THE DUKE OF ARGYLL,
in rising to call the attention of the House to the Report of the Bessborough Commission on the Irish Land Laws, and to the evidence relative thereto; and to move for the following Returns:—I. A Return showing the number of agricultural holdings in Ireland, and the tenure by which they are held by the occupiers, arranged as follows:—1. Holdings valued under £5; 2. Holdings valued at £5 and under £10; 3. Holdings valued at £10 and under £15; 4. Holdings valued at £15 and under £20; 5. Holdings valued at £20 and under £25; 6. Holdings valued at £25 and under £30; 7. Holdings valued at £30 and under £35; 8. Holdings valued at £35 and under £40; 9. Holdings valued at £40 and under £50; 10. Holdings valued at £50 and under £100; 11. Holdings valued at £100 and upwards; and showing in what counties they are situated respectively: II. Return showing—1. The total number of land claims decided by each county court judge in Ireland since the Act of 1870 came into operation; 2. The number of such decisions in each case in which the maximum compensation under the scale sanctioned by the Land Act was awarded by the Court; 3. The number of such decisions which were abated on appeal by the Court of Appeal: III. Return of the number of evictions from agricultural holdings in each county in Ireland for each year from 1871 to 1880 both inclusive; and showing how many of these evictions were for non-payment of rent: IV. Return of the claims under the Land Act of 1870, made by tenants of agricultural holdings in respect of compensation for improvements, in each county court in Ireland; showing the amount so claimed in each case, and the amount awarded by the court of first instance, and as altered on appeal,said: My Lords, my first duty is to apologize to the House, and especially to those Members of the House who are connected with Ireland, for the frequent postponements of this Motion. I can assure those noble Lords connected with Ireland—some of whom, I am afraid, I have put to some personal inconvenience—that nothing but physical inability would have prevented me bringing it forward on the day first named for it; and, although I hope to discharge the duties I have undertaken to-night, I wish I was as confident of my own strength as I am of the indulgent consideration of this House. My Lords, we all know, if not from the common sources 1754 of information, at least by the official information contained in the gracious Speech from the Throne, that before the close of the present Session we shall be called upon to express our opinion of, and to give our decision upon, a measure largely, I may say fundamentally, altering the Irish Land Act of 1870. My Lords, no words that I can use can exaggerate the sense of the difficulty, the delicacy, and the responsibility under which I now address your Lordships, and which will then be cast upon us; but, my Lords, I should certainly not be speaking in the sense of that responsibility, which I deeply feel, if I were to induce your Lordships, or any Member of this House, to enter upon a premature discussion of measures which are not before us. At the same time, there are great questions of fact, and matters of the highest interest and importance, which, in my opinion, your Lordships have not only a right, but which it is your duty, to discuss before those measures are brought into this House. Now, my Lords, in particular, Her Majesty's Government have laid upon the Table of this House, and upon the Table of the other House of Parliament, the elaborate Report of a Royal Commission appointed by themselves to inquire into the circumstances of the subject; and I presume that my noble Friends below me, in laying that Report on the Table of the House, desire and expect that we should consider this matter and discuss it. Let me remind the House for a moment of the circumstances under which the Commission was appointed. The present Government was formed with no expressed intention of bringing in another great Irish Land Bill. I state this broadly and distinctly, so far as my knowledge goes. I do not mean that the Government was called together with a pledge that no such measure was required; but I mean, it formed no part of the programme upon which the Government was formed. Perhaps no Government was ever formed on a greater or wider programme, if we are to take the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in the course of the Mid Lothian campaign as the programme of the Government; but, so far as I recollect and am concerned, it was not intimated in those speeches that it was the intention of the Government to unsettle the settlement of the Land Act of 1755 1870. Well, then, let me remind the House of the circumstances in which this Royal Commission arose. Your Lordships will remember that we opened Parliament last Session with a Queen's Speech, in which there was a paragraph referring to the future condition of Ireland; but not a hint was given of other measures with respect to Ireland than those measures of relief which had been begun by the late Government; nothing was said that they would be insufficient to meet the requirements of the case; indeed, an expression of confidence was uttered that the future of Ireland would be prosperous and happy. Now, my Lords, it is to be recollected that at that very moment the Land Bill had not been thought of, but the Land League had been formed. Indeed, it had been in existence for a considerable time during the reign of the previous Government; and it is to be remembered, further, that not only had the Land League been formed, but difficulties had begun with regard to wholesale evictions in Ireland. If I recollect aright, in the time of the late Government there was one case where a force of 50 men were unable to enforce an eviction at Kilmallow, and a further force of 120 men was ultimately sent out for the purpose. Those were the circumstances under which we assumed Office in 1880, and those were the circumstances under which the Queen's Speech was delivered, in which no intention whatever was expressed of re-opening the Irish Land Question. A very few weeks after this the Irish Government became alarmed, not so much by the actual number of evictions, as by the danger they saw impending ahead of a very much larger number of evictions for non-payment of rent during the coming winter; and, under those circumstances, looking at the increased resistance of the people, and the determination of the people not to pay, the Irish Government recommended that measure which is known as the Compensation for Disturbance Bill. My Lords, I am not going to renew the controversy, or indeed to say a word on the controversy on that Bill; but this I may say, that during the debates that took place on this matter, intimations were made, as it appears to me, on both sides of the House, that probably, instead of the temporary measure, it might be necessary to review 1756 the actual operation of the Land Act of 1870. I remember I was particularly struck with a passage in the speech of the noble and learned Earl (Earl Cairns), whom I am sorry not to see in his place this evening, and who delivered an able speech, in which he indicated distinctly his willingness to re-open the question of the Land Act of 1870. He said he should support a statesmanlike measure for that purpose, without, of course, committing himself to any particular measure or suggestion. But he did indicate his wish to re-consider the matter. Well, my Lords, under those circumstances, I confess I was one of the Members of the Government who were most anxious and eager for the appointment of a Royal Commission to ascertain the actual facts as regards the operation of the Act of 1870. The noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond) presided over another Commission appointed by the previous Government; but that Commission was of a much larger scope—it was a Commission to inquire into the agricultural distress which had prevailed over all three Kingdoms of England, Ireland, and Scotland. But that Commission was not specially directed to the operation of the Land Act of 1870, and the Members of Her Majesty's Government at that time, and I agreed with them in doing so, thought it was most expedient that a Special Commission should be appointed to inquire into the actual operation of the Land Act of 1870 during the 10 years it had been in operation. That Commission was appointed under certain terms, which, as I say, directed its attention specially to the operation of the Land Act of 1870, and to the making of suggestions with a view to the amendment of that Act. I have, in another form, expressed a very strong opinion that that Commission directed its inquiries with a view to the establishment of a foregone conclusion as to the nature of the remedy to be applied to the assumed grievances of Ireland under the assumed failure of the Act of 1870. I am not now going to dwell upon it, but merely wish to state as a fact, patent on the face of the examination of the witnesses, that the most active Members of the Commission, Baron Dowse, Mr. Shaw, and others, conducted their inquiries, from the beginning to the end, with a foregone conclusion in favour of the scheme called 1757 the "three F's." The "three F's" was crammed down the throat of every witness, and suggested to every witness, even if he himself did not think of it, and it was clearly proved by the evidence that it was so suggested in order to prove those grievances existed for which it was said the "three F's" was a remedy. I am not going to weary the House with evidence of a fact that is patent, but I am going to take the evidence as I find it, and I say so much the better for my purpose. What I want to know is this—what has been the result of this evidence as regard this important question? and what has been the operation of the Act of 1870 in regard to those special grievances which it was passed to remedy? That is the point to which my inquiry is directed. Of course, my Lords, it needs no inquiry to see that in a certain sense the Act of 1870 has been a failure. It is quite certain that it has not pacified Ireland. We see too clearly that it has not satisfied the Irish people, that it has not prevented the occurrence of agrarian agitation. Now, my Lords, there are various modes of explaining that failure. It may be said that three disastrous years, testing even severely the agricultural system of England and Scotland, but coming upon an agricultural condition of things in Ireland which is essentially in many respects unsound, that no efforts of ours could remedy the most grievous distress which arose, and out of which agitation might arise again. Again, it may be said, and I dare say many noble Lords opposite may be inclined to say, that the Act of 1870 failed because it raised expectations which it would not satisfy; and really the same explanation in another aspect was given by Mr. Parnell, when he said that the Act of 1870 contained germs which were not properly developed. So the same objection is taken by both Parties, though in the one case from the Home Rule, and in the other case from the Conservative point of view. But they mean the same thing, that the Act failed because it laid down principles which it did not fully develop; one Party thinking these were dangerous principles, and the other that they were valuable principles which ought to be applied. I am not going to enter into any of these speculative questions now; my inquiry is specific and distinct. What is the evidence taken before this 1758 Commission as to the effect of the Land Act of 1870 in remedying the special grievances which we designed the Act of 1870to remedy? The witnesses numbered no less than 700, and the number of questions and answers amounted to 40,000. I cannot say that I have read the whole of the examination, but I have studied the evidence with great care, with a desire to ascertain; and I wish now to draw the attention of the House to this most important question—namely, the practical grievances which we intended to remedy by the Act of 1870. Now, my Lords, the 1st clause of the Act of 1870 to which I wish to draw the attention of the House is one, strange to say, very seldom noticed at all. The 9th clause of the Act of 1870 is the one that provides that ejectment or eviction for non-payment of rent is not to involve the principle of disturbance. But there is this remarkable exception linked with it, sanctioned by Parliament, that in the case of all existing tenancies below £15 rent, if the Court should find that the rent is excessive or "exorbitant"—for that is the word used—then eviction even for non-payment of rent may involve compensation by the landlord. This is a most remarkable provision. I need hardly point out to the House that it is a provision which involves, to a considerable extent, within limitations, but still very distinctly, the principle of the Disturbance Bill of last Session. Now, my Lords, let me ask this question, and direct the attention of the House to the answer to it. On what principle was this clause framed, and why was this curious exception made to a general principle of obvious equity—that when a landlord gets rid of the tenant for non-payment of rent, he shall not be called upon to pay compensation for turning him out? My Lords, that question opens up a much larger question, and it is this—what is the practical connection between the past history of Ireland—the political history of Ireland, what is commonly known as the wrongs of Ireland—and the duties and necessities of present legislation? It is a moat difficult question to answer, my Lords; but I, for one, am not prepared to deny that there is a connection, a most embarrassing connection, between the past political history and the wrongs of Ireland and the duties and necessities of our present legislation. But this I 1759 would say, that the popular understanding of what that connection is, and the use which is made of those wrongs of Ireland, is one which ought to be watched and examined with the closest attention. My Lords, I do not know whether your Lordships have seen a pamphlet published lately by my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government. I call it a pamphlet; but originally it was a speech which he delivered in "another place" on the second reading of the Bill which is not yet before us. As a speech, we have nothing to do with it; but, as a pamphlet, it is accessible to us all. I am not going to enter into any part of that speech as regards the arguments used in it; but there is one passage which I read the other day, and which I confess struck me very much. My right hon. Friend refers to the difficulties under which the Government labour, and he says that one of those difficulties has been the schemes, the many schemes, which have been urged on the Government in Ireland, which he, for one, cannot separate from the character of being schemes of public plunder, although he by no means intends to say that those who propound them are conscious of their deserving this epithet, and assuming that character. This is one of the most remarkable utterances that ever came from a Prime Minister. I do not know what the schemes may be to which he is referring. I do not think they can have been the schemes of the Land League, because they are avowedly public plunder. I imagine, therefore, that when my right hon. Friend denounces, as among the difficulties which the Government have to meet, the schemes that are propounded in Ireland for the solution of this question, he must allude to schemes that come at least with the pretence that they are within the possibility of Parliamentary discussion; that they are propounded by men of tolerably moderate opinions on other matters, and having some pretension to present to Parliament the popular opinions they have on this great matter. Therefore, we have this decided indication of opinion on the part of the Prime Minister—that some of the schemes urged on Parliament are of so violent a nature as to deserve the name of schemes of public plunder; and yet—and it is a remarkable thing—that those who propounded them are perfectly uncon- 1760 scious of their character. I entirely agree in that with my right hon. Friend; but I think it indicates a demoralization of public opinion on these great public questions such as never before existed; and I ask what is the cause and what is the origin of this extraordinary demoralization of opinion? A great many of these schemes I confess I have heard propounded by Friends of my own, and I have said to them—"How can you propound such schemes? You know what you would think if they were propounded for any other country in the world. You know what you would think if they were propounded in France, or in Scotland, or in England, or in any other part of the world but Ireland; and how is it you reconcile your consciences to the propounding of such schemes for Ireland?" And I have found the propounders of these schemes generally reply by making excuses, referring to the peculiar circumstances of Ireland, the wrongs inflicted in past times upon that country, the confiscations, and the hardships it has undergone. Now, my Lords, when we are dealing with the demoralization of public opinion, it is of the utmost importance to scrutinize the arguments which are brought forward, and I hold that the question must be thoroughly argued. Let me say, in the first place, not denying some connection, only too real, between the wrongs of Ireland and the necessities of our present legislation, that I deny altogether that the great confiscations which took place in Ireland have anything whatever to do with the matter. Not to mention the fact that the youngest of them is about 200 years old, no settlement of property could be safe in any country if such arguments were to be entertained. Not to mention the general ground of principle, I say this, moreover, that there is probably not one single tenant in Ireland at the present moment whose right to his holding is older than that of his landlord, from whom he derives it; and if he questions his landlord's title he questions his own, and therefore these confiscations have nothing to do with the matter. Just conceive the case of an Ulster tenant coming to this House and asking for something altogether outside the Ulster Custom, and quoting the great confiscations of Cromwell and James as a plea for having his privileges. What is the answer to be given?" You are 1761 an interloper as well as your landlord." In 99 cases out of 100 he is a "plantation" man. He came into Ireland as one of the confiscators, when the Natives were driven away to the South; and any claim now on the part of the tenants of Ireland, and on the part of any class especially leaning on the old grounds of confiscation, is about as absurd as that of a tenant of Hampshire who should come and ask special privileges because of the cruelties perpetrated by the Normans many centuries ago in founding the New Forest. But now there is another plea which is much more common than confiscation. I have heard, over and over again, and a distinguished Friend of mine, in an article published in one of the reviews, pleaded that the great wrongs of Ireland were these—that we had insisted upon breaking up the old Irish customs, and bringing in our English law, which was unsuited to the people of Ireland. This idea is repeated from day to day in the Press as a plea for extraordinary measures for Ireland; and I say this—that there never was a plea for such measures more absolutely without foundation than this distinction between Irish customs and English law. What were the old customs of the Irish people? They were the customs of the Celtic Tribes, and I ought to know something on that subject, and I think I do. I am myself a Celt, and more than that, in our country we are Irish Celts. The time when our people in the Western Highlands of Scotland came over from Ireland still lives in the memory of the people. I have often stood on the shore of my own county looking to the opposite coast of Ireland, divided by a strait so narrow that on a clear day we see the houses, the division of the fields, and the colours of the crops; and I often wondered at the marvellous difference in the development of the two kindred peoples. And yet, my Lords, do not let us be mistaken; our position was parallel to theirs during the whole of the Middle Ages. The history of the Highlands of Scotland during the whole of that period was a rude and barbarous history, full, indeed, of poetic incident, over which the genius of my great countryman, Sir Walter Scott, has cast the halo of an imperishable charm; but I say again, it was the history of almost utter barbarism. All the Tribes smothered men, women, and children. There was smok- 1762 ing to death in caves, and all districts of the country were continually ravaged by civil war between clan and clan, and women were exposed to death on tidal rocks. These are the stock ingredients of the Celtic history of Scotland as they are of the Celtic history of Ireland; and yet how complete a change. No part of the world has made such progress in civilization, and in wealth, and in agriculture as the Western Highlands of Scotland during the last 100 years. No part of the world, in so short a time, has made such rapid strides of progress. And what has been the cause of this great change? Nothing now remains of that old Celtic character except a certain sentiment of the clan feeling, which still sweetens our society very much as the clouds on a stormy morning are very often the brightest ornament to a peaceful day. What was the cause of the change? It was the gradual invasion, and the firm establishment against the old Celtic habits of those higher customs and bettor laws which came from the Latin and Teutonic races. A native legislation was developed in Scotland, founded, it may be, on the jurisprudence of that ancient people who were so great in arms and in arts, but greater than all, perhaps, in law; and so gradually we have emerged from that state of Celtic barbarism into the condition in which we in Scotland now find ourselves. But what is the truth with regard to Ireland? There never was a grosser misrepresentation of history than to say that the Irish have suffered from the invasion of the English law. The idea that under the old Celtic custom the cultivator of the soil had a greater security than he has now is ludicrous. Even in the great Report of this Commission—and I do not profess any very great respect for that great Report—they tell you that under the old Celtic customs they were at the absolute disposal of their Chiefs. Have your Lordships read a book which everybody who takes an interest in this question ought to read—I mean the tracts of Sir John Davis, who was Attorney General in the reign of James I., and who was sent over to Ireland on public affairs? I will give your Lordships a few very short extracts from his book, in which he describes the way in which the Irish people who had some portions of land allotted to them were impoverished and despoiled of 1763 their treasures by their Chieftains. Their position, as regarded tenure, he says, "is only a scanty and transitory possession at the pleasure of the Chief." Then, Sir John Davis quotes from an old Irish authority, proving that the Irish people were anxious to get the benefit of the English law, which in many cases was withheld from them. He further says, truly enough in regard to some of those old Irish customs, "that although they undoubtedly originated in a certain place that is always nameless to ears polite, if practised there as in Ireland, they would have brought to an end the kingdom of Beelzebub." These are the Irish customs under which the Irish tenants would be, rather than under English law. The truth is this, the whole attempt under the government of law was to substitute uncertain exactions and services for the benefit of rent at fixed periods. That was the great object of English law, and that, I need hardly say, is for the necessity of agricultural security of the tenant. Having disposed of these two very absurd pleas with regard to the condition of Ireland, I will refer your Lordships to things which I think are valid pleas if exceptionally treated, and I would put my finger at once on the penal laws. Until I looked into this question, I confess I did not realize the close connection between those miserable penal laws and many of the difficulties in which we are now placed. My Lords, let us recollect that for very nearly the space of 100 years, at least more than 88 years—the greater part of the 18th century—Ireland was under penal laws against Roman Catholics, the nature of which was this, that no Roman Catholic could hold a beneficial interest in a lease. I put my finger on that law alone, and ask your Lordships if it is not responsible for a very great deal? The landlords could not get rid of the land except by letting it to a Protestant, or a nominal Protestant, and the tenant who took it had to recoup himself by sub-letting it to other people. There was no clause against sub-letting. Indeed, the object of the chief lease was that the tenant should be able to sub-let, otherwise no rent would have been derived for the land at all. You had that system all over Ireland, under which men were under an absolute necessity of letting land upon very long leases, with the 1764 most injurious provisions in regard to sub-letting and toil; you had a pauper tenantry bred upon the soil under the direct influence of your penal laws. Never has a punishment so direct and so rapid followed the violation of one of those great laws of national justice that no Parliament and no Kingdom can violate with impunity. Well, upon the back of that came the 40s. freehold, which again gave a political value to the land; and, last of all, came the system which I have never heard of anywhere except in Ireland, the truly Irish idea and custom—it is called "burning the land." Here, again, till I looked into this matter, I had no conception of the extent to which this evil went. A recent writer on this subject—a gentleman of authority who knows what he is speaking about—says he recollects when a whole area of country at night would be one mass of smoke and flame by burning the fine old pastures for the purpose of growing potatoes and wheat, a system most destructive to the land, but enabling the tenant to realize immense profits in the meantime. This custom attracted the attention of the Irish farmer; statute after statute was passed to prevent it, but in vain; agrarian outrages in great numbers were committed against those endeavouring to restrain the people, and a large portion of Ireland is to this day suffering for the poverty that this barbarous custom caused. Now, I beg the House to observe that the modus operandi of the law was this—it gave unlimited scope to genuine Irish customs, the sub-division of the soil, sub-letting and subletting over and over again down to the lowest standard of the people, with this barbarous custom of agriculture. Though the free scope thus given to these Irish customs was the mischief of these laws, they did not interfere with these Irish customs, but placed a premium upon them, and allowed them to go to the greatest licence and excess. In order that the House may realize the actual result, I take a case from the evidence of the Commission. One witness gave evidence as to his own estate. The land was let in 1796; and of 491 acres at £241, or less than 10s. an acre, in 1850 not a single acre was in the hands of the representative of the original lessee. He had let to 67 sub-tenants; then these sub-tenants let to 129 sub-sub-tenants, 1765 and of these 90 lived in cabins, not having a single perch of land. The result was, that instead of one or two families, which would he quite enough for the healthy population of the soil, there were 196 families, or 980 souls. Now, this is the condition of things, these are the laws, these are the habits with which you must grapple, and with which you must deal in dealing with the Irish Land Laws; and I say, as one of the authors of the Act of 1870, this is my excuse for having agreed to a clause so exceptional as that to which I have directed the attention of the House. I now wish to direct the attention of the House more particularly to the result of that clause. Below £15 valuation, tenants might fall into arrear and be ejected for non-payment of rent, and they might go to the Court and say—"My rent is exorbitant, and I demand compensation." How many of the tenantry of Ireland were affected by this clause? Something like three-fourths of the whole tenantry of Ireland. How many cases were brought forward? Over the whole of Ireland there was not a single tenant able to come forward and plead that his rent was exorbitant. Was not that a most remarkable fact, with the most litigious tenantry in the world, incited by lawyers prepared to take advantage of every quirk and quibble of the law—that over the whole of Ireland this special clause of protection for exorbitant rent below £15 was not taken advantage of, so far as I can find, in one single instance. Now, with regard to this poor class of tenants, I think there is a great deal of exaggeration as to the miserableness of their condition. I mean the extremeness and hopelessness of their condition. There is, no doubt, a good deal of wretchedness in Ireland; but these people live close to the greatest labour market in the world, to which railways and steamboats carry them for a small sum, and the wages of the labourers are, as a whole, fairly good. I had the curiosity to go to the Irish Office and ask for details of the cases of small farmers, or, in fact, of labourers with small allotments. The average rents of these farms came to 30s. a-year—that is to say, about 8d. a-week, which is less than any artizan pays for the rent of his room in a town. It must be remembered also, however, that whereas the artizan gets no return 1766 for the rent he pays for his room, the Irish tenant gets plenty of potatoes, some corn, and perhaps some keep for his pig. I feel bound to say that is a condition of things which in all cases is unsatisfactory. However, my Lords, I pass that, and come to matters of much more importance—the effect of the Disturbance Clause of the Act of 1870 upon this class. Your Lordships will recollect that the principle of that Act was this—not to prevent or destroy the right of the landlord to deal with his property, but it placed a fine upon him in the case of this right being exercised in certain specified ways, this fine being imposed according to a certain graduated scale. The object of the clauses was this—to prevent a landlord from enforcing, I will not say an exorbitant, but a very dear and excessive, rent; and, secondly, to prevent him making frequent unfair increasements in the rent; and, thirdly, it was to prevent him unjustly charging an additional rent upon the improvements of his tenants; and, lastly, it was to prevent him from infringing the Ulster tenant right. These were the four great objects of the Act of 1870, and where is the evidence to show that that Act failed in securing them? I will ask your Lordships to follow me for a short time while I endeavour to analyze the evidence bearing upon this point. In the first place, let us take rents which, according to the evidence, though not exorbitant, are, at all events, very dear—oppressively dear. We see it over and over again stated that the landlord has been squeezing up the tenant to pay dear rents; but that is said of other countries also. Now, what is the evidence of the Commission on this point? In the first place, let me point out that the Commission proceeded to its work in the most extraordinary way. They began by asking every tenant whether he thought his rent too dear. They never tested any one case. They never sent down a valuator in any one case to test the statement of the tenant, or to ascertain the value of the land. I have heard it questioned whether the Commissioners had power to employ a valuator for such a purpose; but I have myself no doubt whatever, looking at the wideness of the terms constituting them, that they had ample power to take that course. They, however, did. 1767 not think fit to do so in any single case. Professor Baldwin, one of the first witnesses examined, and one of the great authorities on the subject, says that there is no mode whatever of testing whether rents are dear, except by going to the spot with a skilled valuator; but this was never done, and not only was no valuator sent down, but there was no confronting of witnesses with the view of testing a valuation. Cross-examination, except in the interest of the tenant, was also most feeble and most ineffective. No testing by valuation, no testing by confronting of witnesses, and now what is the Report they have given us? The Commission came to this conclusion—I think they might have written it before they began to sit at all—they say that—The evidence shows that under a system of gradual small increases of rent, the tenants have at length reached a point at which they consider themselves to be unfairly rented.I must say to my noble Friend who presided over the Commission (the Earl of Bessborough), that he could have written the sentence before he began his investigations. Then follows a still more remarkable sentence. The Report says—It has been found that the landlord has actually been able to turn out a tenant, and to pay the whole compensation that the Court would give him, and then to get a new tenant, who was happy to take the farm at the former rent, and to pay the amount of compensation awarded besides.The Report states this as if it were a grievance, as if the rent were too high; but to my mind it is, if not conclusive proof, at least primâ facie evidence that rent was very low because another Irishman was willing, not only to give the rent, but to pay a high premium to get the farm. The evidence of the Commissioners was sent to us from day to day, at least from week to week, and from month to month. I hope I do not weary your Lordships; but it is a serious matter, and I therefore went very closely into the evidence. I was very much interested as one of the authors of the Act of 1870, and I felt it a public duty to look closely into the facts, to see what had been the result of the Act of 1870. Well, now, the second witness examined by the Commission was a certain Mr. Ferguson, who filled the office of County Court Judge, I 1768 think, in one of the largest counties in Ireland; a man of great experience, and a man of very strong opinions. In short, he wished to have complete power over the landlords to prevent them doing anything he thought was wrong on their part. It appeared he had made, two or three years ago, before the appointment of the Commission, some very severe observations in regard to a case in which a tenant had suffered hardship, and, of course, he was immemediately interrogated about this case. He said he remembered making these severe observations, and he thought they were deserved. It was, he said, a case of six or seven tenants who had been charged a very unreasonable rent, to which they were obliged to submit, as they could not run the risk of litigation. Mr. Ferguson said it was a very hard case; and he went on to say, encouraged by the cross-examination, that the tenants had all been ruined. It was altogether a very hard and cruel case. Well, this case made a great impression upon my weak and susceptible mind at the time. I thought it was a hard case, and I looked to see who was the landlord, and I found it was two ladies, the Misses White, and I remember it occurred to me whether it would be according to Irish ideas that we should expatriate not only the landlords but the landladies as well. Very soon afterwards, when I saw a similar case brought against a clergyman of the Church of England, I remarked to a friend that the only cases of hardship I saw was upon estates managed by women and clergymen. But I am happy to say that both women and clergymen came well out of the cases. This evidence came before us; but the rebutting evidence was not furnished for many months after Mr. Ferguson had given his evidence. I ask if anything so monstrous was ever done, that a lawyer in high position should give evidence before this Commission upon the mere hearsay of a person. Such hearsay, too, as made it evident that he had never investigated the facts, and that this should go forth to the English race, and to the British people, as an example of the hardships imposed by Irish landlords, one that was perfectly to be relied upon, although it was not I supported by the facts! What does the agent of Miss White say? He says 1769 that the tenants are all living in new slated dwelling-houses, or old ones well repaired; drainage and fences were among the improvements which had been made by those very tenants since 1878; there never was, indeed, any difficulty between the owners of the soil and the tenants until this Land League agitation began. They were not poor men; they paid in all about £190 among them—showing that they belonged to what is a very respectable class in Ireland, they had at least 46 milk cows, besides young stock; and were in the most thriving and flourishing condition. This is one of the cases that made a great impression upon my mind, and this is the result. I will now take another, and your Lordships must remember I am not picking out cases to suit my argument, I am taking typical cases, mentioned by typical witnesses, men of authority or who ought to be of authority. I will take a case mentioned by Professor Baldwin. I have had some correspondence with that gentleman, and I believe him to be a thoroughly honest man. I do not, however, think he is a very clearheaded man, if he will allow me to say so. I do not think he investigates his facts very thoroughly; but I believe him to be an honest man. In the course of his evidence given before the Commission he said, almost in a tone of triumph—"If the Commission wants to see what is done by the cruel landlords in Ireland, I advise them to send for the agent of the property on the Island of Arranmore, in County Donegal." This statement made a great impression on my mind. I thought such a man would never give such evidence without having been on the spot. However, the Commission took his advice; they sent down a special Commissioner, and who do you think was the first witness that that Commissioner examined? Why, the agent referred to, who turned out to be a money-lender and meal-dealer in the town of Donegal. This man confessed that he lent money to the people at 10 per cent interest, and he also confessed that he sold meal to the people at 2s. above the ordinary price, and then he adds, with truly Irish vagueness and "sometimes more." How much more we do not know, but I should not wonder if he charges some 20 per cent to poor people for their meal. I would ask your Lordships to look at the animus 1770 of a witness of this kind. The people are all largely in his debt, for he charges them 10, 15, or 20 per cent for the loans he has made to them; and he very naturally thinks that all the produce of the soil ought to go to pay his interest, and none of it to pay the 2 or 3 per cent which might not unreasonably be expected by the landlord. He gives evidence about the dearness of rent; but then, with that truly Irish character, which, I may say, is often extremely open and honest, he proceeds to make a most extraordinary admission. It appears that he was not only a moneylender or meal-dealer, but that he also did a little at the trade of farming, and it comes out in his evidence—and he did not seem to be in the slightest degree conscious that he contradicts in this any other part of his evidence—that he had bought from one of these terribly high-rented tenants a grazing at 25 years' purchase, after which he goes on to say, almost in the same breath, that the tenants are so very highly rented that he would not take their farms, although they were given him for nothing. That is the first witness examined by the special Commissioner to Arranmore, and then comes the priest. Now, I understand this priest, Priest Walker, was a smart, respectable man, and I believe that he, like Professor Baldwin, would not say anything that he did not believe to be true; but he had not been long in his present position, and as the Land League has been in active operation for a long time, and the priests are, rightly or wrongly, supposed to be under its influence, it was not matter for wonder that this particular priest should bring forward the most elaborate statistics to prove that the grossest cruelties had been committed upon the tenants of Arranmore. Every item of accusation was minutely accumulated against the proprietor of Arranmore, so circumstantially that unless I had closely inquired into it I should have taken it as a matter of fact. But the moment that the rebutting evidence came out, I saw at once what complete humbug the whole story was. The trustee for the proprietor is the Common Serjeant of London (Sir Thomas Charley), and he gives statistics to show that every one material statement made is a falsehood. I have seen Sir Thomas Charley, and he tells me that the books of the pro- 1771 perty are open to anyone. The truth is, the people were starving at the time of the Famine, and that Sir Thomas Charley emigrated a great many of the people at their own wish, and that the tenants who remained were getting on very well in their diminished numbers. These are but typical cases. I now come to the next head of the grievances alleged, and to which I have to call the attention of your Lordships. The first of these grievances was oppressive rents; the next is frequent and uncertain increments of rent. There is no accusation more commonly brought against Irish landlords at the present day in the Press, and especially in the Irish Press, than that of frequent and uncertain increments of rent. In this connection I must say that, in my view, nothing can be conceived more mischievous to everybody concerned than increments such as I have described. There can be no security when there are frequent and uncertain increments of rent. This practice of frequent and uncertain increments is certainly not an English custom or an English practice, but is essentially an Irish idea, and one which was invariably practiced among the old Irish proprietors of land. Anyone who examines the matter must come to the inevitable conclusion that the landlord who raises his rents at frequent intervals and unknown to his tenants in any part of the Three Kingdoms is doing that which is incompatible with civilization and the progress of the country as regards agriculture. What is the truth? I am Sorry to say I am obliged to quote one who was very lately a Colleague of my own as regards the allegations that are made upon this subject. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) went over to Birmingham the other day and made a very able speech—a speech with the great part of it on other subjects I was entirely able to agree. But I cannot concur in that part of what Mr. Chamberlain said which had reference to Ireland. In regard to Ireland, he said this—he said that the failure of the Act of 1870, assuming that it had been a failure, was due, in the first place, to the action of this House; and in regard to this, I suppose, we shall have some future debate, and I have simply now, therefore, to say that if I could attribute the failure of the Act to the action of 1772 the House, as one of its authors and supporters, I should be very glad to do it; but my conscience does not permit me, because I am not able to trace the connection between its failure and any single one of the Amendments that came from your Lordships. Mr. Chamberlain said, further on in his speech, it was also partly due to the action of some landlords unnecessarily endeavouring to escape from the conditions of the Act, and who also had by slow degrees raised the rents of their tenants until the burden became too great to be borne. This is an important statement, coming as it does from a Minister, a high Minister of the Crown, a Cabinet Minister, and I must say I have ransacked the Blue Book to find evidence for it, and I cannot find it. There was one case which was brought before me when I was a Member of the Government, the case of Lord Arran. Like every other case I have mentioned, it made a great impression upon my mind at the time. Once it was distinctly and circumstantially stated by Professor Baldwin that Lord Arran had raised his rents at very close and frequent intervals. He said he had in his possession receipts to tenants showing rises of rent within a very few years to an extent that was really grievous and oppressive. But what are the facts? As that statement came from Professor Baldwin, and related to an Irish Peer, who might at any time be a Member of this House, I never for a moment doubted that there was at least some foundation for the story; but now the rebutting evidence has come out. Lord Arran succeeded to the estate in 1837. For 20 years he never raised his rents a single 6d., these rents being no less than 39 per cent below Griffith's valuation. In 1857 prosperous times arrived, and Lord Arran thought the time had also arrived when he might in all fairness have a re-valuation of his estate. He accordingly sent down to his property Messrs. Brassington and Gale—who were among the most eminent valuators in Ireland—with instructions to report to him, after a careful examination, what they thought would be a fair rent as between man and man. The valuators went down, and, as we may very well suppose, upon an estate which was 39 per cent below Griffith's valuation, and had never been altered for 20 years, they found due to Lord 1773 Arran a considerable rise. Well, what happened to show how grossly perverted the facts were? I may say that Lord Arran determined, in order to be lenient with his tenants, and in order to give them time, that the rents should be raised, not at one step to their true value, but to do it by instalments, and it was receipts for some of these instalments that Professor Baldwin had seen. This is the true story as far as Lord Arran is concerned, and I ask your Lordships whether it is not a monstrous perversion of facts to say that in this case there has been a frequent and excessive increment of rents? I will take one other case. There was a man named Wynn, a very representative man, who made great accusations against the landlord, and who, in the notes he had sent to the Secretary of the Commission as to the evidence he was prepared to give—among them being a statement that on Borne estates there was a revision every 10 or 12 years—was questioned on this point. He said that some landlords would allow their rents to remain 20, 30, or 40, or even 50 years; but the others raised their rents every 10 years. When he was asked if he could give the name of any estate on which the rents had been raised every 10 years, he said—and this is truly Irish—it had been done once and threatened a second time on one estate that he knew, that of Sir J. Stewart, within the last 30 years. I now pass to another item. I want to know what confiscation there has been of improvements? Now, this is one of the most important of the accusations brought against the Irish landlords to which I ask your Lordships' attention. Your Lordships will see it made in every speech of the members of the Land League, and, I am sorry to say, in a great many speeches made by persons who are not members of the Land League, that the landlords are confiscating the tenants' improvements by basing increases of rent on such improvements. Now, I will say this—I have gone through this Blue Book, as I firmly believe no other Member of this House has gone through it, and I have not seen one single case in which dates are given by which you can judge whether the increment has been an unfair one upon the tenant's improvements. Let me explain what I mean. Professor Baldwin gives a case which is worth a score of 1774 arguments. He refers to a property, a hillside in the West of Ireland, the property of Colonel Pitt Kennedy, where, on a piece of wild moorland, not worth in its natural state Is. an acre, Professor Baldwin saw on one side of a fence which divided two properties many thriving farms, and on the other side the original moorland. Now, what were the circumstances in which the change took place? Colonel Pitt Kennedy brought the people to the moorland, and said—"Cultivate and improve this moorland, and you shall have it the first seven years for next to nothing—1s. an acre. The eighth year you shall pay 2s. an acre; the 12th year 4s., and so on. At the end of 20 years the rent reached 14s. an acre; the people were happy and contented, and the whole operation is praised by Professor Baldwin; yet the ultimate rent was 1,300 per cent above the original value of the land, and it was raised entirely on what is called the tenants' improvements. The landlord made no outlay, except £300 for a road. Now, was that or not a legitimate operation? Well, I say, and everybody knows, that it was a legitimate operation, and that it depends on this principle—the tenants work on the landlord's capital. After they have enjoyed, for a certain length of time, the fruits of his capital and their labour, the landlord is entitled to share in certain improvements of the soil. Now, you can never judge of cases in which the rent has been raised upon improvements until you have the following data:—The original value of the land, and the time the tenant has enjoyed it; the produce of the land during that time, and the profit the tenant has made. And unless you have these data, you may depend upon it the case is a fallacy. For accurate information of this kind I have searched in vain in the Blue Books and the various very remarkable pamphlets which I have received. There was one sent to me by a Member of Parliament, and there were others sent by gentlemen who have gone round Ireland, in which it was stated that, in some cases, the rent had been raised 4,000 times upon its original value. The "trick" of statement—I do not use the word in an invidious sense—is this—you compare the ultimate rent with the original value, which may show a difference of 4,000 per cent. I have myself improved 1775 land which, at the end of the second year, yielded 4,000 per cent on the original value; and then it sounds most monstrous and cruel when you say that the tenant's rent has been raised after he has done all those improvements himself. I was so annoyed at the vagueness of such statements that I put myself into communication with some of the authors of these pamphlets. I wrote them, and said—"Did you go to the places?" and I never found one who told me he had, or who had inquired into the truth of the cases they cited. I was reminded of the lines of Wordsworth on the invisible cuckoo—To seek thee did I often roam, Among the woods and on the green; But thou wert still hope of love, Still longed for, never seen.But when such was the state of my mind, a great piece of good luck happened to me, and again I was reminded of the good luck of the cuckoo listener, as described by another poet—Blessings on him! he came and stopped, And sang where I could hear and see.Who do you think was the blessed cuckoo which came and stopped and sang that I could hear and see? It was my right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works, Mr. Shaw Lefevre. Mr. Shaw Lefevre went down the other day to Liverpool, and he made a long speech, and, as he always does, a very able speech, in favour, I am told, but I do not know, of the Government Land Bill. Now, I was very much struck with this speech, which gave mo exactly what I wanted. I was hunting for a case, and Mr. Shaw Lefevre gave me one. I must read the language used by my right hon. Friend, because I must say I think it rather strong, especially as Mr. Shaw Lefevre is a well known authority on the subject. My right him. Friend said, after one of those vague, generous, and candid insinuations, which are so common, that the majority of the Irish landlords had, on the whole, behaved well, but there was a large minority—the Prime Minister called them a small minority—but my right hon. Friend, not content with a small minority, says that was a large minority of a very different character, who were exacting and determined to screw the last farthing out of the tenant, wholly disregarding justice and humanity. I hear my noble Friend 1776 the Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Earl of Kimberley) whisper below me that it is perfectly true. I am glad to hear that he has got cases; and, if so, I hope he will bring them forward. I can assure the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies that I am on an honest quest. I want facts, and if he can bring me any of these facts I shall be much obliged to him. My right hon. Friend at Liverpool quoted a case, as given to the Commission by Professor Baldwin, of a poor man who hired three acres of bog laud for 8s. a-year, and spent £45 on reclaiming it, besides his own labour. He enjoyed it for three years only, and then the landlord raised the rent to 22s. per acre; and the right hon. Gentleman said, if that was worked out, it would show that the increase of rent far more than appropriated the whole of the tenant's improvements. I was rejoiced at this. I saw in a moment, what Mr. Shaw Lefevre probably does not know, that the data even here is wanting. There are cases, not many, but not uncommon in Ireland, where, as is pointed out by the Commission, every three or four years' enjoyment of improvements will recoup the man in abundance for making them. It is curious to observe, in connection with this exceptional case, that the bog is a valuable material which you may sell for fuel or use for manure, and when you get to the bottom of the bog you very often get the very finest land. I have seen such crops upon reclaimed bog as I never saw on any other land. When Mr. Shaw Lefevre told the people of Liverpool this story, he said it showed how cruel the case was. I was determined to find out the case, so I wrote him a note asking him to give me a reference in the Blue Book to the case. The first thing my right hon. Friend did was candidly to state his memory failed him as to the authorship of the answer given to the Commission, It was not Professor Baldwin at all; but he referred me to the page in the Blue Book, and what was my astonishment to find that this case of a cruel and rapacious landlord, utterly regardless of justice and humanity, was Lord Londonderry, the proprietor of notoriously one of the most generously-managed estates in Ireland. That was pretty well, and it was very clear there must be some mistake here. That was the first thing I found; 1777 but when I turned to the evidence, which was that of the tenant himself, the next thing I observed was this—that he had appealed to the Court twice against the rent, and the Court decided against him. Well, I must say, I think that when a Minister of the Crown quotes cases of this kind, inflaming the passions of the people of Ireland, and misleading the judgment of the people of England, he ought to be a little more careful with his facts. That was what I found on the face of the tenant's evidence. The right hon. Gentleman ought not to have contented himself even with that. He ought to have applied to Lord Londonderry's agent for his version of the matter; for an ex parte statement of this kind is not worth the paper it is written on. I applied to Lord Londonderry's agent, and he, going to the man and examining him, was able to show that the case was completely mythical. The Court not only twice rejected the tenant's appeal to have his rent reduced, but found him in costs, and Lord Londonderry spared him the costs, and continued the tenant in his farm. That is not even all this particular case—this case of cutting out a bog is exactly one of the cases I have mentioned to your Lordships, as a case in which the tenant himself confesses that he realized a large profit by removing the turf for manure to another part of his farm. He had also cropped his farm since 1804, and it was not true that a new valuation had been made at the end of four years. The landlord had, further, made a main drain through the farm without charging the tenant anything for it. The local agent went to the man, and he confessed that he had bought another piece of bog from a neighbouring tenant at a higher rent, and found it profitable. When asked why he did not tell all this to the Commissioners, his reply was, "Sure, and was I going to injure the cause?" So much for these charges of cruelty and rapacity against the landlords. I come now to a very important matter. I fear I am detaining your Lordships; but if I have strength I am determined to go through with this duty which I have undertaken. I come now to the important question of the evasion of the Ulster Custom. A more unfounded charge has never been made against the landlords of Ireland than that they are evading this Ulster Custom, and that 1778 the Act of 1870 has been found insufficient to protect the tenants. There is no charge which goes more against my own convictions than that, because there was no part of the Land Act of 1870 that I more heartily agreed to than I did to the legalizing of the Ulster Custom, because I thought that custom, properly so called, is a part of contract, and that where you have proof of a bon â fide custom, it ought to be legalized, and the Judges ought to recognize it. My Lords, I have been most anxious to find out whether it is true that, under the Act of 1870, the Ulster Custom has been evaded, and I will call attention to a most extraordinary paragraph which appears in the Report about the Ulster Custom. It says that the remedy given to the tenant under the Ulster Custom was similar to that given in reference to any other custom; the tenant who was served with notice to quit was enabled to lodge a claim; but the claim would not justify a decree against the landlord if the tenant failed to prove that he had not been charged more than a fair rent. My Lords, I fail to follow the logic of that paragraph. The argument is this—The Act of 1870 authorized the legalizing of the Ulster Custom, and, therefore, it ought logically to have authorized fixity of tenure at a fair rent; but that was no part of the custom; consequently it did not legalize fixity of tenure; but it ought to have done so in Ireland, because in Ireland things that are equal to the same things are not equal to each other. That is the kind of logic that is to be found in the Report. But I come to something more important than logic. Another paragraph in the Report says that the large estates are generally considerately managed; but on some of the more recently acquired estates rents have been raised both before and since the Land Bill to an excessive degree, not only as compared with the valuation of the land, but are so high as to absorb the interest of the tenant. Again, it says that "the process has gone so far as to destroy the tenant's legitimate interest in his holding," and it adds "that in Ulster in some cases it has almost eaten up the tenant right." Now, that is a most important statement if it be true; and I looked immediately to the margin of the Report to find what evidence was given to support it. The names of seven witnesses are given— 1779 and will the House believe it?—there is not a single one of them whose evidence justifies the statement. I should weary your Lordships and exhaust myself if I were to go through the evidence of these seven witnesses. I have gone through them all, and will give one or two as specimens. I take the evidence of Mr. M'llroy, the Secretary to one of the largest Tenant Eight Associations in the North of Ireland. He is asked a question, and gives a haphazard answer, in which he says not that the tenant right is eaten up, but that that is the complaint of the people; but the remaining evidence which falsifies the statement is not given. For instance, he is asked—Do you find that the average soiling value of holdings has been smaller within the last 10 years?" and he replies—"No, not smaller.—Is that so during even the latter part of the 10 years?—No; prices are nothing smaller! The tenant right has increased in value during the last 10 years.I ask, my Lords, is it fair to support this broad statement, that the tenant right has been eaten up by garbled statements from witnesses whose evidence disproves it? I have other cases here, with which I will not trouble your Lordships—they are all of the same character. Individual cases are quoted whose evidence is that they know of cases in which the tenant right has diminished in value; but, in several cases, the witnesses confess that the goodwill and the tenant right have increased in value—in one case, I think, to 40 years' purchase. There is one other branch of the subject to which I desire to refer, and it is to the accusations brought against those who purchased in the Encumbered Estates Court. Now, I must say that on this matter I do not think that the large landed proprietors are wholly free from blame. There has been a disposition to say—"On our estates everything is managed fairly; but many of those who bought in the Encumbered Estates Court are harsh and cruel men." That is the sort of candid admission which the supporters of the Land League make as to certain Irish landlords. But I confess, my Lords, I have not been able to trace to its source any one good authorized case against these purchasers. What happened was this. Many of the estates which were sold were held under old leases, and it was the regular habit of the Court to advertise that at the end 1780 of the leases there would be a rise of rent. There are no end of such cases. Men invested their money under that inducement, and at the end of the leases they did as they had a right to do—they raised the rent; and, as far as I can make out, that is the only foundation for the charge. My Lords, the Irish hate an improving landlord. When they find a man buying land for the purpose of improving it, for the purpose of applying industry and capital to it for his own interest and the well-being of his tenants, they hate him for the changes which it is almost his duty to institute. But I have not been able to identify any cases in which injustice has been done. I have traced out one or two of them with great care, and I have found them all to be not as their accusers would have your Lordships to believe they are. I was very glad to see that Judge Longfield, in a very interesting article he published some time ago, defended the proprietors who bought in his Court against such accusations. As those who, in the Middle Ages, purchased corn in time of panic—who were the great storekeepers of corn at critical periods—were exposed to the odium and hatred of the ignorant, so likewise those who wish to make the tenure of land a matter of real business are exposed to all the passions of a misguided mob. My Lords, I venture to say that there is no proof whatever throughout these pages that the Land Act of 1870 has failed in remedying any one of the grievances which we intended it to remedy. We hear no longer of notices of ejectment falling like snow-flakes on the tenantry in order to keep them in a state of perpetual bondage. We hear no longer of exorbitant rents being exacted in spite of the statute. We hear no longer, except in the language of demagogues, of constant increment of rent, keeping the people in hopeless poverty. We hear no longer of rents being raised so rapidly upon improvements as to forfeit the whole industry of the tenant. In all these matters the proof of the accusations utterly fail, as did the proof as to the eating up of the tenant right. But, my Lords, there are some consequences of the Act of 1870 which we did not foresee, and of which ample proof is given in these pages. I am afraid that, instead of the increment of rent eating up tenant right, we have 1781 established the converse—that the claims of tenant right are eating up every claim to any increment of rent. This is laid down as a maxim, that every 1s. on rent is a reduction of £20 on the tenant right. We used to hear on all sides that political economy does not run now. And what does this Report say? It says that—The system of letting land according to market rates in Ireland is a system which never can prevail.My Lords, that statement is absolutely without foundation. As given by the Commissioners, what they mean is this—that the landlords are not generally in the habit of exacting more than market rates. But the tenants charge the very highest market rates to the labouring classes who want land for their potatoes, and they claim the absolute right to the very highest price for their tenant right. There are instances in this Commission where these persons, in one breath, say—"There is only one way of valuing my interest, and that is that the landlord should pay what it will fetch in the open market; but in regard to the land I let to the labouring classes, the only was to test the value is that you must take it at my valuation." Now, there is another fact comes out in this Commission of which the Commissioners take no notice, and that is the monstrous, and I will say fraudulent, claims made under the Act of 1870 by the tenants claiming compensation for improvements. I will content myself with citing one case, in which an Irish tenant, who got a Scotchman to support him, claimed for five years' compensation the sum of £4,900. And what do you think the Court awarded him? £280. Cases of that kind could be given in abundance. Now, I thank the House for the great patience with which it has heard me. I can well conceive that the question may be asked me—What has been my object? My Lords, I have a very short answer of three words to give to that question. My object has been to ascertain and to vindicate the truth. I sometimes ask myself—Will the day ever come when that spirit will prevail in politics which prevails in science, when truth will be valued for its own sake? My Lords, the men of science have their own battles and their own passions. They contend keenly with each other for the honour 1782 of a discovery. They contend fiercely with each other on the interpretation of fact; but I have never known of men of science being silent and thereby giving support to a popular delusion, because it supported a favourite theory or nostrum of their own. And in politics, where facts are above all things valuable, when dealing with the passions and with the interests of men, is it not, above all things, important that we should ascertain facts, and speak them when we know them? My Lords, I am now done. I move for the Papers of which I have given Notice. I leave the facts which I have stated to the thoughtful consideration of this House, and I leave the slanders which I have refuted to the condemnation of all honourable men.
§ Moved that there be laid before this House,
§ I. Return showing the number of agricultural holdings in Ireland, and the tenure by which they are held by the occupiers, arranged as follows:—
- 1.Holdings valued under £5;
- 2.Holdings valued at £5 and under £10;
- 3.Holdings valued at £10 and under £15;
- 4.Holdings valued at £15 and under £20;
- 5.Holdings valued at £20 and under £25;
- 6.Holdings valued at £25 and under £30;
- 7.Holdings valued at £30 and under £35;
- 8.Holdings valued at £35 and under £40;
- 9.Holdings valued at £40 and under £50;
- 10.Holdings valued at £50 and under £100;
- 11.Holdings valued at £100 and upwards;
§ II. Return showing—
- 1.The total number of land claims decided by each county court judge in Ireland since the Act of 1870 came into operation;
- 2.The number of such decisions in each case in which the maximum compensation under the scale sanctioned by the Land Act was awarded by the court;
- 3.The number of such decisions which were abated on appeal by the Court of Appeal:
§ III. Return of the number of evictions from agricultural holdings in each county in Ireland for each year from 1871 to 1880 both inclusive; and showing how many of these evictions were for non-payment of rent:
§ IV. Return of the claims under the Land Act of 1870, made by tenants of agricultural holdings in respect of compensation for improvements in each county court in Ireland; showing the amount so claimed in each case, and the amount awarded by the court of first instance, and as altered on appeal.—(The Duke of Argyll.)
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
said, as Chairman of the Commission, he wished to make a few observations; but it was not his intention to speak of the 1783 Land Bill, nor would he enter at length into an examination of the evidence which was in the Blue Book. Their Lordships must, however, see that the selection of a few cases by the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) was a fallacious manner of proceeding when considering the whole of them, with the view of arriving at a conclusion as to the real bearing of the whole case. He could not go into an analysis of that evidence, for that would take too much time; nor did he think it was his duty—and certainly it was not his inclination—to criticize or attack those men who came before them and tendered their evidence freely, and he might say in most cases fully believing in the truth of what they said when they spoke it. But as to the Report, he might say that it was the result of the honest convictions of those who signed it, founded, as they believed, on the testimony which had been given, and that it contained a very clear description of the various opinions on different sides in Ireland. He had been told during the last month that he was about to be worried by the noble Duke; and though the noble Duke had made his attack, he thought that the evidence taken before the Commission justified the Commissioners in coming to the conclusion which they had done in their Report. It was not a pleasant thing to have a worry hanging over one; but he thought that upon the whole he might thank the noble Duke for the way in which he had spoken of him personally, and for the way in which he had dealt with the Report. Quotations, to suit the purpose of the person quoting, had been made from the evidence and the Report; and as to the former, the great mass of the evidence given on the subject of the raising of rents might be entirely laid aside, and it had been laid aside by the Commissioners when f raining their Report. The opinion of the Commissioners on the subject which he had named was based on the evidence of impartial witnesses. He might say at once that nothing astonished him more or gave him greater pleasure during the sitting of the Commission than the character of the men who now acted as agents in Ireland; and he had no hesitation in saying that if the same class of men had been agents in that country 20 or 30 years ago the present Irish Land Question would never have arisen. He 1784 wished to state to the House what was the mode of proceeding which the Commissioners adopted. At the time when: the Commission was appointed, it had already been announced that the Land Question would be dealt with in the next Session. It was therefore evident that the Commission had a very short time in which to conduct the inquiry. They therefore proceeded with their work quickly, in order to enable the Government to have the evidence before them. But if they had had longer time, say two years, to prepare their Report, it would probably have been more satisfactory. The Commissioners, he contended, could not have gone about the country acting like Government valuators. Such a course would have been productive of mischief rather than good. He might tell the noble Duke that some inconvenience had arisen from the fact that many of the witnesses who came before the Commissioners were under the impression that the Commissioners had come to lower the rent, and could hardly be persuaded that the Commission had no power to do so. The Commissioners also experienced great difficulty in obtaining evidence on the part of those connected with the landlord interest, and a strong disinclination on the side of the tenants, and although witnesses had not been actually forbidden to come forward by the Land League, that organization had recommended that tenants should not offer themselves as witnesses. The Commissioners, nevertheless, invited both landlords and tenants, by advertisement, to come before them to give their evidence, and they issued a series of questions for examination of the witnesses, but not for leading questions to be put. The noble Duke had expressed his belief that the Commissioners did nothing but put words into the tenants' mouths. He could only tell the noble Duke that an examination before a Commission was a very different thing from an examination by a Court of Law. He had always found that Irish witnesses, if treated in a severe manner, were reticent, but if drawn gradually into conversation would tell their own story in their own way. That was the method he had adopted. No doubt there were a number of the witnesses whose stories were exaggerated. But there was often a real grievance behind. Nor because statements 1785 were exaggerated ought the evidence of witnesses to be totally rejected. In such cases the main part of the story was frequently true. Then there was a great deal of uncontradicted evidence. He did not intend to enter into the question as to how far the statements made in the Report and the conclusions drawn therein were justified by the evidence; but if the Commission had been of any use to the Government in preparing the Land Bill, it would be for them to justify it when they brought the Bill into that House; or now, if they thought proper. There was one point upon which he desired to mate an explanation, and that was the publication of one-half the evidence before the rest. That was an unfortunate circumstance; but he did not see how the Commissioners were to blame. They issued the evidence as rapidly as they could, as it was required before the meeting of Parliament, and they had been pressed by individual Members of Parliament to furnish the results as soon as possible. But what he was surprised at was that the noble Duke had made up his mind before the evidence was published. [The Duke of ARGYLL dissented.] With respect to those witnesses who did not wish to give their names, the Commission said that the evidence would all go to the persons against whom charges were made, and that the value of the evidence would be greater if the names of the witnesses also appeared. It was strange that complaints with respect to the conduct of the inquiry should have reached the noble Duke only. As a general rule, if complaints were made of the proceedings of a Commission the Chairman heard something of them; but he had received only five letters, and three were full of complaints from persons for not being called as witnesses, and the others were on unimportant matters. The Secretary of the Commission said that he had received no complaints. It certainly was strange that it should be left to the noble Duke to find out that witnesses had been unfairly treated. They themselves had never heard one charge brought. The charge of the noble Duke amounted to this—that the Commissioners had presented to Her Majesty a prejudiced Report, and had cooked the evidence in order to back it up; but he (the Earl of Bessborough) thought that was a charge 1786 which did not require contradiction. The statement of the noble Duke that leading questions were asked in order that answers might be given in accordance with the preconceived notions of the Commissioners was most unjust and unfair. When such leading questions appeared in the evidence, it was always in consequence of previous expressions of opinion on the part of witnesses. Baron Dowse had been mentioned in the course of the speech to which their Lordships had just listened; and he must say that such statements as those of the noble Duke about that learned Judge were most unfair and unjust, and not calculated to encourage respect for authority in Ireland. There was not in existence a more honest or outspoken man than. Baron Dowse, and he ought not to have been attacked in the way he had been. The noble Duke had also said that the Commissioners set out with a foregone conclusion. Well, he (the Earl of Bessborough) supposed everyone had his own ideas upon the Irish Question; and, of course, Baron Dowse had his views upon it; there was scarcely a woman in Ireland who had not her ideas on the subject. The noble Duke said the Commissioners started with the programme of the "three F's." That was not his (the Earl of Bessborough's) programme when he started; but he came to it when the weight of evidence forced him to do so. Nothing could be more unwise and unjust than the noble Duke's attack upon Baron Dowse. The noble Duke was a statesman and a politician. He (the Earl of Bessborough) was neither; but he would take heart to say that the course which the noble Duke had pursued that evening was neither statesmanlike nor politic.
THE MARQUESS OF WTATERFORD
My Lords, after the very clear and able speech of the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll), in which he has dealt with the Report and evidence of Lord Bessborough's Commission, I do not think it will be necessary for me to enter into the different points which he has stated. I shall, therefore, limit my remarks to certain facts which have come under my notice with regard to that Report and evidence, and invite explanation from noble Lords opposite. At the time the Commission was appointed, the landlords of Ireland felt that the Commission was not likely to consider 1787 the question—to put it in the mildest way—with any bias in their favour; and when the Secretaries were named who were to take part in the inquiry, and their political opinions became known, that feeling was certainly not decreased. But, at the same time, the landlords came forward most willingly, and in large numbers, to throw all the light they possibly could upon the question, and the Irish Land Committee—a Committee to which I have the honour to belong—did all in their power to assist the Commission in collecting evidence on the subject. The public were told—in letter No. 4 of the Appendix to the Report—that if any charges were made against owners of land in Ireland, they would be informed of those charges, and have ample opportunity of either rebutting them, or explaining them away. The Commission was formed to inquire into the Act of 1870, and to report what changes, if any, were necessary in the Land Laws of Ireland; but, in my opinion, certain Members of the Commission acted as counsel for the prosecution, and cross-examined witnesses with a view to eliciting statements to coincide with their own preconceived opinions in favour of the "three F's." I gather this from reading the questions asked witnesses during the taking of the evidence, and also from information which I have received, from time to time, from gentlemen who were examined before the Commission, and who stated to me that the questions they were asked all tended in the same direction, and that when they volunteered any statement not bearing on the "three F's" they were courteously listened to, but not invited to continue their explanation. My Lords, although I believe several Members of the Commission started with foregone conclusions on certain points, I must not be understood as wishing to make a charge against any one of them, for I believe there is not one of them who would have knowingly allowed a mistake to be made in their published Report or evidence which would have been likely to lead the public to a wrong conclusion. But, my Lords, I believe mistakes did occur—mistakes which it is somewhat curious to observe tended but in one direction, and that against the landlords. Had there been any mistakes the other way I should have supposed them to be technical errors; but I have carefully 1788 searched through the whole of the books, and I cannot find any in the other direction. When we consider the enormous importance attached to the Report of this Commission, a Roport which has been so constantly referred to by the Prime Minister in his speeches upon the measure which is now before "another place," by other Members of the Government, and by the great Liberal Party, I think it most unfortunate that such mistakes should have occurred. On the 1st page of the Report, I find it mentioned that, after taking evidence at various places named during the months of September, October, and November, they also held a series of sittings in Dublin in December, to take evidence from those who had been unavoidably passed over in their journey, and also from several persons who, from published writings or personal reputation, appeared qualified to give valuable assistance. I was naturally anxious to read this evidence; but what was my astonishment on examining the third volume of the evidence to find that the 50th sitting closed on the 30th of November, and that the 51st sitting began on the 3rd of January. What has become of the evidence given in December? I cannot believe that it has been suppressed; and yet I cannot find it among the published evidence. I can only suppose that this is a gross error on the 1st page of the Report, and that no evidence was taken in December, which must lead the public to look upon the rest of the Report with suspicion. Another thing of which I have to complain is the sparsity of the rebutting evidence. My Lords, if you will examine the evidence published, you will find that on several occasions gentlemen were allowed to make charges against individuals without giving the names and addresses of persons so charged; thereby rendering it impossible that such charges could be answered. I consider that evidence of this sort is perfectly worthless. I have stated before that the Commission informed the public that they should have opportunities of rebutting the charges made against them, either by writing or by personal explanation, after the direct evidence had been taken. Many landlords waited to answer the charges until such time as the Commission could receive them personally. The direct evidence ended on November 30, and the Commission began to take the rebutting evi- 1789 dence on January 3. If the Report were to be a fair Report, it was necessary that the Commission should hear both sides of the question, and consider the answers to the charges, before they issued their Report; but what was the case? The Commission began to take the rebutting evidence on January 3, and I find that the Report was signed on January 4, thereby proving that the bulk of the rebutting evidence was never before the Commission at all when the Report was signed. But, in addition to this, certain landlords were never informed of the charges laid against them; and when this fact became known to the Land Committee, the Secretary wrote, asking whether the rebutting evidence would be published with the charges. He received an answer from Sir George Young stating that—"In many instances the Post Office had failed to find the gentlemen against whom charges had been made." The Secretary then wrote, asking for a list of those whom the Post Office had failed to find, as he believed that, with the powers at his disposal, he would be able to find many of them. He received an answer from Sir George Young stating that he was so occupied with the business of the Commission that he could not give the time himself, and had no staff available for the purpose. There were several other instances in which, owing to the names of the persons charged not having been given, the Commission were unable to communicate with them; and, therefore, many charges against landlords remain unanswered to this day. To show the character of the evidence, and in order to prove to your Lordships how very important it was that rebutting evidence should have been considered, and what wild statements were made, I will give, as a sample, what occurred to myself. A gentleman—by name Mr. Brown, a Presbyterian minister—came forward, with two other gentlemen, to give evidence in Londonderry, where I, at one time, had a large property. He stated that a certain townland of mine was occupied by three tenants—two of them were improving, and one was not. That, upon the lease falling out, the rents were raised to the amount of £7 10s. and £3 10s. respectively upon the improvements of the two improving tenants, and that the non-improving tenant was allowed to remain at the same rent. 1790 That, upon my property being sold, these two men had to buy their own improvements back at 30 years' purchase, in addition to paying 30 years' purchase on the old rent of the holding. I was very much astonished at this evidence, and I wrote to my agent to inquire into the matter. I received an answer from him, saying that the statement was utterly without foundation, that there were only two townlands upon my estate, previous to the sale, occupied by three tenants; that one was bought in block by a landlord, and that the other was the one upon which Mr. Brown resided, thereby proving that he must have known the circumstances of the case; that, instead of the rents having been raised, they were reduced. I will read you a return of what they were in 1854 and 1870:—M'Fetter, 1854, £30; 1870, £28. Rev. N. M. Brown, 1854, £37; 1870, £34 19s. J. Wilson, 1854, £9; 1870, £8 8s. This answer is published in the third volume of the evidence. My agent, on finding this, wrote to Mr. Brown asking what townland he referred to. He received an answer, which I have in my possession, that Mr. Brown believed the townland was Boola. Well, upon Boola there were seven tenants, and the statement was equally untrue about that townland; but Mr. Brown added that he did not remember giving the evidence, and he believed it must have been given by some other witness. I believe that your Lordships will find many answers of this description were given to charges made, and yet the Report was signed without taking the major part of them into consideration. Now, I have to point out another most serious mistake, which would be calculated to lead the public to a wrong conclusion. At the foot of each page of the Report are given the names, in print, of those agreeing with paragraphs contained in it, and in italics the names of those disagreeing. By glancing at these lists one would suppose that there were a very large number of persons agreeing, and very few disagreeing; but, on referring to the evidence, I find that though on page 4, paragraph 10 of the Report, which I take as a sample of many of the paragraphs, there are 24 names given in support of the statement that "nearly all improvements in Ireland are made by the tenant"—a state- 1791 ment reiterated in another place by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—and not one, in italics, disagreeing with this paragraph, I can find 23 names of those who gave evidence directly against that paragraph—among them witnesses quite as important as any cited in favour of it; but the public would naturally believe, as all these names are placed in print in the Report, that the evidence was unanimous in support of this paragraph. But more than that, when I come to examine the evidence of those cited in favour of this paragraph, I find there are four gentlemen's names placed in the foot-note as supporting paragraph 10 who gave evidence directly against it. If your Lordships will allow me I will read shortly the evidence given by these gentlemen, who, it is distinctly stated, supported Paragraph 10, and who gave directly contrary evidence—Question 27,158.—Mr. Leahy says, 'I find tenants' improvements generally are nil, except the reclamation of waste land.' Question 30,619.—Sir George Colthurst, 'There are some most glowing exceptions of tenants making improvements; but it is only one case in 20.' Mr. Rochfort Boyd, Questions 39,894–6, 'Tenants may sometimes make poor improvements; but permanent improvements are made by landlords' Question 26,908—Mr. Bence Jones, 'All improvements are made by himself, and large sums expended.'Your Lordships will be amused to hear that these four gentlemen are named as supporting the statement in paragraph 10, and that among them should have been selected Mr. Bence Jones. I could point out many other instances of the same thing, or something very like it, occurring through the foot-notes of the Report, and I say distinctly that this is a mistake tending to back up the paragraphs contained in the Report, which goes directly against the evidence, and against the interest of the landlords. Within the past fortnight another volume has been published, which is called an "Index;" but it should be called an "Index of Mistakes," for, instead of its throwing any light upon the question, I think it is even more complicated, and more one-sided, and contains, if possible, more mistakes than anything that has gone before. But all the mistakes still run in the same direction, and are calculated to mislead the public more than anything that has appeared in the preceding volumes. On page 55, under the heading "Raising of Rent," you 1792 will find a summary given of a number of charges made; but, on page 60, under the head of "Reply to Evidence," you will find merely the names, and no summary given of the replies to the charges made on page 55. But if you will examine the two statements, although certain charges were answered and refuted in the evidence, you will not find even the names under the heading of "Replies." Therefore, the public can read the summary of the charges; but if they wish to see the replies they must wade through miles of paper before they are able to find them. I will take three names, quoted on page 55, as a proof of rent raising; and though answers were given, their names do not appear upon page 60. Charges were made by Mr. Drew against Captain Caldwell, which were disproved by Mr. Townshend (App. C. 184); also by Mr. O'Connell against Lord Cork, which were rebutted by Mr. Leahy (App. C. 1); also by Mr. Shellington against the Duke of Manchester, rebutted by Mr. O'Brien (App. C. 25). In all these three cases, although a summary is given of the charges, the names even of these gentlemen do not appear under the head of "Replies," thereby leading the public to believe that these charges were not answered, although they were distinctly proved to be untrue. I merely take one paragraph or heading, in both this and my last statement, as an example; because I consider that I should weary your Lordships if I were to deal with them all; but you will find the same thing occurs repeatedly in the Report and Index. To prove to you how misleading the manner is in which the evidence was collected and placed before the public, I will take the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Law), delivered on 28th of April in "another place." If he arrived at a wrong impression, what chance had the general public of arriving at a right one? he cited five instances of oppression by landlords, taken from the evidence before the Commission, and I was much struck by the cases which he cited; so much so, that I at once proceeded to inquire into them; but what did I find? That the right hon. and learned Gentleman must have taken his cases from the direct evidence, without referring to the rebutting evidence at all; for if he had done so, and made in- 1793 quiries, he would have found that in two cases he cited, the landlords never had an opportunity of rebutting the charges, because they were never informed of them, and that the three others were either denied or explained away. If your Lordships will allow me, I will quote the cases named by the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the answers given, which I have verified by the kindness of the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself—The first case.—Witness, John Cunningham (page 320): 'A tenant had his rent raised from £46 6s. to £60; his valuation was £38.' Answer.—'Name of landlord not given or asked for.' Second case.—Witness, Robert Adams (page 630): 'Tenant on Londonderry estate, holding 62 statute acres; valuation £40 10s. Rent raised from £38 to £59. Had reclaimed some land at £40 per acre; had three acres of cut out hog; spent £45 in reclaiming it; and the fourth year the agent put 22s. 6d. per annum on it.' Answer.—Thomas Colquhoun (local agent to Lord Londonderry).—'Never got intimation of evidence given by Adams, though on same day tendered myself for examination before Commission. Offer refused. Adam's statements are altogether misleading, if not utterly false.' Third case.—Witness, James M'Intyre (page 365): 'Bought and improved two holdings; spent £2,000; rent at purchase £43 15s.; present rent £74 1s. 7d. for not 50 acres. Never received one sixpence assistance.' Answer.—Durie Miller, agent to Irish-Society (App. C. 365): 'Acreage of farm 68 acres; Irish Society spent £40,000 on making Derry Bridge toll free; M'Intyre lives three miles from bridge; has to go over it to get to Derry with all farm produce.' Fourth case.—Professor Baldwin, witness, (page 991): 'Never went west of Shannon, but heard of a certain landlord; he bought three townlands about 20 years ago in Connemara; his agent gave me rental of one townland when purchased, which was £62 10s., and rental now £276 14s. He never spent a penny in improvement; he spent a little money in building a shop in village.' Answer.—Mr. Leonard.—'Townland of Carna contains 1,000 acres. At time of purchase was held by three tenants, since which time a village has been established, a fishery opened, and a house built, which lets with it for £75 a-year; cost Mr. Leonard £1,100; about 30 tenants now on the estate. It is false for Mr. Baldwin to say he had rental from his agent, as Mr. Leonard never had one.' Fifth case.—Witness, Professor Baldwin (page 982):'On Lord Arran's estate there is a constant nibbling at rents, and 25 per cent is put on every time there is a change of tenancy. Sometimes 75 per cent, on three changes, in two years.' Answer.—Mr. Crean (page 1,348): 'It was only when tenants sold their holdings to strangers that 25 per cent was put on. There is no foundation for statement that 75 per cent was put on in two years. To my certain knowledge this never occurred.'This last piece of evidence was given on January 10, although the Report was 1794 signed on January 4. Well, my Lords, I have tried to lay before you a few facts as to the way the evidence was collected, and the Report and Index made out. I should like much to hear an explanation of mistakes which seem to have tended but in one direction, and which were calculated to mislead the public. I do not wish, as I have said, to say one word against any Member of the Commission, least of all against my noble Friend the noble Earl who was Chairman of the Commission (the Earl of Bessborough), for whom I have the greatest respect and regard; and I am quite certain that the mistakes I have pointed out will annoy him more than anybody else. But, at the same time, somebody is responsible, and I should like to know who that somebody is. Your Lordships will understand that if mistakes such as I have pointed out could occur under a Commission, such as the one we are discussing, composed of men of the highest position and honour, with what anxiety the landlords of Ireland are looking to the composition of a Commission which, under a Bill that I am informed will shortly come before 3'our Lordships' House, will be the sole arbitrator of their fortunes, and from whom there will be no appeal.
My Lords, I shall confine my few remarks to the county in which I live, and to facts of which I am cognizant. I had intended to proceed with Professor Baldwin; but as the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) has proved that he was totally wrong in his evidence as to Lord Arran's estate, and he himself says that I am not so bad a landlord as Lord Arran, I shall dismiss him with a flat denial, merely stating that the Commissioners never gave me an opportunity of rebutting Professor Baldwin's evidence, and that the total increase of rents on my property on farms changing hands only amounted to £28 3s. in 20 years. And now I come to a matter so personal to myself and those dear to me that I bring it forward with the deepest unwillingness, and even disgust. I do so, because I know that your Lordships are ever ready to hear in selfdefence a Member of your Lordships' House whose character may have been vilified; but also, and more particularly, because what I am about to read proves the extreme keenness and unscrupulousness of the Commission in their zeal to 1795 establish the "three F's," and especially their contempt for the ordinary rules of evidence. I will beg to refer your Lordships to the evidence of Mr. Doherty, a Roman Catholic priest, who lives about 14 miles from me, and whose only cause of malevolence to me is that I am Chairman of a Railway Company which is making a line between the town where the rev. gentleman officiates as priest and the nearest—and, in fact, only considerable—port in the North-West, by a route nearly one-half shorter than that advocated by the rev. gentleman. If my information is correct, the rev. gentleman's anonymous informer is a person so low in position and character that no one but the priest himself would have received his information. Your Lordships will find the evidence I am about to read on. page 1,285 of the evidence, and my answer to the Commissioners on page 1,431. The evidence is as follows:—There is another landlord equally as bad—namely, Lord Lifford. I wrote to a party at Ballybofey, asking him for information about Lord Lifford, and I will read -what he says on the subject. I will only say that I can place full reliance on my correspondent. He says—A few years ago, since the passing of the Land Act of 1870, Lord Lifford served notices to quit on a large number of his wretched tenants, and on the hack of each notice was a notification that, if the tenants agreed to a new rent set forth on the notice, he would not proceed to eviction. In several of the newspapers of the day the names and residences of 16 of these tenants were published, with the Poor Law valuation of each, and the rent claimed on the notice to quit. In some cases, the rent claimed "was nearly four times the valuation; and on the total valuation of the 16, the total rent claimed was £100 per cent over the valuation. And it must be borne in mind, when comparing rental and Poor Law valuation in Donegal, that the valuation of that county is £25 per cent higher than in the rest of Ireland. These tenants refused to comply with this exorbitant demand, and were evicted. They then brought their land claims against his Lordship, who then cunningly sent his bailiff among the evicted, offering to allow them back on easier terms than he had before demanded, and ultimately the rents were arranged before the County Court Judge. Previously the tenants got 40 porches of free bog; hut since they must pay 9d. per perch, like persons from other estates, thus saddling them with £1 10s. a-year more; and although there are thousands of acres of turbary on his wild property, he does not allow as much as a perch of free bog, even for the purpose of burning lime for their land. But that is not all. When his own tenants happen to have convenient banks of turbary, and outsiders wanting them, they are taken from the tenants and given to the others, and the tenants must go further away, 1796 I and thus the humane Lord treats his serfs as the Americans treat the Red Indians. One of the standing rules of his estate is, that if any tenant fails to pay his rent on the gale day, 2s. in the pound is charged for the delinquency and added permanently to the rent—sharp practice, surely! Another rule is that whenever a change of tenancy takes place an increase of rent is put on, and even poor widows are not exempted from the operation of the rule. This is so well known that his younger sons were seen to dance with joy on hearing of the death of a tenant, and exclaim—'That will be an increase to Pa's rental'—a truly humanizing rule! Perhaps Lord Lifford will deny these things, as he tried to deny other things equally incontrovertible; but let him ask himself how often in a few years did he raise the rent of P. M'Gahran's farm, and when M'Gahran sold his farm about two or three years ago, and went with the purchaser to Lord Lifford's to have him received as tenant, did not his Lordship refuse unless he agreed to an increase of rent? The purchaser naturally drew back from the bargain, and poor M'Gahran had to accept a sum considerably less—Lord Lifford pocketing the balance in the shape of a yearly increase of rent—in his pocket. About the same time, another tenant named Bustard sold his farm in the same way, and when the purchaser would not agree to the increase, poor Bustard had to remain in his farm. Surely this Lord of Meen Glas is a noble specimen of an advocate of tenant right.'The rev. gentleman then went on to say—'Another item is, he charges where the rents are not paid punctually 2s. in the pound for delay, and on a change of farms he always puts an addition to the rent.'—Baron Dowse: 'Do you say that 10 per cent is put on where the rents are not punctually paid?'—'Yes.'—'So that if a man made 10 failures in the course of a few years there would be an increase of 100 per cent?'—'Oh, yes, and without the failure at all, 100 per cent addition is not unusual. 1 may mention that a man living in my house at present saw his father pay four guineas only for an entire townland, and it is now £32.'—Mr. Shaw:'Within the memory of a living man?' 'Yes, the man is stopping in my house.'—' Was this under the same landlord?' 'No, there was a change of landlords; Mr. Johnstone was the first. It is now in the hands of the third landlord.'No wonder that Baron Dowse should have made the remark upon that evidence that "of course people have no security under such a system." I will not trouble your Lordships with reading my reply to this. It was, of course, a denial as emphatic as I could word it as to every statement in it. At the same time, I sent a protest to the noble Earl presiding over the Commission (the Earl of Bessborough) against anonymous evidence of such a character being received.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
explained that he did not regard the evidence as anonymous, inasmuch as the rev. gentleman who read the letter stated that he could place the fullest reliance upon his correspondent, that he could speak to the facts it contained from his own knowledge, and that he repeated, the statements it contained on his own responsibility.
He merely said, according to the report of the evidence, that he could place full reliance on his correspondent.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
I distinctly called his attention to it, and he said that he made the statement on his own responsibility.
I must differ entirely from the noble Lord on that point. It may be sufficient for him, but it is not sufficient for me. I will only remind your Lordships that I have already stated that the total increase of rent on farms changing hands on my wild property has been in all £28 3s. in 20 years. I will only mention two points. First—Some 25 or 30 years ago a few of my tenants agreed to an increase of rent—5 per cent—if their rents were received yearly, instead of half-yearly. This is the sole ground for Baron Dowse's conclusion that if a man made 10 failures in paying rent he would be added 100 per cent. As to the man M'Gahran, his rent was only raised once, on his coming into his farm on the death of Ids father, to the amount of £2 2s., and on selling his farm he received £150 tenant right. Now, I will pray you to observe that the evidence reviewed as evidence by this Commission is not only hearsay evidence which is not usually admitted, but absolutely anonymous—a libellous letter, totally devoid of truth; an anonymous letter, as to which the Commissioners were totally unable to cross-examine the witness. But how was this received by that Member of the Commission versed in law and the practice of the Courts? Instead of pointing out to the other Commissioners that an anonymous letter, anonymous to the Commissioners themselves, was no evidence whatever, Baron Dowse jumps to the conclusion that all was true, and says that—Ques- 1798 tion 40,084—"Of course, the people have no security under such a system." The laws of evidence, the practice of justice, my character, which was known to Baron Dowse, and that of my family, are trampled on; but never mind, the case of the "three F's" is made out. Fiat in justitia ruat cælum. I took a legal opinion as to an action for libel against this priest; but I was told that a jury, on such persons especially, would hold that he was protected by the Royal Commission; so that, as far as I am concerned, the printed evidence of this Commission is a mode of circulating anonymous libels, and protecting those who circulate them from the punishment they deserve. Was there ever a Royal Commission so prostituted? Now, I may ask, how is the reception of this mass of absolutely false evidence—how is this disregard of the ordinary rules of evidence—to be accounted for? The Commissioners were men of high character. Two of them, at least, were men of such known impartiality that their being on the Commission was a guarantee for its fairness; but your Lordships know what powers may be exercised in a Commission of this kind by the Secretaries, and I must needs say that when a gentleman so well known as a determined and avowed enemy of the landed interest as Sir George Young was appointed Secretary, it would have been but decent to appoint a man of some moderation as Assistant Secretary. But who was appointed? A Mr. Donnell, known as a bitter enemy of the landed interest in Ireland, who appears in the evidence in. a double capacity—first, as Assistant Secretary, second, as another roving Commissioner in the county of Donegal. There he makes out a very severe case against a family possessing one of the largest properties in Ireland, but proverbial for their liberality to their tenants and the extreme lowness of their rents. I am unable to answer Mr. Donnell's ex parte evidence. Lord Conyngham is, I grieve to say, not in good health, and his agent has lately died. But this I will say—Some years ago, through the kindness of the late Lord Conyngham, I purchased a small property in Donegal from him. I had it valued as a matter of course, and the value put on it was double Lord Conyngham's rent. There is a moral to be drawn from all this, the necessity of our 1799 knowing in time who will be the Commissioners under the coming Land Act, and what will be their appointments? Unless they are men—I care not of which side of politics—of honour, ability, and known impartiality; unless those who may be appointed under them are men of such moderation as to be beyond suspicion that they will prefer their own peculiar views to their duty to the public, whether landlord or tenant, I trust your Lordships will be prepared to go so far as even to address the Crown for the protection of what remains of property in Ireland. We have come to that pass in Ireland that life is insecure, property diminished, character, which ought to be dearer than property or life, sometimes, as I have shown, taken away even under the shelter of a Royal Commission; and I fear that no man of property ought in future to live in Ireland unless he be one who cares nothing for Ireland, does nothing, hopes nothing.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD
said, that it was not his intention, on the part of the Government, to attempt any defence of the Irish Land Commission as if the Commission were a Department of the Government. The Commission, from the first, was an utterly independent body, well able to take care of itself, and needed no defence at his hands. The few observations he had to make—and they would be fewer than they otherwise would have been, owing to the fact that the noble Duke who brought the matter forward (the Duke of Argyll) had been compelled to leave the House—would be directed to the general question. The object of the noble Duke and those who had followed him was evidently to cry down the value of the Report, and still more of the evidence brought before the Irish Land Commission from beginning to end, as if it was something not deserving their attention, something that was to have no weight with them in their future deliberations, and apparently as if it afforded no reasons whatever for any fresh legislation on the subject of Irish land. That being apparently the object of the Motion, and the speeches which had followed it, it was impossible for him to refrain from making some protest upon the subject. It appeared to him, in the first place, to be perfectly vain and futile to attempt to overthrow the effect of the 1800 vast body of evidence accumulated from all quarters and all classes in Ireland by the Irish Land Commission, by noble Lords in that House picking out particular cases here and there, cases which might happen to interest them individually, upon which the evidence might be inaccurate or unfounded, and then saying that these cases were examples of the whole, and that the evidence, therefore, was worth nothing. He preferred to look at the matter another way. It would be perfectly easy to pick out any number of cases on the other side. When the noble Duke was picking out a case here and there that suited his purpose, he (Lord Carlingford) thought of a case stronger than all of them that came before the Royal Commission on Agricultural Distress, where a series of leases were produced on their table which had been forced upon the same tenants during a few years, in each case with a rise of rent, and the unfortunate man had to submit to that treatment on the part of the landlord. He did not say that that was a usual case; but it was one of those cases that startled one, and made one understand that the practice of raising the rent by a certain number of landlords in Ireland, as stated over and over again by many of the most experienced men in Ireland, was enough to destroy all confidence in the minds of the Irish tenants, and to strike terror into, above all, the heart of the improving tenant. All this tended to show that some legislation on the subject was absolutely necessary. Let them consider what were the belief and the feelings of the Irish tenants, both in Ulster and other parts of Ireland, as to the practice of raising the rents. He thought there could be no doubt whatever, in the mind of anyone who had taken the trouble to look into the matter, that there was a belief on the part of a large number of improving tenants that they were in danger of having their rents raised upon their improvements, if they showed signs of being able to pay something more. He did not suppose the noble Duke would deny that the tenants entertained that fear. They might be mistaken; they might often be under such landlords that they could run no such risk whatever; but they said how long did they know that they would be under those landlords in a country where land 1801 changed hands so rapidly? and this feeling was producing deep disaffection among the tenants of Ireland, and was paralyzing their efforts. Was it to be supposed that these dangers were purely imaginary? The conviction was not confined to the tenants themselves, it was shared by men of all classes in Ireland, men of the greatest experience, and men who had no prejudice or interests in favour of the tenant classes. Quite the contrary, and he could give specimens from the Report of the Commission. One large landowner and land agent in the South of Ireland spoke of the raising of rent as being often done by small proprietors; another large land agent said that small owners screwed the land up fearfully. A landlord, who was examined, said that the improving tenants were liable to these increases of rent. Similar evidence was given by others, including several County Court Judges. Was it to be supposed that these gentlemen, acquainted with Irish life and Irish land, were entirely mistaken in those broad statements of fact within their own experience and observation? To set aside the evidence of the Commission because out of 40,000 questions and answers some might be objected to would be the most misleading and mischievous process they could adopt. What was the effect on the Commissioners themselves? Was there any disagreement? No, there was none at all. Both the English and the Irish Commissions were in practical agreement as to the facts connected with the raising of rents in Ireland. There might have been some difference as to the degree of importance attached to those facts; but as to their existing to such an extent as to demand the attention of Parliament there was no doubt. He would remind their Lordships of the constitution of this Commission. He did not think Baron Dowse and Mr. Shaw were men of revolutionary tendencies; but the other three Commissioners were themselves large landed proprietors, of different schools and tendencies in politics, with a sufficient amount of the landlord spirit in their minds. Mr. Kavanagh himself treated many of the personal complaints of the tenants with very little indulgence indeed, with almost as little as the noble Duke himself. Nevertheless, that did not affect the general conclusion that he 1802 had drawn from the whole body of the evidence. He said, in his own Report, that—A sufficient number of cases of the unjust raising of rent have been proved to show that the Land Act is not a sufficient protection against the exercise of the power.Since then, in a remarkable letter published in the Press, which did credit to his ability and his candour, he said—I must frankly confess that when I entered on the work of the Commission I did not believe that there was any valid ground for the discontent which has been, and is so rife. However, as the inquiry proceeded, I found there was.…I could see an element of hope in the fact that all this discontent was not the fruit only of political agitation.That was the opinion of an Irish Conservative landlord of the facts which had been laid before him as to the raising of rents, and which led him to believe that legislation was required for the protection of the tenant. The Irish Land Commission was not the only inquiry that had been conducted during the last year upon this subject. He (Lord Carlingford) had the honour of serving upon the Royal Commission on Agricultural Distress, which had taken a very large body of Irish evidence, and most important evidence; and his strong impression from that evidence was that there was a vast amount of agreement as to the facts. They had the advantage in their inquiries of Assistant Commissioners, one of whom was Mr. Baldwin, who was undoubtedly a gentleman of extraordinary knowledge of Irish agriculture, and of the Irish farmer, and who was not alone, but was associated with, an experienced Irish land agent. The statements that these two gentlemen together made on the matter of raising rent fully confirmed the general conclusions which were drawn, by the other Commissioners. He was surprised to hear it made matter of complaint that the Land Commission had reported that permanent improvements were in Ireland generally the work of the tenant. He really thought that was a question that had been settled long ago, and that no one who knew anything about Ireland doubted it for a moment. If they went back to the Devon Commission of 40 years ago, they would find that they reported that it was then admitted on all hands that the dwelling-houses and the farm buildings were erected by the 1803 tenant, and that where the landlords did so was the exception. That was still the case; but he (Lord Carlingford) made no charge against the Irish landlords on that score; it was only a question of facts, and he did not complain of Irish landlords not having tried to introduce the English system on their estates. It would be impossible to introduce the English system in Ireland, and if it were possible it would be folly to do so. The facts which had been elicited by both Commissions proved that in the present system of land tenure there was a want of security which was productive of constant discontent and paralyzed the efforts of the tenants; and the only question, therefore, was whether the facts admitted were sufficiently extensive and important to demand the attention of Parliament. Now, this was at the root of the whole Irish Question, and he believed this view was supported by the Report of the two last Commissions.
THE DUKE OF RICHMOND AND GORDON
hoped the noble Lord opposite (Lord Carlingford) would excuse him for saying he felt bound to explain that he did not share the conclusions which the noble Lord had arrived at, so far as he (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) himself and the Commission over which he had had the honour to preside were concerned.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD
said, that he admitted that different degrees of importance might have been attached by different Members to the facts in question; but unless the majority of the Commission meant to say that facts existed which demanded legislation, he was unable to attach any meaning to that portion of their Report. In those facts the whole of the Irish Land Question lay. Ireland was a nation composed mostly of small farmers who invested their outlay in the cultivation of the soil, and the problem to be solved by the Legislature was how to devise and adapt to that country a system of land tenure which had been the growth of another country—a system which had been the product of circumstances, conditions, and interests totally different from those which existed in Ireland. They had never attempted to solve that problem or adapt those laws until 10 years ago, and then only, as it proved, to a limited extent. Their task was now to solve it 1804 entirely. He believed that the legislation which was now being undertaken was necessary, in justice and in policy. He had great admiration for the eloquence of the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll); but he trusted that on this occasion he should fail by its exercise to induce their Lordships to approach the great question which would soon be before them from his point of view.
§ LORD WAVENEY,
who was very imperfectly heard, defended the accuracy of the statements in the Report of the Bessborough Commission, especially when it spoke of the general rise in the rent, and said, for that very reason, it was right that the tenant right should be extended. The reverse would be a very terrible condition of affairs. He thought that, after all, their Lordships had reason to be exceedingly grateful to the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) for having introduced the subject they were now debating. It was a matter which should be considered apart from political strife. The Government of the day were engaged in a great and important work—that of re-modelling the chief institution of the people of Ireland by consolidating its system of land tenure. That meant dealing with the social life of a whole people, and he trusted that their Lordships would lend their aid in accomplishing so desirable a result, and that they would be able to carry that work to a satisfactory conclusion. He would venture to assure his noble Friend (Viscount Lifford), who had stated that stringent legislation would have the effect of driving the landlords out of Ireland, that such would not be the case. It would be wrong, in any circumstances, for the Irish landlords to abandon their country; and he (Lord Waveney) hoped that their Lordships would feel, as many of them were proprietors of land in that country, that their place was in the front rank of those anxious for the good of the country. With that feeling, whatever happened, he believed that those who claimed to be the leaders of their tenantry and the holders of great properties would still be found in their proper places among the people. He had himself long lived in a district in which tenant right had prevailed for centuries. There the tenant got his share and the landlord his, and the former knew that he was in possession of a well-secured tenant right. When the 1805 rent was raised on account of the increased value of the holding, the tenant I right was raised in the same proportion. The great Famine of 1846–7 seriously affected the Ulster tenantry, though in a lesser degree than it did other parts of Ireland. So greatly were their charges increased, by the competition for land, that they seriously apprehended that their tenant right would be frittered away. Such, however, happily was not the case; but this he knew, that when the Irish Land Act of 1870 passed, one of its effects was very seriously to depreciate the tenant right. He confessed he was one of those who thought that Act was passed too hastily, and that it ought to have been revised. Had it been more patiently considered, he believed it would have been modified; but the country was impatient, and one of the consequences was that a large number of purchases were made on Parliamentary title in order to obtain a mercantile return for the purchase money. Under those circumstances, the tenant right, being a fixed quantity, was necessarily diminished, and from that circumstance the deterioration of tenant right first arose. They were now told that it was their duty to assimilate the land tenure of one set of counties with the habits and customs of another set of counties with which it was not congenial, and that, he feared, would be a very difficult task. He was of opinion that the general adoption of the Ulster Custom would be of great advantage to Ireland, and that they ought to try and assimilate the law and practice of Ireland in respect to land tenure to that of England. The tenant right of Ulster was virtually a copyhold, and the administration of it by the Judges of the Land Courts had been similar to that which would be found in the old law books in reference to the administration of the Law of Copyhold. He hoped their Lordships would guard against forming an opinion that the landlords of Ireland had any other wish in reference to this subject than that a pure and equitable Land Code for Ireland might be framed. Speaking for those on the Liberal side, he said that all they advocated was the adoption of a fair and generous measure, which would give to the tenantry all the protection they required, and, at the same time, would conserve the just rights of the landlords. The question of tenant 1806 right and other matters would, no doubt, be seriously discussed when the Land Bill came up from the other House; and he trusted that their Lordships, in considering that measure, would deal with it in accordance with the great principles underlying it, that they would not attempt to seek refuge in legal complications, but that they would proceed upon the great principles of justice, judgment, and mercy.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
said, he should like to know how a responsible body such as this Commission was could have issued such a Report, or how another responsible body, the Government, could have founded legislation upon it. Any person attentively reading it would find that he was insensibly led up to the idea of proprietary right, for it gradually developed the doctrine of the tenant's proprietary right, though it really contained no evidence which could justify the creation of such an interest. As regarded improvements on land in Ireland, it could not, with any certainty, be assumed that they were all made by the tenants; on the contrary, he believed the figures would show that more than one-half of the improvements in that country were made by landlords and tenants conjointly; and that was the only proper way in which such operations could be effected.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
said, he wished, as an Irish landlord, to express his thanks to the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) for the manner in which he had discharged the difficult and embarrassing duty which he had undertaken. His speech was the complement of the acquittal pronounced "elsewhere" by the First Lord of the Treasury, who had stated that the landlords of Ireland had been put upon their trial, and had, on the whole, been acquitted of the charges brought against them—an acquittal which would certainly have sounded more agreeable in their ears if, immediately after pronouncing it, their Judge had not proceeded to pass upon them the heaviest sentence which the law permitted. He could not help thinking that the noble EARL behind him (the Earl of Bessborough) and his Colleagues had incurred a very serious responsibility by collecting and disseminating a great number of ex parte statements and much untrustworthy evidence, and founding upon this testimony recommendations of 1807 a violent and extraordinary character. While saying that he wished it to be clearly understood, as a matter of course, that he did not impute any want of good faith to the Commissioners. He believed, on the contrary, that they had had immense difficulties to contend with—difficulties which were not of their own creation. He did not think any Royal Commission had ever been appointed under circumstances so extraordinary. Another Commission—numbering among its members several Gentlemen eminently qualified to investigate the agricultural system, of Ireland—was already in existence, and had taken a large amount of Irish evidence. The removal of the inquiry from the Commission presided over by the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond) to the specially-appointed Bessborough Commission undoubtedly gave rise to an impression that the Commission of the noble Earl was appointed for the purpose of getting up a case against the landlords and the Land Act of 1870, and it consequently became the receptacle of an amount of idle gossip and vague statements such as had never before been admitted into a Blue Book. The next difficulty the Commissioners had to face was the shortness of the period in which they had to complete their labours. In three months during which the Commissioners travelled over the whole country they had no less than 51 sittings, and the witnesses examined before it amounted in number to about 700. The Devon Commission, he might remind their Lordships, sat for 15 months. He ventured to think that during those three months there could be little doubt that the Bessborough Commission proceeded at a pace which was incompatible with a thorough investigation of the facts placed before it. How was it possible for its Members to sift evidence collected under such circumstances? He contended that no Court of Law would have acted on such undigested evidence as that upon which the Commission had affirmed the failure of the Land Act, and the necessity of a revolution in the existing system of land tenure. It had been said that an opportunity was given to persons who had been subjected to injurious accusations to rebut the allegations made against them. This was true; but the opportunity came too late. The mischief had been done. The 1808 Report containing the charges against the landlords was presented to Parliament on January 24, and Vol. II., in which was published a vast quantity of declamatory evidence, on February 11; but it was not till April 4, or three days before the introduction of the Land Bill, that the rebutting evidence in Vol. III. was presented. He would like to know when the rebutters of those calumnies were received. It was a remarkable circumstance that none of them had dates attached. Now, it was quite possible that some of the authors had omitted to date the papers which they sent in; but it was not very probable that the whole 380 had done so. The public was placed at a great disadvantage by the omission of these dates; because, without them, it was impossible to determine whether the Commissioners had prepared their Report with or without a knowledge of the rebutting evidence, and whether the Government—to whom, as they had been told by the noble Duke, the evidence was sent over from day to day—were aware of the contents of these Papers when they were framing the Bill now under discussion in "another place." He would say a few words with regard to the allegation that the Land Act had failed to afford the tenant a sufficient protection against repeated and inequitable increases of rent. In the first place, he would state his conviction that it would be found that while the prices of agricultural produce had risen with great rapidity during the last 20 or 30 years, and while the prices paid for tenant right had also risen with great rapidity, the rents over a great part of the country had remained almost stationary, or had, at all events, not undergone anything approaching a commensurate increase. But the Commissioners and the noble Lord below him (Lord Carlingford) grounded themselves upon the statements of these witnesses that the landlords had eaten up the tenants' interest by increases of rent. The noble Duke had, however, examined with the greatest minuteness the statements upon which the Commission relied, and had shown that whenever the witnesses ventured to depart from vague and general assertion, and to specify particular instances in which this abuse of the landlord's right had taken place, their evidence as to the facts was disputed and disproved. 1809 What was the answer of the Chairman of the Commission (the Earl of Bessborough), and of the noble Lord who supported him (Lord Carlingford)? They answered that it was very well for the noble Duke to single out from the mass of the evidence a few selected cases, and to found his argument upon them. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) would, however, remind the House that it was not the noble Duke who had selected the cases, but the Commissioners themselves; and that it was fair to assume that they would not have made that selection and quoted those instances of alleged hardship in the body of their Report, if they had not believed that those cases were the strongest which they were able to discover—it was these cases thus selected that the noble Duke had demolished one by one. He had done so, and he had challenged the noble Earl to produce a single case in which he was able to substantiate his own assertions, and the challenge had not been accepted. Five hundred tenant farmers had been examined before the Commission, and their evidence was met by some 400 statements in reply. The whole case for the prosecution upon this particular count had completely broken down. It was further alleged by the Commissioners that the landlords had, in many cases, chosen the moment when the tenancy was about to change hands in order to exact an increase of rent. No attempt, however, was made to prove that the rent demanded from the in-comer was an unfair rent, and it was obvious that the whole question turned upon this. He would quote, in regard to this point, a very high authority, which justified the landlords in the course which it was alleged they had adopted. In the pamphlet which the noble Duke had referred to, the Prime Minister was represented as having used the following language upon this point:—I therefore hold, and we have framed the Bill on that principle, that to recognize duly the power of the landlord or the Court to raise the rent is the due and just means of preventing the tenant right, which we think to he the just right of the tenant, from passing into extravagance, and from trespassing upon what is the just right of others."—[3 Hansard, cclx. 904.]That was the remedy suggested by the Prime Minister. How, then, did the question stand? First, there was the ad- 1810 mission of the Commissioners that rents in Ireland were generally low. Next, the fact testified to throughout the evidence, that the farmers were ready to pay extravagant prices for the tenant right. Thirdly, the advice of the Prime Minister to counteract that tendency to extravagance by raising the rent. Fourthly, there was the fact that the noble EARL based his condemnation of the Irish landlords on their adoption of that very course. It was upon that slender basis that the Royal Commission had founded the whole superstructure of their argument and their conclusion—that the whole system of Irish land tenure was to be revolutionized in order to guard tenants against increase of rent and against arbitrary disturbances by the landlords. But he would not discuss the recommendations of the Commission then, as he should have an opportunity of doing so when the Bill reached their Lordships. He did not agree that the Land Act of 1870 had been a failure. He had always regarded it as a just and generous measure. It had, no doubt, disappointed the expectations which had been formed of it, and it was not matter for surprise that it should have done so. The object of its framers had been to check capricious evictions, and to secure the tenants against the confiscation of their improvements. Experience had, however, established the conclusion that capricious evictions were virtually unknown in Ireland, and that, on the other hand, owing to the miserably backward condition of Irish agriculture, the so-called improvements often turned out to be either valueless or, at all events, worth infinitely less than the amounts claimed in consideration of them. He owned that he was filled with alarm when he found proposals submitted to the public with apparently the object of gratifying the unreasonable expectations formed by the peasants of Ireland; and he warned their Lordships that those expectations would continue to rise with every fresh concession that might be made to them. It was impossible to read the evidence without observing the progressive character of the demands thus preferred. The growth of opinion in this direction was frankly described by one of the witnesses, whose evidence the Commissioners had thought worthy of special quotation—Mr. William Bolster, ex-President of the Lime- 1811 rick, Clare, and Tipperary Farmers' Club, who said—I think it would be a wise thing for the landlords to settle the Land Question, for I find every year it becomes worse. When I first became President of the Farmers' Club, I think before we had Mr. Butt in Limerick, our idea was a 31 years' lease—that is 16 years ago. We crept from that to a 61 years' lease. Then Mr. Butt came in, and it was the 'three F's,' and we forgot these two things, which we thought at one time would be satisfactory, and now we believe we must sweep the landlords away altogether; and I believe really that if the question is not settled soon I do not know where it will end.He thought that those words might appropriately be printed on the back of the volumes of the evidence taken before the Commission.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
said, that the Lord Privy Seal had made an important admission in stating that the constant changes of landlords in Ireland by sale and purchase had caused fear and uncertainty to tenants; and such sales and purchases, which were so much desired by some of his Colleagues, would have the same bad effect in England. Nothing that had been said that evening went to disprove what the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) had urged as to the want of logic and general want of value attaching to the evidence taken before and the Report of the Royal Commission. The best explanation the noble EARL (the Earl of Bessborough) had given was his statement that he had been a Chairman of a bad company, by which he supposed he meant a financially unsound company, and that he had not emancipated himself from the style of Chairman of such companies, who had to do without facts. There was another hypothesis, and that was that not only did the Report embody foregone conclusions, but that it might have been written some months before it was signed. That body had placed before Parliament one-sided evidence and a Report which could not be followed, as the rebutting evidence which was offered to the Commission was not considered by them at all.
THE EARL OF LIMERICK
desired, in personal explanation, and as an example of the mistakes that had been made, to say that he had received a letter from Sir George Young, the Secretary to the Commission, who had pressed him to make a statement to the House. Sir George Young had said that he sent 1812 him (the EARL of Limerick) proofs of his evidence given before the Royal Commission, so that the evidence as printed was corrected by himself. That, however, was a mistake, as he had not received a proof; and the evidence, therefore, was not corrected and revised by himself, as stated by Sir George Young.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I had indulged in the hope that we should have heard from the Government some kind of reply to the powerful statement of the noble Marquess who sits behind me (the Marquess of Waterford), respecting the Report of the Commission; but they seem to be endowed with a considerable amount of philosophy, and do not care to answer speeches of that kind. The speech of the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal (Lord Carlingford) explained to me to some extent why the Government did not care to continue the debate, because I thought that his answer to the overwhelming statements of the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) and the noble Marquess behind me, was, at the same time, one of the most ingenious, and one of the most desperate that I ever heard. He at once went away from all attempt to justify the Commission. He knew that that was hopeless, and so he turned to the discussion of the general principles which, if ever a certain Bill reaches this House, will, no doubt, be very much in place. But he hardly touched one of the points established by the noble Duke. The noble Lord, desperate in his facts, urged that it was proved to the satisfaction of everybody that the Irish tenants had had their rents unjustly raised in a great number of cases, and that the Irish tenant almost always made the improvements on the estate. These were interesting subjects of debate; but I do not think they were any answer to the criticisms passed upon the Commission. But even these points were proved, if the noble Lord will allow me to say so, in a somewhat Irish fashion. He hardly condescended to any definite evidence; but appealed to general rumour. The noble Marquess behind me took a very different view, as anybody who knows Ireland might expect he would do; and the only reply offered to him was that of the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal, who said he was astonished at the statements of the noble Marquess; and that the thing was res judicata. Notwith- 1813 standing that it was res judicata, that opinion was shared by my noble Friend (the Earl of Donoughmore) and the noble Marquess who had spoken from behind the Government (the Marquess of Lansdowne). Then the Lord Privy Seal sought to establish his case by a bolder expedient, because he appealed to the Chairman of another Commission (the Duke of Richmond), who entirely repudiated his view of the matter. I cannot, therefore, congratulate the noble Lord on the success of his generalship; but, after all, those were not the matters which had been brought forward by the noble Duke opposite. The object of the noble Duke was to point out how utterly unworthy of trust was the Report that has been laid before the House. He wanted to establish, as he said, the truth of facts which had been misstated, and to repel slanders which had been published. In answer to the statements of the noble Duke, no kind of justification has been attempted. It has been shown that this Report, and the evidence it contains, have been dealt with and manipulated in a manner which, we are not used to in respect to Commissions appointed by Her Majesty to inquire and report for the information of Parliament. It has been shown that the names of those who gave evidence on the other side have been misprinted again and again, in a manner and in such proportions as almost to exclude the possibility of mere accident or error. Nobody could read the questions put to the witnesses without coming to the conclusion that the accusation is entirely correct that the Commissioners went to their task with a foregone conclusion; that the examination by Baron Dowse was entirely the examination of a counsel for the prosecution. It is not merely the case, as has been alleged by the noble Earl (the Earl of Bessborough), of mere poor illiterate witnesses whom he thinks it is necessary to prepare for the answers that they are to give by leading questions which may draw them into fulness and frankness. Look at the examination of Lord Dufferin, Professor Baldwin, and witnesses of a very different stamp, and you will see that Baron Dowse's examination was that of a man who is utterly penetrated by one opinion, and desires to establish it by the witnesses whom he examines. But even graver charges have been estab- 1814 lished to-night—I do not mean charges of a personal character, as affecting the personal character of the Commissioners; but as affecting the value of the Report and the evidence before us. It has been shown that the Commission actually published a Report professing to be based on a vast mass of evidence—evidence which was mainly derived from one class and pointing in one direction, without accompanying it by the rebutting evidence of the persons whose conduct was impugned, and upon whose conduct turned the whole question whether the recommendations in the Report were justified and whether the legislation recommended was really expedient or not. They went entirely on the well-known principle of the Irish magistrate who always forebore to listen to more than one side of a question, because he found that it wholly confounded his mind to hear both sides. They listened to statements on one side, however violent and extreme; they sent out summonses asking for statements in rebuttal of them, without, however, waiting to receive the rebuttals before they formed their opinions and drew up and signed their Report. And that explains the curious circumstance that when the rebuttals came in, the dates of them, as the noble Marquess has shown, were carefully eliminated. Another fact has been brought to our notice in regard to this Commission, which is very remarkable, and on which it is almost impossible to speak in this House in the full and frank language which the case appears to require. It is almost incredible that a Commission composed of such men should have received an anonymous letter containing base and foul slander against a noble Lord, a Member of this House, and should have printed it without even requiring the name of the person from whom the slander emanated, and without taking an opportunity of making an inquiry or examination to find out the extent of the justification which might be brought for the statements that were made. What could have been the sense of duty which led the Commissioners to give circulation to such an atrocious document, and that without adopting the most ordinary precautions to test it, such as any person would adopt if he were told the story in respect to some personal acquaintance in private life? It is impossible 1815 to explain the conduct of the Commission in accepting that document as they did, except by the assumption that they were driven on by the irresistible force of a pre-possession, and that they, unconsciously to themselves, were acting as if their mission was to establish a certain principle, and to make certain recommendations for the guidance of the Government. This, however, is not merely a question of the two points raised by the noble Earl (the Earl of Bessborough) that evening. It is not a question merely of the trustworthiness or the untrustworthiness of the Commission. It involves matters far more important than that. The recommendations of the Commission go much farther. They give utterance to the most extravagant doctrines. They say, for example, that it is necessary at once to negative the idea that a fair rent means what in England would be considered a fair rent. In other words, they mean to say that what is a full and fair rent in England is not to be taken from the Irish tenant; that what in England moans a fair rent is a rack-rent in Ireland; and that that fraction, whatever it is—one-third, or any other proportion—which makes the difference between the fair rent in England, and what the Irish tenant would give must be taken from the landlord and handed over to the tenant. Before such doctrines as those—and the Report is full of them—were given to the public they ought to have been supported by some evidence collected more carefully and with more circumspection and discretion than were shown by this Commission. We are told—we know not how correctly—that it is the project of the Government to hand over to some unknown Commission—known, I presume, to themselves—the settling of the income of every landlord and every tenant of every county in Ireland; and that they are to be charged with that duty without the indication of any principle by which they should be guided. If it should ever be the law of the land that such vast powers should be intrusted to any two or three individuals, at all events it becomes a matter of the first importance that the persons intrusted with such, powers should not decide on the Report of, or on the principles laid down by, a Commission which entered on its task in the spirit, and performed it in the manner, which has actuated the Commission 1816 whose work we are now discussing. When I heard that such powers were to be given, and that no principle was to be laid down for their guidance, I confess I thought with dismay that one of the few authorized documents we possess, to which anyone could appeal for the definitions of what fair rent is, was a document which is full of wild revolutionary principles based upon mere gossip and indigested evidence, such as this I hold in my hand. It is of the first importance that your Lordships should thoroughly understand the character and value of the document, and not only understand it, but express your opinion upon it in terms so unmistakeable that no Court may hereafter be asked to rely on it, or appeal to it as an authority.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, I do not rise to satisfy the complaint of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) by entering into a debate in which he seems to think it a matter of reproach that the Government have not joined. The Government have deliberately abstained from taking part in this debate. I think it would have been felt to be most inconvenient that we should join in it, having a great measure on the subject before the other House of Parliament, and great responsibility resting on us in regard to carrying it through. The noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) carefully abstained from alluding to the Bill before the other House; but the noble Marquess, with that impetuous haste which so distinguishes him, could not resist going at once to attack a measure which he thought he could discuss and disparage before it came to your Lordships' House. My noble Friend (Lord Carlingford), who spoke not as a Member of the Government, but as a Member of one of the two Commissions that sat on this question, has been severely attacked by the noble Marquess for what he said; but it appears to me that what my noble Friend did say was just sufficient to prevent its being assumed that Her Majesty's Government at all agreed with the abuse and discredit thrown upon the Report of the Royal Commission. The noble Marquess attacked my noble Friend for bringing in the opinion of the English Commission on this subject. The obvious rejoinder of my noble Friend to the repudiation of the noble Duke (the 1817 Duke of Richmond) was—"If it did not bear the interpretation I have put upon it, what on earth do the noble Duke and his Colleagues mean?" That the noble Marquess entirely refrained from telling us. The Report says that the improvements are generally the work of the tenants, who are liable to have their rents arbitrarily raised in consequence of the increased value given to the holdings by the expenditure of their own capital and labour, and that "the desire for legislative interference against the arbitrary increase of rent does not seem unnatural;" and the Report adds—We are inclined to think that by the majority of landowners, legislation, if properly framed to accomplish that end, would not be objected to.It is obvious that this Report was framed with the greatest possible caution. It is not a full and comprehensive Report, with recommendations on every point; but the Commissioners having inserted such a sentence as that, I am utterly at a loss to understand what it means, except that which is expressed by the interpretation put upon it by my noble Friend. I have only to protest against the raising now of a debate on the Land Bill; and I must say that I thought the language of the noble Marquess was most exaggerated and unfair to the noble Earl (the Earl of Bessborough) and his Colleagues, and I deeply regret the tone the noble Marquess has adopted, for it is not encouraging as regards the spirit with which he is prepared to receive a legislative measure which I cannot help thinking everyone must feel to be of the greatest importance.
THE DUKE OF RICHMOND AND GORDON
contended that the course pursued by his noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury) was justified by references that had been made by the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) to necessary legislation, and referring to the general question, said, the Commission over which he had the honour to preside in no sense recommended legislation. There was not a word in the Report to that effect, and the Commission had been careful not to state anything in their Report that had not been proved in evidence. It was true that the Report contained the passage which the noble I Earl (EARL Granville) had just quoted; but the Commission merely stated matters of fact founded in evidence, and 1818 made no distinct recommendations on the subject. The Commission was appointed to inquire into all the facts of the Irish Question, and it took evidence very freely upon that question. The noble Lord (Lord Carlingford) took a very much wider view in speaking of legislation, and he did not confine himself to the question of raising rents in consequence of improvements. What the Report of the Commission over which he (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) had presided stated was, that where the tenant had made the improvements, it was not unreasonable that he should desire to have the benefit of them, or the value of them repaid him. That Report certainly did not recommend the adoption of the "three F's," although that of the Bessborough Commission did do so. In the Report of his (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon's) Commission, the Commissioners merely stated, in a carefully-drawn paragraph, that—With the view of affording such security, fair rents, fixity of tenure, and free sale—popularly known as the 'three F's'—have been strongly advocated by many witnesses; hut none have been able to support these propositions in their integrity, without inflicting consequences that would, in our opinion, involve an injustice to the landlords.The Commissioners recommended nothing—they merely stated what had been proved before them in evidence, and left it to the Government of the day to take such steps as they might think right.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, he entirely agreed with the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) that the paragraph in question in the Report of the Commission over which he had presided was very carefully drawn, and was based upon the evidence laid before them. That evidence, as far as he could judge, was of very much the same character as that taken before the Bessborough Commission. The noble Duke said that that carefully-worded paragraph was not a recommendation in favour of legislation; but in that case what was it? Was it a sentiment? [The Duke of RICHMOND and GORDON assented.] Was it then a mere sentiment which was to have no practical effect? The noble Duke must have had far too long an experience of public affairs to suppose that a statement of that character made in the Report of a Royal Com- 1819 mission could be looked upon as the mere utterance of a sentiment. He (the Earl of Kimberley) was sorry to differ from the noble Duke; but he could not help remarking that that Commission first laid the groundwork for legislation, for the paragraph began by the very important declaration that, the improvements were generally the work of the tenants, a view which the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) had treated as being a mere assumption on the part of Her Majesty's Government. What he (the Earl of Kimberley) himself had said about this question of improvements was, that in the great majority of instances the improvements were made by the tenant alone; that in many instances they were made by the tenant and the landlord jointly; and that he doubted whether in any instances, except those that had been specifically referred to the English system, under which the landlord alone made the improvements, was followed. The Report of the noble Duke's Commission, having laid down the premiss that the improvements were generally the work of the tenant, went on to draw the following very natural conclusion:—We are inclined to think that by the majority of landowners legislation properly framed to accomplish this end would not be objected to.To accomplish what end? The protection of the tenant from an arbitrary increase of rent, which he not unnaturally feared, because of the improvements effected by himself. Did the noble Duke really mean to contend that a statement of that kind was not equivalent to a recommendation in favour of legislation on the subject? It amounted to such a recommendation in practice, if not in words. In his (the Earl of Kimberley's) opinion, the words amounted to as strong a recommendation in favour of legislation as could be framed. He did not think words could have been more carefully or skilfully chosen for the purpose of bringing home to everybody's mind that additional legislation, in order to give additional security, had become inevitable.
§ LORD LECONFIELD
said, that, having been alluded to in the course of the debate, he wished to say that his estates in Ireland were managed, with great success, on the English system, so far as could be done in a country where the 1820 tenure of land was different. He had not the facts and figures with him to show the actual results; but he believed he was not the only Irish landlord who had adopted the English system in the management of Irish estates with beneficial results.
§ Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.