HL Deb 15 July 1889 vol 338 cc357-77

My Lords, it will probably be in the recollection of almost all the Members of this House, that among the theatrical exhibitions and evictions of tenants in Ireland got up by the Land League there was the ease of Mr. Olphert, in the County of Donegal. I have no personal knowledge of Mr. Olphert, who is a quiet country gentleman, known apparently to very few. Indeed, it was not until yesterday that I could find a single friend of my own who had ever seen Mr. Olphert, and that friend was an officer of a regiment who had been stationed in the neighbourhood. But I have chosen to bring this case before your Lordships for two reasons mainly. The first is that the circumstances of Mr. Olphert's cases are typical of the whole agrarian history and condition of Ireland. It is a clean-cut case, and all the circumstances are typical of the difficulties with which we have to deal. The second reason is that in regard to this case we have unusually adequate and complete information, inasmuch as—in addition to recent facts—the circumstances of Mr. Olphert's estate, and the much more celebrated neighbouring estate of Lord George Hill, were investigated by a strong Committee of the House of Commons 30 years ago. The evidence taken before that Committee went back to the beginning of the century, and the history of Ireland, alas! gives us equally full information in regard to the centuries preceding. I need not now repeat in detail the well-known facts concerning the congested districts of the West of Ireland. There is a large population on comparatively poor soil, though not so poor by itself as exhausted by bad cultivation. You have there a tenantry of which the large majority is mostly upon holdings under £4 a year rent. You have the wretched cabins and all the characteristics which give to persons coming from other parts of this country the idea of abject poverty. But, my Lords, you have also a most extraordinary condition of ignorance among the people, and I must say I am surprised that public attention has not been more called to the evidence of that ignorance. This was illustrated by the great number of illiterate voters at the last general election, and illiterate voters are men so utterly ignorant that they cannot even fill up the simple form which the Ballot Act requires, without being coached by somebody to see after their voting. Now, my Lords, in England and Wales out of 2,500,000 voters there were only 38,000 illiterates at the last election, where as out of 194,000 voters in Ireland there were no fewer than 36,752 illiterates; and for the County of Donegal out of6,300 voters as many as 3,214, or more than half, were illiterates. That is to say, my Lords, that in the County of Donegal more than half the voters who send Members to Parliament were men so absolutely ignorant that they could not fill in the simple ballot forms. These are the men who wish to dictate how we are to reform the British Constitution. You actually have in the counties of Ireland a number of absolutely ignorant voters, sufficient to return the whole of the Members by a majority. A friend of mine to whom I pointed this out some time ago, remarked that with all the schools now existing it was impossible that there could be so large a proportion of illiterates, and he added— I will give you the explanation. These men are not illiterates, but the priests want to see how they vote. They get them to put down their names as illiterates, and by that means under the Ballot Act the Land Leaguers and the priests see that their victims vote as they like. I say distinctly, my Lords, that for these people the benefits of the ballot do not exist. They vote under the leadership and compulsion of the organized societies of Ireland. That is a very striking fact in regard to the condition of these people, and it is not surprising that people who are so grossly illiterate should also be ignorant of the common laws of cultivation. Now the question naturally arises, "Why are these people so miserably poor and illiterate?" The condition of these people is held up all over Europe to the "intelligent foreigner," by whose opinion Mr. Gladstone would have us to be guided, as a proof of the evil results of British rule. I wish to show your Lordships that, in regard to Donegal, there is no proof that the ignorance and poverty of the people, or the condition of the country, are due to British rule. They are due to native Irish habits; and that is one of the questions I wish to deal with tonight. Before I proceed to give your Lordships details with regard to Mr. Olphert's estate, you must remember, in considering the causes which have led to this condition of the people, that Donegal was the longest and the latest home of the purest Irish barbarism. I am not using the word in an offensive sense. I am now speaking literally of historical facts. I mean that this part of Ireland is the latest home of that general condition of the Celtic tribes throughout the Middle Ages, and almost down to our own time, which is admitted by all to have-been barbarous, a barbarism exemplified by the still desolate condition of the people in the North-West of Ireland, from Donegal southwards along the-coast. My noble Friend, Lord Granville, delivered a pleasant and jovial speech recently in the City of Rochester, and expressed a hope that in a short time we should see the end of the great quarrel between England and Ireland, which had now lasted 700 years. That is a very pretty point for a peroration; but I think it shows considerable ignorance of the history of Ireland. I deny the historical fact that there has been any quarrel between England and Ireland for 700 years. I challenge my noble Friend to produce a single case since the invasion of Strongbow in the 12th century where English troops operated in Ireland without the alliance and assistance of great Irish tribes, who were as much entitled to represent the interests of the Irish people as were the other tribes with whom they warred. It was no quarrel between England and Ireland, as my noble Friend said. Ireland was invaded by Strongbow at the invitation of a large part of the Irish people; and one of the most Irish historians of Ireland (Mr. Prendergast) says that really the English came into Ireland with the sanction of the Pope, were received by the Irish Bishops, acknowledged by the Irish people, and accepted1 by them as having a superior organization. Now, my Lords, passing on from that point, I want to call your attention to another point in this condition of the Irish people, much older than 700 years. The other day I saw in a bookseller's catalogue a book called The Highlands of Donegal, and I thought it might give some information with regard to the condition which still survives in this part of Ireland. According to that author, the history of Ireland begins soon after the time of the Ark, and some of the incidents he narrates must have been contemporary with Abraham. But there is one series of events which my noble Friend has perhaps never heard of, which is a great deal older than the alleged quarrel between England and Ireland, and that is the quarrel between the O'Donnells and the O'Neills. That quarrel seems to have begun somewhere about the year 405 A.D., and this author is fully confirmed by others in saying that the quarrel and bloodshed between these brother Irishmen with allied septs went on with few intervals until the end of the 16th century and covered the country with desolation. I affirm positively, as an historical fact, that the misery and poverty of the North-West of Ireland up to the beginning of the 17th century were absolutely and entirely due to the exterminating wars of these Irish tribes. There was hardly any interference on the part of England. I do not know whether any of your Lordships have noticed the curious account given by the Poet Southey in his Commonplace Book in regard to the annals of Ireland. It is contained in a series of Latin words— Conflagratio—vastalio—devastatio—prœ-datio—prœlia, &c. "Behold," says the author, "in these words, borne out everywhere in this book, the history of the Island of the Saints." And that, my Lords, is literally true. It was the O'Donnells, the O'Connors, and the O'Neills, with their intertribal wars, who kept the people of the North West of Ireland for centuries in a condition of poverty and ignorance from which they have never emerged. Of the whole of the 17th century we have a full and accurate account. It was a miserable century, only relieved by the two great plantations which took place under James I. and William III., which took place in the North and centre of Ireland. I know the plantations are often spoken of as among the great wrongs of Ireland, in spite of the evidence that the plantation of Ulster was eminently successful, and that the prosperity and industry now centred in Belfast are largely due to that plantation. The idea of a plantation, although strange to us and foreign to modern practice, is by no means peculiar to Ireland. During the whole of the Middle Ages there were similar plantations. In Scotland one of the greatest of our early Kings planted the whole of the North-East Coast, from the mouth of the Spey to the Tay, now so rich and flourishing, with settlers of Anglo-Saxon and Norman blood, driving out the Celtic inhabitants as at, that time irreclaimable. A population of mixed blood was thus let in, precisely as was done in Ireland. In fact, the plantations both in Ireland and Scotland have been eminently successful. It is estimated that at the end of the 17th century the population of Ireland did not exceed 1,200,000, and except for the plantations, the whole country was absolutely waste. It had not recovered from the devastating wars of its own people. At the end of the next—the eighteenth—century the population had actually increased to 5,200,000—an increase enormously rapid. It may be said that the last century made Ireland what it is. I want to ask the House, and my noble Friends who accuse the English Government of malversation in Ireland, how far it is true that during the 18th century we can trace any part of the miseries of Ireland to the English Government? There are two great classes of measures which are laid to the charge of the English Government. First, there are the penal laws against Roman Catholics; and, secondly, the laws restricting the trade of the country. Now, my Lords, I do not wish to dwell upon the political or religious aspect of the penal laws. I, myself, belong to a Church and people which have been in fierce antagonism with the Church of Borne. But I should have grieved if any Member of this House who belongs to the Latin Church should suppose that I wish to speak of those laws in the spirit of religious controversy. I have no such feeling personally. I acknowledge that the Latin Church has been the mother of some of the greatest men who have ever lived in this or in other countries. I wish also to remember that at the present moment on the Continent of Europe, where Liberalism is unfortunately taking a direction and an attitude of hostility to all authority and to all religion, and indeed over a large part of the Christian world, the Roman Catholic Church, under whatever circumstances of weakness, and of prejudice, is the only body which is holding up before the eyes of men the everlasting standard of the Cross. But, speaking historically, I desire to appeal to any of my own friends who may happen to belong to that Church to admit it as an unquestionable fact that for 200 years the Roman Catholic Church was the great organized enemy and the constant conspirator against the liberties of England. I wish also to remind my noble Friends that the penal laws were made by the Liberal Party of that day. The Roman Catholic Party was the Tory Party of those days, and it was the Party which represented the Liberalism of that time, which was the anti-Catholic Party, which imposed the penal laws. I say, further, that the penal laws were not so much laws against religion as against a political danger. This is a fact which Arthur Young, who was very severe against these laws and was inclined to exaggerate their economic effects, seems to have overlooked. For Arthur Young mentions, almost as a reproach, inveighing against these laws, that during that century the Protestant landowners were in the habit of giving sites for, and subscribing to, Roman Catholic chapels, or, as they were then called, Mass Houses, for the people, while at the same time they were hypocritically supporting the penal laws. My Lords, there was no hyprocrisy in the matter. Those laws were directed against a political danger, and not against a religion; and it is an undoubted fact that the Protestant landlords were in the habit all through that century of subscribing to the Catholic chapels. We have another testimony as to the real character of the penal laws. Mr. Pitt, in his famous letter to George III., which urged upon that Sovereign the concession of Catholic Emancipation, points out that the penal laws were directed againt a great Catholic conspiracy, but that, the times having completely changed, there was no longer any danger from that conspiracy, and therefore that Catholic emancipation ought to be granted. But now, turning to the economic effect of the penal laws, I ask your Lordships whether it is true that the poverty of the Irish people can be attributed to these laws? When I had the honour of being one of those who recommended the legislation of 1870 to your Lordships, I stated that there was one indirect effect of the penal laws which had some connection with the agrarian condition of Ireland. In 1774, when Mr. Burke drew up the famous Petition of the Catholics, he used this remarkable argument. I do not quote the exact words, but the substance was this: — You have not enforced these laws; you have administered them most liberally; but there are some of these laws which are automatic in their action, it does not require you to put them into motion. One of the effects, as I stated in 1870, was that the penal laws prevented Roman Catholics from having beneficial leases, and the tendency of this disability was to induce Protestant landowners to give large tracts of country to middlemen for sub-letting to the Irish people. I am now satisfied that the penal laws had little to do with this result. Catholics could hold leases for 31 years. Now, that is a longer period than is usually given to tenants in Scotland, and I am now thoroughly convinced that the penal laws have had very little to do with the present condition of the peasantry of Ireland. Then it is to be remembered that the penal laws had vanished by 1780; the last 20 years of the century were entirely free from them, and therefore, so far as that influence is concerned, Ireland was as free from it as Scotland. I venture to say that almost the entire agricultural progress of Scotland has been since 1780, and there has been nothing, so far as the penal laws were concerned, to prevent the same advance on the part of Ireland. Now, my Lords, turning to the laws in restriction of trade, every one of us now speaks of them as almost insane; and we hold much the same with regard to the whole protective system. I wish to point out to your Lordships that the laws against trade in Ireland were nothing whatever but what was being enacted in England and Scotland in regard to bounties and every kind of protection. At that time what were called the commercial "liberties" of our country consisted in having exclusive possession of a certain territory; and all the boroughs of Scotland were fighting against each other for this exclusive possession. It was a general delusion all over the world at that period that those protection laws were for the good of the country which had them. But here, again, bad as they were, as affecting Ireland, they were all abolished about the same period—1780. Moreover, we must remember, with regard to the agricultural condition of Ireland, they never existed at all—that Free Trade had been admitted since the very beginning of the reign of George I., and at the end of the century the provisions exported from Ireland amounted in value to something like £1,200,000. Now, on the other hand, I wish to call your Lordships' attention to the action of the Irish Parliament. It is all very well to talk about England not having then adopted the doctrine of Free Trade. Had Ireland adopted it? Ireland did not know the calamities which would be entailed by the absurd system of bounties. Let me give your Lordships a few dates. In 1707 the Irish Parliament gave a great bounty upon the export of corn in order to stimulate tillage. When Arthur Young was in Ireland he said that the great mistake was that Ireland had too much tillage; that the Western part of Ireland contained some of the richest pasturage in the world, was capable of turning out the finest cattle and sheep, but the land was ruined by this miserable cultivation. To what was this tillage due? To the fact that bounties were given to the Irish farmer by the Irish Parliament. In 1707 heavy bounties were given for the export of grain. In 1727 the Irish Parliament passed a compulsory law that every proprietor should have 5 per cent of his land, in tillage, whether it consisted of the richest pasture or not. In 1756 there was a large increase in the bounty. Then came an Act of the Dublin Parliament, which seems to me to be the very highest act of Protectionist stupidity, giving a large bounty upon corn brought to Dublin by land, not by ship. This bounty was put in the form of so much a mile, so that the corn grown in the most distant and wretched part of Ireland paid better than corn grown in the best and nearest part. Arthur Young says he saw ships in Cork lying empty, while a vast number of horses were being yoked to enormous wagons to carry the grain inland. That was the true state of the country, which we are told suffered from English trade protection laws! Well, my Lords, what was the result? The result was that pasture was damaged, the land was wasted, and in the remotest parts enormous mills were raised, costing as much as £20,000 a piece simply to grind corn; and the most wretched grain mixed up with sand and gravel, and every sort of impurity was carried to them at this enormous expense to receive those bounties. The poor people were stimulated and encouraged by an enormous bribe to cut up their best land for a miserable cultivation. And, my Lords, I believe it was at that time, and under the operation of this wretched legislation, that a process which I never heard of in any other country was adopted, what is called "burning the land." As your Lordships know, there are in certain parts of the country tracts of peat-moss, which is set fire to, and so brought down to a lower level, and I believe that is sometimes necessary or advantageous. What those poor Irish peasants were encouraged to do by their own Parliament was to break up the finest land, and then to set the turf on fire and spread the ashes over the surface. I believe that some of the best land in Ireland has not yet recovered from this desolating operation. At last what the peasantry had been indirectly encouraged in doing was stopped by direct prohibition. I have now in my hand a list of Statutes passed by the Irish Parliament imposing heavy penalties for burning the land; but so long did that habit continue that there is a gentleman now living in Manchester who states that in his childhood he remembers the whole heavens aglow from the burning of the land. Now, my Lords, I do not think the Irish people have much ground to blame us in this country for not having been well up to the doctrines of Free Trade at that time when, for so long a period, by these bounties, the whole people were encouraged to place the land under tillage of the most wasteful character. When the Irish Parliament became independent in 1783 they increased the bounties on tillage, and Arthur Young says that the poor people were induced to indulge in tillage in the most wasteful form. Then, again, as regards the tenure of land, there can be no greater or grosser delusion than that the old Irish systems of tenure were more favourable to the tenant than the English system. The Irish chiefs or landlords lived upon their tenants. They did not exact money from them because there was no money at that time; but they exacted from them, in the shape of produce and services, the utmost that the poverty of the tenants would admit. The English Government for centuries endeavoured to remedy that miserable state of things. They said to the feudal lords— Whatever you do, for Heaven's sake fix your rents; do not let them be given in services of an uncertain character; do not exact from the tenants coign and livery. Fix your Tents; that is what is done in England and Scotland; do you the same. My Lords, it is a gross delusion that the land in Ireland has suffered from anything that has been done by England. Donegal is one of those district in Ireland which was long under the desolating conditions of Irish feudalism. Part of it had been affected by these absurd bounties upon corn, and one of the last Acts of the Irish Parliament when they were dealing with the coasting trade was to fix a point in the County of Donegal at which the bounties should stop.

And now, my Lords, I come to the question of this particular Olphert estate. Two great events happened to those poor people of Donegal to relieve them from the misery which they had lain under for so many centuries. In 1837 Lord George Hill, a man of Anglo-Norman descent, not a native Celt, out of pure benevolence bought a large district of the country and determined to devote his time and his wealth to the improvement of the people. The other event was that about the same year Mr. Olphert succeeded to his estate, and I believe that without interruption he has lived among his people ever since—that is, for half a century. What was the first step these two men took? Lord George Hill and Mr. Olphert both found their estates occupied in the old traditional Irish system of rundale. There are some noble Lords who may know what run-dale is by name, but who have never seen it, and have no conception of the effect it had upon the social and agricultural condition of the people. I have seen it and have dealt with it upon my own estate. Rundale is a system by "which no man has any continuous possession of any bit of land. The town-land, the farm, the holding, or whatever it may be, is cut up into a thousand pieces. Each bit may be no bigger than the Woolsack on which my noble and learned Friend sits. Each of these belongs to a separate man for one year. They cast lots for the various plots every year. No man can secure that he shall hold his plot for two years. Well, my Lords, you see the effect of that at once. Under such a system there can be no improved agriculture; no selection of cattle or sheep. Everything is in common. There is at present a vague feeling in favour of community of management. A sort of communistic breath is in the air. My Lords, the facts of nature and the laws of God are against this system and condemn it. Brains are individual, thrift is individual, everything is individual, which raises man above the level of the beasts, and I rejoice to see evidence in the literature of the present day, in such works as Krapotkin's account of the village communities of Russia and Lavelaye's account of "The Balkan Peninsula," that individualism is forcing its way—aye, even to the plains of India, on the banks of the Ganges— through those ancient and sleepy old agricultural communities. This irresistible influence is due to the communication of ideas, to the rise of individual aspirations for a higher state of being. These are breaking up the village communities all over the world, and putting an end to the wretched communal system. But in Ireland—and I want to direct your Lordships' attention to this—upon these very estates the change was effected by the will and influence of one man. Nobody but the landlord could do it; and the landlord did it by exercising the full power and influence of ownership as known through the civilized world. Nothing else, I believe, could have done it. The poor people are enmeshed in a web of custom coming down through many centuries. There is no individualism possible. If one man tries to move, he is checkmated by all his neighbours. I heard the other day of a case in which a landlord tried to persuade an Irish townland to act together, for under the Act of 1881 there is, of course, no compulsion. The majority in this case agreed—a surveyor was sent down to divide the land. But at the last moment some one foolish member of the community refused his assent, and the result was that everything remained exactly as it was. Everything heretofore, in this direction, has been done by the landlord— there was no power in anybody else. Mr. Olphert succeeded on his property in uprooting this system. It is often said, and repeated as a sort of parrot-cry, that the landlords in Ireland do nothing for their tenants. Of course they could not do for cotters what an English landlord generally does; it was impossible they could build houses for all these people, to make fences for all these holdings. Of course they could not; but I venture to say there is no Member of this House, whatever may have been his outlay on his estate, who has rendered to the poor people on his estate a service comparable to that which Mr. Olphert rendered to the poor people on his in abolishing this system of rundale. He gave them a right to individual possession—that us what occupation means—the whole question lies in the right to individual use and exclusive use. My Lords, such is the man—living. among his people for the last 60 years, having rendered this great service that by his action each man among them has the power of applying his individual industry and thrift to his holding, against whom the wicked Plan of Campaign has been put in operation. He is no absentee landlord—not a man spending his rents in England (though I maintain the rights of proprietors to spend their incomes where they please), for in this case Mr. Olphert, as I have told your Lordships, has lived upon his property without a break ever since 1837. Now, my Lords, what do you think was the scale of rent under which these people enjoyed their privileges—privileges they could never have secured except by his action? You know, my Lords, what are the rents paid by an ordinary English labourer for his cottage. Few pay less than 2s. a week, and as regards artizans living in our towns many pay 2s. for a single room. On the estate to which I am calling attention the great mass of the rents were below £4 for a year—that is to say, a great many of them were 30s. and20s. a year. The great mass paid from 6d. to 1s. per week, and what do they enjoy for this? Not a mere shelter or barren spot from which they could employ their labour or exercise their avocations, but they enjoyed four or five acres of land and a run for several cows and sheep. Those were the scale of rents for the holdings. I should say any Lords they were pretty nearly eleemosynary. My Lords, I speak from experience of what these men may earn and what may be the value of their labour. I required some drainage work to be done on property some years ago; nobody in the neighbourhood could undertake the job, but I heard there were a lot of Irishmen who hired themselves out as a draining gang. I sent for their head man; he undertook the work, and they drained the field most admirably. Now, my Lords, what do you think was the rate of wages they earned? It appeared they would not do the work except at a price per rod which gave them at the rate of 4s. a day. I have no hesitation in saying that those men who had by three weeks' labour done this work would probably be able in that time to clear the whole of their land rent. Then, my Lords, came the Act of 1881. I am not going to say a word against that Act now; I objected to it at the time, but like every loyal man who may have objected to these things, I accept them and desire to hold by them. The Sub-Commissioners came to the estates of Lord George Hill and Mr. Olphert and they made large deductions, and I believe the rents now run for the same accommodation from 3d. and 4d. up to 6d. and 8d. and 1s. a week. Some 20 to 30 per cent was struck off the rents. But some people got hold of these poor peasants and said, "Don't pay to Mr. Olphert at all," and for the last two years they have been paying nothing. Now, my Lords, we know the whole history of that combination, we know that the agent in this movement was the notorious Mr. M'Fadden, the parish priest of Gweedore. A curious light is cast on the present state of discipline in the Roman Catholic Church by a letter which has been found in his house from a Mr. Stephens, showing the state of circumstances which, as I am informed, prevails in that part of the country. There are two priests of the same name, one Mr. James M'Fadden in the parish of Mr. Olphert, an excellent man, a faithful priest who bows to the decision of the head of his Church. From the beginning he has opposed the iniquities of the Plan of Campaign, seeing the misery and demoralization entailed on the people by it and by the other operations of the Land League. But, unfortunately, the Bishop of the diocese has put in under him, in spite of his protest, a certain Mr. Stephens, who is a perfect firebrand. This man works with the other Mr. M'Fadden, Priest of Gweedore, and these two have persuaded the poor ignorant people—50 per cent of whom cannot read or write, so that they are unable to put their names on the ballot papers at the polling booths—to combine against Mr. Olphert. Now, my Lords, consider the Government of a civilized country tolerating such a state of things as this. I find myself in the strange position of supporting the Act of 1881. I opposed it at the time for reasons with which I shall not now trouble your Lordships, but what would some of my noble Friends and my right hon. Friends have said if I had told them this—"You are being persuaded by Mr. Gladstone to adopt a great experiment which dismisses to Jupiter and Saturn, not only the abstract principles of political economy, but the common sense of mankind as applied to agricultural matters; you are following his leadership into this unknown region, this revolutionary measure, and you are doing it in vain; within six years from this date this same Minister will turn again and rend you; you wish to keep by him; you say you are satisfied with the tribunal which he has set up?" Well, my Lords, although I am not satisfied with it, I desire to submit to it. But who are the men who are decrying the Act of 1881 now? In all his speeches do you ever hear Mr. Gladstone refer to it? All his supporters, what do they say of it? They talk of its deficiencies, what it did not do, and what still remains to be done, and the doctrine is deliberately preached that for the poor tenants there is no protection save in illegal combination. But there is the Commission, and it might be asked why did they not go there? Now, my Lords, here is a remarkable fact. Ninety tenants of the Olphert estate a few months ago decided that they would apply to the Commission. Mr. Olphert was delighted, and said to them, "By all means apply to the Commission;" but when the Commissioners went down to that part of Donegal, not a man appeared; they had been intimidated and prevented from doing so. My Lords, what are we to say of such a fact as that? What are we to say of men who professed to be Ministers of a civilized Government who said that in these circumstances eviction was too severe a measure to be adopted t But let me remind your Lordships of what was said by Sir George Trevelyan, when in Office he was called upon to speak of the rents demanded of these poor people. He said— What have rack rents to do with the sufferings of this district, the rents amounting to something like 30s. a piece? Can anyone pretend that whether a man pays that or not makes the difference of living a life which a human being ought not to live? Then, on another occasion, he was asked by Mr. Healy, "Why not stop evictions?" What does that mean"(said Sir George Trevelyan), "Why, it means that you are to tell the-landlords of the country that they are not to exact rent for their own property, and hon. Members can hardly believe that any Government in a civilized country can, in order to avoid breaking the peace, consent that the ordinary obligations of citizens should not be fulfilled. That is the defence of Mr. Olphert, and that is the defence of the present Government who are supporting him. It is the bounden duty of every Government to see, even if you wish to set Ireland free, even if you wish to send her abroad among the nations, at least to send her out into the whirlpools of democracy or republicanism with the doctrine of common honesty written upon her forehead. Now, my Lords, I leave this part of the case, and I ask, is there any hope for the condition of those tenants? They are fixed upon, the land; the land is impoverished to a great extent by their own ignorance, and you cannot improve it in a moment. What is to be done? The present Government has said, in unison with the Government of Mr. Gladstone of former times, "Give them the opportunity of purchasing if they can." My Lords, I am very glad to be able to support that policy. Evidence which is entirely-satisfactory has shown that such small people as these will certainly not in general make good landlords; they will be extremely grasping in sub-letting, and in sales of their tenant right. At present they exact enormous rates where they are farming out the land, and where they have the right to do so. Why, my Lords, on these very holdings 50, 60, and 100 years' purchase are being paid. But, my Lords, the Commissioners under the Purchase Acts have agreed to an experiment. In one townland, in that very poor part of the country, a purchase has been effected by the tenants. I am told by Mr. Tuke, who has done more good in Ireland during the last 50 years than all the agitators put together, and who knows the conditions of the country thoroughly, that the people are paying their instalments to the Government, and are perfectly contented. They say 30 or 40 years is a long time to go on paying, but they look forward to being able to do it. But if the doctrines of morality now preached from certain high quarters reach them, it is possible they may strike against the State as before they struck against their landlords. But, in the meantime, the experiment has succeeded. I am told also, not only on the authority of Mr. Tuke, but on the authority of other persons as well, that a somewhat higher standard of living is creeping in among the people. Formerly they lived upon potatoes, and upon potatoes only. It is almost tragic to read in works on Ireland the condition of the people in the last century. Nobody foresaw what the consequences of a failure of the potatoes would be. Writers upon the type of man in Ireland mention the hardy men, beautiful women, and healthy children, and they said the population was increasing at a tremendous pace. But they little thought that a vegetable, which is propagated not by seed, but by cuttings, was almost sure to fail at some time in the long run. Well, my Lords, that was found by the Irish people to be a broken reed. They are no longer living only on potatoes; but now they are buying corn, flour, tea, and sugar, and are becoming accustomed to a higher standard of living. My Lords, I am not at all sure that even since the Act of 1881 there may not be some outlet for these poor people, as the result of their right of sale. There must be some men who are more thrifty than others; there must be some men with better heads for agriculture; and I hope that such men will buy, enlarge, and consolidate their possessions. And, my Lords, there is another experiment of which Mr. Tuke told me last week in another part of the country under his management. A considerable number of tenants emigrated, the condition being that they should all be farmers, and it was agreed that when they emigrated their houses should be pulled down and their holdings added to the next neighbour. My Lords, I am told that that district is thriving admirably. It is the system which I pursued myself for 40 years in the Hebrides, and until I was stopped. I had succeeded very well. By the sale of the tenant right it is quite possible you may have a gradual consolidation of holdings. But, my Lords, there is one condition above all others which is indispensable to the permanent improvement of the country. You must teach the people the old doctrine of common honesty in their transactions between man and man.

Moved that there be laid before this-House—

  1. "I. Return of the judicial rents fixed by the sub-commissioners under the Irish Land Act of 1881, for all holdings at and under £4 former rent, on the estate of the late Lord George Hill, in the district of Gweedore, and on the estate of Mr. Wybrants Olphert, in the district of Cloughaneely, both in the county of Donegal, showing also the former rent in each case;
  2. II. Return of the judicial rents fixed by the sub-commissioners, with the relative schedules as filled up by the sub-commission in the following cases in the county of Donegal, as numbered in the Parliamentary Return for March and April 1889 (pages 146–153), namely, numbers 6,414, 6,415,. 6,446, 6,447, 6,448, 6,449, 6,451, 6452, 6,453, 6,464, 6,476, 6,479, 6,504, 6,505, 6,518, 6,519." —(The Lord Sundridge, D. Argyll.)


My Lords, I feel some embarrassment in following, the noble Duke. In common with your Lordships, I have read the Notice of the noble Duke to call attention to the circumstances of the evictions on the Olphert estate—that is to say, to the circumstances attending the enforcement of legal obligations on that estate. I have no knowledge of those circumstances except from what I have read of them in different newspapers. I do not know whether my noble Friend has adopted his views of the circumstances from the newspapers, or whether there is any other or more reliable source of information to which he has not alluded. If so, I should like to know what the-nature of that information is.


I will tell my noble Friend at once. My information about the Olphert estate, and of the whole circumstances, is entirely gained from official documents, which are as accessible to my noble Friend as they are to me. In 1858 a Committee of the House of Commons met in reference to the district, in Dublin, and full evidence is given of all the circumstances in the Report of that Committee.


If my noble Friend can only produce official evidence of 1858 in regard to existing circumstances on the Olphert estate, which everyone admits to be lamentable, I think he takes the foundation entirely from his argument. I regret that owing to accident I was a few minutes late. I should have liked to hear all that the noble Duke said; but my regret is somewhat diminished, because I gather that those few minutes were occupied by the noble Duke in bringing a most serious charge against the religious leaders of the Irish people in a certain portion of Ireland, as to which, so far as we are told, he has produced no evidence whatever. My chief object in rising is to thank my noble Friend for the very peculiar historical lecture which he addressed personally to myself. The noble Duke took a view of the relations between England and Ireland during the last 700 years, which appeared to me to take your Lordships by surprise. Because Strongbow's conduct may have been approved by the Pope, and because Strongbow was welcomed by a minority of the Irish in that invasion, therefore that invasion was not an act of hostility at all! The noble Duke went on, to my surprise, to convey to your Lordships the impression that the relations of this country with Ireland in the time of Henry VIII., Elizabeth, Cromwell, or William III. were of the most harmonious and beneficent character. I was so much taken by surprise that I beg your Lordships' permission not to give an opinion upon that question directly. But I quite admit that if upon reflection the noble Duke's statement as to what has been the relations between England and Ireland seems to be in any degree whatever justified, if his singularly able defence of the penal laws is founded on correct data, if, as he says, the penal laws, which absolutely destroyed all freedom, could have had no economic effect—if I am converted to that view in the next few days then I will inform the noble Duke of the fact. It is im- possible not to see the bias with which my noble Friend argued, his case. He made the statement that instead of being over-rented the tenants were under-rented. The noble Duke told your Lordships that the crofters were not over-rented, but the Commissioners do not appear to have agreed with that view, and that statement of the noble Duke's does not tend to induce me to accept his other statement, that there is no over-renting on these estates. The noble Duke told you that when he wanted drains made on his estate he employed Irishmen, who earned 4s. a day. Does not my noble Friend see that the very fact of those men having to come over to the Western Highlands shows that it is not out of the land, but only from other sources, that they are able to get money to pay any rent whatever? Your Lordships cannot forget that that old fact to which the noble Duke reverted is a very prominent one in these matters. The noble Duke said that on certain estates it is impossible for the landlord to build houses for all the people on the holdings. Granted, but the result is that these poor people have to do this for themselves. They give the whole value to the land on which they are, and it is not unreasonable that they, whether they take legal or illegal action, should resent being turned out of that which they have created, and being obliged to resort to the workhouse or something worse. I disagree with the noble Duke when he says that, because Mr. Olphert abolished a very objectionable form of tenure (and he did it for his own advantage as well as for that of the tenant) he did more than your Lordships would have done on your own estates, some of them in England and some in Ireland. I cannot help thinking that scenes of this sort, which we all deplore, whether we are right or wrong in the matter, create a most painful impression and diminish that respect for the laws regarding property which we all desire to maintain. I think it is not desirable in this House to make strong and impassioned appeals to your Lordships, all from one view, and without taking into the slightest consideration the facts and arguments which may be urged on the other side. I did not intend to take part in this Debate, and but for the personal appeal made to me I should not have addressed these few words to your Lordships.

On Question, agreed to.


My Lords, I move for further Returns, or any more recent Papers with regard to the Olphert estates than those laid before the House. There are, of course, the ordinary Blue Books and the Returns of the Irish Land Commission, which refer to a later period; but I think it would be more convenient to extend them, if possible, by further information.