§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD
, in rising to move that the Bill be now read the second time, said: My Lords, I think I may count on the indulgence and consideration of your Lordships, which I so greatly need, while I endeavour to state the principal provisions of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill—a very great, a very difficult, and a very exceptional measure for the reform of the Irish Land Laws. I shall only say for myself that no man in this House can take a deeper interest in this measure than I do, both as a public man having formerly had much connection with this very question, and privately as one deeply interested in Irish land. And I may add, my Lords, that, having had no official connection with this Bill before it was introduced to Parliament—not having been one of those who assisted the Prime Minister in the great work of framing this measure—I found that it contained the kind of legislation which I had convinced myself was necessary for Ireland, and I have been able to accept it with full conviction and assent.
My Lords, if this measure were not an exceptional measure, it would be a worthless one, and that because the facts with which it deals are so completely exceptional, measured by the standard of the land systems of England and Scotland. The land systems 237 of the two Islands are as different as they possibly can be—as different as if the Islands themselves were to one another distant and foreign regions. Those differences are deep-rooted and far-reaching. Who can doubt that who knows the familiar facts of the case? Who can doubt it who thinks of the multitude of peasant farmers all over Ireland, to whom the loss of the holding is a calamity compared to which almost anything is endurable, and which they would bear almost anything to avoid? Who can doubt it who remembers the broad general fact, which remains true after all possible deductions and exceptions, that the Irish tenant is generally expected to provide, and must in future provide, by far the greater part of that fixed and durable outlay upon fixed and durable improvements which, in this country, as a mere matter of course, is provided by the landlord? These things are familiar to us now, much more so than they were in 1870, and I am not going to dwell upon them. But although, my Lords, they are familiar to us, I think that up till now it has never been fully perceived or admitted, by those who were responsible for legislation, how far these facts lead us, and ought to lead us—how they point, as a matter of policy quite as much as of justice, to the granting of a kind of tenure, a security of tenure far beyond anything known or anything necessary in this country. Therefore, my Lords, the old Irish complaint is still unappeased—the common complaint of insecurity, of uncertainty of tenure, carrying with it, of course, the danger of an excessive, perhaps an oppressive, rent. That complaint has been heard from generation to generation in Ireland, though it has been seldom listened to. You may go as far back as Spencer; you may come down to Swift, to Arthur Young, and to Burke; you may come down to the Poor Law Commission, the Devon Commission, and to Committees of both Houses of Parliament; you may take the reports of of private observers—Wakefield, Senior, The Times Commissioners, three times sent over; you may take economists, such as Neilson Hancock, and Cliffe Leslie, and Stuart Mill, and you will always find the same story and the same convictions, the old complaint of insecurity of tenure. There is one sentence from the Report of the 238 Devon Commission on this head which I should like to read to your Lordships. My quotations shall be very few, but I think this is one which is worth reading. They say—The most general and, indeed, universal complaint in every part of Ireland was 'the want of tenure,' to use the expression most commonly employed by the witnesses. The uncertainty of tenure is constantly referred to as a pressing grievance by all classes of tenants. It is said to paralyze all exertions, and to place a fatal impediment in the way of improvement. We have no doubt that this is so in many instances.I am afraid that that assertion is as true, or almost as true, to-day as it was then. But you will ask, of course—"Has not the Land Act of 1870 cured all these things?" My Lords, I am obliged to admit that it has not. I think that Act was a great masure of Land Law Reform for Ireland; I think it did great things. It certainly stimulated the industry of the Irish tenants for a considerable time, until they found out that the security it gave was not nearly so great as they expected. It certainly protected many tenants from hardship and wrong, and until of late it greatly decreased the number of evictions; and if it did only those two things, if it only legalized the Ulster tenant right custom and reversed the iniquitous law which made the tenants' improvements the landlords' property—if, I say, it had only done these two things, I think it would have been a great measure. But it had, at least, two great deficiencies. It did not give the tenant a sufficient interest and property in his own outlay and improvements to induce him to make them to the required extent, and it did not deal directly with the burning question of rent in the direction of securing him against arbitrary increases of that rent. There can be no doubt that the recent lawless refusal to pay rent, and all the discontent and disaffection we have seen in Ireland, have been largely due to a succession of bad seasons and to a violent agitation. But, on the other hand, who can doubt that there are real grievances and evils lying behind all this agitation? We, at least, on this Bench do not doubt it. We are convinced, in common with a great number of the best judges of the state of things in Ireland; we are convinced by the evidence and opinions gathered from all quarters by the 239 two Commissions which have sat—the evidence, not of tenants only, but of landlords, agents, County Court Judges, and the most experienced men of every class, that these evils do exist. The evidence of the County Court Judges of Ireland is well deserving the consideration of this House, and is evidence of great weight, as coming from persons whose special knowledge and opportunities entitle them to be heard with respect and attention. Seven or eight of them were examined, and I doubt if there was one who did not testify to the existence of those facts upon which this Bill is based, while most of them pointed to remedies such as we now propose, to legislation practically identical with that contained in this measure. We believe, therefore, my Lords, that the statement I have just quoted from the Devon Commission is still too true. And let me remind your Lordships that since that date a new factor has grown up in Irish life, which has increased and aggravated the distrust of Irish tenants—that is, the great change of landed property in Ireland. That great change has largely broken into the old and kindly traditional system of land management which used to prevail, and which still prevails, I am glad to think, to a great extent; but the Irish tenant now wants protection, not so much against his actual, as against his possible landlord. He is always in fear of a change of ownership, a fact that was clearly shown in the evidence before the two Commissions. The tenant is very often satisfied with his landlord, but fears a change; and, to repeat a phrase frequently used by the witnesses, he dreads lest a new King may arise who knows not Joseph. Under those circumstances, the Irish tenant becomes discontented and disaffected; he sullenly folds his arms, and refuses to exert himself and to improve. Nothing is more plainly proved by the evidence taken by the Commissions than the widespread feeling among the tenantry that it is dangerous to improve. My Lords, can any condition of things be more fatal in a country where everything depends on agriculture, where almost all agricultural improvements are yet to be made, where almost all agricultural dwellings ought to be rebuilt, and where it is chimerical, hopeless, and unjust to expect the lords of the 240 soil, the owners of the land, to undertake the burden of so enormous an outlay? We desire to cure that condition of things, if it be possible. We desire to substitute for this uncertainty of tenure the fact and feeling of security, and I am now going to tell your Lordships the means by which this measure aims at that object. My Lords, the three main provisions of the Bill may be described in this way—First, there is the right conferred on the tenant of selling his tenancy—that is to say, the interest in his holding. Secondly, there is the power of obtaining from a Court, an impartial tribunal, a settlement of the rent. Thirdly, there is the restriction of the landlord's right of eviction. I may be told that these three heads of legislation are virtually the "three F's," and if anyone chooses so to describe them I have no objection; but I do not use that term myself, for this reason—that those popular phrases of fair rent, free sale, and fixity of tenure always carry with them a certain natural exaggeration, and that to describe the provisions of the Bill in that way would be unjust to those who have taken immense pains in the framing of the measure to carry out those principles, and in guarding and adapting them to all the circumstances and rights of the two parties. That, my Lords, is my conviction with respect to the framing of this Bill. But I am not ashamed of the "three F's "—I am not ashamed of them, if it were only for this reason—The "three F's" prevail at this moment on great numbers of the best and happiest estates in all Ireland. Now, these three heads of legislation are so closely connected and bound together that if you admit one of them, you cannot but admit the others also. If you begin to deal with one, you cannot possibly help going on to the other two. They follow from one another, and have a natural affinity, growing out of the circumstances of the case. But the Bill rushes at once in medias res, and in the 1st clause deals with the tenant's right to sell the interest in his holding, subject to various conditions, and, above all, to the landlord's right to obtain, either by agreement or at the hands of the Court, his fair rent. This practice of selling the tenant's interest is one that seems strange to those accustomed to the English and Scotch systems, especially to 241 those who think those systems a part of the order of nature, or a branch of the moral law, equally applicable to the whole of the human race; but it is not strange in Ireland. It is perfectly familiar there. The Land Act of 1870 is full of it, although it did not directly enact it for Ireland generally. Ireland itself is full of it, from one end to the other, and perhaps fuller of it at this moment than it ever has been. The moment you look below the surface, you find it in one shape or another, even where you least expect it, and where its very existence is denied. An agent says he sets himself against it; but you find that tenant A sells to tenant B; while the agent winks at the transaction or looks the other way; a landlord says indignantly that he sets his face against the growth of tenant right on his estate; but you find that he is ready and very glad to take from the incoming tenant the arrears owing by his predecessor. What is that every-day proceeding but an admission of tenant right?—the only difference being that the payment, instead of going through the hands of the outgoing tenant, comes direct to the landlord. This is the condition in which the practice of tenant right is found all over Ireland, and I will say, in passing, that there is evidently nothing so satisfactory to the mind of the Irish tenant; and that fact alone, as it appears to me, is an advantage enough to outweigh many drawbacks. But there is one Province of Ireland in which, as we all know, this practice has long been thoroughly established—first as a custom, and now as the law of the land. For my part, I believe that this custom, or a similar one, would long ago have established itself over the whole country if the old and happy relations between landlord and tenant that exist in Ulster had existed also in the other Provinces. If the landlord had had the same feeling for his tenant, and the tenant the same spirit of independence, I believe this custom would have grown up everywhere as a natural condition of tenancies in Ireland. I need not say that such a growth was rendered impossible by the hateful legislation of the last century, and the unwholesome and miserable relations so established between the two classes. In this way, it was in Ulster only that the custom struck root, and originally in the Protestant and Scotch 242 settlement of Ulster, from which it gradually extended itself over the rest of the Province. The men of Ulster believe that the custom lies at the root of the greater part of their prosperity; and I entirely agree with them. To say the very least, it must be admitted that it has grown up in that part of Ireland which is the happiest, the most peaceful, the most industrious, where the most is made of the land, and where there is the largest number of resident landlords. Now, what does this tenant right consist of? It consists, in the first place, and above all, of the value of the tenant's own outlay on improvements, and is the Irish method of securing that value to the tenant. This is by far the most important part of it all, both in a public point of view and in the view of the tenant himself. The tenant has very little confidence in the artificial valuation of his property; he desires to have the full value of his improvements, and to test and realize it by sale. Of course, there is also another element, a subordinate element, which represents the mere price for the occupation of the farm, the goodwill of the farm, as it is often called, and that element is chiefly and especially important in the case of the smaller holdings. It cannot be separated from the other element; and if it has any disadvantages they must be taken with the advantages of the former and main component, with which, in a greater or losser degree, it is inextricably mixed up. I know that in the eyes of many persons this payment for the goodwill of a holding vitiates the whole system of tenant right and makes it altogether an abuse. But the Irish tenant is not of that opinion. In his eyes—and I think he knows his own interest better than other people—this payment mitigates the hardships of that event which is the great dread of his life—the day when he loses his holding. It forms, in fact, a kind of "compensation for disturbance," which was looked upon, I know, by many as a very strange device in the Act of 1870, though, in fact, it was nothing of the kind, for in Ireland, on the best managed estates, a voluntary system of compensation for disturbance has always been in operation. These tenant right payments are, of course, sometimes extravagant. We hear a great deal of that—I think a great deal too much; we are sure to hear of cases of excess, and 243 people do not ask how they are to be explained, so that there grows up a notion that tenant right is generally extravagant. I do not myself believe that it is so; and on that point very valuable information was collected by the Assistant Commissioners of the Richmond Commission. They assured us they very seldom found a case in which an incoming purchasing tenant did not get value for his money in the shape of works and improvements. They also stated that a great number of the cases of apparently extravagant tenant right payments could be easily accounted for, because they took place in little farms in mountain and moorland districts, where the tenant himself had made his farm by reclaiming the waste land and putting his home and other buildings upon it. Consequently, the tenant right, measured by the very low rent that is properly received by the landlord from such a holding, appears to be extravagant; but it is not so, for it is evidently absurd to measure the tenant's distinct interest by a measurement derived from the landlord's. We are often told confidently that if a tenant holding at a reasonable rent makes this tenant right payment upon entering on his holding he converts himself into a rack-rented farmer. My Lords, that may be the theory of the matter; but it is not the fact. The tenant knows that the money he has paid is not a rent, but an investment, an insurance against the evil day when he may have to leave his holding. He knows that every addition he makes to the value of his holding is an investment that will add to the price of his tenant right, and that all deterioration of the buildings or holding will diminish it. Therefore, the tenant right becomes a premium on industry and improvement, and a constant penalty on sloth and neglect. Then we are told that if we, for the first time, confer on tenants in other parts of Ireland than Ulster the right of selling their interest, we shall enable them to sell something which is the property of their landlords. Well, I find it difficult to understand that statement. First of all, in the endless cases which are constantly occurring in Ireland, where the tenant is permitted by his landlord to sell his interest, does the landlord think the tenant is selling anything which belongs to him? 244 Nothing of the kind. By giving the tenant a right to sell his interest in his holding we simply confer upon him that kind of security for improvements which is most satisfactory to him, and which is already enjoyed by his brethren in Ulster; and no one in this House, I take it, will be sorry to see Irish landlords—I am afraid the truth must be admitted that there are in Ireland some landlords who would do it—debarred from levying on a tenant an increased rent on account of that tenant's own outlay and investments. Then, as to the other portion of the tenant right, is it true that the occupation element, the goodwill element, must be taken out of the landlord's fair rent? I utterly deny that. We do not admit it for a moment. We believe that the goodwill element of tenant right grows up inevitably, side by side, in conjunction with, and outside of, the landlord's rent; that it is not carved out of the landlord's rent; and that it does not cut down the landlord's rent. That we believe firmly to be proved by all the evidence bearing on the case and from all the experience of Ulster. I think the Ulster landlords may well be satisfied with the amount and the security of the rents they receive alongside and, so to speak, in spite of the tenant right, and we believe the same thing will be true in every other part of Ireland. We think, therefore, that provided the landlord has security for his fair rent, and provided that the tenant is not allowed to make money out of the mere indulgence of the landlord—and this the Bill will prevent—we maintain that the general power of sale of their interest conferred on the tenants will cause the landlord no loss of legitimate income, and we hold that to legalize that right will be of great public advantage to Ireland; that it will give a great sense of security to the tenant; that it will greatly stimulate his improvements; and that, to say the very least, it will do no injury and no wrong to the landlord.
My Lords, the next main provision of the Bill is closely connected with that which I have just described—namely, the power of appealing to a tribunal for the settlement of rent. This, no doubt, is novel and exceptional legislation. It is legislation which is totally inapplicable to everything in this country; but we are convinced, in common with a great 245 number of the best authorities in Ireland, that there are no other possible means within our power of protecting the Irish tenants against excessive rent. It is remarkable what a consensus of opinion is found to exist upon this subject outside the tenant class. Irish opinion seems to have hit upon this as the only possible remedy for the great evils in this matter of rent, from which both landlords and tenants are now suffering. I do not know whether we shall hear much in this debate about freedom of contract in Ireland; possibly we may; but whatever may be said upon the subject, I think most people have found out that there is not much of it in the case of dealings between a landlord and an occupying tenant. I do not speak of dealings between landlords and new tenants, but of dealings between a landlord and a tenant in occupation, to whom the loss of his farm is the loss of his livelihood. The fact of the utter want of freedom in these cases has been brought out in the strongest way by the working of the Land Act of 1870. The strongest and the most novel provision in that Act was a penalty upon eviction. At that time we fixed our eyes on this matter of eviction, and we thought that if we could cheek eviction we should check the raising of rent. But we overrated the efficacy of that method, and we underrated the enormous power of coercion which a threat of eviction can exercise on an Irish tenant. We did not fully see, until we learnt it by experience, that an Irish tenant will too commonly submit to almost any terms rather than undergo the pains and penalties of eviction. I will trouble your Lordships with two short quotations which illustrate this fact. One is from the evidence taken by a Committee of this House—Lord Clanricarde's Committee—some years ago. A solicitor in the South of Ireland said—They (the tenants) told me, as a matter of secrecy, that they had saved sums of money; but they were afraid to invest them in their farms, or to let the landlord or agent know that they had them, inasmuch as they had no hold of the land. 'Do you really think there was the slightest foundation for such a fear?'—' I do, most sincerely. The tenant's rent might he raised, or a fine required.'The next extract is from the Evidence taken by the Bessborough Commission, and is only a sample of what may be found in it from one end to the other. 246 ["Hear, hear!"] I do not know whether noble Lords opposite mean by their cheers that no witness is to be believed because he gave evidence before the Bessborough Commission. If so, that is a wonderful state of mind. A Southern land agent and solicitor said before that Commission—There is not a day that I am not told by tenants that there is no use in their improving if the bailiff can go round, and, on seeing a tolerable piece of ground which had been improved, can tell them to go out, or pay an additional rent. At all events, they will not improve under the present system.We are convinced that the evidence, of which these are the merest specimens, proves that in these dealings between a landlord and an occupying tenant there is such an utter inequality between the parties, such a helplessness on the part of the tenant, that it becomes a matter of the highest policy, in the interests of both classes, to interfere, and to endeavour to settle this burning question by the action of a Court. As to the means of deciding what is a fair rent, we do not believe there will be any great practical difficulty. We think that the Court, aided by competent experts, will be able to settle with sufficient accuracy what is a fair rent for the holding. Such a duty is not so novel a one as many may think, because it is plain that the Irish County Court Judges have, under the Act of 1870, been dealing to a large extent with the settlement of this very matter of rent. The Act of 1870 gave those learned gentlemen no direct power of settling a fair rent; but it became inevitable under its provisions that they should often consider what, between the two parties, a fair rent was. We believe that this reference to the Court will be a great boon to all parties. My Lords, I know some think that this exceptional legislation ought, at least, to be confined to the smaller tenants in Ireland. I see that I myself have lately been quoted in support of that opinion. I suppose I did say, in the year 1870, that tenants of holdings valued at £100 ought to be able to protect themselves. ["Hear, hear!"] I cannot accept those cheers. I say at once that I totally retract that opinion. I have learned since 1870 that that opinion was totally unfounded. No doubt it is true that the larger Irish tenant is not in the same danger of destitution upon leaving his holding as the 247 smaller tenant may be; but the larger tenant is the man who invests the most capital in his farm, and is the very man who, from a public point of view, most requires the protection of such legislation as this. He risks the most, he gives the most hostages to fortune; and certainly his industry and capital require at least as much protection, both from the public point of view and in justice to himself, as those of the smaller tenant. I think, therefore, it would be a very great mistake and misfortune if such a class as the large and improving tenants of Ireland were excluded from the protection of this Bill in the matter of rent. I may state at this point the nature of the Land Court which the Bill establishes. First of all, the measure retains the Civil Bill Courts as under the Land Act, with the assistance of competent valuators. But it also creates a superior Land Commission or Court, and enables either landlord or tenant to pass by the Civil Bill Court, and to appeal at once to the Land Commission. That Commission will consist of three Members. Two of them are legal Members, one of whom is the Judicial Commissioner, both of them being men of the highest standing, character, and ability, and the third is a gentleman who stands at the very head of the profession of land agents in Ireland, and who deserves, and I believe will obtain, the confidence of tenants and landlords alike. This Court will be assisted by Assistant Commissioners, and sub-Commissions will be formed in various parts of Ireland. The Court will be enabled and bound to rehear any case upon appeal, whether from a County Court Judge or from a sub-Commission. My Lords, I pass now to the third main provision of the Bill, which relates to the limitation of the right of ejectment. I need scarcely say that it would be useless to give this power to settle a rent to the Court if it were left perfectly open to the landlord to turn out the tenant for any and every reason, perhaps for the very reason that he had applied to the Court. The Bill, therefore, provides that the fixing of a judicial rent by the Court shall create a statutory tenancy for a statutory term of 15 years, renewable by the Court, if the Court shall again revise the rent. During that term the landlord will not be able to raise the rent, except on account of capital which 248 he may have laid out by agreement with the tenant upon the farm. The statutory conditions to which the tenant will be subject are these—the landlord retains the right to dispossess the tenant for non-payment of rent, for waste, for sub-division and sub-letting, for bankruptcy, and for persistent obstruction to all the various ordinary rights of property, such as the rights of mining and cutting timber, of making roads and drains, of sporting, &c. Beyond this list of grounds for ejectment the landlord will not be able to eject. Now, doubtless, there will be many cases in which the parties will not appeal to the Court; and if they agree, without the intervention of the Court, upon an increased rent, a similar statutory term will be created, and the landlord, in addition, will have the right, with the consent of the Court, and with full compensation to the tenant,! to resume any holding or any portion of it for causes connected with the benefit of the estate. This right of appeal to the Court is not made universal or perpetual. It attaches to what the Bill defines as present tenancies. It does not attach to a holding in any case in which the landlord has resumed possession of the holding either by purchase or otherwise. All such tenancies will come under the description of future tenancies, and there will be no right of appeal to the Court. But the tenancy will be subject to the tenant's right of disposing of his interest, and also to a self-acting system under the 3rd clause of the Bill, which is intended to check the demand for excessive rent on the part of the landlord, and, on the other hand, to encourage the tenant to accept any reasonable increase. There are only two or three more points in this part of the Bill with which I need trouble your Lordships. There is a clause dealing with the question of compensation for disturbance under the Act of 1870. The clause improves the provisions of that Act in some respects, and somewhat increases the scale of payment, in compliance with the opinion of a great number of County Court Judges. I believe that compensation for disturbance under this legislation will sink very much into the background. I believe it will be swallowed up in the far sounder system of the sale of the tenant's interest as in Ulster; and if, as we hope, that interest is increased in numerous cases 249 by the tenant's own industry and outlay, it will become less and less necessary to have recourse to this compensation for disturbance. It was at best a palliative for great evils, and I look forward to the time when it will be unnecessary. For the present, however, we think it necessary to maintain and to strengthen it, as a protection, in some cases, for the tenant. I come now to the question of leases. The Bill provides for what it calls a judicial lease to be entered into with the sanction of the Court. Such leases will take the place of all the other provisions of the Bill, and will form the tenure—the contract between the landlord and the tenant. At the expiration of such a lease the tenancy of the tenant will be a future tenancy. But with respect to existing leases, the Bill provides that a tenant who, at the end of the lease, falls into the position of an occupying tenant from year to year, shall be treated as a present tenant. The more we look into the matter, the less reason will be found to make a difference between the position of such a tenant at the end of a lease and that of any other tenant in Ireland. It is well known that the real understanding of an Irish lease, in spite of any formal words, is not that the landlord, at the end of the lease shall resume possession. The real understanding is that the lease shall fix the rent for the period to which it refers, and that at the end of it the tenant shall be a tenant from year to year. We saw no reason why a tenant in that position should not have the same protection which the Bill gives to his neighbours as ordinary tenants. Indeed, it may very well be that a tenant at that moment may require more protection than at any other time, because he is likely to have invested his money in his holding, and to have made improvements which might be very easily swallowed up and confiscated by an excessive rent. This is the view of the matter taken in the Province of Ulster. The general understanding in that Province is that the lease is little or nothing more than a fixing of the rent for the time that it lasts, and that the tenant at the end of the lease should have the same right of protection under the custom as any other tenant in the Province. We have followed that analogy, and we propose to treat the tenant at the end of an existing lease as a present ten- 250 ant, and to give him the same protection as that which other tenants from year to year enjoy. Another provision of the Bill which I ought to mention relates to those leases with respect to which there is reason to believe that they have been forced upon the tenants since the passing of the Land Act by notices to quit or threats of eviction. In those leases there are terms which are totally contrary to the spirit of the Land Act. It is proposed by the Bill that if within the next six months any such lease is brought before the Court, and if the Court shall find it to contain such inequitable terms, and to have been forced upon the tenant by threat of eviction, the Court shall be at liberty to declare such lease void. The transactions in question must be very strange to your Lordships. ["Hear, hear!"] I say the transactions with which the clause deals must be strange to the House. If the remedy is unknown in this country, certainly such transactions are absolutely unknown; and it appears to me that a so-called contract obtained by such means as I have described is not one deserving of the name of a lease at all. At all events, we think it a matter so exceptional and so grievous to the tenant who has been coerced to accept such a lease by force majeure under threat of eviction, that we think the Court may be entitled to take such influences into consideration, and do justice in the matter. My Lords, I think I have said enough as to that great portion of the Bill which relates to the tenure of land. I now turn for a short time to that part which does not relate to tenure. My Lords, the minor provisions of this portion of the Bill deal with reclamation of waste land and emigration from Ireland. My Lords, there is no question more obscure, or upon which more contradictory evidence exists, than that of the reclamation of land in Ireland. For myself, I believe that the best and most effectual reclamation will be carried out in the future, as it has been in the past, by small tenants on their own land encouraged by a system of security. Others think that there is a good deal to be done upon a larger scale, if the means be found, and the Bill proposes to supply such means. The Treasury under the Bill may make advances either to Companies or occupiers, or to the landlord and tenant jointly, and the reclamation 251 of land on a large scale may be tried under these provisions. Then, as to emigration, I will only say that it is not to be thought of as a general remedy for the evils of the Irish land system. In the greater part of Ireland emigration would be an evil rather than a good. But, as we all know, there are districts in the country which the Bill mildly terms "thickly populated"—districts where there is an amount of overcrowding which there are, apparently, no means of remedying, except by the removal of the population to happier regions. We hope that the Bill may enable such removal to take place, and that great relief may thus be given to these overcrowded portions of the country. My Lords, the next and main enactment of this part of the Bill relates, of course, to the purchase of land by the tenant farmers—a subject which is very familiar to your Lordships. The Bill proposes greatly to increase the facilities for such purchases, to improve the machinery for promoting them, and especially to make this important change in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee of the other House, presided over by Mr. Shaw Lefevre, that the Land Commission will be empowered to purchase estates from the landlords and to re-sell them, with the assistance of Government advances, to the tenants. My Lords, this plan seems to be watched with eager eyes from two opposite quarters. There are the Land Leaguers, who are longing to buy out the landlords at the cheapest rate possible, and there are a number of landlords who—I think in a panic—are longing to be bought out; but, perhaps, with not quite the same view as to prices. Our point of view is neither one nor the other. There are numbers of resident landlords, and some non-resident, whoso separation from Ireland we should look upon as the greatest calamity; and we hope and believe they will find no reason, when this Bill comes into operation, to separate themselves from that country. But there are others, not always from their own fault, whose ownership of land does not confer advantage either upon the tenants, or the country at large; and there are, also, what might be called commercial properties in Ireland which might very well be sold to the tenants, while, of course, it is probable 252 that portions of large estates may be treated in the same way. Upon the whole, I believe that, without impairing the existence or influence of the landlord class in Ireland, means may be found to create a very considerable number, in all portions of the country, of smaller proprietors cultivating their own land, and who, we think, would add greatly to the stability of property in Ireland. My Lords, I now desire to return, for a moment, to the main portion of this Bill, which deals with the tenure of land in Ireland. My Lords, I ask myself, what effect will this legislation have upon the interests and well-being of Irish landlords? I ask that question, not merely as a Member of the Government, but as one of the class affected, and of that portion of the class which is especially affected—namely, the Irish landlords outside the Province of Ulster. My Lords, I maintain that the provisions of this Bill will cause the landlords no money loss whatever. I believe that it will inflict upon them no loss of income, except in those cases in which a certain number of landlords may have imposed upon their tenants excessive and inequitable rents, which they are probably vainly trying to recover. But it will, undoubtedly, deprive Irish landlords of a certain portion of their power. It will deprive them of the free choice of a tenant when a change of tenancy takes place; though it will not deprive them of a reasonable veto on the purchasing tenant. It will also deprive them of the means of enforcing their every wish and every rule of their estates by the capital sentence of unrestricted eviction. It seems to me, however, that there is this, at least, to be said—that the time has almost passed when it was necessary, or politic, or, perhaps, possible, for Irish landlords to exercise those powers in the fashion in which of old they used to be exercised. There used to be, undoubtedly, a system of very despotic power, which, in its best form, amounted to a benevolent despotism. Those times, it appears to me, are nearly past; and it will, in that respect, be no real loss to the landlords if their power is somewhat retrenched. But, my Lords, the question is this—I ask myself, and I should like to ask your Lordships, is it not worth while to surrender some of these powers of landlordism, and to strengthen the rest for 253 the purpose of establishing, upon a firmer footing, the essential rights of property, and basing them upon the contentment of a prosperous tenantry? And, after all, is it not the fact that we who are affected by this Bill shall find ourselves when it passes very much in the position in which the Ulster landlords are now? My Lords, in that case, the prospect does not appear to me to be a very terrible one. Of course, I shall be told by many that this Bill will produce no healing effect. That statement we are prepared to face. We shall be told that it will have no effect upon the minds of the tenants tending to produce a condition of general contentment in Ireland. That is not my belief. I say that there are very strong reasons for believing the contrary. I know not, of course, what difficulties we may yet have to grapple with from the agitation which prevails in Ireland, from the Land League with its American money; but I agree with the remark of a wise Irishman, who said the other day that the Land League is not Ireland. I firmly believe, also, that, in the Land League itself, there are a multitude of members who are not prepared to sacrifice the real interests of the Irish tenant farmers and the prosperity of their country to impossible schemes of social or political revolution. The Irish tenants, as a class, have not asked for revolutionary measures, they have not asked for the abolition of landlords, or the expropriation of landlord property. They have asked for security for themselves, and for fair rents. I have faith in this Bill, because it attempts to attain those objects by methods which are congenial to Ireland, which are copied from the best usages and practices in Ireland; which are not founded upon any theory such as generally ignores half the facts of the case, and which are not modelled upon English and Scotch land systems, so totally alien to the land system of Ireland. My Lords, may I venture to repeat a sentence from a speech of my own in the year 1870? I said then, speaking on the second reading of the Irish Land Bill—In framing this measure …. we have had special regard to the best usages prevailing upon the best estates in Ulster as well as elsewhere. We have taken the elements of the Ulster Custom, and translated them, so to speak, into a statutory form for the rest of the country."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 1443.]254 My Lords, I have trust in this Bill, because it is framed in that same spirit which I then described. It adopts, but far more thoroughly, the same principle; it moves, but far more boldly, on the same path. Those usages, which it steadily keeps in view, are not confined to Ulster; they are Irish usages. But I must pay my humble tribute to Ulster itself. It is to Ulster that we owe the only healthy system of land tenure that has ever got itself established in Ireland. It is to Ulster that we owe the only Irish custom that has ever substituted for the mere indulgence of the landlord a manly, moral, and honourable understanding between the two parties. It is to Ulster that we owe, in the person of Sharman Crawford, the first attempts at a reform of the Irish Land Laws. Few in this House will grudge to Ulster any legislation necessary to make her custom safe. But we feel that it is absolutely impossible to leave all the rest of Ireland—all the agricultural classes of three-fourths of Ireland—in a position of absolute inferiority to the Northern Province. We desire, therefore, to do for the rest of Ireland what custom has done for Ulster. We desire to do what custom, under a happier history, would have done for the other three Provinces. We desire to create, by a just law, that state of tenure which is slowly growing up all over Ireland, with all the sinister accompaniments of agitation and conspiracy and agrarian crime. We believe that the magic of security will scatter those evil influences, if Parliament adopts this legislation. We believe that such a measure as this will obtain the moral support of all that is best throughout the country; and I trust I may be allowed, before sitting down, with all sincerity and earnestness, to entreat your Lordships to join with the other House of Parliament, to join with the great majority of the people of this country, in accomplishing this great work for Ireland. I beg to move the second reading of the Bill.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Privy Seal.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, whatever decision your Lordships may come to with respect to the course which it is right to take as to this Bill, at all events it is desirable that you should not underrate the importance of 255 the changes which you are making, or the magnitude of this departure from all the traditions which have governed legislation hitherto. Tenant right, up to this year, has been usually understood in political controversy in a sense which now appears limited and restricted. From the time of the Irish Famine, and from an earlier period, the attention of legislators was drawn to the necessity of protecting from any invasion or encroachment that equitable right of a tenant in the improvements which he, and in many cases he alone, had put upon the land. That was an object with respect to which Parliament may not have been happy in its legislation, but which it sincerely sought to effect. There was no difference of opinion between the two Parties on that point. In fact, your Lordships were reminded by Lord Beaconsfield last year, speaking in this place, that the first measure effectively guaranteeing his improvements to the Irish tenant was brought in by the Irish Attorney General of the first Administration of the late Lord Derby. Hitherto both Parties have expressed themselves desirous of securing the interests of the Irish tenant in his improvements; but, unfortunately, a measure was passed which has had the effect of exposing those improvements to somewhat serious peril. Pressed partly by the political economy of the day, pressed also, in some degree, by an unreasoning dislike to old families and a desire to break up old estates, a Liberal Government, some 25 years ago, passed the Irish Encumbered Estates Act. The provisions of that Act I do not attempt to pourtray; but, as to its effect, it is enough to say that the Prime Minister has already branded it as confiscating the improvements of the Irish tenant. This was the act certainly not of the Party with which we are connected. But from that time to this constant complaints have arisen about those improvements being in danger, and constant efforts have been made to save them. Provisions to that effect were introduced into the Irish Land Act; and, so far as we understood at the time, the tenant right contemplated by the Land Act went no further than this. It had no other object in view in its general provisions; and even where it proposed to give compensation for disturbance, we were distinctly assured that the only intention was to pre- 256 vent undue and inexpedient exercise of the right of eviction. It was in the same spirit that the question came to be examined during the last Autumn and Winter, and it was with this view that the Commission on which the noble Lord who has just sat down sat—the Commission of the Duke of Richmond—made the recommendation which has become somewhat celebrated, because an attempt has been made to fasten upon it as the basis of the vast structure of this Bill. What the Duke of Richmond's Commission really pointed out was that the tenant's improvements were in danger of being sacrificed, and it was natural that the tenants should desire legislation to prevent it. Nothing more natural; and if this Bill only sought to re-enforce the previous efforts in the same direction, it would have met little opposition or criticism from the Party with which I have the honour to be connected. But an entire change has come over the definition of tenant right that is to be given to the tenants under the Bill of the present Session. Now, for the first time, an enormous change is introduced into the relations between landlord and tenant. The tenants all over Ireland are to be authorized to sell for money that which they never bought, which they never earned, and which the noble Lord who has just sat down would persuade us has grown in some manner out of the soil, and can be made over to the tenant without sacrifice on the part of anybody else's interest in the matter. No doubt wonderful things are done in Ireland, and Ireland is a wonderful country; but I defy anyone who pays attention to the multiplication table to show that this money is given to the tenant without taking away property from the landlord on whose estate the farm is, or from the person with whom the bargain is made. This is not all. It is part of tenant right under this Bill that contracts deliberately made are now to be freely torn up by those who made them; and we are told that this is necessary for the protection of the tenant. Yet, when the Act of 1870 was passed, we were assured that from that time forward every person in Ireland would have to abide by the contracts he made. This is to be no longer the case; but Courts are to be set up to destroy the contracts into which people de- 257 liberately and knowingly have entered. In what position is the landlord left? Is he worthy to be called a landlord? He may not select his tenant; he may not keep off from his estate any man, no matter how much he may deserve his objection or his hostility. He may not deal with his rent, however much he may justly think it ought to be raised. He may not alter the construction of his estate; he may not unite farm with farm, or consolidate farms which may appear to need it. He may not even select the places where the cottages of his labourers are to be built; but these are to be selected for him, and without his consent, in any part of the estate that is left. My Lords, in what part of the civilized world is that the definition of a landlord? That is not a landlord. He is something between two different characters. He is a sort of mortgagee upon the estate, with an uncertain and precarious hold upon his income, and he is a head agent to Serjeant O'Hagan and his Colleagues. The noble Lord seems to think this is quite reasonable. Say I took a man five years ago and put him into a bit of my park, which I turn into a farm. I gave him no promise, no right to sell the tenancy which he receives. He took it on the clear understanding that he was a tenant from year to year, liable to be evicted, and to have his rent raised according to any agreement to which we might come. He took it under the full understanding that he was liable to leave it. Then this Act comes suddenly down and transfers to him all the rights which he did nothing to earn, nothing to purchase, and which rights are taken away from me. The noble Lord tries to persuade you that this legislation is favourable to the landlord, and not a transfer of the rights of the landlord to the tenant. The answer of the noble Lord is this—" Oh, this is the custom of Ulster, and the custom of Ulster has splendidly succeeded." But that is not the custom of Ulster; it differs toto cœlo from the custom of Ulster. An essential part of that custom was that the landlord remained behind with absolute domination over all the transactions that might take place. If the price given in the sale of the tenancy was excessive, the landlord might interfere; if the tenant was objectionable the landlord might prevent him coming upon the estate. If the rent was too low the 258 landlord might raise it; the landlord always had absolute power in the background, whatever custom might prevail. Whatever traditions might induce him to waive rights in favour of the tenant, there he was the master. The holding had but one master; and it is to that arrangement the prosperity of Ulster was due. Do not, then, attempt to claim the example and precedent of Ulster in favour of an arrangement in which every atom of power is taken out of the hands of the landlords and given to a tribunal which may be, and I believe is, rather hostile to the landlords and favourable to the tenants. Now, what is the character of this measure? I think it is an utter misrepresentation of the Bill to represent it as conferring the custom of Ulster on the rest of Ireland, because the custom of Ulster had, as an integral and necessary part, the dominating power of the landlord. But let us admit it is the custom of Ulster; how shall we describe the proposal to confer that custom upon the tenants of the rest of Ireland, as against the landlords of the rest of Ireland, in places where it has not grown up, and, therefore, in places where the consideration which it doubtless represents has not been given? I will call two authorities to that question, and my first shall be Mr. Chichester Fortescue. On the second reading of the Land Bill, in 1870, he said—I do not know whether I make myself understood by the House; but, having looked closely into this matter, I feel strongly that there are great doubts whether what is called vaguely the extension of the Ulster Custom to the rest of Ireland would be fair either to landlords or tenants in that part of the country."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 1442.]This is what was thought in 1870 by Mr. Chichester Fortescue, a statesman who, I regret to say, has disappeared from the House of Commons. There is also another statesman who has disappeared from the House of Commons. It is melancholy how many of those who were defenders of the rights of the landlord have vanished from that Assembly. Sir Roundell Palmer, on the 10th of March, 1870, said—But when the right hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman) said that the extension of the Ulster Custom to the rest of Ireland was open for our consideration, I must say that that does appear a manifest violation of the principles of justice, and to be impossible, if we mean 259 to respect those principles. It is unquestionable that where the custom obtains and landlords and tenants act on it in their dealings with one another, in such a case it is a matter of honesty for the landlord to allow the tenant to have the benefit of the custom. But when you talk of extending that custom to other parts of Ireland, you speak of a change which would alter the terms which, in those other parts of Ireland, have already been agreed on between landlord and tenant; and, therefore, if you gave in such a case to the tenant the value of the custom existing elsewhere, you would be just taking so much from the landlord and giving it to the tenant."—[Ibid., 1666–7.]These are the rhetorical doctrines for which I have just been rebuked. I should like to quote another opinion upon the general operation of this Bill. It will not be an English opinion; but I think a French opinion, coming not from any Conservative source, but coming from some of those who have seen Socialism worked where it was originally bred, may, perhaps, shed a useful light upon the procedure which Her Majesty's Government have commenced. This is from The Republique FranÇaise of the 9th of July. I need not remind the House, I am not quoting merely a newspaper, but I am quoting from the organ of the most powerful man in France. In England you cannot speak of a newspaper as being the organ of a statesman, because such a thing does not exist; but in France it is the habitual custom, and this fact is notorious. The Republique FranÇaise said—It is impossible to conceal the gravity and the delicacy of the responsibility assumed by the English Government. In order to form an idea of it, it is necessary to imagine the French Government proposing, or rather imposing, its mediation upon landed proprietors, fixing the rates of their rents, and obliging the landowner who desired to get rid of his tenant to buy his right of tenancy from him in ready money. Assuredly, people would say that this was decided Socialism (du socialisme renforcé), and they would be right.This is the judgment of the organ of the man who represents the most Socialist constituency in Paris. I have quoted these opinions of distinguished men who were in the House of Commons, and of this distinguished organ abroad, because I shrink from using language of my own, as it has met with unfavourable criticism from the Prime Minister. He very much objects that a noble and learned Friend near me and myself have used the word "confiscation" in reference to his policy. I desire, therefore, rather to use the 260 language of other men, because I am aware, so long as the right hon. Gentleman is at the head of affairs, "confiscation" will be rather a monotonous word. The justification which is constantly advanced for all these restrictions of landlords' powers, which constitute this decided Socialism, is that it is to be done through the medium of an impartial Court. To my great astonishment, I heard the noble Lord opposite use that word. I did not expect that term to be used within these walls. What is this Court? It is a sound tradition that we usually abstain from criticizing Courts of Law, because their powers are strictly limited, and their character is well known, as they are constituted according to fixed traditions, they are free from Government influence, and we recognize their impartiality and freedom from bias. Of the three gentlemen appointed to be Commissioners under this Bill, and who are called a Court, I do not wish to say any word that could be thought to be personally derogatory; I have no doubt they are men of the highest character and purest motives; but that does not prevent them being men under the influence of the strongest prepossessions in reference to the matter with which they have to deal. They are all three strong Liberals, with strong views of tenant right. I believe that Mr. Vernon, whose qualities everybody has recognized, and who has not been a bit too highly praised, is the most Conservative of the three; but there is no doubt that all three are appointed with a strong prepossession in favour of views which are advocated by the representatives of the tenantry in Ireland, and which are deprecated by the landlords, to constitute a Court where the litigants will be landlords and tenants. Now, my Lords, to call that an impartial Court seems to me as reasonable as it would be to apply the term to an Ecclesiastical Court, appointed to decide some matter of Ritual or Creed, which would consist solely of High Churchmen or of Low Churchmen. They might be men of the highest character; but it would be ridiculous to speak of them as an impartial Court, where the prepossessions were not only avowed, but where those prepossessions were admitted to be one of the grounds for their selection. To say that this Bill is to be administered by a Court seems to me to be an abuse of words. A Court, 261 as we know it, is a tribunal composed of men who are selected impartially, without special regard to their opinions on the matters with which they have to deal. It is also a tribunal which decides facts by a jury; if it does not decide them by a jury, it decides them subject to appeal. In all the law it administers it is strictly guided by tradition or by statutory law, which governs the discretion of the Judge and prevents him wandering to the right hand or the left from the narrow pathway prescribed to him. What is the case here? I suppose that Mr. Litton and Mr. Vernon will pair off, and the decisions will practically rest with Mr. Serjeant O'Hagan. I will not inquire into his past history, for his prepossessions are well known. He will decide absolutely on matters of fact without appeal. He is controlled by no authority whatever. There is in the Bill, as it is now on the Table, no words to guide him in exercising that which will be his chief and most important function—namely, the decision in the case of every tenant of what will be a fair rent; and, therefore, without control, without appeal, without guiding words, he, a man subject to known prepossessions, will have it in his hands to decide the incomes of every man—landlord or tenant—connected with agriculture in Ireland. It is impossible to call that a decision by a Court. The words of The Republique FranÇaise are more to the purpose when it said that they would be decided by the mediation of the Government. It is not the relegation of landlord and tenant to an impartial tribunal. It is Parliament and the Government coming down with an act of power, and imposing certain terms advantageous to the tenant, detrimental to the landlord, and imposing them without appeal. Why are we going to do these things? What reasons justify us in departing from the principles and breaking down the traditions by which our law has hitherto been nurtured. The noble Lord spoke much about the impossibility of freedom of contract in Ireland in the transactions between landlord and tenant. We have heard a great deal of that; but I have never been able to understand it. If, whenever the demand exceeds the supply, you say to the de-mander—"You are not at liberty to make your bargain in the open market," all transactions in the open market 262 will soon disappear. But these principles will apply also to other things. I wish the Government, when they are bent upon a revolutionary measure, and the only real motive at the bottom of their hearts is the tyrant's plea, necessity, I wish they would say plainly what the state of the case is, instead of spending their time in the mischievous task of finding principles to justify their acts. They have sent political economy to Jupiter and Saturn, and they have invented a doctrine of free contract which, if it ever comes to be applied to the industries in this country, will produce the utmost confusion and most bitter contention. The noble Lord seemed to have a particular regard for leaseholders, for he said that the leaseholder was a person who specially required the protection of the State when his lease terminated. And why did he say so? Because the leaseholder had invested his means in the improvement of the land, and when the lease came to an end there was a possibility that the rent might be raised. But, my Lords, strike "Ireland" out of the Bill, and insert "Scotland," and how will this doctrine read? By what possible means are you going to prevent tenants in other parts from claiming the extension to them of the extraordinary principles which the noble Lord has invented in order to disguise his acts? What may be the effect of this measure on the wage-receiving class I do not know; but it must be obvious that many of the arguments which are being advanced in favour of the tenantry of Ireland will apply equally well in favour of artizans. We are told that eviction is a sentence of death. That is a strong phrase. But is not dismissal from employment, when there is no other employment open to a man, sentence of death as well? We are told that there is land hunger in Ireland, and that the Irish tenant will not betake himself to any other employment than the cultivation of the soil. But is that not the case with the artizan, whose physical constitution is formed to the performance of certain functions, and who cannot adapt himself to any other mode of living than that from which the circumstances of the market drive him? And if you tell him that the market supply is not equal to the demand, that he is not free to make a contract, and that the House of Commons has a right 263 to come in and make it—will you not raise difficulties and excite bitternesses between the classes of which now you have little idea? There is another justification of this policy which is, I may say, so comical that I cannot help asking the attention of your Lordships to it. We are told that the Irish tenant has acquired a new property—a tenant right of land. And how do you think he has acquired it? He did not buy it; he did not earn it; but he got it because at a certain moment Mr. Gladstone and the House of Commons went to sleep. We have this strange statement attributed to the Prime Minister—It was not perceived by anyone during the passage of the Act of 1870 that the foundation of tenant right was being laid. The House was not fully conscious of the result of what it was doing. The object was to fine the landlord for ejecting the tenant. But the case now was totally different. They had now affirmed a real tenant right, and given the tenant the power of selling that right. That right embraced more than the mere value of the improvements.Well, my Lords, of all the extraordinary forms of legislation of which I have heard the form of legislation by inadvertence is at once the strangest and the most alarming. At all events, if it is really the case that the property of the landlord has been given to the tenant because, in one unhappy moment, Mr. Gladstone was inadvertent, let us take care that the inadvertence does not occur again. I do not know what inadvertence may not be concealed in this Bill. It seems to me that, in some of its doubtful and ambiguous phrases, and in some of the obvious tendencies of its provisions, Her Majesty's Government are preparing to commit an inadvertence. I entreat the House to take care that this capricious mode of conferring benefits on one class of subjects at the expense of the other does not receive any further extension. But, after all, the real argument of the noble Lord for this legislation is the necessity of restoring peace to Ireland. Her Majesty's Government tell us they are sending a message of peace to Ireland. I cannot help asking how messages of peace have hitherto fared when sent to that country by the Liberal Party? We are told that Ireland has increased in prosperity, and it is true; but it is true because she has had a large extension of communication by railway and steam such as other countries have 264 had. But if the object of messages of peace which we have been perpetually occupied for some time past in sending is to make the Irish more reconciled to English rule, I appeal to notorious facts when I say that these messages of peace have most lamentably failed. Ireland is more hostile—there is a greater area of hostility—and the hostility is more bitter to English rule than at any time during the last century. And how is this message of peace to work? What you want, surely, is the "precious gift"—as, I think, the noble Lord called it—of security. What you surely want is that there should be some prospect of the two classes that have been at issue agreeing to make up their differences. But that depends upon what you mean by the message of peace. If it is like the message of peace occasionally sent by a decaying Empire to its invaders—a message conveying spoil and tribute, and exhorting the invaders to retire or a time in consideration of what is offered, it is possible this message of the Government may have some of the success which such messages of peace ordinarily obtain. It is possible it may procure a respite, while the gains that have been obtained are being realized and distributed, with the certainty that in the future—and in a very early and immediate future—the invaders will return with larger and more formidable demands. But as a message of peace between the two interests, between landlords and tenants, how can you expect it to be successful? What will the state of the landlord's mind be after this legislation has passed? At least, he has no doubt of the effect, whatever you may have, that both by the Act of 1870, and still more by this Bill, he has been or will be stripped of many of the rights which he purchased or inherited. These rights have been taken from him, first by legislation at one time, then by legislation at another time, and he has observed that they have always come at moments of political exigency—after a particular verdict has been delivered by the electors at the poll. He has had many difficulties hitherto to struggle against. He has had all the difficulties of the climate, of the people, the difference of religion, and the historical difficulties in Ireland. But, up to 10 years ago—or rather, I might say, up to this present time—his one sure foundation was that 265 the laws of property and the rights of property had been upheld by the Government under which he lived. Now, from this time forward, he will have to look upon the Imperial Parliament and the Government as one of his most formidable dangers. He will know that when the next electoral crisis arrives—when the next political exigency demands it—new requirements will be put forward by the Irish tenantry; and assuredly there is nothing in the past history of the English Governments, with whom they have had to deal, which would lead them to expect that those demands and requirements will be rejected. The landlord in Ireland seems to me from henceforth to be like a man living in a country ravaged by earthquakes. He never knows when an earthquake will come and destroy some portion of his property. All he knows is, that its advent is impossible to prophesy, and its power is impossible to resist. Or I might liken him to a man living in one of those countries; where the nature of the Government is arbitrary and severe—like a peasant, say, living in Armenia—who knows that when he has invested his money in the cultivation of his land, the Government itself can seize and take from him a part of the rights he possesses. He is unable to resist; but he knows it has happened in the past, and that it will happen in the future, and he is careful not to expose more of his property than he can help to such an untoward mischance. I do not rely merely upon my own opinion for what I say. I will read an extract from the letter of an Irish landlord, giving his view of the future; I will not give his name, for when talking of an Irish landlord you should not give his name, but he is well known to be a considerable authority. The letter is dated July 29, 1881. The extract says—It is certain after such treatment of those who have worked as I have done there is an end to all confidence. Instead of spending £800 a-year in permanent improvements, and much more in labour, on my farm, I have made up my mind to lay out no more money in any way, to put all the land I hold in grass, and draw all the money possible out of the country, and so to recoup for my children as far as possible the money of which I have been deprived.That is the feeling which is only natural to men who live by the land. Large proprietors may still afford to be philan- 266 thropic and to spend their money in Ireland; but those who deal with it as a matter of business will not expose more of their property than they can help to the risks of this predatory legislation. That is not the only evil. By this legislation you urge upon every landlord that he should take the utmost advantage of all the rights he possesses. The great object to be desired is that a landlord should not press his tenant too hardly. That is the condition on which they will live well together. Henceforth, however, you tell the landlord—"Your only chance of rescuing your property from these objectionable and humiliating restrictions is to obtain the pre-emption of it, and the sale of it by your tenant to you, so that you may enter into possession of it again." The landlord will do this if he acts on principles of business, and it is only on motives of business you can calculate in legislation. He will watch his tenant for every default which may bring him within the cognizance of the law, and he will insist on his rent to the hour and the last shilling in order to be able to enter into possession of his property again. Of course, I am not saying that those landlords who can afford to act otherwise will not act otherwise—and I heartily hope there may be many who will; but as to those who will be guided by business principles alone, this is inevitably the course they must pursue. What will be the attitude of the tenant all this time? He, like the landlord, will be looking to the future, but in a very different temper. He knows perfectly well that all he has hitherto got he has not got because he has moved your convictions, but because he has moved your fears. He knows that he has obtained it by agitation. He is told in eloquent perorations that it is the result of the Divine light of justice; but he sees that justice is always on the side of those who can produce the numerical majority at the poll. Depend upon it, the Irish tenant will learn that lesson. You have not given him anything near all he demands. There is much more in the background; and the weapon which has obtained him satisfaction before will be used to obtain it again. He will resort to the agitation which has benefited him hitherto, with a sound conviction that it will not fail. On these grounds I cannot help feeling very 267 great doubt as to this Bill being a message of peace, even for a short time—I am certain it will not for any considerable period. Then the question arises, What course are we to take with reference to this Bill? My Lords, if I were responsible for the legislation for Ireland—if I had to frame and carry through a Bill for the purpose of settling these troubles, assuredly I should not choose such a Bill as this. It seems to me that in the holding of landed property there is no middle term between actual ownership as freeholder or copyholder and true tenancy, of course with proper protection for improvements. Any attempt to institute a tenancy which will be intermediate between these two conditions, and which, practically, results in a double ownership of the land, and, therefore, requires the supervision of the Court—any such contrivance seems to me to be condemned beforehand, because it has never yet occurred to any man or race, in any age or country, and by the nature of things it is foredoomed to failure. I confess I deeply regret that those parts of the Bill which refer to the purchase of land for the purpose of installing the peasantry as owners in some parts of Ireland have not received a greater development. I have regretted to see that as this Bill went on those parts have shrunk and shrunk in the importance and emphasis given them, till they are nothing but a tribute to the personal position of Mr. Bright. In that system there was far greater hope of the return of peace and prosperity to Ireland than in this strange plan of cultivating Ireland under the supervision of the Court. But, my Lords, we must consider the precise effect which the vote of this House of Parliament would have on the proceedings in and the state of Ireland. In discussing this matter, I am not adverting, even for a moment, to those foolish threats to which a Minister of the Crown did not think it beneath him to give vent last year in Parliament. As long as the House of Lords possesses prerogatives it must exercise them to the best of its conscience. The moment it ceases to do so it has practically ceased to exist. But there are things stronger than either the House of Lords or the House of Commons. The state of Ireland, the condition into which her popu- 268 lation has been allowed to drift by the culpable laches of the Executive Government, is a consideration which must greatly govern us in deciding on the course we shall take. It is evident that, even if we rejected the Bill, we should have little or no influence on the dangers to which I recently adverted—namely, the apprehension which would continue to haunt the landowner, or the undoubtedly unjust hopes which would continue to animate the tenant. Knowing, as he does, that he has been able by his agitation to force the Government and the House of Commons on his side, he will not abstain from that agitation, because the House of Lords is not on his side also. But there is a more serious consideration still. If this Bill is rejected on the second reading we must, of course, remember that we have not in our hands the Executive Government. We have no hold over the principles, or the policy, or the methods by which they will enforce the reign of law and order in Ireland; and, judging from the spirit and the success with which they did it last winter, the prospects for next winter, especially if it be the interest, not of themselves—they are incapable of such a thing—but of their partizans, to represent the anarchy as the result of the action of the House of Lords—are gloomy indeed. It is impossible to exclude that circumstance altogether from consideration, or to forget how many of the landlord class, with all the industrious members of the community, now look anxiously to Parliament to find some solution which may bring about a respite, if only temporarily, to the sufferings and anarchy they are enduring. I confess, though with some reluctance, these considerations have led me to the belief that it may be wiser for us not to vote against the second reading of the Bill, but to see whether, in Committee, we cannot remove from it some of its most glaring acts of impolicy, some of its greatest injustices, and then leave the measure, thus divested of features and accretions which, perhaps, do not rightly belong to it, to the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government. What I have not been able to conceal from myself during the passage of this Bill is that it corresponds little either with the promises made concerning it or the principles upon which it was supposed 269 to be based. We are told that it is based on the difficulty of obtaining free contract in Ireland. Well, then, are you right in applying it to the richer tenantry? Still more, are you right in applying it to those leaseholders who would, of all persons in the world, have a perfect knowledge of the engagements they entered into in signing a deed, and who, if free contracts were ever to exist in Ireland, must be fit subjects for it? Again, we are told that this Bill is introduced because the tenant does all the improvements in Ireland. But, then, on the estates in which he does not do all the improvements is this Bill to apply? That is a subject your Lordships will do wisely to attend to in Committee. There is another, and a much larger, and a more vital question. Of course, I am not going now to dwell on all the improvements which I think it would be well to consider in Committee. But there is one vital subject which I hope the House will not forget, and which, unless it is solved in a reasonable manner, will taint this Bill with a stigma of injustice which nothing can remove. The noble Lord has told us, again and again, that none of the provisions of the Bill are to interfere with a fair rent. What security have we for that? What is there in the Bill to show that this Commission, which is invested with these unlimited powers, may not, if it thinks fit, take into consideration the amount given in the purchase of the holding when they are fixing a fair rent? There is no definition of fair rent given in the Bill. The noble Lord tells us that everybody knows nothing is easier than to fix it, that everybody knows what it is. I have no knowledge of Ireland; but I can say that that is not true of England. There is no subject on which neighbours in this country differ more keenly. Everybody connected with Quarter Sessions has constant experience of it. I had a case the other day at the Quarter Sessions with which I am connected. The witnesses who appeared gave the most violently opposite estimates of the value of the land and the amount of rent proper to be fixed on it. It was evident that the most honest difference of opinion was entertained by all in the neighbourhood of the holding. In this, as in other matters, people will be unconsciously guided by their own interest and that of their class. You are not, 270 therefore, to suppose that this Land Commission will not feel, when settling a fair rent, this pressure of earth hunger which is supposed to overbear all the doctrines of political economy in some way or other. It seems to me a most serious danger indeed that the Court can be led, in considering the amount of a fair rent, to take into account the price—probably an exaggerated price—which the tenant has paid for his holding. When the tenant has paid that exaggerated price, and has got the fair rent reduced accordingly, at the next sale the price will rise because the rent is lower; and so, toties quoties, that process will go on until a considerable portion, if not the whole, of the landlord's interest disappears. If we had a Bill, perfect in all its parts, we might not be afraid of this result; but, knowing we have a Government before us which legislates by inadvertence, I exhort your Lordships to prevent any inadvertence by inflicting this great wrong on Irish landlords. These are some of the alterations which, I think, we may properly attempt when the Bill is in Committee. It will be time to judge of our future conduct with respect to the Bill when we have seen how far these alterations will be accepted when we shall be in Committee. In the meantime I, for one, shall give my vote for the second reading of the Bill, earnestly hoping that some of the anticipations of its authors may be realized, but not seeing myself, either in the provisions which it contains, or in the circumstances under which it has been introduced, any hope of that repose and that concord which Ireland so sorely needs.
§ LORD O'HAGAN
agreed with the noble Marquess that this Bill should be regarded as an important measure. He thought it was the most important measure that, since the time of the Union, had been conceded to Ireland. He thought it was a great measure in its conception, a measure complete in its details, and a measure which, if there was no great falling-off in the progress of it, would hereafter be for Ireland a blessing and benefit of a valuable character. He fully understood the difficulty the Government had in making a case for it, and the number of considerations which might actuate anyone in opposing it; but he had little hesitation in saying that when they came face to face with 271 the objections that might be raised they would be easily disposed of. The noble Marquess had said that some of the clauses in reference to the purchase of land and the sale of it to peasant proprietors had shrunk in their progress through the House of Commons; but that was not correct, as they had, in his belief, been expanded.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
explained that he meant that the clauses in question had shrunk in comparison with the form in which they were foreshadowed.
§ LORD O'HAGAN
retorted that if that was the meaning of the noble Marquess his own statement had shrunk wonderfully. He would ask the noble Marquess to consider whether he was justified in condemning this Bill when the greater part of it was based upon the Report of the Richmond Commission. What was the question which had been most in controversy? Why, the security of the tenant in his holding. Great stress had been laid upon the security of the tenant in his improvements, and it was for the good of agriculture and the produce of the country that those improvements should be secured to him. To do that it was necessary that there should be legislative interference to protect him from an arbitrary increase of rent. Such a proposition did not seem at all unnatural. The landlord now could raise the rent at any time as much as he pleased, and the Report of the Commission suggested that such an arbitrary power should be restrained by law, and the tenant be protected in that respect. Now, in the suggestions of the Report were involved those principles in the Bill which had been condemned by the noble Marquess. Then the noble Marquess complained of the composition of the Land Commission; but it was one worthy of commendation. He (Lord O'Hagan) did not know what Mr. Vernon was. He might be as good a Conservative as the noble Marquess. ["No, no!"] Well, he had not pronounced himself on either side. The question was—Were the Commissioners honest and capable men? He fully believed that they were. The Commission was a very good one, and should not be condemned. Passing from these matters, he would call attention to the great objects of the Bill. He had lived long in Ireland, and knew something of the feel- 272 ings of the people, and he did not remember any measure which had commanded such unanimity of support, without reference to Party and without reference to sect. The people supported the Bill because they saw it was being passed for their good. A great portion of the landed interest in Ireland supported the Bill. Indeed, the Conservative gentlemen of Ireland, long before this Bill was formulated, had come forward and asked that its principles should be the basis of legislation. The Bill had been accepted by the House of Commons and by the mass of the people of Ireland, and he hoped it would become law. He admitted it was impossible that there should be judicial rents without a violation of the principles of political economy; but in reference to this they must remember that what suited one phase of society would not suit another. The people of Ireland almost exclusively depended upon the land for subsistence. The land was life with them; the want of it destruction. The Commission, he maintained, was justified in saying that freedom of contract did not exist in Ireland; and, therefore, the ordinary principles of political economy could not be rightly applied to the present state of things in Ireland at the present time. Another objection entertained by the opponents of the Bill was that it would subject the landlords to certain losses. But he believed that, if it were administered conscientiously and honestly, no material injury would be done to the landlords. If a fair rent was what a landlord exacted now he would lose nothing, for the tribunal by whom the judicial rent would be fixed would act with perfectly impartiality, and would not diminish that rent. He held that a restoration of content in Ireland would be a most beneficial change for the landlords; and if the effect of the Bill should be to regulate affairs in such a way as to induce the payment of rent as determined by the Court, the landlords, instead of losing anything, would reap a material profit. But the Bill undoubtedly did cause a loss. Landlords would no longer be able to do exactly what they pleased with their own. They would no longer be able to make clearances, or to place one tenant here and displace another there. In fact, the amenities of landlordism would be lost to the landlords. But was not the pre- 273 sent condition of things already such as to limit the landlord's power? It was the landlords' boast that the power of eviction was exercised in a number of cases infinitesimally small, and that they had practically given up their power of eviction. Therefore, without the operation of the Bill, the landlords had of their own accord abandoned one of the amenities of their position. It was said that the landlord would have diminished power, though he might not have diminished wealth, and to most men the loss of power was not agreeable. But might it not be suggested that the course of events had already greatly shortened the landlord's aim, and limited the sphere of his old dominion? The Act of 1870 was undoubtedly inconsistent with the claims he would have made in former times, and those who were parties to that Act committed themselves to the principles by which the present Bill was justified. Then, might it not be asked whether, practically, the landlords of Ulster wielded less legitimate power because of the restraints of tenant right? He thought the answer must be in the negative, and so tend to diminish exaggerated fear of change. But might it not be said that Irish proprietors, and the vast majority of the Irish people, recognized an inevitable necessity for alteration in the territorial system of the country? That alteration would not be without its compensation if the new condition of things promoted peace and order. Establishing the supremacy of the law in the affection of the community, giving them a new sense of security, and a new impulse to industrial effort, would surely compensate for personal sacrifices of sentiment and pride. Another objection to the Bill, and one which prevailed to a great extent with society, was the supposition that if this Bill were passed for Ireland a similar measure must be passed for England. In fact, proximus ardet. It was forgotten by those who put forward this argument that the circumstances of the two countries were absolutely different; that they differed in history, traditions, and habits, and in the mode of living upon the land. In Ireland the alternative occupation was wanted which in England enabled men to deal fairly with their fellow-men upon a footing of perfect equality. The noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) had stated in a pamphlet that the confiscations that 274 had taken place in the past had no bearing on the present state of things. In this he differed from the noble Duke, for confiscations had produced a division of classes in Ireland, a dominant and servient class, and been a disturbing force in Irish affairs, which to this hour operated to the injury of the country. But confiscations should not alone be referred to in this connection. It was not merely confiscation, but the smothering of manufactures in Ireland which had produced the existing state of things. The noble Marquess had referred to that question in a touching speech which he delivered last Session. Manufactures in Ireland were destroyed. The commerce and trade of Ireland were destroyed. Thousands of families were thus at once deprived of their means of living. Ireland had never recovered from the effects of that black and dismal time. There was no fair reason for any English landed proprietor to fear that he would be subjected to any of the treatment to which Irish proprietors would be subjected under this Bill. But he wished to make this remark. When the Irish Church Disestablishment Act was passed the same kind of argument was used as their Lordships had heard that evening. It was said that the disestablishment of the Irish Church would lead to the disestablishment of the Church in England. But was there a man living who, in his conscience, believed that the Church established in England was a bit less strong for what had occurred in Ireland? Was there anyone who believed that the removal of that great abuse had not strengthened the Church of England? There were many in this country who, not agreeing in the doctrines of the Church of England, still regarded her as a serviceable breakwater against the infidelity which was now so widely prevalent. Those persons who held such opinions, if the question came to-morrow whether the Church of England should be disestablished or not, would strongly oppose her disestablishment. They might believe him that, to maintain wrong in Ireland, would not, in the least degree, prevent the doing wrong in England; neither would doing right in Ireland in the smallest degree affect the prosperity of England. Let them fear nothing except the unanswered cry for justice; let them fear only that neglected appeals for mercy would result in 275 creating grievances which would operate largely to the evil of both countries. With respect to the actual proposals of the Bill, he would remark that it did not contain, as it was alleged to contain, the "three F's" pure and simple. It contained only two F's—fair rents and free sale. Fixity of tenure it did not confer; but it gave security of tenure. The Land Question was absolutely forced upon the attention of the Government. As to fair rents, it was all that the landlords themselves claimed, and the Bill could secure no less for the tenants. If the Party represented by the noble Marquess opposite had come into power, they could not have avoided legislation on the subject. There was a universal sentiment that the Land Act of 1870 had not fulfilled its office, and there was a feeling of discontent and dissatisfaction that in Ulster the rent was nibbled at, and then came the distress which culminated in the year 1880, making Ireland the centre of commiseration on the part of the civilized world. Of those sad circumstances the present measure was the outcome, and its authors should not be blamed for trying to make it adequate to the occasion, so comprehensive in its provisions and far-reaching in its efforts as to accomplish a permanent improvement, and, if possible, prevent further complaint and further agitation. He wished to quote the opinion on the subject of Mr. Kavanagh, a gentleman entitled to consideration, and who had proved his independence by refusing to join in the Report of the Bessborough Commission, and making a Report himself. In that Report he said—The weight of evidence, however, has proved that the question of rent is at the bottom of every other, and is really, whether in the North or the South, the gist of the grievances which have caused much of the present dissatisfaction. I think the evidence suggests the conclusion that the Land Act as now in force does not afford sufficient protection to the tenants against the unjust exercise of the power to raise rents in unscrupulous hands; and although I admit that in adopting the suggestion of a system of arbitration for the settlement of disputes as to rents and other matters of valuation, I am endorsing an interference with rights of property and freedom of contract open to grave economical objections, and which to the great majority of landowners who have not abused their powers will, I have no doubt, appear unwarrantable, yet, having regard to the mischief which the unjust exercise of the power has occasioned, I can come to no other conclusion than that in any proposed alteration of present rents, whe- 276 ther at the instance of landlord or tenant, when the two parties cannot agree the question should be left to arbitration, with final reference, in the event of the arbitrators being unable to agree upon an umpire, to a Land Court or Commission which should be appointed for that and other purposes.That was the opinion of a gentleman beyond all impeachment, a man thoroughly acquainted with Ireland, a man of large property, and who gave his entire attention to the ample evidence which was laid before the Commission. That Commission examined some 150 landlords and agents, and some 500 tenant farmers. He would also like to call attention to a Conservative meeting which was held in Armagh before the present Bill was formulated, at which Sir James Stronge presided, and at which Mr. Maxwell Close was present, where they actually passed resolutions proposing arbitration with regard to rents, and thus foreshadowing what was afterwards embodied in the Bill. Taking into consideration the recommendations of the two Commissions, he asked the House whether a stronger case was ever presented in support of legislation than had been made out now? The case of fair rents had been sustained by Mr. Kavanagh, by the Conservative gentry of Ulster, and the Liberal gentry of Ireland. If they admitted that a case for fair rents had been made out, free sale followed as a necessary consequence. There had existed at all times in Ireland an understanding which amounted to a practical rule that the tenant had a vested interest in his holding never claimed or conceded in England. At Common Law a tenant from year to year had a perfect right to sell, and unless that right was taken away by contract or custom, that right was as good as any other in the world. It was said that this right was injurious to the worth of a farm—that it took away the capital which a man ought to invest in his farm. The tenant farmers in Ulster understood their interests and their rights as well as any people in the world, and if there was anything they valued as the apple of their eye it was the possession of this tenant right of Ulster. It had been truly said by a gentleman who gave evidence before a Committee of their Lordships that if the tenant right of Ulster was assailed, all the force at the disposal of the Horse Guards would not suffice to keep Ulster down or to pre- 277 serve the peace in that Province. Why, then, should the advantages of free sale not follow upon a fair rent? He rejoiced that in one matter they were agreed. He rejoiced to find that the noble Marquess desired to see created in Ireland a yeomanry fixed in the soil. Nothing was more desired by the people themselves. For many years he had longed to see the day when that might come, and that the chasm between wealth and poverty should be bridged over. It was desirable that they should have a yeomanry as England had, happy in their hearths and homes, and faithful to the Constitution. Whatever assaults might be made on other parts of the Bill, he hoped this would be left unassailed, as it was, he believed, unassailable. Then they might hope to see a body of people planted in the soil, giving hostages to fortune, and bound by interest as well as duty to maintain law and order, and promote the public peace. He looked upon this Bill as a great measure, vast in its conceptions, complete in its details, and certain to confer hereafter the greatest blessings on Ireland. The House would not reject, and he begged them not to emasculate it. He did not think that the Government could regard it as a mere measure of Land Reform; he thought it was an honest effort for the redemption of a people. Fortune had been wayward to Ireland for many dismal centuries; but if the Irish tenant were placed under just laws—under a law such as this measure would enact—he would play his part nobly in the battle of life. Ireland had already achieved many things—she had achieved religious equality, extended civil rights, and diffused education; and now, he was happy to see, it was proposed to give her an opportunity of securing for her sons a higher education. All these things were desirable; but the passing of this Bill would give Ireland great material advantages; it would remove a secret scourge, and make Irishmen loyal and happy.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, it was impossible to listen to the speech of the noble and learned Lord who has just addressed the House without feeling that he was convinced of the necessity and of the justice of this measure. In the eloquent peroration with which he concluded he has told us that we have only to pass this Bill in 278 order to make Irishmen loyal and happy. My Lords, if eloquent perorations could regenerate a nation, Ireland would be the most prosperous and the most contented part of the United Kingdom. Your Lordships will, however, excuse me if I pass from the peroration of the noble and learned Lord to the dry details of the Bill which we are about to discuss.
The first impression which that Bill produces on the mind of the reader is that it is one of the most composite measures ever submitted to Parliament. Now, I do not wish to complain of that. The circumstances of Irish land tenure are so various in their character that a certain amount of variety and elasticity are indispensable in any measure intended to deal with them. Elasticity, however, is one thing, and inconsistency is another; and it certainly appears to me that there is something approaching to inconsistency, if not to antagonism, between the earlier and the later provisions of this Bill. On the one hand, Her Majesty's Government propose to offer large inducements to the tenantry of Ireland to become proprietors of their holdings. That is a proposal which entirely commends itself to my judgment. I approve of it for many reasons: by conferring upon a large number of the peasantry of Ireland the position and the responsibilities of ownership, you will at once encourage them to thrift and industry, and you will besides accustom them to the idea that their success or failure in their vocation depends upon themselves, and that they must look to their own exertions rather than to the assistance of their landlords or of the State, if they intend to surmount the difficulties which they have to encounter. Nothing will add so much to the stability of the social system in Ireland as a large addition to the number of owners of land in that country; nothing will do so much to prevent recurrent demands for extreme legislation, and the expectation that those demands are to be satisfied by the introduction of a new Land Bill once in every ten years.
I will make one observation only with regard to this part of the Government measure. These new proprietors who will come into existence under the Purchase Clauses will, it may fairly be assumed, in some cases not care to occupy their holdings or to work their 279 land themselves. In this event they will let their farms, and thus the relation of landlord and tenant will re-arise. Now, I observe that all tenancies created after the passing of this Act are to be "future" tenancies, and that the tenants of such future tenancies are not to enjoy the same privileges of access to the Court and protection from exorbitant rents which the Bill accords to tenancies already in existence. This being so, I should like to ask your Lordships whether it is quite clear that these new landlords will prove fit to be trusted with an amount of liberty which you altogether deny to the present race of landlords? I confess that our experience of the conduct of Irish tenants, when any accident places them in the position of landlords over sub-tenants of their own, does not inspire me with much confidence that they will use wisely the discretion which you are ready to intrust to them, but with which you will not intrust the persons who are at this moment owners of Irish estates.
I must, however, admit that, in my opinion, this danger, if it exists, is not a very imminent one. I doubt extremely whether we are likely to be confronted with a very large number of these new proprietors, and for this reason—While you are, with one hand, offering to the Irish tenants these facilities for acquiring the fee simple of their farms, you are, with the other hand, strengthening their position as tenants to such an extent that there will be little, if any, inducement to them to give up that position for the position of proprietor. Why, I would ask the House, should one of these men submit, as he will probably have to do, to an addition to his rent for 35 years, why should he substitute for a landlord from whom he has a good deal to hope and very little to fear the stern and inexorable landlordism of the State, merely in order that at the end of those 35 years his successors may have a chance of becoming owners of the fee simple of the land? The two proposals, my Lords, appear to me to be in opposition to each other. Her Majesty's Government are running two horses, and cannot win with both. It would be interesting to know upon which of the two they really rely. I have observed lately that whenever any suggestion is made with the object of 280 accelerating or simplifying the operation of the Purchase Clauses, a cry is raised that the public purse is in danger, and that we must be very careful what we are about. I draw my own conclusion from these facts; it is to the effect that the real proposals of the Government are to be found in those clauses which deal with the question of tenure, and that the scheme for creating small proprietors is likely to prove little more than a sterile expression of those uncharitable feelings towards large proprietors which some Members of the Ministry have never cared to conceal.
I will, therefore, my Lords, with the permission of the House, say a few words with regard to the proposals of the Government on the question of tenure. I confess that those proposals appear to me to be open to suspicion, both on account of the circumstances under which they are made, and on account of the arguments which have been used in their support. And, first of all, I desire to raise my protest against the argument that this Bill is a legitimate development of the Act of 1870. This Bill, my Lords, is no development of the Act of 1870. It is the repudiation of the Act of 1870 by the Ministers who were its authors. We are told that, in assenting to the 3rd section of that Act, we unconsciously committed ourselves to the principle of this Bill; we are told that that clause conferred upon the tenants of Ireland, if not a proprietary right in their holdings, at all events something which was un-distinguishable from such a right. I own that I am filled with alarm when I contemplate these unconscious exercises of our predatory instincts. I venture, however, to submit to your Lordships that this theory is not one which will bear examination. We passed the 3rd clause of the Act of 1870 not inadvertently, but with a full knowledge of what we were about. Allow me to remind the House of the facts. Parliament, it is true, consented to confer upon the tenants a right to compensation for "disturbance" over and above anything which they could claim on account of improvements; but in doing so it imposed two limits, distinctly expressed, upon the concession. In the first place, we limited it to the smaller tenants, on whose behalf a special and, to my mind, irresistible appeal was made to us. They 281 were the men of whom the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) spoke to us with so much feeling and sympathy a few nights ago—the men whom the neglect or mismanagement of our predecessors brought into their present position. To those men a mere payment for their scanty improvements, often valueless in fact, but perhaps representing the toil of years, would be no consolation for the loss of their homes, miserable though those homes might be, and for this reason their case was specially dealt with. That was the first limit; but there was a second and not less important one. These tenants were to be entitled to this compensation only in those cases where they were arbitrarily removed from their holdings by the landlord, so that the payment which was to be a solatium to the tenant was to be also a deterrent to the landlord, who would find that a capricious exercise of his rights would involve him in considerable expense. I believe there is no doubt as to the historical accuracy of this account. It is confirmed by the fact that the scale of compensation is to be explained on no other assumption. The sum which the tenant can claim under that scale varies inversely with the size of his holding; in other words, the landlord has to make the heaviest payment where the tenant's interest is presumably least valuable, but where the temptation to obliterate the holding is presumably greatest. That was the arrangement of 1870, and I believe we entered into it knowing perfectly what we were about. If, however, there is any doubt on this point, I will remind your Lordships of what was then said in "another place" by the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack, then Sir Roundell Palmer, who certainly appreciated very clearly the nature of the proposals which were then under discussion. Sir Roundell Palmer, my Lords, speaking on the 4th of April, 1870, of this 3rd clause, used these words—I must express my opinion that in giving this compensation the most extreme caution is required, because unless in its practical application you keep the principle within proper limits, and accompany it with all reasonable checks, it will become an invasion of all the rights of property."—[3 Hansard, cc. 1211.]What were the limits, then, in the noble and learned Lord's contemplation? He proceeded to describe them—If," he said, "there is a tenant from year to year of 500 acres at £2 an acre, that tenant 282 cannot receive notice to quit without being enabled to call upon his landlord to pay him a year's rent under this new scale. Well, Sir, that is perfectly extravagant."—[Ibid. 1214.]And further on he continued—I am satisfied, from all I have heard of Ireland, that tenancies of land, valued at £50 a-year and upwards, are not tenancies of the class which requires this extraordinary legislation. I am convinced that we may safely except them altogether from the Bill."—[Ibid. 1215.]That, my Lords, was the opinion of the noble and learned Lord in 1870. The two limits were clearly expressed then; both of them are swept away now. The proprietary rights conceded by this Bill are conferred indiscriminately upon all tenants large and small; the landlord is deprived of the power of capriciously removing his tenant, and as the tenant's right to claim compensation in a contingency which cannot arise will be valueless, that conditional and contingent claim is converted into a substantive right saleable by the tenant, and, as I shall show your Lordships, realized by him to the ultimate detriment of the landlord's interest in his estate.
There is another argument to which I would refer in this connection. We are told that the Land Act of 1870 has proved a failure, and that new legislation has been rendered necessary, owing to the alterations to which that Act was subjected at the instance of the landlord party, and notably owing to the mutilations which it underwent at your Lordships' hands. Now, I should like to say a few words as to these alterations and mutilations. I cannot, of course, enter upon an examination of every Amendment which was made in the Bill during its passage, but I will take three of the points upon which most stress is laid by those who insist upon this theory. In the first place, it was, no doubt, the original intention of Her Majesty's Government, as expressed in the Prime Minister's speech in moving the first reading of the Bill, that the limit below which no tenant should be allowed to contract himself out of its benefit should stand at £100. That limit was, we are told, lowered to £50. This change was, it is true, not made in your Lordships' House; but it is represented as having been the work of what is spoken of as the landlord party elsewhere. Now, what are the facts? I observe, on reference to the Reports of what took place 283 in the other House, that £50 was the limit which the Government, through the mouth of the Lord Privy Seal, then Mr. Chichester Fortescue, themselves suggested as that above which "perfect freedom of contract" ought as a matter of justice to be allowed to the parties. There was no discussion and no resistance. The change of the limit affected no more than 24,000 out of the 600,000 occupiers of land in Ireland, and those 24,000 were the very men whom the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack described in the debates from which I have already quoted as being men of aSuperior class who had no moral claim to be relieved from the contracts which they might make,and whose inclusion in the Bill would constitute an "invasion of all the rights of property."
The second "mutilation" was one which occurred in your Lordships' House. It had reference to the tenant's right of assignment. Every tenant had, as we are all aware, at Common Law, a right of assigning his interest in his holding. As, however, the landlord had also the right of refusing to accept the assignee, it is evident that the tenant's right was merely technical and of no practical value to him. Your Lordships finding that, under the provisions of the Bill, the assignee might put forward a claim to be compensated if the landlord refused to accept him, inserted an Amendment to the effect that he should not be entitled to compensation, or, in other words, that he should not be regarded as having been capriciously disturbed by the landlord, unless the landlord had first agreed to accept him as tenant. Now, it was objected to this Amendment that in some cases, where, for instance, assignment without the landlords' consent had been usual, the assignee might have some cause for complaint if he were absolutely precluded from compensation, and accordingly a suggestion was made that the operation of the Amendment should be limited to estates upon which it was the clearly established custom not to permit assignment without the concurrence of the landlord. From the manner in which the action of your Lordships in regard to this provision has been criticized, I own that I was under the impression that the suggestion which I have described had proceeded from some ingeniously minded 284 Peer on the opposite side of the House-On reference, however, to the records, I find that the suggestion came from the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Earl Granville), who made the proposal without a word of protest, and apparently as affording, in his opinion, a perfectly just and equitable solution of the difficulty.
I will refer to one more case of alleged mutilation. When the Bill came up to your Lordships it contained a clause under which the Court was empowered to allow the tenant compensation for disturbance upon "special grounds," even though he might be evicted for non-payment of rent, and, therefore, primâ facie, not entitled to such compensation. This clause your Lordships undoubtedly amended: you struck out the reference to "special grounds," and you inserted words to the effect that compensation, where the eviction was for non-payment, should be given only where the landlord had allowed arrears of rent to accumulate over the tenant's head for more than three years, or where the Court should be of opinion that the rent itself was an exorbitant one. Now, your Lordships, perhaps, imagine that this alteration was imposed upon the Government, and accepted by them reluctantly, and under protest. Nothing of the sort. When the matter was under discussion the noble and learned Lord who was then and is now Chancellor for Ireland rose in his place, and explained that these cases were not only the sort of cases, but that they were the only cases for which the Government had intended to provide, and thereupon, at the instance of the noble and learned Earl (Earl Cairns), and with the full concurrence of the Government, the clause was amended so as to make it point directly at these two cases. These, my Lords, are the mole-heaps out of which mountains of argument are constructed. The statement is repeated until it obtains belief, and the public is persuaded that your Lordships deliberately spoiled a great measure which would have worked well if it had passed in the shape in which you received it. I trust it will not be forgotten that these three acts of mutilation, which are the stock-in-trade of those who have adopted this theory, were carried out with the full and expressed approval of a Triumvirate consisting of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, the noble 285 Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. It is also not unworthy of remark that very little was heard of those mutilations until after the outbreak of the agitation now prevailing in Ireland, and after the Government had determined to abandon their old lines and to make a new departure in legislating as to Irish land. A few months ago the country was described by the Prime Minister as being in a condition of unexampled prosperity: the Peace Preservation Acts were not renewed—not a word was said as to the necessity of a revolution in the Land Laws. It is only when the disorder of the country, after being allowed to run on unchecked, becomes intolerable, that we make this opportune discovery, and find out that whatever goes wrong on the other side of St. George's Channel is due to half-a-dozen insignificant Amendments made ten years ago in the Irish Land Bill. Arguments of this kind, my Lords, are used for the purpose of bolstering up a weak case. Ministers arrive at a hasty conclusion; they allow their hand to be forced, and then, desiring to justify their action, they catch at any pretest, at any plausible theory, in their endeavour to justify the position into which they have allowed themselves to drift.
My Lords, I am certainly not one of those who believe that the settlement of 1870 was a perfect settlement. It was, I believe, imperfect in many respects. With regard to one point, I entirely share the opinion of the noble Earl (the Earl of Bessborough) and his Colleagues. It seems to me that where landlord and tenant are unable to agree upon a mere question of rent it should be possible for either to appeal to the Court for its arbitration, without first compelling the landlord, as he is now compelled, to put an end to the tenancy, so as to bring the question before the Court as a question of compensation to the tenant for his loss on quitting his holding. That is a point which requires consideration, and there are, no doubt, many others; but remember this—we are not asked to remove blots and imperfections in the existing system, but to substitute for it an entirely new one; and I own that I am wholly unable to see why, because a few such blots have been discovered, why, because the Bessborough Commis- 286 sion have brought to light a few more or less apocryphal cases of misconduct on the part of the landlords, whom the Prime Minister has acquitted as a whole, we are to concede to the tenants of Ireland those "three F's," which, until a few weeks ago, every Minister sitting on the Bench below me regarded as outside the possibilities of Irish legislation.
The fact is, my Lords, that this is not an attempt to remove imperfections from the existing law. It is an attempt to quell an agrarian rebellion by the wholesale concession of proprietary rights to the peasantry of Ireland—a concession which has been extorted by violence and agitation. These rights you are asked to create: do not let us be deluded into the belief that we are merely going to recognize and legalize something which exists already. The Lord Privy Seal says that the concession is called for, because the Irish tenants have executed improvements on their holdings; but you are asked to concede the same privileges even if the tenant has never expended 6d. upon the permanent improvement of his farm. The Lord Privy Seal, unintentionally, no doubt, took us into his confidence as to these improvements, upon which he rests his case. He told us, in the speech to which we have just listened, that the improvements in Ireland "had almost all to be done," and the buildings "almost all to be built." What, then, becomes of the argument founded on the tenant's improvements? But the Lord Privy Seal referred, also, to the general prevalence of local customs as favouring the contention that the tenant had a quasi-proprietary right. I was under the impression that those local customs were adequately protected under the existing law; but, be that as it may, this Bill gives free sale to every tenant in Ireland, whether a local custom does or does not prevail in the district, and, which is the hardest case of all, even where the tenant's interest under such a custom has been bought and extinguished by the landlord at the express invitation of the Legislature, as declared in the 1st section of the Act of 1870.
I should like your Lordships to consider for a moment what are the factors in this saleable right which we are about to confer upon the tenants. They are obviously two—the rent at which he will hold his farm, and the term during which it is 287 secured to him. The rent, is, I observe, to be "a fair rent;" and I presume no one objects to that. I must also admit that this part of the Bill has been greatly improved by the omission of some of the words which it originally contained. The general direction given to the Court to consider all the circumstances of the case, holding, and district, is, I think, a sufficient one; and I regret that to that direction should have been added another to the effect that the Court is also to "have regard to the interests of the landlord and tenant respectively." These are plausible words; but, in my opinion, they are, if they have any meaning, full of danger. Take, in the first place, the reference to the landlord's interest. The landlords, I am sure, will be grateful for the admission that they have an interest; but I should like to know how the Court could possibly determine the letting value of a holding without reference to the landlord's interest? The reference to the landlord's interest is surplusage; but it is mischievous surplusage, for the words are made an excuse for directing the Court to have reference in fixing the rent to the tenant's interest; and, unless I am much mistaken, this direction will be regarded as mandatory on the Court to reduce a rent—which may originally have been a perfectly reasonable one—in order to protect and keep alive the newly created interest which this Bill gives to the tenant, and which, judging from past experience, will, in many instances, become inflated to a very extravagant amount.
I will not, however, press this point further, and I will pass to the term for which the tenant is to be secured in his holding. I heard with great pleasure the frank admission of the Lord Privy Seal that he "was not ashamed of the 'three F's.'" I wish equal frankness had been used throughout by his Colleagues, and that we had heard a little less of those ingenious distinctions between fixity of tenure and "the very little f" of which the Prime Minister admitted the existence, and of the difference between perpetuity of tenure on the one hand, and continuity and durability of tenure on the other. These extenuations are ominous for the future, when we consider that they are resorted to by the statesman who may be 288 regarded as the inventor of the germ theory in polities, and whose colossal ingenuity was able to discover in the moderate legislation of 1870 the principles of the Bill now before the House. The motives, however, of those who talk of "little f' s," and who otherwise extenuate the concessions of the Bill, are obvious enough. The extenuations serve a double object—they serve to vindicate the consistency of the Ministry, most of whom have, at one time or another, demonstrated the injustice and the impracticability of these very concessions; and they serve, also, this purpose—that in whatever proportion Ministers are able to minimize the concessions which they are making to the tenants, in the same proportion they are able to minimize the claims which may be put forward by the landlords, at whose expense those concessions are to be made, to be compensated for the loss which they will sustain. My Lords, that which this Bill gives to the tenant is perpetuity of tenure, subject to revision of rent at intervals of 15 years; we are told that the landlord is to have the power of resumption, and that resumption is inconsistent with perpetuity. What is the landlord's power of resumption under this Bill? It arises when the tenant wishes to sell, or when he has violated the statutory conditions, or when, after 15 years, the landlord can satisfy the Court that it is for the interest of the holding or estate that he should resume upon full payment to the tenant of any compensation which the Court may consider to be due. As far as I am aware, none of the advocates of fixity of tenure ever proposed that the tenant should retain his holding, whether he paid his rent or not, whether he burned his land or not, whether he wished to sell his interest or not. Those who deny the existence of fixity of tenure in this Bill first attach to that expression a sense which no one ever attached to it, and then, having shown that the provisions of the Bill do not give fixity in their sense of the word, they proceed to argue that there is no fixity in the measure. These refinements upon the meaning of words may be an agreeable intellectual exercise to those who indulge in them; but no one is deceived by them. The landlords are not quite so foolish as to be misled by them; the tenants are quick witted enough to take them for what they are worth. 289 The English public will, at any rate, have no one but itself to blame if it misapprehends what is taking place, for on the day after the Prime Minister had delivered his elaborate disquisition upon the difference between durability and perpetuity of tenure, two of the leading organs of Liberal opinion took him to task—the first congratulating him on the "exquisite felicity of his language," but pointing out to its readers that it was "nothing much higher than a play upon words without any very practical issue;" the second mildly reproving him for what it termed his "needlessly candid deterioration of the measure."
And now, my Lords, I will, with your permission, say a few words as to the position in which this Bill will leave the two parties whom it affects. Let us, in the first place, consider the position of the tenants: it may, I think, be disposed of in a few words. The advantages which this Bill confers will be limited to the tenants already upon the land, who will be liberally endowed and given the power of selling that which they never bought. The future race, who will in process of time replace these, will gain no such advantage. They will pay two rents, one to the landlord and another to their predecessors; and they will, in too many cases, be driven into the arms of the local usurers and money lenders, whose authority will, to a large extent, replace that of the landlords. These seem to me to be the obvious consequences of the Bill. That it will be to the advantage of the existing tenants only is admitted by a high authority on these matters, the Colleague of the noble Earl, Baron Dowse, the agricultural Commissioner. "The people," says Baron Dowse—the remark is one which he interpolated during the examination of a witness before the Bessborough Commission—"who require protection are those that are in, not those that are out." Everything, in other words, is to give way to present convenience. We have all heard the saying, "Posterity never did anything for me, why should I do anything for posterity;" and we have always understood that the words were those of a distinguished but unknown Irishman. Is it possible that the author of the aphorism is at last revealed to us in the person of the learned Member of the Bessborough Commission? Such will be the position in which this 290 Bill will leave the tenants of Ireland—a position which those who are fortunate enough to be in occupation of land when this Bill passes will, no doubt, find extremely advantageous to their pockets. I leave it to your Lordships to judge how far, if we look to the ulterior effects of the measure, the tenants are likely to be benefited by it.
And now, my Lords, let us pass from the tenant to the landlord, and consider how he will be affected by the change. By this Bill, in the first place you deprive the landlord of two of the principal attributes of ownership—the right of determining whether he will or will not let his own land, and the right of selecting the person to whom he wishes to let it. The owner of a farm may in past years have let the land for 30s. an acre. He may be willing and glad to let it at that rate; under this Bill he is liable to be told that, whether he likes it or not, he is to let it at 20s., even though he may much prefer to retain it in his own hands rather than part with it upon such terms. When this Bill has become law, any tenant who happens to be in occupation of a farm may dispose of it for the best price which he can obtain to some person in whose selection the landlord has neither voice nor part. Even the stony hearts of the Bessborough Commissioners are a little touched at the hardship of the step. The Commissioners say—The right of free sale, even more than fixity of tenure, interferes with the landlord's right of control over his property, in respect of his power to choose the tenants by whom he is surrounded, and to surround himself with those whom he prefers. It renders him liable to the intrusion of a tenant to whom he may have a strong personal objection, unless that objection should fall within the definition, as interpreted by the tribunal, of a reasonable veto."—[Report of Bessborough Commission, par. 77.]The Commissioners conclude by the observation—a somewhat wonderful one—that the right in question "is not calculated to lessen the value of the landlord's property."
We shall, perhaps, hear that the landlord has his remedy either in the exercise of the veto accorded to him, or in that of his right of pre-emption. The exercise of the right of pre-emption means that he will have to pay 20 or 30 years' purchase of the rent for the sake of buying back his own estate, probably making enemies of half the 291 country side into the bargain. As for the veto, that, in a large number of cases, will be absolutely valueless. The purchaser may be a person unknown to the landlord; he may come from a district notoriously disaffected; he may be a returned American, with ideas of his own as to the use and abuse of revolvers. How is the landlord to discover his antecedents, or to produce proof of them in Court, unless he is prepared to attach to the estate a sort of private inquiry office for the investigation of the character and circumstances of every intending purchaser? My Lords, it is a singular circumstance that this proposal to substitute for the selection of the landlord selection according to the length of the incoming tenant's purse comes to us from Ministers who, 10 years ago, abolished purchase in the Army, in order to substitute selection in its place; who, 10 years hence, will very likely abolish purchase in the Church; and who are the ardent advocates of promotion by merit in every Profession and every branch of the Public Service. Perhaps I shall be told that there is a wide difference between the case of the officer and the case of the farmer. I admit it; but that difference appears to me to be this—that the officer did not require the capital which he paid for his commission in order to serve the Queen efficiently, whereas the Irish farmer unquestionably does require his capital—which he will henceforward have to pay away for the goodwill of the farm—in order to cultivate it with success.
I say, then, that the change which we are about to make will deprive the landlords of two valuable incidents which have hitherto belonged to the ownership of land; and, if this be so, it must lead to a large diminution in the value of every estate in Ireland. I should like to notice, at this point, a statement that has been made—one, I think, of the most extraordinary of the many extraordinary statements made in support of this measure—that the Land Act of 1870 raised the selling value of property in Ireland, and that this Bill, which goes much further than the Act of 1870, is likely to lead to a further increase in the price of land in that country. My Lords, it might well have been the case that the price of land had risen after the year 1870. We had immediately afterwards more than one 292 very prosperous season. Again, several of the estates sold in the following years were let at very low rents, and, consequently, fetched a large number of years' purchase of the rental. Nor must we forget that the settlement of 1870 was accepted at the time as final, and that a sense of security likely to be reflected in the land mart was thereby created. Under such circumstances, even if the prices fetched by land in the years which succeeded 1870 had been higher than the prices of the preceding years, I should have been slow to admit that the legislation of that year was the cause of the rise. I should have questioned the conclusion; but, unluckily, not only is the conclusion questionable, but the premisses themselves are defective. It is not the fact that after the passing of the Act of 1870 there was a general increase in the price fetched by the estates sold in the Landed Estates Court. I hold in my hand Returns which are on the Table of the House, and which bear out my statements. They have reference to three periods—the first includes the three years, 1867, 1868, 1869; the second the years 1872, 1873, 1874; the third the years 1875 and 1876. There is, therefore, one period prior to the passing of the Land Act, and two periods subsequent to that date. Now, what is the conclusion to be drawn from these Returns? Taking the four Provinces separately, I find that in Ulster the price of land remained stationary during the three periods. In Munster it rose slightly during the second period, and fell in the third below the level at which it stood in the first. In Leinster it fell in the second and third periods considerably below the level of the first; and in Connaught alone it rose both in the second and in the third periods. If we take individual years we find that in Ulster the lowest year of the whole eight was 1872, and in the three other Provinces 1873; both years being subsequent to the passing of the Act. Whatever conclusion these figures may justify, they do not justify the conclusion that the effect of the Act of 1870 was to increase the selling value of land in Ireland.
The Land Act of 1870, my Lords, diminished the value of land in Ireland; and this Bill, if it becomes law, will diminish it still further. How can it do otherwise? We are going to divide 293 that which until now has been the property of a single person between that person and another, and having divided it we are going to say to the one—"The value of your share shall be closely restricted and confined by a tribunal to which we are going to hand you over," and to the other—"You shall be free to dispose of your share to the highest bidder in the open market." Is it conceivable that under such conditions the share of the former will not diminish and the share of the latter increase in value? Upon this point there is a complete concurrence of testimony. We may question the evidence collected by the Bessborough Commission, but as to this at least it is conclusive, that in the tenant right districts every rise of rent, no matter how moderate, is regarded as an infringement of the tenant's interest. Wherever you have tenant right there you will find that, on the one hand, the right of the landlord to profit by a rise of prices is denied; while, on the other, if the prices fall it is expected that the loss should be met out of the landlord's rent, and not out of the tenant's share in the enterprize. Nor is this a new discovery—it was clearly asserted by the Devon Commissioners. They saw that the existence of these customs must lead to the absorption of a large part of the landlord's interest in their estates, and these are the words in which they warned the landlords of the danger with which they were threatened—It is difficult," they said, "to deny that the effect of this system is a practical assumption by the tenant of a joint proprietorship in the land, although those landlords who acquiesce in it do not acknowledge to themselves this broad fact, and that the tendency is gradually to convert the proprietor into a mere rent-charger having an indefinite and declining annuity on the lord of a copyhold."—[Digest, Vol. I, p. 2.]That, my Lords, is a fair description of the system which we are asked to create all over Ireland, even upon the estates of those proprietors who have submitted to every sacrifice sooner than tolerate such a system; and I say that the introduction of such a system, followed by the consequences which are inseparable from it, must tend to deprive the ownership of land of the incidents which have hitherto rendered it attractive, and must, therefore, diminish the number of persons who will hereafter desire to acquire that ownership. If that is the result, 294 as I believe it must be, of the passing of the Bill, it will follow that the saleable value of every acre of land in Ireland will be largely reduced.
This is, however, not the only consequence of the Bill in so far as it will affect the landlord's position. There remains the important question of improvements. I do not wish to delay the House by a discussion of the extent to which Irish landlords have improved their estates. The point is, I know, a much controverted one. I am ready to admit that in many parts of the country the number and small size of the holdings renders it impossible that the improvements should be generally carried out by the landlord. On the other hand, if it is true, as has been stated by some persons, that it is only upon one-tenth of the area of Ireland that the landlords have been in the habit of making improvements, we must guard ourselves against assuming that upon the other nine-tenths the tenants have done what was necessary for the proper maintenance and cultivation of the farms. My own impression is that in many places the improvements are either executed by the landlord or not executed at all; and certainly if you exclude the badly executed works and improvements scarcely worthy of the name, and confine your consideration to properly executed works of an exemplary character, you will find that the abstention of the landlords would have been in the past a very serious misfortune. That abstention is, however, what, in the opinion of the Bessborough Commission, we have to look forward to in the future. The result, they say, will be—To discourage still further if not to extinguish their (the landlords') expenditure upon the soil of land not in their own occupation. Evidence has been tendered us showing that sums have been and still are being expended by landlords in works on their estate. The cessation to any extent of this expenditure will be an evil."—[Report of Bessborough Commission, par. 57.]The extent of that evil we are able to appreciate when we read in the evidence of Professor Baldwin and in the Report of the minority of the Bessborough Commissioners a description of the miserable condition into which Irish agriculture has fallen in the remoter districts—a condition from which I believe it can be raised only by the efforts and the example of those improving landlords whose 295 existence is denied, but who have done so much for the advancement of their country. I own, my Lords, that I am filled with concern when I contemplate in anticipation the position of helplessness and uselessness into which the landlords are likely to be reduced by this Bill. I read the other day in the report of the proceedings of a society of entomologists that there is a species of wasp which is in the habit of feeding its young upon the bodies of other insects, generally those of a large grasshopper. These wasps have discovered that their victims, if killed outright, are apt to decay and to become worthless. They have accordingly, by a marvellous effort of instinct, hit upon the expedient of stinging them in such a manner as, without actually killing them, to deprive them of all power of movement. In this miserable condition they languish until they are required for consumption. That, my Lords, is the condition into which the Irish landlords will, I fear, be driven by their persecutors. It will, I am sure, be a consolation to your Lordships to know that the distinguished naturalist who conducted these researches found that, even after the treatment I have described, the victims retained some power of digestion, and that he was able to prolong their lives considerably by feeding them on syrup. Let us hope that in their last days the landlords will be equally fortunate in the treatment which they will experience.
It is not, however, possible to appreciate the effects of this measure merely by an examination of the manner in which it will affect one or other of the classes engaged in agriculture. The subject has, perhaps, been too often discussed from the exclusive standpoint of either landlord or tenant. I admit freely that Parliament would be justified in sacrificing the interests of every landlord in Ireland if it was demonstrable that the sacrifice would be for the general advantage of the community. The landlords are, perhaps, not culpable if, persuaded as they are of the wrong which you are about to do them, they place their case before the public. Within these walls, however, it is our duty to take a wider view, and, endeavouring to take such a view; I would ask the House to consider the consequences of this legislation, as they will affect the peace and contentment of 296 Ireland, and the well-being and prosperity of Irish society. What, my Lords, will be the position in which this Bill will leave that country? From one end of it to the other there will not be a sod of land—with the exception of a few demesnes and grazing farms—of which any human being will be able to say, "That land is mine." You bequeath to the future a legacy of confusion more inextricable than any which has yet distracted that unfortunate country. No landlord will be able to say what is the value of his estate; no tenant will be able to determine beforehand the value of his interest in his farm. You throw down as an apple of discord the whole of the soil of Ireland to be struggled for by rivals who are already too ready to fly at each other's throats. You say to the landlord, "Keep what you can;" and to the tenant, "Take what you can get." How will your new system work? On the one hand is the tenant ready, as we are aware, to pay an extravagant price for the possession of a farm; on the other is the landlord, knowing that in the long run the payment of that price will diminish the value of his estate. Between the two will be the Court endeavouring to hold the balance. One of two things will happen—the extravagant price will be paid, the landlord will be saddled with an insolvent tenant, and the holding with a charge which will dominate and ultimately eat into the landlord's rent, or the Court will, at the landlord's instance, intervene and frustrate the transaction. It can do so by allowing the landlord to raise the rent, or by empowering him to exercise his right of pre-emption. In the one case he will commit the very action for the commission of which the landlords have been over and over again held up to public obloquy. To demand an increased rent at the moment of a sale of the tenant right is, in the eyes of an Irish farmer, the most heinous offence which an Irish landlord can commit. In the other he will be placed in the position of saying to the outgoing tenant who is the vendor—"It is quite true that you have an offer of £500 for your interest, but I, to suit my own convenience, require you to part for £300 with that for which you are able to obtain the larger sum." How will the outgoing tenant and his friends and neighbours receive such a decision 297 on the part of the Court? And yet, my Lords, that is the sedative which Her Majesty's Government are going to apply to a country on the verge of rebellion, that is the panacea with which they expect to quell the turbulence of Limerick and Tipperary, and to relieve the chronic discontent of Galway and Mayo.
My Lords, whenever these arguments are used, we are referred to the case of Ulster, and we are told triumphantly, as the Lord Privy Seal has told us tonight, that none of these things happen in Ulster, and that in that Province all is prosperity and contentment. I never listen to the Ulster argument without admiring the manner in which those who use it are able to look with one eye at all the facts which fit in with their own theory, and shut out from the vision of the other every circumstance which does not. Portions of Ulster are, no doubt, in remarkable contrast to the rest of Ireland in regard to the prosperity and loyalty of the population. But are there no differences between the circumstances of Ulster and those of the other Provinces? Are there no differences of race, of religion, of climate? Does not Ulster stand almost alone in the exercise of industries other than that of agriculture? Is not her civilization a couple of centuries older than of the remoter districts in the West? Again, when you point to tenant right as the sole cause of the superiority of Ulster, ought you not to bear in mind that in her case the tenant right custom is one having its origin in the first plantation of the Province where it has been gradually developed and intimately mixed up with the habits and social institutions of the people? Can we predict with confidence that the attempt to create such a custom by artificial means, in the midst of a population hitherto unused to it, will be followed with equal success in other parts of Ireland? For, my Lords, is it indeed the case that tenant right and prosperity always go hand in hand? Nothing of the kind. There are parts of Ireland in which prosperity is to be found without tenant right; there are others in which tenant right is to be found without prosperity. In no part of Ulster does tenant right prevail more than it does in Donegal, and yet the area scheduled in that county under the Belief Act of last year was no less than 1,169,000 298 acres; an area larger than that scheduled in almost any other county. Take, again, the case of evictions. Last year the Province of Ulster stood second in the list in point of the number of evictions; this year it stands first. Try another test. Of all the causes which have contributed to Irish distress and discontent none has contributed more than the minute sub-division of the holdings. How does Ulster stand in respect of sub-division? It is at the head of the list. In Leinster there are 86,000, in Munster 93,000, in Connaught 123,000, and in Ulster 188,000 holdings below £15 valuation. Before we recommend free sale as the remedy of all the ills to which Ireland is heir we should satisfy ourselves that it has worked well and. stood the strain of adverse circumstances where it exists already. How has free sale stood the test of adversity in Ulster. I will read to your Lordships part of a letter addressed in September, 1879, to Mr. Thaddeus O'Brien, of Shanballymore, by a well-known authority—Speaking from an Ulster standpoint," says the writer, "I am sorry to say that the tenant right custom has not stood the test of hard times. It is vanishing at the first touch of adversity. The value of tenant right has been reduced 30 per cent at least, and, in many instances, farms cannot be sold at all. A tenure which is so easily affected by temporary circumstances is unsatisfactory, and hence students of the Land Question here are looking forward to the extension of peasant proprietorship as the only adequate remedy for all agricultural ills.It did not, by the way, occur to the writer that the peasant proprietor would fare no better than the tenant farmer under the circumstances described. Now, who do your Lordships suppose was the student of the Land Question who expressed these views? It was Mr. M'Elroy, the oracle of the Ulster farmers, the witness quoted again and again by the Bessborough Commissioners as an ardent defender and apostle of that very Ulster tenant right whose collapse he so forcibly describes. That was Mr. M'Elroy's description in 1879; what has been the state of things in Ulster ever since? It is impossible to read the Evidence on the Table without perceiving that in Ulster, as in the rest of Ireland, a deeply-rooted agrarian movement is proceeding. A movement of resistance to every attempt on the part of the landlord to assert the rights which even this 299 Bill is by way of retaining for him, of opposition to all increases of rent, no matter how reasonable, to all restrictions on the tenant's right of sale, to all limitations on the choice of a successor by the outgoing tenant. The statutory conditions of this Bill will be bitterly resisted just as the so-called office rules have been resisted hitherto. Her Majesty's Ministers will be credulous indeed if they suppose that after they have once called into existence this custom over the whole of Ireland, they will, through any tribunals which they may constitute, be able to keep it within the limits which they would prescribe. Free sale is a reality, the restrictions and reservations are scarcely worth the paper upon which they are written. I say, then, that the case of Ulster does not establish the conclusion which you draw from it; but that, on the contrary, the effects of the confusion of interests which the Bill will create all over Ireland are already manifesting themselves, and producing dangerous results in that Province. Depend upon it that confusion will be worse confounded in districts where the tenant right system has been hitherto unknown and is to be violently created in the midst of a people who are unfamiliar with its operation, and who have not even the advantage of an established custom to guide them.
Is there, I would ask the House, any other industry, any other profession in which such a confusion of interests exists? Partnership I understand, co-operation I understand; but this is neither cooperation nor partnership. We are going, with our eyes open, to create a system of tenure barbarous in its incidents, and opposed to the enlightened opinion of civilized communities. I have heard it said that in the legislation of Prussia is to be found a precedent for the law which you are going to apply to Ireland. Nothing could be further from the truth. The statesmen of Prussia found at the commencement of this century a land system under which the great lords were the nominal owners of vast estates, into the actual possession of which they were unable to re-enter. The land was occupied by tenants who enjoyed a species of fixity, and who paid to the lord feudal services in consideration of their occupancy rights. Neither party was the owner in the full acceptation of the term; but the two interests 300 were confused and entangled together. It was under these circumstances that the Legislature intervened, in order to extricate and disentangle those interests. The absolute ownership of a portion of their land was given to the lords, and the services of the tenants were commuted for a fixed rent, which, by subsequent legislation, the tenants were allowed to extinguish so as to effect the complete enfranchisement of their holdings. This is not the moment to inflict upon your Lordships a lecture upon the systems of land tenure to be found in different European countries; but I believe I am not wrong in saying that if you turn to France, to Spain and Portugal, to the Low Countries, you will find that everywhere the efforts of statesmen have been directed to the disentanglement of interests before confused and competing with each other, and to the establishment of full and undivided ownership. In this country, of all others, it has been the object of statesmen, particularly of Liberal statesmen, to give every facility for the creation of unrestricted ownership, and to simplify and expedite all transactions relating to land. It is in Ireland alone that we are asked to take a step backwards in the direction of that chaos from which, in other countries, the civilized communities of the world have emerged. We seem, in dealing with that country, to have taken leave altogether of the patience which makes allowance for human infirmities, of the consistency which rises superior to pressure and to excitement, of the statesmanship which is able to discern progress even when it is tardy and interrupted. With the passage of this Bill we shall complete another cycle of agitation and concession. I will venture to say that before the ink is dry upon the final print of the measure a new cycle will commence. This Bill cannot be a settlement of the Irish Land Question, in no single clause of it is finality written: it is the reward of past agitation, it will be the vantage ground of the agitation of the future. I may be asked why, holding these views, I do not move the rejection of the Bill. I am not one of those who believe that this House should, on all occasions, content itself with registering decisions arrived at "elsewhere." Only last year we rejected a measure dealing with this very question, and I believe that the public opinion of the 301 country supported us. The circumstances, however, with which we are now confronted differ widely from those under which we declined to give a second reading to the Compensation for Disturbance Bill. The Compensation for Disturbance Bill was, in name, a temporary measure, though it admitted principles of permanent application. It came to us backed by diminishing majorities, supported by arguments which had been demolished, and statistics which had been discredited and disproved. This measure comes to us, after a discussion which has extended over several months, supported, so far as its main provisions are concerned, by the whole weight of a powerful Party. It is presented to us as a permanent settlement without which the Executive Government decline the responsibility of administering the affairs of Ireland. Its rejection would be the signal for a recrudescence of the conflict already raging there: during the coming autumn and winter we should have to deal with anarchy and terrorism worse than those which have already made Ireland a bye-word, and we should have the spectacle of a Government reluctantly and halfheartedly enforcing a law which it has itself declared to be unjust. These conditions could have only one result—they would lead to a renewal of the proposals now made to us in a probably more extreme and violent shape. The Bill indicates a legislative low water mark above which the next tide may rise, below which it certainly will not fall. Under these circumstances, our duty, I conceive, lies in the direction to which the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) has pointed. We must pass the Bill, we must amend it in Committee, so far as it may be possible to amend it consistently with its general scope and principle; but in doing this we must place upon record that Her Majesty's Ministers, and they alone, are responsible for the injustice of the measure which we have exposed, and that they, and they alone, will be accountable for its failure, which we are clearly able to foresee.
, in protesting against the Bill, said, surely the landlords in Ireland were entitled to ask for the same justice and liberty over their own property as their brethren in England and Scotland. It could not be 302 denied that in Ireland there was a disaffected class who were anxious to possess the property of others, and whose doctrines were Communism, pure and simple. Their ultimate object was to bring about dissension and rupture between the two countries; and it appeared to him, in adopting that Bill, the Government were endeavouring to buy up these men to discontinue agitation. They would never, however, be satisfied by any reasonable promises, and the proper course to pursue was to take a firm stand, and say—"We will insist upon, law and order being respected." He contended that many of the provisions of the Bill were at variance with the principles expressed in 1870 by Mr. Gladstone, Judge Longfield, and Mr. Bonamy Price. From the landlord valuable proprietary rights would be taken, and yet no compensation would be given him. In the case of the West Indian slaveowners, and on the occasions of the Disestablishment of the Irish Church and the Abolition of Purchase in the Army, compensation had been awarded; but now the landlords of Ireland, though dispossessed of many of their powers, were to have no such justice meted out to them. The 1st clause in the Bill—that which related to free sale—would be productive of great injustice. He would have no objection to indemnify tenants for their own improvements; but he strongly objected to their being allowed to sell what did not really belong to them. Purchasers of holdings would often, he contended, have to pay an extravagant sum for the tenant right; and thus, though the rents might be greatly lowered by the Court, the position of the incoming tenants would be no better than that of tenants at the present time. He thought the result of the measure would be that, before long, a large amount of money would be taken out of the country by tenants who had sold their interest in their holdings. The incoming tenants would really have to pay a larger rent than ever they had paid and than the land would bear. There was great difficulty in fixing a fair rent, and it was almost impossible to make all proper allowances for differences in the character of the land, and the other circumstances of the holdings. He was of opinion that in the altered circumstances in which landlords would find themselves they 303 ought to be empowered to compel the State to buy. He was exceedingly sorry that the Amendments to the Emigration Clause had rendered it a practical nullity, as he regarded that clause as the most important in the Bill; and he believed its purpose had been defeated in some measure by the machinations of the Roman Catholic priests, who were afraid to lose the fees they derived from the overcrowded districts of Ireland. He objected also to the clause relating to leases. There might be cases of hardship; but the tenants had entered into those contracts with their eyes open, and it was inequitable to re-open questions thus settled. He regarded the Bill as a whole as most unsatisfactory; it was not a final settlement of the question, and he fully expected that in six or seven years they would have another Land Bill. He regretted that the Bill had ever been introduced, and he hoped that their Lordships would be able to modify in Committee some of its most objectionable features.
said, they could all understand with what great pain the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) separated himself from the Party with which he usually acted. It was frequently as difficult, however, to act in opposition to one's class as to one's Party. No complaint could be made with regard to the references to the Emigration Clause; and he was quite convinced that the Roman Catholic priests of Ireland had been actuated in this matter by pure motives. With regard to the general question, they must ask themselves whether there was a grievance to be dealt with in Ireland? One was ashamed seriously to discuss this question after all that had come and gone. One might almost, after the speeches which had been made, begin to fancy that the Irish land system was the most perfect possible. The evidence collected by the Bessborough Commission could not be all swept away by a derisive cheer. But there was, besides, the Richmond Commission, to which the noble Lord (Lord Carlingford) had referred. The recommendation of that Commission was most significant. It could scarcely be maintained that before 1870 there was freedom of contract or undivided ownership. The latter implied that the landlord had the right to deal with the soil as he liked; but that was 304 far from being the case. The freedom of contract which existed before 1870 reminded him of a passage in one of Goldsmith's plays. The old father wished his son to marry an heiress who was the father's ward. The son was reluctant, being engaged to another lady, and he was addressed by the father in this wise—You are both of you perfectly free; she is free to marry you or lose half her fortune; and you are free to marry her or pack out of the house without any fortune at all.Consolidation was responsible for much of the difficulty in which they found themselves; and it was out of the question that the right of consolidation could be exercised freely. A right which remained, but which he feared would be somewhat damaged by the Bill, was that of making tenants combine to effect improvements. The rent question was left open in 1870. The Government were then under the impression they could adequately secure the interest of the tenant by protecting him against arbitrary eviction. It must be admitted that there were many cases in poorer parts of the country in which rents had been raised in virtue of the improvements made by the tenants, and this had imported a sense of insecurity into the rent system. In illustration, he quoted the particulars of a case in which a tenant had paid an increased rent for 10 years on his own improvements, and a case which would not have been brought to light if the landlord had not at last turned the tenant out. The great majority of landlords were as honourable in Ireland as in England, and treated their tenants with great consideration. But it was hardly necessary to remind their Lordships that a small amount of injustice might create a widespread feeling of insecurity. The noble Lord read an extract from the Report of the Devon Commission, in proof of that statement. Their Lordships had heard but little from the opponents of the Bill as to the remedies which ought to be applied to the present state of affairs in Ireland. In his opinion the only solution for present difficulties was to be found in increasing the interest of the tenant in his holding, and augmenting the number of the owners of the soil. The noble Marquess opposite was in favour of the latter. But anything done in that way must be voluntary, and if it were volun- 305 tary, many districts would be untouched. If they could not convert tenants generally into owners, he saw no other alternative than to develop the interest of the tenant, and leave him then to work out his own salvation. If rents were to be considered by a Court, no doubt, in cases where they were reduced, the landlords might think their interests damaged. But it was admitted on all sides that the enormous majority of the landlords of Ireland were prepared for that. If they did not want to extract more than a fair rent, what reason was there for fear on that head? The part of the Bill to which most objection was taken by noble Lords was the clause relating to free sale. But if a fair rent was fixed, he did not see how the landlords would be damaged by free sale. He had heard of various cases in which the rent had been largely increased on account of improvements made by the tenant himself; but he had never heard of a single case in which a landlord had suffered from tenant right. He did not see that any of those provisions were calculated to damage the landlord's pecuniary interests, though, no doubt, it would interfere with his rights in some respects. It had been said that this measure was a concession to agitation, and it was, no doubt, a great misfortune that legislation of this kind should just follow on agitation. He might, however, remind their Lordships that the same thing had happened more than once in England, and that several important measures, notably Catholic Emancipation, had been passed deliberately as concessions to agitation. He would only add that it was his firm belief that the Bill would confer great benefit on the tenants, and would prove such a settlement of the present difficulties, as would render it acceptable to the landlords also.
§ THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD
My Lords, I rise, as an Irish landlord, to address you upon one of the most important measures that have ever come before your Lordships' House, and I say this advisedly, as, although I am aware that this measure only affects the Land Tenure of Ireland, yet I am satisfied that any change which may be made in the Land Laws of that country will eventually find an echo in legislation—in Radical legislation—with regard to the Land Laws of Great Britain. Up to the present time, the rights of pro- 306 perty have rarely been interfered with by Parliament; and, when it has been found necessary to interfere with the vested rights of individuals for the public good, it has been invariably the custom to give full compensation for the value taken away. But this is a measure of confiscation pure and simple, without 1s. of compensation being given. It takes away the just rights, whether purchased or inherited, of a class who—as the Prime Minister himself has stated—have been tried and honourably acquitted, and who, although so acquitted, are to be heavily fined in the future for their conduct in the past. I appeal to your Lordships to be informed whether that is in accordance with your views of English justice? It has been argued by the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal (Lord Carlingford) that there is no confiscation in this measure, and that the landlords will not be injured, but will absolutely gain by it, as it will put down agitation, and also that there are certain clauses in the Bill which will render their rents more secure. I entirely deny both of those statements. No one will attempt to argue that enormous advantages, which represent many millions in value, are conferred on the Irish tenant. Where do those advantages come from? There is no intermediate property in land; the Act of 1870 drew a hard-and-fast line where the landlord's rights ended and the tenant's rights began. If advantages representing many millions are to be conferred upon the Irish tenant, they must have been taken from the landlords, who had previously enjoyed them, because there is no other place from whence they can have come. How, then, can it be argued that this is not a measure of confiscation? Then there is the statement that this Bill will stop agitation; that it will settle the Land Question and render Ireland contented. I wish from my heart I believed that was the case; for, if I believed that, much as I dislike this measure and almost everything in it, I would receive it with open arms. But I am afraid it will be but the starting point for a fresh agitation, which will gather force by the strengthened position of the tenants, who will then have a much firmer basis of operations than they had before. Then, as regards certain clauses in this Bill rendering the rents more secure, I think that is a ridiculous sug- 307 gestion, because every such clause could have been conceded by the landlord of his own free will, if he wished to secure his rents by doing so. What is the history of this measure? Has it been produced by feelings of right and justice in the minds of Her Majesty's Government, or is it an answer to an agitation which has been a disgrace to the Empire and has destroyed all progress and prosperity in Ireland? I think the whole history of the measure points to the conclusion that it is an answer to agitation, and if we needed any further proof the changes that have been introduced since the Bill first appeared would supply it. There was no mention of it when the Ministry came into power; we heard then of nothing but the "comfort and satisfaction" at the state of Ireland; but since the Bill has been before the House of Commons addition after addition, all tending to make it much worse, have been made at the instigation of the Land League. But what are the aims of the agitation which is being pandered to by the Government? It goes far beyond any agrarian question, and aims at nothing less than the dismemberment of the Empire; and giving way to it will lead the Irish people to believe that they have only to agitate in the future to get anything they may require. This agitation is led by men who know well that if they can destroy the landlords of Ireland and eliminate from the soil of that country those men who up to this time have been the most loyal and true to the British connection, they will have gone far to bring about their real object, which is separation from England altogether. Mr. Parnell himself stated that he would not have taken off his coat to this work if he had not something far greater and grander to bring about in the future. It would not have been easy to believe, after the statements made by the Liberal Party in 1870, that an Act including the "three F's" would be brought forward by that Government within 11 years, and yet this is the case. Is it more difficult to believe now that a measure granting Home Rule will be laid on the Table of this House in a limited period? For my part, I believe such a measure will be brought forward before many years are passed, and when that takes place separation will not be far distant. But I am not one of those 308 who consider no change necessary. I know the country too well and the terrible state to which it is now reduced to believe we could go on without a measure of Land Reform, which has been rendered necessary by the promises made by Her Majesty's Government that have excited such lively hopes in Ireland, which hopes it would be impossible now to blight and destroy; also by the weakness of the present Government in having allowed Ireland to drift into such a fearful state; and, in addition to this, by the fact that the Act of 1870 has been a failure. I have never believed that the Act of 1870 could be a final settlement of the question, because it unsettled the basis upon which the Land Laws rested—a basis that had grown up by the usage of centuries. But I have never objected to that measure as regards the interests of the landlords, except in so far as the unsettlement it produced, which rendered it necessary that other Acts should be passed to attempt to find the foundation that was lost, just as I believe this Bill, which again thoroughly unsettles the question, will be repudiated in its turn by the very Government who pressed it upon Parliament as a final settlement of the question. The noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll), whom I do not see in his place, has stated that the Act of 1870 carried out all that was intended by its framers, and therefore I suppose he believes that it has not been a failure; but I would say that, in certain instances, it carried out more than was intended, because it was distinctly stated by the Prime Minister, and the Government to which the noble Duke then belonged, that there was no intention of giving an interest in a holding by granting compensation for disturbance. But now it is stated that, unintentionally, that measure created a valuable interest, which it is now necessary to pass this measure to protect. If such unintentional advantages were granted under an Act so clear as the Act of 1870, we must almost shudder at the idea of the unintentional advantages which may be conferred in an Act so complicated as this. But, although I have never objected to the Act of 1870, except for the unsettlement it produced, I think it has been a failure. I shall not now go into the points where that Act has failed; but, as it has been a failure, and for the other reasons I have stated, I consider it 309 an absolute necessity in the interests of both landlords and tenants that a change should be made and a measure of Land Reform introduced. But, though I consider a measure necessary, I think the Bill before your Lordships' House the very worst means that could possibly have been devised for making such a change. It is so complicated that no one can understand it, and it will produce an amount of litigation perfectly fearful to contemplate; but it is perfectly clear in this—that it gives no compensation to the landlords for the rights taken away, and it will demoralize Ireland and ruin the future race of tenants. What was required was a simple measure anyone could understand, granting large advantages to the Irish tenants—which any measure to have a chance of success must grant—and giving full compensation to the landlords for those advantages which I have shown must have been taken from them. But, my Lords, we have no other measure before us, and therefore I regard it as a necessity, having regard to the interests of all classes in Ireland, that we should give this Bill a second reading, bad as it is and worse as it has become, and attempt to introduce some moderate Amendments in Committee to clear up some of its ambiguities, because what the Prime Minister has stated is the object of certain clauses is not always clear, and also to correct some of the mistakes, unfairnesses, and anomalies which appear upon the surface of it. My Lords, if we are to accept this Bill, it is necessary we should look the matter boldly in the face, and see what the effect of it really will be, and what will be the future position of the landlords and tenants of Ireland. I will divide the Bill into two parts—the first part dealing with the "three F's"—fixity of tenure, fair rents, and free sale; the second part dealing with the "ornamental clauses"—peasant proprietary, reclamation of waste lands, and emigration. The reason why I call them the ornamental clauses is, because it is impossible they can be made use of under the Bill as it stands, and I do not believe it is intended they should be, as the first part renders them almost entirely inoperative; and I believe they have been put in to meet the wishes and catch the votes of certain of the Government supporters who have hobbies on one or other of them. It is not easy, my Lords, to reconcile the 310 speeches which have been made by Her Majesty's Government with regard to the Bill. For instance, the Prime Minister has stated that the "three F's" are not given in this Bill. Now, no noble Lord has said the same, and the only way that I can explain that statement is, that he has inveighed so strongly against the "three F's" that it would be impossible, even with the enormous powers of rhetoric at his command, to explain away the unanswerable arguments which he used during the passing of the Act of 1870 against the "three F's," taken individually and collectively, which, I maintain, are the fundamental principles of this Bill. The first thing we have to consider is the right of free sale. There is nothing that the landlords, who, up to this time, have not allowed this right upon their properties, and have paid large sums to keep it away, or, in some instances, acting on the suggestion and guarantee contained in the Act of 1870, who have purchased that right, believing by so doing they were extinguishing a most injurious custom for ever, though at a large cost—there is nothing, I say, which they look upon in this Bill with greater dislike or apprehension than the system of free sale, founded as it is on the Ulster Custom, but upon perfectly different grounds, because in Ulster the tenants have paid for their tenant right, therefore there is no reason they should not have the power of selling it again; but in the rest of Ireland, where this right does not exist, nothing has been paid to gain a right which represents an immense money value, and which will be enjoyed directly this Bill becomes law. My Lords, it has been stated that the prosperity of Ulster is due to the tenant right custom. I have had some experience of a property under tenant right, and I am quite satisfied that tenant right would have ruined the population of that Province if it had not been for the manufactories that exist there. Again, the tenant right was constantly limited by office rules; but for the future there will be no limit of any sort, and everyone will be able to sell his tenant right for the best price it will command in the market. They will be able to sell what they have enjoyed through the kindness and consideration of their landlords in allowing the rents to remain below the value; and the more considerate the landlord has been, the higher will be the tenant right. No one 311 would object to their being allowed to sell the improvements that had been made by themselves or their predecessors in title; but the Prime Minister has stated they are permitted to sell a something more, and this something I believe to be the capitalized difference between their present rent and a full rent. My Lords, the landlord of the future will not be able to make his tenants contented and happy, and his rents secure by having them low, because the lower the rent the higher will be the tenant right, and he will be obliged to have his tenants rack-rented and his rents insecure whether he likes it or not. Then, again, all improvements will be stopped, because the landlords will not consider improvements sufficiently protected under this Bill, and it is possible his own improvements may be made a still greater fine upon his future tenants; and, again, he will have no power of selection. His greatest enemy may buy a farm upon his own property at his gate, and may insult him whenever he goes in or out of it. How can it be expected, under these circumstances, that landlords will still lay out their money in improvements? My Lords, I believe this Bill is intended to stop eviction and to prevent cruelties being perpetrated on the Irish tenants—of which the Prime Minister states the landlords as a class have been acquitted—but I believe it will enormously increase evictions, which will take place in the future in a much more cruel form than hitherto. Up to this present time the landlord, and the landlord alone, has had the power to evict a tenant or make the sale of a holding, because he could refuse to take any tenant who purchased under a sheriff's sale. Now several other classes are brought in, who will have for the future almost the same powers of eviction with the landlord. You will bring in the money lender or "gombeen" man, the shopkeeper, the banks, and other creditors. Will they be as considerate as the landlord of the past? Do you not think that eviction will become much more frequent under sales for debt, created by the powers of mortgage which the Bill will give? The landlords have allowed men to run into three or four years' arrears, and then have tried to help them over their difficulties. Will the "gombeen" man be as considerate? I myself have protected 312 many tenants who have fallen into difficulties, through no fault of their own, by having become security for friends, who have left them to pay, and I have no doubt other landlords have done the same thing; but now we shall be prevented from giving any protection whatever. In 10 years' time will the Prime Minister be able to acquit the new classes to whom he has given the power of eviction, which he calls a "sentence of death," as he has acquitted the landlords of the past? We have heard lately how money lenders in some places on the Continent have fastened like vampires on the population, and are sucking the life's blood out of them. Does the Prime Minister wish to institute the same state of things in Ireland and give the Irish people another and graver cause for misery? Why are the class to which the money lenders belong so anxious for free sale? Because they know that it will create a power of mortgage, which will be taken advantage of, as it was under the Act of 1870, and that the monies lent on it will be more secure. My Lords, I believe the clause will be injurious to the interests of both landlord and tenant; but the Bill hinges on it, and if it were taken out, as some people have proposed it should be, it would utterly destroy the measure and render it unworkable. Then there is another view which I do not think has struck Gentlemen who wish this clause eliminated, and it surprises me it has not been mentioned before. If you take away the right of free sale as it stands in the Bill, with certain conditions for the protection of the landlords, you leave the right of sale under Common Law behind, without any conditions whatever. That right has always existed, but it has been rendered useless by the power of eviction; but directly you grant a judicial lease, and take away power of eviction, Common Law sale, without restriction, comes in; and, in my belief, the landlord under this Bill would be in a worse position if the 1st clause were cut out than he is at present, because free sale would still exist, only in a far more injurious form; and if, to protect the improvements of landlords who manage their properties on the English system, such properties were cut out from the action of the 1st clause, and not cut out entirely from the action of the Bill, the 313 tenants on those properties would have far more power of selling the landlord's improvements than they had before. And, therefore, though I consider the clause most injurious to the best interests of the people of Ireland, I consider it a necessity that if the Bill becomes law the clause should become law with it. But I hope Amendments may be introduced in Committee to protect in some manner men who, under the guarantee of the Act of 1870, have purchased their tenants' right and paid their tenants for it in full—which, as the Bill now stands, the tenant can sell over again—and also more fully to protect the improvements made by the landlord upon all estates, and more especially on those managed on the English system. There is another point which I shall refer to under the head of peasant proprietary, which I think is the most useful proposition made in the Bill, and which the clause, as it stands, will go far to prevent. The next question we have to consider is fair rents. No one will deny that it is of the utmost importance that fair rents, and fair rents alone, should be levied from the tenant farmers of Ireland. But the reason the 7th clause created so much discussion is, because it is not clear that the rents of the future will be fair rents. Under the enormous powers granted to the Commission, and the wording of this clause, it is provided that the tenant's interest may mean his interest in his tenant right. The Prime Minister states that this is not to be taken into consideration in fixing a fair rent; but, if this is so, why not make it clear? If the tenant right should be taken into consideration—which I believe it will, as the clause is now worded—it is only a matter of time when the rents of Ireland will become a minus quantity, because the lower the rent the higher the tenant right; and when the rent comes to be fixed, if the tenant right is high, the rent will be lowered, and if a sale takes place during the next 15 years the tenant right will again be increased; so that in time the tenant right must eat away the rents altogether. I cannot see why, if the Prime Minister does not wish this to happen, we should not adopt the wording of Mr. Butt's Bill—that a fair rent is such a rent as a solvent tenant would undertake to pay one year with another, deducting from it any increase due to the tenant's im- 314 provements or his predecessors in title, for which he would be entitled to compensation under the Act of 1870. If this is adopted instead of the present words—which I hope it will be, and that your Lordships will adhere to the Amendment—it will make it clear that tenant right is not to be taken into consideration, and will carry out the intentions of the Prime Minister that a fair rent should be fixed without taking that right into consideration. I am quite sure Her Majesty's Government would not wish the rents of Ireland to be rendered a minus quantity by a right conferred on the tenants against the expressed wish of the landlords; but you must remember an unintentional advantage was conferred by the Act of 1870, and it is just possible there might be another unintentional advantage conferred by mistake under the Act of 1881. My Lords, the Prime Minister states that if the landlords can prove loss under the Bill they have a fair right to claim compensation from Parliament; but if they were to lose their whole rents, as they might do under the wording of this clause, they might, no doubt, claim compensation; but do your Lordships think they would have any chance whatever of getting it? My Lords, I believe this is not merely an Irish question—it is an Imperial question, because, if an irresponsible Court can be constituted that could have this effect upon the rents paid for the lands of Ireland, and it brought about such a result, I would naturally be the means of setting on foot an agitation to bring about the same results in England, and a strong Radical Government, backed by such a majority as is at present supporting the Prime Minister, might pass an Act which would do away in time with all rent from the land of Great Britain as well without any compensation. Well, my Lords, I now come to the "fixity of tenure" clause, or "durability of tenure," as the Prime Minister calls it, though I must own I cannot see a difference in the effect of the two words, the only difference being that they are spelt in a different manner. The best proof I can give that this is fixity of tenure is, that I believe the clause to be drawn on the lines of the old Irish lease, which was called "a lease of lives renewable for ever." This lease, like the clause before your Lordships, was really 315 a lease for ever, or a durable tenure. In that lease there were conditions very similar to those contained in this clause; but, my Lords, it was found so inconvenient that it was necessary to pass an Act, forcing upon the owners who held leases of this description the necessity of giving durable tenure by what is called a "fee-farm grant," which is a "lease for ever;" and the arguments used to prove that there was no injustice in turning a "lease of lives renewable for ever" into a fee-farm grant or a lease for ever were, that the original lease was really a lease for ever, and, therefore, there could be no injustice in making it so by law. My Lords, if a "lease of lives renewable for ever" was turned without injustice into a lease for ever, and if this clause is, as I have shown, almost the same as that lease, is it not a proof that the lease for 15 years renewable for ever is really fixity of tenure or a lease for ever? The Prime Minister says that this clause is not fixity of tenure, because of the right of preemption reserved to the landlord; but that right can only, come into existence when the tenant wishes to sell, and there is nothing to prevent him holding on for ever, unless he wishes to dispose of his holding, which he can then do, to the landlord at the full value. Under a "lease of lives renewable for ever" there was nothing to prevent the landlord buying at the full market value if his tenant wished to sell, which is all that is conceded at present; and, therefore, I maintain that this "fixity," "durability," or "perpetuity of tenure" is identical with the lease I have referred to, which is now turned by Act of Parliament into a "lease for ever." There is yet another point that calls for notice. If, before the passing of this Act, a landlord had offered his tenants a lease for ever at fair rents, they would have been prepared to pay a large fee or submit to a large fine in order to become possessed of it; but now a lease for ever is conferred on them without requiring any fine at all, and then it is said that this Bill is not a measure of confiscation. Well, my Lords, if this is a lease for ever, which I have shown it is, it is a monstrous proposition that, unlike the clauses contained in such leases, the landlord has not the right to re-enter upon a holding that belongs to him upon the deliberate 316 breach of a statutory condition, without being liable to the full penalty for disturbance which he would have to pay consequent on a notice to quit; and he will be in exactly the same position as if he had capriciously evicted his tenant, although the tenant, holding a lease for ever, has broken one of the conditions upon which he holds that lease. I appeal to your Lordships whether this is fair and just, and whether an alteration in this clause ought not to be made in Committee. Well, my Lords, I now come to the ornamental clauses, and I shall not detain you long, because I consider them almost entirely inoperative. The first we come to is the scheme for creating a peasant proprietary, which I believe is the best proposition made in this Bill, because I have long thought that it is the only possible manner of settling the Irish Land Question, and bringing back peace, contentment, and prosperity to that country; but this scheme will, I believe, be inoperative, because I do not see any arrangement made to produce funds sufficient to carry it out, and there are none existing in Ireland for the purpose; and also because I believe "free sale" will act directly against it. Have your Lordships considered that if a man has purchased his tenant right, he will be paying twice over the fee simple of his holding, if he wishes to purchase the freehold in addition to what he at present possesses? For instance, a tenant whose rent is £20 a-year, put the tenant right at 20 years' purchase—a very moderate sum in the North—this would equal £400; if he buys the fee at, say 25 years' purchase, that will be £500 more, or, taking them together, 45 years' purchase. Do your Lordships believe that any land in Ireland will be worth 45 years' purchase, or £900 for a farm rented at £20 a-year, after the passing of this Act? What will happen if he wishes to realize? Do you think he will be able to sell both rights at the same time? I think that is impossible to suppose; but, if he should wish to do so, I doubt very much whether he would get more than the fee, or 25 years' purchase, for what he had paid 45 years' purchase to become possessed of. I think for this reason that free sale is enormously against the possibility of tenants taking advantage of the Purchase Clauses of the Bill; and I think this is a great pity, because I have long 317 considered that to make property secure in Ireland it is necessary largely to increase the number of peasant proprietors, and it is the only means of escape for those landlords who do not wish to submit to the penalties contained in this measure, for their position under it would be intolerable. Their property would be rendered unsaleable, as the purchaser would only give such a price for it as the Land League would allow him to. I have several times mentioned the necessity for compensation; but I believe it would be most difficult to arrive at the absolute value of rights taken away under this Bill, some of which represent a large money value, but others, equally valuable, are matters of sentiment. The only possible way of arriving at compensation would be purchase by the State at a given number of years' purchase where the landlords could show they had had loss. This might have been arrived at without costing the British taxpayer one shilling, because the estates so bought could have been mortgaged, and the money borrowed at a very low rate of interest. It has been said that if the landlords cannot collect their rents, how could the State collect them, and that it would not do for the State to become the landlords of Ireland. But, my Lords, the State would not become the landlords of Ireland, it would be merely the holder of a mortgage on the lands purchased, which mortgage was being paid off, principal and interest, each year during 35 years; the farmers would not look upon it as rent, because rent goes on for ever, and this would cease at a given time, and by every payment they would be reducing their debt to the State. Therefore they would not repudiate it, because by so doing they would lose the money they had already paid—just like a man who had insured his life will go through any privation rather than, by giving up paying his premium for one year, lose all he has paid before. But, my Lords, if the Government are so blind to the facts as to say there is no confiscation, they can hardly deny that for the future there is only one possible buyer of Irish land. The whole British and Irish public are swept from the market; the occupier will be the only buyer, and he will be prevented from buying by what I have pointed out. My Lords, if there are no other losses to the Irish landlord under 318 this Bill, I cannot see how it can be denied that his property is rendered unsaleable, and the value of it enormously deteriorated. As it is, I believe the intention of this measure is to fetter the landlords to their properties, so that in the future, when the next agitation takes place, the British Government will be able to confiscate the only thing then left to them—namely, the headrent of the estates which they once called their own. Now, my Lords, with regard to emigration, which always finds such great advocates on this side of the Channel, for wherever the English people find Ireland difficult to govern, they always propose a wholesale depopulation of that country. My Lords, I think it a poor thing that this great, this rich Empire, should only be able to find two remedies for the constantly recurring distress in Ireland, and that one of those remedies should be the confiscation of the landlords' properties, and the other the still greater removal of a population which, in many places, is already too small. I will not deny that in certain poor districts in the West of Ireland the population is much greater than the produce of the land can support; but that is not the case over by far the greater area of that country. I believe that every emigrant who is likely to succeed in foreign lands is an enormous loss to the land of his birth. I ventured to point out on a former occasion that State-aided manufactories were the only true way of relieving distress in the West of Ireland, and I was met by the answer that it would be against the principles of political economy. But I have noticed since the Liberal Party introduced the Compensation for Disturbance Bill of last year and the present measure that they have given up talking about political economy altogether; and I cannot see the great difference between advancing money to Companies for the establishment of manufactories, and advancing money for the reclamation of waste lands, of which there is a proposal under this Bill. But, my Lords, I need not deal with either the questions of reclamation or emigration, because neither of these clauses can possibly be made the least use of as they are at present worded. Who would suppose that any Company would lay out money on reclamation, when they know that the moment 319 the lands were let to a tenant, he would have perfect power to sell all their improvements for his own advantage? Well, my Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships by dealing with the questions of leases, or of arrears, or of that much-to-be-pitied class, the farm labourers, and I shall leave these most important subjects to be dealt with by other noble Lords, who, I have no doubt, will discuss them; but this I must say, that the way leases and arrears are dealt with seems to me the most demoralizing feature in this demoralizing Bill. My Lords, I have confined my remarks to the main features of this Bill, which I have said is a measure of confiscation, partly rendered necessary by the present deplorable state of Ireland, and that I believe full compensation ought to be given, more especially as the present state of Ireland has been mainly brought about by the weakness of the present Government. The Irish Executive reminds me of an indifferent rider on an impetuous horse, who, instead of riding him with a steady seat and firm, but gentle hand, throws the reins upon his neck and holds on by the spurs, thereby irritating him into a state far beyond control. My Lords, I believe the policy of the Irish Government has been a policy of weakness and irritation. I am not one of those who blame the Government for not having renewed the Peace Preservation Act last year; because it would have been impossible, in my opinion, having regard to the state of Ireland when they succeeded to power, having regard to the statements made on the hustings that Ireland was in a state of comfort and satisfaction, that the first measure of a Government, pledged up to the eyes to give everybody everything they wanted, could have been the renewal of an Act suspending the liberties of the Irish people. But, my Lords, I find the greatest fault with every action of the Government since that time. Every measure taken to preserve law and order in Ireland has invariably been taken two months after it would have been effective, and has merely acted as an irritant upon the people. My Lords, I believe that the Act which was passed last winter, and which no one can deplore the necessity of more than I do, would have been perfectly unnecessary if the ordinary law—as stated in a Circular 320 sent round to the magistrates of Ireland—had been properly enforced. But, my Lords, the Chief Secretary for Ireland has at last thrown off the mask, and the mist that has hung over the extraordinary proceedings of the Irish Executive during the past year is now cleared away. The intention of the Chief Secretary for Ireland throughout must have been the ruin of the Irish landlords, because no man in the United Kingdom can be so well aware of what the effect would be of the addition to the Bill which he allowed to be made at the end of last week, and for which he thanked Mr. Parnell. He waited until the measure was nearly passed to show his real intentions, for fear of frightening his followers, and then, when he considered it safe, he threw off the mask and appeared in his true colours. My Lords, I sincerely wish that I could believe that this measure will really be a "message of peace" to Ireland, and that by the sacrifice of the landlords' rights a lasting settlement of this much-vexed question will be brought about; but my belief is that when the measure becomes law, things will become even worse in Ireland than they are at present, and that, acting up to the apparent wishes of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, tenants will refuse to pay any rent at all until a judicial rent has been fixed. If this takes place—and I already see signs that it will—it will prove that right cannot come out of wrong, and that laws framed contrary to all principles of political economy, and against all theories upon which nations have been governed in the past, can lead to nothing but dire and desperate disaster in the future.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
said, that before attempting to unravel the mysteries of this Bill he would say one word in protest about the way in which it was introduced. The Bill was under discussion in the other House late on Friday evening, and was read a first time the same night at a special Sitting of this House, and the second reading fixed for this evening. The Bill was not printed until Saturday afternoon, and their Lordships' House had, therefore, practically speaking, one day, and that a Sunday, for the consideration of a measure of vast importance to the country. He was not a strict Sabbatarian, and had even advocated in that 321 House the desirability of enjoying reasonable recreation on the Sunday; but it was impossible to say that racking one's brains over the tangled intricacies of that Bill could be considered wholesome recreation for anyone. If they were not to consider a measure carefully and critically then they might as well abstain from the empty semblance of doing so; and if a measure of that kind was to receive proper consideration, it ought not to be taken for second reading on Monday when it was only printed on the preceding Saturday afternoon. Such indecent haste was not complimentary to their Lordships. He had no desire that the passage of the Bill should be retarded in any way. On the contrary, he hoped that the House would sit on "Wednesdays and Saturdays, as far as convenient; but it was asking too much to propose that a Bill of that nature should be read a second time after it had been in their Lordships' hands only a few hours. If it were a simple measure, the time would be short enough; but the first thing that struck one in contemplating a measure which, in order to carry out its intentions, should be comprehensible to all those to whom it applied, was its complicated nature and the number and intricacies of the checks and balances which it contained, and the ambiguous nature of its language. A measure which ought to be clear, simple, and precise was about the most complicated measure that ever had been introduced into Parliament; and if any Amendment were made in it, one provision should be that a properly qualified interpreter should be employed on every townland to explain the Bill to the tenants. When, after some difficulty, a conclusion was arrived at as to what was meant by the terms of the Bill, the nature of it became pretty clear, and it was possible to form an estimate as to what the result of the Bill would be, and how far that result would bring about the ends and objects which it was intended to gain. What did the Bill do? He contended that it changed the whole system of land tenure in Ireland. The rights of ownership were taken away from landlords and given partly to tenants and partly to a Land Commission. Landlord and tenant were for the future to have certain rights and properties in the soil subject to the authority and direction of a Commis- 322 sion, which was practically the landlord—the lord of all the land in Ireland in all respects, except in the enjoyment of the money value of the land. Tenants were given new and valuable rights, or, to put it another way, which, however, involved an entire fallacy, ancient, nominal, and valueless rights were revived and made valuable, and the value was taken, and must be taken, from the landlord. The landlord lost this value in his estate, and he lost also whatever value might be attached to rights of real ownership. He was no longer a free man and an absolute owner of his property; he became a partial owner only, subject to the scrutiny and interference of an authority superior to him. His position was as different from what it was as was that of a man under control from that of a free man. The Bill took away all liberty of contract on the part of the landlord; but it left almost complete liberty of contract between tenant and tenant, who, for the future, would have the disposition of the land of Ireland in his hands. The Bill granted, to all intents and purposes, the "three F's;" and fixity of tenure, free sale, and fair rent constituted, if taken together, a tenure as different to the present tenure founded on free contract as any two systems could possibly be. He trusted the House would take the view that the Bill revolutionized the system of land tenure; that it instituted a new system which, if it were better than the existing system, could prove its superiority only by being largely applied, a system which certainly offered great advantages to tenants for the present, advantages worth money to them, and which deprived landlords of rights and privileges of great value to them. If the Bill was much restricted it could do little good to Ireland. If it passed Parliament without the principle of compensation being recognized, he believed an Act would have obtained the sanction of the British Parliament more unjust than any measure that had ever been approved by any Legislative Assembly in a civilized community. He was not particularly hopeful of the general and permanent results which this Bill was likely to have in Ireland. He was very doubtful as to the future effects which the change of tenure would produce. But that was a question which experience alone could settle. The change 323 would chime in with the feelings of the people. They were taking a new departure in Irish politics. It was an experiment—a leap in the dark—and it was hard to form a sound opinion as to how far the "three F's" were likely to prove beneficial. Judging by the former opinions of very able men, the change was not unlikely to be injurious, and certainly involved injustice to the present owners of property in land. Baron Dowse, when Solicitor General for Ireland in 1870, spoke of such an interference by a Court as was contemplated in that Bill as being "completely subversive of all the relations between landlord and tenant." In the course of the second reading of the Bill of 1870, Mr. Gladstone deprecatedAny provision by which men shall be told that there shall he an authority always existing ready to release them from the contracts they have deliberately entered into,and he could not then conceiveA plan more calculated for throwing into confusion the whole economical arrangements of the country, and carrying widespread demoralization throughout the whole mass of the Irish people."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 1845.]It was true that the Prime Minister denied that fixity of tenure was granted by this Bill, though he formerly stated that valuing rents, which that Bill certainly did, would be tantamount to granting perpetuity of tenure. He said that perpetuity of tenure was not given, only security and durability. Practically speaking, perpetuity of tenure was granted, and they had the high authority mentioned for saying that such perpetuity was not likely to be beneficial to the country, and, moreover, that it could not be given to the tenant without taking away something valuable from the landlord. On that point, Mr. Gladstone said—Perpetuity of tenure on the part of the occupier is virtually expropriation of the landlord, and in such cases compensation would have to be paid to the landlord for the rights of which he would be deprived.He appealed to any unprejudiced man to say whether the new tenure, 15 years' leases renewable for ever, was not practically perpetuity of tenure; and he appealed to the words of the Prime Minister to prove that perpetuity of tenure was practically expropriation, and that expropriation should be paid for. On 324 the second reading of the Bill of 1870 the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack said thatFixity of tenure in plain English amounted to the taking away of the property of one man and giving it to another ….No doubt we may take a man's property; but, in. that case, we must compensate him for it."—[Ibid, 1666.]The noble and learned Lord spoke of fixity of tenure, and said that "fixity required compensation." But now that "durability" and "security" were given, there was no mention of compensation. It would require the ingenuity and casuistry of the whole Jesuit College to show any practical difference between perpetuity or fixity and such durability and security as were provided by this Bill. This Bill did grant, practically speaking, perpetuity of tenure subject to periodical valuations. The same conditions as to rent, payment, waste, and sub-division which the noble Lord (Lord Carlingford) said in 1870 would be ineffectual were contained in this Bill. Why were they to suppose that sub-division was better guarded against now than then? But sub-division had been one of the chief causes of Irish distress. He did not see why public men should not change their opinions. If a man might not change his opinions there was no sense in urging anything before Parliament. But in this matter of Irish legislation the opinions of the most prominent men had been changed to a very remarkable extent. The Prime Minister denied, over and over again, that joint proprietorship between landlord and tenant was a good thing. But in introducing this Bill he said that "he did not admit that joint partnership was a bad thing." As for free sale, the Prime Minister stated, in the debate on the Bill of 1870, that he and his ColleaguesDistinctly declined to admit that they were going to provide the same legislation and the same compensation for men who had paid nothing at all when they took their holdings as they would provide for those who had invested large sums of money."—[Ibid. 1840.]But that was precisely what this present Bill did. On that point the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack spoke of extending the Ulster Custom to the rest of Ireland as a "manifest violation of the principles of justice." But, as far as free sale was concerned, the present 325 Bill did, to all intents and purposes, extend the Ulster Custom over the whole of Ireland. In contradistinction to all the assertions made 10 years ago by the Prime Minister to the effect that free sale over the whole of Ireland was not allowable and could not be granted without great injustice to the landlord, the same Prime Minister now said that it wasDistinctly and decidedly the least open to objection of any part of the Bill," and that "it was almost absolutely ingrained in the necessities of the case and in the circumstances with which we have to deal.These were marvellous changes of opinion. He could understand men changing their opinions as to the expediency of a measure; but he could not comprehend how they could change their views as to any hardship or injustice accruing to individuals under it. The right of assignment might have existed in law 200 or 300 years ago; but it was valueless, because there was nothing to assign. The present Bill made very valuable that which was previously valueless, and pretended that that value was created out of nothing at all. According to that Bill, the only way in which Ireland could return to freedom of contract was by present tenancies becoming future tenancies; and, as far as he could see, the only way in which that could be done was by a breach of the statutory conditions. It was only, therefore, by a breach of the statutory conditions of this Act that Irishmen could arrive at the freedom of contract which was to be some day so beneficial to them. In other words, Ireland's social relations would permit of freedom of contract whenever Irish farmers were prepared to break the conditions on which they held their land. That was a somewhat curious view to take of the social relations of a country. At one time the attention of the Irish people was called to the fact that outrages led to the consideration of the Disestablishment of the Church. At another they were told that a notice of eviction was tantamount to a sentence of death. Last Session a Bill was introduced which would have enabled tenants to avoid payment of rent if they only chose to swear hard enough that they could not pay. And now the people of Ireland were told that freedom of contract was the best thing that they could have if they were fit for 326 it, but that they were not fit for it yet, and could only be made fit for it by breaking the statutory conditions of this Bill. The only wonder was that there was any morality at all left among the people. ["Oh!"] Ministers had stated the objections to this measure, in language much better and stronger and clearer than any at his command. This did not prove that the "three F's," or the terms in which they were granted by this Bill, must of necessity be injurious to Ireland. As they were considered by these great authorities to be both un just and injurious a very few years ago, they should not build their hopes too high on such a very ricketty foundation as the opinions now expressed by the same authorities. The Bill was satisfactory in one respect. It protected the undoubted rights of the tenant in his improvements. He had a perfect right in equity to the enjoyment of, or the value of, any improvements he had made, and to nothing else, and in this respect the law should be made to conform to equity. The fatal error in the Act of 1870, and perpetuated in this Bill, was the principle of compensation for disturbance. That principle once admitted, tenants would not rest until it was developed to the fullest extent, and would claim that they had a right to their holdings under all and any circumstances. That the tenants' improvements only ought to be considered was borne out by that clause in the Bill which exempted estates on which the landlords had made all the improvements from the Rent Clauses of the Bill. If in such cases the owner might raise rent to such an extent as to preclude any tenant right, it was proved that tenant right consisted in the value of the tenants' improvements. If the Commission had been instituted to assess the full value of tenants' improvements in all cases, and if it had been authorized to act as an arbitrator in all disputed cases of rent voluntarily submitted to it by both parties, under those circumstances a fair settlement would have been arrived at. The whole circumstances of the case would have to have been taken into consideration in determining the value of the improvements, and if the interest of the tenant was confined to that they would be able to arrive at a stand point; but if they gave any further rights to the tenant, they 327 might depend upon it that he would carry them out to the fullest extent and great confusion would ensue. The Bill endeavoured to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds—to guard the people against all the evils which might possibly arise from landlordism, and, at the same time, to keep for the people all the good results of landlordism. It strove to do too much, and in that respect might fail. The people could not be both independent of landlords and also reap the benefit of wise and improving landlords. The existence of land hunger and of a few bad landlords were some of the reasons given by the Prime Minister for legislating. The latter was a bad reason. It would be madness to legislate to counteract the evil effect of a few Irish landlords if by doing so they also counteracted the good effect produced by many prudent and improving landlords. "Land hunger" was only another term for scarcity of land, and that was only another way of stating that there were too many people bidding for land. Scarcely anything was done by this Bill either to diminish the demand for land by helping the people to find the means of subsistence elsewhere, or by providing them with some other means of subsistence here. The evil had been counteracted by the action of the landlords. They were content to take less than they could get for their land, and, at the same time, would not allow tenants to give more for a farm than it was worth in the way of premium. As it was now, land would be subjected to almost unbridled competition. A check was provided by the provision giving landlords the right of pre-emption at a fair price; but the action of the landlord would be greatly hampered by the fact that the principle of free sale, the right of selling in the open market, was conceded in the Bill. It was hard upon the landlord that, in order to cheek competition, he should be forced to place himself in direct opposition to a privilege granted by this Bill. Competition would be increased instead of checked on the whole. The real difference would be that the advantages to be gained by competition would be transferred from the landlord to the tenant; that was, transferred from the man who used it with moderation to men who were not likely to be moderate in the use of it. What other reasons were 328 there for legislating? He put on one side the Report of the Bessborough Commission. That Report was not worth a row of pins. The noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) the other day conclusively showed up the value of the evidence; and although the conclusions arrived at might be perfectly correct, they must be considered merely as the opinions of certain individuals, founded on their personal observations or evolved out of their moral consciousness, and not as opinions founded upon evidence. Practically, the case was this—A state of things existed in Ireland requiring some remedy, and, in order to meet the views of those who, having heard someone say "Force is no remedy," thought it rather a nice-sounding phrase and a pretty catch-word to repeat, "some legislation must be tried." Only a few months ago the Prime Minister declared that Ireland was enjoying a state of comfort and prosperity hitherto unknown in its history; and they now knew on the authority of a former Cabinet Minister that an Irish Land Bill did not form part of the original programme of the Government. Nothing had occurred since then to make legislation necessary. Harvests had been exceptionally good. Landlords had not been acting in any unusual way, except that, instead of being paid their just debts, they had been buying their own rents. Nothing had occurred in Ireland except an agitation and a reign of terror; and they were forced, however reluctantly, to the inevitable conclusion that this Bill was a sop to that agitation. In Russia, when travellers were pursued by a pack of wolves, something was chucked overboard to keep off the hungry wolves, and so in Ireland, whenever there was any outcry, some landlord's property was chucked out. Whatever the motives for the introduction of the Bill, he allowed that they ought to look at the Bill and judge of it on its merits, and consider it with reference to the state of things in Ireland at the present moment. The one thing they had to consider was whether the system would be more suited to the Irish ideas than the present system, and he did think that the Bill would be more suitable to the Irish character in that respect. Irish tenants had always looked upon their holdings as to a certain extent their own property; and an Act legalizing that custom, and turn- 329 ing their idea into reality, would be quite in accordance with their sentiments. It might be for the benefit of the country to transfer certain rights from the landlord to the tenant. If so, by all means let it be done. Only it should be done with due regard to the principle that the State was bound in such cases to make good any loss accruing to individuals. Compensation for loss of property taken by the State from individuals for the benefit of the community was the great principle upon which all civilized society rested, and it was most dangerous to invade it. There were many things which had occurred in Ireland for which no compensation could be given. They could not compensate the people of Ireland for having allowed them to be so evilly-entreated by agitators. They could not compensate the law-abiding people of that country for allowing them to be outraged by a lawless agitation, and for the distrust of law and the Executive power which they had learned, through the failure to afford them proper protection. They could not compensate landlords for the fact that the feelings of their tenants had been estranged from them. They could never compensate him for the fact that men among whom he was born, and with whom he had lived on terms of intimacy and friendship, had been forced to put themselves into antagonism to him. These were matters for which no compensation could be made. The effect and the recollection of them would die out in time, but perhaps not during the lives of the present generation. In some ways, however, the landowner might have been compensated. Compensation could have been given without costing the State anything, by authorizing the Commission to take over existing mortgages at the present rate of interest, which was 4½ per cent, and allowing 1½ per cent of that interest to go to forma sinking fund, whereby the capital of the mortgage debt would be paid off in a certain number of years. As the State could borrow at 3 per cent, this transaction would not cost the State a penny. Compensation was denied on the ground that there was no confiscation; and confiscation was denied on two grounds—first, that landed property would increase in value; and, secondly, that the rights of which landlords were deprived were not 330 founded in equity. As far as the first contention was concerned, it was quite impossible to prove that land would increase in value. Even if the selling price of land did increase, that was no reason for refusing compensation. If they took away certain rights from owners of land, they could not refuse in justice to compensate them for the loss by proving, even if it were possible to do so, that the value of their property would be improved. If the rights were legal, that was sufficient to found a claim. It was no argument to say that the landlord should never have been given the rights he had enjoyed, or that certain rights should never have been taken away from the tenants. They could not remedy one injustice by committing another. The opinions of people as to the equity of any law or system of tenure or usage of any kind might vary from generation to generation or from year to year; but if there was to be any social stability, if individuals were to devote their capital and energies to those pursuits and in those directions which caused a people to progress in civilization, individuals must be guaranteed against fear of those changes and from their effects by knowing that they would receive an equivalent for any loss of property involved in such change. On most estates in Ireland landlords had contributed half the costs of maintenance and improvement, and had charged nothing in the way of additional rent. Was the landlord to be deprived of his share in those improvements? If the custom of an estate had been for the landlord to find half the cost of maintenance and improvement up to the present, would he be able to obtain compensation on the occasion of a sale that might take place 25 or 50 years hence? They forbade the proprietor, who had contributed a portion of the maintenance and improvement and had charged no interest whatever, to raise his rents sufficiently to cover his expenditure. If that were to be done, rents would be almost universally raised throughout Ireland, and the whole object of the Bill would be frustrated; for, if the result was to raise rents, the Bill would be perfectly useless. It was hoped that the Bill would not be universal in its application—that portion of it which enabled the tenant to apply to the Court to have his rent fixed. It was obvious that if every tenant were to do so the 331 Commission and the Courts would never get through the work. If, therefore, the Bill was to work at all, such cases must be comparatively rare. He did not think himself that the amount of litigation would be so great as was supposed. One or two tenants on an estate or townland would try the rent question, and the result would be looked upon as a test affecting the whole townland or property. It was hoped also that on many estates the tenants would prefer to remain as they were, and would prefer the amenities of a good landlord to the stern justice of the Courts. But, in such cases, the landlord should surely be safeguarded against any change of mind on the part of his tenants, otherwise he would scarcely venture to lay out much money for fear of being suddenly called upon to fulfil the disagreeable and, perhaps, very difficult task of proving every penny to the Court. To the other provisions of the Bill he would only briefly allude. He trusted that the attempt to create a peasant proprietary would prove successful; but probably no very great number of Irish tenants would avail themselves of that provision from the fact that they would prefer to remain statutory tenants. He had little faith in peasant proprietors in Ireland, as neither the soil nor the climate of the country was suitable to the existence of a prosperous and numerous body of very small freeholders. The result would be that they would get into debt, and their properties would fall into the hands of money-lenders and shopkeepers in small towns and villages; so that the creation of a body of peasant proprietors would be followed by the creation of a number of small landlords, who would deal very hardly with their tenants. The Emigration Clause was too restricted. It would do good, no doubt, to a certain extent; but the amount of money was too small for permanently affecting the prosperity of the country. It was a mistake to suppose that assisting emigration was unpopular in the country. He did not believe that to be the case, though it was unpopular with those agitators whose stock-in-trade consisted of a starving and discontented people. In no way could public money be better employed than in assisting the people to emigrate at the least possible inconvenience and pain to themselves; and nobody would deny that the rent difficulty in Ireland would 332 be settled satisfactorily if the people of the country showed so little disinclination to leave Ireland that sooner than pay more than they ought for a farm at home they would seek for a farm in some other portion of the British Empire. He hoped that Irish landlords would do their duty to the best of their ability under an altered condition of things; but they could scarcely be expected to take the same pride or pleasure in their properties, or to occupy themselves, as they had hitherto done, in regarding the welfare of the labourers and the poorer classes upon their estates. Whether the Bill worked well or not would depend upon the moderation of the tenants in the exercise of their new rights, and upon the landlords doing the best they could under the new circumstances. He hoped the action of the Bill would not be restricted or modified in any material respect, and that leases would not be excluded from its operation, nor ought those tenancies to be excluded where the present rent had been paid for a certain length of time; that would be merely punishing the honest men for their honesty. He should prefer to see the application of the Bill as extensive as possible. Its only chance of being beneficial lay in its action being as widespread as possible. If the country did not settle down quietly under it, it could not have fair play, and the country would not settle down quietly under it if great districts were excluded from it. The new system of land tenure should have a fair field and a fair trial; but the landowner ought to be compensated for the loss which he sustained under it. If he were not, a great injustice would be done. No one could pretend to say that the new tenure was as valuable to the landlord as the old tenure, of which he was to be deprived; and even if the debt were not paid it should be acknowledged. He hoped the Bill would pass; first, because under the condition, the lamentable condition, to which Ireland had been allowed to fall it would be most disastrous to that country if this measure should not become law. He trusted that this Bill might be read a second time, and that its scope and sphere of action would not be materially curtailed in Committee. The happiness and welfare of his countrymen in Ireland were very dear to his heart, and he should be much pleased if the Session 333 of 1881 should be marked by giving to his country peace and contentment.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
There are so many of your Lordships whose personal interests are immediately and materially affected by the Bill before us that I must apologize for attempting to occupy any portion of the time that has at last arrived for the discussion of it; and if I could look upon it as a purely local measure, raising questions exclusively Irish, I would not have taken part in this debate. But no one who has watched the origin and progress of the Bill can doubt for an instant that we are now dealing with a measure of momentous consequence to, all parts, all classes, and all interests of the United. Kingdom. I believe this measure is, in the highest degree, mischievous and dangerous; but, in the peculiar circumstances of the case, there are reasons why your Lordships may hesitate to reject it. I wish, however, for my own part, to take the earliest opportunity of disclaiming any acquiescence in the principles and objects of this Bill, and to record the strongest protest in my power against this sort of legislation, which may hereafter be cited as a precedent. I make this protest on a threefold ground. In the first place, I think it is a revolutionary concession to the threats of rebellion, and it is a concession which never would have been required if timely steps had been taken to protect the unity of the Kingdom and the rights of property and of person. In the next place, I am sure this Bill will fail to secure the only result which could possibly justify its introduction—namely, the pacification of Ireland. And, in the third place, it is a step, and it is a long step, to a course which cannot lead to any other issue than the disruption of the nation on the one hand or a civil war on the other. These are the three grounds on which I join issue with the Bill. Allow me to explain them as shortly as I can. I have said that the Bill is a revolutionary concession to threats of rebellion; and I say this because no other view of the case can possibly account, and because this view of it does completely account, for the peculiar character of the measure which now lies upon the Table of your Lordships' House. For what does this measure propose, and what are the only principles upon which its proposals can be based? My Lords, I am not going 334 to enter at any length into the details of this Bill, which is very intricate in its arrangement, and very obscure in its language. But this I think I may say of it in general terms, without fear of going far wrong, or doing it any injustice. It proposes to take from the landlords and tenants of Ireland the power of making their own bargains with each other about the land in which they are mutually interested; it proposes to institute a Court of Justice for the regulation of their business trans actions and relations, on a basis giving to the tenant an interest in the land at once more permanent and more valuable than any to which he is at present entitled; and it cannot be denied that it is entirely at the landlord's expense that the tenant will acquire this new and considerable interest. Broadly, and apart from all questions of detail, this is a Bill for diminishing the proprietary rights of Irish landlords; it is a Bill for enlarging, at their expense, the interest of the tenants in the land they occupy; it is a Bill for destroying all freedom of contract in respect of the occupation of such land; and for regulating the relations between landlords and tenants by the decrees of a Court of Justice. I do not stop to dispute whether it is an abuse of language to apply the word "confiscation" to such a measure. I do not specially insist on the proposition, though it appears to me unanswerable, that the Bill is revolutionary. Whatever name may be given to the Bill its main features speak for themselves. It deprives of proprietary rights, and without compensation, a whole class and a most important class of the community. This is commonly called confiscation. It forcibly introduces a sudden and a sweeping change into the social position and the habits of life of the greater part of the population of Ireland; and this is commonly called revolution. To me, therefore, the terms seem perfectly appropriate; but I do not care to insist upon them. Confiscations are not always bad; they are sometimes necessary, they are sometimes salutary. Revolution may, under certain circumstances, be largely beneficial; and if I regard this particular measure with misgiving and dismay it is not because it involves confiscation, but because the confiscation it involves appears to me to be unnecessary, unjust, and injurious. I recoil 335 from it, not because it is revolutionary, but because the revolution is certain, I think, to inflict upon the whole body of the nation a wound which must be serious, and may be fatal. But now, my Lords, to pass from words and come to things. I suppose it will not be denied that those who propose changes of this nature ought to be prepared to justify them. The burden of proof is upon them. How do they sustain it? What foundation do they lay for their Bill? I have carefully followed what has been said upon this subject both here and in the other House of Parliament, and by the Ministerial organs in the Press, and, substantially, I think it all amounts to this. We are told in every variety of tone and form that something must be done—as though it were of no practical importance whether the thing done were a right thing or a wrong thing, so long as it is done and done quickly. It is said that matters have come to such a pass in Ireland that they can no longer be left as they are; that whether this Bill or another be adopted, legislation of a radical fundamental kind has become indispensable for the re-settlement of relations between the landlords and tenants of Ireland. Nothing else, it is said, and nothing less, can now satisfy the expectations that have been raised or allay the agitation that has been brought within a measureable distance of civil war; and, this being so, it is best to take the remedy provided by those who are at present responsible for the treatment of the disorder lest a worse thing happen to us. I am by no means prepared to dispute the probable truth of all this. Here, I think, and now, the truth of it may be unreservedly assumed. It is quite possible that, as matters now stand, the rejection of this Bill might be the signal for insurrection in Ireland; and I fear it is more than probable that, in that case, the authors and abettors of the Bill would endeavour to throw the whole responsibility for the result upon your Lordships' House, while, at the same time, the protection afforded by Government to the lives and properties thus endangered would be timid, scanty, and ineffectual. All this I acknowledge; at least, I do not contest it. To your Lordships it may, as I have said, suggest many reasons for not summarily rejecting the Bill which is now before us. But 336 between submission and approval there is a difference. To my own mind it does not constitute a conclusive argument in favour of the Bill; and for the simple reason that I cannot recognize in the Bill a final settlement of any of the serious questions it raises and disturbs. I do not believe that the Bill will pacify Ireland. I do not believe it can long postpone the dangers it is professedly designed to prevent; and I am persuaded that, sooner or later, we shall be placed by it in a position which will oblige us either to see the independence of Ireland established by the menace of civil war, or else firmly and unflinchingly to accept the challenge thrown out to such a war. I must confess I look upon acquiescence in revolutionary legislation as a greater national evil than resolute resistance to open insurrection. But I admit the plea of necessity in the limited sense of the considerations which I have mentioned. What I do not acknowledge or admit is that any sort of necessity, or even justification, can be shown for the present measure in a wider, a worthier, or a higher sense. Fear, my Lords, is a perfectly intelligible argument in favour of anything. But, if you put aside the argument of fear, what justification remains for the Bill now before us? Is it desirable on the broad ground of general expediency? Several reasons make such a contention absolutely impossible. They are so obvious, so conclusive, so little disputed even by those against whom they press most strongly, that it would be a waste of time to enlarge upon them. There are, however, some essential features of the Bill which, in relation to the question of general expediency, we cannot afford to lose sight of. In the first place, this Bill introduces, or, if you will, confirms and establishes, a system of divided ownership. Henceforth the land of Ireland will not, in the full sense of the word, belong to anyone. The landlord will have no motive to invest capital in it, but every motive to avoid any outlay at all upon it. He will have just enough interest in it to prevent the tenant from feeling himself the owner of the land, and no more. You thus drive from the land of Ireland the very thing of which it stands most in need. You deprive it of the judicious application of capital; and you deprive it of the master's eye, which is just as necessary for the good 337 management of the field as for the good management of the household. And this bad state of things will be made worse by another part of the measure, which is even more efficacious for mischief. You do away with freedom of contract. The land is capable of being improved in a thousand ways. The obvious and usual way of effecting such improvements is by contracts, the terms of which enable the landlord on the one hand, and the tenant on the other, to protect his interests. These are the means by which, in Ireland as elsewhere, the land must be improved, if it is to be improved at all, by those who are interested in it. No, says the Bill, you shall do no such thing. The landlord and tenant are not to be trusted to look after their own interests, or make their own bargains, except, perhaps, through the intervention of a lawsuit. But, on more general grounds of expediency, the Bill is open to most serious objection. A large part of Ireland is hardly fit for the habitation of human creatures, to say nothing of a dense population, even if the land were given to its occupiers in fee-simple. There are parts of Connemara, Donegal, and Mayo where the land is so poor that the population, if large, can live on it only at the risk, as sad experience has taught us, of famines and sufferings which have no parallel out of India. But this Bill will root to the soil a pauper population, and will thus lay the foundation for more famines, more discontent, more agitation. It will organize pauperism at one end of the social scale, it will paralyze capital at the other, and throughout the intervening grades of the whole agricultural community of Ireland it will place the peasant and proprietary classes of the country in a condition of inevitable and interminable antagonism to each other. It will convert every tenant into a potential lawsuit, every landlord into a ruthless creditor. The landlords of Ireland would be more than human if, after this Bill has passed into law, they did not exercise whatever legal rights and remedies it leaves them in the sternest commercial spirit. Henceforth, I presume, the landlords will have no inducement to tolerate bad debts; and every tenant who again falls into arrears must expect to be summarily sold up. How all this can improve the relations between the landlords and tenants, or 338 conduce to the contentment and well-being of Ireland, I am quite unable to understand. But it would be superfluous to multiply proof of the absolute impossibility of defending or accepting this Bill on the broad ground of general expediency. To understand or discuss such a Bill as this we must quit that ground. We must altogether abandon the only ground hitherto regarded by statesmen as a sound basis for legislation, and we must try to find some other. Well, then, what are the arguments we are to accept in favour of this Bill, not on the ground of general expediency, but with special reference to the exceptional condition of Ireland? We have lately heard a great deal about justice to Ireland. Let me say at once that I look upon justice to Ireland as a national duty which cannot be evaded; but I presume that justice to Ireland requires, as its first condition, a just appreciation of the practical difference between Irish facts and Irish fictions. Much vague talk we have heard of the wrongs of Ireland, of governing Ireland by Irish ideas, of the passionate craving of the Irish peasant for the land he occupies, of the wickedness of Irish landlords, and other such topics; but it has passed my powers to condense all this vaporous language into any clear, definite, and intelligible statement of reasons for the present Bill. The justice to Ireland argument, as I understand it in reference to the present Bill, rests on two propositions. The first is this—the Irish peasantry, it is said, hate the Irish landlords, because most of the landlords are Protestants, whereas most of the peasantry are Catholics; because many of the landlords are, or because their predecessors were, absentees; because the landlords represent and are supported by the English Government, which for a length of time treated the Irish in an oppressive manner as regards both their creed and their commerce; and because the title of the Irish landlords to their land rests more or less upon confiscations, the latest of which took place about 200 years since, when, the peasantry believe, the rights of their progenitors were sacrificed. Besides this, the peasantry would exceedingly like to have the land, apart from their hatred of the landlords; and this hatred of the landlord, coupled with the love for the landlords' land, constitute, it is 339 suggested, a justification for the present Bill so far as it aims at taking from the one class and giving to the other a portion of the proprietary rights in the soil. The second argument is that the landlords have neglected their duties as landlords, and have thus become morally, though not legally, liable to have the consequences of their default repaired at their expense. My Lords, unless all that has been spoken and written on this subject and in this sense was meant to support one or other of these two propositions, I do not see what it can have had to do with the matter. As for the first proposition, I have tried to do it justice, and if I have not stated it fairly I should feel deeply indebted to any noble Lord who will point out to me the manner in which the so-called wrongs of Ireland can be brought into any sort of logical relation to the present Bill; but, if it is fairly stated, it rests on an argument which obviously requires no answer at all. "We are Irish, you are English; or we are Catholics, you are Protestants. Therefore we hate you; and therefore, to appease our hatred, you must give us your land or your money." My Lords, in reason, in justice, in common sense, in everything except intimidation, that is no argument at all, unless this also is an argument—"I am poor and you are rich, therefore stand and deliver." That is the argument used by highwaymen in all ages. It was the argument addressed to the Jews in the Middle Ages, often with great effect; and, ray Lords, I am ashamed to add that, if you put aside all phraseology and mystification, it is in truth and in fact the only intelligible argument in favour of this Bill. In my own mind there is no doubt how such an argument ought to be answered; but if it is to be accepted or entertained for a moment, allow me, at least, to remind the House of the extent to which such an argument may be carried. I do hope that the people of this country, and especially everyone who has anything to lose, will take it carefully to heart. What is to-day the fate of the landlord may be to-morrow the fate of the capitalist. If the history of 200 years is to be re-opened, mills and machinery, and money in the funds, will not be found any safer from the operation of this sort of historical justice than houses and land. I am unable to perceive any moral or material differ- 340 ence between the two cases. What sort of Statute of Limitation can that be which bars the one claim and treats the other as open to discussion? Either we must take the existing state of facts as we find it, and regard established rights of property as sacred, making these the basis of our legislation, or else we must open up interminable social controversies, which cannot be brought by peaceable means to anything like a satisfactory conclusion, and which may rapidly be brought far within your measurable distance of civil war. My Lords, you cannot indulge in the luxury of class legislation for Ireland, which subverts universally-established principles, without eventually raising class questions in England. You cannot invalidate the rights of property in land without weakening the security of property in other things. My Lords, for my part, I deprecate historical discussions, and the revival of ancient subjects of dispute in the practical treatment of economic questions; but when they are introduced, I think it necessary to remark that I can by no means admit that all the merits of the discussion are upon one side. By all means I would say let bygones be bygones. But if the past is to be re-opened and discussed in defence of such principles as those on which you are now legislating, the discussion will not turn entirely to the advantage of the Irish peasant and his friends. Wrongs may have been inflicted on the Irish by the English; but wrongs, and grievous ones, were inflicted on the English by the Irish. I have no wish to attempt the balancing of an account which has, no doubt, heavy items on both sides of it; but this I say with confidence—if Ireland had been allowed to become an independent nation, governed according to Irish ideas, under James II., the most glorious events in modern English history would never have happened, the greatest services rendered by England to the whole human, race would never have been performed. Ireland, throughout the 18th century and downwards, would have been ruled by a race of Kings in close alliance with the most despotic and bigoted Powers on the Continent, and bitterly hostile to all that Englishmen still, I hope, recall with pride and cherish with affection. Had England thus been placed between France and Spain on. the one side, and 341 Ireland on the other, would she ever have conquered Canada, or founded her Indian and Colonial Empires? I cannot help regretting that England's ascendancy in Ireland has been so commonly called Protestant ascendancy; for the question involved in it is not a theological, but a political, one. The establishment and maintenance of that ascendancy were essential to the growth, and are still essential to the preservation, of the greatness of this country. England was right to establish it, and she will be right to maintain it. Much of the legislation by which she formerly sought to support it was, no doubt, oppressive and ill-judged. I rejoice that it has been removed. But, my Lords, I maintain that in what is still the great and vital question at issue between English ideas and Irish ideas, as regards the government of Ireland, English ascendancy has represented, however clumsily and harshly, the cause of reason, good sense, and general improvement; and I maintain that Irish disaffection has never represented, and never can represent, any cause which is not irreconcilably incompatible with all these. My Lords, feeling this as deeply, and believing it as firmly as I can feel any national interest, or believe in any national principle, I implore your Lordships not to entertain the dangerous suggestion that because certain laws, long since repealed, were undoubtedly unjust in one direction, therefore we ought now to violate, in the opposite direction, the very first principles of justice; or that, because former generations of Englishmen were harsh and heavy-handed in their dealings with the Irish people, we, their successors, must now be abject, and fawning, and cowardly. Our fathers, it is said, have eaten sour grapes, and our teeth are set on edge. Be it so. But do not pull out our teeth merely to please certain persons who have set up a false claim to the vines. What position can be more irrational or more humiliating, I would even say more despicable, than that of a person who allows himself, or, what is worse, his friend, to be plundered and maltreated by a little man not half his own size or strength, because he is under an impression that many years ago his father did not treat the little man's father quite fairly about a transaction in which, after all, the little man's father was substantially in the 342 wrong? I shall say no more upon the first branch of the "Justice to Ireland" argument. I now pass to the other. It is said that the present measure may be justified as a penal one, brought upon the landlords of Ireland by their own demerits. This argument has been so much discredited that I need say little about it. Indeed, the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll), who brought this subject of the Bessborough Commission before the House a short time ago, so effectually disposed of the evidence on which it was supposed to be founded that his arguments are hardly strengthened by the Prime Minister's admission that the landlords of Ireland have been tried and acquitted. It must have been satisfactory to all your Lordships, and I hope it was satisfactory to the Irish landlords themselves, to learn from so high an authority that they have been tried and acquitted. It would, perhaps, have been more satisfactory to all of us could we have been equally assured that, in these circumstances, they are not about to be executed. We cannot, however, conceal from ourselves that, although this reckless and cruel myth about the intolerable misdeeds of Irish landlords is now practically abandoned, it had produced all the popular effects it was designed to produce before it was discredited. For years and years the alleged abominations of Irish landlords have been the favourite theme of English Radicals. Eleven years ago, Mr. Bright declared that if Ireland were 1,000 miles away from England, justice would be done, or the landlords would be exterminated by the vengeance of the people. No one can say what outrageous wrong has been done by the Irish landlords. Yet these unaltered views have prevailed in the conception of the Bill. I acknowledge that the moral duties of landowners go beyond their legal duties. It may even be right to impose upon them penalties for the neglect of duties, or to supply by law terms omitted from contracts. If the Government had said the landlords had grossly neglected their duties, I should have been prepared to discuss such a measure on its merits. We should then have been dealing with a bonâ fide penal law. But to such a law this Bill bears no resemblance. It resembles no legislation ever sanctioned in cold blood by a civilized community. I have heard it 343 said that it bears some analogy to the land legislation of Prussia during, the first half of the present century. But surely this is a delusion. The entire land legislation of Prussia is one long series of emphatic protests against divided ownership, and the first result of this Bill will be to establish divided ownership. It does not openly proclaim the State's approval of that mischievous principle; but the most repulsive feature of this Bill is what I cannot help calling its dishonesty. It professes one object, and it aims at another. It persuades with the voice of Jacob, while it betrays with the hand of Esau. Its most ardent supporters are encouraged to look to it for results which its official authors do not frankly avow. Commenting on the hope expressed by an eminent social critic, that the persons who avail themselves of the Purchase Clauses of this Bill will soon find divided ownership intolerable, and contrive, in some way or other, to get rid of it altogether, a writer let the revolutionary cat out of the official bag. "For this," he exclaimed, "is just what the authors of the Bill hope also. Only it can't be done at once. There is an interval to be bridged over." My Lords, you may call this a modus vivendi. Applied to existing proprietary rights it is, of course, a modus moriendi. It may be clever management, it may be adroit policy; but I must take leave to call it insincere and dishonest legislation. And when you have bridged over your interval, when you have built your bridge, when you have crossed your bridge, when you have got to the other side of it, what will you have arrived at? The transfer of the soil of Ireland from comparative capitalists, for no better or other assignable reason than that their ancestors were Saxons or Scandinavians, to comparative paupers, only because their ancestors are supposed to have been Spaniards or Phoenicians. If the authors of this Bill suppose they can establish throughout Ireland a system of divided ownership which will not eventually result in a complete change of ownership altogether, I must say their expectation is exceedingly sanguine, and it has no warrant in experience and common sense. But if, on the other hand, they foresee and accept this consequence of their present legislation, then, considering the novelty and im- 344 portance of such a purpose, surely they were bound under every obligation of fair dealing and plain speaking to write that purpose large into the title of their Bill. My Lords, I repeat, if this Bill were a bonâ fide penal Bill, it would, at least, be an honest one. But it is not a penal Bill. It cannot be a penal Bill, for the obvious reason that you have no evidence on which to found or to defend a penal Bill. There is nothing penal about it beyond the undoubted fact that it imposes penalties. It defines no offence, it provides no test or trial, it merely inflicts promiscuous punishment. From the familiar line in which Virgil has described the procedure of Rhadamanthus this Bill strikes out every word except the word "castigat." And Her Majesty's Ministers are virtually dealing with the landlords of Ireland just as a Judge would deal with a batch of prisoners in the dock, if he solemnly said to them—"Gentlemen, I am delighted to have the pleasure of making your acquaintance and informing you that your past lives having been carefully examined, no fault is to be found with them. A mass of evidence which was supposed to reflect on your character in some unascertained way (for I am happy to say you were never accused of anything in particular) turns out to be mostly irrelevant hearsay, and I hasten to assure you that in sentencing you to seven years' penal servitude I do not intend to say anything offensive. You leave that dock for the punishment which now awaits you without a stain on your characters." Such, in my opinion, are the only grounds on which the Bill can be justified. If all parties had loyally combined to tell the Irish people that no fundamental alteration of the Land Laws would be tolerated, our position would have been different from what it is now, and less humiliating. I well know that in 1870 the Government had no intention, of taking from the Irish landlord what legally belonged to him, or of giving to the Irish tenant what he could not fairly claim. And yet, without knowing or intending it, the thing was done. You found in Ulster a custom which you rightly believed congenial to the tenants and conducive to their contentment, and you, not unnaturally, decided to legalize and extend it. But, my Lords, the legalization of custom is always a hazardous 345 experiment. Whenever you legalize a custom you change it, and you cannot quite foresee or foretell the practical operation of the change. Your object in 1870 was to limit freedom of contract and to strengthen the hands of those who did not possess legal rights and remedies. Then, as now, you were legislating in the dark. What has been the practical result? You have not contented the tenantry in other parts of Ireland. And, for the first time in the history of Irish land agitation, you have added Ulster to the ranks of the discontented. My Lords, in connection with the fresh and more far-reaching experiment we are now asked to undertake, I cannot help recalling a somewhat remarkable speech delivered in 1869 by a gentleman, of whom we have lately heard a good deal, and who was then Mr. Serjeant Dowse. In reviewing Mr. Gladstone's great series of remedial measures for Ireland, Mr. Serjeant Dowse was so transported by his enthusiasm that his language, like that of Old Experience,did attainTo something of prophetic strain.After observing that the Church Bill would give religious freedom, and the Land Bill agricultural security, to Ireland—These things accomplished," he said, "they would then have a happy, a prosperous, and a united people—happy, because no sense of injustice rankled in their breasts; prosperous, because they enjoyed the fruits of their own industry; and united, because the fell spirit of ascendancy would be banished for ever."—[3 Hansard, cxciv. 1964.]My Lords, how have these glowing predictions been fulfilled? Where is the happiness, where the prosperity of Ireland? In harvests which cannot be reaped, rents which cannot be collected, and wares which cannot be sold? What are the trophies of your great remedial legislation? Menaced homes; mangled herds and flocks; murdered men; the more and more openly and violently expressed impatience of the majority of the Irish population to be altogether rid of English rule; and the shamefully ineffectual administration of a very severe Coercion Bill. Where, too, is the unity of the Irish people? In the files of a League openly organized for resistance to law. And there also I think we shall find, in all its force, the fell spirit of ascendancy. Meanwhile, the authors 346 of a legislation, which has resulted in this wretched state of things, sit there unabashed on their Ministerial Benches, and apparently comfort themselves with the reflection that force is no remedy. But, my Lords, your remedies have had no force, and you are now, after all your abortive messages of peace, strengthening, to an extent unprecedented in time of peace, the military garrison of Ireland. My Lords, what confidence can we possibly repose in the capacity of physicians whose drugs we know to be compounded of the most nauseous and suspicious ingredients unused by the faculty, when we thus find that their diagnosis has been wrong from beginning to end, and that all their previous prescriptions have only aggravated by a series of inflammatory palliatives the disorder intrusted to their treatment? Really, in these circumstances, the cheerful confidence of Her Majesty's Ministers appears to me appalling. Another Bill or two of this kind will put an end to the present class of Irish landlords. When they are gone, what will be left in Ireland? A mass of peasant proprietors who for generations have been hating you intensely, and who will then regard England as a foreign country whose power and whose purpose they have already foiled, defeated, and humiliated. By what messages of peace, or what measures of coercion will you exercise any control over their passions or their proceedings? I cannot too strongly protest against the only principle which has consistently pervaded the course of Irish legislation since 1869. The present Prime Minister then told us that all Irish questions are to be regarded as grievances, growing, like so many branches, out of the trunk of a single poisonous tree.That tree," he said, "is Protestant ascendancy, and against Protestant ascendancy we are banded together to make war.Is it too late to ask what you mean by the Protestant ascendancy you have resolved to destroy? Is it not an ascendancy derived from causes which give legitimate pre-eminence to any class of men in any community? Are not those the causes in which every enlightened Commonwealth rejoices to find sources of influence and power—superior property, superior probity, superior habits of intellectual discipline and social conduct, insuring greater immunity from 347 crime and a profounder reverence for law? My Lords, I had hitherto supposed it was the boast and pride of England to represent in Europe what our Protestant kinsmen represent in Ireland—the ascendancy of a Protestant few in the midst of a Roman Catholic many—an ascendancy derived from that energetic independence of character which it is the tendency of your present legislation to destroy. My Lords, you may call this Protestant ascendancy, and think you are giving it a bad name. But history identifies it with English ascendancy. You cannot destroy the one and preserve the other. And it is against this English ascendancy that you, an English Cabinet, are banded together to make war. My Lords, in such a war I, for one, will never enlist. I am convinced that the principle on which you wage it will prove fatal for Ireland, as it has already proved calamitous and humiliating for England. But behind and beyond this miserable policy I recognize disasters worse than civil war—worse even than separation. The power of England has survived, and may again survive, many an Irish rebellion. But let England once prove false to that traditional integrity of national character which refuses to bully or to bubble a man out of what is honestly and legally his own, and England will deservedly perish, under the scorn of a civilization whose paramount interest she has betrayed.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
said, that before being asked to vote for the Bill their Lordships ought to be told whether the Government would, for the future, discountenance the continuance of those outrages which Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Bright had directly encouraged.
§ EARL SPENCER
I regret to have to rise at so late a period of the evening, and if I trespass some short time upon your Lordships' attention, you will feel, I am sure, that I do so only on account of the vast importance of the question before us. I do not propose to follow the noble Earl who has just addressed us into the variety of subjects upon which he has touched. I will not say anything about ascendancy in Ireland, the restoration of the Protestant Church there, or the confiscations of past times. All those subjects have left their mark in Ireland. They have left, I am afraid, a great deal of ill-feeling and soreness, 348 from which a great many of the difficulties with which we have now to deal spring. I should like to refer without further delay to the speech of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne). My noble Friend referred in rather a sneering way to the Purchase Clause in the Bill which is now before us, saying that it was intended to mark the dislike felt by the Government for large proprietors in Ireland. Now, I wish to say distinctly that Her Majesty's Government do not look with indifference upon this part of the Bill, or, to use the phrase of another noble Marquess, do they look upon it as merely ornamentation. They conceive that it is one of the most important means of restoring peace, quiet, and contentment to Ireland. If the Purchase Clauses of the Land Act of 1870 can be carried out in a more perfect and general manner, and if we can turn a large number of occupiers of land into proprietors, we shall be much more likely to gain recruits in the cause of law and order than by pouring into Ireland countless soldiery and constabulary. It was in the Act of 1870 that the principle contained in the Purchase Clause of this Bill was first introduced; but the clauses in that Act were not efficacious. But Her Majesty's Government hope to improve very much the working of this clause. One of the defects of the Act of 1870 was that there was no especial provision for a body of men to carry out this important work. In the Bill now before your Lordships the Land Commission are especially directed to carry out this measure. It was found in practice that the purchase of their holdings by tenants was exceedingly difficult, because it was conducted in the Landed Estates Court, and also for this reason—that it constantly happened that part of the tenants were able to pay and another part unable, so that the estate was left in a disjointed state. But the Commission will be empowered to buy estates themselves, provided a sufficient number of tenants can be found ready to purchase. The noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) said, with regard to this part of the Bill, that the Government did not lay great stress on it. Certainly the measure has not been in any way diminished since it was introduced into the other House with respect to these clauses. We have had tonight reference to the different systems of management of estates in England 349 and Ireland respectively. I will dwell for a very few minutes on that part of the subject, because these differences are, to a great extent, the cause of the difficulties which have led to the necessity of dealing with the Land Question in Ireland. I do not mean to cast any blame upon the landlords of Ireland. The difference arises from the very necessity of the case. In England we have a system of large farms, where the owner finds almost all the capital necessary to work the farm. In Ireland we have a system of small farms, where it would be perfectly impossible for the landlord to do this work, Why, in Ireland there are 274,000 tenants holding under 15 acres. In Galway, Kerry, and the adjoining counties 113,000 out of 139,000 holdings are under £10 valuation. How would it be possible for the landlords dealing with these small holdings to find all the capital necessary for the equipment of these farms? My noble Friend the noble Duke behind me (the Duke of Argyll), in a short debate which took place a few nights ago on cottier tenants, quoted the case of an estate where there were nearly 4,000 tenants paying £4 rent and under. Well, my Lords, how would it be possible for the landlord to make the permanent improvement on holdings? In the case quoted by my noble Friend the landlord would be ruined if he attempted such a thing without charging interest on his outlay, and the tenant would be totally unable to pay such a large addition to his rental. The fact is, that rent represents different things in the two countries. Speaking roughly, in England it represents the value of the land and the interest of the landlord's capital spent on the land. In Ireland it only represents the letting value of the land. My noble Friend opposite speaks of the landlords' improvements as being considerable. But I can quote a very high authority—that of Mr. Kavanagh—to support what I am now saying. But I will more particularly refer to the Report of an influential body of men in Dublin—the Landlords' Committee—who have circulated a statement on this subject. What do we find in the Report of this Committee? They made a survey over a great part of Ireland—over more than half that country; but that half may be taken as typical of the whole. From that Report we find that during 40 years the landlords have spent, on 350 an average, 6¼d. per acre per annum in improvements. In some cases—about one-seventh of the whole—the whole of the improvements have been effected by the landlord; in others by the tenant alone; and in the rest, partly by the landlord and partly by the tenant. I may say that the rent per acre of this large territory is about 11s. 4d., so that the average cost of the landlord's improvements is about 4½ per cent on the rental; whereas in England, on well-managed estates, the annual expenditure of the landlord on improvements varies from 10 to 25 per cent on the annual rental. It may be true that the Irish tenants have not improved their holdings as much as they might have done; but what improvements have been made have been done, at least to a large extent, by the tenants. This constitutes and creates that intense love of his holding which is the peculiar characteristic of the Irish people. It also creates that confusion between the interests of the landlord and the tenant which very often leave matters in such a tangled skein that it is almost impossible to unravel it, and to separate the interests of the landlord from those of the tenant. This is one of the reasons why it is so necessary to deal with this subject of rent. There has arisen in Ireland a peculiar custom, to which frequent reference has been made. I refer to the Ulster tenant right. Now, my Lords, I need not dwell upon all the principles of that custom, such as the power of the landlord to raise the rent, the veto which he has upon the incoming tenant, or the security of the tenant provided that he pays his rent. These highly important matters will, no doubt, be discussed in Committee. They are more or less incidents common to English tenancies; but I wish to notice an incident which specially marks the Ulster Custom—namely, the right of the tenant to sell the goodwill of his holding. Now, as far as this part of the custom goes, when exercised for the purpose of compensation for improvements made by the tenant himself, I can conceive that there can be no objection whatever to it; but when the price given goes beyond the improvements, I admit that in theory I have always seen great objection and faults in the system. The price of the tenant right beyond actual just compensation for work done and money expended seems to be money unnecessarily 351 laid out by the tenant and money which would be useful to him for improvements or other investments. So far, my Lords, in theory I agree with those who are against the Ulster Custom; but I am bound to say that in practice the custom has worked well and is agreeable to Irish ideas. The origin of the custom is matter of dispute: but, in my opinion, it is probable that it arose in consequence of the difficulties there were in settling about the improvements made by the tenant on the farm. The tenant made improvements, and this custom in the outset sprang up from an endeavour to compensate him. I am sure the noble Duke behind me would not object to that. In practice, the Ulster Custom has worked exceedingly well. Ulster is the only part of Ireland in which anything like prosperity prevails among the people. Although there have been more evictions in Ulster than elsewhere, it has been comparatively free from the agrarian crime which usually accompanies them in other parts of Ireland. This is evidence of the smooth working of tenant right in Ulster. Changes of tenancy take place, owing to the existence of tenant right, quietly and without the violence which accompanies such changes elsewhere. Last year the proportion of crimes to convictions was two to one in Ulster, and out of Ulster, three to one. The changes the Bill introduces are founded on strict analogy to the Ulster Custom, which will be reproduced more or less in other parts of the country. It is said that certain consequences will follow; but do they exist in Ulster? Are the amenities of ownership fewer in Ulster than elsewhere? No evidence of that is to be found. The proportions of resident to non-resident proprietors are in Ulster as five to one, in Leinster three and a-half to one, in Munster three to one, and in Connaught four to one; so that in Ulster there are more resident proprietors than in other parts. These facts are worthy of our consideration, when we are told so much against the extension of tenant right to the rest of Ireland. We have heard a good deal about the confiscation of the landlord's property. It has been said that rent will be diminished, and the landlord deprived of what he ought to receive. But in Ulster, notwithstanding tenant right, the price of land has been higher than in any other parts of the 352 country. This is proved by the evidence of Mr. Stewart Trench, before the Lords' Committee in 1867. He says—I think the land in the North of Ireland with which I am acquainted is let higher in proportion to its intrinsic value, noth withstanding the tenant right which exists there, than the land in other counties which I have to deal with.Mr. Filgate, also Lord Downshire's agent, states—If there was no tenant right upon the estate he would not place a higher rent upon the farms. When putting a value upon the farm, the fact of the existence of tenant right would not induce him to impose a lower rent upon the land than he would impose supposing there was no tenant right.This evidence showed that the Ulster tenant right has not lowered the value of estates in that part of the country. I could quote Returns as to the sales of property throughout Ireland since 1870 to prove this. These Returns show that the prices of land sold in the Landed Estates Court during three years ending October 31, 1874, wore higher in Ulster than in any other part of Ireland. I am quite aware that there may be considerable difference of opinion as to whether the Ulster tenant right custom is the outcome of the prosperity of Ulster, or the prosperity of Ulster the outcome of the Ulster tenant right. I will not give any dogmatic opinion on the subject; but I am justified in saying that there is no evidence that the landlords are driven away, that crime is greater, or land less valuable where the Ulster tenant right has existed for so many years past. Therefore, I think that all the fears with regard to this Ulster Custom in practice are not well founded. The noble Marquess opposite used some very strong expressions to-night, and told us that the Bill was the result of fear. But the noble Marquess himself answered that accusation against Her Majesty's Government, for he immediately afterwards admitted that he thought there was reason for legislation, as it had been always expected. I would like to quote an opinion which the opposite Benches will treat with considerable respect, the opinion of Master Fitzgibbon, who took the greatest interest in the Land Question, was connected through his official position with many large estates, and wrote several works 353 on the subject. He said this—the corroding social disease of Ireland from which all others radicate is the mutual distrust of landlords and tenants. I am really afraid that this distrust is at the bottom of the necessity for all the legislation that has taken place at various times. We find it dwelt upon by the Devon Commission. I need not quote again what has been already quoted to-night, the passage where the Devon Commission points out the grave position of affairs in Ireland, owing to the great distrust which existed between landlord and tenant. That cannot be illustrated more forcibly than was done by the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) the other night, when he referred to the conflicting evidence given before the Bessborough Commission. There we have landlord and tenant directly contradicting each other. Is not that a sign how much this mutual distrust exists in Ireland? Then we have the evidence of the unhappy agitation that has been going on for the last year or so. Would any of your Lordships believe that the Land League could exercise its baneful influence if there had been no sympathy among the tenants and no want of confidence in the landlords? I think it is childish to suppose that such an agitation could be carried on successfully without some grave cause of discontent. We have heard repeatedly of the various Acts to remedy this discontent; we had the Act of 1860, and the more recent legislation in 1870, which last attempt, as most persons admit, has conferred great benefits on the Irish tenantry. It legalized the Ulster tenant right, it checked capricious evictions, and gave the tenants compensation in certain cases; but its principles were not carried out to their logical conclusions. There was the famous clause by which the tenant obtained compensation whenever he was evicted, except for non-payment of rent; and what happened? It was not foreseen or intended, but a quasi-proprietary right was given to the tenant by that Act. The tenant, however, found that he lost all the benefits of the Act when the season was so bad that by no fault of his own he was unable to pay his rent, and he naturally thought himself hardly treated. It has been said that there are always quoted the cases of about half-a-dozen apocryphal landlords who unjustly raised their rent; but I think the Reports prove 354 that the unjust raising of rent is much more common. The Bill itself has been described so often to-night that I need not dwell upon its provisions at any length. In some quarters too much stress has been laid on the power of the Court; but it should be remembered that application to the Court can only be made in the case of present tenancies, and that in many instances the tenants on well-managed estates will not wish to go to the Court. As for the right of free sale, which is taken from the Ulster Custom, it is in conformity with the wishes and habits of the Irish people, and is, in fact, the only mode in which they understand a payment for the improvements they have made in their holdings. The Court about to be established will be a court of conciliation between the tenant and the landlord. It is for the purpose of bringing about a peaceful and satisfactory solution of the question that we have for a time to resort to this exceptional mode of proceeding. I need not dwell at any length on other portions of the Bill. Some noble Lords have spoken as if the Emigration Clause was a mere farce, and not intended to have any effect. I believe the clause, which is a voluntary clause, may be of vast importance in relieving the over-populated and poverty-stricken parts of the country. The tenant's right of selling his interest will also contribute to the same result. From Ulster, where the right already exists, there is often more emigration than from elsewhere. With regard to the clause relating to waste lands, I cannot say that I look very hopefully upon its provisions, for I believe that capital will always flow to the channel in which it is wanted; and if there had been any possibility of reclaiming waste land in Ireland to any large extent, I believe some of the surplus capital of this country would already have found an outlet in that direction. Others, however, held different views, and, consequently, we have introduced into the Bill a clause facilitating loans to public bodies for purposes of reclamation. Before I conclude I wish to say one word on a point about which we have heard a great deal. It is constantly said that compensation ought to be given to the landlords. But the Government deny that there will be any confiscation of the landlords' property, and therefore they cannot assent to the 355 principle of compensation. When we are told of the serious responsibilities which we have undertaken in introducing this measure, it would sometimes seem as if noble Lords had forgotten the condition in which various parts of Ireland are. I will only call your Lordships' attention to one very painful sign of the sad state of that country. I allude to the sympathy that is shown with lawlessness and the prevailing antipathy to law. In many parts of the country the people have a law of their own, which they prefer to the law of the country. What is the result? That odium justly due to crime is thus perverted into sympathy with the criminal, and duty to society is overborne by what is considered as a sacred obligation to screen a fellow-sufferer from a law which they neither value nor respect. I have shown that there is need for a reform of the landlord. There is, therefore, some justice in the views of these farmers. If these views are not just, no Government ought to give way to them. If they are, I think we ought to do our utmost to reconcile the people of Ireland to the laws and excite their sympathy instead of their antipathy. My Lords, this Bill is exceptional in its character, but it is not more exceptional than the condition of Ireland. The measure is a strong one; if it were weaker it would have no effect in Ireland. It is necessary to reconcile landlord and tenant in Ireland; it is necessary to create a permanent, sound, and cordial good will between the Irish and the English nations; it is necessary if we are to maintain the Union between the two countries by peaceable means, and not by armed force. I sincerely trust that your Lordships will not only give a second reading to the Bill, but send it to the other House of Parliament without any material alteration.
§ Moved, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(The Duke of Argyll.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Tomorrow.