements. Well, the Bill provides that the Land Commission shall fix the price if the landlord and tenant cannot agree; and if they were to sell that farm as it suited themselves, in that case any improvements which the gallant Gentleman—entirely against the rule of his class in. Ireland—has made, of course would be valued and included in the purchase-money. It is much to be regretted that on a great question of State policy of this kind, which has been the subject of angry strife between Parties in this House, it is so difficult to introduce anything like a spirit of calm and impartial statesmanship, and that there is so fatal a tendency to look at the subject from the point of view of the landlord. The Government, in this case, I fear, are ill-inclined, and certainly they have a bad adviser. The evil genius in this 1699 case is the hon. Member for South Tyrone. I am sorry to say that I believe the hon. Gentleman has what I may call a vested interest in the perpetuation of He has spoken to-day of funds, and has suggested that they were misappropriated. The hon. Gentleman seems to be sorry that there is a fund for the evicted tenants. He seems to be sorry that there is any hope that during this—
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I said that there were funds, and that all that I was sorry for was that they were not applied for the purpose, but for general purposes.
§ MR. SEXTON
The hon. Gentleman, by way of explanation, has made his position no better. The purposes of the National funds were stated with undeniable clearness and fulness by the Convention that was held in Ireland. These purposes were accepted, and are accepted, by the Irish people, and the main purpose to which the greater part of these funds has been applied is to the aid of these tenants. What right has the hon. Gentleman to speak of funds? Has the hon. Gentleman himself had no connection with funds? He has been connected with the fund for the squatters in Ireland, which was collected in England. He made himself cashier and treasurer of that, and he has published no audit of it to show how it has been applied. He blames us for encouraging hope in the breasts of the evicted tenants. What right has he, by means of this fund, to implant in the bosom of these squatters—
§ MR. SEXTON: Surely he has. Evidence was given before the Courts in Ireland, and it was sworn that he gave £100 to one tenant.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
The Tipperary fund was a fund got up in relief of boycotting. The fund which the hon. Member is referring to is a fund for the derelict land; the fund for Tipperary has been dispensed there; it has been audited, and those who subscribed to it have got information of what was done with it.
§ MR. SEXTON
If the hon. Member could produce the audit hon. Members 1700 would be better able to follow the distinction, which is not observable in this Debate. When the hon. Gentleman makes himself cashier of a fund collected in England, and has had no audit to show how it has been disposed of, especially when he makes himself trustee for these squatters—when the hon. Gentleman is in a fiduciary position with regard to this fund—I have as good a right to say of him, as he has to say of us with regard to the Plan of Campaign tenants, that he has entered into a conspiracy in which the other parties are these poor squatters; and I am entitled to assume, and I do assume, that this hon. Gentleman has entered into obligations and incurred rights according to which he stands discharged from the functions of a Member of this House.
§ MR. SEXTON
The hon. Member has been cited again and again in this House—and it has not been denied—as the squatter's friend.
§ MR. SEXTON
I again say that if the persons connected with this fund had published an audit of it, they would be in a better position. The hon. Gentleman has acted as intermediary, in some sense, between those who contributed these funds in England and those who received them in Ireland. I think it would have been more judicious of the hon. Gentleman if—instead of planning illwill in Ireland, and setting up a title to these evicted farms, which is incompatible with social interests—if he applied himself to aid in the application for the healing policy cited to-day. I say the hon. Gentleman is a bad adviser, and the evil genius in this case. I fear I must add that the Government themselves are ill-inclined. A heavy responsibility lies upon them. They were warned in 1886—the year for entering into peace —of the gravity of the case in Ireland; they were warned by the men best qualified to warn them. They did not deny that there was a case for legislation; they said the judicial rents were sacred and could not be 1701 touched; but the very next year—that is to say, in the year 1887—they passed another Act dealing with leasehold contracts. If in the year 1886 they had passed that Act there never would have been a Plan of Campaign. The Government, having been driven into the adoption of remedial legislation against their will, are now endeavouring to revenge themselves for having been drawn for a limited time into an assumption of political virtue. Sir, the course the evicted tenants took was in self-defence. The agrarian agitation has dragged from you many first-class measures. Does anybody pretend that you give any important measures to Ireland until they are forced? No! you only do it when you cannot help it; and the struggle of the last twelve years, in which these men have been the victims, is a struggle in the course of which you have passed these first-class measures:—The Land Act, 1881; the Arrears Act, 1882; the Land Act, 1887; the Redemption of Rent Act, 1887, the Ashbourne Acts of 1885 and 1888, and the ambitious and impotent Act of last year. Judging by the practices of Christendom and the usages of civilised society, do you think the claim of men who have suffered in such a struggle to lenient, to clement, even to generous treatment would be for a moment denied if the Legislature is obliged to admit that the courage and the sufferings of these men had resulted in a few years in these first-class measures being passed into law? Sir, what should be the two main principles operative in the mind of any Government dealing with legislation? They are these—(1) does it promote social order and peace; and (2) does it promote the policy which the Government consider to be essential? So far as this Bill is concerned these questions must be answered in the affirmative. By the Act of 1881, the tenants of Ireland were vested with the legal ownership of the soil; their own capital, and all that their forefathers had, was invested in the soil; and, except on the soil, these men have no means of living in Ireland. These are three great facts that should be borne in mind. Moreover, 5,000 of these people have been thrown out upon the world, 1702 deprived of their holdings, their accumulated capital, their only means of living in the country. Consider this, and the necessary force and depth of the sympathy for those men that is felt in Ireland, and consider, if you keep these men perpetually divorced from their land and homes, whether you can have social peace and order in Ireland. Therefore, the duty of the Government is to pass the Bill. The next question is: Will the Bill advance the Government policy? It is quite certain, unless you admit these tenants to the benefits of your Act, they never will avail themselves of the Land Purchase Act. I doubt if the Act of last year will ever work well; but unless the evicted tenants are admitted to its benefits, the Act will never apply to the estates from which they have been evicted. So long as that is refused, the public mind in Ireland is chilled and discouraged against your Act. Sir, we have never refused to give fair compensation to the sitting tenants, nondescript tenants though they be. If the credit of the State could be used for that purpose, the stimulus to land purchase would be great. Therefore, when I consider the duty of restoring peace and order, I say it is the duty of the House to pass this Bill to-day. I fear hon. Members are but ill inclined to the measure. Having been forced by the courage and sacrifices of the evicted tenants to adopt remedial legislation, they would refuse to these pioneers of reform any share of the benefits they have won.
§ (4.41.) MR. GEORGE WYNDHAM (Dover)
If the impartial and intelligent foreigner to whom the hon. Member alluded had been present and felt disposed to arbitrate, he would have passed unheeded two parts of the hon. Member's speech. He would have taken little interest in dealing out to landlords poetic justice tempered with mercy; and still less interest in the controversy with the hon. Member for South Tyrone. The hon. Gentleman appealed to the House to pass the Bill because it would promote social order. The fact is, that instead of dealing out poetic justice to landlords (of which he talked so much), the hon. Member had to invite, and, if he could, per- 1703 suaded the House to discriminate between tenants evicted under the Plan of Campaign as against tenants who have fulfilled their lawful obligations. The Plan of Campaign tenants may be taken as of one type, the Ulster tenants as another; and whilst the tenants of Ulster anxiously wished for compulsory powers of land purchase—which for weighty reasons of State this House refused—it is seriously proposed by the hon. Gentleman that we should give to the Plan of Campaign tenants that advantage that we refused to others. Not only that; not only would the hon. Member give these tenants the right of compulsory purchase, but he would give it to them because of their own mis-doings. Sir, of all the ways of promoting social order, I consider the last we should adopt would be the placing of a premium upon lawlessness and a penalty upon the splendid fulfilment of duty by private citizens. Sir, it is complained that in these Debates we traverse well-worn ground; but we have either to meet ancient arguments or allow the case against us to go by default. The hon. Member for West Belfast, following the hon. Member for East Mayo, stated it as a matter which admitted of no doubt that if Mr. Parnell's Arrears Bill of 1886 had been accepted by this House there would have been no Plan of Campaign. The answer to that has been repeated ad ad nauseum—namely, that Mr. Parnell's Bill would not have affected those tenants who did not pay their rents in 1876. The Bill of 1887 gave them what they had a right to receive. Another point is that Mr. Parnell's Bill only dealt with judicial tenants, and that the tenants affected by the Plan of Campaign were not judicial tenants. On the Ponsonby estate, for example, and it will be universally admitted to be a typical estate—out of 250 tenants the number of judicial tenants was only 27. Therefore, Sir, I say that 90 per cent. of the tenantry would have been excluded from the benefit even under Mr. Parnell's Bill. That being so, I think my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Mid Armagh gave an explanation and mentioned the sufficient cause giving 1704 rise to the Plan of Campaign. The reasons given by hon. Members opposite are altogether inadequate, but if reference be made to the outside speeches made by hon. Members in the past, I venture to think the true origin Will be found. My hon. Friend quoted from a speech said to have been made by the Member for Waterford at the Chicago Convention. I have also seen in the Enniscorthy Guardian of November, 1886, a speech of the hon. Member for Waterford, and this is what he is reported to have said:—Home Rule was defeated at the last election, and I say, advisedly, in the face of the defeat, that if the Tories had been able to govern Ireland by the ordinary law the cause of Home Rule would be thrown back for a generation.When the Home Rule Bill was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, he rested his case upon the social condition of Ireland, saying that there were only two alternatives—we must either yield to the demands of the Irish Representatives, or go in for a system of coercion such as was never known before. To make that good, the Home Rule Bill not having passed, it was obligatory upon hon. Gentlemen opposite to force upon us a policy of coercion. That was the simple explanation, and not the rejection of the Bill of Mr. Parnell, which could not have affected the object it was intended to serve. Sir, we have all heard of an original mode of warfare—namely, wounding the soldiers on their own side in order to excite the compassion of the enemy. When the compassion of their opponents had been excited, steps were taken to relieve the victims of the Plan of Campaign. On behalf of the victims in Tipperary, appeals were made in the Press. They denounced the Plan of Campaign, and appealed for alms to relieve them. A letter appeared in the Irish Times in which a woman named Eliza O'Connor stated that she had applied to Father Humphreys for assistance, and that the reply of Father Humphreys was that he would not degrade the noble warfare against Smith-Barry and landlordism by establishing a system of outdoor relief. If Father Humphreys would not do that, why should this 1705 House use its power to relieve those persons to the detriment of the law-abiding tenants of Ireland? If this House were to divide, not upon the question of the poetic justice which hon. Members opposite desire to mete out to landlords, but on the comparative merits of the tenants of Ulster and the tenants which the hon. Members have misguided, there would be very little doubt about the vote the House would give this afternoon.
§ (4.52.) MR. J. REDMOND (Waterford)
Sir, the speech to which we have just listened might have been made by any hon. Gentleman who had not heard one single word of the Debate upon this Bill. The speech of the hon. Member for Mid Armagh might have been made at any time during the last few years. Every word said was equally true before Clause 13 was passed last year. What is our position? The Government, at the instance of the hon. Members for South Tyrone and West Belfast, Mr. Parnell and others, passed into law a clause which recognised that there was a state of things existing in Ireland with reference to evicted tenants which demanded legislation. The present First Lord of the Treasury put that clause in his Land Bill believing that the grievance existed, and that the clause would bring peace to Ireland. The clause has failed from the inherent defects which we have pointed out; and in this Bill we propose to apply the principles of the Redemption of Rent Act of last year. Sir, that is not an original suggestion. It is a suggestion that was made as long ago as the 5th June, 1891, by the late Mr. Parnell. He put down a specific clause against the Bill of last year, but the clause was, for some reason or other, ruled out of order. A question was addressed by the late Mr. Parnell to the present Leader of the House as to whether it would not be possible to include in the Bill dealing with long leaseholders a clause for the restoration of evicted tenants; and on the 4th June last year the right hon. Gentleman 1706 admitted the importance of such a clause, which he said would assist the landlords, and would be welcomed by the Government. The Member for South Tyrone said to-day that the chief reason why he thought the clause would not be operative was that the Land Commission would not sanction the transaction. He never said anything like that last year. He dealt with an objection which has been found fatal—and it is this, that the landlords will obstruct its working. The hon. Member said—The objection is not a practical one, because the landlords would be as anxious to come to terms as the tenants.But, Sir, this clause has failed, because the hon. Member for South Tyrone was entirely wrong in his estimate of the landlords. The hon. Member said he knew one landlord who had refused to act under Clause 13. I said I knew 300. I spoke by the card; I had their names in my pocket. There was established in Cork an Evicted Tenants' Union, which was independent of any political Party, and in no way connected with the Plan of Campaign estates. It was an organisation called into being for the purpose of endeavouring to get a large number of the tenants evicted in recent years back into their homes. Last September this Association issued a circular to all the landlords in the neighbourhood from whose estates tenants had been evicted. The circular was sent out broadcast to all the landlords who had evicted their tenants in the neighbourhood; but out of the whole number there was only one case in which a settlement was brought about, every other case having been obstructed by the refusal of the landlord either to take notice of the circular at all, or to enter into negotiations. I submit that this establishes the point I have risen to make—namely, that this clause has failed owing to the fact that the landlords obstructed the working of Clause 13 of the Act of last year. It has expired, and the first clause of our Bill proposes that the time for its operation should be extended. The hon. Member for Tyrone is in favour of extending the time; but 1707 let him and those who think with him be logical, and if they think it is a good clause, let them agree to amend it so as to make it workable. The only Amendment which can do so is one which will apply compulsion in those cases where the landlords stand on their strict rights, and refuse to make terms with their tenants. Here is a clear and definite point at issue. You passed that clause, admitting it to be important; it has been inoperative, and we ask you to remove the defect which has been discovered in it, and enact it in such a form that it will work. If you do so, we may hope in the near future that in Ireland peace will be re-established on those estates, and the result will be to smooth the path of Government in Ireland, and hasten the arrival of the day when we may see the tenantry of Ireland contented and peaceful in their homes.
*(5.6.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRERAND (Mr. MADDEN, Dublin -University)
I had hoped this Debate would not have closed without some expression of opinion, from some occupant of the front Opposition Bench, on the measure now before this House.
§ MR. MADDEN:
I am aware of that, but what I complain of is that the right hon. Member for Bradford, when he spoke, gave the House no expression of opinion upon the merits of the Bill.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I spoke on the Second Reading of the Bill, and I said matters of detail could be dealt with afterwards.
§ * MR. MADDEN
That is precisely the point of my complaint. The right hon. Gentleman said he would vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, because the only principle it established was, at all events, that some new step should be taken to settle this question. Is the right hon. Member aware of the principles contained in this Bill, and which would be affirmed by voting for its Second Reading? It establishes, in the first place, the principle of compulsory sale in favour of one class of tenants 1708 only. I admit that the question of compulsory sale may fairly be discussed on its merits with reference to the tenantry of Ireland as a whole; but when it is brought forward, let this be done with an appreciation of its full consequences, and with some practical suggestion as to the source from which the necessary money is to come. But the objections to the Bill are far greater and deeper than that. It not only establishes compulsory sale, but its essence is that that principle should only be called into operation in aid of evicted tenants. The 4th clause of the Bill is one of the most remarkable ever submitted to the consideration of any Legislative Assembly. It provides that after the lapse of any number of years, even if the evicted tenant is dead, he or his representative may come to the Court and simply say— "I, or the man I represent, was evicted, and therefore I have a right to the land, and ask to be put in possession of it." The Bill draws no distinction between just and unjust evictions, and the mere fact of eviction is a test of the man's right to repossession. And that is not all. The landlord may have let the land, and the occupying tenant may have been for years in possession of it; yet there is no recognition of his right, and he is to be hustled out of possession, and if he does not go he is to be sent to gaol. In the 4th clause, what is called a vesting order is to be made in favour of the evicted tenant, and that may be put in force by attachment against anybody. When the hon. Member for Tyrone pointed out that this would apply even if the substituted tenant had purchased his holding under the Land Purchase Acts, hoe. Members opposite seemed to be somewhat startled by it, and they said, "Oh, no! If the new tenant has bought he will not be disturbed." In this they were mistaken. The Member for the North Division of Dublin said that the clause might be incorrectly framed, but for the purpose of its framers it could not have been better drawn. But what I cannot understand is why hon. Members opposite should admit the injustice of disturbing the new tenant who has 1709 bought under the Purchase Acts, while there is no hardship in turning adrift the tenant who has not purchased, although he may have been for years in occupation, and may have invested his capital in the improvement of his holding. This is a short outline of the Bill, and I do not wonder that on the opposite side the discussion should have wandered somewhat far from its provisions. At the same time, I think the evicted tenants in Ireland will derive but cold comfort from a study of this Debate, and from the attitude of the Front Opposition Bench. The right hon. Member for Bradford tells us that he votes for the Second Reading simply because he thinks some new steps should be taken. The hon. Member for Waterford speaks of this proposal as if it were a sort of continuation and practical application of the policy of the Government, as embodied in the Land Purchase Bill of last year, and he referred to a statement of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, that it is desirable, by a legitimate arrangement between parties, that these disputes should be brought to an end. Everybody must re-echo that sentiment, and that is the underlying principle of the 13th clause of the Act of last year. It does no injustice to any person, and does not touch any tenant occupying a holding. But this measure is founded in injustice, both to landlords and outgoing tenants, while it proposes a partial law in favour of the class of tenants in Ireland which least deserves the consideration of the House.
§ (5.20.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for leaving me time, before the Division, to answer his questions. From this Bench we support this Bill for the reasons that we gave last Session for supporting, first, the 13th clause of the Purchase Bill, and afterwards the Amendments that were moved to that clause by Gentlemen below the Gangway. This Bill embodies those Amendments, and the gist of it is the 3rd clause. The hon. Member for Dover and the hon. Member for South Tyrone tell us that we put the bad tenants, who have not paid their rents and who have 1710 broken the law, in an advantageous position as compared to the tenants who have obeyed the law, by giving them compulsory purchase. As I read the Bill you do no such thing. What the clause does is not to give compulsory purchase without an alternative, and that alternative is that if the landlord is not willing to make use of the 13th section of the Purchase Act, then the tenants who suffer by his unwillingness shall be put, not in a better position than other tenants, but in the same position of being allowed to be farmers under a fair rent. We say that this is the only method by which you can settle the Irish difficulty. To-day we have gone back from the point of conciliation to which the House had, as a whole, advanced. In the Debates on the 13th clause of the Act of last year, the Government and the whole House adopted a conciliatory and pacific tone, and ceased to talk of the rights and wrongs of the Plan of Campaign, and only talked of how the miseries which resulted from that Plan, as fought on both sides, should be healed. But that has not been the tone of some Gentlemen who have spoken in this Debate; but it is still the intention of hon. Gentlemen who sit beside me on this Bench. We wish to heal these wounds of Ireland, and we believe that this Bill will do so. I have defended the 3rd clause, which merely makes compulsory, under the penalty of having to give a fair rent, that power which was voluntary in the Purchase Bill. The Attorney General for Ireland sees something wonderful in it; but is it not the case, Session after Session, when we find that the voluntary principle will not work, that we make it compulsory ? As to the denunciation of the 4th clause by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, you would think that nothing had passed in this House before on the question of the "planter" tenants. But last year we asked the Government to allow these tenants to be bought out under the Irish Church Fund, and on this Bench we are still anxious that means should be adopted for buying them out. We do not wish anything to be done which is harsh or unjust towards them; but we ask 1711 that these five or six thousand evicted tenants, instead of being punished to the end of time—and recollect that they have already been transported from their homes for three or four years, which would be a legal punishment almost sufficient for any fault they might have committed, whatever it was—shall have hope given them of being restored to their homes, and of becoming again peaceable and contented citizens. We say that the Purchase Act has not fulfilled one of its main objects, that of pacifying Ireland; but that this Bill, amended as it will be if it passes the second Reading, will do justice to the landlord and justice to the planter tenants, and give some hope of mercy and salvation to these five or six thousand evicted men, without mercy and kindness to whom you will never pacify Ireland.
The House divided:—Ayes 174; Noes 229.—(Div. List, No. 15.)
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
Bill put off for six months.