§ The Order of the Day for the Adjourned Debate on the Second Reading of Outgoing Tenants (Ireland) Bill was read.
§ MR. NAPIER
Mr. Speaker, I new-rise to give my reasons for voting against the Second Reading of this Bill. The question involved is one of interest and importance; for every question connected with the social condition of the people of Ireland must he peculiarly important. The subject is one on which the public mind has been much excited—I may add, much misled: it is the more necessary that our discussion of it should be calm and cautious, so that the conclusion at which we arrive may not be unintelligible, and the grounds of our decision shall not be open to any just cavil. That legislation on such a subject as the relation of landlord and tenant is a matter of extreme difficuly cannot be doubted: the very fact, that four 1313 Bills on this subject are now before the House, proposing inconsistent legislation, and conflicting in their principles, plainly tells us, that the difficulty which surrounds this subject is not of easy solution. Certain principles must be considered as inviolable in dealing with the relation of landlord and tenant. It is not founded on a cold, Selfish, commercial contract; it has moral elements more important than the legal, and that principle of permanence which connects with the agricultural interests of this kingdom a constancy of opinion, and contributes to infuse into our constitution that stability and continuance, which the sober spirit of the national religion perpetuates and confirms. The truest interests of the tenant are identified with those of the landlord: you cannot invade the rights of either without doing an injury to the interests of both: this principle is paramount; it satisfies me that this Bill now before the House, as it is unjust to the landlord, so must it be injurious to the tenant, for it seeks to confer a benefit on the one by spoliating the other. The real object of this Bill is what is called fixity of tenure, by which the proprietorship in the occupation of land is transferred from the landlord to the occupying tenant: and whilst it professes to deal with the case of compensation for improvements made by tenants, which is quite a distinct consideration, its real design is to give to the Irish occupier what the Bill calls "tenant-right." This is a very ambiguous and therefore a very unsafe name for a privilege which varies according to the exigencies of the occasion. The hon. Member for Rochdale is not very consistent with himself in his definitions of tenant-right: and those who inflame the popular mind in Ireland are equally at variance with themselves on different occasions, as they are with each other. I have selected a specimen of these definitions, just to show the manner in which the people are perplexed and their minds kept in unprofitable anxiety, by inducing them to look to change and legislation, rather than to their own efforts and industry. Mr. John O'Connell says, that he understood tenant-right to be this:—That when a tenant held land by lease or otherwise, if he had laid out anything in improvements, and he subsequently happened to become unfortunate or insolvent, and could not pay his rent, he could sell his interest, and get compensation for improvements.If that be tenant-right, it is not the right 1314 on which this Bill in reality legislates. No, there is another form of tenant-right, which it is the genuine object of this legislation to legalise and perpetuate. Here it is, from the lips of the same Gentleman on another occasion:—What," says he, "is this tenant-right, as it exists in the north? It is just this—that the tenant, no matter whether a tenant at the will of the landlord, or by lease, cannot be turned out by the landlord, until he shall have put up the possession of his holding to a kind of auction and sold it to the highest bidder he could procure. That is tenant-right in the north.This is rather different from the first definition, which rests on the sale of improvements, by a tenant whose tenancy is not sought to be determined by the landlord; but here it is the sale of the mere possession, when the right of possession is about to be legally put an end to. But the hon. Member for Rochdale has also somewhat of the double doctrine in his definitions: for I find him at one time declaring, "The tenant who had not improved would be utterly inexcusable, and would have no claim to tenant-right;" but when I look to this Bill, I find it stated to be a custom according to which "tenants claim a power to sell their right of possession in the premises." At a meeting in Belfast it is stated to be an equitable right, whereby the tenant who has expended capital in making valuable improvements, or has purchased or acquired property so improved by his predecessor in occupation, has the privilege of selling his interest in his holding. In Tipperary it is stated to be founded on this:—That of natural right, on the grant of God, the soil of Ireland belongs to the people of Ireland who have therefore a clear vested right of property in the soil to the extent of secure subsistence therefrom, which never could or can be parted with, pass, or perish: and which no power on earth, nor any length of adverse possession, can take away, annul, bar, or diminish.And the Nation newspaper says that—In plain English, tenant-right is an absolute perpetuity in a farm, subject to a fair rent, to have and to hold to the tenant, his heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns for over.Now I much suspect, this is the perilous fallacy of the proposed legislation; it covers with a show of justice, by occasional reference to casual improvements, the design of perpetuating the interest of the mere occupier of the soil, in the possession simply. For observe the very analogy relied upon by the hon. Member, of the interest of a lessee having an equitable perpetuity under the Church Temporalities 1315 Act, which he can convert by purchase into an estate in fee, is applied to the case of a tenant at will, or from year to year, whose interest is about to be determined by the landlord, on account of non-payment of rent or any other default; and so having no further estate in law, equity, or justice, yet simply because he has possession, he is to obtain without purchase a virtual perpetuity. Nothing could be more irrational and unjust. These considerations show how important it is to keep separate and distinct two matters which are most carefully confused and blended in this Bill, and by means of this confussion the public mind has been frequently misled. It is by a candid consideration of these matters separately that a satisfactory result can be arrived at by any man who desires to deal fairly with the question. The first matter is the right of a tenant to compensation for valuable and unexhausted improvements which he has made during his tenancy, and the fair and reasonable benefit of which he has not fully reaped at the time when his tenancy is about to be determined. The second is the alleged right to compensation for the mere occupation of the soil, irrespective of improvements. Let these two matters be kept as distinct and independent as possible: the one is so much founded on moral justice, the other so capable of being abused to the prejudice of both landlord and tenant, as to react more injuriously upon the former by being blended with it, than it is itself advanced by the arguments derived from the show of fairness thus superinduced on them entire. It is not enough on the first point to show that the right claimed is equitable and just: the point is, can it be assisted by legislation? Can you legislate in a really useful way, so as to advance the object you profess to have in view? It is a fair argument on this subject, that none of the Bills have proposed a mode of dealing between landlord and tenant, which is not so cumbrous or so expensive as to be impracticable. This was a grave objection, because the object of wise and prudent men should be to direct the spirit of the times on matters of practical importance, rather than attempt or encourage visionary projects. It is plain that every benefit might be best attained through voluntary agreements, and therefore legislation might be useful so far as to encourage and enable parties to make such agreements. Thus, in the case of persons having limited estates, such as 1316 tenants for life, under settlements, it might be very desirable to give them powers of agreeing for the making of improvements which would be beneficial to the inheritance, and to charge the expense upon the inheritance, so that the liability might be equitably diffused over the entire estate. Beneficial leases might also be made under proper powers conferred by statute; and such legislation, which would make the agreement of the parties the basis of their mutual rights, would deserve a favourable consideration. Perhaps also something might be done in favour of the tenants as to agriculture fixtures. Two classes of improvements might be considered in this question. First, those which in the ordinary course of good husbandry a tenant would make. These would be in accordance with the duty of the tenant, as implied in the relation of landlord and tenant. The second would be such improvements of a special character as might be desirable under certain circumstances. As to the first, legislation would not be necessary; and as to the second, it might be useful, in giving power to make agreements. It did appear a strong measure to say that against the will and consent of the landlord the tenant could force a charge upon him for special improvements; that however the circumstances of the landlord, or his judgment or discretion, might induce him to decline the burden of some special improvement, yet the tenant who held under him should force an acquiescence. This would invert the true position of the two parties. If, then, the landlord should not be forced into this new position, the real practical good must be accomplished through the medium of agreements; and any proposal to enable such agreements to be made, whenever special improvements would be really desirable, seems deserving of the aid of the Legislature. The concurrence of the two parties would thus be the basis of improvement, and no collision or litigious opposition would be encouraged. Now, the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland has well remarked that the present Bill would convert Ireland into one wide field of litigation; in that I agree with him, and when he comes to deal with his own Bill, he will find it open to precisely the same criticism—notices, arbitration, umpirage, appeal to the assistant barrister—that last refuge for an Irish difficulty: he is presumed to be, from six years standing, familiar with thorough draining and subsoiling, and all the intricacies of agricul- 1317 tural science. Then comes another arbitration and action at law, with civil bills: such a body of mischievous, vexatious, and expensive litigation, as would infuse bitterness and hostility into a relation which can only prosper where good feeling and confidence are cherished and maintained. The expense would be a practical obstacle to its working; and if that were overcome, its complication would only adapt it for vindictive not remedial purposes. The plan of Lord Devon only included buildings; but, certainly, this is not the class of improvements most desirable to select. Habitations for sons and sons-in-law would furnish claims: whilst the mischievous system of diffusing a multiplied population over subdivided land would be much encouraged. Lord Lincoln's Bill went further: it included certain agricultural improvements, with descending scales, and much complicated machinery for approving and valuing; but subject to the same general objection already suggested. In fact, the successive struggles made to deal with this matter in Parliament, show that more information is required before a simple and efficient remedy can be provided by legislation. Perhaps the revelations of the poor-law may in time give much assistance; it may be accurately ascertained how far the injurious and heartless system of middlemen contributes to prevent the prosperity of the tenantry; and it may yet appear that a simpler and a different course of legislation may accomplish the real objects of those who truly desire the agricultural prosperity of Ireland. The middlemen frequently belong to that heartless class, the mere commercial landlords, who look at the relation as a profit-and-loss question only; the poverty of Ireland was in some instances traded on for profit, whilst the legislation proposed assumed that there were only owners in fee, and occupiers, without intermediate parties disturbing the due harmony of the important relation of landlord and tenant. It should not be forgotten by any man attempting to legislate for Ireland, that there is such a class as middlemen: the important facts which will prove their real influence on Irish destitution have yet to be ascertained by the machinery of the poor-law. And when this is accomplished, it may be that some plan may be devised which will prevent injustice to occupying tenants, without the necessity of such inconvenient and injurious legislation as now proposed. This Bill assumes the landlords to be all unjust, but 1318 the tenants all virtuous and improving agriculturists. No facts have been adduced to sustain the necessity for this legislation. One case was mentioned by the hon. Member for Rochdale, in which his Grace the Duke of Manchester was charged with defeating the claim of tenant-right, because it was made by a Roman Catholic priest. But what were the facts? The priest was the tenant of the lessee of the Duke; the lessee sold the property to the Duke, and first cleared the possession; the priest asked permission from the Duke to remain in occupation until his Grace would require the land; this was at once granted; the priest broke up the land, which was pasture, then claimed tenant-right, and refused to give up possession. A civil-bill ejectment was brought, and a decree, of course, obtained; from this the priest appealed, but the decree was affirmed. This was the only case brought forward by the hon. Member; but it was made the occasion of an injurious and unjust attack upon the noble Duke; and it is really most indefensible that such statements should be made, in which the bitterness of religious discord should be an ingredient, to asperse the character of good men, damage their influence, and lower their moral position in the estimation of the lower classes of the people. When any case of ascertained injustice occurs, let it be brought forward, and I shall give my cordial co-operation in having it exposed to public condemnation in this House; but the system of rash and unfounded calumny of individuals, or the wholesale abuse of classes, founded on individual default, is at variance with justice, policy, and truth. I freely concede that when a tenant who is ordinarily punctual in paying his rent, and performs the general duties of his position fairly, has made improvements, nothing could be more unjust or unwise than to dispossess him of his land. But on the other hand, a defaulting, negligent tenant, cannot, on the same principles of justice, be invested with the power of throwing up the land, exhausted or uncultivated, at his will and pleasure, or holding it in perpetuo, setting his landlord at defiance. The landlord, it is said, may abuse his power; therefore, deprive him of the right to exercise it: that certainly is a strange argument to address to the subjects of a free State, that no right is to be allowed which may be abused. I have thought right to say this much on this part of the subject, because it may hereafter be suggested that 1319 this House is closed against any redress for Irish grievances. If it be so, it is the fault of Irish Members. Where is the measure that has been brought forward in a practicable shape that has been capriciously rejected? When have facts, dispassionately stated and accurately ascertained, been treated with disdain? I must say, in justice to the English Members, that in the limited opportunity I have had of observation, I see no indisposition to entertain the discussion of Irish questions, except so far as the manner in which they are introduced, may have occasioned that indisposition. If men are content to indulge in vulgar clamour and general abuse, or, when they are precise in detail, if they are usually inaccurate in their facts and figures—if thus they nauseate Englishmen, without instructing them on local matters—in common fairness, let themselves bear the blame of the natural result; and let those who send them as their representatives reap the fruit of their selection. I have adverted to the assumption in this Bill of the general injustice of landlords. In the report of the Commissioners, this hackneyed imputation is noticed with proper disapproval. In the north of Ireland, I can state, what may be verified by authentic records, that ejectments are brought, not to deprive the tenant of his improvements, but to enforce payment of the rent. The question as to improvements, however, is not the real question now before the House; nor am I prepared to say that I have conclusively made up my mind that there may not be some useful legislation on this important subject of improvements. At present I can only say no feasible plan, sufficiently simple to be useful, has been suggested to the House; but I would give my best assistance to any reasonable project which would tend to secure to the tenant every fair benefit of his industry, and encourage a judicious expenditure of capital in improving his farm. The landlord ought not to exercise his right in opposition to his duty; nor should the tenant neglect or violate his duty under shelter of his right: but so far as the prosperity of the relation depends on a sense of duty, and a disposition to perform it fairly, an Act of Parliament is important to make a kind and just landlord, or an honest and industrious tenant. It may disturb the moral elements, which it cannot create or control. But, Sir, we must now deal with what is really involved in the principle of this Bill. It is introduced under the 1320 cloak and cowl of compensation for improvements, when in reality it is fixity of tenure for the occupier. Two cases may arise under this head: first, where the tenancy continues without interference of the landlord; secondly, where the landlord has, in the exercise of his legal right, determined the tenancy. These must be kept quite distinct in considering this part of the question. As to the first, no legislation is needed: there is a subsisting legal interest in the tenant; in that he has a tenant-right. The value of it depends on the probability of the continuance of the relation; that depends on the character of the landlord, and the condition or conduct of the tenant, and must be affected by local and personal considerations. Therefore it will vary as these incidents vary—it is a legal right with moral incidents. The legal right is uniform, and exists throughout the whole country. The moral incidents, on which the value of the right depends, are as different as places and persons can make them; but no legislation can reduce them to equality, unless by their destruction. The interest thus circumstanced may be disposed of, more or less, according to the general prosperity of the district, its social order and tranquillity; this would occur under the Act which is so unfairly recited and misapplied in this Bill, I mean the Land Clauses Act, which is a general Act, not for the sale of what is called Ulster tenant-right, but for the valuation of the interest of persons whose lands may be required by a railway company. Is this power of purchasing at a valuation the subsisting interest of a continuing tenancy, to be compared to the case where that interest has been legally determined? Under the one, the occupier of a farm, performing all his duties in such a manner as to secure him in undisturbed possession under a just landlord, is deprived against his will of his legal right, which the landlord does not mean to terminate: in the other the landlord may on sufficient reasons exercise his legal right and end the tenancy; and there may remain neither legal interest nor moral claim; and yet the analogy is embodied in this Bill, by which the compulsory sale of a continuing subsisting interest of a tenant who has made no default, is assimilated to the case of him who "for non-payment of rent or other default," has been legally deprived of the interest which has ceased to continue; and so deprived in accordance with the contract under which he became 1321 a tenant. Suppose a tenant has crowded the land with cottiers. Suppose he has neglected its proper cultivation or exhausted it; set a pernicious example to other tenants on the estate, or otherwise violated his general duties; is the landlord, exercising his right as such, in fulfilment of a duty to his estate generally, to be compelled to purchase his own property and interest for the price which might be required from a public company, for the compulsory purchase of the continuing interest of a solvent and respectable tenant? By the common law of England, a tenant who wrongfully withholds possession forfeits his claim to emblements. It recognises no right engrafted on a wrong; there must be a legal basis, and then the right may be more or less comprehensive according to general circumstances or positive law. This consideration shows the rank injustice of this Bill. It seeks to abolish the tenure from year to year, so far as the landlord is concerned; but on the other side the tenant may surrender on a six months' notice to his landlord; the landlord may be compelled to accept his land again, exhausted or uncultivated, and yet have no power to resume possession against the will of the tenant. He is to be fast, but the tenant loose. Is that fair play between the parties? Are existing contracts to be disregarded, and Ireland thrown into a state of catalepsy? Is it wise or sound policy to put an artificial value by Act of Parliament on the mere possession of land? You encourage pernicious competition. You induce dependence on uncultivated land, as a substantial property: the improving and prosperous tenant is not usually the seller of his interest: it is more generally the slovenly tenant who is broken down by indolence or misfortune. If the possession be made of value whilst the land is neglected, you may induce purchases of the unimproved possession; the capital of the buyer will be absorbed in the purchase, and perhaps find its way to America: the price cannot be regulated nor the buyer selected, if this right is to be legalised in all its elements, and spread over Ireland by statute. This could not possibly conduce to elevate the character or condition of tenants: such legislation is too unjust not to be deeply injurious. In England the statute law which regulates landlord and tenant is moderate, when compared with that of Ireland. And still more so in Scotland: the contracts of the parties, the common law, with good understanding and good feeling, 1322 practically accomplish all that is desirable. The great evil in Ireland has been the excess of legislation. In the reign of George the Third, there were nearly sixty statutes for Ireland, and only five or six for England. These statutes complicate rights and remedies, and merely enable the tenant to postpone at a great expense the settling of his rent account, encouraging irregularity and delay, which are often ruinous to the tenant, and injurious to the landlord. The latter has remedies at law which are baffled; and when ultimately successful, then the tenant commences his career in a court of equity, and the settlement, which might and ought to have been made without litigation, is ultimately compelled, after irreparable mischief has resulted to both parties. This acts injuriously on the moral character of the tenant; and nothing can be more unwise than to divert the attention of the people from the plain and obvious agency of their own improved habits of industry and virtue, by encouraging the idle hope of remedying their grievances by constant legislation. It interrupts the industry and unsettles the peace of the country. For my own part, I should be glad to see a Committee appointed to revise the whole code of landlord and tenant law, in order to simplify and reduce it to a small and rational compass, and instead of increasing to diminish it considerably. Great stress has been laid on the condition of Ulster, and it is said that you may make all Ireland like Ulster by passing this Bill. I admit the superiority of Ulster: it is an important fact, which I do not moan to part with; and I will cordially concur in extending to the rest of Ireland the real influences which have made Ulster so prosperous. It is said tenant-right is the cause of this; and that this right originated in the rules of the plantation. Enough to say, that neither Antrim or Down were included in the plantation. The cause lies deeper: its elements are moral; the relation of landlord and tenant in Ulster, with its valuable incidents, results from the moral superiority which is the fruit of civil and religious freedom; and what is called the tenant-right of Ulster is the test of its peace—the effect, not the cause, of its general prosperity. The evidence of the late Mr. O'Connell illustrates this position. Here is the extract from the Journals of the Lords:—Lords, March 11, 1825.D. O'CONNELL—Asked to account for this— 1323 that it was not necessary in Ulster, for twenty-five years, to enforce the Insurrection Act?—There is in the north, and has been, a perpetually organised form of yeomanry, mostly Orangemen, ready, of course, at any moment, to meet any particular act of insubordination or insurrection, and giving, therefore, a more constant opposing force to particular acts of outrage.If thus you have in one province the yeoman class combined in support of law and order—attached to British institutions—educated in the principles which have made England great and prosperous; but in other parts of Ireland the tenant-class conspiring against the law—stimulated to malignant hatred of everything English simply because it is English—and every reasonable effort at improving their condition frustrated by the energies of unprincipled advisers, who hate and fear the power of true constitutional liberty; in the one place religion appealing to the understandings and affections of the people—in the other, to their passions and their senses—can you hope to equalise by human law differences occasioned by Divine legislation; or shall the former prevail where the latter is repudiated? It cannot be: another remedy must be sought and applied. While I admit the moral inequality, I would to some extent desire to be the apologist of many of my degraded countrymen. Remember their wretched state of social and physical depression; and, above all, reflect on the training they habitually undergo. How can legislation correct this? It cannot make men virtuous; and yet to be happy they must be good, and to be good, religious truth must warm their hearts. You cannot transplant by statute the moral culture of one province to fix it in another; nor can that which is indigenous to a moral soil, flourish in an atmosphere of disaffection and crime; and you might as well hope to transplant the luxuriant exotic to some bleak and barren mountain, and create fertility by exposing it to perish. In your agricultural improvement you begin by subsoiling, draining, and then manuring: noxious weeds have been removed, and cold and chilling influences abstracted; and then by patient waiting productiveness is secured. Such must be the analogous process to produce in other parts of Ireland the prosperity of Ulster: this is the way to extend its tenant-right. Suppose for a moment this Bill had been passed some years ago, what could have been its effect on the class of crimes such as were tried at the special commission? Forty-one prisoners were 1324 convicted at Limerick: three for murder, eleven for robbery of arms in dwelling-houses, one for harbouring a felon, one for appearing in arms, six for an attack on a house and attempted abduction, three for burglary, one for highway robbery, six for extorting money by intimidation, and eight for plundering food under the pretext of destitution. The very able, wise, and learned Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, who presided, used these words:—I am afraid that such a state of things as we witness constantly is a decided proof of apathy and indifference on the part of a large class of the Queen's subjects, from whom the support of the laws might be expected. Persons of the description I allude to are too apt to proclaim that the laws and the government of the country have not afforded that assistance which might be afford-ed; but, gentlemen, they should recollect that, without the assistance of Her Majesty's subjects, without the co-operation which it is their duty to afford, the law must remain a dead letter—that, in fact, no laws or no government can afford relief, unless every man assists in the preservation of the public peace. Gentlemen, as I have adverted to what may be fairly termed the principal object of this illegal confederacy, I may be allowed here to observe that perhaps at no period—certainly at no period, looking to land as the means of affording subsistence to a large portion of the population—does there appear to be on that account less reason for interfering with the rights and remedies of landlords, because you are all aware that the principle, 'that every individual has a right to be supported by the land,' is not only now acknowledged in the abstract, but is embodied in an Act of Parliament in full execution, by which the most stringent measures are afforded for the relief of the poor under all circumstances, and at the cost and expense of that very class of persons against whoso rights there is this general opposition.Here, then, is the secret as to the miseries of Ireland; you discover it by a candid comparison of the condition of her prosperous province and her degraded districts. The swell of agitation is thrown back from Ulster. British connexion is valued, not denounced: its privileges made available, not counteracted—kindly feeling between landlord and tenant prevails—religious liberty is honoured, and truth diffuses its own peculiar blessings. You look away from this prosperous spot: you see suspicion displacing confidence—hatred of England inculcated and cherished as a religious dogma—the bad passions aroused and inflamed—the charities of human hearts curdled and corrupted—those relations dissevered which are the offspring of dependence and protection: here are the immediate causes of the depression which is acknowledged; you must renovate the soil before you can improve the products. 1325 So long as those who influence and stimulate the mind of the people, stoop to an ignominious popularity to trade upon their distress or disaffection, the efforts of the wise and good are baffled and impeded. This is the evil which must be met, and honestly and boldly grappled with. Your legislation is all romance, until this previous question be decided. The constitution of England, that noblest edifice ever reared on earth—which stands amidst the storm which rocks all Europe to its centre—that which gives to England a name and a place on which Heaven shines serenely—it must by its own steady powers infuse its own principles by gentle processes into the habits of the people of Ireland; trusting to the energy and wisdom of its laws, and the power of its own Executive; not suffering any irresponsible body of men to assume the right or the power of dictating terms of government; but with conscious strength and dignity imparting the light and warmth of freedom to shine on all with steady impartiality, and thus quicken into life the attachment and respect of the people. I thank the House for the exceeding kindness and patience with which I have been heard; I feel in this an assurance that this Bill will be rejected by a decisive majority.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNELL
said, that he could not hope to rival the great ability of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down—an ability which he readily confessed, though he could not admire its exhibition in the present instance, as savouring of what was too often attributed to too clever advocates—the effort to make the wrong-appear the better reason—to wrap up the merits of the case in a cloud of declamation—and to make points at the expense of truth and justice. The hon. Member had deplored party bitterness, but yet had introduced it into the debate, having left the merits of the real question before the House, to indulge in an insulting comparison between the north and other provinces of Ireland. He repudiated the comparison, and the species of lecture the hon. and learned Member had thought fit to read to his southern fellow-countrymen on what he called the superior morality of Ulster—a superior morality which consisted in license given to armed Orangemen to commit outrage and murder? The hon. Gentleman had spoken, too, of an ignominious popularity; but there was an ignominious popularity with persecuting landlords, of which it would be well if the hon. Member 1326 had an equal abhorrence. And now as to the real question before them, which had been so little touched on in the speech they had beard, the hon. and learned Member had quoted, as the popular definition of tenant-right, words used at an insignificant meeting at Holycross, by a Mr. O'Connor, a person who had been expelled from a popular association for his wild doctrines on land tenure. [Mr. NAPIER had quoted the hon. Member himself.] He avowed and would repeat the definition quoted from him, and which he took from the Devon Commission and other official documents, namely, that tenant-right was the sale of simple occupancy at the best market price that could be got, the price being a certain number of years' purchase of the rent, and the landlord's arrears being defrayed out of the first proceeds of the sale. What was there of injustice or spoliation in that? and, on the contrary, was there not injustice and spoliation in the existing state of things to the unfortunate tenant? The hon. and learned Member had said, that at the recent commissions the cases tried had nothing to do with land. He, on the contrary, held that, with the exception of the six cases of abduction, all the rest were distinctly traceable to disputes about land. The burglaries and robbings were to get possession of arms to carry out the fell vengeance resolved upon against agents or intruded tenants. The crimes against the person were distinctly caused by land disputes; and even the plundering of food might he so traced, as it was landlord cruelty that had deprived the wretches of the means of otherwise prolonging existence. He joined of course in the praises of the legal ability of the Chief Baron; but he should say that at the time that learned person was reading solemn lectures to the shivering criminals before him, and pronouncing against them the awful sentences merited by their hideous guilt, yet they might have with reason addressed him, and said—" Ay, my Lord, we are indeed guilty, but your Lordship is not without a share in it. You distinctly declared years ago, before Committees of Parliament, that agrarian crime resulted from insecurity of tenure and the bad state of the laws between landlord and tenant. You have been in high and influential office for years since you made those declaration?, and you have done nothing—advised no measure, proposed no Bill, taken not one single step, as it was your duty to take—to apply a 1327 remedy to the evils you yourself confessed. Therefore you, my Lord, have participated beforehand in our guilt." There was another Chief Justice to whose words attention should be called. The predecessor of Mr. Blackburne, the late Chief Justice Pennefather, declared from the bench five or six years ago that the whole course of legislation since the Union had been in favour of the landlord, and against the tenant. It was time there should be a change in this. The hon. and learned Member might argue as much as he liked—taking up the expression of those who might be considered his clients, the exterminating landlords of Ireland—about over-population, the evils of subdivision, and other such phrases of those who wished to see the people swept off the face of the earth. He might be quite assured that all the expressive laws that could be devised against these so-called evils would fail, as all such laws hitherto had failed. The want of manufactures and commerce had thrown the people altogether on the land as the only means of existence; and till some great measure should stop the drains from Ireland, restore her capital, and thus stimulate and support enterprise in that country, population would for ever be in excess upon the land. Meantime the effort should be at all events made to mitigate the evils of the pressure by giving security of profit to agricultural industry. The Government measure would not do this, by reason of its hopeless intricacy and provision for endless and most vexatious litigation. Any plan about recognising improvements only, raised two formidable and insuperable questions: first, as to what landlords and tenants would consent to consider as improvements; and, secondly, what the value, and apportionment to each of such value, was to be; whereas tenant-right, as in the north, simplified everything by leaving the tenant to find the value of his holding and improvements, if any, in the open market; while, at the same time, the landlord had full power to raise the rent, and was secure of arrears. Such was northern tenant-right; no theory or fancy of a man in his study endeavouring to invent new systems of legislation, but a tried and recognised custom, enduring now for a very long period, and confessed even by the most adverse witnesses to have caused plenty, peace, and prosperity. The evidence before Lord Devon attested that it sold at fifteen, twenty, and twenty-five 1328 years and upwards purchase of rent. To fix the price of land was difficult; but he (Mr. O'Connell) had always thought that at least a minimum might be fixed below which the tenant could not be driven. He had thought that eight years' purchase, being one-third of the estimate of a landlord's interest as fixed in the redemption of Crown and quit rents in Ireland might be taken: but as some parties, whose opinion was deserving of all respect, considered that so high a rate would be an obstacle to the incoming tenant, he would say that four years' purchase might be taken as a minimum—leaving, as before, the outgoing tenant to try in open market to get a higher rate if he could. But it was well known that the tenants in the south were made to pay fines to landlord or agent, and sometimes to both; while in the north experience proved that for the sake of security large sums were cheerfully paid, and yet the tenant prospered afterwards. Some measure of the kind was absolutely necessary to check the hideous scenes of extermination going forward on every side. His testimony as to the cruelties exercised on tenants might be disputed; but he referred the House once again, as he had often done before, to a book which had been hitherto treated with a most significant absence of remark by the advocates of landlordism. It was the book of an Englishman, for thirty years land agent in Ireland, a Mr. Wiggins, who had been more than once called upon to give evidence before Committees of that House. He was by no means writing for popularity, as he attacked the Irish people and the agitators unsparingly; but he told the truth about the gross misconduct and crying injustice towards the tenantry of the majority of the landlords in Ireland. Any measure between landlord and tenant which should not recognise this principle, would not satisfy the south and west, while it would disturb the north, as, of course, no Act could be passed for the south and west of Ireland alone; audits inevitable application to the north would enable the landlords there to destroy the existing custom of tenant-right. The House then ought to pause before rejecting a system which had been tried, in order to take up a complicated and impracticable measure, such as that of the Government, which could tend only to increase distraction in Ireland. Such grievances as these, which tenant-right would remove, formed the real strength of agitation. Do away with the grievances, 1329 and the agitators, whether Old Ireland or Young Ireland, moral force men or physical force men, would lose all power over the people. That would be the real policy to adopt. At any rate he prayed the House not to exasperate the popular mind still more in the present state of Ireland, by rejecting hastily what they so much set their hearts upon. They should not be deprived of the little remaining hope that was in their hearts, and that yet held them from resolving the fearful question which had arisen, as to whether death by the sword were not preferable to death by famine and destitution. As one who, notwithstanding that he might be sneered at, he would say, had done, and was doing, all that in him lay to restrain the people, and counteract the effect upon them of the wicked counsels so industriously propagated amongst them, he did then pray, that whatever might be the ultimate fate of the Bill, so much regard would be shown to the deep interest taken in this subject in Ireland, that it would he allowed to pass the second reading, and go into Committee there to be amended as might seem best to secure the rights of all.
§ VISCOUNT CASTLEREAGH
thought, that as the other Bill on this subject would probably go to a Committee, the hon. Member for Rochdale was entitled to a fair consideration now. He indulged in very little hope that there would arise from either of these Bills such a measure as would be likely to satisfy the people; and, indeed, in the circumstances in which they were placed by these competing Bills, the question raised by the hon. Member for Rochdale having been taken up by others with intentions very different from his own, and in the midst of the agitation which was now going on with respect to land in Ireland, it became very difficult even for those with the best wishes to do justice to the Irish tenantry to give at this moment an honest and conscientious opinion. The measure of the right hon. Gentleman was something like a connivance at fixity of tenure; and as he should be glad to see this Bill (the Outgoing Tenants Bill) sent to a Committee upstairs, he should now be very unwilling to vote against it, merely because to some portions of it he saw reason to object.
§ CAPTAIN ARCHDALL
denied in the strongest terms the statement of the hon. Member for Limerick city that the Orangemen were licensed to commit any outrage. He was not surprised at the soreness exhibited 1330 by the hon. Member towards the Orangemen, for they had always indignantly repudiated every offer made by the Repeal party; and the House might be glad to know that there were 100,000 Orangemen in the north of Ireland ready to stand forth at any moment when called upon in defence of order, and to crush the poisonous offspring of the agitation led by the hon. Member.
§ MR. O'CONNELL
had referred particularly to the outrages perpetrated by the Killyman wreckers; and the hon. and gallant Gentleman could not forget that the life of the late Mr. O'Connell was threatened by these very loyal and peaceful Orangemen.
§ SIR J. WALSH
considered that the picture drawn by the hon. Member for Limerick of the state of society in Ireland, in consequence, as he declared, of the absence of a system of tenant-right, was most exaggerated. He differed altogether from the hon. Member in his calculation that the good landlord was the exception in the sister country; he believed that the fact was precisely the reverse. There was a great popular demand for an alteration of the law, a great cry for tenant-right, involving every shade of tenant-right, amounting at last to the total extinction of the rights of the landlord. Her Majesty's Ministers had brought forward a Bill on the subject, and it was immediately met by the hon. Member for Rochdale by a declaration that it was a concession to the landlords which had spread consternation and alarm throughout the whole of Ulster. That Bill altered all the subsisting relations of tenant-right. Then the hon. Member for Rochdale brought forward an antagonist Bill, which was met by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir W. Somerville) in a very able speech, in which he proved, unanswerably, that the Ulster tenant-right, if extended to the rest of Ireland, must prejudice the rights of landlords and the interests of tenants, and that the hon. Member had misunderstood the effect of his own Bill. The hon. Member for Rochdale met this objection by the proviso he had inserted in his Bill, recognising any established custom in any locality, and in the absence of it referring each case to arbitrators. This measure, therefore, only legalised the Ulster tenant-right, where it was already adopted by custom; but in the remaining three-fourths of Ireland all the rights of tenants and landlords would be, without any rule or 1331 principle, surrendered to the mercy of hundreds of arbitrators, and no landlord could rely upon the state of the law. Different arbitrators could act each according to his own judgment and discretion, and nobody would have any security as to the rule to be applied to the question of compensation to the tenant. The Ulster tenant-right had succeeded because it had been a voluntary understanding between the landlord and the tenant; and no argument could be more rash and futile than that, because an arrangement like this had conduced to the prosperity of the country because it was voluntary, therefore it would be successful when it was compulsory, and enforced by legislative enactment in other parts of the country. He would be candid with the House and say, that his objections were not merely to the provisions of the Bill, to the details of the Bill of the hon. Member, as well as that of the Government—though he thought the details of both were extremely defective—but he was yet unable to arrive at the conclusion that a sweeping alteration of the law of landlord and tenant, and of the general relations of landlord and tenant, upon the principle involved in these Bills, could be conducive to the ultimate prosperity of the country. One of two things must be done by such a Bill: either it must interfere with the rights of property, taking from landlords and transferring to tenants; or attempt to interfere by legislative enactment with the bargains between individuals—which, according to every rule of legislation and principle of political economy, were best left to the individuals themselves—having conflicting interests. Admitting, as he did, the social state of Ireland, and that that country was afflicted by many evils, he fully believed that, although backward in comparison with this country, the improvement of the agricultural condition of Ireland had been for many years progressive, and that it was still going on. He believed that the relation between landlord and tenant, as it had existed in Ireland, was, on the whole, not merely a relation which ought to be defended on the abstract principle of the rights of property, but that it had worked in Ireland, and would work, for the benefit of all classes—landlords, tenants, and the community at large. The Bill proposed to tax landlords for improvements and farm-buildings. It was for the interest of landlords that their estates should be improved, and the first step was to improve the farm-buildings in 1332 Ireland; but it was by the power and control of the landlords that this object could alone be effected; and it was not only for the interest of the landlords, but essential to the permanent improvement of the country, that that power should remain, and that the landlords should have the sole construction of the buildings. He was sure that this course of action would extend in Ireland; but if landlords were deprived of all future prospective interest in the improvement of their property—if the control over it were thus taken away, though buildings might increase in number, they would deteriorate in quality. The consolidation of farms was one of the great desiderata of Ireland; but this should proceed cautiously and slowly. Every law upon this subject that had hitherto been tried had proved either inefficacious, or else showed an evident tendency to increase the subdivision of farms. It was his belief that there was not one of the clauses against subdivision which would be found efficacious in practice; and, in conclusion, he wished it to be understood, that in voting against the second reading of the Bill, he voted against tenant-right altogether.
§ MR. O'CONNOR
, in applying himself to the merits of the Bill, said, there were those who thought tenant-right of paramount importance to a repeal of the Union. He was not of that opinion, but he quite approved of the conduct of those who, entertaining any opinion whatever with respect to the people of Ireland, expressed that opinion openly. The true way to deal with the people of Ireland was to be perfectly frank. With respect, in the first place, to the manner in which the present discussion had been carried on, he must not only express his strong dissent from the sentiments which the House had heard from the hon. Member for Limerick, but he must also take the liberty of saying that the speech of the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin contributed little to assist the House in arriving at a sound conclusion. That hon. and learned Gentleman jumbled up the measure of the hon. Member for Rochdale with that of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; it was, therefore, scarcely necessary for him to do more than call their attention to that circumstance, as of itself it seemed to him insufficient to neutralise the entire effect of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech. He should venture to put one or two cases which 1333 might be urged in the nature of a reply to the hon. Member, if, in fact, it could be said that any formal reply were needed. He would say, suppose that a tenant had taken land at 10s. an acre for twenty years; suppose that within that period he had so greatly improved the land that at the end of his term it was worth 1l. 10s. an acre; it became quite evident that he had by his improvements augmented the value of the landlord's estate to the extent of 400l., and yet the landlord could, if he thought proper, oust him from the soil which he had thus greatly improved. The causes of this state of things were to be found in a very obvious historical truth—that the laws which regulated relations between the owner and the occupier of the soil had all been made by the landlords, and they took a very different view of the subject from that which presented itself to the mind of a tenant. The result of their law-making was this, that if a tenant, by means of his capital and his skill, obtained a profit of 100l. a year from a farm that had been originally worth 10l., the remaining 90l., though it ought to belong to him, could never under the old feudal system become his; according to that, the landlord was entitled, not only to take advantage of every fortuitous event, but of every exertion of industry or application of capital. He hoped the House would not allow themselves to be too much carried away by the speech of the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin; it was a speech full of sophisms; but in one respect, at least, the hon. and learned Gentleman could not be accused of any intention to lead the House astray, because it could not but be obvious that the hon. and learned Member had mistaken cause for effect. As he understood the hon. and learned Gentle man, he objected to the Bill because the tenant-at-will was supposed by it to have a vested right. But the Bill of the hon. Member for Rochdale provided for that, and there was no one interest that would be violated by his measure. What was the great grievance in the south of Ireland? It was this, that there was no tenant-right; such a state of the law offered a bounty upon idleness. But the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin thought himself entitled to compliment the Irish landlords. Few persons would consider them entitled to any compliment who knew the fact that sixty-one laws for the benefit of landlords were passed in the reign of George III., while 1334 only six laws of a similar description were passed for England. Such laws were unnecessary in England; and he was as ready as any man to bear testimony to the excellent spirit in which the English landlords administered the trust which society reposed in them. They required no law beyond the influence of public opinion to coerce them; and hence it was that the objections to the present measure did not so much come from them as it did from the Irish landlords. Then the practice of squatting formed one of the topics of the hon. and learned Member's speech; but for that practice, and to meet the evils to which it gave rise, the measure before the House made, as he conceived, ample provision; but, according to the hon. and learned Member, there should be no legislation at all on the subject—everything should be left to the laws of nature; yet in the same breath he told the House that in Down and Antrim they were governed by the ancient laws and usages of Ireland; that tenants were prosperous, and landlords not tyrannical—a pretty good proof, by the way, that the Irish ought to be allowed to govern themselves; and then from his argument it was not easy to discover whether he thought that the existence of a yeomanry in the north of Ireland produced those good results, or whether he thought that the relations there subsisting between landlord and tenant had the effect of producing a good yeomanry. In this instance, probably the hon. and learned Member, as he had done in other cases, confounded cause and effect. He would not, however, further waste the time of the House by discussing minute points. His hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale would not insist upon having the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill; he, on the contrary, was willing to go into Committee and calmly consider the several provisions of the Bill. In disposing of such a question as the present, they should not forget that the Legislature had frequently interfered with the existing relations between landlord and tenant, especially in Ireland. In the course of the discussions which led to those measures, the enormous abuses of the middleman system were frequently referred to—no abuse could be greater; but the hard treatment which the labourer experienced at the hands of the farmer was also an evil of the highest magnitude—for one tyrant in broadcloth there were 1,000 in frieze. The duty which he owed to his country and to that House demanded of him that he should 1335 deprecate any attempt to trifle with the feelings of the people upon this subject. If the House thought any legislation necessary, let them say so—if not, let them say the contrary; but, let not the Irish people he carried away by false expectations—let them not he told that there was justice on their side, and then he informed that the Legislature lacked the machinery for carrying out the sound principles which they recognised. They might talk as they pleased about the difficulties of a Bill of this kind, but they found no difficulty in Bills for imposing taxes. There was not one of the supposed difficulties about this Bill which could not at once be easily overcome; undue or unfair modes of improvement might easily be prevented; and a board might be established to declare how many years' rent might be expended in improvements. He could not help observing, that, by the speech of the hon. Member for Limerick, he had been shocked, disgusted and horrified: that hon. Gentleman talked of the Irish Members being oppressed in that House by the English; but, to him, it appeared that the kind of Members sent to that House from Ireland were equally oppressive. He would conclude with this advice to the Irish landlords. He called on them to beware, and he would tell them that the most to be done was to be done by themselves. It was a weakness for them to be eternally coming to this House to assist them. Ireland was a country that might be made a garden, if the landlords only did their duty. But they were too proud, and disdained agricultural pursuits. ["No, no!"] He knew that in his time they did, and he feared that what Sheridan said of the Irish was too true, that they were a poor and proud people.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, that on the day when this subject was before under discussion, his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland stated so fully and clearly the reasons which induced the Government to oppose the second reading of the Bill, that it was needless for him to occupy the attention of the House long on the present occasion, particularly after the able manner in which the question had been debated by Gentlemen locally connected with Ireland, and after the very able speech of hon. Member for Dublin University, who had brought a great deal of practical and legal knowledge to bear on the subject. In one point he must concur with what had fallen from the hon. Member for Radnorshire, namely, that the more this question was 1336 discussed, the more sensible must the House be of the immense difficulties which stood in the way of any effectual legislative remedy for those evils which had arisen out of the existing relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland. It had been made by an hon. Member a matter of reproach to the English Parliament that they had not passed measures to go to the root of these evils, and to remove the cause of a great deal of agrarian crime, proceeding in a great measure out of the circumstances connected with land in Ireland, and out of the existing relations of landlord and tenant. It might be true that agricultural outrages had been extensively connected with the tenure of land, and with the unsatisfactory relations between landlord and tenant; but he believed that the reason why no effectual legislative remedy had been applied to those evils was not on account of the landlord influence in that House. There was no indisposition in the Members of that House to do ample justice between landlord and tenant in Ireland, and to apply an effectual remedy to the existing inconveniences, if they could clearly see their way; but there were almost insuperable difficulties in framing any Act of Parliament calculated to effect that object. He agreed with the hon. Member, who last addressed the House, in his last observation, although inconsistent with some of the other remarks which that hon. Member made to the House, that the real remedy for these evils was to be found, not in Acts of Parliament, but in the parties themselves—not merely in the landlords, but in the landlords and tenants conjoined, and in the mutual agreements which their united interests might lead them to make. In reference to ejectments and the law of distress, the Legislature might regulate the exercise of the rights both of the landlords and of the tenants, and might prevent to a certain extent acts of hardship and oppression; but if it attempted by law to make agreements between landlords and tenants which should apply to every case, whatever the wishes of the parties might be, the attempt would be absolutely impossible, and, if possible, the law would be evaded. The hon. Member (Mr. F. O'Connor) had said a great deal about a tenant taking land at 10s. an acre, and improving it so as to make it worth 30s. an acre, and had observed that the landlord in such case, without any expenditure of capital, reaped the full benefit of the tenant's exertions and industry. But, 1337 under those circumstances, the real security for the tenant was, before taking the land at 10s. an acre capable of being improved to 30s. an acre, and before expending capital on the land, to stipulate with his landlord for such a length of tenure as would reimburse him. No law could be passed, in justice to all parties, and respecting the rights of all parties, which could give such fixity of tenure as might be voluntarily agreed upon between landlord and tenant. When the landlords of Ireland were spoken of as being the originators of all the evils existing there with reference to the tenure of land, he thought it fair to state that there were exceptions to such a general assertion, and to show that the principle of making an agreement mutually beneficial to landlord and tenant was acted upon by some of the best landlords in that country. Since he had come into that House he had had put into his hand an advertisement relative to certain farms, in the Queen's County, to be let from the 25th of March last by Mr. Price. These were the terms of the advertisement for letting several large farms belonging to Mr. Fitzpatrick and the Marquess of Lansdowne in the Queen's County:—Proposals in writing, or applications personally, will be received and attended to by Mr. John R. Price, Westfield Farm, Mountrath, who will be prepared to satisfy all reasonable tenants on the undefined and vexed questions of 'tenant-right and fixity of tenure,' by the only remedy calculated to remove the difficulty and perpetuate a good understanding between landlord and tenant; that is, by providing the fixed capital required for all permanent improvements, on certain just and equitable conditions, to be previously agreed upon; and by granting a substantial lease for twenty-one or thirty-one years, as the condition of the farm may require or suggest.—March 9, 1848.If landlords offered such terms, calculated to improve the relation between them and their tenants, such a mode of proceeding-would he found much better than anything-else, and most productive of a sound fooling amongst the parties. It certainly would be the best plan not to interfere between persons willing to make such voluntary agreements; and when the second reading of the Government Bill should be proposed, it would be found that no such interference was involved in that measure. With respect to the Bill of the hon. Gentleman now under discussion, he thought that there were principles in it which the House could hardly sanction, by assenting to the second reading, with due regard to 1338 the rights of property or the interests of landlords and tenants themselves. The hon. Gentleman, on a former occasion, said, he was not an advocate of compensation for the mere right of occupancy; but he found the mere right of occupancy was made a ground of compensation in his Bill. He was of opinion that it was undesirable, by any legislation, to interfere with a custom working satisfactorily in any part of the country. Where landlords and tenants agreed to be bound by that custom, let it be so; but, at the same time, it was un-advisable to enforce by Act of Parliament that custom throughout other parts of Ireland where it was not known, or to enforce the custom by legislation. He found that the hon. Gentleman's Bill gave a compensation for mere occupancy, and for doing that which every tenant was bound to do for the sake of his own interest. Was that a principle which the House would assent to? He thought it was most dangerous to hold out an expectation by a vote of that House, that any tenant, for only doing that which every tenant under a proper system of agriculture would naturally perform, should have a right of compensation. He did not deny that it might be desirable to enable tenants to obtain compensation for improvements, using that word in a much more limited sense than the hon. Gentleman had in his Bill, and meaning thereby improvements quite distinct from those effected by mere industrial occupation, which included good clean husbandry. The hon. Gentleman's Bill, besides establishing occupancy as a ground of compensation, included the erection of buildings, &c.; and he admitted that buildings erected by a tenant constituted a fair claim to compensation. A great deal had been said about the litigation which the system of arbitration would lead to; and he thought that it was an objection to all these attempts to legislate on this subject, that it must be accompanied with a certain amount of litigation; and that was an objection which, he admitted, applied also to the Government measure. Any attempts to legislate in minute detail on such a matter must lead to litigation; and that was the price which the people must pay for any improvement they might expect of the relations between landlord and tenant by means of an Act of Parliament. With reference to the Bill now before the House, he repeated that it would be hazardous to encourage expectations which might arise from the House 1339 sanctioning the principle upon which it was founded. With respect to what had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for the county of Down, he should be willing, assuming that the Government Bill would he read a second time and referred to a Committee, that the provisions of the Bill of the hon. Gentleman should be considered by the same Committee, which might be done without the House first sanctioning the principle of it. The hon. Member for Fermanagh had inquired whether the statement of the hon. Member for Limerick was true, that bands of Orangemen were allowed to go about the country with arms in their hands committing murders? He (Sir G. Grey) should have thought it quite unnecessary to say one word in reference to that matter had he not been appealed to. There was not the slightest foundation for making such a statement; and, indeed, he understood the hon. Member for Limerick, in his explanation, to refer to some transactions that took place some twenty or thirty years ago.
said, that it was incumbent on the House to legislate in order to create some alteration for the better in his unfortunate country. He had been glad to hear the noble Lord the Member for the county of Down state that he was prepared to give a qualified sanction to this Bill; and he might observe, that the property belonging to the family of that noble Lord in the county of Down and in Ulster was justly held forth as an example of what might be done in Ireland by good landlords. The hon. Member for Dublin University (Mr. Napier) had commenced his very able and talented speech by calling the attention of the House to the difficulties which encompassed this subject. He admitted that it was a question of considerable difficulty; but his conviction was, that the Bill of the hon. Member for Rochdale met those difficulties more effectually than any measure which had before been submitted to the House, and he was, therefore, prepared to support the Bill.
§ MAJOR BLACKALL
considered that there should be an extensive revision of the whole law bearing on the relations of landlords and tenants in Ireland, with the object of securing the fair rights of the landlords, and of insuring to the tenants ample compensation for any improvements they might effect in their farms. But the question the House was now called upon 1340 to determine was one of a totally different nature, namely, whether they would recognise such a right of occupation as had not hitherto been granted, either to tenants in Ireland, or, he believed, to tenants in any other country. The hon. Member for Limerick had referred to Ulster as a district where tenant-right was established, and where the landlord's rent was perfectly secure. Now, he might state, that he was connected with property in the north of Ireland, on which tenant-right had been recognised for many years, and that he had had to bring many more ejectments upon that property than upon property in another county where no tenant-right existed. The hon. Member for Limerick had referred to the fines paid for land in the south of Ireland; and those fines involved, in fact, the recognition of the custom of tenant-right which prevailed in the north of Ireland; for he would challenge the hon. Gentleman to produce any instance where a fine had been paid on the understanding that land was to be held for a certain number of years, and where the tenants had been called upon to give up possession before the expiration of the time agreed upon. He might also state, that, although persons in the north of Ireland were desirous that the custom of tenant-right should continue, they were opposed to the establishment of that right by a legislative enactment. He thought it of the greatest importance at the present moment that this question, which had been so long agitated, should be definitively settled; but he felt it his duty to oppose the second reading of the Bill now under discussion, and he hoped the House would show by its vote that it was not prepared to sanction the establishment in Ireland of a right which did not exist in this or in any other country.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
thought it was most important, with a view to maintaining the tranquillity of the empire, that this question should be brought to a speedy settlement. The subject was one which was regarded with intense anxiety by the occupying tenantry of Ireland; and he believed that unless some arrangement was speedily made, the great mass of the population of Ireland would take the matter into their own hands, and would settle it in a far more summary and disagreeable manner than was proposed by any Bill which had been introduced into that House. The hon. Member for Dublin University had made a very able and eloquent speech on 1341 this subject; but the hon. Gentleman did not propose any change in the existing state of things: he was for leaving the settlement of any differences to the good feeling mutually existing between landlord and tenant. He would ask the House to consider what was the present condition of the agricultural districts of Ireland, and whether there was not a strong and urgent necessity for some amendment in the law affecting the relations of landlord and tenant. A petition had recently been presented to the House from a large meeting in the county of Wexford, which, in his opinion, presented a fair picture of the condition of the agricultural districts of Ireland. The petitioners stated that rents were immoderately high, amounting to rackrents; that there was no security of possession to the tenant, and little or no encouragement to improvement, but much positive discouragement; that the laws were all favourable to the landlords, and were oppressive and vexatious in their effect; that the consequence was deficient employment, imperfect cultivation, widespread distress, ejectments, extermination, the levelling of farm-houses and of whole villages; destitution, deaths in countless numbers from hunger and cold; illegal combinations, outrages, and assassinations. This petition, he believed, expressed the feelings of a large number of persons in Ireland; and he called upon the House to effect some amendment in a law which had reduced that country to such a frightful state. They ought not to allow the continuance of a law which enabled the landlords to oppress their tenantry in the manner represented by these petitioners. Many landlords now were not even obliged to take proceedings in order to evict, as they once were; they had but to seize, and the tenant must apply for relief to the guardians, and give up the land. If Parliament desired the tranquillity of Ireland, this question should be permanently settled in the course of this Session.
§ COLONEL RAWDON
would vote for the second reading of this Bill, because he thought that that was due to the people of Ireland under the circumstances.
§ MR. SCULLY
also supported the second reading. No good will would ever exist in Ireland until this question was settled by legislation.
MR. S. CRAWFORD replied
In the former debate a right hon. Gentleman (Sir W. Somerville) referred to some apparent contradictions in his (Mr. Crawford's) statements, 1342 with regard to the question whether it was occupancy or improvement that was the foundation of tenant-right. He had always stated that the tenant-right of Ulster was composed of two parts—the right of possession, and improvements; he did not deny that occupancy formed a part of the claim, but the improvements made by the tenant added to the value of that right. He did not deny either that he thought that tenant-right had been abused by its being claimed for occupancy without improvement. If all landlords in Ireland were kind and benevolent, there might be no occasion for this Bill; but if the House would look to the evidence before them, they would find that the great mass of the landlord interest, including the middle landlords, the landlords over the occupants of the soil, were not of that description, at least in the west and south of Ireland. The general prevailing practice of landlords in three-fourths of Ireland had been to oppress the tenants, and refuse them all compensation for improvements.
§ The House divided on the question that the Bill be read a second time:—Ayes 22; Noes 145: Majority 123.
|List of the AYES.|
|Alcock, T.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||Reynolds, T.|
|Devereux, J. T.||Sadleir, J.|
|Fagan, W.||Scholefield, W.|
|Fox, R. M.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Fox, W. J.||Scully, F.|
|Greene, J.||Sullivan, M.|
|Hindley, C.||Tenison, E. K.|
|Kershaw, J.||Wawn, J. T.|
|O'Connor, F.||Crawford, W. S.|
|Perfect, R.||Power, Dr.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Abdy, T. N.||Brackley, Visct.|
|Adair, H. E.||Brotherton, J.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Buller, C.|
|Adare, Visct.||Bunbury, W. M.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Bunbury, E. H.|
|Alexander, N.||Campbell, hon. W. F.|
|Archdall, Capt.||Carew, W. H. P.|
|Arkwright, G.||Carter, J. B.|
|Baldock, E. H.||Chaplin, W. J.|
|Bateson, T.||Charteris, hon. F.|
|Benbow, J.||Christy, S.|
|Bennet, P.||Clay, J.|
|Beresford, W.||Clive, H. B.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Cocks, T. S.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Corry, rt. hon. H. L.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Craig, W. G.|
|Blackall, S. W.||Deedes, W.|
|Boldero, H. G.||D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T.|
|Bolling, W.||Douglas, Sir C. E.|
|Bourke, R. S.||Drummond, H.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Drummond, H. H.|
|Duncombe, hon. O.||Melgund, Visct.|
|Duncuft, J.||Meux, Sir H.|
|Dunne, F. P.||Miles, W.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Ellice, E.||Morpeth, Visct.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Morris, D.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.|
|FitzPatrick, rt. hn. J. W.||Mulgrave, Earl of|
|Foley, J. H. H.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Forbes, W.||Nugent, Sir P.|
|Fordyce, A. D.||O'Brien, Sir L.|
|Forster, M.||Parker, J.|
|Fortescue, C.||Patten, J. W.|
|Glyn, G. C.||Pattison, J.|
|Gore, W. R. O.||Pilkington, J.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Rendlesham, Lord|
|Grace, O. D. J.||Rich, H.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Richards, R.|
|Greene, T.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Grenfell, C. P.||Rutherfurd, A.|
|Grenfell, C. W.||St. George, C.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Salwey, Col.|
|Grey, R. W.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Grogan, E.||Seymour, Lord|
|Guest, Sir J.||Shafto, R. D.|
|Gwyn, H.||Sidney, Ald.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Smyth, J. G.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Hastie, A.||Spearman, H. J.|
|Hastie, A.||Stanley, hon. E. J.|
|Hayter, W. G.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Heathcote, Sir W.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Heywood, J.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Hildyard, T. B. T.||Stuart, H.|
|Hope, Sir J.||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Hume, J.||Thompson, Col.|
|Ingestre, Visct.||Thornely, T.|
|Jackson, W.||Tollemache, J.|
|Jocelyn, Visct.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Trollope, Sir J.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Jones, Capt.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Lennard, T. B.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Lewis, rt. hon. Sir T. F.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Lewis, G. C.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Littleton, hon. E. R.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Lockhart, W.||Wood, W. P.|
|Lushington, C.||Wyvill, M.|
|M'Naghten, Sir E.||Young, Sir J.|
|Matheson, Col.||Tufnell, H.|
|Maxwell, hon. J. P.||Hill, Lord M.|
§ The House adjourned at half-past Five o'clock.