§ Order of the Day read for resuming the Adjourned Debate on the Motion, "That it be an Instruction to the Committee," &c. (See July 4).
denied that the hon. Baronet (Sir L. O'Brien) was actuated by party motives, or the intention of seeking to gain time by his Motion, for the extension of the operation of the Bill to England and Scotland. The Bill, in fact, contained principles and details which might be with great advantage extended to every part of the empire; and he objected to exclusive legislation for Ireland upon the law of entail. There was not one of those Gentlemen who dreamed of establishing a peasant proprietary in Ireland to whom he would yield in sincere anxiety to render the sale and transfer of land in Ireland, as facile, as expeditious, and as efficacious as possible, consistently with the interests of the empire, and consistently also with the rights of property, and the claims which belonged to honest and productive labour. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) had made statements, in supporting the Bill, which were, in his opinion, calculated to mislead the House. He had said that the Bill would put an end to the system of 386 receivers in Chancery suits. It would be most desirable if such an object could he attained. But it unfortunately could not by any legislation of that House. Neither could fresh and clear titles to estates be made under the operation of the Bill, as stated by his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Napier). As to the increase in the numbers of the landed proprietors of Ireland—if it meant that the present number, who were estimated at 8,000, might be safely increased, he fully agreed with his hon. and learned Friend. But he wished to guard against establishing in Ireland a peasant proprietary. There was another error which the hon. and learned Gentleman had fallen into when he confounded the positions in which a judgment creditor and a mortgagee stood relatively to an estate. The judgment creditor, far from having any advantage over, or being even equal with, the mortgagee, stood in a very different and inferior position. But the Bill professed to give, by an ex post facto operation, a power to mortgagees and judgment creditors which they never before possessed, and to give tenants for life a power to dispose of the fee and inheritance in satisfaction of debts and encumbrances. He would support the principle of the Bill, but he objected to its machinery. He objected to the power of private sale being given to the tenant for life, even although he might sell for a sufficient sum; and he recommended that portion of the Bill to be amended, in order to prevent fraudulent and collusive sales. The hon. and learned Gentleman had, indeed, said that he could not imagine a case in which the tenant for life would sell a property collusively; but there were several instances of such things being done, even despite the difficulties which now surrounded a sale. An English conveyancer had gone over and settled ill Dublin, where he soon obtained an extensive practice. He sold a property suppressing totally a marriage settlement, which was even registered; and it was only at the last moment that the fraud was discovered. The facts were brought under the notice of Lord Chancellor Sugden, who referred them for consideration to the benchers of the King's Inn, and the barrister was disbarred. But the granting of a power of disposal by private sale contemplated a purchaser being discovered who would not only be satisfied to make the purchase privately, but to pay into court the purchase money, and accept the conditions of sale, subject, as the property would 387 be, to a claim by any party who had not had notice of the proceedings, and who should have a better claim to the estate. Now, he asked, would the hon. and learned Gentleman advise any man to purchase property in Ireland on such conditions? And it should be observed that the purchaser would remain in a state of uncertainty and anxiety for five years, and should a better claim be made out before the expiration of that period, he would have no remedy. Such machinery would not do when there were in the market annually for sale 4,000,000l. worth of landed property. He was at a loss to know what portion of the Bill would enable them to find purchasers; for, independently of the quantity of property which was annually for sale under the Court of Chancery, there were 1,000,000l in the market for private sale. To find purchasers, enormous sacrifices were continually made. He knew of one estate in the county Clare, which had been offered and contracted for in 1845, for 52,000l., which was sold last month for 30,000l.; and another in Longford, for which 25,000l. had been given in 1845, which was sold within the last six weeks for 14,500l. It was right that the House should understand that one particular effect of the measure now proposed would be to cut down the Statute of Limitations to five years. He had heard no reason assigned to justify that. A large portion of the Bill was occupied with provisions for notices to parties interested in the corpus of the estate, and to parties who might be interested in the proceeds of the sale; but the machinery for this purpose would be rendered most inefficient by the provision which enacted that these notices should be given in a particular prescribed form. The notices were required to be published in the newspapers and in the Dublin Gazette, and posted upon the places of public worship in the district in which the property was situated—altogether losing sight of the fact that hitherto in the courts of Ireland those judges who had lengthened and intimate experience of the usages of law, as respected the sale and transference of property in Ireland, had found it absolutely necessary, for the purpose of checking frauds, to provide that the service of the notices should be made personally on the parties interested in the sale; and in cases where that was impossible, to provide some system substitutive. But there was a long interval between the personal service of the notices and their publication in the 388 Gazette and in the journals; and he was astonished that the hon. and learned Gentleman had not provided in some way that it should be left to the good sense, experience, and discretion of the Judges in Ireland, or the Masters in Chancery to direct what description of notices the parties interested in the estate, or the incumbrances on the estate should, have. The hon. and learned Gentleman had dwelt forcibly on the intricate and complex character of titles in Ireland; but this intricacy and complexity only led him to feel more particularly the necessity of exercising caution in dealing with this matter, and of providing proper safeguards against fraud, which he feared this measure did not do. There was one provision in this Bill to which he wished to call the hon. and learned Gentleman's particular attention. It was provided that the original searches should be filed with the affidavit. Did the hon. and learned Gentleman mean to leave the original searches for ever in court? for, if so, the practical effect would be to impose an enormous expense upon parties wishing to dispose of landed property, by compelling them to have two sets of original searches; because no subsequent dealing could take place—no man could purchase the estate, or enter into a settlement with the proprietor, or advance money to him, without having the original searches produced and handed over. He (Mr. Sadlier) could understand the policy of filing as a record a summary, or the substantial result of the negative searches; but the policy of impounding them in court, of placing them in the court for ever, considering that they represented a sum of about 400l. or 500l. each—the policy of doing this without any substantial benefit to be derived from it, he confessed he was unable to comprehend. He was greatly disappointed to find that a measure which had been for so many months under the consideration of the Government, and to which public interest had been for a length of time directed, should not have been of a more comprehensive character than the present. He thought the Bill much better as it came from the Lords, than as it had since been altered. What the Irish proprietors wanted were practical, comprehensive, substantial facilities for the sale of landed property; and these facilities could only be obtained by diminishing the expense and curtailing the delay attendant on that process at present, and in ad-ministering the funds which were the pro- 389 ceeds of the sales. Now, if hon. Gentlemen who had no practical experience in the sale of landed property in Ireland imagined that the provisions of this Bill as they at present stood would either diminish the expense or curtail the delay, they would find themselves grievously disappointed. There had been no remonstrance from the Irish bar with reference to the anticipated diminution of expense under this Bill, as the non, and learned Gentleman had insinuated—no murmur had come from the attorneys and solicitors of Ireland on that head; and he ventured to predict that no attorney or solicitor in that country would object to this Bill on any personal ground, such as that it was calculated to curtail the emoluments of his profession. The hon. Gentleman then went on to mention various devices which might be resorted to in order to effect fraudulent and collusive sales, and among others he supposed a case in which persons were appointed trustees under a marriage settlement without their knowledge. He knew it was not the custom in this country to appoint persons trustees without their knowledge and consent; but it was not at all unusual in Ireland to do so; and twenty years afterwards a boy might step up to a gentleman and claim him as his trustee, without the gentleman having ever heard of it before, or without any but the most casual acquaintance with the lady or gentleman who had appointed him. Well, suppose a sale by a tenant for life where there was no known trustee, who was to raise the speculative question as to the right of the unborn issue? because the issue might not be born until the sixth year after the sale, when, according to this Bill, it would be one year too late to raise the question of the infant's right. There was one power which might be usefully conferred on the master with reference to the sale of estates under an order of court. By the existing practice, the sale must be advertised; and it frequently happened that the persons who attended had not quite made up their minds as to what sums they would offer. He thought it would be useful that the master should be allowed to receive from the solicitor those private offers which might have been made to him for the purchase of the entire property or for portions of it. The master might then hear the parties who were interested in the property; and if it should appear right to the master to sanction a sale by private contract, he should have 390 power to do so under the authority of the Court. He had offered these observations with a sincere desire to make the Bill as useful and as just as possible.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
As an English Member I shall presume to take for a very short time a part in this discussion. I must own I have long looked with great anxiety—I may almost say with despair—for the introduction of a measure upon this subject, which I regard as of paramount importance in the present condition of Ireland. I do not think this a fit occasion to go into all the technicalities and legal niceties which are connected with the subject. If it were, I should not presume to address you, as I am by no means competent to the task. But, at the same time, I think it right to offer my opinion upon the general outline of this measure. I am compelled to do so by an observation made by the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed you. I understood him to say that he was well content with the measure as it came down from the House of Lords, but that he viewed it now with less favour since it had been altered by the Solicitor General. Now my view of the measure is almost the converse of that of the hon. Gentleman. As it came down from the House of Lords I was not well satisfied with it, but as it has been amended by the Solicitor General I am happy to say I look with some hope to the practical working of this Bill. The hon. Gentleman has spoken rather disparagingly of the speech made on a former occasion by the Solicitor General. Upon that point also I must differ from the hon. Gentleman. My dread has always been that with respect to this measure it would be too much left to the professional prejudices and legal scruples of conveyancers, who would consider it only with reference to the law of real property, and not sufficiently in regard to the peculiar circumstances existing in Ireland. But I heard with the greatest pleasure a speech coming from a Gentleman bearing the name which the Solicitor General bears—a speech worthy of a lawyer, but I must say, not exclusively of a lawyer; but a speech, while bringing to bear upon the subject great knowledge of the law of real property, combined with that knowledge large political views well worthy of the subject which we have to handle. I am not, as I have intimated already, now prepared to go into the whole question of the jurisprudence of Ireland. The hon. Gentleman has told us of some defects in the 391 law of that country with regard to marriage settlements, and has said that persons might be made trustees of marriage settlements without knowing it. Now, I live upon the Scottish border, and upon that border it is possible for a man to be married without knowing it. So that in Scotland the law of marriage goes far beyond anything regarding marriages or marriage settlements in the sister country. But this is not the occasion for us to go into the defects of the law or the administration of justice in the masters' office in Ireland. I agree with the hon. Gentleman in some of the points on which he has touched; but the objections are too numerous and important to allow of this as being the proper period for entering into, them. The law of debtor and creditor, and the defects in marriage settlements, in the registration of births, marriages, and wills, and in the administration of justice in the masters' office, have all been adverted to. These are all matters of great importance, but they do not appear to me to be immediately connected with the subject we have to deal with. On the contrary, the view I took of the Bill, as it came down from the House of Lords, was in its immediate connexion with the delay and expense of proceedings in the Court of Chancery. As the Bill came down from the Lords, there were Only three modes for effecting sales with respect to incumbered estates. But here, let me observe, in passing, that as I understand the present framing of the Bill, everything that was good in the Lords' Bill, remains, and the Bill has been most materially improved by what has been withdrawn, and what has been added. The Bill on coming from the Lords offered three modes of effecting a sale. The first was, that the tenant for life might make an arrangement for sale with the incumbrancer, and having effected his bargain he might apply to the Court of Chancery to confirm it; the second mode was, that the tenant for life, not making a bargain with the incumbrancer, might apply to the court for an order to sell; and the third mode was, that the first incumbrancer might make an application for an order to sell. Now, my first observation is, that with regard to all three of the modes the very objection as to delay and expense applies, by making the Court of Chancery the sole machinery by which these sales can be effected. I speak of the Bill as it came down from the House of Lords. Then, looking at each mode separately. 392 With regard to the first mode, I am not sure that it will prevent fraudulent sales by arrangements between the tenant for life and the first incumbrancer, unless where minors and tenants in tail are represented by solicitors or counsel to take the necessary precautions against fraudulent arrangements prior to the application to the court. With regard to the two last modes, they are not open to the same objection, though as far as regards delay and expense the objection applies with equal force. If, therefore, the Bill had stood as it originally came from the House of Lords, I should have entertained very strong objections to it. But I now come with satisfaction to that portion of the Bill which has been grafted on the original stock, as it came down from the Lords, by the Solicitor General. And I must say that that portion of the Bill does appear to me—subject to such improvements as may be deemed necessary to be made in Committee for its effective practical working—to be an immense improvement on the original draught of the measure. It avoids altogether the expense and delay of an application to the Court of Chancery. I heard with sincere satisfaction the speech of the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell) on this subject on a former occasion. It appeared to me to be a sound and intelligent view of the subject. I am quite satisfied if this question, in the present position of property in Ireland, be left to the Court of Chancery and to the lawyers, that with respect to the rights both of encumbrancers and heirs, no practical remedy will be afforded. I am satisfied that every facility ought and must be given for the conversion of land at its full value into money. Every security must be taken to see that all the creditors are paid, and that the residue of the purchase-money is properly applied to those who are entitled to the inheritance according to the terms of the first settlement. At all events, every possible facility must be given for the conversion of the estate into money. If that view of the subject be sound, then I think that the amendments introduced by the Solicitor General will fully effect that object. I should be most happy to go through this measure in detail, if this were the proper time for doing so; I should not, however, have done justice to my feelings if I had not stated thus shortly the view I entertain upon this subject. I think it is absolutely necessary that every encouragement and facility should be given 393 to the subdivision of land in Ireland; and that the opportunity most favourable for effecting this is when land is brought to sale. I am most anxious to reunite to the soil of Ireland the Roman Catholic population of that country. That I believe to be one of the most efficacious means of insuring the safety of Ireland, and of forming and strengthening the bond of union between the two countries. The Roman Catholics of Ireland have by industry during a long series of years of exclusion and inequality of rights, accumulated capital, which I believe they are not unwilling to invest in the purchase of the land of Ireland. Unfortunately, the large estates held by right of confiscation, in the bauds of Protestants, have become deeply encumbered. By reason of these encumbrances the nominal owners of these estates cannot in all instances do that which it is their wish and their duty to do. I would relieve them from the painful position in which they stand, and would give them every facility to release themselves from their debts. Their creditors should in the first place be secured, and then their families provided for out of the balance of the sale of the estates; for unquestionably their estates ought at once to be brought to market. I am anxious to see a subdivision of the land into such portions as would admit of persons of small capital to become purchasers. Upon the whole, therefore, it is with great satisfaction that I view this measure. I believe it is sound in principle, and that none of its provisions are calculated to work any violation of right. In the first place the rights of the heirs are secured by the provisions with reference to the settlement of the balance derived from the sale of the estate; and then the sale itself will amply secure the creditor. Now, if these two objects be effected, there can be no question whatever that with respect to political objects the measure will be one of immense importance. I consider the Bill as amended by the Solicitor General calculated to secure the interests of the owner in possession, the heirs, the remainder-men, and the creditors. If there should be any imperfection in the measure, especially as to securing the sale of the property at its full value, I shall be ready to remove that imperfection. I am most anxious that the full value of the property should be secured; that no sudden or precipitate sale should be forced on so that the value of the land should be depreciated by a larger 394 quantity being brought simultaneously into the market than the demand requires. I am, also, for the sake of the tenants in possession, desirous that care be taken that there shall not be a "mortgage panic," which would be fatal to the measure. But under the present circumstances of Ireland, you must not be guided by caution only; you must not take your steps timidly, but boldly, at the same time prudently, for the period has arrived when with respect to the land of Ireland something decisive must be done. Upon the whole, I consider this Bill to be highly creditable to Her Majesty's Government, and I cordially support it. In Committee I shall give my humble assistance to make it perfect.
§ MR. DILLON BROWNE
heartily concurred in the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Baronet towards this measure, which, he believed, would be found acceptable to a great majority of the most intelligent people of Ireland. Many of the remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlow (Mr. Sadlier) were not, in his opinion, applicable to the Bill; but if they were, they could be better considered in Committee, when the clauses were under discussion. The Bill was absolutely necessary in justice to Irish landlords, the owners of encumbered property. Of course it was natural they should be desirous of maintaining the dignity of their position as landlords; but after maintaining that position, in too many cases there was nothing left to be spent upon the improvement of the estate. The want of means for improvement affected injuriously, not only the property but the estate. Exorbitant rents were occasioned; agrarian crime followed, and a system of farming was introduced not more fatal to the tenant than the landlord. For these reasons, he conceived that proprietors of encumbered estates ought to be the persons most desirous of the passing of this Bill. The newspapers had represented the Irish landlords as a sort of monster bipeds—beings who had no rational notions of the rights or duties of property. Was it not right to get rid of that contumelious and undeserved reproach? In his opinion, no measure was better calculated than this to promote that end, and he should give it his earnest support.
§ SIR J. B. WALSH
thought that a Committee of that House was not the best means for arriving at a satisfactory conclusion upon the measure. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon observed, 395 he should carefully avoid entering into the technicalities embodied in the Bill, alleging that he was incompetent to deal with them. If the right hon. Baronet, who possessed great knowledge, and was endowed with great practical administrative talents, felt that this was a field into which he could not enter, every other Member, bethought, must arrive at a similar conclusion. But was this a question, affecting, as it did, the law of succession, on which they should be contented with divesting themselves of all responsibility, and place the decision virtually in the hands of the legal Gentlemen of that House? This was the natural result of the course the Government seemed desirous of pursuing in carrying the measure through a Committee of the whole House, without first referring it to a more close and searching investigation. The measure consisted of two parts, wholly distinct from each other. One part had come down from the other House, where it was introduced as a Government measure, and where it underwent most careful examination by the highest legal authority. But the remaining and the most important part had since been added, and it appeared to be introduced without any previous examination. It appeared to him, therefore, that they ought to be most careful in examining it, agreed as they were that some measure was desirable in the present state of the encumbered properties of Ireland to afford facilities for selling them. Two great principles should be carefully observed: first, that they did not attempt to cut the Gordian knot by sweeping away the existing rights of private proverty; and, second, to do nothing by a side wind to alter the law of succession to landed property. They must be cautious, in applying a particular remedy to a particular evil, how they suffered any infraction of that great principle to creep in without the deliberate consent of the House. As the Bill came down from the House of Lords, it appeared to be founded upon the principles that were observed in cases where property was dealt with by private Bills. In those Bills there was no implied consent. No rights could be destroyed without the persons in whom they were vested being aware of it. Everything proceeded upon most deliberate examination, the great principle being, that whilst relief was afforded to the parties, all other individuals should be protected. But the principle of the present measure was to substitute for this the expensive tribunal of the Court of Chancery; 396 and it appeared to him that in its second part it deprived other individuals than the parties of all protection. In fact, it constituted a very serious invasion upon the rights of individuals; at least, if it were not an absolute attack upon private property, it would afford facilities for fraud, by which the rights of private individuals might be compromised. The present, too, was a time when it would be felt a great hardship to force Sales of lands. A poor-law had been passed for Ireland in opposition to the opinion of all the Commissioners and Committees who had inquired into Irish affairs, which it was well known had, in many cases, acted almost as a confiscation of property. Would it not then be a great hardship and an intolerable injustice to follow up that measure, by which charges had been created which actually weighed down and destroyed the proprietors, by another for practically ousting them of their estates? He believed that if the rights of individuals were thus sacrificed by legislative means, instead of a foundation being laid for the security of property, they would extend still more widely the feeling of insecurity; capitalists would refrain from investing, and the springs of industry, which they were seeking to restore, would be destroyed.
§ MR. OSBORNE
said, the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Radnorshire, if made on the side of the landed interest of Ireland, was an able speech; but if it were taken as made with relation to a great public good, it was nothing but a one-sided argumentum ad misericordiam for the Irish landed proprietors. The hon. Baronet had cast rather an unfair slur upon the motives in which this measure originated. He did not himself usually give much credit to Her Majesty's Ministers; but on this subject he must say he believed them to be influenced by the best and the purest motives, because if there was one measure more likely than another to turn the landed proprietors against them, it was this. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlow (Mr. Sadlier) had shown that the law was so bad that it ought not to be suffered to remain in force one hour. The complaint, however, which he had to make against the present measure was, that very little account seemed to be made of time. Why, the House would scarcely believe that this very Bill, which had been declared to be a panacea for the evils of Ireland, had been mention-in three Queen's Speeches. In 1847, the 397 Lord Chancellor brought such a Bill into the other House, which was not passed, though discussed at great length, and declared by all the press, and nearly all the Irish Members, to be a very useful measure. It came down to the House of Commons, but in the month of July it was withdrawn; and what were the reasons why it was withdrawn? On the 5th of July, 1847, Lord John Russell said—The first Bill to which I shall direct the attention of the House is the Encumbered Estates (Ireland) Bill, the Committee on which stands for this evening. The object and intention of that Bill would be found, I am convinced, very beneficial to the country: but, from late inquiries that have been made upon the subject, it appears that very great alarm has been excited by it. Not an alarm occasioned by the special provisions of the Bill itself, but by the contemplation of new powers being given by an extensive measure of this kind. It is said, by persons well qualified to speak upon the subject, and well qualified, also, to be entitled to attention, that several millions sterling, which have been advanced upon mortgages of estates in Ireland, would be called in if this Bill were passed.So that, because certain parties were directly interested in hindering the passing of a useful measure, the public interests of Ireland were to be sacrificed! And what was the Bill of 1848? As sent in from the Lords, he must take leave to say it was a nullity. It professed to give facilities for the sale of encumbered estates by filing a petition instead of a Bill. But the hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin said it was much more expensive to proceed by petition than by Bill. Every Gentleman conversant with landed property must know that the last person interested in the sale of an estate was the first encumbrancer; he was, therefore, justified in saying the Bill, as it came from the other House, was a nullity. But it was a different Bill altogether as amended by the hon. and learned Gentleman (the Solicitor General); and the only fault he found with it was, that it was a separate measure tacked to the old measure brought in on the 10th of June. He regretted also to say that in its details the Bill was not so clear as the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman. A good deal too much reference was made in it to the master's office, and to the Chancery courts. Any Gentleman acquainted with the chicanery and delay of the master's office in Ireland would say there was no great improvement made if it was intended to refer all subjects to the master's office. In his opinion there was but one sound 398 way of proceeding, and that was, however it might be disliked, by the appointment of Commissioners to carry the Bill into effect. The object of this Bill was the sale of estates in small portions, and for this purpose two things must be done. Titles must be simplified, and the transfer of land made less expensive. He had lately had two solicitors employed, and was sorry to say that those solicitors did not hold out any hopes to him—and one was a first-rate conveyancer—that the transfer of land would be made cheaper by this Bill. He was not going to enter into its clauses; but he must say, that if you allowed lawyers, and those interested in the law, to eat up an estate, you committed some injustice in order to do a great public good. The safety of Ireland was at stake, and unless the law were altered in a summary way, there would be no property left. To making the transfer of land cheap, the stamp duties must be altered. This was distinctly recommended in the report of the Land Commissioners. English Members might be alarmed by this Bill; and if Ireland was in the same state as England, no man would recommend such a Bill as this; but the laws relating to land were at the root of all the evils affecting Ireland. In Ireland you had aristocratic institutions without an aristocracy. You had all the great proprietors not encumbered living in this country, and the few resident proprietors were embarrassed men, who tended to bring the aristocracy into disrepute, because they were obliged, from the nature of their position, to do harsh and selfish acts. Irish gentlemen were not worse than other men, but they were embarrassed; and one of the greatest boons that could be conferred on these gentlemen was a Bill having for its object to allow them to dispose of the whole of the interest of their estates. They were in that situation that they could not discharge the duties of their station. The Solicitor General had stated that there were 8,000 proprietors in fee in Ireland; but he maintained that it was impossible to find a spot of ground to build on for which you did not pay rent in some shape or other. He had seen calculations to prove that there was hardly one man in 100,000 who lived in his own house. He paid rent for it in some shape or other. There were so many people interested, that you could get no improvements. The House had heard something of the Irish Chancery; and the hon. Member for Carlow had given a little 399 picture of the Irish Chancery, and alluded to returns which he (Mr. Osborne) had moved for. He did not move for the whole of those returns, because he was told they would cost 30,000l.; but if any Gentleman would go upstairs and see the size of those returns, he would say that the country which could make such a return could not be in a sound or healthy condition. The Right Hon. Anthony Blake, the Chief Remembrancer, was lately reported to have said, at a meeting for improving the law, that a Bill for clearing out the Irish Court of Chancery was more wanted than a Bill for improving the public health either in England or Ireland. Unless they did that, Ireland would always remain in the same state in which she now was. Taking the Exchequer returns, and the Chancery return, there was one million received in the courts, and only 5s. 4d. per cent per annum spent in the improvement of estates in Chancery. What was the opinion of the Master of the Rolls in Reynolds v, Reynolds? He said—The gross mismanagement of estates in Ireland under receivers by Chancery is a matter of public notoriety, and there are few exceptions to the general rules of mismanagement.It seemed that the only qualification for a receiver was to drain the pockets of the tenants, and not to care a straw how the estate was going on, so long as the rents were paid. In fact, the mismanagement involved the destruction of hundreds of human beings. Here was the case of a receiver in Chancery no later than December, 1847. He came up before Master Murphy to ask for money, that the tenants might improve their houses. The master said he was unable to give the money. Mr. Bury said—That not only had the unfortunate people died of famine, but 360 of their bodies had been thrown coffinless into a hole.The receiver said—This is true; no less than 600 bodies of tenants have been thrown into holes or ditches.This was on the case of O'Sullivan v. O'Sullivan, in the master's office, on the 1st December last. If such a state of things were allowed to continue, what could they expect but anarchy in that country, resulting in wide-spread ruin and desolation? In the case of the murdered Major Mahon, his estate had been in the hands of the Court of Chancery before he came to it; and it was debated among the tenants in the townland in which Mr. Roe's property was situate, whether it 400 would not be better to shoot Mr. Roe, because then the estate would be put into Chancery, and they would pay no rents. They had been told that there was already land in the Irish market of the value of 4,000,000l. And why was that? Because the state of the law was so bad, the titles to land were so intricate, and transfer was so expensive. He would give a direct Parliamentary title, and he agreed that they must have a new registry of landed estates, as in Belgium. Wherever they saw a stringent law of entail, they saw the ill effects resulting from it. There was such a law in Spain—he believed the whole province of Andalusia was held by three proprietors; and the state of Spain was as bad as that of Ireland. But in Norway, where the population in 1819 was 910,000, there were 41,600 estates. In Switzerland there were small properties; and in the canton of Zurich the poor-rate was not more than 2½d. per head per annum. Belgium was a country of small proprietors. He might perhaps be told, "Look at France!" But he maintained that in Franco there was a most stringent law of entail, because every proprietor was in fact compelled to divide his land; and what was that but a most stringent law of entail? He observed that an hon. Gentleman, who was celebrated as a non-intervention barrister, seemed to deny this; but he said that any law which compelled a man to subdivide his property was in fact a law of entail. Mr. Pym, in his work on Ireland, took precisely the same view, and proved that the effect of subdivision was nothing more than the most mischievous law of entail. He wanted to know what hon. Gentlemen meant to do when they talked about the danger of this Bill? Would any one say that it was possible for Ireland to remain in the state in which she was at this moment? No grants of landed proprietors, no loan of money, no artificial stimulants to create labour for Ireland, would be of any use whilst you had the law of real property in the state in which it was. If you meant sincerely to eradicate crime, you must go a long way in destroying the law of property in Ireland; and it was the bounden duty of the House to adopt such measures as would create a race of small proprietors in Ireland. He did not care a farthing whether they were Roman Catholic or Protestant proprietors, and the people of Ireland cared very little what they were. He never found any dis- 401 like on account of religion, and he believed that there was a great deal more bigotry amongst the people in England than in Ireland. There was a Commission in 1841—nothing ever came of these Commissions—and what was the recommendation of the Landed Commission as to the sale of estates? It said—It rarely happens that land is brought into the market in lots of small amount. Estates are so encumbered, that the expense which would attend dividing them deters proprietors from taking this course, although a larger sum would be received.He was satisfied that by such a lull as this you would raise the value of land in Ireland, and, which was of much greater consequence, that you would increase the cereal produce of the country. What did the report say?—We believe that there are large numbers of persons in Ireland possessing a small amount of capital, which they would gladly employ in the cultivation of land, and a still larger number hold land for rent who would cheerfully embrace the opportunity of becoming small proprietors.He thought that Ireland owed a deep debt of gratitude to the English Solicitor General for having stepped forward and given his attention to this measure: it was a step in the right direction. It was not for him to criticise the details of the Bill, and as a warm friend to Ireland he should give it his support.
§ MR. H. A. HERBERT
would not follow the lion. Member for Middlesex in his excursions into Andalusia, the snows of Norway, or the swamps of Belgium. As he understood the meaning of this Bill, it was to enable encumbered estates to be sold as speedily as possible. He could not see how that interfered in any way with the law of entail. He believed that this Bill, if carried out, would prevent such a state of things as was represented in the digest of Lord Devon's Commission. He believed that this Bill, although it might not be a panacea for the evils of Ireland, would have a great tendency, if carried out, to increase the employment of the people. He believed it would have a tendency to equalise capital with labour. At the same time, he could not look at this Bill at all in the light of a Bill of pains and penalties against Irish landlords. He looked forward to other remedial measures, which by improving the state of the country generally, should tend to give peace to Ireland.
§ MR. F. O'CONNOR
tendered his thanks to the hon. and learned Solicitor General for having introduced this Bill. In 1834 402 he had predicted in that House that the landlords would be brought to their present position, and he had told them that at last they would be obliged to apply to Parliament to do that which it was better to do by themselves. They looked upon their estates as of political value, and now they were obliged to give them agricultural importance. When once the people of Ireland had their own industry protected, they would not ask for a bettor political system. The landlords of Ireland had been long subject to the dominion of Irish solicitors, and the time was come when the House must act independently of landlords and attorneys. This Bill would raise the value of the land 50 per cent in the retail market. The hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) had said, "Take care you do not produce a mortgage panic." It was likely that you would, but it would give a greater value to the estate mortgaged, and then it would be easy to have a transfer. There would be no difficulty in procuring ample mortgages as a substitute for those which might be called in.
§ MR. SHARMAN CRAWFORD
observed that the question before the House was the instruction moved by the hon. Baronet that this measure be extended to England and Scotland. He intended to vote against the instruction, and he wished to state why. He thought it was manifest, from all they had hoard of the different laws of England and Ireland, that it was utterly impracticable to frame a Bill which should contain provisions necessary for the double purpose, and therefore the Bill should be confined to Ireland, and suited to the circumstances of Ireland. If they agreed to the proposition of the hon. Baronet, they would be virtually dividing this Bill. The statement made by hon. Members of the distress to which landed property was subjected, justified this Bill: the greater the distress, the greater the necessity for this remedial measure. You could not remedy the evil of the charges upon land, except by improving the law by which property was held, affecting both the interests of the landlord and tenant. With these views, and anxiously desirous that this Bill should be carried into effect, he felt it his duty to oppose the Motion of the hon. Member, not that he conceived that the principle might not be extended to England.
§ MR. CALLAGHAN
said, that there was one inconvenience which, he was assured, would arise from this Bill, and that was, so far from freeing the country from the 403 charges and machinations of solicitors and attorneys, it would increase their influence. The bonds of 250l. constituted the great hulk of the charges on the estates of Ireland; the facility with which the lawyers would purchase these up, and run the property to expense, was beyond the ideas of Gentlemen who had spoken in the debate. He would remark to the House that not a single petition had been presented from Ireland either for or against the Bill, and that it was a measure for which the people of Ireland were not prepared.
§ COLONEL DUNNE
said, since the introduction of the Bill it had received alterations under the name of amendments, which had produced a total change in its character, and it was now a new Bill as compared to what it was when it was first introduced. It was not only now a new Bill, but a new principle was involved in it, and yet it had not been submitted to the Lord Chancellor, the Master of the Rolls, or any of the other high legal authorities in Ireland. He agreed perfectly with all the objects which the Bill sought to effect; but he was of opinion that the measure before them was calculated merely to precipitate, whilst it would not facilitate, the transfer of property in Ireland. With regard to the subdivision of property, and to selling estates in small portions, he believed that there was no country in the world in which the sale of estates in small portions was calculated to produce more mischief than in Ireland. The great writers on the subject in France, the very best authorities on the subdivision of property, had described the condition of the peasantry under the system of minute subdivisions being inferior to that which they exhibited before the revolution. He did not believe the Government ought to suppose the existence of any opposition to this measure on the part of the Irish landlords; and he was of opinion that if the Irish landlords and Irish lawyers had been consulted, a measure might have been adopted which would be satisfactory to all parties.
§ House in Committe pro formâ, and resumed.
§ Committee to sit again.