§ [MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT.]
§ *(9.0.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said he had hoped it would not have been necessary, on two grounds, to move the Motion of which he gave notice at an earlier hour of the day. In the first place he had hoped that it would have been possible to discuss the whole question on an Irish Supply night. The House had now been sitting for close on six months, and not one hour of that time had been appropriated for the purpose of Irish Supply. He had no security when Supply would be taken, and therefore he had had to give up that idea. In the second place, he had hoped that what had taken place in almost every agrarian quarrel of which he had cognizance in Ireland, viz., something like a reasonable compromise, would have been arrived at in this matter. The sands in the glass, however, were fast running out, without the slightest idea of a compromise, and he was driven to the belief that unless the House intervened, unless the Chief Secretary—who had so much in his power—was able to do something, intolerable hardships would arise, these horrible evictions would be consummated, and an era of trouble and turmoil would be originated in the West of Ireland, where, heaven knew, there was trouble enough at the present moment without it. He moved the Motion under a heavy sense of responsibility, because he did not think there was a public man in the House—and there were very few in the country—who had seen more of evictions than he had. He had gone through nearly the whole of these sad times since 1886, and, if he moved the Resolution that night, it was because of his experience in the past, and because he desired to avoid trouble in the future of the same kind if it could be avoided. He, in accordance with what happened earlier, would undertake to prove that the Government, as a Government, were directly responsible, not alone for the condition of this whole district, but for everyone of the impending evictions in it. Did ho know what previous Governments had attempted? Had he heard of the Vandeleur evictions in Glare, or of the action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reference to the 600 Clanricarde case, when he openly admitted that he had put pressure within the law on the landlord? He maintained that in nearly all the great agrarian cases resulting in evictions there had always been attempts made by the Government to avoid the difficulty. Then, again, on the Olphert estate the same thing took place. Terms were offered and refused, and the evictions went on; but whereas in these cases in the past attempts had been made to bring about a settlement, on the De Freyne estate all such attempts had been repudiated, not because Lord De Freyne wished that, but because he was in the hands of a landlord combination who would not allow him to follow his own instincts. Besides, in all the other cases, except the Olphert case, the tenants were comparatively well to do, whereas here the tenants were the poorest of the poor. The efforts of the Roman Catholic Clergy in that direction had been without avail—[A TORY MEMBER: Hear, hear!] Someone cheered that. Well, he was sorry for him. He believed that a word from the Chief Secretary would effect a settlement in this case, and he asked what had been done in that direction? What was the history of these proceedings? The purchase of the Dillon estate by the Congested Districts Board produced a combination on the De Freyne estate to secure the same terms. That demand was refused. Lord De Freyne—who was not a rich man—had to refuse it, and the suggestion of the Rev. Father White for a reduction of 15 per cent, was also refused. Father White had, when making his proposal, pointed out that the people had not been able to sell their cattle; that the country had been ruined by floods, and that the people were in despair, arid he (Mr. Russell) had no hesitation in saying that a 33 per cent, reduction would not have been too much. Then legal proceedings were commenced. The rents were higher for the bog land than they were for good arable land in Ulster. But Lord De Freyne was not responsible for that. The rents were fixed by a tribunal set up by the Government. The House had no right to blame Lord De Freyne for taking legal action to recover his rents or the possession of his land. He was not going to say that Lord De Freyne was not 601 entitled to the support of the forces of the Crown. Lord De Freyne's legal rights were undoubted. But what he complained of was that the Government in fixing the rents fixed unfair rents. That was admitted by the Committee of Inquiry presided over by Mr. Morley. The next step in the recent history of the estate was the sale of the tenant right and interest. The tenant right of five or six acres of bogland was sold by public auction in the Courthouse at Roscommon. The next step was to seek to recover possession of the holdings, and how did Lord De Freyne's, advisers proceed? Let the House mark this. The tenants were the poorest of the poor, and to recover these miserable five or six acre holdings of bogland, Lord De Freyne's advisers went to the superior courts in Dublin for writs, and costs to the extent of £30 or £35 in each case were heaped on the tenants That made a settlement impossible. For those poor people the costs were colossal. The tenants could pay their rents only by means of money they got from America, or from their labour in England, and to put such costs on them was to drive them to despair, and to prevent a settlement. All being thus ready the Sheriff and the, forces of the Crown will do the rest in a few days. Those poor people would be on the roadsides, or overcrowding the already overcrowded cabins of their fellow-tenants on the estate. What would be the result? Did anyone believe that any man in his senses, or that any man outside a lunatic asylum would take the land from which those people were evicted, and pay 15s. or 17s. 6d. an acre for it? It would be the old, old story over again. The people would watch the holdings from which they believed they were unjustly driven, and all the chances were that violent crime would be precipitated and all in order that this combination of Irish landlords, with Lord De Freyne in their charge, should have their way against those wretched people. He had now to state his reason for believing that the Government was directly responsible. As was known to the House, the Congested Districts Board, which was a State Department, had been engaged for nine years dealing with those districts. In a considerable number of cases they had purchased estates from the owners, had dressed the holdings and sold them to the occupiers, and wherever that policy had been 602 carried out it had resulted in peace and contentment. This was the deliberate policy of the Government; but in an evil moment of excitement in the House, the Government had laid it down as part of that policy, and as a fixed rule to guide the Congested Districts Board, that wherever agitation prevailed no purchase should take place, and such estates were to be practically boycotted. Another Minister had said that they would go to the bottom of the list. If it had not been for that the De Freyne estate might be tonight in as happy a position as the Dillon estate. This rule had been universally working ever since it was laid down, and 'wherever there was agitation it had laid a fetter and produced discord. On the De Freyne estate evictions would take place, and the forces of the Crown would be employed to enforce the law, and rightly employed. Two or three English Members had visited the land in this quarter, and they would support him when he said that the land was absolutely useless. No one would settle down there, and crime was perfectly certain to take place. The people were left no option. At the same time that they put down legitimate agitation they armed with a blunderbuss the men behind the hedge. If they were going to deal with this part of the country they must know the kind of people they were dealing with. Why were these people crowded upon these wretched holdings? Hon. Members would find, if they went to Ireland, mile upon mile of magnificent land without a single homestead upon it. It was occupied solely by sheep and cattle. The laws of the House had permitted the poor people to be driven from these fertile lands.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is going beyond the terms of his Motion. He is discussing the whole land question understood him to ask leave to move the adjournment of the House to discuss some action of the Government. The action which he complains of is a question of general policy in dealing with the Land Purchase Acts. That is not the kind of matter for which the adjournment of the House may be moved.
§ * MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said his whole point in raising this question was that 603 the exclusion of this estate deliberately by the Government from the Land Purchase Act, to which they were entitled by law, had brought about this state of disorder. Ho staked his reputation on the assertion that the rents on this estate had been wrongly fixed. There had been no boycotting, for how could they intimidate a district where everybody believed the same thing? The whole population was banded as one man, and the only agitation that was being carried on was of exactly the same kind which the English Nonconformists had resolved to take in refusing to pay the education rate if the present Education Bill was passed. He wanted the House to understand that while many of the tenants on this estate had paid their rents in full, there were a majority who could not pay. If these evictions took place, and these enormous costs were imposed upon the tenants, the House would have no moral basis to stand upon. Something had been said about landlord combinations. He had had something to do with a landlord combination, which had lost £10,000 by it; and every one of the evicted tenants in the end got back to his holding. He would conclude by directing the attention of the House to this difficult situation. He had spoken because his eyes had seen, and his ears had heard. He had not only seen the trouble and the misery, but he had seen the remedy for it at work on the adjoining purchased properties, and he believed that if the Government chose tomorrow, through the Congested Districts Board, they could stay the hand of the evictors and secure a reasonable and an honest settlement, and bring peace and prosperity to that district.
Motion made and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. T. W. Russell.)
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I ought to state that if the hon. Member had developed what his argument was on the face of his Motion, I should have felt it my duty not to let it go before the House, because he has gone into the merits of the question between Lord De Freyne and his tenants I have not interrupted him, because I wanted to hear 604 his whole argument, and lie has not mentioned anything as regards the action of the Government, the point on which understood that he moved the adjournment understood from him that he proposed to complain of the employment of the forces of the Crown.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
No, Sir; I distinctly stated to you that could use that argument, but that would not do so. The sole point I raised as to the action of the Government was this rule which forbids the sale of an estate on which any agitation takes place.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member did not mention that point to me. I only wish to point out to the House, that the argument must be confined to something relating to the action of the Executive Government in the matter; because disputes and litigation between a landlord and his tenants, whatever the rights or wrongs of the dispute may be, are not matters for discussion on his Motion.
§ (9.38) MR. HAYDEN (Roscommon, S.)
said that as one of the representatives of the county most affected, he wished to support the observations of the hon. Member for South Tyrone. When this matter had been previously debated in Parliament, the Irish Attorney General declared that such a struggle as this was inevitable. True, it was inevitable, because the rule established by the Congested Districts Board had brought it about. It was his desire, of course, to keep strictly within the ruling of Mr. Speaker, but it was hard to avoid referring to the condition of these tenants, and to the circumstances which had brought about the present state of things. What he and his friends held was that, if it had not been for the action of the Government in making this rule, all this trouble would not have occurred. It was generally admitted that even in the West of Ireland there was not an estate which required to be dealt with by the Congested Districts Board more than the De Freyne estate; and no Irish Member had ever used stronger language as to the awful misery and poverty of 605 the peasantry on that estate than the Chief Secretary has done. No wonder those peasants were discontented with their position after ten years of the existence of the Congested Districts Board, while the tenants on the Dillon estate had received the benefits of compulsory land purchase, and they remained the victims of a rule which ought never to have been made. These poor people had been neglected by the Government, although they were the very type of persons for whom the Congested Districts Board had been brought into existence. He thought that English Members of Parliament, who had visited the De Freyne estate, must have wondered how the tenants had ever been able to eke out an existence from their small holdings. If it had not been for the hopefulness of their temperament, and the teaching of their religion, he was sure that disturbances would have occurred long ago. Earlier in the session his hon. friend the Member for East Mayo had stated that if the Government would only relinquish this rule complained of, he would immediately go to the De Freyne estate and appeal to the tenants to pay their rents in full. But the word of hope had not been spoken by the Chief Secretary oh behalf of the Government. The Government was therefore mainly responsible for the state of things which now existed in that part of Ireland. The tenants on the De Freyne estate were not merely struggling for the reduction of their rents by 15 or 20 per cent.; they were struggling for something more—for the possession of land from which they could make a decent living. It should be borne in mind that the tenants on the De Freyne estate were the poorest of the poor in Ireland, and that during the Budget discussion it had been admitted that they had to live mainly on Indian meal, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been compelled to relinquish some of the money which he had proposed to take from Ireland from the corn tax.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim. S.)
said ho desired to ask, on a point of order, whether the hon. Member was to be allowed to go into the question of the condition of the De Freyne tenants.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
No I have already stated that the question which this house is invited to discus is not that of the condition of these tenants, or the causes which brought about that condition, but the question of the action of the Government hope the hon. Member will try to conform to that ruling, and not proceed further in the hue of his last remarks.
§ MR. HAYDEN
said it was not unnatural for an Irish Member interested in these people, who had come into contact with them, and who knew their horrible condition, should wander somewhat beyond the strict ruling that had been laid down; but he thought that it would be admitted that it was not straying very far a field in order to impress upon the Government their responsibility in regard to the difficulties which these poor people had in fulfilling their legal obligations. The fact that these people were so wretchedly poor should, ho thought, appeal to the House and the Government to do something for them even out of the ordinary. But they were not asking the Government to do anything out of the ordinary. They were only asking the Government not to insist on pressing this rule which ought never to have been passed. It was this rule which had forced the tenants to combine in order to get something like justice from their landlord; arid in the long run he had no doubt they would force the Government to grant them that which they ought to have. At the best an eviction was a horrible thing to contemplate, but it was something terrible when it applied to a whole country side. If these peasants were evicted from their small holdings, where could they go to, except into the already over-crowded cabins of their equally poor neighbours? Up to the present time there had been absolutely no crime in this district; but could it be supposed that if these peasants were hunted out of their homes in hundreds, and were over-run by a military police, that they would remain peaceable? If crime broke out in that district, it would not be on the shoulders of the Irish Members that the responsibility would he, but on the English Government, and the English gentleman who had been sent 607 over to govern Ireland. He earnestly asked the Government, not only to give temporary relief to these people, but to come' to their rescue from misery and starvation. His hon. friend said that he did not complain of the forces of the Crown being placed at the disposal of Lord De Freyne. Bat he did complain of the forces of the Crown being placed at the disposal of one man to harass and oppress the whole population of the district.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is not in order; he is not confining himself to the matter before the House.
§ MR. HAYDEN
said that, so far as he could understand, the writs were issued, and were about to be put in force, and unless the forces of the Crown were placed at the disposal of the Sheriff, it would be impossible to carry out the evictions. His wish was to connect the action of the Government with that. As far as he could recollect, pressure within the law was used by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was Chief Secretary for Ireland, at the instance of Sir Redvers Buller, to prevent evictions; and if that could be done in those days, he thought the resources of the Chief Secretary should not be unequal to produce a similar pressure within the law, to prevent what would be undoubtedly a calamity. For these reasons, and for many others which it might not be in order for him to refer to, he desired, while seconding the Motion of his lion, friend, to urge on the Chief Secretary that it was his duty to interfere in this case, and that if he did not he would incur an awful responsibility which he might have serious reasons for not forgetting.
§ (9.50.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (MR. WYNDHAM,) Dover
It is my duty, of course, to invite the House to resist the Motion for the Adjournment; but I must confess, at the outset, that I am very much embarrassed as to the manner in which I shall properly discharge that duty, and as to how I am to keep in order. I wish to traverse almost every statement made by the hon. Member for South Tyrone, and I doubt whether it will be possible to 608 do that, and keep within the ruling which you, Sir, have properly laid down. I have been mystified during the whole of this day. When the hon. Member asked me this afternoon whether I was prepared to take any steps — similar steps, as I understood, to the steps which have been taken by the local Catholic clergy—and when, in consequence of my reply, the hon. Member asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House in consequence of the action of the Government, I lost my hold of the matter, and rose, in good faith, to a point of order. I thought the hon. Member meant the inaction of the Government. Though I did not believe that the Government had taken any action during the last few days which would justify the hon. Member in his Motion, I telegraphed to Ireland to ask whether some magistrate or police officer had taken any steps, but I find nothing of the kind has happened. The reply I received was that there was nothing of interest of recent date in connection with this estate; that the Members of Parliament who were engaged in organising the resistance of the tenants had been, and were, rather more active than they had been some time ago; and that 1 the evictions were expected to commence on the 7th. That was the answer I got; and I could not find that the Government had taken any action within the last few days that could have prompted the hon. Member to move the Adjournment of the House. I cannot reply to the greater part of the hon. Member's speech; but I do hold it to be a public misfortune that such a speech should go forth unanswered, as it would lead hon. Members and the public to form a very erroneous conclusion as to what was taking place on Lord De Freyne's estate. It is not the duty of hon. Members to be cognisant of all the facts; and many hon. Members opposite who cheered the hon. Member for South Tyrone inferred in their own minds that Lord De Freyne was a careless, arbitrary, harsh man. The general view is that the land difficulty in Ireland is caused by Saxon absentee landlords; but Lord De Freyne is an Irishman, a Roman Catholic, and a resident on his property; and he has taken his good or ill luck with the 609 people who live around him. The hon, Member for South Tyrone1 said that it this difficulty existed, and if the people were crowded on the soil, it was because at the time of the famine clearances were made. That was just what Lord De Freyne's ancestors did not do; and his difficulty is that they did not do it. The tenants on the estate are the descendants, of men whom Lord De Freyne's ancestors encouraged to multiply on the property. In those days, Irish landlords were often Members of this House, and they liked to have as many voters as they could. There is no charge against Lord Do Freyne's ancestors for having acted in that manner; and no one can contend that Lord De Freyne himself is responsible for any of the difficulties on this estate. Then it may be supposed perhaps that he had arbitrarily raised rents. On the contrary, the rents were not raised after the famine. They were lowered in 1852; and they were lowered again voluntarily by Lord De Freyne by 10 per cent, before the agitation of 1879. Then after the agitation of 1879–80 the estate went into the Courts and a reduction—not a low reduction as was suggested by the hon. Member, but a reduction of 27 per cent.—was added to the voluntary reduction of 10 per cent.; so that the rents have been reduced 37 per cent, in addition to the reduction after the famine. I feel it my duty to correct an impression, which I think, must undoubtedly have been made as to the voluntary action of this very landlord, and the action of laws passed by this House. It may be said, perhaps with truth, that some of the holdings on this estate will not support a man and his family in decency and comfort. That is true of many other places besides the property of Irish landlords, and why the whole burden of the day and all the animus of this attack should have been directed against this particular landlord, I cannot imagine for a moment. Why are not others to bear their part? Although I admit that Lord De Freyne's property is poor land, and that the holdings are small, owing to the cause I have stated, still, other people make money there. Some of the very persons who have organised the agitation of the tenants have made considerable sums of money. Mr. Webb, who has taken a 610 great part in the agitation, has made a great deal of money; Ballaghadereen can support 71 public-houses, and only a few years ago y. trading company was floated in Ballaghadereen with a capital of £25,000. But if the people on Lord De Freyne's estate are poor, and if that is a reason for ruining Lord De Freyne and his sons, why not others? Why are we to proceed in this matter on lines which have never been advocated in connection with poor districts in towns in this country, or of other instances of people unfortunately, and unhappily, being unable to provide that food and raiment which we should desire that they should have. What justification is there for this organised attack on this single landlord? That will be in order I think, although I was rather doubtful as to the mariner in which I led up to it. The challenge thrown out to me is, why does not the Government intervene? Sir, as I said this afternoon, I have no power to intervene. That is true. But even if I had the power ought I to intervene and exercise that power in a case of this kind? This attack on Lord De Freyne has been organised throughout. I deny that the tenants on the estate combined of their own free will and motion. The first idea of such action was thrown out by the hon. Member for Cork City at Westport, and he followed up his advice by a letter published at the end of September, in which he suggested that tenants throughout Ireland should offer as rent a sum equal to the instalments which were being paid by those who had purchased their holdings. No economic considerations could enter into a proposition of that kind. It was a deliberate attempt to override the law, and the rights of property. It was not to confer an immediate benefit on the persons to whom that advice was offered, but to produce confusion and alarm throughout the country. When that advice was acted on in a single instance, would any Government, worthy of the name, treat it as they would a case of strained relations between a landlord and his tenants. Would not the Government see that there, at all costs, the law should be given effect to; and that there, at all costs, they should, if they could, save these unfortunate tenants from acting on advice which could only lead 611 them to ruin. At any rate that is the view which I take of the duty of the Government; and that is why, even if I had the power to intervene, I should feel that I was rendering the very worst service to these tenants that any Govern-merit could render them, if I did intervene. My advice to them is to pay up. A great many of them, hundreds of them, have done so. A great many more have told Lord Do Freyne they would like to do so. It may be, unhappily, that after some months of a combination of this kind, the tenants have confided some of their money to what are called trustees, and have lost control over it, and it may be that under those unhappy conditions some of them cannot pay. The advice I would give them is to ask the trustees—the agitators—to return their money, and pay the costs out of it. I feel fully justified in tendering that advice, because it happens to be the very advice given to them by the local Catholic clergy. I understood from the hon. Member that he desired me, as the Minister responsible to this House, to ally myself with the local clergy, in order to make certain representations to the tenants. I hope they will take the advice which has been given to them. All through this struggle, the Bishop of Elphin, Dr. Clancy, has consistently advised the tenants that they were making a great mistake in taking part in this combination, and that they were morally wrong in endeavouring to get people into the combination and in withholding from them Christian charity. I will quote words used by the Bishop of Elphin on the 15th of May. Dr. Clancy, in driving to church, saw a scene which unhappily may be enacted again in a few days. He saw some cattle being seized, and with that sight before his eyes, and knowing that similar scenes were possible in the district, he declared it was a monstrous state of things that strangers and paid organisers should be sent into the district, and he protested against "these strolling organisers" who were only thinking of the salaries they could extract from their dupes, and not of the interests of the people. The Bishop said he had learned from one of his priests how the money which had been subscribed had been expended. In Ballaghdereen the priest had seen the hotel bill of one of 612 the organisers, and it amounted to £50 for a month. Then the Bishop, on the 25th of May, received a deputation from these very tenants. They were of two minds, lashed on as they were by the organisers to continue a resistance which they all knew to be hopeless. They came to the Bishop for advice, and he said that he had good authority for stating that Lord De Freyne would consent to no abatement; that the full rent should be paid; and that then lie might consider the question of cost. The Bishop added that Lord De Freyne had the landlords of Ireland at his back, and his advice to the tenants was to pay their rents, and not have themselves and their families thrown on the roadside. He instanced the cases of the Clanricarde and Lugga-curran tenants. There was an ironical cheer just now when I quoted the words of Dr. Clancy that Lord De Freyne was supported by other landlords. But why should he not be supported by other landlords? I have given my account of how this state of things came to exist. Perhaps on another occasion we shall have to discuss it at greater length; but, rightly or wrongly, the landlords of Ireland believe that this is a test case, and that Lord De Freyne has been selected for attack, because he is a poor man with a large family, and that being the case they have come to his assistance. But I have no official knowledge of these facts. Indeed, I never heard that the landlords of Ireland had come to Lord De Freyne's assistance until long after some of the facts brought forward by the hon. Member for South Tyrone had occurred. The hon. Member seems to have put the cart before the horse altogether. He seems to assume that the Landlord Combination was started before the Reduction of Rent Combination. A combination was started to obtain such a reduction as would have reduced Lord De Freyne to poverty, and then only the landlords came to his assistance. There is another point in connection with the remarks of the Bishop of Elphin. He wanted his flock to remember what had taken place on the Luggacurran and other Plan of Compaign estates. I noticed the other day that an hon. Member who has taken part in this agitation said that they had got the young men with them. That is possible. 613 Men who were boys in the old days would go into a business of this kind not knowing, as older men did, what trouble there was in 1887, 1888, and 1889, and not knowing, as older men knew, that the men who had fought that fight were left destitute, and not knowing the misery to which they were exposed. Support might be obtained from the young men; but I am amazed at the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who knows more of these things than any man in the House, and who yet, with the recrudescence of such horrors and evils before his eyes, can speak with an ambiguous voice. I do not say that the hon. Member did not introduce qualifications into his speech, but I do say that that speech will not tend to make the men who have joined this combination realise the evil fate which overtook their forerunners and which must overtake themselves. The only other point the hon. Gentleman urged directly was that the whole of this quarrel was due to the rule laid down by my predecessor, or myself, or by both. That, again, has no relation to the facts. I can understand, though I cannot approve, the attitude of hon. Members who sit in this House as Nationalists, and who wish to make the Government of Ireland impossible; who say they do not approve of our laws; who endeavour to bring about a social upheaval; and who are quite ready to go to prison. I cannot be expected to approve of 'that attitude which I think cannot be otherwise than mischievous to Ireland, but I can understand it. I do not, however, understand the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who has been the champion of law and order, and who has accused the forerunners of hon. Members opposite of being guilty o untruth and I know not what else, for advocating the very course which the hon. Member himself is now advocating—
§ * MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I wish to say that everything I said in regard to Lore De Freyne's estate was written by me in 1893, when I went across at the request of the Liberal Unionist Association to embarrass the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Montrose Burghs who was then Chief Secretary for Ireland.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The hon. Member was then engaged in embarrassing my 614 predecessor; he is now engaged in trying to embarrass me. But the hon. Member did not, in 1893, use language which would suggest that the people were morally justified or wisely advised in entering into combinations of this kind. Now let me test the hon. Member's accuracy. He says all the trouble is due to the rule laid down that the Government would not purchase an estate on which there had been an agitation. Did ho hon. Gentleman now say that there was a right to purchase in Ireland, not because it was expedient to purchase or assist to purchase, but because there was a right to purchase. In 1892 the hon. Gentleman argued on our side against this very contention, and in defending the Voluntary Purchase Acts he compared them with the rent-fixing Acts, and said that leaseholders had a right to a fair rent, but that purchase was not a right; and he added that the Irish tenant farmers could not come to this House and demand money as a right to purchase their holdings. Now the hon. Member says that farmers, more particularly farmers engaged in illegal agitation and combination, have that right; and that the Government who re fuse that right do so at their peril, and that they are guilty of unfairness and in justice in refusing this new-found right to persons who have combined in an illegal manner to put unfair pressure on the other party to the bargain. What has been said by my predecessor and myself is that the Government ought not to sanction by the use of imperial credit the completion of a bargain arrived at when one of the parties has been driven into it by the exercise of undue and illegal pressure. I am pre pared to defend that to the crack of doom. That is the point. It is not a question of purchase or sale. If a land lord cannot afford to take a particular price, are his tenants to combine, and is the adjournment of the House to be moved because the Government has not come in and joined an illegal combination to force the landlord to sell for a less sum of money than he can afford to take? That is not the end of the hon. Gentleman's inaccuracies. The tenants did not ask Lord De Freyne to sell. The tenants, acting on the unfortunate advice given to them, went to 615 him in a body and asked him to reduce their rents to the figure paid on another estate; and then, presumably if they wished, to force him to sell at sixteen years, purchase of the reduced rents. Are we really to be asked in all seriousness to join in a movement for taking 66 par cent. off a man's income who has not broken the laws and who, personally and by tradition from his ancestors, has always done his best for his tenants in circumstances which had unhappily proved unfortunate for him. There is no question of purchase or sale to my knowledge I read the other day in a local newspaper that probably Lord De Freyne would be prepared to take twenty-three years purchase, and that the tenants were ready to give twenty years purchase. If that is so the country has been kept for nine months in an uproar, ha; been taxed for an extra force of police, and some fourteen persons have been sent to prison, all over the question of throe years purchase. Then the adjournment of the House is moved, and the Government of the day is condemned because it did not prevent this gentleman from protecting his own property. One step further. It is not the rule which is responsible. The whole credit for purposes of this kind in Mayo and Roscommon has been exhausted by the purchase of the Dillon estate, and last session I brought in a Bill for doubling the credit available for this purpose. The House rose on the 17th of August, and by the end of September the hon. Member for Cork City was throwing his match on the heath, setting it alight, and causing all this mischief. It will be impossible to carry out the policy of purchase if it is to be interrupted in this manner by agitation, and if hon. Members, who have stood up for law and order, who have defended voluntary purchase, who have realised that it is a credit operation which ought not to be vitiated by legal pressure, are to join with those who say that it is their duty to render the Government of Ireland impossible.
§ (10.30.) MR. CHARLES DOUGLAS (Lanarkshire, N.W.)
The circumstances in which this debate has taken place render it impossible that I should detain the House for more than a very few minutes. I wish to 616 say, however, that the inability of this House to deal at a critical moment with such a large question as this, is, in my mind, an indication of its inability to safeguard the affairs of Ireland. I do not wish to say anything whatever about the merits or intricacies of this particular dispute. Reference has been made by the hon. Member for South Tyrone to the fact that I visited this estate and the neighbouring estates, but I wish particularly to say that I would not presume, on account of a short visit of that sort, to express any opinion, or to try to impose any judgment of mine on the House. At the same time, I am free to say that that visit, short though it was, greatly increased my own personal interest in the question; and my own view is that it is of far-reaching importance in connection with the relations of this country to Ireland. I should like to state how the. matter appears to me, looked at from the point of view of a tenant on the Do Freyne estate; and how it seems to me that the action of the Government and the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman are not fitted to secure the best possible results, even in these unhappy circumstances. The tenant on the De Freyne estate sees a state of things which may well make him think seriously for himself and those about him. In a very large number of cases the tenants look at everything through an atmosphere of most grievous and burdensome poverty; and I am bound to say it was with sincere regret that I heard the right hon. Gentleman tonight appear to minimise the grievousness and burden-someness of that poverty. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the public houses in Ballaghadereen, but these houses cannot be called public houses in the sense in which that word would be understood by the House of Commons and the British public. They are houses where a few bottles of whisky-are kept which are probably not opened from fair day to fair day, and the shop is mainly used for the sale of other commodities I regretted sincerely to hear the right hon. Gentleman appear to minimise the burden of the poverty in these districts, although I know he does not minimise it in his own mind. These people know that they are paying and are compelled to pay, a rent which is grossly excessive.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
I ask, Sir, on a point of order, whether the economic condition of the De Freyne tenants is within your ruling; and whether, if the hon. Gentleman opposite discusses their inability to pay rent, we may be able to show specifically what their condition is.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
That question would not be in order. The right hon. Gentleman, by his observation, has, however, somewhat enlarged the scope of the debate.
§ MR. CHARLES DOUGLAS
I will endeavour, Sir, not to trespass on your indulgence, but these men know that they are paying a rent which is not only more than the land will produce, but which has to be earned by themselves or their sons and daughters in this country or in America, and which is not really due on account of the land. That is as harsh and as oppressive a bargain as the bargains of money lenders, which this House has set aside. The tenant is not a free bargainer; his rent is the tribute he pays for the right of living where he must live; it is not at all analagous to rent in this country, and it cannot be treated as a private bargain. For my own part, I confess I feel curious to know upon what facts and data these bargains were ratified. I believe they have no foundation in economic facts, and that when the Land Commissioners were sent to fix rents they had to find rents, which wag as difficult as making bricks without straw.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is now discussing the whole question of the policy of the Land Acts in Ireland.
§ MR. CHARLES DOUGLAS
I bow to your ruling, Sir. My contention is that this is not a mere private arrangement, and that the Government has certainly added to the responsibility which it has in respect of the De Freyne estate by the purchase of a neighbouring estate. The moral foundations of the whole bargain have been undermined and destroyed by this action of the Government; and it is not now possible to regard the system against which the De Freyne tenants have struck as a real enduring arrangement. It is all 618 very well to talk about agitators; but these tenants are not slow or foolish. They think of very little except their land and the possibility of living on it. They see a change on the estate on which their neighbours live; and they cannot be expected to continue to respect the old bargain which the State has made for them, when one so much better has been made for others. It was inevitable that they should strike against the old arrangement when, looking across their boundary, they saw their neighbours with a reduction of rent, valuable improvements, increased holdings, and above all the prospect of ownership, which they value more than anything else. In such circumstances dissatisfaction was inevitable. For my part I wish to associate myself with what has been said by the hon. Member for South Tyrone about not desiring to make any sort of attack on Lord De Freyne. I think, from his own point of view, Lord De Freyne is a hardly used man. His rents were fixed by the Land Commission, he was not responsible for the new situation created by the purchase of the Dillon I estate, and it is for this country and this House to deal with that situation for which the Government was responsible. I would be very slow indeed to blame the Government for the purchase of the Dillon estate, but I would be more slow to wonder that discontent had been stirred up by it. I do regret that the Government and the right hon. Gentleman appear to have shown so very little sense of what the consequences of their action must be; and that they had been so little prepared to develop the situation in the only direction in which it admits of possible development. What is the ground on which the Government say they cannot intervene? It is that they will not act where there is agitation. Such expressions are shallow, and are not worthy of the right hon. Gentleman. Surely agitation is always an element in such a situation. To act only in response to agitation may he weak and criminally weak—we have done it too often in Ireland—but to let agitation deter or prevent you from action when you know there is just ground for acting is surely weaker still. The weakness of yielding may be bad, but the weakness of obstinacy is to my mind ten times worse. You will not effect a remedy where the evils are 619 greatest, but you will try that remedy in districts where the evils are less. Surely that is not the best way of dealing with what is admitted to be a hardship. If there is a remedy it ought to be applied in the district where it is most wanted. One impression of my visit to Ireland remains with me very strongly, and that is the anxiety and hope with which these poor people look forward to the action of British Members of this House; and it seems to me that that attitude imposes a dual responsibility on us. For my part I will vote for the Motion because I believe that this country should deal with the situation in the only way it can be dealt with, namely, by a great measure of purchase.
§ (10.42) MR. MACARTNEY
I feel in some difficulty in rising to speak on this Motion, because the ruling you, Sir, gave earlier in the evening, precludes me from going into the details of the De Freyne estate, and from specifically answering the assertions and insinuations of the hon. Member for South Tyrone. If it had been possible for me to do that, I should have hoped to have shown that almost every one of the hon. Member's statements in relation to this property, and to the character of the property, and to the condition of the tenants, especially the tenants involved in this combination and agitation, is grossly exaggerated. The hon. Gentleman spoke of this property as wretchedly poor property. He attempted to lead the House to believe that no economic rent existed upon it, and that the tenants were unable to pay any rent whatever. The facts of the cases are totally different. It is not necessary for me or for anyone who knows the property to urge on the House that it is a rich property. I do not for a moment say that; but it is far different to argue that there is no economic rent on it, or that the rents which were fixed by the Land Commission are of such a character as to make it impossible for the tenants to pay them. It is perfectly well known to every one who has any knowledge of t he De Freyne property, that the tenants would not have entered into this combination were it not that they became 620 the victims of those who find agitation a profitable occupation, and are able to spend £50 a month at a hotel in the district Why should the De Freyne tenants have entered into combination this year or last year? They had probably never been better off in their lives. The price of produce last year was uncommonly high, and the tenants were in a better position than they had been for ten years. The hon. Member for South Tyrone endeavoured to lead the House to believe that the average rent on the property is 17s. 6d. an acre. I am not prepared to say that there is no rent of 17s. 6d. per acre, but I am perfectly safe in saying that that sum is certainly three times the average rent paid per acre. The hon. Member said there was no economic rent on the estate, but there have been several instances in which tenants on the estate have sub-let part of their land for the season at an average of £4 per acre for crop, and at from £5 to £6 per acre for meadow. It cannot be contended for one moment that tenants who, when forced by process of law, were able to pay two years' rent and costs amounting to a very large sum, were not able originally to pay a single year's rent. Lord De Freyne made an offer to every one of the tenants that he was prepared to accept one year's rent and costs which had then been incurred, and which amounted to about £6 on the average. Why was his offer not accepted? Who raised the costs of these unfortunate victims? Not Lord De Freyne, but the solicitor to the combination, who forced Lord de Freyne into the superior Courts, to enter in every case a full statement of claim, and go through every formula demanded by the law, and then, after that, deserted the tenants, made no appearance, and left them, in 90 per cent. of cases, with costs of £45. I should have been glad to have heard more specific allegations made in support of this Motion by the hon. Member opposite. The hon. Member for North West Lanark has been shown over the estate by the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who is not yet a paid organiser of the United Irish League, and the hon. Member has come back imagining that a short visit, such as he has paid to the estate, enables him to set up as a judge as to the case of the tenants.
§ MR. CHARLES DOUGLAS
I do not pretend to any such right. An the right hon. Gentleman has referred to the matter, I may say that I was glad to be accompanied over the estate by may hon. friend the Member for South Tyrone, but I also availed myself of the very great courtesy of Lord De Freyne's agent, who gave me his views of the matter in the friendliest way possible.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
Then I am at a loss to understand the object of the hon. Gentleman's speech if he has not come to a conclusion as to the economic value of the property. It requires a far larger acquaintance with the capacity of Irish or any other soil to judge of its merits than can be obtained in a visit of a few hours. The hon. Member for South Tyrone has stated tonight that the Government have departed in the case of the De Freyne estate from the course of action which has invariably been pursued by previous administrations in cases of difficulty between landlord and tenant, and he has quoted the case of the Vandeleur estate. I believe what he says about that estate is correct, but he has certainly no foundation for saying that it was so in relation to the Olphert property, or the Dillon estate, or any of the other large estates in Ireland upon which considerable disturbances have eaten place in the past. I cannot conceive in a case like this, with the knowledge possessed by the Government in common with everybody else in Ireland of the relations between Lord De Freyne and his tenantry, under any possible view of the circumstances, any excuse whatever for the Government to intervene on behalf of a body of men who had, in my opinion, very unwisely and unfortunately allowed themselves to become the victims of what will turn out to be one of the most disastrous combinations, so far as they are concerned, that has ever taken place in Ireland. From such knowledge as I possess of the facts, I believe that Lord De Freyne will have nothing to fear from the fullest public investigation into the condition of everyone of his tenants, and the circumstances which have led to this dispute, and I am sure there is nothing that he and those associated with him would desire more than an opportunity of having the whole business fully and freely discussed in the House of Commons. It would be out of 622 order for me to go further into detail on the present occasion, but if the matter comes up again, I and others will be glad to assist the House in coming to a just conclusion with regard to what I, in common with everybody else who is interested in the condition of Irish tenants and the prosperity of the country, no matter how we differ as to the merits, must agree to be a most unfortunate state of affairs.
§ (10.54.) MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
The speech we have just hoard from the right hon. Gentleman opposite is of no importance, and I do not therefore intend to trouble the House or myself by replying to it. I desire to address myself for a few moments to the speech which was made by the Chief Secretary which, of course, is of importance inasmuch as he is the man responsible with full power for the Government of Ireland and for the maintenance of justice and law and order in that country. I remember when the right hon. Gentleman was appointed to the office he now holds, there were many people in Ireland who looked with hope to his future connection with the Government of that country. There were men who thought that they saw in his personal qualities, and also in his family connections, some reason to hope that his government of Ireland would be animated by sympathy for the people, and by large-minded ideas. I confess I was not one of those persons, and I think that nothing that has happened since the right hon. Gentleman went to Ireland will so completely dispel any idea of that kind as the speech to which we have just listened tonight. I have sat in this House for many years, and I have heard Chief Secretaries of various English Governments defending their system of rule in my country, but I confess I do not think I ever heard from any man in that position so trivial, so paltry, so flippant a speech as that to which we have listened tonight. Let me for a moment state to the House the position. Apart altogether from the question as to who is responsible—and I will deal with that in a moment—for the trouble on the De Freyne estate, at any rate here is the fact, that upon that estate there is a state of things at this moment which affects the very life of thousands of poor people, which menaces the public peace, and which 623 ought to engage the serious attention and anxiety of the man responsible for the government of that country. And yet we are told, in the first sentence almost, of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that having telegraphed to Ireland — it not being a matter apparently from day to day under his personal observation, not being sufficiently important — having telegraphed to Ireland he has received the answer that nothing of interest—these were his words—had taken place on that estate within the last few days. When the House listened to that statement, did they know that within the last few days writs of possession have been put into the hands of the sheriff, which can be executed at any moment, the effect of the execution of which will be to drive from their homes a large number of tenants on this estate, and precipitate thereby immediately a state of things which will directly menace the public peace, and will entail untold misery and suffering upon men, women, and children in that district? Then the right hon. Gentleman tells the House of Commons that nothing of interest has taken place within the last few days! What advice had the right hon. Gentleman to give to ease the situation in this part of Ireland? Does he counsel moderation on the part of the landlords? Does he advise that measures of compromise should be put in operation? No. His only advice, addressing the tenants is, Let them pay up! A more flippant and unsympathetic speech with reference to a grave situation was never made by any man in this House responsible for the peace of Ireland. Who are these tenants that the right hon. Gentleman so flippantly says are to pay up? It is ridiculous for any man in this House to say that the De Freyne estate is anything else but one of the most poverty-stricken estates in Ireland or in the world. Every man who knows anything about the west of Ireland or the history of the land movement in that country, knows that the De Freyne estate is the home of thousands of wretched serfs, living upon little patches of cutaway bog, paying for those patches a rent that they are absolutely unable to wring from the soil. The hon. Gentleman opposite spoke of some tenants who 624 were paying large rents and living upon good land. Yes, the De Freyne estate is just like what the Dillon Estate was. It is composed of thousands of wretchedly poor serfs who cannot live upon the land, huddled together, upon the bog; but, at the same time, within eyesight of these people who are starving on the bog, there are large tracts of rich land from which their fathers have been driven, and which are congregated in the hands of a few individuals. The De Freyne estate is populated by people who cannot, and do not, earn their living from the land. How do they earn that living? Go in harvest time to the De Freyne estate, and the thing that will strike you first will be the utter absence of the able-bodied male population. You will find old and decrepit men and women, young women and children, but the young men will be absent. What are they doing? They are migratory labourers, working in the harvests of England and Scotland, and earning a few pounds to enable them to pay the rent for this land. These are the people to whom, in their distress, the Chief Secretary has no more sympathetic advice than that they should pay up—and pay up not only the rent, but the costs of £30 or £40 each, which have been incurred. Somebody asked who was responsible for those costs. I want to know who was responsible for bringing the wretched cottars off the bogs, whose rents amount to a very small sum, and dragging them into the Superior Courts in Dublin, where the costs were necessarily four or five or perhaps ten times greater than they would have been if they had been proceeded against in the ordinary courts. The Chief Secretary has spoken of Lord De Freyne as a landlord. He has told us that Lord De Freyne was not one of the exterminating landlords, and why? What proof has he of that? Because, he says, Lord De Freyne or his ancestors have rather encouraged the multiplication of tenants on his estate. Yes, he has encouraged the multiplication of tenants on the wretched and inhospitable bogs, but he has not encouraged the increase of the population on the rich pasture lands of the estate. As I have said, the people have been driven off these pasture lands and congregated in 625 congested districts upon the poor cutaway bog where they are found today. I know very little about Lord De Freyne. Years ago I used to know him as a lad, but I know very little about his personal action on the estate. It is no part of my duty to make any attack upon Lord De Freyne tonight. My attack, if it can be so called, is not upon him, but upon the Government, and the right hon. Gentleman responsible for the Government. The right hon. Gentleman says that these men should pay up. I say that a large portion of them cannot pay, and that if there had never been any political encouragement at all given to the combination on the estate, large numbers of the tenants could not have paid the rent, and that as a matter of fact there have been thousands and thousands of pounds of arrears on that estate hanging around the necks of these unfortunate tenants for many years past. The right hon. Gentleman says that he has no power to interfere. He goes further and says that even if he had the power be would not interfere. He asserts that this is not a voluntary combination on the part of the tenants, and he has quoted again a speech, and I think a letter of the hon. Member for Cork City on this subject. This is the second time in the absence of my hon. friend that he has made this accusation. Now I seriously accuse the right hon. Gentleman of unfair dealing, unfair argument, and unfair debate in this matter. He made this accusation against my hon. friend in the debate on the Address last January, and my hon. friend who was then, as now, to a large extent incapacitated from Parliamentary work by illness and was absent from the House, the moment he read the right hon. Gentleman's speech, replied to it in a letter, giving his answer to the accusation; and I say that for the right hon. Gentleman to repeat the accusation here tonight, and to carefully refrain from alluding by one word to the letter sent in answer, is not fair debating or fair treatment.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Is it alleged by the hon. and learned Member that I put words to the credit of the hon. Member for Cork that that hon. Member said he did not use?
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I do not understand that interruption. I give the right hon. Gentleman credit for acute intelligence, and for having perfectly understood the charge I made against him. I say he made an accusation against my hon. friend last January in his absence. My hon. friend wrote a public letter in answer to him. Tonight he repeats the accusation, without alluding in one word to the answer from my hon. friend, and he does this again in his absence.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
It is an accusation. As a matter of fact, the right hon. Gentleman tonight did not quote the words. I do not know what this kind of interruption means. The right hon. Gentleman did not quote my hon. friend's words at all tonight. He stated that he was responsible for having deliberately started this De Freyne combination. That was the accusation made last January, and the accusation replied to in a public letter, and, ignoring the public letter, the right hon. Gentleman reproduces the accusation a second time, in the absence of my hon. friend, and notwithstanding this irrelevant interruption I again state that the right hon. Gentleman has not indulged in fair debate or fair conduct. Just one word with regard to this combination. I make the accusation against the Government that they are directly responsible for what has happened upon the De Freyne estate. There is an important authority for that. I will quote one of their own judges. Here is a statement made on 17th January last in Boyle, by County Court Judge O'Connor Morris. He says:—There is a large and formidable combination in the Comity Roscommon. I allude to the combination of tenants on the De Freyne and Murphy estates not to pay their rents to the landlords. I say, without hesitation or fear, that they have a great and legitimate grievance. The tenants live close to the Dillon estate, and they see the tenants on the Dillon estate, without a particle of right, have received reductions that the De Freyne tenants have not received. One class is a favoured class, the other is not. The one class is the fat sheep and the other the lean goat, with the result that the tenants on the De Freyne and Murphy Estates arc discontented, and naturally discontented.627 It is difficult to impress the facts of any Irish case upon the House of Commons. The Congested Districts Board purchased the Dillon Estate, parcelled out the large grazing lands of the estate into allotments, and enlarged the holdings of the poor tenants, and transformed this whole estate from one of disaffection and trouble into a little earthly paradise, where the tenants are comfortable and content. Because the tenants on the De Freyne estate respectfully put forward the plea that their circumstances were similar to those of the tenants on the Dillon Estate and ought to be treated in the same way—because they did that the Government came down to this House and declared that the Congested Districts Board, not only would not deal with the case now but would put their case at the very bottom of the list. In my opinion, that statement on the part of the Government explains and justifies the action of these tenants. I say that it is a monstrous thing that because a particular district, which from its peculiar circumstances is the most impoverished, because an estate ought to be dealt with sooner than any other, and because there is a movement amongst the tenants to obtain a settlement, that therefore the Government are to come down and say that that estate must be put at the bottom of the list. I charge the Government by this declaration with being directly responsible for the combination of the tenants upon the De Freyne Estate. But it is not merely that. The right hon. Gentlemen's whole attitude on the land question in Ireland ever since he went there has been of such a character as, in my opinion, to justify a combination of the tenants, not merely on the De Freyne Estate but generally throughout Ireland. The Chief Secretary has asked why agitation has been concentrated on the De Freyne Estate. I do not know. I want to see agitation not concentrated on one estate only, but spread all through the country, and then we shall see what sort of a Land Bill the right hon. Gentleman will introduce, when next year or the year after he comes down to the House with a serious state of things behind him to propose some settlement of this question. I know of no reason why a movement of this kind should be concentrated upon one estate. The right hon. 628 Gentleman claims for the landlords the right of combination. Why should they not combine? I do not complain of it. The hon. Gentleman who spoke before me alluded to the fact that Lord De Freyne is not standing alone, and that he has at his back a combination, or what under other circumstances would be called by the Attorney General for Ireland a criminal conspiracy on the part of the Irish landlords. If the tenants have made Lord De Freyne's case a test case, then the landlords are also going to make it a test case, and they are going to fight this matter out. I do not complain of that. They have a right to combine, and let them combine. But what I do claim from the Government is that the same measure of fair play should be meted out to the landlord combination as to the tenants' combination. The landlord combination has the blessing of the Chief Secretary standing at that box; it has his encouragement and good will and praises and his soft words. But what has the tenants' combination got? Why, imprisonment and persecution and harassments of every sort and kind. Every attempt on the part of the tenants to exercise the right of free speech is attacked and defeated by brute force by the Government. Every man connected with the combination of the tenants who has more influence than his fellows is arrested upon mere trumpery charges—
§ * MR. SPEAKER
This general indictment of the policy of the Government in Ireland is out of order on this Motion.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I will try to confine myself within proper limits. [An HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!] That is evidently beyond the power of the hon. Gentleman opposite. The Chief Secretary spoke of a landlords' combination, and he alluded to it as a reasonable and just thing, although he did not approve of it. I do not object to a landlords' combination, but I claim the same right for the tenants, and I claim that both should receive from the Executive and the law the same measure of fair play. I am not now speaking of Ireland generally, but of the particular matter brought forward by this Motion. Here you have a 629 tenants' combination on the De Freyne estate, and you have a landlords' combination. The latter receives from the Government praises and soft words, but the tenants' combination receives the full force of the Coercion Act at the disposal of the Government. Beyond that I do not want to go. I say to the right lion. Gentleman that it is in his power to inflict great injury and great suffering upon the Irish people. He has the power to do that, and it looks very much like as if he had made up his mind to exercise that power. But even if he had that power ten times over, he will find when he has done with Ireland that his power has not been effectual for crushing out of existence the combination of the tenants. And if the Chief Secretary pursues his present course, his name will go down, as other Chief Secretaries have done in the past, associated with disorder and misery and disaster in Ireland, followed under happier times after him by the redress of this very grievance which he scoffs at tonight.
§ (11.120.) MR. EMMOTT (Oldham)
said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Antrim attempted to make fun of the hon. Member for North - West Lanark for posing as an authority upon this question on account of a few days' visit to this part of Ireland. But the hon. Member for North-West Lanark did nothing of the kind. He did not know whether his right hon. friend had visited the De Freyne estate.
§ MR. EMMOTT
said that those who had visited this estate had formed a very different opinion to that which was expressed by the right hon. Gentleman. Speaking as one of the British Members who accompanied the hon. Member for South Tyrone on his visit to the De Freyne estate, he thought if more British Members of the House of Commons would visit Ireland, and try and learn the facts for themselves, there would be a much better chance of Ireland receiving better treatment at their hands, and of this difficult problem being dealt with in a wider and a wiser manner. It seemed to him most remarkable that a Motion of this kind should have been moved by hon. his friend the Member for South 630 Tyrone. He remembered that years ago the hon. Member was the politician who was most dreaded by the Liberal Party as a platform speaker on behalf of Unionism. And now, by the force of circumstances, he had been driven to move a Motion so remarkable as the one which he had proposed upon this subject. He was not going to attack Lord De Freyne, whose rents had been fixed by a tribunal set up under the laws of this country, and he had a perfect right to expect to receive those rents. But when they came to look at the facts of the case, after visiting that estate as he had done recently, it was impossible to do so without being struck by the poor character of the land, and by the comparatively high rent which was being paid on that estate. The only way by which the rent was being paid was through the money which was being earned in England and Scotland by the tenants, and by liberal contributions sent over by members of their families who had gone to the United States of America. An estate like that ought to be dealt with by the Congested Districts Board. This Board appeared to have made up its mind not to take any action in the direction of purchase on an estate where an agitation was going on. Any one who knew the condition of the De Freyne tenants must wonder how it was possible that an agitation should not go on when two adjoining estates were treated in such a different way. It was plain that the present condition of affairs was intolerable. Either the Dillon estate should never have been purchased, or else the Government were bound to go further in this matter. The one remedy for all this was purchase. They must extend in Ireland the system of purchase, and he did not think they would ever settle this question without adopting the system of compulsory purchase all over Ireland. The Chief Secretary had stated that the landlords could not afford to take the price offered by the tenants, and that was the crux of the whole question. He thought that was a question which it was worth while to solve, and if they could solve it, they would have gone further than they had ever been able to do before towards making Ireland a loyal and peaceful part of the British Empire.
§ * MR. HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
I rise under a great sense of responsibility because I can honestly say that I have had greater experience than any other hon. Member in this House of the condition of Ireland, both as regards the landlords and the tenants. During a very long life I have mixed with both classes in Ireland, and the conclusion at which I have arrived is that Ireland today is no further advanced and no more prosperous than she was some fifty or sixty years ago. I admit that there is in parts of Ireland, among some of the tenants, more material prosperity than there was, but, taking the country as a whole, commercially, educationally, and from every point of view on which the prosperity of a country can be gauged, I say deliberately that Ireland is behind the rest of Europe in the march of civilisation. What is the reason of this? The root of it all is the land system, and I am very glad that the hon. Member for South Tyrone has given this House an opportunity of learning what is the real condition of that country. I am not a member of the Party led by the eloquent Member for Waterford, and I am not attached to the Party of the hon. Member for South Tyrone: neither am I in sympathy with the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Antrim. Upon this question I stand alone in this House, and my only object is to induce hon. Members to see exactly what the condition of Ireland is without any exaggeration, and without any leaning on one side or the other. I have a great deal of sympathy for the landlords of Ireland, for they are now paying off the debts of their ancestors which have accrued in consequence of centuries of mismanagement and misgovernment. I do not pass the slightest reflection upon Lord De Freyne or any other landlord. Nevertheless, I do say that it is a great responsibility for any landlord in his position to come forward and evict the people of a whole country side, and, to achieve this end, to resort to the most expensive and cumbrous machinery within his reach. Every one of those cases which have been brought into the superior court might have been settled on a much cheaper scale. The Chief Secretary 632 himself ought to have some hereditary sympathy with the wrongs of that most interesting but most pathetic country. Has anyone any doubt that Lord De Freyne would never have resorted to bringing actions against all his tenants if he had not known that he had at his back the encouragement of Dublin Castle and the authorities there? I have no doubt that Lord De Freyne would never have resorted to this procedure if he had not known that he was backed up by a syndicate of powerful landlords, whose incomes did not depend upon rents from impoverished estates in Ireland. The present Government consisted practically of the same Ministers who supported the system of voluntary purchase in Ireland.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The right hon. Gentleman is now entering into the past history of the Land Act in Ireland.
§ MR. HEMPHILL
I had no intention of doing so, but I was endeavouring to point out that, if the Dillon estate had not been sold to the Congested Districts Board, this state of things would never have arisen. The purchase by the Congested Districts Board of the Dillon estate had rendered it impossible for the De Freyne tenants to take any other course than that which they have taken. It was not in human nature for tenants occupying land of the same quality in the same district, some of whom were paying 6s. 8d. per acre, and the other £1 per acre, to remain quiescent. This is where the Government are to blame. Having gone so far the Government should have resorted to all the powers which the law conferred upon them to purchase under the same authority, and the same conditions, the De Freyne estate, just as they had done in the case of the Dillon estate. That is where the right hon. Gentleman failed to defend himself. The House may not be aware, but it is a matter of great importance, that the very evils which are now illustrated on the Dillon and De Freyne estates existed in England centuries ago. There are on the Statute Book, statutes prohibiting in England the conversion of arable land into pasture. Anyone who is familiar with the history of the 633 statute law in the time of the Tudors, will know that I am stating facts, and that the foundation of the prosperity of England, and its freedom from agrarian agitation, dates from the period when the legislature interposed to prevent large grass farms being accumulated in the hand of individuals, and tillage farms being converted into extensive pastures. I congratulate the hon. Member for South Tyrone for having given the House an opportunity for this discussion, and I hope the Chief Secretary will exercise his influence with the Government to try to bring about that, which I do not hesitate to proclaim, is, in my opinion, the only chance of redeeming Ireland from its condition of disloyalty, discontent and poverty, namely, the compulsory purchase of land which will convert the present occupiers of the land into virtual owners in fee.
§ (11.38.) MR. MACVEAGH (Down Co., S.)
said the hon. Member for South Antrim had twitted the hon. Member for North West Lanark with having an imperfect knowledge of the question. The House would be surprised to know that the hon. Member for North West Lanark had spent more time in one month in Roscommon than the right hon. Gentleman had done in his whole life. The right hon. Gentleman sad the hon. Member for South Tyrone was not a paid organiser of the United Irish League. Possibly the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who was quite able to take care of himself, did not think it necessary to offer serious attention to a sneer of that kind coming from the active and paid organiser of the Admiralty and the unpaid organiser of the Landlords' Union. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Antrim thought he had the sympathy of his own constituency in the course he was pursuing let him resign his seat simultaneously with the hon. Member for South Tyrone resigning his. When they went back to Ireland for re-election it would 634 be seen who had the confidence of the constituencies. In regard to the migratory labourers who came to England every year from the De Freyne estate he regretted that he could not give the exact number, but ho knew it was about 80 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman was a director of the London and North-Western Railway Company, and he should have no difficulty in ascertaining the number of men who came over to England.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said he knew that, in connection with Roscommon and this estate, the number of migratory labourers was about 40 per 1,000.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! This dispute as to the number of labourers who come to England has nothing to do with the question before the House.
§ MR. MACVEAGH
said he would not pursue the subject, but he might be permitted to say that the Statement which the right hon. Gentleman had just made was inaccurate. He was surprised to hear the eulogium which the Chief Secretary passed on Bishop Clancy. In 1886 and 1892, hon. Gentlemen who were now supporting the Chief Secretary held up the Irish bishops as vile and wicked slave-drivers and masters of the Irish people. When a bishop made an attack upon the National Organisation he was held up before the Irish people as a sort of patron saint, and he received premature canonisation. A few days ago he put a Question to the Chief Secretary with reference to a prosecution in Ireland, arising out of an Orange disturbance, and the right hon. Gentleman declined to make a statement upon it, 635 because the case was still sub judice. There was another case in which six Members of Parliament were charged with criminal conspiracy, and, although the case was still sub judice, the Chief Secretary got up and said that those men were engaged in organising resistance. He ventured to say that the conduct of the Chief Secretary in prejudging a case in which the Government themselves were a party was an abuse of the privileges of this House and an abuse of the position he occupied. The agitation on the De Freyne estate had not been manufactured. It was started by the people themselves, and was being conducted by a local committee, and the only connection which the National organisation had with the movement was that they sent a responsible man down to the spot, to prevent the movement being directed into channels which the Government and the landlords were longing for, and to save the people from seeking the wild justice of revenge. This social revolution was bloodless and crimeless. That was the proudest boast of the National Organisation, and that was the greatest obstacle which faced the landlords and the Government today. It had been alleged by the Chief Secretary that the Government had no responsibility for the convictions which were about to take place. They had already been informed by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh that the landlords had formed a combination for the purpose of crushing the tenants. The tenants had formed a combination for the purpose of securing fair terms from the landlords. What was the difference in the treatment of the two combinations? The combination of the landlords was not only winked at but encouraged by the Chief Secretary. 636 When the tenants combined against the landlords the Chief Secretary set up his Coercion Courts and put in prison the most respected local leaders. If the Government would cease to be rent collectors and allow the landlords to seek the same redress which other creditors had to seek they would have no responsibility for what the landlords were now doing. The Government had invoked all the force of the Coercion Act and were hastening to the help of men whoso "very names," as the London Times once said, "stink in the nostrils of Christendom." He had no hope at all that this House would lend a sympathetic ear to anything that could be said from the Irish Benches on the subject tonight. He had no doubt the mechanical majority would follow the Government now as on previous occasions. They heard last night a great deal about Christian charity. He would like hon. Members opposite to exercise some of that Christian charity when they voted for the cruel evictions that were now to take place. There was practical unanimity on this question in Ireland. The demand now being made from these Benches would be recognised in the House, probably like other concessions given to Ireland, when it was too late, and when the concession would be robbed of all its grace. Recently the Government had made peace in South Africa. It might have been a wise thing in this Coronation year to make peace with the people of Ireland. Instead of that they were continuing the policeman's baton and the plank bad as the emblems of British rule in Ireland.
(11.53.) Question put.
The House divided:—Ayes, 132; Noes, 231. (Division List No. 262.)
|Abraham, William(Cork, N.E.)||Horniman, Frederick John||O'Mara, James|
|Allan, Sir William (Gateshead)||Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.||O'Shaughnessy, J. P.|
|Allen, Chas. P.(Gloue, Stroud)||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||O'Shee, James John|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Jones, David Brymor(Swansea)||Partington, Oswald|
|Black, Alexander William||Jones, William(Carnarv'nshire||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Boland, John||Jordan, Jeremiah||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Joyce, Michael||Priestley, Arthur|
|Brown, George M. (Edinburgh)||Labonchere, Henry||Rea, Russell|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Lambert, George||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Bryce, Rt, Hon. James||Langley, Batty||Reddy, M.|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Law, HughAlex.(Donegal, W.)||Redmond, John E.(Waterford)|
|Burns, John||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Leamy, Edmund||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Caldwell, James||Leese, Sir Joseph F(Accrington)||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs)|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Levy, Maurice||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Lewis, John Herbert||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Cremer, William Randal||Lloyd-George, David||Runciman, Walter|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Lundon, W.||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Delany, William||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.)||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Doogan, P.C.||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Spencer, Rt Hn C.R.(Northants|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||M'Arthur, William (Cornwall||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Dunn, Sir William||M'Crae, George||Sullivan, Donal|
|Edwards, Frank||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Elibank, Master of||Markham, Arthur Basil||Thomas, SirA.(Glamorgan, E.)|
|Emmott, Alfred||Morley, Charles (Breconshire)||Thomas, DavidAlfred(Merthyr|
|Evans, Sir Francis H.(Maidst'ne||Morley, Rt. Hn. John(Montrose||Thomas, F. Freeman-(Hastings|
|Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan)||Murphy, John||Thomson, F. W. (York, W.R.)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Toulmin, George|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Nolan, Col. John P.(Galway, N.)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Fuller, J. M. F.||Nolau, Joseph (Louth, South)||Tully, Jasper|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. H'rb't John||Nussey, Thomas Willans||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Grant, Corrie||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipp'rary Mid||Wilson, Henry J.(York, W.R.)|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Knkenny)||Wood, James|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir William||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)|
|Harmsworth, R. Leicester||O'Connor, James(Wicklow, W.||Young, Samuel|
|Harwood, George||O'Connor, T.P.(Liverpool)|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. CharlesSeale-||O'Dowd, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Helme, Norval Watson||O'Kelly, James(Roscommon, N||Mr. T. W. Russell and|
|Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||O'Malley, William||Mr. Hayden.|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex F.||Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn.J.(Birm.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Bignold, Arthur||Chamberlain, J. Austen(Wore'r|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Bigwood, James||Chapman, Edward|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Blundell, Colonel Henry||Chairington, Spencer|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Bond, Edward||Churchill, Winston Spencer|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Coghill, Douglas Harry|
|Arrol, Sir William||Bowles, Capt.H.F.(Middlesex)||Cohen, Benjamin Louis|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Brassey, Albert||Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Compton, Lord Alwyne|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Bull, William James||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Burdett-Coutts, W.||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Butcher, John George||Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Cross, Herb, Shepherd (Bolton)|
|Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W(Leeds||Cavendish, V.C.W.(Derbyshire||Cubitt, Hon. Henry|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch.||Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Dalrymple, Sir Charles|
|Beach, Rt Hn Sir Michael Hicks||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Davies, Sir Horatio D.(Chath'm|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Jeffreys, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fred.||Purvis, Robert|
|Doughty, George||Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton||Randles, John S.|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Rankin, Sir James|
|Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop.||Rattigan, Sir William Henry|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Keswick, William||Ridley, Hon. M. W. (Stalyb'dge|
|Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart||King, Sir Henry Seymour||Ridley, S. Forde(BethnalGreen)|
|Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Faber, George Denison(York)||Law, Andrew Bonar(Glasgow)||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Lawrence, Joseph (Monmouth)||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Fergusson, Rt Hn Sir J.(Manc'r||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Lawson, John Grant||Ropner, Colonel Robert|
|Finch, George H.||Lee, Arthur H. (Hants, Fareh'm||Round, Rt. Hon. James|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Rutherford, John|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-|
|Fison, Frederick William||Llewellyn, Evan Henry||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander|
|FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose-||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Fitzroy, Hon. EdwardAlgernon||Long, Col. Charles W.(Evesham||Seely, Maj. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight|
|Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter(Bristol, S.||Seton-Karr, Henry|
|Forster, Henry William||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East|
|Galloway, William Johnson||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)||Smith, JamesParker(Lanarks.|
|Garfit, William||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Gibbs, HnA. G. H.(City of Lond.||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Spear, John Ward|
|Godson, SirAugustusFrederick||Macartney, Rt. Hn WG Ellison||Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk|
|Gordon, HnJ.E. (Elgin & Nairn||Macdona, John Cumming||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Stewart, Sir Mark J.M'Taggart|
|Gore, Hn. G. R C. Ormsby-(Salop||Maconocbie, A. W.||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby-(Line||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||M'lver, Sir Lewis (Edinb'rgh W||Sturt, Hon. Humpbry Napier|
|Goschen, Hon. George Joachim||M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire)||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Majendie, James A. H.||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J.G.(Oxf'd Univ|
|Graham, Henry Robert||Manners, Lord Cecil||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Tomlin-on, Sir Wm. Edward M.|
|Green, WalfordD.(Wedn'sbury||Maxwell, W.J.H. (Dumfriessh.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
|Greene, W. Raymond-(Cambs.)||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Gretton, John||Milner, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick G.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Greville, Hon. Ronald||Molesworth, Sir Lewis||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Groves, James Grimble||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants||Webb, Colonel William George|
|Guthrie, Walter Murray||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Welby, Lt.-Col. A C E (Taunton|
|Hain, Edward||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire)||Whiteley, H. (Asht'n und. Lyne|
|Hall, Edward Marshall||Morgan, DavidJ(Walth'mstow||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F.||Morrell, George Herbert||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset)|
|Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert W.||Morrison, James Archibald||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Harris, Frederick Leverton||Morton, Arthur H. A.(Deptford||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.)|
|Haslett, Sir James Horner||Mount, William Arthur||Wilson, J. W.(Worcestersh.N)|
|Hatch, Krnest Frederick Geo.||Muntz, Sir Philip A.||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)|
|Hay, Hon. Claude George||Murray, RtHnAGraham(Bute||Wodehouse, Rt. Bn. E. R.(Bath|
|Heath, ArthurHoward (Hanley||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Heath, James (Staffords. N.W.||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Helder, Augustus||Myers, William Henry||Wylie, Alexander|
|Henderson, Sir Alexander||Newdigate, Francis Alexander||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Higginbottom, S. W.||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Hoare, Sir Samuel||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)|
|Hobhouse, Henry (Somerset, E.||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Hogg, Lindsay||Peel, Hn Wm. Robert Wellesley||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Hope, J.F(Sheffield, Brightside||Pilkington, Lieut.-Col. Richard||Sir William Walrond and|
|Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Mr. Anstruther.|
|Howard, John(Kent, Faversh'm||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|