§ Order of the Day for resuming the Adjourned Debate on the Amendment to the Motion for the Second Reading [which Amendment was, That the Bill be read a second time this day six months (The Lord Oranmore and Browne)], read: Debate resumed accordingly.
§ LORD CAIRNS
My Lords, although by the favour of your Lordships I am 184 permitted to follow the speech of the noble Viscount (Viscount Monck) who spoke last in the debate on Tuesday, I can assure your Lordships that I have no intention of following him into those historical researches which at considerable length he laid before the House. The opinions, if we could discover them, of Spenser, of Arthur Young, and of Sir William Petty may be matters of antiquarian curiosity; but the task which we have to discharge is to judge of the condition of Ireland at the present day, and on that question I doubt whether any of those earlier opinions would throw much light. If I depart from that course for a moment, and turn aside to make an observation upon one or two matters of past history, which were touched upon by the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies at the beginning of the debate, it will be merely because I think any misconception or inaccuracy as to those facts may seriously prejudice us in coming to a conclusion on the subject. The noble Earl told us that one of the reasons for comprehensive legislation on the question of landlord and tenant in Ireland was, that the laws of Ireland and those of England on that point diverged very widely, both in spirit and in letter. Now, if this were the fact—and I do not stop to inquire whether it be the fact or not, although I think that what has been said upon the subject is much exaggerated—but, if it were the fact, it appears to me that it, at all events, could not afford a justification for the very special legislation upon which we are engaged. If it be the case that the tenant in Ireland is in a position inferior to that of the tenant in England, that may be a very good reason for bringing up the Irish tenant to the position of the English tenant; but it clearly cannot be a reason for putting the Irish tenant in a position which no English tenant ever dreamed of being in, or ever expected to be in. My Lords, I add one qualification only to that observation. I could, indeed, understand such a course and such an argument if you had it in view at some future time to repeat the process in the converse direction, and because you have raised the Irish tenant immeasurably above the English tenant you are to perform the same good office for the English tenant in turn, and place him at the elevation to which you have 185 previously raised the cultivator of the soil in Ireland. The noble Earl made another observation which, if not corrected, might seriously affect the estimation in which I am sure we all desire to see the administration of the law held. The noble Earl said that in England the tendency and the habit of the Judges had been to lean, wherever it was possible, to the side of the tenant, and that customs of a mild kind had sprung up in England under that system of jurisdiction; that, on the other hand, he supposed, at all events, that the Judges in Ireland had taken a stern and unbending view, opposed to the interests of the tenant, and that Judge-made law in this country had thus become more favourable to the tenant than was the case in Ireland. It would, my Lords, be an unfortunate thing if an idea of that kind were to prevail in Ireland. I know that it has been stated before, and stated on authority so high that I am not surprised at the noble Earl taking the statement on trust and repeating it to your Lordships; but I hope the noble Earl will allow me to assure him, and I think I shall satisfy him in a few words that not only is the statement inaccurate, but it is the very reverse of accurate. With regard to the customs of England, they have at all times possessed every proper incident of a legal custom, and when they have come before the Judges, the Judges have had no choice but to give them legal effect. But with respect to what are called customs in Ireland, they never had at any time—they have not at this day, after the lapse of centuries—any one incident of a legal custom; and that they are not established by law in Ireland is owing not to the fact that they were presented to the Courts and decided against by the Judges, but to the fact that everyone was so convinced that they possessed none of the legal incidents of a custom that on no occasion has any one of them been presented to the Courts for decision. Nor does the case end there; because as a matter of history, which is most interesting as bearing directly on the view taken by the noble Earl, at the close of the last century the most frequent tenure which had sprung up in Ireland, and spread over the whole country, was the tenancy for lives, with a covenant for renewal. Owing to the want, on the part of the tenants, either of money or 186 of habits of business, those leases had from time to time been omitted to be renewed as the lives fell in; and, according to all the principles of the English law, the right of renewal had become forfeited, and the landlord was in a position by that law to take possession of the property, disregarding the rights of the tenant. So common was this that the Judges of Ireland were struck by the hardship it was occasioning, and there sprung up in that country, and continued for a few years, a course adopted by the Judges—and adopted in direct violation of the law of England—of giving relief to tenants who had failed to renew their leases, and who were at the mercy of their landlords. And what happened? One of those cases in which relief had thus been given was brought over to your Lordships' House; and on whose advice did your Lordships act in the decision you arrived at? On the advice of Lord Mansfield, a man who, of all others, established his fame by having tempered the rigid principles of common law by an admixture of the mildest and most benignant principles of equity. To Lord Mansfield's lot it fell to express an opinion, in the first instance, ort the course taken by the Irish Judges. I shall read one sentence from the opinion of Lord Mansfield. Speaking of the Irish Judges, who are supposed by the noble Earl to have leaned against the tenant, Lord Mansfield said—These sort of cases are not such as deserve support in a Court of Equity. They should be discountenanced as much as possible. They are extremely pernicious and oppressive, and a subject of general complaint to the gentlemen of Ireland, and I am astonished at the indulgence said to be shown in those cases in the Courts of Ireland.That was the opinion of Lord Mansfield, on which your Lordships' House acted, reversing the decision which had been pronounced, and Lord Thurlow followed the same line. The consequence was, that a state of terror at the loss of the property of the tenants prevailed in Ireland. Is that an instance in which the Judges in Ireland had borne hardly against the tenant? What happened??—because the matter did not end here. So pressing was the danger in that country that the Irish Parliament—largely, if not altogether, representing the interests of the landlords in Ireland—did what? Did they adhere to the opinion 187 of Lord Mansfield and the English lawyers? Not at all. In 1780 an Act was passed called the Tenantry Act—and I must remind the noble Earl of this, if he is under the impression that every statute relating to landlord and tenant in the reign of George III. was made stricter and stricter against the tenant—I would read this sentence from the Preamble of the Act passed in 1780 by a Parliament of Irish landlords—Whereas tenants, and those deriving under them, have frequently neglected to pay or tender the fines within the times prescribed by such covenants … and whereas it has been for a long time a received opinion in this kingdom (of Ireland), to which some decisions in Courts of Equity and declarations of Judges have given countenance, that Courts of Equity would in such cases relieve," &c.Then the Act goes on to speak of the terror that was inspired by the decision of your Lordships' House, and the Irish Parliament reversed practically that decision, and declared that for the future relief should be given to tenants under these circumstances. I trust, therefore, that we shall hear no more of the Judge-made law that sprung up in Ireland and ground down the tenant.
My Lords, I now come to the Bill before us, and I shall endeavour, as slightly as possible, to deal with matters of detail—although, in regard to a Bill of this kind abounding in detail, it is scarcely possible sometimes to avoid touching on matters of detail, if you wish to get at a comprehensive view of the measure. I will deal first with the clauses that cause but little controversy, and which, rightly or wrongly, are called Mr. Bright's Clauses. I wish to say at once that, in my opinion, there is no objection to them in point of principle. If there be an objection to them it is one not of principle, but of policy and expediency. And, my Lords, entertaining that opinion, I am the more bound to declare it, because, if it be true that the parentage of those clauses is such as I have suggested, some countenance might have arisen in the minds of some persons to the idea that clauses of that sort might, perhaps, have been more sweeping in their operation than sound principles would warrant. My Lords, allusion was made the other evening to their effect on the encumbrancers, who, it was suggested, would be endangered by those clauses. I am bound to say that, having looked at them with great care, 188 and without pledging myself to every word in them, that I think the interests of the encumbrancers are abundantly protected. But now, as to the policy of these clauses—I say, again, if you are able not only to make, but—what is much more difficult—to retain a body of middle-class occupiers of land in Ireland, who will also be owners and cultivators of the soil, I am persuaded that you will have done a good work. But I am sorry to add that the opinions of those most conversant with that country, to which it is impossible not to give great weight, are almost unvarying that the much greater probability is that the general rule will show you that when one of the occupiers of the land becomes an owner there will be subletting, there will be the transfer of the owner into the coveted position of the landlord; he will occupy perhaps a small part of the holding, but will be a landlord over others for the remainder. But time only can solve that question. We may speculate upon it now as we please. But there are two observations which I have to make on these clauses which, I think, ought to be made now, and on which we are now in a position to judge. The first of those observations is this—Has it occurred to your Lordships to consider, supposing one of these Irish tenants buys his holding, what is to be the condition of the property during the 35 years that must elapse before the purchase-money is fully paid off? Remember, during those 35 years the Government will be the mortgagee of this property. What are the provisions of the Bill on this subject? Permit me to read one very short clause which suggests some most extraordinary reflections. I refer to the 40th clause, relating to purchasers to whom advances have been made. The last paragraph of the clause says—Any holding charged by order of the Landed Estates Court in manner aforesaid shall not, without the consent of the Board, be alienated, assigned, subdivided, or sublet during such time (35 years) as any part of the annuity charged on such holding remains unpaid, and any part of such holding alienated, assigned, subdivided, or sublet in contravention of this section shall be forfeited to the Board, to be held by them for public purposes.My Lords, for a third of a century the management of these properties is to be imposed on the Government. Now, let me suppose that these clauses are effec- 189 tive, that in the various counties of Ireland you will have tenants buying, it may be, very small holdings—for there is no minimum of limit—you will have this period of 35 years running on: and what is the duty which the Government will have to perform during the time? Those of your Lordships who are acquainted with the position of things in Ireland know what a task it is to prevent subletting or assignment. You know, or your agents would tell you, that it is one of the most difficult operations they have to perform. You will have every possible scheme and device resorted to in order to produce the reality without the appearance of subletting. Now, how is the Board of Works in Dublin to cope with such proceedings of their tenants in every part of the country—proceedings with which local agents would have the greatest difficulty in grappling? And look at the consequences. If subletting be adopted to any great extent, you will have got into a most formidable danger; you will have to consider what you must do with those who have offended, and if you enforce the law you will expose yourselves to all the odium which falls on those who resort to evictions. It is not only the difficulty of the task—but look at the facilities for subletting. Who are the Board of Works? The Board of Works are the Treasury. I say it for this reason, that by the 49th clause the Board of Works are to obey "the orders of the Treasury from time to time;" not merely their general orders, but their orders in each particular case. Therefore, the Board of Works are the mere hands and agents of the Treasury, and the Treasury become the managers of these holdings throughout Ireland. Suppose a case to happen. Suppose one of these holdings is misused in the way pointed out in the Bill. But, in the first place, I would ask, is it possible that any property can be in a wholesome state that is for 35 years inalienable? It is contrary to the first principles of political economy that it should. Well, suppose a tenant dies and has a dozen sons on the farm. Will not that be alienation, and will you treat it as a forfeiture? Suppose the purchase-money is not paid, and you proceed to enforce your forfeiture. My Lords, in that case I do not envy the position of the Treasury. I think I can foresee the first time they 190 proceed to forfeiture, the pressure that will be brought to bear on them in Parliament and out of Parliament, and I know not which is the more dangerous. I venture to prophesy, with some confidence, that one of two things will happen, either the whole of these provisions will break down, and you will be obliged to say you cannot enforce their observance, or if you do there will be an outcry in the country, and the Government will assume a position more odious than that of the most disliked Irish landlord. That is one of the objections I have to these clauses; another is this—The greater number of the clauses proceed on the assumption that the landlord agrees to sell and the tenant to purchase. I think there can be no objection whatever to those; but there is one clause which seems to have crept in, under the operation of which something very objectionable may be done—namely, the clause which enables tenants armed with the public money to go into the Landed Estates Court and become bidders for the lands of which they are in possession. If the tenants are able out of their own resources to become bidders, I have not the slightest objection to offer; but what I object to is that tenants should be armed with the money of the State to conduct operations in the Landed Estates Court, which must have the effect of paralyzing all the biddings of the outside public. Do you suppose that if the outside public were to know that the tenants were going with two-thirds of the public money to bid for their holdings they would run the risk—for risk it would be—of outbidding the tenants, and become the owners of an estate the tenants of which would feel that they were defeated competitors? A story was told me, for the accuracy of which I will not vouch, though I have no reason to disbelieve it, which will illustrate what I say. There was an estate sold in the Landed Estates Court within the last few weeks; a tenant was bidding, and the estate went up to 14 years' purchase, upon which the tenant said, in the auction room of the Court—"Fourteen years' purchase! Is it possible that anybody will bid more for this estate when he knows that I am the tenant." I began by saying that, though I have no reason to question the accuracy of the statement, I cannot vouch for it; but 191 if it is inaccurate, which I believe it is not, it might very-well happen under this Bill.
If your Lordships will permit me I will take next two provisions of the measure which seem to me rather excrescences on its general principles than to be part of them or warranted by them. One of these excrescences is the provision with regard to distress. My Lords, with regard to the Law of Distress, and the Law of Hypothec in Scotland, I always believed that those provisions of the law were for the benefit of the small tenants, and I think that opinion of mine is justified by the fact that the great agitators in Scotland against the Law of Hypothec are large tenants, who know very well that if the law were altered the small tenants would no longer be able to compete with them; because, in the absence of that law, terms would have to be imposed which the small tenants would not be able to accept. It is just the same with regard to the Law of Distress in Ireland: so far from its being a hardship to the small tenants it is a benefit to them, and if you do away with that law the landlord will have to impose other and private arrangements which the tenant will find still more hard to bear. The Devon Commission, which was favourable to the tenant, if I remember rightly, reported strongly for maintaining the Law of Distress. There are some persons, no doubt—outside creditors—who profess to be injured by the Law of Distress; they say that it gives the landlord a kind of charge on the property of the tenant, and in dealing with the tenant they suffer because they come after the landlord has made good his claim. But this Bill seems to me to produce all the evils of the Law of Distress without any benefit whatever; because what it does is not to abolish the Law of Distress, but to allow a private arrangement creating a right of the landlord to distrain under certain circumstances, thus prejudicing in a serious way the outside creditors, who will be kept in ignorance to the last, while it gives no benefit to the tenant. The other matter, which I think an excrescence on the general principles of the Bill, and which I hope your Lordships will not think it inconsistent with those principles to modify, is the mode in which notice to quit is dealt with. I 192 could perfectly well understand that if you were giving no other protection to the tenant, except the enlargement of the period of notice to quit, it might be a form, though not a good one, of giving that protection. But in the earlier part of the Bill you give the tenant protection for improvements, protection for occupancy, and protection for any customary rights he possesses. The Government tells us, and I believe correctly, that to be a perfect and complete protection to the tenant, and with it I dare say he will no longer be subject to any of those evils to which he has been said hitherto to be liable. But if that be so, what possible reason can you give for establishing a difference in the law of the two countries—for making the notice to quit run for 12 months in Ireland, while it runs for only six months in England? I see no advantage, but the greatest possible disadvantage in that, because in the only cases in which you say there ought to be eviction—namely, for improper management or improper conduct—you are going to give the tenant an opportunity for twelve months of cruelly injuring the farm he is about to leave; whereas, I believe, every noble Lord who has any experience of Ireland will bear me out when I say that six months would be abundantly sufficient for that operation.
My Lords, I come now to what I may term the forensic part of the Bill—I mean the Courts and Judges who are to exercise the powers which the measure proposes to give. And here I wish to say that, so far as I can form an opinion, I think the Government were right in adopting the Civil Bill Judges, or Assistant Barristers in the counties of Ireland, as the primary Judges in these matters; I am perfectly alive to the inconvenience that might result from having 33 Judges proceeding, it might be, many of them, upon principles somewhat confused. I speak of the Assistant Barristers with great respect, yet I should be glad to have Judges of higher judicial standing and perhaps with more special training for subjects of this kind. But I believe, without creating a judicial staff which would be wholly unjustified by any amount of litigation I hope which will arise, this could not be done. I think, therefore, the Government were justified in the course they have proposed. Here, again, my Lords, having made 193 that admission, I want to point out three serious objections to the arrangements in the Bill with regard to the Judges, and with regard to the settlement of disputes which may arise between landlords and their tenants. Now, it can hardly be intended—indeed, I am told that the Prime Minister has said it is not intended—but it is certainly the effect of the Bill at the present moment, that after a tenant has made a claim against his landlord, and the landlord has made his counter claim, they cannot settle the matter between themselves, even if willing to do so, but must take it into Court—the matter cannot be settled in any other way except by the Court. What makes me think that this was not intended is this—Where the Bill deals with limited owners it allows the tenant for life to settle any disputed matter in any manner he pleases; but when you come to the absolute owner, he is not to be permitted to settle the matter without going into Court. Now the next objection I have is this—and here I may say I cannot imagine that the effect of the Bill can have been foreseen by the Government. The constitution of the Civil Bills Courts in Ireland is such that if a Judge or Assistant Barrister chooses he may have any question of fact decided by a jury. But the jury of the Civil Bill Courts is a jury of a singular kind—it is called "a jury of by-standers," consisting of as few as 3 or as many as 12. Now, I imagine that when some of these trials are being held, with a view to determine the custom of some of the estates in Ireland, the "by-standers" would probably consist of tenants of the estate, and it occurs to me that to empanel three of these persons to try a question of fact as to the custom of the estate would be a process anything but satisfactory. My next objection is this—You are certainly imposing on these Civil Bill Judges a duty such as I believe was never imposed upon a Judge before. Let me read to you what is called the Equities Clause of the Bill—On the hearing of any dispute between landlord and tenant under this Act, either party may make any claim, urge any objection to the claim of the other, or plead any set-off such party may think fit (including in the case of a landlord any moneys paid on account of the purchase of the right of the tenant under the Ulster tenant-right custom or such usage as aforesaid), and the Court shall take into consideration any such claim, objection, or set-off, also any such default or unreasonable conduct of either party as may appear to the Court to affect any matter in dis- 194 pute between the parties, and shall admit, reduce, or disallow altogether any such claim, objection, or set-off made or pleaded on behalf of either party as the Court thinks just, giving judgment on the case with regard to all its circumstances, including such consideration of conduct as aforesaid, and the Court shall have jurisdiction at the hearing of any such dispute to ascertain what sums, if any, shall be deemed due by the tenant to the landlord under sections three, four, and six of this Act, or any set-off in respect of unliquidated or liquidated damages under said sections, or any of them; and in any case in which compensation shall be claimed under section three of this Act, if it shall appear to the Court that the landlord has been and is willing to permit the tenant to continue in the occupation of his holding upon just and reasonable terms, and that such terms have been and are unreasonably refused by the tenant, the claim of the tenant to such compensation shall be disallowed.Certainly, I repeat, there never has been such a task before imposed upon any set of Judges. I only hope that they will be able to discharge it. When it was proposed "elsewhere," as I understand, to define the duties of the Judges—to give them some directions as to the principles on which they are to proceed—it was said—"If you attempt to define them, you will only narrow their jurisdiction. The difficulty of defining is so great, it is better to leave them to deal with matters as they arise in the best way they can." I am willing to accept that as the best solution of this clause; but it appears to me to involve a consequence not fully apprehended. If you impose upon the Judges the task of considering all the questions in this manner, I contend it is absolutely necessary that you should learn from the Judge on the face of his award or judgment—I will not say the principles upon which he has proceeded, but the various items of claims on one side and upon the other of which he has taken cognizance. Because you must remember you are ordering the Judge to take a debtor and creditor account—for that is really what it comes to; and if the Judge is allowed, as he may do under this Bill, to lump the matter and give you a certain sum as the result of his judgment, you will never know what questions have been considered by the Judge, and—what is still more serious—when the question comes before the appellate tribunal for review, there will be no point of contact between the Judge of the Appellate Court and the Judge of the Court below. Their minds will be running in parallel lines, never approaching each other.
195 But I will leave this question, and come now to what I may term the three cardinal principles of the Bill, which I will endeavour to deal with as briefly as possible. These are the customs of Ulster and similar customs; the compensation for improvements; and the payment for disturbance in occupancy. With regard to the customary right of Ulster, I am certainly not going to trouble your Lordships with any opinion of mine, or with any argument upon its merits or demerits. I do not, however, by any means agree in the view that the custom of Ulster is the source of the prosperity of Ulster. I believe it would be more correct to say that the prosperity of Ulster was the source of the custom. I believe that the custom will be found to have sprung from the greater abundance of money in that Province and from the laxity of the agents, who found it extremely convenient to have a species of reservoir of money which they could come upon when the tenant went to the wall. The incoming tenant had money to pay, and thus the landlord's claims were satisfied. But as the custom exists it is quite right to legalize it. But here again, my Lords, let me point out how the Bill may cause serious injustice. It was not in the Bill originally, but there has come into the Bill a provision by which a man holding a farm under the custom of Ulster may throw overboard and abandon the custom of the Province, and may claim compensation under the other provisions of the Bill with the leave of the Court. Now, at first sight that appears to be a very strong provision; because if the custom of Ulster prevails upon that holding it is part of the contract upon which the farm is taken, and which regulates the relation between the landlord and the tenant. The landlord is bound by this custom, and it is only one-sided legislation to say that while the landlord must be bound by it the tenant may abandon it and adopt a different provision in order to obtain compensation. But I go further. Wherever the custom of Ulster prevails under this Bill there is no compensation for improvements, because the sum paid under the custom is supposed to cover everything. That is quite right. If a farm is under the custom of Ulster the landlord need not trouble to keep any account of the improvements, showing which were made 196 by himself and which by the tenant, because he knows that the sum he will have to pay will be paid irrespective of improvements, and will cover everything; but if a claim is to be made under other parts of the Bill it will be the landlord's duty to watch vigilantly every improvement, so as to be prepared to meet any claim that may be made upon him—for under this Bill he is to be left in perfect ignorance, until the time comes, under what portion of the Bill it is that the claim will be made, and then perhaps he will find that he has kept no account. It is rather hard to enact that a landlord shall never know precisely what the relations between himself and his tenant are—they are to be at the option of the tenant himself. Now, this is what I dare say many of your Lordships know to be a common case. There are what are called the conditions or "rules of the estate." These rules are printed and hung up in the office. Everybody knows what they are, and every tenant has a copy—he knows that these rules are the conditions upon which his farm is let, the same as if they were contained in a lease and signed by himself. Now, by this Bill you bind the landlord to those rules, but you allow the tenant to tear the whole thing to pieces, to fling it away and to say—"I claim under an entirely different principle." Now, this is a matter that ought not to be allowed to remain as it is. What I think ought to be done is this—that the tenant should not have leave to throw aside his first obligation under the custom of Ulster, unless the Court is satisfied that his doing so will involve no injustice or breach of contract towards the landlord. If that is done it will be rather a rough sort of thing, but no great harm will occur. I now come to the compensation for improvements; but I shall detain your Lordships but a very short time on that point, because there is scarcely anything to be said on the subject. The question is one that has been much discussed of late years. It has been a question of great doubt and much argument; but I can speak with perfect frankness upon it, because I recollect, when I was a very young Member of the House of Commons—in 1853—and again in 1855, when Tenants Compensation Bills were brought before the House, I put upon the Notice Paper a clause for the pur- 197 pose of giving retrospective compensation to tenants. Perhaps I am unduly prejudiced in favour of my own offspring; but I must say that I think it was a better clause than I have seen since, and I wish sincerely that that clause, or something like it, had been adopted at that time, for then we should have had done long before this time with the question of retrospective improvements. It has always seemed to me a very much less dangerous thing to compensate a tenant for improvements which he could not have made in times past, except at the peril of losing them, than it might turn out to be to compensate him for improvements in the future, which he might be tempted to make somewhat recklessly when he was sure of compensation for them. I am very glad this question is now going to be settled, but I think we ought to be very careful about one view of the matter. We must keep the question of compensation for improvements entirely distinct from the question of payment for disturbance in occupation. I say this because I have observed—I do not say in your Lordships' House, but "elsewhere"—that scarcely anyone commences to speak upon the subject of the relations between landlords and tenants in Ireland and the necessity for this Bill, or other strong legislation, without immediately going off into the subject of the hardship alleged to have been suffered by tenants who have made improvements on their holdings and have not been compensated. That was the staple of the speech of the noble Earl (Earl Russell), who is not in his place now, but who spoke the other night on this question. The noble Earl gave us the history of case after case where tenants had made, or said they had made, improvements, and whose rents had been raised or who had been turned out of their holdings without compensation. A good many of these cases, I am bound to say, as having some acquaintance with Ireland, were utterly incredible; but if they had all been perfectly accurate, I say, with all submission, that it was beating the air for the noble Earl to dwell upon them, for no one disputes that that is an evil which must be cured. Being agreed upon that, will your Lordships allow me to mention only two matters in this Bill with regard to compensation for improvements which appear to me to be open to exception? This is one point— 198 Your Lordships will find that improvements made before the passing of this Act are to be dealt with in a manner extremely different from improvements to be made afterwards, and I cannot conjecture the reasons for the difference. This is what the Judge is to do according to Clause 4 of the Bill—Where a tenant has made any improvements before the passing of this Act on a holding held by him under a tenancy existing at the time of the passing thereof, the Court in awarding compensation to such tenant in respect of such improvements shall, in reduction of the claim of the tenant, take into consideration the time during which such tenant may have enjoyed the advantage of such improvements, also the rent at which such holding has been held, and any benefits which such tenant may have received from his landlord in consideration, expressly or impliedly, of the improvements so made.I think that is quite fair; for I cannot imagine any sound principle upon which, with regard to improvements, you ought not to take into account the length of time during which they have been enjoyed, and I think we must agree that there must be some length of enjoyment which must entirely obliterate any claim by the tenant in respect of his improvements, though we may differ as to what that length of time may be. Now, I want to know why this principle is not to be applied to the case of improvements made after the passing of the Act, and I have looked to the Bill for a reply in vain. My other objection, I am sorry to say, is much more serious, for I am coming to speak upon a clause in reference to improvements which is, I think, entirely foreign to the principles of the Bill, and which, if it were to become law, would, in my opinion, work rank and positive injustice—I allude to the 5th clause, which changes the law as to presumption. Let us remember that there is no use arguing how far tenants have made improvements and how far they have not, for we have in our possession some facts concerning them. We know that within a very moderate number of years past £2,000,000, borrowed from the State and repaid, has been expended upon the improvement of land in Ireland; and Dr. Longfield—than whom there is no one more capable of giving a trustworthy statement or opinion on the subject—has stated that almost all the arterial drainage, and a great part of the subsidiary drainage in Ireland has been done by the owners of land. We know further that at the time 199 of the Devon Commission, when the operations of landlords were not so far advanced as they have since become, all the buildings upon 22 estates—and those some of the largest in the country—were erected at the expense of the landlords. And we know, also, that last year it was told of a great man, whose loss we so much lament, that the value of the fee simple of his Irish estates had, in the conrse of a limited number of years, been expended in the improvement of those estates. Now what are we asked to do in regard to this question of presumption? We are asked to declare that unless the landlord can prove that improvements on his estate have been made by himself, it shall be presumed that they have been made by the tenant. Was there ever in the course of legislation anything like this clause? So strongly was this felt "elsewhere" that a modification had to be made, but it was only to apply to the past; and what, after all, was it? It was proposed that this presumption was not to apply where there had been a sale of the property, and a conveyance from the vendor to the purchaser—the idea being, I suppose, that if there had been a sale the purchaser would not know much about what had been done by those who had been on the land before, and would have no means of informing himself. But take a case where there has been no sale, but where the property has descended from father to son—where improvements have been made by the landlord from time to time, and where the landlord has taken no account of those improvements—I do not mean that he has taken no account of what he has expended upon the estate, but no account of the particular improvements made in particular cases, and at particular times. In such a case the agent may have removed to another part of the country; there may be no bailiff alive who was alive when the improvements were made—and yet a tenant might come into court, and without offering a scrap of evidence on the subject, say to the Judge—"I am the tenant of this estate, and you are ordered to presume that every improvement made upon my farm has been made by myself. Here are the improvements, and now let the landlord show that I did not make them, and that he did." Yet that is the effect of the legislation proposed with regard to the past. Now let me 200 pass on to consider what is proposed in regard to the future. My first objection in regard to that is, that in creating a presumption in law such as I have described you will be doing all that is in your power to make the reality tally with the presumption. I know it has been said that the tenant would be placed at a great disadvantage by the adoption of any other rule, because he would have difficulty in preserving evidence of the improvements that have been made, while the landlord has none. I maintain, my Lords, that the exact opposite of this is the case; the tenant has nearly the whole of the facilities, and the landlord has hardly any. The tenant has his own family, who are the living witnesses of what is done upon his farm, and he has his neighbours, who would be only too ready to testify in his favour: but in what position is the landlord? He may live miles away, and his agent may visit the estate not more than twice a year, so how can he bring forward evidence? He may be a new agent, who has only a general knowledge of the estate—or the agent may be dead. It is said that the landlord might keep books, but books would not be evidence in a Court; and therefore I say that it is the tenant and not the landlord who has the greatest facilities for keeping evidence as to improvements effected on an estate.
I have now, my Lords, said all I meant to say on the question of compensation for improvements; and I now come to the great principle of the Bill contained in the 3rd clause. Let me ask your Lordships' careful attention to this clause, which is about as serious a matter as ever was attempted by legislation. Whatever course your Lordships think it right to take, do, I implore your Lordships, at all events understand distinctly what the clause is. It may very possibly be that, after understanding it fully and clearly, you may think it right to give your assent to it; but, at all events, let us understand distinctly what it is, and what will be the effect of it. The effect of the operation of this clause may be described in a few words. It is this—It is a clause that gives to every man who comes into the occupation of land as a tenant—wholly irrespective of any improvements, wholly irrespective of the length of time he may be in oqcupation—the right to say that 201 he is not to be removed from the occupation of that land, although the terms of his tenancy would justify his removal, unless he be paid a number of years' rent, which may vary from seven to five or four; and it is a clause that gives this as an absolute right to the tenant, which no contract is to defeat. Let me put to your Lordships a very short case; and, in doing so, I will not forget that although I speak of a number of years' rent, I use the term for shortness merely, and that it may be cut down by cross claims according to a later section of the Bill. Now, I am quite sure that noble Lords opposite have persuaded themselves—because they have said so—that this claim does not in any way infringe or trench on the rights of property. I place a tenant in possession of a farm last year, for which he pays me £20 a year rent. I find by experience that although I cannot say that he is a condemned malefactor—which would make it a flagrant shame to continue him in the farm—he is an unsuitable tenant, being without industry, and not having any knowledge of agriculture, the farm is going to ruin in his hands. Acting on my judgment, I give him notice to quit. The notice will expire in November next year. By that time he will have been two years in occupation. He has not made a single improvement on the farm; he has paid me during the time he has occupied it £40 rent, and he is to leave the farm, if I have no set-off against him, the possessor of £100 of my money. That will be the operation of the Bill as it stands. I know noble Lords opposite say this is not restricting my rights of property, because the law says you may turn the man out. Yes, it allows me to purchase him out. I ask this—Suppose the enactment said—You shall pay, not five, but 20 years' rent, the full value of the fee simple, would not that be an interference with the rights of property? But you say—"We do not disturb you in the possession of the property." You allow me the first option of purchasing my property; but you say I shall only have to pay the first quarter of the price. I own it appears to me beyond the power of imagination to conceive how any persons, however much they may approve this clause, can deceive themselves for a moment with the idea that it is not an interference with the rights of property.
202 Now, my Lords, there has been a good deal of literature on the Irish land question, and one of the most intelligent works that have appeared on the subject has been written by Mr. Campbell, who has brought his knowledge of the settlement of land claims in India to bear on this question. Mr. Campbell's book has received great praise from the Prime Minister; it proposes something like the principles of settlement which was adopted with the ryots in India, who had rights connected with the occupancy of the soil from which they were not to be disturbed without payment. I turn with pleasure to the frankness with which Mr. Campbell expresses himself on the subject of proposals of this kind. Allow me to read to your Lordships two passages from Mr. Campbell's work. He says—I must begin by expressing my belief that no petty measure will in any degree satisfy the Irish. If they are offered anything short of large and substantial concessions, the expectations which have been excited will have led to more harm than good. I do not think that any mere improvement of the law of contract can possibly operate as a great concession—that has already been tried without success. … It may be that you may take from one and give to another in such a way as to benefit him to whom is given without really injuring him from whom is taken; just as a man who is oppressed by two coats may feel all the lighter and easier when he has been compelled to give one to him who has none; but from his point of view there is confiscation of property nevertheless. In this view it would only be possible to argue that a moderate measure of confiscation would eventually be beneficial to all parties.Then, talking of the same subject, again he says—It comes then to this, that there can be no settlement of the question without something which would be called confiscation on one side or other; unless, indeed, resort is had to a third plan, to which I, for one, should strongly object—the expenditure of British money. It is to this last plan that I especially object: and it is because the schemes put forward by the most distinguished of advanced Liberals, Mr. Bright and Mr. Mill, are in the main of this character, that I think something else must be devised.I think that very practical and candid. I understand exactly what that means. It means you must do one of two things. You must either satisfy the Irish tenants by giving them a slice of the property of the landlords, or you must satisfy the landlords with English money. I object to giving English money; ergo, the alternative is inevitable—the landlord must pay. I have listened with great anxiety 203 to hear by what arguments the principle of this clause would be supported; because I can assure your Lordships I have approached this clause with no prejudice whatever. I have been sincerely anxious to find any arguments by which it could be supported as a matter of principle, and not as a matter of mere rough expediency. But what do I find? The Secretary of State, the Lord Privy Seal, and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who spoke on Tuesday evening, adduced no arguments whatever in its favour. They entirely omitted to do so. The Secretary of State said it was intended to prevent capricious evictions. But what does capricious eviction mean? Suppose I have a farm in Ireland ill-cultivated and unproductive, but it would be extremely suitable as a grazing farm, and, in order to make it so, I propose to remove the tenant and consolidate it into a grazing farm by itself—would that be a capricious eviction? If I understand what capricious eviction means, it is an eviction out of mere caprice. I recollect—but many of your Lordships recollect, no doubt, better than I do—at the time of the debates on the Corn Law Repeal Bill, Sir Robert Peel, dealing with the case of Ireland, said it was no doubt a very hard thing for Ireland not being a manufacturing country; but, he said—"I wish really that landlords would make up their minds upon this point—Ireland does not produce very good corn; but it has infinite resources as a pasture country, and they ought to make up their minds, because it is the true principle of free trade, to use the land for the productions it is best suited for." He said they must make up their minds, and turn their land into pasture. Well, then, the landlords proceed on that principle; and will they be told that is capricious eviction? I do not think, therefore, that the discouragement of capricious eviction is a sufficient argument in favour of this clause. What was the other argument of the Secretary of State in its favour? I do not know whether it was meant as an argument or not, but he said the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act in England provided for the reimbursement of the tenant for the loss of his occupation. There is not the slightest foundation for that argument. The Lands Clauses Consolidation Act does nothing of the sort. Under it, if an undertaking like a rail- 204 way wishes to take any land it must settle with the landlord, and then give a notice for a definite term to the tenants. If the railway company wait until the term of notice has run out, then it takes possession without paying the tenant a farthing of compensation; but if the railway being in a great hurry, desires to have the land immediately, it then, as according to all principles of justice it is bound, pays the tenants for their loss of occupation during the period their tenancy would continue by law. It does not follow, however, that because it is proper to compensate those who are disturbed in their rightful possession, that therefore it is proper to compensate a tenant for an unlawful occupation continuing beyond the rightful period. A noble Earl (Earl Russell) said the other night that the Bill, in his opinion, was so good that he would vote for it without listening to any Amendments or improvements. That was the strongest Parliamentary statement I ever heard fall from any public man in a deliberative Assembly. The noble Earl went on to state that it is not sufficient to compensate for improvements, for he said, there is a tacit understanding when a landlord lets his land that, when a tenant makes improvements, the landlord will not confiscate those improvements, but will allow the tenant to recoup himself by continued occupation; and he said that the mere payment of the value of the improvements was not enough. Well, if it were true that there is that tacit understanding, that circumstance does not afford a justification for this clause; for a glance will show that the clause is not intended to give compensation for the loss of an occupation which the tenant may have improved, but compensation for loss of an occupation of any kind, even where the tenant has made no improvements at all. Therefore, that argument falls to the ground. It has been said "elsewhere" that compensation must be given, because if these small tenants were turned out they would have no resource but America or the workhouse. My Lords, I dispute that assertion, and I say with respect to tenants who do not hold more than 20 acres they would thrive much better as labourers. They have a labour market in Ireland where wages are rising, and if that resource fails him a few shillings will transport him to the great labour 205 market of America, which he can reach more freely than a labourer from Dorsetshire. But if it is so, why is not the same argument applied to the labourer? The labourers are as numerous and more helpless than the farmers, and I want to know on what principle you propose to compensate the farmer and refuse to compensate the labourer. With regard to the restriction on the freedom of contract the noble Earl says that the law of England interferes with many contracts. Undoubtedly there are certain contracts with which the law does interfere—wherever it is a question of life, or the loss of life, the law steps in and says you shall not give full effect to such contracts. But in other matters contracts are undoubtedly left free. The noble Earl (the Secretary for the Colonies) referred to the Truck Act, and said that he was an employer of labour, and that it would be convenient for him to supply some of his labourers with provisions; but he was prevented from doing so by the Truck Act. Now, that is not the case, the Truck Act does not interfere with contracts. What the Truck Act says is this—you may contract with your labourers for any amount of wages, high or low, but having made the contract you must pay the stipulated wages in money—not in that which is not money. The noble Earl, if he only pays his labourers in money, may set up a store in their neighbourhood, and the labourers may go there and purchase their provisions. The noble Earl also referred to the case of cabs. Now, with respect to them, I believe the noble Earl and anybody else in London would find it difficult to say what the law really is; but I was under the impression that, under recent legislation or by the rules which the Home Secretary has thought it desirable to establish, there now existed free trade in cabs, and that a cabdriver would be allowed to contract to convey a person for what sum he pleased. But I wish the noble Earl to observe the principle contained in his illustration. The principle on which the law has interfered with cabs is, that the trade was a monopoly, and in return it is required that no more than a certain fare should be charged. All this is—if it had fallen from any other than the noble Earl, I should have said—mere rubbish in support of the Bill.
206 My Lords, I have said nothing yet of the course I intend to take. So far as I am concerned, whatever course I may take there is one thing I will not be guilty of—I will not assert, what in my case would be the hypocritical assertion, that this clause is founded on a sound principle, and that it contains no interference with the rights of property—I believe that it does interfere with the rights of property. Yet I cannot venture to ask your Lordships to reject the Bill. I do not claim to speak on the part of the landlords of Ireland. I speak simply from what I have observed in public, and from what has fallen from them in their speeches both in the other House and here. I have heard what I think is greatly to their honour—language such as that held by the landlords of Leland. They say—"We have strong objections to this clause; but at the same time we feel that it is not our custom to evict our tenants under the circumstances which, under the action of this Bill, would be treated as a breach of the law. Not only so, but when we are compelled, by arrangement of our property or otherwise, to evict a tenant, we are in the habit, as a matter of charity and kindness, to look to the condition of those persons in the world, and to aid them as far as it is in our power. We do not admit that what we have done under the promptings of kindness and forbearance should be converted into a rule of positive obligation; but if it is thought desirable for the proper adjustment of the relations of the country that this should be done, we are not unwilling that the experiment should be tried." I think this is a sound view on the part of the Irish landlords, and that it does them great credit. On principles of this kind—on concessions of this kind—I think this clause might be submitted to. It makes an exceptional case; it converts into positive precept that which was never before made a rule of law. They continue—"But while we are willing to admit the general effect and operation of this clause, we think it ought to be so guarded as that we shall not, by means of it, be excluded from the management of our own property." My Lords, there are some considerations which make me doubt whether, if this clause is passed into law, it will have a wholesome effect upon the tenants, and especially upon those whom you most 207 wish, to protect; because as soon as you draw a sharp line, defining a rule of conduct for landlords and tenants, the natural tendency of the landlord will be not to go beyond that line. He will say—"My duty is defined by Act of Parliament, even in those affairs which were previously matters of charity and kindness, and that absolves me; to that line of duty I will adhere; and I will go no further." I fear, also, it will have another effect—namely, that no mercy will be shown to tenants who are in arrear with their rent; for this Bill says that eviction for non-payment of rent is the only cause for which a landlord shall escape payment to the tenant of compensation for the loss of his occupancy. Again, the tendency of this Bill will be to raise rents throughout Ireland; for it is the concurrent testimony of all persons that, as a general rule, the land of Ireland is let under its value. Depend upon it, if you put this obligation on the landlords, they will secure themselves against the possibility of having to make an expenditure of this kind by taking the first opportunity to raise rents to the highest point. You will by this Bill give the tenants in Ireland an idea that they have a kind of charge connected with their tenancy, by their being entitled in certain contingencies to receive a sum of money varying from £50 to £250, and that idea will not be less permanent in their minds because the circumstances under which the money becomes payable are only contingent—they will consider themselves as much entitled to it as the tenants in Ulster do now. The consequence, I fear, will be that they will seek to discount that charge; they will part with their farms, and get from the in-comer a sum in respect of this charge that you have put upon the occupation; they will then go off to America or elsewhere, and when the time comes that the contingency does arise, and circumstances may lead to an eviction, the incomers will get nothing at all except the repayment of the money they have given to their predecessor, and which, in all probability they had borrowed from some banker in the neighbourhood. There is one other consequence of this measure which some may think good and some bad; but I believe the tendency of the measure will be the consolidation of farms. You seek to protect the small 208 farmers who hate the very idea of consolidation; but you will find that the consolidation of those small farms will, under this Bill, go on at a much more rapid rate than it ever did before.
I wish now to point out some clear and distinct defects in these clauses of which your Lordships have an absolute right to call for amendment. I shall not now go into the scale of compensation; but I hope we shall have some explanation of that which Lord Aberdeen would have called a conundrum, by which the tenant is entitled to drop from one scale to a lower. If it means anything it means this—that tenants on a low rent shall have greater protection than tenants on a higher rent. But here we have a proposition that if a man sits at a rent of £51, which under the scale would entitle him to two years' compensation, or £102, he may drop down, by the mere force of his own imagination—for there is nothing real in the transaction—to a rent of £49 and then he can claim three years' compensation, or £147. This is one of the drollest things I ever saw in an Act of Parliament. Let me now say a word as to the 31 years' lease. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) seems to think it is a compensation for improvements. It is nothing of the kind—the tenant gets the whole value of his improvement in any case. But what it does is this—It was proposed in the other House that a landlord might offer to give a man a lease in lieu of compensation. To this it was rightly rejoined a mere lease may be for one year or three years—it might be nominal, and therefore a sham; therefore the real question was, what is a reasonable lease? It must be no mere illusion—it must be something solid and practical. Can anybody deny that a 21 years' lease is a full and substantial one? There is a provision in this Bill that the loss of occupancy caused by the non-payment of rent shall not be that disturbance which entitles a man to compensation. The noble Earl, in introducing this Bill, glanced at that measure with his usual lightness of style, and bounded off so quickly that I could hardly catch the words he used; but I find there is a provision in the Bill which says that eviction for the non-payment of rent is not to be disturbance unless the rent was exorbitant. The Government proposal, therefore, is that when- 209 ever a tenant fails to pay his rent, and chooses to enter into a controversy with his landlord as to whether his rent was or was not too high, he is to be at liberty to try to persuade a Court that he is an injured man, and the Court may order the landlord to pay so many years' rent to a man who cannot pay his rent—the landlord is to be made to pay compensation calculated on a rent he has not received—a proposition which is so droll that I can hardly speak of it with gravity. Allow me to read a few sentences on this point from a very good authority—Dr. Longfield—It should ever be remembered that it is a dishonest act for a man to make a contract which he does not believe that he can fulfil. The man who has obtained possession of a farm by promising a rent which he cannot afford to pay has committed a dishonest act. He has done wrong to the landlord, from whom he has obtained possession of the land on false pretences; and he has done wrong to the competitors for the farm whom he has outbid; and he has no just claim to have a law made to reduce his rent and give him an advantage over his more honest competitors.Only imagine what might be the case of such a tenant. He might go into Court and say—"My landlord is ejecting me for non-payment of my rent—but my rent is exorbitant; I cannot pay so much and live upon the farm; it is positive cruelty to exact a rent of this amount from me, for no one could pay so much and provide for his wife and family. I therefore implore you to judge, now that I am going to be evicted from my farm, to say that my rent was exorbitant, and compensate me for my loss in being deprived of a farm the rent of which is so exorbitant that no one could live upon it." Landlords have, I repeat, a right to ask Parliament not to deprive them of the management of their estates as to those purposes which are conducive to the general good of the country. There are two other points in this Bill to which I must allude—namely, the letting in con-acre and the subletting of farms for the purpose of labourers' houses. Subletting at conacre without the consent of the landlord should deprive the tenant of his claim to the bonus given under this clause. With regard to labourers' cottages, if you wanted to introduce a provision to facilitate subletting of the worst kind, you could not have found a more effectual way of doing it than you have in this Bill. Under it, I defy any owner 210 or agent of property to prevent subletting under this provision. You will always have a mud but or hovel built on a farm, with a piece of land attached to it; the son will be a labourer on the holding, with a cottage and a piece of land; his wages will be the right to cultivate one or two fields, and you will have subletting with a vengeance. His family will increase in course of time, and they will have to be dealt with in some way or other. And supposing the man ceases to be a labourer, what will you do with him—how are you to turn him out? I repeat, that it is utterly impossible to have this provision in the Bill, and to prevent subletting—and I would ask, what is the necessity for it? Landlords in Ireland know their own interests as well as other men, and if proposals are made to them to build labourers' cottages of a proper kind they will do it, without any legislative compulsion. You may safely leave that duty to them. Let me also, for a single moment, remind you of the present position of the landlords in Ireland, with reference to the great bulk of their tenants—those, I mean, who have yearly holdings. Such a tenant is at perfect liberty to assign his tenancy to any person he pleases. It is a thing unknown—or at least of very rare occurrence—to introduce any stipulation for the prevention of assignment, because, at present, the landlord has the remedy in his own hands. If the assignment were made to an improper person, the landlord has merely to give him notice, and to get rid of him. I believe that that system works most beneficially in Ireland. I believe that there is nothing which has a more wholesome influence upon the relations between the landlords and tenants than the system of careful selection which exists on all well-managed estates, by which careful, industrious, intelligent, and honest men are chosen as tenants. But what will happen under the Bill? I will put a case. I let a farm, a few years ago, from year to year, to a man who seemed to me to be industrious and frugal, with a little capital, a fair knowledge of agriculture, and a good character. In the course, however, of four or five years, he takes it into his head to go to America; or he gets a farm that he likes better in another part of the country; and he assigns my farm to another per- 211 son, against whom I cannot say there is anything that I could substantiate in open Court as criminal in any sense, yet I may know him to be a lazy man, not to be a good farmer, not to be of good habits, and though I cannot prove it, I may suspect him to be a Fenian. Yet I cannot disturb that man, although I never chose him as a tenant, and he is the last man that I should choose. I cannot remove him, unless I am prepared to pay him on this scale of compensation for disturbance. Is that fair? I say it is not. Nor is it even within the principle of the clause, which I assume to be a good one—namely, that the tenant is not to be capriciously or arbitrarily evicted. But suppose you have a man on your estate whom you have some good cause for evicting; after you have come to dispute with him, and you are about to go into Court with him, he might then assign his tenancy, and produce in Court an antagonist different from himself, with whom you would have to fight the case. Now, I say the mode of remedying this is quite simple. It is, to provide in this clause that wherever there has been an assignment of the tenancy, and the landlord has not accepted the new tenant, there should be no right to compensation under the clause—that is to say, no right to compensation for the loss of occupancy; not that there should be any forfeiture of improvements, or of payment for any work done on the land; but that there should be given none of this bonus which is intended for the regulation of the landlord's dealings with his own tenants, and not of those with tenants whom he never accepted.
My Lords, I have now endeavoured to lay before you, at much length, the views which I entertain in regard to this important measure, and also the Amendments in it which I think ought to be made. I say, with great sincerity, with a full persuasion of the truth of what I say, that I think there is not one of the Amendments that I have mentioned which is not in perfect harmony with the principles of this Bill, or, as to which, it could be fairly alleged that it is an Amendment which would get rid of or neutralize any of the cardinal principles of the measure. The noble Earl (the Lord Privy Seal) said that for the purpose of effecting the pacification of Ireland Parliament would not 212 shrink from any sacrifice. My Lords, when I think of the provisions of this Bill, and of whose property it is on which it proposes to operate, I cannot help reflecting that the sacrifice approaches to something of a vicarious character. There is no doubt that in the course of the progress of this measure there have been considerable sacrifices made. It must, for instance, have been a great sacrifice to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to have read backwards the very eloquent speech which I remember hearing him deliver some two or three years ago in "another place," in which he said that after thoroughly studying the Irish land question, and serving on a Committee and examining witnesses, he had come to the opinion that there was no Irish land grievance; that the rights of property of the landlord were rights over the soil, and that if you took any of them away you would pro tanto take away his property in the soil; when he also said that it was contrary to natural justice that the tenant should be compensated for improvements made without the landlord's consent, and further, that if it was necessary to maintain firmly the principles of political economy in England, it was ten times more necessary to maintain them in Ireland. It must have cost a good deal to swallow all that. It must have cost a great deal to noble Lords opposite to persuade themselves that the provisions of this Bill are wholly in accordance with the declarations they made in this House last year that any measure on this subject which they would bring in would be entirely consistent with the rights of property. It must have cost much to the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Dufferin) to have forgotten the principles enunciated in the able and logical treatises on this question which we must all have read with pleasure. It must have cost the great Liberal party much, I do not say to have swallowed, but to have devoured with avidity, at the bidding of one man, the whole of the favourite doctrines and principles of their school on the subject of free contract. These must all, my Lords, have been considerable sacrifices. But if this Bill should pass into law there will have been made a sacrifice greater even than any of these. If, as the noble Earl (the Lord Privy Seal) expects, this measure should lead to the peace and contentment of Ireland—as I 213 firmly trust it may, notwithstanding any forebodings I may entertain—I hope it will be remembered, and remembered by the people of England and Scotland, that to the patriotism of the landlords of Ireland, to their liberality in what they expressed themselves willing to concede, and to their moderation in regard to the changes which they have asked for, this happy result will be in a high degree owing.
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
remarked that it would be an evil, of which they could hardly estimate the magnitude, if this Bill should not pass into law, and it was therefore with the greatest satisfaction that he had heard from the noble and learned Lord, as he did on Tuesday evening from the noble Duke sitting beside him, that the Amendments which would be proposed would be for the purpose of making the Bill better, and not with the design of materially impairing its principal provisions. He had listened with a feeling of melancholy, not unmixed with shame, to the long catalogue of abortive measures for improving the land tenure of Ireland, which had been given by the noble Earl in introducing the Bill. Private Members and successive Governments—Conservative and Liberal—had failed alike, and he was, therefore, most glad to find that both sides of that House were likely to join, as both sides of the other House had joined, in passing a measure which would remove a great blot in our legislation, and would, he hoped, put an end to a state of things in a neighbouring country which was a scandal to a civilized nation. The state of things which it was intended to remedy by this Bill was of long standing. It appeared to him to be almost the normal condition of Ireland that, from time to time, outbursts of agrarian outrage should occur. More than 30 years ago Sir Matthew Barrington, the Crown Solicitor for Munster, stated in a letter to Lord Morpeth, then Chief Secretary for Ireland, that agrarian outrages were constantly recurring. He gave a long list of them. In 1760 it was "the levellers" of Munster who were the offenders. In 1763 it was the Protestants of the North. In 1771 the counties of Down, Armagh, and Londonderry were the scenes of violence. He would not weary their Lordships by going through the list down to the present time; but in 214 reference to them Sir Matthew Barrington quoted the following opinion of Dr. Campbell, given in 1760:—Until some step is taken in favour of tillage and the poor, Whiteboyism will probably remain, in defiance of all the securities which the legislative power can devise, or the Executive inflict.And Sir Matthew Barrington added his own opinion—Almost every outrage, if closely scrutinized, is traceable to the eviction of tenants or the changing possession of land. The Whiteboyism of 1760 is the same as that of 1834. No essential difference is distinguishable between them. The root of the evil has not been reached as yet.It was, he feared, as true that the Whiteboyism of 1870 was not distinct in character from the Whiteboyism of 1760, and that the want of security of tenure in Ireland was at the root of the evils which had been running on for more than a century, and which at last, he trusted, a successful, but at all events a bold attempt was made to remedy by the Bill before the House. He had also heard with great pleasure the opinion expressed by the noble Duke opposite on Tuesday night, that we must look at this question as an Irish question. He had looked carefully into everything connected with it, and he was convinced that it was utterly futile to attempt to legislate upon this question of Irish land unless we did so in accordance with Irish views, Irish feelings, and Irish manners. He would not enter into a discussion of the subjects with which the greater part of the speech of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns) had dealt. They were matters for discussion in Committee rather than on the second reading. It had been said that the Bill would lead to a great deal of litigation in Ireland. Possibly that might be the case at first; but, even if it did, it would be a great thing to substitute appeals to the Courts for appeals to violence, and to substitute the reign of law for the reign of outrage. He would now proceed to refer to the principal provisions of the Bill. On one of them he apprehended that there was no difference of opinion in that House—that is, that compensation should be given for the outlay made by tenants on improvements in Ireland. The first point objected to was, that the Bill gave what was not given in England—namely, compensation for permanent im- 215 provements, such as buildings and reclamation of land. The noble Earl who spoke from below the Gangway on Tuesday night (Earl Russell) denounced the injustice of the law, which he seemed to think applied to Ireland alone. But their Lordships were aware that the law was the same in this country as in Ireland, and what made it unjust in Ireland was the difference of circumstances in the two countries. It was too often assumed that the same law ought to apply to England and Ireland; they must not forget that the circumstances were totally different. In England the landlord made the permanent improvements; in Ireland, in most cases, the tenant made them. The law, therefore, which in England gave the landlord the buildings, gave him only what he had erected with his own money; and if in Ireland the Bill should give the value of the permanent improvements to the tenant, it was for the reason that he and not the landlord had made them. The same principle of justice would be equally observed in both countries, though the law by which it would be applied would differ according to the circumstances of each country; and this was a strong proof of the necessity of looking to the state and circumstances of Ireland in any measure applying to that country. It was the same thing with the next point. The noble and learned Lord had objected to the provision in the Bill, that the presumption of having made an improvement should, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, be in favour of the tenant. It seemed to him, however, that this was only just, and that for two reasons. In the first place, the landlord was more likely than the tenant to be able to adduce evidence as to the person by whom an improvement was in fact made; and, in the second place, the presumption of the Bill was in strict accordance with the general course of things in Ireland. As the great majority of improvements in Ireland were made by tenants, it was right to assume that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, any particular improvement was made by them. It was upon this latter ground, as he understood it, that a noble Viscount (Viscount Lifford), who had opposed the Bill on Tuesday night, had, in some letters published last autumn, advocated the principle of presumption in favour of the tenant; and a very able advocate of 216 landlords' rights, Mr. Bence Jones, had declared himself satisfied with the clause in the Bill on this subject. They ought not to require that an illiterate man should afford proof of his outlay, which might be very difficult in his case, though nothing could be easier than for the landlord to give proof of what he had done. The next point was, he thought, the most difficult in the Bill—the clauses for compensation for disturbance—and it was no doubt perfectly right to keep distinct the question of compensation for improvements and compensation for disturbance. Unless, however, they awarded compensation for disturbance they did nothing to give security of tenure to Ireland, and the whole Bill would be utterly useless. What the Bill did, and what the Bill, he thought, ought to do, was to recognize the custom as they found it in different parts of Ireland. It was quite right that this should be the case; because, on the whole, custom in these matters was stronger than law. A well-known and most intelligent agent of property in Ireland, not very favourable to the Bill, Mr. French, said, in his evidence before Lord Clanricarde's Committee, that he did not see how legislation could put down tenant-right. The first custom recognized by the Bill was the tenant-right in Ulster; and he thought it was quite right to do so. He did not mean to say that according to our notions, either of political economy or of common sense, the Ulster tenant-right was a good custom. It seemed to him to be bad for the tenant, who sunk during his tenancy a certain part of his capital, which he could more advantageously employ in the cultivation of his farm; and Bad for the landlord, out of whose pocket, in some way or another, part of this loss must come. But, strange to say, it was equally popular with tenants and landlords, and had been strenuously advocated in "another place" by the Ulster landlords. They attributed to it the good cultivation and prosperity of Ulster, for which view he agreed with the Lord Privy Seal that there was no good reason; but he agreed with them in attributing to it the peaceable character of the Province; for while several of the agrarian outrages, detailed by Sir Matthew Barrington, took place in the Northern counties, from 1760 to 1790, there had been no appearance of them in Ulster since the latter year.
217 A good deal had been said of the absence of any definition of the custom, and the consequent difficulty of enforcing it in a Court of Law. He could not understand this objection. In the part of England with which he was best acquainted a tenant-right for tillages and outlay by the tenants existed, differing in different parts of the country, differing on the same estate, and in one case within his knowledge in different parts of the same parish. All these were enforced by the Courts of Law without any difficulty, and he did not see why any difficulty should be found in doing the same thing with the tenant-right in Ulster. As regarded the Ulster tenant-right, the only change made by the Bill was, that the tenant could enforce in a Court of Law what he invariably received by custom. Proceeding on the same principle, the Bill, rightly too, recognized similar customs which existed in other parts of the country—as in the case of the noble Earl (the Earl of Portsmouth), who spoke on Tuesday, on whose estates, in the county of Wexford, the Ulster custom had been established, with the addition, he believed, of a lease, and where the result had been most satisfactory. But then came the question as to those parts of Ireland where the custom was not so well recognized. The evidence, however, taken before both the Committee of the House of Commons and the Committee held in their Lordships' House, as well as the result of the inquiries made by those gentlemen who had visited Ireland last year, and whose views had been made public in what the noble and learned Lord had truly called the extensive literature on this subject, showed that compensation was given to the outgoing by the incoming tenant on almost every change of tenancy throughout the whole of Ireland. He would not trouble their Lordships by many quotations; but he wished to read a short extract from Mr. George Campbell's book, which stated the whole case very concisely. That gentleman, who had served with great ability in India, and had had considerable experience in similar customs in India, said—As in the case of Bengal, so in Ireland, the right of the occupier to sell was regulated by the custom of each district. In some districts—namely, those of the North—it had become a regular, well-defined, and generally acknowledged system. The tenant-right sold for large sums. 218 In other districts the right was less defined and less acknowledged; but, so far as I can gather, it everywhere, more or less, prevailed—i.e., the outgoing tenant generally got something from the incoming tenant, which the people considered to be the purchase-money, however the landlord might view it.The Bill proposed to recognize this custom, and to enforce from the landlord, on evicting a tenant, the sort of payment which the tenant would have, by custom, received from any successor to his tenancy; but restrained within certain limits. He did not think the amount of compensation proposed to be given was excessive. It was not more than was not uncommonly given by good landlords in the South of Ireland. Even as regarded the estates under the management of the Court of Chancery, it appeared, from Mr. Fitzgibbon's book, himself a Master in Chancery, that the substitution of a new tenant by the outgoing tenant was commonly allowed; and frequently, in addition to forgiving the arrears of rent, they contributed a sum towards the expense of the passage of the outgoing tenant to America. He observed, too, that in the Bill which had been laid on the Table by the noble Earl (Earl Longford) opposite, the amount of compensation to be paid to the lower class of tenants was as high as that contained in the Bill of the Government. Now, this proposal of compensation for eviction had been designated by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) as spoliation; and taking his property from one man and giving it to another. The noble Marquess, however, as well as every noble Lord who had spoken on the other side, approved of recognizing the Ulster tenant-right. A moment's consideration must show them Ulster tenant-right included compensation for disturbance. There was no pretence for saying that it only covered improvements made by the tenant. It had, in some cases, amounted to the value of the fee simple of the land; and it really had the effect of giving compensation to tenants, both for the improvements they made and for disturbance in their holdings. This being so in Ulster, he did not see how those who approved of the Ulster custom could object to the recognition of the same principle in the rest of Ireland. If it was not spoliation in Ulster, it could not be so in Munster and Connaught. If they admitted the pro- 219 priety of giving legislative sanction to the Ulster tenant-right, it could hardly be disputed that it was also right to give similar sanction to similar customs whenever they were found to exist in other parts of the country. That there were such customs, and that they were generally recognized by good landlords, was proved by all the evidence on the subject. The only extent to which a good landlord would be affected by this measure would be, that his tenants would, in future, obtain by right that which they now enjoyed by favour. It was true that this would make a considerable change in the relations between landlords and tenants; but, unless they did effect that change, and gave the outgoing tenant a right to such payment on eviction, the payment could not be enforced against those landlords—few in number, he gladly believed; but whose conduct, as the noble Duke had truly said, kept up the feeling of insecurity and injustice which it was the great object of the Bill to remove. The Times' Special Commissioner in Ireland, writing in reference to the selling of land in small quantities in the Encumbered Estates Court, said that where the tenants became the purchasers the happiest results followed; but when the lands were bought by attorneys and tradesmen from the neighbouring towns, they proved to be the hardest and most grasping landlords that could be imagined. It was indispensable, therefore, to confer as a legal right what had up to the present been admitted as a matter of favour, so as to protect tenants against that class of landlords who bought up estates merely as matters of speculation, and with the intention of making the largest amount of profit possible out of them by any means at their command. It was clear that, unless Parliament gave that right, it would do nothing to give a feeling of security to the tenants in Ireland; and, unless they did that, they might as well abstain altogether from legislating on the subject. With regard to the question of leases for 31 years, he would say nothing now. Leases for 19 and 21 years were thought sufficient in Scotland, and in his opinion a yearly tenancy with good tenant-right was better than either, both for landlords and tenants. The general opinion however in Ireland seemed to be favourable to the 31 years, and he would 220 not run the risk of rendering the Bill unsatisfactory by an alteration in what was, after all, a matter of secondary importance. So far, then, as related to compensation for improvements, and to compensation for disturbance or eviction to existing tenants and to their successors in ordinary course, he approved of the provisions of the Bill, subject of course to such Amendments in Committee as might be found advisable. With regard to the arrangements for the future, he agreed to some extent with the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), who spoke on Tuesday, in his objections to the interference with future contracts. The sound principle was complete freedom of contract. It was a question, however, whether the tenants of Ireland were, as a whole, a class sufficiently independent to obviate the necessity of giving them protection. The Government, reviewing the circumstances generally, were of opinion that protection was necessary. This probably was the case, as to the smaller tenants who constituted the great majority of the body. He thought himself, as indeed the noble Marquess had admitted, that the Legislature had a full right to extend such protection to these tenants. He did not recognize the distinction which the noble and learned Lord had attempted to draw between protection to life and other cases. The prohibition of the truck system seemed to him a complete case in point. Perfect freedom of contract would allow the employer to agree with his workmen to pay partly in money, and partly in goods, and such an arrangement honestly carried out might be for the advantage of both parties. It had been found, however, to lead to so much fraud and oppression that the Legislature had wisely prohibited it altogether. It was a very different question whether the protection was necessary to the extent to which it was proposed to afford it by the Bill. Admitting that it might be essential in the case of the poorest class of tenants, it did not follow that it was expedient to interfere with contracts between tenants of a superior class and their landlords. So long as the holdings were transferred from one tenant to another, the ordinary system of payment for goodwill by the incoming to the outgoing tenant would continue. Suppose, however, that a landlord had paid full compensation to an outgoing tenant, and a future tenant was 221 willing to take the farm without any claim to compensation for goodwill on eviction, he and his landlord could not, according to the provisions of the Bill, agree to do so, though the tenant thought it for his advantage, unless the rent of the farm was above £50 per annum. That being so, the landlord would of course require to be paid, before he admitted the tenant, what would have been paid to an outgoing tenant. The landlord could easily protect himself; but a bad system was compulsorily perpetuated by the Bill. The tenant during his occupancy was deprived of part of the capital which might have been better employed in the cultivation of his farm, and the landlord, during the period of the tenancy, would enjoy the interest of the sum so paid to him. The Bill exempted from that restraint tenants paying above £50 per annum. As it originally stood, it only exempted tenants above £100—which was ridiculous—for of tenants from year to year, and under leases not exceeding 31 years there were, in all Ireland, only about 5,000, and there were but 20,000 of such tenants above £50 per annum. Out of 570,000 tenants, therefore, of that description, only 20,000 could relieve themselves from that restriction. It must be for persons better acquainted with Ireland than himself to say what should be the amount of rent the paying of which would render a man sufficiently independent to be allowed perfect freedom of contract, and whether £50 per annum was the lowest limit of independence. The only other part of the Bill to which he would refer was the purchase of land. He agreed very much on that subject with the observations which had been made by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury). He thought it a source of political weakness to this country that the number of landed proprietors should be gradually diminishing. He could not say that he was very sanguine that the number would, by any legislation, be largely increased in Ireland, when they were diminishing in the richer country. It was stated that a good deal of land had been bought and sold in the Encumbered Estates Court, which afforded many opportunities of purchasing small estates, and the farmers in that country were said—he did not know how truly—to have £15,000,000 or £16,000,000 in the banks. It did not, however, appear that, with the 222 means and opportunities of purchasing, they had availed themselves of this power to any great extent. If, then, this was so, there was little necessity for borrowing from the State; and he confessed that he looked with some alarm upon the plan proposed of lending money to small proprietors to purchase land, though he thought it a far better one than that proposed by Lord Mayo for advancing money for improvements in respect to which there would be no security whatever. There certainly would be ample security in the land purchased under the proposed Bill; but he had great doubts as to this system of State advances. He thought there was danger in the State being the creditor of many of the small proprietors in Ireland. If distress came and they were unable to pay the annuities charged on their estates, it would not add to their loyalty if the Exchequer had to enforce what was dues to it by process of law. If the system worked successfully, if they could create a considerable body of small proprietors whose interest and whose feelings must necessarily be in favour of the administration of the law, and if they could create such a feeling of contentment and satisfaction among the tenantry of Ireland as would dispose them to co-operate in furthering instead of thwarting the ends of justice, we might then—but he feared not till then—dispense with the constant and melancholy recourse to Coercion Acts. He entirely differed from the noble Marquess who spoke on Tuesday evening, as to the effect of relaxations of the old penal system. Every relaxation of the old Penal Laws had been followed by an accession of Irish loyalty to the Throne, and he looked with confidence to the effect of this Bill in enlarging and widening that circle. He did not believe that the present feelings of discontent could be removed for a year or two—perhaps for a generation; but he trusted they were now sowing the seeds of an improved state of feeling, an improved social condition and political attachment to this country in Ireland, of which the younger Members—and he hoped not a few of the older Members—of their Lordships' House would live to see and to reap the harvest.
My Lords, I do not, after the protracted debate which we have already had, intend to trouble your Lordships with many observations; but 223 there are some points upon which I should like to make a few remarks before I assent to the second reading of the Bill. And, first of all, allow me to say that there is a very considerable distinction to be drawn between that part of the Bill which is retrospective, and that which applies to future tenancies. I feel that the discussions of the last few years have proved that the grievances in connection with land in Ireland are of such a pressing character that it is absolutely necessary that they should be redressed as soon as possible. That consideration it is which reconciles me to the passing of this Bill. Though I do not believe that all these grievances are dealt with by the Bill in the best manner, still I am willing to hope that the rules established with respect to existing tenancies may not work so badly as some have anticipated. But I must say that I think it would have been better if a different mode of dealing with even these tenancies had been adopted. The real ground upon which I conceive that the existing tenants are entitled to great consideration when removed from their holdings is, because I believe that there has in many cases, and especially in Ulster, been a virtual and implied, though not a legal contract, between them and their landlords that the tenants should remain in occupation long enough, at all events, to recoup themselves the money paid for the right of occupation. And so, when money has been laid out on improvements—where a landlord has looked on and seen a tenant lay out money in improvements, and did not interfere, he morally bound himself not to disturb the occupation until it had lasted long enough to enable the tenant to recoup himself. There appears to me, therefore, to be a real and substantial contract, though it may not be a legal one, between the two parties. If, therefore, the Bill had proceeded on the principle of recognizing these implied contracts as valid—if, providing some mode of inquiry where existing tenants were disturbed, into the value of their equitable claims, it had awarded them full and liberal compensation—I think that would have been a far wiser and juster mode of proceeding than that which has been adopted, of laying down arbitrary and capricious rules applicable to all cases, by which in some cases the tenant would get too little and in others 224 too much. Resting the cases of existing tenants on implied contract, I cannot but think liberal compensation might have been awarded to them without the slightest shock to the rights of property, or the slightest risk of establishing dangerous principles for the future. Leaving that point, however, I desire to call your attention to the provisions of the Bill with respect to tenancies hereafter to be created. Upon that question it appears to me that those who have gone through the evidence given before the various Committees of Parliament, can hardly fail to come to the conclusion that a great part of the difficulties of Ireland have arisen from the fact that the tenants have equitable rights which they cannot enforce, and that this is attributable in no small degree to the defects of the Law of Contract, which makes it difficult, if not altogether impossible, for the parties to enter into contracts of the kind most desirable. True, a very large proportion of the holdings in Ireland are now held under agreements from year to year; but that has not always been the case. Not more than two or three generations ago the greater part of the holdings were held under leases of quite sufficient duration to exempt tenants from the large proportion of the evils from which they are now suffering. Considering the unfortunate state of the Law of Contract, I think it speaks very highly of the fairness of the great body of the Irish landlords, and also of the great body of the Irish tenants, that there have been so few disputes, and that they have not been much more serious than they have been. Why has this been changed? It seems to me, partly in consequence of the indirect operation of the laws relating to other matters, and especially to Parliamentary elections; but chiefly from the fact that the law of Ireland regarding contracts for land is at this moment in a most thoroughly unsatisfactory state. It, therefore, appears to me that the very first object to be effected in improving the law is to give facilities to parties to make contracts of a fair and reasonable character, and without expense or difficulty. This was the object of the Bill introduced last year, by the noble Marquess on the Cross Benches (the Marquess of Clanricarde), and, if passed, it would have provided a cheap and easy mode of recording such agreements, and of 225 enforcing them, and would also have given every inducement to the landlords to grant leases on advantageous terms. These are improvements required above all things in Ireland, and with respect to them the present Bill is a perfect blank. It attempts to remove some of the evils resulting from the present Law of Contract as it affects existing tenants; but it offers no facilities to parties to make agreements according to their interests for the future. On the contrary, it subjects the power of landlords and tenants to make contracts with each other to new and onerous restrictions of the most complicated character, and calculated to lead to litigation. It attempts to guard the tenant against abuses of power not by aiding parties to enter into arrangements with facility, but by laying down certain arbitrary regulations to prevent those abuses which, it seems to be assumed, that every Irish landlord is habitually guilty of. It has been stated by the Prime Minister that "freedom of contract is the foundation of every wholesome state of society;" yet the present Bill proceeds on the very opposite principle. This is defended on the ground that the condition of Ireland requires exceptional legislation; and it is said that this necessity for exceptional legislation arises from the excessive competition for land, and the dearth of employment other than agricultural in Ireland; that the landlord has practically the power of exacting any terms he may think fit, and the occupier, if he be turned out of his holding, has—as has been repeatedly stated in this debate—no alternative but the workhouse and America. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) the other evening, and the noble and learned Lord to-night have shown the extreme danger of saying that this was good ground for interfering with the acknowledged rights of property. For my part, I totally deny the correctness of the statement, and also the inference that if these facts were true the exceptional legislation would be calculated to correct it. No doubt there is intense competition for the land in Ireland; but all who have been in Ireland concur in saying that the Irish peasant is exceedingly shrewd and exceedingly hard in driving a bargain with his landlord, and that it is not very easy to get him to consent to unreasonable terms. And that he is not very 226 unsucessful is proved by what was stated by the noble Earl (Earl Granville), that the average rent of land in Ireland was, in proportion to its value, lower than in any other country in Europe. With regard to the allegation of the dearth of employment in Ireland, I would remind your Lordships that the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns), who has made such an admirable criticism on the Bill, has stated most truly that the evidence was undoubted that, at the present moment, a man of character and industry can support himself by independent labour even in the South of Ireland. No doubt there are fewer branches of industry than we could desire; but it is unquestionably not the case that there is the scarcity of employment in Ireland which is asserted. But, granting that the allegations as to the deficiency of employment for labour and as to the excessive competition for land were correct, I contend that a law such as that which you are asked to pass will increase the competition for land, and will be of no benefit whatever to the labourers. You may, no doubt, by passing a Bill of this kind, do something for the actual tenant; though I am perfectly convinced that in the long run even these persons will not find themselves much affected by the change you propose; but, at all events, with regard to the future you do nothing of any value. In fact, in passing a law of the kind now proposed, you are reverting to the old and exploded principle which led to the passing of the law to prevent usury. As the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) showed you the other night, the provisions of that law were always evaded, and the only effect of the enactment was to make the borrower pay more for the money he required. In like manner, the laws which sought to make food cheap by forbidding the forestalling of grain were found to produce the precisely opposite effect. No man can doubt that all real improvement in the general condition of the people of Ireland must be effected by increasing the productiveness of the land and the means of employment for the people. Now, it is acknowledged that the agriculture of Ireland is in a most backward state, and calculations have even been brought forward to show that a given amount of labour applied to the soil of Ireland does not produce more than a fourth or 227 fifth of what it produces in England. I cannot believe the difference to be so great, but it is certain that it is very large. It is also certain that the failure of agriculture to yield a proper return is the fault of the inhabitants of the country rather than of the soil or the climate; for, although it has been argued that the soil and climate are not fitted for the production of corn, this is only true with respect to parts of Ireland and applies chiefly to wheat, other kinds of grain and other crops Ireland can produce so well as to insure large returns. With respect to the Irish population I am, and have always been, altogether incredulous as to their being indolent by nature, for I have observed that Irish labourers in this country often show very great industry, and I rather ascribe the unproductiveness of Irish labour to want of skill, and ignorance of the people. Instruction is what they want, and this they have been gradually gaining; for some years past improvements have been going on in Ireland, which have raised the agriculture of that country much above the low point at which it was not very long ago, and a still further advance seems to be promised. And it is an important fact that the improvement that has now been going on for some years in Ireland has been most conspicuous on those estates which are owned by enlightened landlords and managed by able agents, who direct and encourage the people to adopt improved systems of cultivation. On estates where the tenants have been left to themselves, they have in general blindly followed their old traditional and ignorant customs, and have tilled the soil according to the wont of their forefathers. If these things are so, is it not obvious that a law which directly tends to deprive the landlord of a fair power of dealing with the land according to his own judgment, and which prevents him making contracts with his tenants according to what will be best for their mutual interests, must tend to discourage improvement? Attempts have been made by some enterprizing landowners to effect improvements on their estates; they have overcome the difficulties that they had to encounter, and successful results have been achieved by their efforts; but the power possessed by such landlords will be entirely destroyed by the clauses of this Bill, owing to the extent to which it interferes with 228 the free action of both parties. I very much object to have the time laid down for which a landlord must give a lease. In Scotland and in the North of England it is held that leases of 19 and 21 years are the best that can be selected. It is thought that if a lease were granted for a longer term the tenant would cease to feel any interest as to a renewal, and there would be no stimulus to exertion to improve the holding; but the great inducement of the landlord is that, having the choice of a tenant on whose character he can depend, and knowing that he will have full possession of the land at a definite period, he trusts that the tenant will so improve the land that at the end of the term he may let it for a higher rent, and generally that expectation is not disappointed It is under that system that the fields now in such high cultivation, and covered with magnificent crops, which are the pride of my own county, have been converted almost since the commencement of the present century to what they are from having been, in many cases, unclothed, and unimproved common. But in this Bill you absolutely prohibit the landlord and tenant, however much they may desire it, from entering into such arrangements, which have been proved by experience to be so successful.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, that agreements were only prohibited between landlords and tenants whose holdings were valued at less than £50.
But how large a portion of Ireland does that provision include? In confining liberty of action to large farms, there is great danger of giving an unnatural and artificial stimulus to the process of consolidation. And although I have no doubt it is for the interest of Ireland that small holdings should gradually be got rid of, and that the farms should be made of sufficient size to give occupation to men of intelligent and cultivated minds; what I object to is that you interfere artificially with the natural progress of society, and with those processes which will induce men to occupy land in that manner which is most for their own advantage. You introduce a new system of arbitrary restriction, which is sure to defeat itself; and one of the great dangers of which is the tendency to promote litigation. This Bill is founded upon the principle of endeavouring to perpetuate the Ulster cus- 229 torn without defining what that custom is. Those who listened to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster's explanations of the Ulster tenant-right will admit, I think, that it is a very questionable system. You say that you cannot define the Ulster custom in the Act because it is impalpable—it varies so that you cannot grasp it, and, therefore, that any attempt to define it must fail. On this ground it is proposed that Parliament should throw on 33 Assistant Barristers in Ireland the duty of defining a right which it is entirely unable to define itself. Can there be anything better adapted than that to increase litigation and bring parties whose relations they desire to improve into a position of mutual hostility? Moreover, when you consider the nature of the Courts to which those questions, so deeply interesting to the population, are to be referred for decision, the prospect is most alarming. In dealing with those cases the Assistant Barristers will be exposed to intimidation and other kinds of undue influence, and the most mischievous results will ensue. Again, by this legislation, while you wish to diminish the excessive competition for land, you are directly encouraging those notions in the minds of the Irish people which make them look to the cultivation of the soil as their sole means of support, and you grant them exceptional legislation because they say that unless you give them land they must starve, or go to the poor-house, or to America. While you want to diminish excessive competition for land, you establish regulations which directly tend to encourage these notions in the minds of the people, and to make them look forward still more to the cultivation of the soil as their sole means of support. That is dangerous as regards the present, and still more dangerous as regards the future; and I fear that under the operation of these clauses you may produce a relapse into the condition of things which culminated in the horrors of the famine of 1847, when the land of Ireland was occupied by a population in immense excess of that which could be maintained in comfort by the land they cultivated. In spite of these opinions, however, I think your Lordships have no alternative but to agree to the second reading of this Bill, throwing the responsibility on the Government. You have no prospect, if you reject this Bill, 230 that a better measure would be passed; and the disappointment of the expectations that have been raised on this subject in Ireland would have a most fearful effect. I am the more reconciled to the second reading of the Bill, because, while I regard as its most dangerous part that which relates to future tenancies, the passing of the measure will not tie our hands in regard to the establishment hereafter of freedom of contract between landlord and tenant in Ireland. Indeed, the Government themselves have recognized the insufficient manner in which that subject is dealt with in the Bill; and, therefore, the effect of your present legislation in respect to the future may be corrected by wiser measures hereafter. We may trust that it will not be long before Parliament will be called upon to adopt sounder and more wholesome principles with reference to future tenancies; and in that hope, although I think the manner in which the grievances of existing tenants are sought to be remedied by the Bill is rough and imperfect, I am prepared to accept the second reading of the Bill.
§ LORD ATHLUMNEY
My Lords, I am not willing that a debate on a subject so important to the country with which I am more immediately connected should come to a close without saying a few words. The noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies and other Peers have been pleased to allude to the part I have taken in years past on this question; but public opinion with reference to it has advanced since then with rapid strides. Principles which 20 years ago would almost have been thought revolutionary are now accepted as a matter of course; and it would be an idle waste of time for me to go back and trace in detail the history of the various previous attempts made at legislation on this subject. I have always taken the liveliest interest in the question, because it is one that has excited the fears, the hopes, and, I may say, the passions of Ireland; and even so late as last Session I was associated with a noble Marquess on the Cross Benches (the Marquess of Clanricarde), in submitting to your Lordships' consideration a Bill upon it which was drawn up with great care, and, as many of your Lordships knew, with great skill, and which would have afforded an effectual remedy for many existing evils. But when that Bill stood 231 for Committee, the noble Earl (Earl Granville), speaking on behalf of the Government, said that, though many of its provisions were excellent and well-considered, yet under the existing circumstances of Ireland, and in the position in which that question then stood, those provisions did not go far enough. My Lords, in a question of this kind there is no retreat. Once you have taken a step you must go forward; you cannot remain where you are. I saw, after the declaration of the noble Earl, that it would be useless to proceed further with that Bill. But having said in my place that it was better not to proceed with it, and to leave the entire responsibility with the Government, I ventured to press my noble Friend (Earl Granville) for a declaration that he would not be a party to any measure subversive of the rights of property; and my noble Friend gave that pledge. Bound up as I am with the interests of Ireland, your Lordships might suppose with what anxiety I awaited the Bill promised by the Prime Minister in the other House. As soon as the Bill appeared I studied it most diligently, and I feel bound to say that I found nothing in it which raised my apprehension or alarm, and I am quite satisfied that its operation will not be subversive of the rights of property. I accept the principle of the Bill, and I consider that there is nothing in it which a just, humane, or kindly-meaning proprietor in Ireland, such as I am happy to say the great majority of the Irish proprietors are, would not cheerfully accept. I have been struck in the course of this debate by the fact that it has been conducted with a total absence of party feeling. I am glad of that, because I believe from that circumstance that if it can be shown that there is any portion of the Bill which would work injustice, or which might require amendment, the suggestions which may be made will be considered in a proper spirit. I will not go through the different provisions of the Bill. I will only say that though defects have been pointed out, yet not a single noble Lord, with one exception, has said that he would do otherwise than vote for the second reading. Under these circumstances, am I to be the one to take upon myself the responsibility of remitting this question to another winter's agitation? And if anything that I, as an Irish proprietor who wishes well 232 to his class, can say will have any effect on any noble Lord on the other side, I would humbly urge the necessity of giving this Bill a second reading, and not to throw this question once more into the seething cauldron of Irish politics. The noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond) has taunted the Government with this—that their Irish Church Bill, which was to have produced such peace and happiness in Ireland, is a failure. The man who expects that peace and happiness can be produced immediately from any measure, whether connected with the Church, the land, or education, would be insane. We must wait for the progress of events. We have offered this Bill to the people of Ireland in a kindly, friendly, and conciliatory spirit, and you may depend upon it it will not be thrown away. You may depend upon it that a measure offered in such a spirit will produce its due reward. I was sorry to hear the noble Duke opposite talk of the Bill in a purely economic spirit. The noble Duke talked of Scotland and England, and asked, why not apply the same principles as were acted upon in these countries to Ireland? But this Irish land question is more than an economic question. I have always so considered it, and have acted upon that conviction. If I may be permitted to allude to anything personal in a debate of this kind, I would say that I know the system which I have pursued on my own estate, and which has descended from father to son, and from generation to generation, economically speaking, would be condemned in England and Scotland. But that is not the question. If I were to alter it, my tenantry would say—"Why so? Here is a system that has gone on from father to son, from generation to generation, and we have all been happy and contented under it. Why this change?" I hope my tenantry will not think that I would do anything that would be unjust; but their suspicions might be roused, and for no economic advantage that any House of Parliament could confer would I lose that kindly, friendly, sympathetic feeling that so long has existed between my tenants and myself. There are some points in the Bill which are open to improvement; but upon those I will not enlarge. One of the main objects of the Bill is to protect the smaller tenants. There are, however, some provisions in it as to 233 which I doubt very much whether they will have the desired effect, and if in Committee it should be shown that they will rather promote the eviction of the smaller tenants, I hope the Government will be prepared to amend them. I will not detain your Lordships much longer: there is, however, one point upon which I will say a word. Your Lordships have heard in one or two instances, what I will not call prophecies but surmises, as to the mode in which the landlords of Ireland will act when this measure becomes law. For my part, I believe that the landlords of Ireland will behave under the provisions of the Bill as the great majority of them behave at present—with kindness and forbearance; and if that is the spirit in which the Bill is carried out, I augur from it the very happiest results. If I could only see peace restored to Ireland; if I could only see a better state of things prevail, I should think such a result cheaply purchased at the price of any concession. Indeed, were I called upon to make sacrifices ten times greater I would most cheerfully acquiesce, if by so doing I could contribute in the slightest degree to the restoration of peace and order—for without peace and order all our endeavours to promote the prosperity of the country or to further the progress of agriculture would be made in vain. For these reasons I shall support the second reading of this Bill.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, it is not my intention to trouble your Lordships for more than a few minutes, and I ought, perhaps, to apologize for troubling you at all, for I will frankly acknowledge that a great part of the arguments that I had intended to address to you have been anticipated by my noble and learned Friend (Lord Cairns) in the able and powerful speech which he has addressed to you on the subject this evening. I am not going to waste your Lordships' time by repeating with less authority and less force that which you have already heard from my noble and learned Friend; but as the views which I hold upon this great Irish land question—though perhaps unpopular, are decided—are views which have not been recently formed nor likely to be lightly abandoned, I am anxious that the Bill should not go to a second reading without my having an opportunity of explaining why I am prepared to ac- 234 quiesce, so far as its general principles are concerned, in a measure which contains several provisions I cannot approve. In what I am about to say, I shall refer almost exclusively to that part of the Bill which refers to disturbance of holdings. Now, my Lords, with regard to the compensation to be given to the tenant for improvements made by him, I think the general principle is accepted by both sides of the House. If there be any difference at all, it is a difference solely with regard to the scale of payment, which may be altered in Committee. I say further, speaking of the South of Ireland, I cannot help expressing my belief that the practical importance of this question of compensation for improvements effected by the tenants has been enormously overrated. The theory which, has been propounded, that all the improvements made upon Irish estates have been made by the tenants, is one which I do not believe to be at all justified by the facts. As far as my experience goes, in the South of Ireland it is ludicrous to speak of any improvements at all having been made by the small cottier tenants; almost all the improvements have been made by the landlords, and as a general rule the landlords in that part of the country would be very well pleased if they could in every instance get the material only back. Then, I do not propose to enter upon the question of those provisions which are ostensibly made for the purpose of enabling the tenant, with the aid of the Government, to become the purchaser of his holding. I have some doubt as to whether this is a wise policy to adopt; but I do not object to it for two reasons—one is, that the objections to it on economical, on moral, and on political grounds have been powerfully set forth by a Member of the present Government; and the other is, that the sum which the Government proposes to apportion to this object is so ludicrously small that I cannot believe the proposition is one put forward with any serious intention of carrying it into execution. It looks rather as if this scheme had been put into the Bill to save somebody's honour and to satisfy somebody's feelings, and as if it were the result of a compromise arrived at on the other side of the House, by which the scheme was to figure as part of the Ministerial Bill, and yet would, on the other hand, be on 235 so small a scale that if it did not do any good, it could, at any rate, not do any considerable amount of harm. If you really mean to create a large number of peasant-proprietors—if you really mean to afford assistance wherever the landlord is willing to sell and the tenant is willing to buy, you will require not £1,000,000, but £50,000,000, £60,000,000, or even£100,000,000. Now I come to what is the real and novel principle in the Bill, and that is, the compensation granted to a tenant for a term of years for disturbance of his occupation. And I cannot help being struck with the fact that both in this House and "elsewhere" those who have dealt with this subject on the Ministeral side have given us no argument at all to show on what legal or equitable grounds they consider this principle ought to rest. It cannot be on the ground of improvements, for they are dealt with under a separate clause. It cannot be on the ground of legal right, for no legal right has been attempted to be shown. I do not say that the principle is not defensible; but the only ground upon which it is defended is, that in Ireland so far is the class of landlords from being harsh and cruel in the manner in which they have dealt with their property, their chief fault has been the culpable laxity and carelessness with which they have treated their tenantry. They have not exercised proper discipline, and by their easiness and laxity in enforcing their rights they have allowed a race of tenants to grow up around them, who entertain a vague and not easily to be defined feeling that they have in some sense a right to perpetuity of tenure. There is another ground which I fear is less creditable to the tenants—that, as a rule, they are so helpless and unhandy, so little used to help themselves, that if they are put out of their farms it is not easy to find any other employment for them. It is only on these two grounds, as I conceive, that any claim for compensation on disturbance can be allowed. I agree with the reasoning of the noble and learned Lord who opened the debate to-night (Lord Cairns), who said that this Bill did no injury to the good landlord, for he was in the habit of allowing his tenants all that this Bill claims for them. But I agree with him, too, that there is a wide difference between conferring benefits through kind and liberal considerations, 236 and having them enforced by Act of Parliament. Private charity is one thing, Poor Law relief is another. But, my Lords, what is meant by kindness? There is much apparent kindness that is not kindness in reality. If I were asked which class of landlords had done most harm in the country—those who have dealt sharply, and it may be harshly, with their tenants, and have reduced their numbers, and those who, by their easiness, have allowed any number to multiply on their estates till they became like rabbit warrens—I should say that the misjudged kindness of the one had caused much the greater mischief in the country. Then, I confess, the objection I feel is more to the principle of the Bill than its actual operation. I do not see any escape from the argument of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), who said the other night that if you were to compensate a man for being turned out of his holding, because he had no refuge except to go to America, the same argument would apply to the case of every labourer or artizan who was employed at the will and pleasure of another. Some years ago, when there was a sudden cessation of work, it was proposed that manufacturers closing their works, without full justification, should be liable to compensate those whom they thus deprived of their daily work. At the time, I thought this one of those wild and extravagant propositions which sometimes appear in the writings and speeches of men fond of treating social subjects in a speculative manner. But I begin to take a different view, and I am afraid I shall have considerable difficulty in evading the precedent now proposed to be set. Well, my Lords, admitting, as I do, that to some extent, in regard to this question, we are pressed upon by a force of circumstances which we cannot resist, I turn from the unpleasant topic of having to acquiesce in a principle which I cannot approve, and I come to the more immediately practical part of the question—what will be the probable result of adopting this principle? I must say, plainly and freely, although it may be, and I dare say is, a very unpopular declaration, especially in Ireland—that if I believed the object—I will not say of this Bill, I will not say of the Government, for I do not know what their object is; but if I believed the object of those who support this Bill in Ireland 237 was likely to be realized—if I believed that the effect of this legislation would be the placing upon the Irish soil in perpetuity of the present small holders—men who occupy six, eight, 10, 12, or 15 acres of land, which they have not capital, skill, or, in many cases, physical strength to cultivate—if I thought the effect of this Bill would be to perpetuate such a class in Ireland—I hardly know any consideration of prudence, of expediency, or of public policy, which would induce me to refrain from opposing a measure which, I believe, would be one of such unmitigated evil. Now, let us consider what is the position of these very small holders. Of course, there are exceptions, for there are everywhere men who rise above their class; I am saying nothing against them personally, for they do the best they can; but, as a class, it will not be denied that they are unimproving, and I believe that their circumstances make them unimprovable. In good seasons they can just scramble on and pay their way; in bad seasons they are in difficulties; and if there comes a general failure of the potato crop, on which I am afraid they still to a very considerable extent rely, they find themselves exactly in the position in which the whole agricultural population of Ireland was in the famine years of 1847–8. Their holdings do not give them the means of support; they have no prospect of raising their children to a better position than their own; and, that being the case, how can you wonder that, as a class, they are socially and politically discontented? I say that there is no hope of permanently disposing of the agricultural difficulty in Ireland—there is no hope of placing Ireland, in regard to agricultural matters, upon the same footing as that upon which England and Scotland are now—excepting by getting rid, in a gradual, gentle, kindly, but yet effectual, way of that class of infinitely minute holders, and consolidating the farms until you create holdings of such extent as to give the occupiers a reasonable prospect of comfortable subsistence. This is often misunderstood on this side of the water, because, in talking of large and small farms, we are apt to forget that large and small are relative terms. It is not a question of farms of 1,000 or 500 acres against farms of 100 acres; but it is a question of holdings extending to 100 or 50 acres, against other holdings of 20, 238 15, or 10. If I could really believe that this Bill would hinder the process that has been going on, sometimes more rapidly, sometimes more slowly, for many years—I mean the process of consolidating these small holdings—I say, again, that I would oppose it at any cost. But I do not believe, on the whole, that that will be its work. I do not think that it will give to the one class what they hope for, or that it will inflict upon the other what they fear. It will not give the undisturbed possession which is the dream of tenants; and, whatever we may say against the principle, I do not think it would operate as harshly upon the landlords as many people are inclined to think. I know this was not my first impression, nor do I think it would be that of anybody else, and therefore I may be allowed to explain why I think these results I have indicated would follow. In the first place, you are going by your act to place a premium—a high premium—upon the consolidation of small holdings into farms of a rental of upwards of £100 a year; and the owner of an estate who has foresight enough to evict his small tenantry and consolidate their holdings into farms of that size is entirely free from all restrictions, litigation, or annoyance which may be inflicted under any of the clauses of the Act. I may just notice, in passing, that it is not very consistent with your policy of protecting small farmers that you have given the most effective retrospective justification to those who in their own interest clear out their estate by evictions on a large scale. The freedom from restriction to which I have just referred is one strong ground for consolidating farms; but there is another. Looking at the graduated scale of compensation proposed, it is clearly an unbalanced gain to any landlord to throw two 10-acre farms into one of 20 acres, or three of 20 acres each into one of 60, because of the possibility of his finding himself under the necessity, or of his conceiving it to be to his interest, to remove the existing tenants. He would have very much less compensation to pay for one large farm than for the two or three small ones, and that would be a powerful stimulant to consolidation operating steadily from I year to year. This being my opinion in reference to large as opposed to small farms, and as to the way in which the Bill would work, I must say that the 239 tendency of the measure is, in that respect, in the right direction; but I venture to think that those innocent persons who in Ireland conceive that the object and the result of this measure will be to create a small cottier tenantry throughout the country, will find themselves considerably disappointed before the end of this legislation is seen. By the operation of this same principle of increased compensation to the smallest holders, and no compensation at all to the tenants of holdings above a certain size, you are making it absolutely penal—and I use the words advisedly—upon landlords to spare any small tenant who may be unfortunate enough to fall into arrears with his rent; because, if he is obliged upon that ground to give up his holding, the landlord re-enters without any compensation to pay, and he thereby frees his estate from heavy contingent liabilities; but if he allows that opportunity to slip by, he finds himself again saddled with the necessity to pay compensation from which, if he had taken the opportunity, he would have found himself relieved. If you want to establish thoroughly cordial relations between landlords and tenants, and if you wish the stock phrase at agricultural show dinners to come true by making landlords and tenants believe their interests to be one, I do not think the best way to accomplish that end will be to inaugurate a state of things under which, so far as pecuniary interest goes, the landowner is advantaged by the bankruptcy of all his small tenants. The landlord would lose one, or perhaps two, years' rent by such a contingency; but he would be free to remodel his estate, and when his farms were reduced in number and brought up to the requisite size, he would be free for evermore from the liability to pay compensation. There is another point of view to which I do not think attention has been drawn, and with respect to which I entertain a strong feeling—and that is that the moral effect of fixing, as you propose to do, a strict pecuniary value of a tenant's claim will be exceedingly important; and I am very much mistaken if it does not operate in a direction exceedingly different from that which you anticipate. The question stands thus:—Except in some very rare and exceptional instances, when some clear and indisputable ground for such action on the part of the landlords can be shown, there is no denying that 240 the removal from his holding of a tenant who pays his rent steadily and does not misconduct himself, is in Ireland generally considered as a harsh and summary proceeding. I do not say whether that idea is just or not, but the fact is so. Long custom has created a kind of vague expectation in the minds of tenants of a permanent tenure, and anyone who breaks through that expectation is generally considered to have done something of which the tenant has a fair cause to complain. The state of the law as regards eviction has been that there has been a total absence of legal restraint upon the landowner; but that absence has called into existence a strong and cogent moral restraint. My belief is that this moral restraint will be wholly lost under the operation of this Bill. The Legislature has undertaken to fix the pecuniary value of the tenant's interest in the land, by a scale carefully adjusted—a scale we shall have to deal with by-and-by; but if the Bill with that scale—or with the scale altered, for scale of some kind there must be—passes both Houses, you will have a solemn declaration by the Legislature of what, in their judgment, is the maximum of the tenant's interest in the land. When that maximum is fixed, it is perfectly clear that hereafter there will be no shadow of injustice, or harshness, or iniquity—or any of those big words that have been so freely used when this subject was discussed—if in the future the landlords of Ireland exercise the right which the Legislature will have given them, and upon the terms it has itself fixed. The Bill is one that is professedly, and, no doubt, sincerely, framed in the interest of the tenant, and there can be no pretence of injustice if the landlord values the tenant's interest as the Legislature has valued it, pays him the money, and says to him—"Now, you may go." The landlord will be able to do that with a perfectly clear conscience as far as justice is concerned, and he will then be able to remodel his estate in such a manner as he may think fit, though it is a thing he would have shrunk from doing under the existing system. I cannot think that, in that respect, the operation of the Bill will be good for Ireland. Allowing 20 years as the average value of land, and allowing five years as probably the average value of the tenant's interest, it appears even with that that the scale is far below the value of land 241 in England. Well, then, unless terrorism interferes—and if men are prevented by intimidation from doing that which both law and justice allow—alas, for the pacification of Ireland! but, if terrorism does not interfere, that may be the result. I am not saying that, after all, the issue will be unmixed evil—I have stated my views on that subject—but you say that retaining small tenants' holdings is the great object of your legislation. Well, then, I say whatever the immediate effect, the ultimate effect will be exactly in an opposite direction. There is another point on which some misapprehension exists. It has been much feared on one side, and much hoped for on the other, that the effect of limiting, by a pecuniary payment, the right of eviction will be to deprive the landowner of his present control over the estate. Now, I do not think, except in the case of a large estate and small holdings, that the control of a landowner will be, in any degree, appreciably diminished. If a small holder, under these circumstances, misconducts himself, if he violates the rules of the estate, and makes himself objectionable in any way, the landlord may, without impropriety, pay him out and have done with him—and, for the reason I have given, he will be able to do so much less unpleasantly than hitherto. Undoubtedly, no proprietor would serve the whole mass of his tenants in that manner; and no proprietor can possibly wish to do so. But, as it is said, a single man armed with a pistol is a match for a crowd, because, although he can only shoot one man, nobody in the crowd knows that that one man may not be himself: so it is with the power of eviction, even as you propose to limit it. It is a protection to the tenantry of an estate as a body; but, to any single tenant, it is no protection at all. No doubt, he gets a solatium for removal; but still, if desired to go, go he must. I have stated briefly—I have tried to state impartially—what seems likely to be the working of this measure, assuming it to be adopted. I do not think that it will produce either the good or the evil that is anticipated from it. The principle I accept for the reasons I have stated. As to the details, there are many points on which objections may be urged; but these can be properly discussed in Committee. But I will venture to say that what is most satisfactory in the measure is that—not 242 so much by what it says as by what it does not say—it practically involves a denial of that curious and fantastic delusion, which appears to have taken hold of some of the agricultural body in Ireland—that, in some vague unexplained way, the land belongs of right, or ought to belong to those who live on it—a claim which is about as reasonable as that of the cook who should assert his right to eat the dinner he has prepared, or the bricklayer to live in the house he has built. That delusion will be finally negatived by this Bill. I am very glad of it; and if any doubt mingles with the satisfaction which I should otherwise feel on the subject, it is only that I hope that those who have introduced this Bill as a final measure will have courage to stick to it as final. I do not like to be a prophet of evil; but I do ask the House not to indulge the delusion that because this Bill, if it passes as it stands, will give a certain degree of satisfaction to a certain class in Ireland, therefore you will see an end of agitation in that country. I am afraid that the trade of dilating upon the grievances of Ireland is far too profitable to be so easily abandoned. I ask you whether the Irish Church would not now have probably been still on its legs but for the Fenian agitation? I will also ask whether this Bill, in its present form, would have been likely to pass through both Houses of Parliament, if it had not been for long-continued agitation, supported by many most unjustifiable acts of violence? It is an unpleasant truth, I know; but it is the truth, and I name it for that reason—that I do not think we can reasonably expect people to give up playing a game which has hitherto been so eminently successful. You have a Press in Ireland that would lose half its circulation if treason ceased to be popular. There are other parties who have achieved immense influence out of the unfriendly relations between landlords and tenants in Ireland, which they would lose if those relations were to become cordial, and it is, therefore, only human nature to anticipate what their future tone will be. For the poverty and discontent existing in Ireland there is only one real remedy—the gradual reduction of holdings; and in the nature of the case that must necessarily be the work of time. But if I thought much worse of the principles of this Bill than I do—and I do not think particularly well of them— 243 I should still feel that I had very strong reason for supporting it. You are going before long to have, in all probability, a fresh agitation in Ireland—one quite as troublesome and violent as any that you have had to deal with in times past. Fenianism, they say, is played out. It may be so. But if Fenianism is gone, you will see, I am afraid, taken up by daring hands, and by a great proportion of the population, the demand for nationality, for self-government, for the repeal of the Union: I do not care by what name they call it; but, whatever its form that is what will be really demanded. When demands of that kind are made upon you—and made I think they will be within the next few years—it is absolutely necessary that they should be met by a decisive and peremptory answer; and in order that it may be decisive, it will be necessary that in England and Scotland men of all ranks, classes, and parties, should concur in giving it. If I may venture to speak as an Irish landlord, I will say that I think we are right in being willing to make large sacrifices not only of doubtful, but even of undoubted rights; not in the vain hope of conciliating those whose interest it is never to be conciliated, but in order to satisfy ourselves and the world that all that legislation can do has been done, that no real grievances remain, and that so we may be able to defend the English Government in Ireland without feeling in our minds a scruple or doubt as to the justice of our policy.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, I should very gladly have given a silent vote upon this question—especially as there is no doubt about the second reading of the Bill—and have left the discussion of the measure to those noble Lords who are more particularly connected with Ireland, but that the declaration of my noble Friend the Colonial Secretary in introducing this Bill, that every Member of the Government had acted upon a deep sense of responsibility in respect of this Bill, makes me feel it to be my duty to state the grounds upon which I have come to the conclusion that this measure is just and necessary in itself; that it interferes unduly with no right of property, and that it is due in justice to the people of Ireland. I approach this question from a very different point of view from that of some noble Lords who have already taken part in this debate. 244 I am connected with that part of the kingdom where agriculture has thriven under an absolutely free system of contract. I value that system in the circumstances under which it exists above everything in the world; but I am satisfied that in the peculiar circumstances of Ireland the system which has succeeded in England and Scotland is not at present applicable, although I trust it will be applied to that country in the course of future years. I would first inquire what is the position of this House in regard to this Bill? We are agreed, it appears, upon the second reading; and my noble Friend who has just sat down has told us he is willing to accept what he conceives to be the principle of the Bill. But he did not himself attempt any definition of that principle; and I am compelled to gather from the diverse speeches of noble Lords opposite what it is they accept and what is the principle to which they object. What are the main admissions which I have heard from the Bench opposite? I have heard a hearty acceptance of two distinct things. First, I have heard the acceptance of the principle of retrospective compensation. I would ask noble Lords who passed so lightly over that, as a principle which is to be accepted without discussion or doubt, if they had defined to themselves and others what is involved in it? Do you not know that it is a principle which you have resisted to the death? ["No, no!"] I am speaking of Parliament, and not of men or parties. Has not the principle of retrospective compensation for improvements been resisted by Parliament up to the present Session, and especially by your Lordships' House? In 1854 a Bill was passed by the other House containing that principle; but I believe it was afterwards rejected by this House. And there is no question that the principle of retrospective compensation involves, in a strictly legal sense, a great encroachment on the rights of property. Precisely the same arguments might be used against it, which the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns) was occupied for nearly an hour in raising with regard to compensation for disturbance of occupation. Edmund Burke said—I call that the right of property which every man has a right and reason to expect to be his by the laws of his country during his own life, and many previous generations.Apply that to the case of landlords in Ireland who have bought property in 245 the Encumbered Estates Court. They have bought their land under the laws of the country and under a Parliamentary guarantee, and with the land the improvements which their tenants had made upon it: and yet by retrospective compensation their property in the improvement so purchased under the guarantee of an Act of Parliament is confiscated. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns), in order to frighten noble Lords behind him, said—"If I am compelled to submit to this principle of compensation for occupation I shall do it with my eyes open, and declare that I know I am interfering with the rights of property." But the same might be said of retrospective compensation. But not only have noble Lords opposite failed to draw the proper inference from this proposition, but they have not fully treated another great concession which, I rejoice to find, they are willing to make—that is, the legalization of Ulster tenant-right. Have noble Lords opposite considered what that means? Possibly the noble and learned Lord may get out of it by saying that the customs of a country are part of its laws; but he cut the ground from under his feet by affirming, in the course of his able speech, that the Ulster custom had none of the incidence of a legal custom. In that case to legalize the custom would be to impose a burden upon property in the North of Ireland which it has not hitherto borne by force of law. In the words of Mr. Campbell, my distinguished friend the Chief Commissioner of the Central Province of India, who has written a very able book upon Irish land, from much of which I totally dissent—the noble and learned Lord will transfer from one to another that which belongs to the property of one. The noble Earl who last spoke (the Earl of Derby) approved of the legislation of the Ulster custom, yet he objected to another part of the Bill, which obliges landlords to pay what they had hitherto given only in accordance with custom and good will. Does not the noble Lord know that the Ulster tenant-right is not only compensation for improvements, but in a very large degree gives compensation for disturbance pure and simple? But the noble and learned Lord, who assents to the Ulster custom, protests violently against the 3rd clause of the Bill, which gives compensation to tenants out of Ulster on precisely the 246 same grounds as to tenants in Ulster. What, then, is the common sense or the policy of legislation which will legalize such a custom in Ulster, where there is no discontent, and will not allow persons to be compensated for disturbance of occupation in the rest of Ireland, where there prevails the discontent in consequence of which we are called upon to legislate? Does the noble and learned Lord really mean to say, as a Member of your Lordships' House and as a statesman, that he is prepared to admit the necessity for legislation on the land question in Ireland, and yet will exclude from compensation all the Provinces where discontent exists? It is a reductio ad absurdum. My noble and learned Friend said he had never heard any justification of the 3rd clause. That seems to be a strange complaint after the full statement of my noble Friend who introduced this Bill, as to the propriety of protecting the smaller tenantry in Ireland; and which was so fully accepted by the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) who made so fair a speech on the occasion. The noble and learned Lord objected to compensation on account of disturbance as a gross violation of the rights of property; but how is that consistent with the admission of the noble Duke? There is another ground upon which I would claim protection for the smaller tenantry not in Ulster only, but out of Ulster. It is perfectly true that out of Ulster the customs are in a ruder state; but there is ample evidence that those customs exist over all Ireland not exactly in the Ulster form, but in a form that has acquired a certain amount of permanence and consistency. Frequently, it is in the form of bequests made by tenants on their death-beds with the full knowledge of the agents of the estates. That is of itself sufficient to show that the people, at all events, entertain at least an expectancy of occupation. I remember a speech made in this House by the late Lord Derby, in which that noble Earl said he had found in the Reports of the Poor Law Inspectors passages which were astonishing and absurd to the ears of English or Scotch proprietors, and hardly credible to them, and yet familiar to all owners of property in Ireland. Mr. Hamilton said, with respect to the South of Ireland—Tenants frequently, by will or agreement (in the nature of marriage articles), charge their 247 farms with portions for their widows and younger children, irrespective of their tenure. It is a common practice. In some instances such charges are very considerable, and cripple the successor; but, as a rule, they are rigidly carried out. Though such arrangements are sometimes detrimental to properties, they are very rarely interfered with. Indeed, it is, I believe, more common for the landlord and agent to assist and advise than to throw any obstacles in the way, provided the farm be not subdivided.With such evidence as that before you, your Lordships must feel that both inside and outside of Ulster a custom has grown up by means of which tenants have by their landlords been encouraged to look forward to continued occupancy. You must therefore, in some degree, give some security to this expectancy, outside as well as inside Ulster. Briefly, I would say that the principle of our Bill is this—We legalize the Ulster custom, where it can be proved to exist; and where its existence cannot be proved we supply a new rule of compensation containing all the equities of the Ulster custom without its abuses and extravagances. And yet noble Lords opposite base their chief opposition to this part of the measure, because, as they say, it interferes with the rights of property—though, in fact, it gives nothing to tenants out of Ulster but what equity gives to those tenants within Ulster. One noble Lord, indeed, told us that we are about to stereotype this mischievous Ulster custom. Now, I must confess that no one came to the consideration of the land question with greater prejudices against tenant-right than I did, nor did anyone see more clearly the economical objections to which it was exposed; because it looked as if it prevented a large amount of capital, necessary for the cultivation of the farm, being in the hands of those who were alone interested in its proper cultivation—namely, the owners and the occupying tenants. That is the theoretical objection. But, on the other hand, paying full heed to the peculiar circumstances of Ireland—remembering that this tenant-right is the natural growth of the soil of Ulster, whether as a cause or as a consequence of prosperity—remembering also that it is the result of dealings between man and man, who have sought remedies for the evils of the existing law, and remedies for the injustice which that law inflicted upon the tenant—remembering, I say, these things, we felt that political necessity was laid 248 upon us to legalize this custom. I deny, however, that our Bill, while legalizing this oustom, will also stereotype its evils. Nay—as regards the continuance of the custom itself, we have left every natural cause in operation that will lead to the extinction of the custom; and have moreover provided an artificial one, by means of which the landlord will be able to buy up the right, and thus release the estate from its operation. Having said this, let me now refer to the substitute which we provide where there is no Ulster custom. I have already stated that if you legalize the Ulster custom you must also legalize the others. Noble Lords opposite have complained that the scale of compensation which we have provided is extravagant and unreasonable. That, however, I altogether deny. If you will read the evidence taken upon this subject you will find that the tenant-right under the Ulster custom is valued at an average of about £10 per acre. I know, moreover, of one particular estate where the landlord was at great expense for improvements, where six years and a half rental—or within half-a-year of the maximum proposed in cases where the tenant has made all the improvements—was the rule of compensation to every tenant who was removed. Can it be said that that is exorbitant as compared with the Ulster custom? I maintain, with all confidence, that we have taken an eminently Conservative course in resting our Bill upon the great principle of legalizing the Ulster custom. I hold that it is both unwise and unsafe to introduce customs into countries of which they have had no former experience; it is better to legalize those customs which have arisen from the natural operation between man and man. The noble Earl who has just sat down (the Earl of Derby) complains of our increasing the scale of compensation as we go lower down. There is no concealing the fact that by doing this we are adopting a principle of what may be called eleemosynary compensation for poor people. But, besides that, it must be remembered that the principle is embodied in the existing law of Ireland. There is a statute which provides that in certain cases of evictions below £5, the expense of emigration of those evicted is thrown upon the county rates. That is a distinct recognition of the principle that, as regards the smaller class of tenancies, 249 pecuniary compensation ought to be granted. As regards another point, I do not fear that our policy will lead to the consolidation of farms in Ireland; for, although it does not prevent such a course, it offers no temptation to the eviction of the smaller tenants. On the contrary, I believe that the general relations between landlords and tenants will continue as heretofore, and that consolidation will only occur as opportunity allows. One of the main objections which has been urged to the Bill is its interference with the liberty of contract. I wish to direct the attention of the House to the great difference in the operation of this Bill upon existing tenants and those who may become occupiers after the passing of the measure, for I admit that its operation will be very powerful as regards all existing tenants, as it will immediately place them on a higher level in dealing with their landlords. But as regards future tenancies, let me ask what is the extent to which the Bill will interfere with the freedom of contract? The noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) said the other night that he believed the instances were becoming fewer and fewer in which Parliament interfered with the freedom of contract.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, that the tendency was not to interfere except moral and social interests were involved.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
I quite agree that it is only where moral and social interests are concerned that Parliament is inclined to interfere. But can it be said that great social and political questions are not connected with the state of the land question in Ireland? Is not that the whole ground on which we propose to interfere? I am not arguing that Parliament ought to interfere with the freedom of contract. I quite admit that such interferences ought to be exceptional, and that the onus probandi rests upon those who propose such measures. But I venture to maintain that if we are to legislate upon the land of Ireland at all we must admit that there are great social and political considerations connected with the occupation of land in that country, which justify and call for exceptional legislation in respect to contract. Now, my Lords, what I want to ask is this—what is the extent to which we interfere with freedom of 250 contract? There is no compulsion in this Bill compelling Irish landlords to convert tenancies-at-will into leaseholds. There is merely an indication of a particular lease, of which Parliament has approved; but there is no attempt to force it on landlords. And, my Lords, although I myself hold most strongly that a leasehold is the best form of agricultural tenure, because I have seen its happy effects in Scotland, yet I think it would be a great mistake to force leases on the Irish tenantry, who have never been accustomed to them, and who, in many cases, would feel as great and greater security under landlords to whom they have been used than under that lease. What the Bill does is simply to indicate a period of occupancy that will satisfy its provisions. My noble Friend on the Cross Benches (Earl Grey) has actually spoken as if the Bill interfered with the freedom of contract between man and man, and he said—"Look at Scotland, where you have the finest agriculture in the three kingdoms, with only 21 years' leases." What is the course I would take if I was an Irish landlord after the passing of this Bill, and I desired to give a 31 years' lease, or no lease at all? Suppose the man who wanted my farm replied to my inquiries as to what rent he would pay, that he would give me 25s. an acre. I should say—That would have been a fair rent last year; but an Act has been passed by the Legislature which will give you at the expiry of your tenancy a certain charge against me; the tenancy is, therefore, worth more to you than it would have been before, and therefore you must give me a somewhat higher rent for the advantages which will hereafter accompany that particular form of tenure. This would be no evasion of the Act. ["Oh, oh!"] I am speaking of no attempt to evade the clause, but simply of its natural and necessary operation. It is simply this—that a new value has been given to a particular kind of tenancy, and with that I may go into the market. And, therefore, I approve of what the noble Lord said, that one of the effects of this Bill would be to increase the rent in Ireland. If it produces peace in Ireland, there can be no question that it will raise the rent. But when it is said that in that case it would be as broad as it is long, you should remember the political effects.
251 The more economical objection may be brought against the Ulster custom. The tenant, no doubt, gets no more than he gave when he came in; but he goes away a contented man. It is not true to say that the mere discounting of these advantages in the terms of the lease will cause the law to have no effect on the tenantry of Ireland. If a man gets money when he goes away, even though he may have paid the money, he departs a contented and happy man compared to the sullen and mutinous man who has been evicted and gets nothing. I do not wish to weary the House; but I cannot refrain from alluding to certain passages in the speech of my noble Friend (the Earl of Derby), which I heard with great regret—those passages in which he stated that this Bill would put a premium on agitation in Ireland. It is all very well to say that every concession which you have made to Ireland has been a concession made to agitators and a premium on further agitation. But I confess I heard these sentences with great regret, considering what I myself heard from the illustrious father of the noble Earl, speaking on the same spot on which he spoke. It is now 25 years since the late Lord Derby in this House described the evils under which the occupiers of land in Ireland lay as "intolerable evils." I heard him, with my own ears, use this expression, and I have since verified them by looking up the speech. But with this acknowledgment—that the occupiers of land in Ireland were suffering under intolerable grievances—and adding to this that it is an unquestionable fact that Parliament has not removed them, I say, with all respect and admiration for my noble Friend, that it does not come well from the son of the late Lord Derby, who made that declaration in this House and never retracted it, to accuse the Government, which brings forward a Bill to remedy those grievances, with merely making concessions to the agitators of Ireland. And what is the meaning of this assertion, when from that Bench one noble Lord after another has risen in his place and admitted that there evils in Ireland which require to be remedied? Take that most monstrous of all evils—that for many generations the law has declared that all permanent improvements made on the land belonged to the 252 landlord, in a country where the rule is that the improvements are not made by the landlord. ["No, no!"] Can I believe my ears when I hear that denial? What are the documents on which I rely for the statement I have made? My noble Friend talked about improvements as a mere screen for obtaining compensation, not for improvements, but for occupancy. Were the Devon Commissioners great agitators when they set up a claim of this kind? What did they consist of? Of landlords, and landlords only. They asserted that proposition which is now greeted with shouts of "No, no," in the most absolute manner. They said—It is admitted on all hands that, according to the general practice in Ireland, the landlord builds neither dwelling-house nor farm offices, nor puts fences nor gates, &c, in order, whether he leases his land to a tenant or not. The cases in which the landlord does any of these things are the exception.These are the words of the Devon Commission, and I must refuse to be met by an absolute negative, even from Irish landlords. I admit to those Irish landlords that, during the last 20 years, a practice has been growing up of dividing the outlay in certain proportions between the landlord and tenant. But this does not tell against, it makes in favour of our Bill. What is the law of England? It has been held that if in England a landlord lays out part of the money expended on improvements in conjunction with the tenant it is a proof of contract, and gives a tenant a stronger claim for reimbursement than if he laid out all the money himself; for in the one case he might lay it out without the landlord being cognizant of it, whereas the contribution made by the landlord clearly showed that these improvements must have been made with his knowledge and consent. Therefore, the principle of either giving the tenant compensation or granting him a term of occupancy sufficient to recoup him for his improvements, is strengthened rather than weakened by the practice which has grown up in Ireland during the last 20 years. How can you then say this is a premium on agitation, when the late Lord Derby and you yourselves have admitted that there are great wrongs to be remedied? We know that for many generations the rule has prevailed in Ireland that all the improvements belong to the landlord, al- 253 though, to a very large extent, they could be proved to belong to the tenant. Conceive, then, what must be the effect of that contradiction between the law and the facts of the case. It would be bad enough if it had lasted a short time; but when the system has existed for many generations, when father and son have succeeded each other under it, and have effected almost all the improvements, I ask whether such men have not an irresistible claim to fair compensation—a claim as great, or greater, than if you had put in an English or Scotch farmer by free contract? One word with regard to the expectations I have had as to the operation of this measure. I agree entirely with the remark made by a noble Lord behind me, that neither from this Bill nor from the Bill which we passed last Session, have we any right to look for any magical change in the social or political condition of Ireland. The evils of Ireland have arisen from a long series of years of atrocious misgovernment. We have been endeavouring of recent years conscientiously to retrace our steps, and to remove the evils which our legislation has inflicted; but there is a Scotch proverb that "what is bred in the bone will never out of the flesh," and there will be a lapse of time, of longer or shorter duration, during which you will continue to inherit the evils which have come down to you from your ancestors. But I, for one, refuse to believe that there is anything either in the religion or in the race of Ireland which refuses to lend itself to such remedies as we are now proposing to apply. There are Catholic countries in the world with small occupiers who are a contented, a happy, and a loyal people; and there are Celtic races existing under conditions of tenure precisely like the Irish, who are also a perfectly contented, perfectly peaceful, and a perfectly loyal people. I deny that her religion or race condemns Ireland to the monstrous evils under which she has been suffering for so many years; and I have myself a full conviction that when the Irish people are convinced that Parliament are determined to act on equal principles and to acknowledge in Ireland customs which would have been acknowledged years ago in England, giving them the sanction and protection of law, you may laugh to scorn any agitation which 254 might be raised for the repeal of the Union.
THE DUKE OF ABERCORN
My Lords, I wish to discuss this subject on its own merits and without any party spirit; I will not, therefore, follow the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) into the question which party it was that initiated retrospective legislation. I admit that a settlement of the land question in Ireland is absolutely necessary; but, while I fully admit that, I must say that the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government, both previous to and since they came into Office, has been such as to make it a more difficult task than heretofore to satisfy the demands of reasonable men in Ireland. No doubt a Land Bill effecting considerable changes in tenure has become absolutely necessary, and I will proceed to consider the present proposal with the utmost impartiality. Among the main principles of the Bill there is one in which I entirely concur, and that is the principle of discouraging capricious and arbitrary evictions, of making them difficult and expensive, so that, without debarring a landlord from the free exercise of his just rights, it will make eviction what I may call an expensive luxury, not to be undertaken without due consideration and forethought; while you ensure for the tenant that he shall not be cast out unprovided on the world at the mere whim and caprice of his landlord. Looking to the circumstances of the Irish tenantry, to their want of capital, and to the comparative small outlay made by landlords—though of late years they have done much more than formerly, but still much less than is done in England and Scotland—I believe that this principle, if carried out with moderation and with wise and salutary regulations, will not disturb the security of property, though it may affect some of those abstract rights of which, in many cases, the breach is better than the observance. I concur, then, in this principle, because it is one upon which every just and generous landlord acts in the management of his estate, and because it will prevent a harsh landlord from exercising a power which a humane man would shrink from employing; but while concurring in the main principle of the Bill, I believe that the machinery by which it is proposed to be carried out is in many respects objectionable, will, 255 in some cases, fail to bring about a satisfactory conclusion, and in others will lead to disputes and litigation between landlord and tenant; and I am therefore of opinion that many alterations may be introduced into the Bill with advantage. I will divide the consideration of the Bill into two heads—the first, which proposes to legalize the Ulster custom, and the second, which deals with the compensation to be awarded to tenants in the other Provinces of Ireland outside of Ulster. By the Ulster tenant custom I mean that which exists by the mutual consent of landlord and tenant. I have some experience of Ulster tenant-right, and I must say that though in theory it is contrary to all economical principles and commercial maxims, yet in practice it has been the means, if not of creating, yet of assisting to create a race of tenants exceptionally industrious, loyal, and well-conditioned. I cannot agree, however, with the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) that a Bill based on the Ulster customs can be introduced with advantage into other parts of Ireland. There are conditions peculiar to Ulster, and to Ulster tenants, to which the success of the Ulster tenant-right may be in a great degree attributed, and which are wanting in other parts of Ireland. In Ulster there is a race of occupiers generally of the same faith as their landlords, thrifty, industrious, self-denying to a remarkable extent—and there is also another important item in the success of the institution—namely, that the farms are small, averaging from £12 to £60 yearly value, farms of £100 and upwards being comparatively rare. From all these conditions it can be seen how it becomes possible for an incoming tenant who has to pay £300 or £400 for the goodwill, and has denuded himself of a great part of his capital, to become by thrifty industry and self-denial a prosperous and even wealthy man. I am not, therefore, inclined to dissent from legalizing the Ulster custom in a moderate form on estates where it has been allowed. But whatever advantages the Ulster custom may have produced in its relations between landlord and tenant, there is one which I must warn your Lordships not to expect from it—and that is highly improved and scientific farming. So far from that being the tendency of Ulster tenant-right, I consider that its tendency 256 leads to a low and comparatively inferior mode of cultivation. But if in Ulster you cannot have those magnificently cultivated lands described by the noble Duke, with all their display of extensive improvements and scientific agriculture, or those countless herds of cattle which may be seen in countries where the holdings are larger and more wealthy than they by possibility can be under the Ulster custom. You have, as I have already stated, an exceptionally thrifty, loyal, and industrious race, who live in great comfort, are imbued with feelings of the strongest attachment to the Throne, and are on the most friendly relations with their landlords and with their neighbours. Looking, therefore, to these results of the Ulster tenant-right, I cannot dissent from its legalization in a moderate and rational form. Now, as regards the question of compensation, though I am prepared to admit that the principle of compensation ought to be applied to the South as well as to the North of Ireland, I see great difficulties in the equitable application of the principle. There are certain peculiarities connected with the Ulster tenant-right which do not apply in the South of Ireland. In the South of Ireland the tenants do not share the faith of their landlords; the farms are, as a rule, much larger, and the tenants are not so energetic and thrifty. In establishing, therefore, in the South of Ireland a new system, which is said to be based upon the Ulster tenant-right, it will, I think, require very careful legislation to reconcile the difference that exists between the North and South of Ireland. There is no doubt whatever that the compensation made under this Bill by the landlord to the out-going tenant will ultimately have to be paid by the in-coming tenant either in the shape of tenant-right, as was the case in Ulster, in the shape of increased rent, or in the shape of percentage on the amount expended by the landlord. It is very desirable, therefore, that Parliament should not, in a moment of impulsive generosity to the present occupiers of the soil, lay too heavy a burden on those who are to become the future occupiers. The question of compensation is one, therefore, which, in the interests of future tenants, quite as much as in that of the landlord, should be dealt with carefully, and depends 257 for its success upon our fixing upon a moderate and reasonable amount, as well as upon the mode in which it is to be given. I am willing that compensation should be given in the South, as well as in the North of Ireland, because I think it right that every tenant in Ireland should have, and should feel, a reasonable amount of security in the continuance of his holding; but I cannot help thinking that the provisions inserted with this object in the Bill will lead to litigation and expense to the tenants, as well as injury and annoyance to the landlords. As provided by the Bill, the tenant can claim compensation for disturbance, for tenant-right paid by himself, and for undefined improvements; the landlord can make a counter claim for rent, breach of covenant, deficient cultivation, and for improvements made by himself. As, however, the right of free contract is debarred both parties by the Bill, litigation, with all its attendant delay and uncertainty, will be forced upon them. I will now say a few words upon the effect this Bill is likely to have in Ireland, and upon the influence it may have on the future improvement and advantage of the country. Upon this point I am by no means so sanguine as is the noble Duke who has just sat down. We have been told for more than 18 months, when the Bill for the disestablishment of the Irish Church was before the House, that the Land Bill was to be a healing panacea for the wrongs of Ireland, the means of bringing an influx of much capital into the country, a means of improving the agriculture and increasing the happiness of the people of Ireland. I am sanguine on none of these points. I believe that the Bill will give a temporary and partial contentment to the present occupiers of the soil, but that it will place those in the class below the occupiers in a worse and in a more dependent position than that which they now occupy. As regards the great influx of capital and the great improvements to agriculture, I believe that the Bill will cause little or no difference in those parts of Ireland where a tenant-right already exists; and I believe that in the South of Ireland the tendency will be rather to induce the farmers who possess surplus capital to buy the goodwill of fresh holdings, either from the tenant or from the landlord, than to invest it, as they have hitherto 258 done, in the improvement of the soil. But the position in which the Bill will place the agricultural population of Ireland—a class even more numerous than the occupiers—has, I think, been overlooked by the authors of the measure. Mr. Gladstone and his followers, in the furtherance of this Bill, have urged as a necessity for this Bill the entire dependence of the Irish people on agriculture for their support. No doubt this Bill will considerably improve the condition of the occupiers of the soil; but, while it leaves the agricultural labourer precisely where he was, the worst housed and the worst fed of the labouring population of Europe, its probable ultimate effect will be to consign him to a more permanent state of poverty and dependence. It requires little knowledge of Ireland to see that, by giving a certain prominence to the 600,000 holdings already located on the soil, the greatest part of which are unable to give proper wages and houses to their labourers, that you are consigning, in an equal degree, the labouring population to a permanent state of dependence and penury. I therefore look upon the Bill in that respect with great apprehension; because I fear that, if the Bill brings contentment and satisfaction to the occupiers of the soil, it will leave the labouring population in more hopeless dependence than they are now. Such was the condition of the labouring population of Ulster a quarter of a century since, and such, I fear, will be the effect of this Bill in the South of Ireland. Looking, however, to the principle on which the Bill is founded—a principle in which I concur, though I object to many of the details—I shall give my assent to the second reading, in the belief that what is wrong in the details may be rectified in Committee; and, whatever may be the nature of the measure ultimately passed by your Lordships, it is my earnest wish, as it is, no doubt, that of all your Lordships, that the measure, when passed into law, shall be one calculated to promote the happiness, security, and comfort of the people of Ireland.
§ LORD LURGAN moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Further debate on the said Motion adjourned 'till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past Twelve o'clock, A.M., 'till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.