HL Deb 12 March 1868 vol 190 cc1432-48

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


said, that as this measure had on various occasions received the approbation of that House, he would have been happy, had he felt justified, in moving the second reading without addressing any observations to their Lordships; but he wished to reply to some objections which had been made to the Bill by his noble and learned Friend (Lord St. Leonards), and as the policy of the Government on the question of the relations between landlord and tenant had been declared, he feared he must refer a little to that subject. His noble and learned Friend had insisted that there was no necessity for further legislation upon the subject, and that the Act of 1860, respecting the tenure of land which now obtained in Ireland, was sufficient for its purpose. Now he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) wished to repeat what he had said not quite two years ago, that he was not the first to set about disturbing the existing state of things, and he had high authority to rely on in justification of attempting to amend the present law. The Act of 1860 was well intended. It was carried through Parliament by a right hon. Gentleman, than whom no Secretary for Ireland was ever more anxious to improve the condition of that country and its jurisprudence—he meant Mr. Cardwell. There were, indeed, two Act3 of 1860—one for the improvement of the land, of which he would say nothing, because it turned out to have been of not the slightest use whatever, and had never been acted upon. But the other, to his mind, and that of others more capable of judging, contained an intrinsic vice which pervaded it all, and which had been productive of very great mischief—he meant that so far from relying entirely on written contracts, which he believed it was intended to promote, it distinctly encouraged parole and constructive agreements. Not only did it do that, but it even went the length of repealing so much of the Statute of Frauds as related to this subject—one of the greatest Acts which had ever been passed by the Parliaments of England and of Ireland—the Act in Ireland of William III., an application of the English 29 Charles II. to that country. Now, that was an error to which he would assert the attention of the Legislature ought to be directed, so as to make it necessary that all contracts should be written, and not parole or implied contracts. When he first introduced this Bill to their Lordships, he cited several cases in which the law of 1860 had not only occasioned litigation, but had sorely perplexed the Judges, and it continued to do so up to the present time. He would refer their Lordships to the Irish Common Law Reports of 1864, 1865, and 1866, for information on this head. He was complaining, not only that the law as it stood was vicious in principle, but that it was so difficult of construction that the Judges themselves entirely condemned it. In one particular case, the Judges were divided in opinion as to the construction of the law, and there was, in the first instance, a majority of three Judges to one against a particular interpretation. The case was afterwards taken to the Court of Appeal, where seven Judges unanimously decided that the decision of the three Judges in the Court below were wrong. In the case of "Chute against Busby," tried early in 1866, though the Judges differed in opinion as to the construction of the law, they one and all condemned the Act, as being obscure and bad; and the late Lord Chief Justice Lefroy closed his judgment by saying that "some of the views taken and insisted upon in the course of the argument, would upset the foundations of real property, and no new foundations were suggested in their stead." But it was not only the Judges that were of opinion that the law was most difficult of construction. All the Governments of the country since its passing were of the same opinion, and had made attempts to amend it. Their Lordships would remember that Mr. Chichester Fortescue, the Chief Secretary for Ireland under the Government of Earl Russell, had introduced a Bill on the subject, and the present Government had also brought in a Bill which did not pass. Now, these Bills were introduced by the Irish Government with the concurrence of the Cabinet, and their Lordships would recollect that in Ireland the Irish Government, as they had been lately told elsewhere, meant not merely the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary, but also the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney General, who was there a Member of the Privy Council. It might be said, therefore, that there was a succession of the highest authorities in the country in support of the necessity of amending the law, and now it had been announced on Tuesday night that the existing Government meditated no less than four Bills in connection with the subject. Another objection taken by his noble and learned Friend touched upon one of the most difficult parts of legislation—he meant the repeal of certain Acts. The Act of 1860 was in that respect most obscure and mischievous. That Act enumerated a whole quantity of Acts, and said that these Acts are hereby repealed "so far as the same refer to the relations of landlord and tenant." But that left open some very difficult points. The question arose whether various Acts touching settlements, for example, did or did not affect the relations of landlord and tenant. He admitted that the Bill, the second reading of which he was about to move, did not, in its present shape, deal satisfactorily with that question. It was a very difficult one, and it was on that account that he wished for a Select Committee, where he hoped he should have the aid of the Government and of the Government lawyers in dealing with the subject. The measure was really no longer his, as the Government had stolen most of the contents of it; for the Chief Secretary for Ireland had stated in "another place" that it was the intention of the Government to include provisions which were similar to that in his Bill in Bills of their own. They proposed to enforce and encourage written contracts, and also to secure to the tenant compensation for improvements where there was no contract; but in this Bill there were no reservations which left anything in doubt. The Government contemplated a loan to the tenant to be made only through the intervention of the Board of Works, on the approbation of a public officer. Now, he also gave facilities for loans to tenants, but he did not confine them to an advance of Government money; he wished the tenant, with the approbation of his landlord, to be allowed to borrow, on security of his farm, from anyone he could—from the Government if he could obtain better terms than from his neighbour, or from his own landlord, to be charged on the holding. An objection to the plan of the Government was that it would be spread over four separate Bills. Surely, it would be better if they were contained in one single Bill, seeing how strongly the tendency lately had been in favour of codification and simplification of the law. He, therefore, pressed the second reading of this Bill, and hoped the Government would allow it to go on with the purpose of passing it. He felt neither surprise nor regret that the Government had adopted its provisions. For years past he had felt convinced that the principles of this Bill were those which must be adopted if Parliament wanted to make an equitable arrangement between landlord and tenant. Unfortunately, however, another proposal had been made which he had heard with deep regret. He understood that, as at present advised, Her Majesty proposed to issue another Commission to inquire into the state of the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland. Now, what could be the utility of such a Commission? There had been plenty of inquiries on that subject already. He would not go back to the Devon Commission, because you might as well go back to the time before the Union. But there had since been Committees of both Houses of Parliament; he knew of no doubts which a Royal Commission could solve; and he feared that it might have throughout Ireland the most mischievous effect of creating a belief that the Government meant to consider some of those absurd and insane projects—he did not wish to use harsh terms—which had been put forward in the course of the last few weeks. He was ready to consider measures of a wide character with regard to Ireland; but when measures were proposed which the author of them himself described as meant to be revolutionary, and as of no use unless the revolution were complete, he trusted that the Government would make such a declaration that the Commission might not be suspected of contemplating any such plan. He doubted whether Mr. Mill would propose to the House of Commons his scheme for turning out the landlords of Ireland, in order to substitute a pauper class of landlords; but it was a notion which the Government should not be supposed to entertain for a single instant. He had been told that Mr. Mill's pamphlet had been circulated far and wide throughout Ireland, and sold for 1d. He could well believe that there were people in Ireland who would take that step; and, if that were so, he only hoped that the people would consider a pamphlet written by a noble Friend of his who had discussed Mr. Mill's proposals. His noble Friend had explained uncommonly well the working of the present laws, and had written a most lucid and agreeable treatise; but he had wasted his talent and ability in the consideration of this particular project, which no loyal and sensible man ought to allow to enter into his serious consideration. Then, again, there was a plan of Mr. Bright to expend £5,000,000 in purchasing up the estates of absentee landlords. Was that plan to be considered seriously by the Commissioners? If not, what was to be the object of sending out a roving Commission? The state of the law was known perfectly; Committees of both Houses had taken abundant evidence upon custom; no more evidence was wanted; and therefore the only effect of sending out a roving Commission would be to excite illusory hopes. We should recollect the language which had been held by some persons on this question. A letter was published in the Irish papers, dated from Rochdale in December, 1866, in which Mr. Bright said— If Ireland were 1,000 miles away from us all would be changed, or the landlords would be exterminated by the vengeance of the peasantry. When such language as that had been used, the object of a Commission ought to be most distinctly stated. He did not know that he could go as far as the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Ireland did, and paint so bright a picture of the satisfactory condition of the country, in all respects, as he did; but he maintained there was nothing in Ireland that required any extraordinary measures, and all that was specially needed was temporary protection for honest and loyal people. As regarded the relations between landlord and tenant, and between man and man, the country was never in a more satisfactory state. He was very sorry to hear the other night a very fervid piece of declamatory eloquence, a rhetorical speech of considerable power, which, although the speaker professed to avoid the past, was largely devoted to the past misgovernment of Ireland. But what had all that to do with the present system of governing Ireland? What were the language and conduct of a great patriot and orator referring to past misfortunes at a time when, to use the words of the noble Earl near him, the name of Henry Grattan symbolized virtue and patriotism? In the first speech Mr. Grattan made in the House of Commons, he said— The past troubles of Ireland, the rebellion of 1641, and the wars which followed, I do not wholly forget; but I only remember them to deprecate the example and to renounce the animosity. The penal code which went before and followed those times I remember also, but only enough to know that the cause and reasons for that code have totally expired; and as on one side the Protestant should relinquish his animosity, on account of the rebellion, so the Catholics should relinquish their animosity on account of the laws."—[1 Hansard, iv. 917.] That was the language held some sixty years ago by one of the greatest patriots, as well as one of the most able and eloquent men, that ever adorned Ireland. So far from such language being held now, old things were raked up to make excuses for attacks on the state of the country which were unfounded, and could do nothing but set man againt man. In conclusion, he moved the second reading of the Bill, which he trusted the Government would endeavour to make as perfect as possible in the Select Committee, to which he proposed it should be referred.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Marquess of Clanricarde.)


thought that the noble Marquess, in deference to the Government, and in consideration of the steps already taken by them, ought to have postponed his Bill until they had their measure before them, in order that the country might be in a position to compare the two. Nothing could be more inconvenient and irregular than the course taken by the noble Marquess, who had listened to an elaborate speech and an animated discussion in the other House of Parliament, and anticipated the measures which it was supposed would be introduced by the Government. The facts which had come out in Committee were so diametrically opposed to general opinion in regard to the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland, that it was very desirable we should know exactly in what position these two classes stood to each other. It had been said that landlords expended no money on improvements, and that angry feelings existed between them and their tenants; but, from the evidence given before the Committee last year, it appeared that the landlords laid out more money in improvements in which tenants participated than landlords did in this country. He found that thousands and tens of thousands were laid out in substantial improvements, the money being provided by the landlords and not borrowed from the Government. According to the evidence, nothing could be better than the relations existing between landlords and tenants. It was stated that rents were paid as regularly as it was possible; and more could not be said of this country. The evidence with respect to evictions was equally satisfactory. They had only taken place when considerable arrears of rent remained unpaid and could not be recovered. This Bill of the noble Marquess proposed to do away with the law of distress; but it appeared that that was seldom resorted to, and never upon large estates. The existence of the law was a check upon bad men, who would not pay rent if they could avoid it, while the resort to it did not appear to operate harshly in the case of those who were honestly disposed. He did not view with the same alarm as the noble Marquess the issuing of a Commission of Inquiry. The Government consisted of sensible men—men of business—and not of philosophers, and were not likely to be led away by any impracticable theories. He was in favour of some Bill on this subject; but he objected to the present Bill, that it sought to accomplish what had already been accomplished. He had always been in favour of leases, and of such leases as would give fair terms to the tenants; for while he would always uphold the just rights of landlords, he felt it was prudent to give such fair terms to the tenants as would induce them to take an interest in the good condition of the land. When in office in Ireland he found that disputes were constantly arising between the tenants and the receiver appointed by the Court. The receiver often resided in a market town, and when a tenant went there on fair or market day, he would meet the receiver and pay him a little money on account of the rent. Under such circumstances, it would often happen that no receipt was given at the time, and consequently, when the final reckoning came, there was a great difference of opinion between the parties as to the amount of rent remaining unpaid. This evil he remedied by compelling the agent in all cases to give a receipt stating the period covered by the payment, and a clause to that effect might be advantageously introduced into this Bill. The present Bill was, in his opinion, open to a good many objections; but that was no objection to a second reading, and therefore he would not oppose it. He thought the Bill ought to define what was meant by a lease. The noble Earl near him (the Earl of Kimberley) and the noble Marquess, in the conversation about the Bill a few evenings ago, considered that he had made a mistake in speaking of leases only, whereas the Bill deals also with notes in writing. He then showed that under the Bill the notes in writing were treated as leases, and leases only were the subject of the Bill. It was important to correct this mistake as the noble Marquess appeared to suppose that his Bill would have an operation which it would not have. He thought every contract between landlord and tenant ought to be in writing. The noble Lord concluded by saying, that he should not oppose the second reading of the Bill, as these were matters which might be dealt with in Committee.


said, that this Bill, though requiring considerable amendment, had this advantage over most of the similar Bills which had come before their Lordships—namely, that it contained nothing opposed to the ordinary laws which regulated the dealings between man and man, while it contained much to adapt and fit those equal and just laws to the peculiar circumstances and habits of the Irish people. For instance, parole agreements as to letting of land had been found to produce in Ireland an uncertainty as to the rights of both parties which had been the source of great injury sometimes to the landlord, sometimes to the tenant, generally to both, and which this Bill sought to remedy. Did the same uncertainty exist in England and Scotland it would be equally easy, and in no way opposed to our ordinary laws and habits, to remedy it in the same way. In fact, many wise men did act on the principle of this Bill in England, and put into writing their agreements with their tenants holding from year to year. But many more propositions had been put out as to these matters—some contemptible—if they were not mischievous—by raising false expectations in the Irish people; some useful—if they were not marred by clauses departing from the ordinary principles of English law and economy—such as clauses in the Bills of the late and the present Secretary for Ireland, which gave power to the tenant to make what were called improvements against the will of the landowner, and made the landowner liable to pay for those improvements notwithstanding. These were clauses, practically, of little consequence, but most erroneous in principle, and which he supposed were only little sops to democratic and anti-landlord prejudices. Every man, however, had a right to broach what opinions he pleased; but no man had a right to ask assent to conclusions founded on false premises, or for a political object to pick up hastily, and state publicly, untrue charges against any individual. Now, this was pre-eminently the case in a pamphlet lately published on the Irish land question by Mr. Stuart Mill, Member for Westminster, in which the following passage occurred, affecting deeply the character of a Member of this House. He entreated their Lordships' indulgence on this sole ground—that it made an attack upon the Marquees of Conyngham—he might name his noble Friend, as he was not present—in such a manner that he could not wonder it called forth the noble Lord's instant and indignant contradiction; and his Lordship had now empowered him to give a more full and complete answer. Mr. Mill said— It is usual to impute the worst abuse of Irish landlordism to middlemen. Middlemen are rapidly dying out, but there was lately a middleman in the county of Clare under whose landlordship Irish peasants, by their labour and scanty means, reclaimed a considerable tract on the sea coast, and founded thereon the flourishing watering-place of Kilkee. The middleman died; his lease fell in, and the tenants fancied that they should now be still better off. But the head landlord, the Marquess of Conyngham, at once put on rents equal to the full value of the improvements (in some instances an increase of 700 per cent); and, not content with this, pulled down a considerable portion of the town, reduced its population from 1,879 to 950, and drove out the remainder to wander about Ireland, or to England and America, and swell the ranks of the bitter enemies of Great Britain. Did the interest any more than the good feelings of this landlord prevent him from destroying this remarkable creation of industry, and giving its creators cause to bitterly repent they ever made it? What might not be hoped from a people who had the energy and enterprize to create a flourishing town under liability to be robbed? and to what sympathy or consideration are those entitled who avail themselves of a bad law to perpetrate what is morally robbery? Now, what were the facts of this case? The Marquess of Conyngham as a landlord stood as high as any man in the United Kingdom. Though possessing large property in England, he was not an Irish absentee; but resided for a great portion of the year on his property in Meath, where he gave a great deal of employment. In the county Donegal, where he (Viscount Lifford) resided, he was represented, and worthily represented, by his younger son, who devoted himself to everything that was useful, and was more than ordinarily beloved. In the county of Clare, the Marquess of Conyngham had no residence; and therefore, acting in accordance with the views of Mr. Mill, Mr. Bright, et hoc genus omne, he proposed to sell that estate. He sold a portion of this very village of Kilkee, where his rents were stated by Mr. Mill to have been so exorbitant, and it was stated that the new purchaser had raised the rents about 50 per cent. However, the sale was stopped when five, lots had been sold, and how did their Lordships suppose? By a deputation from the tenants of this exorbitant landlord, imploring him not to transfer his estate and his tenants to anyone else. He would beg their Lordships to mark the simple wording of this appeal— To the most noble the Marquess of Conyngham.—May it please your Lordship,—The undersigned humble men, tenants of yours, have travelled far from their homes, in your estate, on the verge of the sea, at Kilkee, to ask you a favour, and entreat you to listen to their appeal. They have never taken part in any of the controversies, and never concurred in any proceeding, which they supposed would be displeasing to you. They beseech your Lordship not to transfer nor to dispose of to anyone whatever your own control over the estate on which they are occupiers, nor to make any change in the agency and the conditions under which they have the advantage of the benevolent exercise of your immediate authority. They wish to die as they have lived, under your jurisdiction, and that those whom they love and who will live after them may hold, as they did, directly and wholly from your house and hands. They beg of your Lordship not to part at all the divisions of the estate remaining unsold, and they take leave to represent to you that, as they are informed, the whole may still be restored to its previous tenure, the resident purchasers of the one division being willing to forego the title they have acquired on terms that may be deemed equitable and acceptable by your Lordship. The undersigned further venture to express the earnest hope that your Lordship may gratify the people of Kilkee by your own presence among them when your convenience will warrant, and afford them the opportunity of manifesting their anxiety to prove their respect, and testify to you that no welcome, whether offered in Donegal or elsewhere, could surpass that which will await the most noble the Marquess of Conyngham among the people of Kilkee. Imploring your Lordship to enable us to return with glad tidings to our homes and friends, to our children and relatives—tidings to cheer and bless all in the Holy Season now arriving—and, throwing ourselves altogether upon your high and humane consideration, we have the honour to be, your Lordship's humble and grateful servants. What was the answer to this memorial? He would give it in the terms of a private letter addressed by the Marquess of Conyngham to himself— I had nine lots in the Incumbered Estates Court. Five were sold, and the remaining four were withdrawn and offered for private sale. In the meanwhile all the tenants of the four unsold lots sent in the most urgent memorials, imploring me not to sell, and to let them live under me as their landlord. A deputation from them also came up to me, and I really felt so touched by their appeals to me, that, perhaps unwisely, I withdrew the notice for the sale of these lots. But he would say a word about the history of this lease. According to the information furnished to him by the Marquess of Conyngham's agent, it was granted to one man in 1785 and expired in 1860, having lasted seventy-five years. It contained strict covenants against subletting, and therefore the middleman, and the middleman alone, was responsible for the persons whom in defiance of the terms of the lease he had placed upon the land. Notwithstanding the covenants, the Marquess of Conyngham, anxious to promote the prosperity of Kilkee, from time to time made various proposals to the middleman to join in granting long building leases, all which propositions were declined. The consequence was that from 1840 none but houses of a poor description were built upon the Marquess of Conyngham's land. Houses of a better class were built upon the land of other proprietors, including the freehold property of the middleman, and houses of a better sort built previously on the Marquess of Conyngham's property fell into the hands of a low class of occupants, one being occupied by eight pauper families and their pigs. Kilkee, however, had during the seventy-five years of the lease grown into a town, and though the houses on the Marquess of Conyngham's estate were very inferior to those of other proprietors, yet it had greatly increased in value. Well, the lease fell, and the Marquess of Conyngham raised his rents, and tried to improve his property. Now, how did proprietors in England, Scotland, and France act when an old lease fell in? Did the owners of Grosvenor and Portman Squares scorn an increase of rent when leases fell in? Were they called robbers if they required it? Again, when streets for public benefit and private profit were run through those "remarkable creations of industry" St. Giles's and the slums of Westminster, were there no evictions of pauper families? Of course there were, and it was necessary for the public welfare that there should be. But how did this landlord who was so much denounced—this robber, this exterminator, this avaricious nobleman—how did he behave when the lease fell in? He raised the rents so little that the man who purchased the five lots which were sold in the Incumbered Estates Court immediately increased them 50 per cent. The Marquess of Conyngham ejected about 100 pauper families. He appeared to evict more than he intended, because his terms were so liberal that many persons, heads of families, applied to be evicted, in order that they might have the advantage of them. He spent upon these people £2,500. More than that—from the time of the falling in of the lease in 1860, to November, 1867, the Marquess of Conyngham received from the Kilkee estate £9,000 or thereabouts, and spent in works, in charities, and in compensation given to the people who were evicted, £9,500, or £500 more than he received from it. Now, he was sure that Mr. Stuart Mill was incapable of stating anything but what he believed to be true. In fact, there was this much truth at the bottom, that a lease of seventy-five years fell, that rents were raised in due course, and that houses which greatly injured the property were removed; but the colouring turned fact into falsehood—falsehood which would have been unworthy of the Marquess of Conyngham's notice in the mouth of a professional agitator, but which was serious when endorsed by one till lately the calm philosopher, the deep thinker, on whose words and opinions we all have pondered, however much we might sometimes disagree with his conclusions. Assertions such as these as to matters before one's eyes were easily refuted, and did comparatively little harm; but false colourings of the vague, uncertain, and most melancholy history of Ireland were most mischievous, and were, indeed, one of the sources from which the present unhappy state of that country sprang. Now, nothing was more perverted than the social history of Ireland. Nothing could be more deplorable than the condition of the Irish peasant under his native chiefs. He was totally without property, totally at their mercy. In the reign of Edward III. a petition was addressed by the Irish people to the King, imploring that they might be placed under the English law; but that prayer was refused in consequence of the machinations of the Irish chieftains and the English settlers who had adopted their habits. Sir John Davis, who was Attorney General in the reign of James I., and he believed also of Elizabeth, said— The English Lords finding the exactions to be more profitable than English rents and services, and loving the Irish tyranny, did reject and cast off English laws and Government, and the English Lords and the Irish Lords in the reign of Edward III. joined to prevent the people to be placed under English law. Sir John Davis, who was admitted to be a high authority, and was nearly a contemporary of the times of which he wrote, stated, that under the system of chieftainship in Ireland the people were so oppressed that— The weaker never had any remedy against the stronger, whereby it came to pass that no man could enjoy his life, his wife, his land, or his goods in safety if a mightier man than himself had an appetite for and a desire to take them from him. Those 'chiefries,' though they had a certain portion of land allotted to them, consisted principally of exactions whereby they despoiled and impoverished the people at their pleasure. Though Sir John Davis made the great mistake of supposing that the lowest class of the Irish people were incapable of civilization, yet his views and feelings were eminently popular. His grand object seemed to have been the introduction of laws which would protect the people from what he called "Irish tyranny." The rule of their chiefs, one of the principal sources of this tyranny, was thus described by Sir John Davis— This extortion of coigne and livery did produce two notorious effects; first, it made the land waste, next it made the people idle. For when the husbandman had laboured all the year, the soldiers in one night did consume the fruits of all his labour.… But their Irish exactions extorted by the chieftains and tanists by colour of their barbarous seignory were almost as grievous a burden as the others—namely, cosherings, sessing of the kerne of his family, called kernety, of his horses and horse boys, of his dogges and dogge boys, and the like; and lastly, cuttings, tallages, or spendings, high and low, at his pleasure; all which made the lord an absolute tyrant, and the tenant a very slave and villein; and in one respect more miserable than bond slaves, for commonly the bond slave is fed by his lord, but here the lord was fed by his bond slave. Now, how did that statement of Sir John Davis agree with that of Mr. Stuart Mill, who professed to describe the condition of the Irish under the chiefs? Mr. Stuart Mill said— Before the Conquest the Irish people knew nothing of absolute property in land; the land virtually belonged to the entire sept. The chief was little more than the managing member of the association. Managing member of the association! Would not anyone think that this was a mild co-operative society, of which the gentle and kindly head gave to all their due? Who would believe that this "association" was of the nature described in the terms which he had read to the House by one who was so nearly a contemporary that he might be almost called an eyewitness? It was by such false colouring that the Irish people were deluded into conceiving that they had rights which never existed, and were rendered insensible to the value of the equal laws under which they now lived. But there was something still more mischievous than deluding the Irish people by private calumny and by false history, and that consisted in dangling before their eyes false hopes of social changes, contrary to the common principles of justice and of social economy, and opposed to the first principles of English law. Ever since the year 1829 this injury had been done to Ireland by both the great political parties. He entirely concurred with his noble Friend in thinking it most unfortunate that a Commission should be issued just at this time. He entreated the Government to pause before they finally adopted that course, and concluded by expressing his opinion that the only proper way of dealing with Ireland was to look to what was right and just, irrespective of party objects. He trusted the House would examine, amend, and finally pass the Bill of the noble Marquess.


said, his noble Friend (Viscount Lifford), in his most clear and complete defence of the character of the Marquess of Conyngham from the accusations falsely brought against it, had given the best answer to his own objections to the issuing of the Commission which it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to send to Ireland. Nothing could place in a better light before their Lordships the exaggerations which were so freely indulged in upon this subject than the calumnies which had been poured upon the Irish landlord whom his noble Friend undertook to defend. It was to get rid of these exaggerations, to discover where the truth lay, and to give the landlords that fair play which, he believed, had never yet been extended to them, that this Commission was about to be appointed. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) seemed to think there was some danger that a "roving Commission," as he called it, would raise a flame all over Ireland, that it would excite false hopes, and cause the Irish to believe that the English Government had some sinister plans for altering the rights and laws of property. Why, the intention of the Government in issuing that Commission was exactly the reverse. And he did not believe there was the slightest danger that the Commission would entertain the visionary schemes of Mr. Bright or Mr. Mill. Allegations affecting the Irish landlords had been made over and over again in the public press, by Irish Members of Parliament, and by writers of various descriptions. But the Irish landlords, he repeated, had never yet been properly heard. Before the Commission of 1846—Lord Devon's Commission, as it was called—they were not heard; and that, to some extent, was their own fault, for they had a jealousy of giving evidence on that occasion. He was sorry to perceive on the part of the noble Marquess something like an indication that this old jealousy of giving evidence might show itself again in 1868. The Government, on the contrary, believed that the inquiry would turn out to the credit of the landlords. The noble Marquess, trusting to guesswork rather than to ascertained and positive data, had assumed that the Government were going to bring in four Bills, containing certain clauses and principles, some of which by anticipation he condemned, while others he approved. And he further accused the Government of acting unfairly towards him, by, as he called it, stealing his measures. But how, he would ask, was it possible to produce something altogether novel and original upon this old and well-worn subject? In dealing with the question of land tenure in Ireland it was difficult to impart novelty to such topics as the importance of covenants and of securing a fair compensation to the tenant. If a Land Tenure Bill were introduced into the other House of Parliament, and then brought before their Lordships, its provisions would come on in the ordinary manner for discussion. He, however, deprecated a discussion on measures which were in embryo, and reminded their Lordships that it was quite contrary to their rules and opposed to their practice to discuss a Bill before it had been even printed. Still less was the noble Marquess justified in commenting upon the speech delivered by the Chief Secretary on Tuesday night in the House of Commons, or on that of the Irish Member who introduced the debate. Yet the noble Marquess proceeded to do so at the moment when the debate in the other House was proceeding. The noble Marquess was completely mistaken in supposing that the Government were opposed to the renewal of the inquiry commenced last year at his own instance; on the contrary, they believed that the facts elicited by the Select Committee would greatly facilitate legislation. He could not admit that it would be desirable to alter the constitution of that Committee, inasmuch as any Peer appointed now for the first time would not have in his mind the evidence given last year, and, consequently, would feel himself at a disadvantage. His noble Friend, Lord Devon, was already upon the Committee, and the noble Marquess had not given any reason for the suggested addition of any further Members of the Government. After what had been so recently said upon this subject by another Member of the Government, he did not think it would be desirable to discuss this matter at any greater length at present. Her Majesty's Government had supported the noble Marquess in the original appointment, and now in the re-appointment, of this Committee; and he could assure the noble Marquess that they looked forward to the results of its inquiries with an interest not inferior to his own.


reminded their Lordships that he had on two occasions been appealed to by the Government to await the announcement of the Ministerial measures, and had complied with the request. He had guarded himself carefully against any breach of order in his allusions to the measures which the Government were supposed to have in contemplation. But it would have been absurd, after what had appeared in all the newspapers, to ignore in that House what was commonly called "the programme of Government measures." The noble Earl, in fact, had gone much more into detail than he had done, for he had volunteered the information to their Lordships that the Irish Land Bill was not even drawn yet.


I did not say it was not drawn. I said it was not yet printed.


Well, at all events, it was in a very early stage. His reason for supposing that there were to be four Bills, was because in the printed report of what Lord Mayo said, the words used were, "I think they had better be separate measures." He ventured to predict that, whether all or any of these Bills were printed yet, if the Government introduced four Irish measures in the present Session, they certainly would not be able to carry them. He thought he had been fully justified by the usage of their Lordships in referring to what occurred two nights ago in the other House, and it was his decided opinion that the intentions of the Government on this subject should be embodied in a single measure, instead of being split up into four Bills.


thought that it was not quite fair to assume that the four Bills referred to would be passed this Session; but it was still more irregular to proceed to comment upon what the noble Marquess assumed would be their provisions.


deprecated the course to be adopted towards Ireland by both political parties, and attributed its present condition to the extraordinary—he might almost say revolutionary—measures which had been passed during the last twenty years.

Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and referred to a Select Committee; The Committee to be named To-morrow.