HC Deb 06 February 1878 vol 237 cc1140-98

Order for Second Beading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he felt how much the interests of those whom it concerned must suffer by reason that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) was not there to perform that duty. He (Mr. Downing), in common with his Colleagues, regretted the cause of his absence, and he had the additional ground for regret that the duty of introducing that Bill to the notice of the House was not confided to some one of the many of his Colleagues who would do so with more effect, and bring to its consideration more influence. When his hon. and learned Friend introduced the Bill in the last Session of Parliament, he did so in a speech of not more than 10 minutes, in consequence of a severe hoarseness that made it painful to him to speak so as to be heard through the House. But short as his address was, it led to a debate of considerable length, and elicited from hon. Members on both sides objections which there was then no opportunity of answering and refuting. That opportunity now presented itself, and he (Mr. Downing) felt that he could give the refutation, in explaining the clauses of the Bill, and the objects to be obtained by it. He hoped to satisfy the House that there was no principle contended for which could not be defended; that he asked for nothing that was unreasonable, much less inequitable. The purport and object of the Bill was to finally settle a question the most important and pressing as regarded the peace and contentment of Ireland, and the happiness of her inhabitants; and he ventured to think that there were few— if any—in that House who would not be glad to see Ireland in such a condition— nay, who would not take a willing part in effecting it. He had a pretty long and intimate knowledge of the Land Question, and he stated his deliberate opinion, that they could never establish that happy state without giving to the occupying tenants in Ireland security in their holdings, and that they could not give while they left to the landlord the power of exacting excessive rents by capricious evictions. He did not intend to refer to the confiscations by which proprietors of land in Ireland obtained their large possessions, nor to the Plantations effected in the reign of James I. in Munster, as well as Ulster; nor to the fearful scenes of the Famine years, when hundreds of thousands of the occupiers of the soil were evicted from their holdings; nor even to the evictions and levelling of houses consequent upon the introduction of the Poor Law into Ireland, because he thought it would tend to no useful purpose; but, on the contrary, might lead to a discussion which he considered it prudent to avoid. He would commence with a later period, that in which a distinguished statesman—the late Lord Clarendon—called the exercise of landlord power in Ireland a "legalized robbery;" soon after which a still more distinguished statesman, in the person of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), introduced in 1870 a Land Bill, which subsequently to some extent became law. He said to some extent, because the Act was not the Bill as it was sent from that House to the House of Lords, where it was shorn of many of its valuable clauses, and to which he might particularly refer before he concluded. The intentions of the right hon. Gentleman were, in all sincerity, to substantially remove the grievances under which the tenant-farmers of Ireland had been suffering for centuries, and for those good intentions the people of Ireland were deeply grateful to him. In introducing the Bill in his speech—seldom, if ever excelled in either House of Parliament—that right hon. Gentleman called attention to the series of Acts of Parliament one after another, pressing unduly upon the tenant, and giving facilities to the landlords for eviction, and said— See what a defence that state of the law was to the Irish occupier in the possession of his holding. All that defence we have altered. All that shelter we have stripped away. We have simplified the law against him. We have made ejectments cheap and easy, and notices to quit have descended on the people like snowflakes."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 347.] The right hon. Gentleman then proceeded to show that while freedom of contract was highly to be valued, there were conditions of society in which it was not possible to allow unlimited freedom, and that English legislation was full of interference with its freedom. He added— Strict freedom of contract, then, having proved to be a great evil, what is the precise nature of that evil? The Devon Commission has pointed it out. It is insecurity of tenure."—[Ibid. 349.] To give that security which was wanted, and to prevent the descent of notices to quit like "snowflakes" was the object intended by the Act. Well, he (Mr. Downing) took an anxious part in the progress of that Bill in every stage of it, and no one regretted more than he did —save, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman himself—that the Act had failed, and lamentably, in its objects. He did not know if any hon. Member representing a constituency outside the Province of Ulster would deny that; but, whether there was or not, he felt it his duty to prove its truth to the satisfaction, he hoped, of English and Scotch Members, and, if he did, he would have made out a case for the interposition of Parliament to apply a remedy of a sufficiently just and lasting character. That remedy he would lay before the House. A large majority of the Irish Members— and he in common with them—said to those who insisted upon managing Irish affairs, that they were bound to give to the people of Ireland that which they demanded, provided it did not inflict upon others injustice. That he hoped to satisfy them upon, and that what was now demanded the House had done in excess in more than one of Her Majesty's Colonies. First, then, as to the failure of the Act. It had been in operation for four years, when complaints from every county in the three Provinces were made that evictions were as numerous as before the passing of the Act. He (Mr. Downing) moved for a Return of the number of ejectments brought upon notices to quit for the three years previous to the passing of the Act, and for the three years next after, with this result, which must surprise the House. For the three years before the passing of the Act, the number was 4,253. The number for the three years after the Act amounted to 5,641, being 1,388 in excess, and involving the expulsion of 7,634 individuals more than for the three years before. If he had no further evidence to offer upon that point, that would be in itself pregnant to sustain his first proposition. But, and he said it with regret, he was armed with a further evidence of a most startling character by a further Return, only laid upon the Table of the House on Thursday last, and which, consequently, was not yet in the hands of hon. Members; but from which he had taken the figures which he was about to lay before the House. The Return was moved for by his late lamented right hon. and learned Friend, Sir Colman O'Loghlen, in concert with himself (Mr. Downing), and was in continuance of the Return from which he had already quoted, but of a more enlarged character. This Return embraced the years, 1874, 1875, and 1876. The number of notices to quit could only be given for two years, from October 1875 to October 1877; because previously there was no separate "die" by which the number could be traced, and for those two years 8,439 notices to quit were served, throwing into despair so many families and paralyzing their industry and energies. Let him here put a question to the House—Had the same number of notices to quit been served by English and Scotch landlords within the space of even 10 years in Great Britain; and, if there had been, would the people have patiently submitted as the Irish had? who, notwithstanding the refusal for years of protection had not yet abandoned the hope that Parliament would put an end to proceedings so unjust and disastrous. What did these 8,439 notices to quit involve? Taking each family at an average of 5½, that in two years 46,414 human beings, men, women, and children, were subjected to expulsion from their homes to seek others in foreign lands, in the lanes and alleys of a neighbouring town, or the last asylum which an Irishman would seek—the workhouse. The Returns, so far as he had gone, had only reference to evictions arising from the jurisdiction of the Courts of Quarter Sessions; but the Returns from the Superior and other Courts gave the astounding and alarming fact that the total number of evictions proved by the necessary notices which, under the Act of 11 & 12 Viet. c. 47, the landlord was obliged to serve upon the relieving officers, so as to provide shelter for the evicted, amounted to the enormous number of 11,711, which, on the same calculation, resulted in the eviction of 64,105 human beings, which divided by six-the Return being for six years—proved that 10,651 of the Irish race had been expelled from their homes in each year. Now, he depended on these Returns, which the House must take as conclusive. He was not, as had been in a former debate upon this question, charged by the right hon. Baronet the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), bringing forward cases of capricious evictions to justify the Irish Members in asking for this measure; and, therefore, he felt that he was not only justified, but bound to bring before the House cases which had occurred in his own county. He did not go beyond it, for he ventured to think that many cases, although not of the same magnitude, could be brought forward by his Colleagues who represented other counties. In the Session of 1877 he felt it his duty to call the attention of the House to the proceedings of an English proprietor of land in Ireland (Mr. Nathaniel Buckley)-—once a Member of that House—whose advent to the proprietorship of a considerable part of the princely estate of the Kingston family resulted in wrongs and sufferings to the occupiers upon it, and danger to the peace and tranquility of the whole country by which it was surrounded. Upon that occasion, many hon. Members who knew that Gentleman as a Member of that House thought he was incapable of the conduct which was imputed to him, and that his (Mr. Downing) statements were scarcely credible, and notably the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) described his (Mr. Downing's) relation of his proceedings as a savage attack upon that Gentleman, whom he had known from his infancy. He (Mr. Downing) was, however, now prepared not only to repeat what he had previously said, but to show that he had really under-stated, rather than overstated, the facts. The district in which that property was situated was virtually in a state of siege, and men with rifles were patrolling in every direction, morning, noon, and night. It was not his habit to introduce the action of any gentleman in his relations with his tenants, unless he felt it a duty and an obligation, and when he did so feel, he always endeavoured to understand the case. Recent events had proved that he was not wanting in his usual caution upon that occasion, for a trial of five days' duration before the highest Common Law Tribunal in Ireland resulted in proof of the truth of his statement. All that he had stated in that House, and vastly more, appeared in letters in The Freeman's Journal and The Cork Examiner, written by a Mr. Casey, for which Mr. Bridge, a now celebrated character in Ireland, obtained a "criminal information" for libel, which, upon the pleadings of Mr. Casey, were justified, and although there were 80 witnesses subpoenaed to sustain the plea of justification, 22 only were examined when a jury equally, he believed, composed of Conservatives and Liberals, intimated to the Judge that they required no further evidence—that their minds were made up. Now let him state the circumstances of that case. The magnificent estate of the Kingston family was sold during the Famine years, and an association was formed, with the sanction of Parliament, to purchase portions of it, with the view of establishing a "peasant proprietary." It provided that no more than 50 acres could be given to any occupier, and it further provided "that no member of the association could hold any portion for himself." Distinguished men formed that association—the Earl of Devon, Lord Emly, and others; but the late Mr. John Sad-leir was the moving power. They purchased the estate—some 20,000 acres— at something like nine years' purchase upon the then rental; but, by a subsequent Act of that House, another association, composed principally of Manchester merchants, in place of those firstly named, was established. Mr. Buckley was a director of this new association, and eventually two Gentlemen became the proprietors—one the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Brogden) and Mr. Buckley. Previously to the next phase in his narrative was the fact that a Mr. Massey, who was agent for years over the estate before Mr. Buckley became the owner, earned for himself the confidence and regard of the tenantry upon the estate, and his connection with them was marked by a warm tribute to his just administration by an affectionate adieu in an address. He was succeeded by the uncle of the hon. Member for Wednesbury, and when his connection with the estate terminated, there was also the deepest regret, and his name was even now remembered in every household upon the Galtee Mountains with affection and prayers for his welfare and happiness. Now, why did the gentleman give up the agency? Why did the hon. Member for Wednesbury resign his interest in this fine estate? Because Mr. Sadleir, who was connected with the unfortunate Tipperary Bank, introduced this celebrated Mr. Bridge, one of the managers of that unfortunate and bankrupt company, to the position of agent for this estate. The hon. Member for Wednesbury, influenced by the feelings of an honourable and just man, could not agree to the suggestions made by this hardhearted agent, and was so tormented by his suggestions and the adoption of them by Mr. Buckley, that he, in a moment of indignation to be regretted, said—"I will not be a party to the proceedings suggested. I would rather sell to you, Mr. Buckley, the interest of my moiety in the property," which he (Mr. Downing) need not say was exactly what Mr. Buckley wished for. An agreement was entered into, by which the hon. Member for Wednesbury sold his interest in the property, but upon the condition that Mr. Buckley was to receive a certain percentage, arising out of the rental as it then stood. Mr. Buckley up to this was in the habit of visiting this estate annually, and taking with him a number of friends to enjoy the sports which that extensive mountain property afforded, and was received by the people as a semi-prince. They would suppose that this was exactly what an English Gentleman, whether of aristocratic descent or wealth derived from trade, would be proud of. Yet what had been the conduct of this Gentleman. He had no necessitous calls; he had no wife and daughters to occupy an expensive house for the London season; and, if report be true, he was in receipt of £50,000 a-year from all sources. What was his conduct, being at the time in receipt of the percentage agreed on on his purchase money? On the estate was an immense tract known as Galtee Mountains, on which lived, probably for centuries, a population living upon the most scanty food, badly clad and housed, yet satisfied with their humble lot. They had cultivated the mountain top with labour impossible to describe, and upon that innocent, guileless, and wretched population Mr. Buckley, a bachelor, with his £50,000 a-year, yielded to the promptings of Bridge, or of avarice, to place upon them, "including many widows," an increase of rent ranging from 50 to 500 per cent, while the average increase on the whole was more than 100 per cent. How that was effected and carried out the House should hear in the words of the able and learned Judges. Judge Barry said— But what is the course adopted upon this estate in the Galtees? The purchase is made in 1873; a stranger, unknown to the tenants, of whose integrity or skill they know nothing, is brought down in July; he completes his valuation in November; and in January 1874 printed notices are sent to the tenants informing them that their rent is to be so and so"(specifying the amount fixed by Mr. Walker)"from the 25th of March then next. I have professionally and judicially come in contact with many cases of controversy between landlord and tenant. I have seen and heard the usual charges and counter-charges of harshness on the one hand and dishonesty or unreasonableness on the other, sometimes proved and sometimes disproved; but such a demand by agent or landlord as that made by these notices, under such circumstances, never fell within my observation. The demand was wholly unenforceable in law, and so far as I see on the facts before us, indefensible as a matter of dealing between man and man. In point of law the landlord could no more enforce the advanced rent from the 25th of March than he could enforce its payment retrospectively for the antecedent 10 years. The tenants were entitled by law to hold at the old rent until the end of the year, and the service of these notices must therefore be regarded as an attempt—and, so far as I can see, an unjustifiable attempt—to exact, through the terror of apprehended eviction, that increase on the coming half-year which he could not obtain by by any legal process. It does not appear whether many of the tenants yielded to this demand, but in October another notice is posted. I shall not comment upon the pregnant significance of the word 'submit' in this document, but every tenant who did not submit was so far as I can gather, served with notice to quit; and it appears that about 100 were served. One of the principal charges against the prosecutor in the libels is that the increase of rent forced after this fashion upon these tenants ranged from 50 to 500 per cent on the old rents, and this is in many instances absolutely true. According to the prosecutor's own affidavit, there are instances of increase ranging from 50 to more than 500 per cent, while the average increase on the whole of them is more than 100 per cent. Mr. Justice Fitzgerald, after some preliminary observations, said— The details have been so amply observed on that I will only state that my strong impression is that the new rents imposed on the tenants of the district of Carrigeen were, in many instances, exorbitant, and generally more than the occupiers might reasonably have been called on to pay. I am bound to add that the manner in which the occupiers were called on and compelled to accept the results of a re-valuation to which they were not parties, and in which they had no voice, was high-handed and oppressive. The prosecutor supplies no fair test as to the justice of the course pursued when he informed the Court that even at the higher rents, the occupiers would not give up their holdings for substantial sums of money. Let us take any one of the class of occupiers in this townland. To him his farm is everything. He has probably lived and worked on it all his life; is skilled in no other labour; has no other means of existence; and, if deprived of it, may become a wanderer, without a home, until ultimately he finds one in the workhouse. He will submit to a great deal to avoid such a result. When legal rights are sought to be enforced by ordinary process of law, it is our duty to give effect to and enforce them without regard to consequences; hut should legal rights be converted into an engine of oppression? Let it not be supposed that the oppressor is entitled to the aid of the extraordinary power of this Court by criminal information. My brother Barry has gone so far into the details of the case, that I forbear from commenting on them, and shall only now observe that if we had to deal with this portion as if it was in respect of a private inquiry alone, I should entirely concur in the opinion that the prosecutor does not stand before us in that unblemished position which would entitle him to the extraordinary interposition of the Court, and that the rule should, therefore, be discharged. Mr. Justice O'Brien expressed his full concurrence with the views so clearly and ably stated by his brother Barry. What further was established on the trial for libel in Dublin? This, that Mr. Walker, from Shinrone—which he (Mr. Downing) understood could claim the honour of giving birth to Mr. Bridge —was paid by a percentage on the increased rent which he placed upon the tenants, a proceeding which he ventured to think had no parallel in any civilized community governed by just laws. The Judges declared that if upon those facts alone they had to decide, they would have refused the application; but that, considering the consequences which had resulted from the firing at Mr. Bridge and the death of Hyland, his driver, they felt compelled to send the inquiry to a jury. Well, it did come before a jury, and he had already stated the result — that that jury had in effect decided that what Mr. Casey said of the cruelty and inhumanity charged was clearly established; but that, upon the charge of the Chief Justice, which he (Mr. Downing) himself refrained from passing an opinion upon, they were unable to come to a decision upon the law of libel as laid down by him. Now, what were the results of that exercise of the power which law gave to Mr. Buckley? This—that one of an injured population, plundered of every right and threatened with eviction, sought the vengeance of revenge, fired at Mr. Bridge, wounded him, for which he applied for compensation, and obtained from the grand jury of Limerick a presentment for £400. Then an iron barrack was placed at the gate of the residence of Mr. Bridge. Police fully armed were constantly patrolling; no fewer than 10 were told off daily in discharge of, to them, an odious duty. Notwithstanding all that protection, Bridge was again fired at. He and a policeman were severely wounded, and his coachman was shot dead, for which a wretched old man was executed. Bridge obtained a further sum of £1,000 as compensation; the widow of the coachman got £700; the constable £100. That sum of £1,800 was levied off the struggling inhabitants of the parish of Michelstown, county Cork—where only a small portion of the estate was situated, although the outrage took place within a half-a-mile of the county of Limerick, where a more considerable portion of the estate was situated. That innocent population were plunged thus into difficulties. The surrounding district was kept in a state of terror, and as if misfortune was to meet everyone connected, innocently or otherwise, with those proceedings, two of the police were shot by their own rifles accidentally going off. As he knew that it was the intention of an hon. Friend of his to move for a Commission of Inquiry into the whole of that alarming affair, he would not enter into the further particulars involved in it, nor allude to the artful steps taken to establish that some of those tenantry had been offered considerable sums for their interests; but this he averred—that the greater number of those tenants who, by compulsion, agreed to the increased rents, were hopelessly in debt and in arrear of rent, and that the result would be evictions for non-payment of rent, which would preclude the tenants from any compensation for disturbance—a new method of evading the provisions of the Land Act. Well, he had been hopeful that Mr. Buckley would have stayed his exterminating hand, Mr. Bridge having, in a letter published in The Manchester Guardian, stated that the 55 tenants whom he (Mr. Downing) said were doomed to eviction were not, and need not fear eviction. And yet what had taken place! That the notices to quit and ejectments were still being persevered in. At the Clonmel Sessions, 1877, 31 ejectments on notices to quit were entered, and some 14 at the Limerick Sessions. At the Clonmel Sessions, held last month, there were 16 capricious evictions pronounced, the Judge humanely staying execution for some months, and four similar ejectments at Limerick. Twenty-seven other families were awaiting a similar fate at the approaching Sessions, with regard to which printed notices of a most unique character had been considerately given by Bridge in the following words:— Mountain Lodge, January 29th, 1878.—I hereby give you timely notice of my intention to have you served with ejectment processes for the next quarter sessions or county court to be held at Clonmel in pursuance of the notice to quit, which terminated your tenancy on the 29th of September last, so that you may have ample time to serve the notices which the law requires to enable you to put in your claims for compensation at the Land Court which will then and there be held.—PATTEN S. BRIDGE, Agent for Nathaniel Buckley, Esq. The House would observe that it was the intention of Bridge that was communicated, and the object of it was obviously to create alarm and terror and submission to the will of this unfeeling agent. He (Mr. Downing) felt he might now part with Mr. Buckley and his unfortunate tenantry on the Galtees by offering a portion of the evidence given on the trial in Dublin to the inspection of the House—namely, three photographs of the habitations on that mountain property, 1,500 feet above the level of the sea. He would continue by stating other instances of the ill-treat-ment of tenants. Only last month, at Bantry, in the county of Cork, before Mr. Ferguson, the County Judge, eject- meat cases on notices to quit were tried, and although not of the magnitude of Mr. Buckley's, they were fully equal, if not in excess, in injustice and oppression. The cases were reported in all the country papers, in which an agent named Campion figured as a worthy colleague of Bridge. The plaintiffs were three sisters, married ladies, the daughters of the late Captain W. P. White. The first case tried was against a man named Cornelius Kelleher, tenant of part of the lands of Ratooragh, where he and his family lived for many years. He improved the land, and when he did so his rent was from time to time increased to £16 16s. per year. This Mr. Campion became agent in May, 1876. He lived some 80 miles distant from the lands. He visited the lands once for nine hours, and his first act was to serve the tenantry—he (Mr. Downing) believed 17 in number—with notices to to quit their farms on the 1st November last. Now, he would ask the attention of the House to the treatment of these tenantry by this agent, as given in evidence by himself. The following document was put into his hands, which he admitted to be in his handwriting, and which he had served upon the various tenants— Ratooragh, 9th of August, 1876. Mr. Con Kelleher—Unless you to-morrow, at 9 o'clock, execute a lease of your farm at £30 a-year I shall increase my terms to £40 a-year, and my attorney's full charges of three guineas for the lease.—N. G.CAMPION. That case was typical of the several other cases tried; but he would mention one other. The defendant was Roger Mahony, whose rent, when Captain White purchased, was £13 a-year. Prom time to time it was raised to £19, and a similar document was sent to him calling on him to execute forthwith a lease at £24 a-year, and stating that if he did not, the rent would be raised to £29. Now, all the improvements, including even roads, were made by the tenants under the following threatening letter signed by Captain White, the original purchaser— Cork, April 21st, 1856.—To the tenants of the lands of Ratooragh—I have to request that you, and each of you, will aid and assist in repairing the roads leading from your farms, and in improving your farms, otherwise I will he under the necessity of serving you with a notice to quit, and get other tenants that will assist in doing so. I have aided you in draining your farms, and I have not increased your rents; but, in future, I will charge a higher rent if I improve without your assistance. I wish each of you to purchase as much lime as will do your houses, and draw it home. Given under my hand, W. P. WHITE. Now, the County Judge had the confidence and respect of all classes, and was not remarkable for his leanings towards the tenantry in carrying out the provisions of the Land Act; therefore, the House would regard more any observations coming from him than from himself (Mr. Downing). What did he say in giving his judgment granting decrees, except in some cases which were dismissed upon technical grounds? In alluding to his experience, he said— That whenever a landlord made a fair and equitable demand upon his tenants, he was met fairly and properly, and the matter settled out of court in a fair spirit. He could say from his own knowledge—and he was confirmed by the opinion of a gentleman of the highest position as a landlord and agent both in England and Ireland—that there was not in the world a tenantry more disposed to act fairly and justly to the landlords than the tenantry of Ireland. In every case they were found submitting to any fair and reasonable proposal, although it might increase the rental put upon them. In the cases heard yesterday, the increase of rent from time to time came out in evidence. It was almost an annual increase. They had first the rent paid in 1845. At that time land may have been let under its value; but, at all events, in 1853 the state of the country had then assumed its fair letting value. Well, then, there was an increase in the rental in 1853, and from that period there seemed to have been a steady, gradual increase in the amount demanded from these tenants until the present, when it was proposed to raise the rent in some cases to double what it had been in 1853. Unquestionably that was a very large, in fact, too large, an increase. If there was nothing more in the cases except the evidence afforded by the rental, the present demand would seem to be unreasonable; but they had one of the tenants deposing 'that in spite of all his improvements, all his industry, it would be impossible for him to exist, and to pay the rent now demanded.' It must be obvious to everyone that if these cases were persevered in to the bitter end in the spirit evinced hitherto, the results, public and private, must be mischievous and deplorable. He could not believe that any landlord would persevere in cases like these if he were aware of all the facts of the antecedents of these tenants, of their improvements, and their present position. Nor could there be a more convincing illustration of the condition of the occupiers of land in Ireland, and of the inadequacy of the Land Act to prevent capricious evictions. The action of the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich was an honest, and, he might admit, a bold endeavour to give security of tenure to the occupiers of land. He would, however, venture to say that no hon. Member for Ireland would say that the Land Act had given that security, and it was now in their power, as a strong Government—and it was their duty—to carry into practical effect that which the Parliament of 1870 intended. They had, during their four years of office, not done one single act of justice or conciliation to the people of Ireland. They had now the opportunity, and he would tell them they ought not to lose it. He could multiply cases of capricious evictions; but it would only weary the House; therefore, he would only give one other case of eviction from different motives, at the same Sessions, and before the same Judge, in the case of Beamish against Sullivan. The tenant was long upon the lands, had paid his rent to the last gale day, and upon examination of the plaintiff's son, it appeared that the eviction took place because the defendant voted at the election of a Guardian as he thought right, and refused to vote according to the bidding of the landlord. Now he came to the provisions of the Bill, and he did not think he need go over-minutely into them; its recital conveyed its object, that being that provision should be effectually made to enable the occupiers of land to hold it upon such sufficient security of tenure as should induce them to make improvements and the land more productive for the public good. The Bill was divided into three parts. The first had reference to the Ulster custom of tenant-right, and he considered that it would be an unjustifiable consumption of time if he were now to enter into that part of the Bill, the subject having been so lately discussed on the Bill of his hon. Friend the Member for Down (Mr. Sharman Crawford), and likely to be again on the Bill brought in by the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland). The second part, commencing with the 13th section, contained provisions for the amendment of the Land Act. That section, and the 14th, were absolutely necessary in consequence of the decision made by the County Judges, and affirmed on appeals with which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland was conversant—that where a tenant entered into a new agreement with his landlord after notice to quit determining his tenancy, by which the former terms were altered, that the tenant thereby lost all claim to the improvements which he had previously made, and to which he would have been entitled had he been evicted. It was clear that that was not the intention of the framers of the 18th section of the Act, which was an Amendment by Sir Roundell Palmer. The 15th section would repeal the 12th section of the present Act, which allowed a tenant valued at £50 a-year and upwards to contract himself out of the benefit of the Act. He might here observe that there was no such provision in the Bill when originally introduced, the provision being introduced in Committee when the limit was fixed at £100 per annum; but in the Lords it was reduced to £50; therefore the clause was a fair matter for discussion in Committee. The 16th and 17th sections provided for compensation to tenants, to which he would take for granted no hon. Member could object. The 18th section went to qualify the 14th section of the Act, which disentitled a tenant under the 3rd section of the Act, who might be evicted, for the exercise of a right from which he was debarred by agreement, and the clause would then give the Judge in such a case power, in awarding compensation, to take into account the conduct of such tenant. The 19th section was an important one —embracing one of the cardinal objects to be attained, and that was power to the Judge to determine the fair value of lands, and for that purpose enabling him to call to his assistance two referees, one to be appointed by the landlord and the other by the tenant; but whose opinion need not be binding upon the Judge. Now, there were many precedents for the intervention of arbitrators, and for ascertaining the value of land by taking the average price of agricultural produce for a certain number of years; and in the Land Act itself Courts of Arbitration were recognized. The 20th clause was a modification of a similar one in the Land Act of 1870. It gave power to the Judge, if he should think it neces- sary, to have the aid of a jury upon matters of fact. The 21st clause enlarged the scope of the 32nd section of the Act by enabling landlord and tenant to carry out the provisions of that section by a grant in perpetuity, subject to a fee-farm rent, instead of an absolute conveyance of the fee. The 22nd clause provided that no tenancy could be determined save by a notice to quit served 12 months previously, and expiring on the last gale day of the year. Now there was a curious history connected with the object of that clause. When the Land Bill went from that House to the House of Lords it contained a similar provision; but the House of Lords, in its wisdom, altered the clause so as to contain the form requiring but six months' notice. In 1875 the present Parliament passed the Agricultural Holdings Act for England, probably the greatest sham ever practised by a political Party on their unsuspicious, but duped supporters. However, it contained that just and useful provision requiring 12 months' notice to quit, and therefore since that Act became law, 12 months' notice was required to terminate a tenancy in that country. The late Sir Colman O'Loghlen and he (Mr. Downing) in a former Session introduced a Bill to assimilate the law in Ireland. It passed that House without one word of opposition, indeed with the full assent of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland. But the House of Lords again, in its superior judgment, rendered the Bill almost valueless, by making it only prospective—that was, as to tenancies created after the passing of the Act. Those facts spoke for themselves, and must convince the public outside of the difficulties which Irish Members had to contend with in obtaining the simplest concessions. The 24th, 52th, and 26th clauses required no explanation or comment, and with them ended the clauses providing for amendment in the Land Act. He would venture to think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite would, even if inclined, find it difficult to urge any arguments against any of them; but he would probably say, as he did upon another debate in reference to the Land Question— That there were a great many things in the Bill that he thought unobjectionable, but, on the whole, he could not recommend the adoption of it to the House. If he would say so in reference to that Bill, he (Mr. Downing) hoped he would be somewhat more explicit, and inform the House what portions of the Bill, if any, he considered objectionable, and how far his Government were prepared to go in the direction of it. To the third part of the Bill he (Mr. Downing) had reason to believe that objections would be offered. If so, he thought it was because it was misunderstood. The 27th clause provided that any occupying tenant entitled to compensation on disturbance under the 3rd section of the Act should be entitled to claim the benefit which that part purported to confer. The 33rd section defined what that benefit was—namely, a declaration of tenancy from the Judge at the rent therein specified. He thought it would be convenient to go at once to the clauses by which that rent was to be ascertained. The 44th section gave the mode, that was—the rent should be that which a solvent tenant could pay, fairly and without collusion, after deducting from such rent the additional letting value by the improvements made by the tenant. If the landlord and tenant did not agree—which, he thought, they would in 19 cases out of 20—then, under subsequent clauses, arbitrators would decide, one appointed by the landlord and one by the tenant, and the third by the Judge. The arbitrators would be sworn, and the Judge would have the power to set aside an award for fraud or misconduct. At the end of 21 years the landlord or the tenants might apply to vary the rent according to the average price of agricultural produce as set forth in the 62nd clause. That was already done in the case of property belonging to Trinity College, Dublin. The 39th clause enabled the tenant to have a labourer's cottage for every 25 acres. It was so in the Land Bill of 1870. Now, he thought, he had gone through all the important clauses of the Bill, and having had the advantage of hearing the objections made in the last Session, he could deal with them, and hoped to refute them. They came principally from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kerry (Mr. Herbert), who moved the rejection of the Bill, and the right hon. Baronet the late Chief Secretary for Ireland. The hon. Member for Kerry designated the Bill "a Land Transfer instead of a Land Tenure Bill." He said under it the landlord would be a mere rent-charger in the country, and would have nothing to induce him to remain in the country; that by giving perpetuity of tenure they would transfer five years' annual value to the tenants, the perpetuity being worth that, and he strongly objected to the 40th clause, giving power to sub-divide. He (Mr. Downing) hoped to be able to satisfy the hon. Member that he had misunderstood the effects of the Bill, and that if the hon. Member could see that he did, he would own it, and in candour admit it. An annuitant was a person deriving a fixed income from land by a deed of annuity or mortgage, and who had no further interest in the land, or power over it, and a perpetuity in the sense understood by the hon. Member would be the same as a fee-farm grant, reserving a rent fixed and unalterable. Now, under that Bill the landlord would possess every right, privilege, and power which he did at this moment, save and except the power of capricious eviction to extort exorbitant rents, for the prevention of which the Land Act was passed, but failed to achieve. He would first, however, recall attention to the 36th clause, which reserved to the landlord all royalties, mines, minerals and quarries, and game. The 35th clause also gave implied covenants for payment of rent, against sub-letting, against assigning, and against waste. Now, what power beyond those which he had enumerated did the landlord possess at the present moment, and so far from being merely an annuitant, the rent might vary at the end of every 21 years, according to the interest of either landlord or tenant, and because, in many cases, the declaration of tenancy was but security of tenure. Then there remained of the hon. Gentleman's objections that with reference to the power given by the 40th section to assign not less than 30 acres where the farm consisted of 60, provided that the 30 acres' rent be not less in value than £30; and while the consequences which he apprehended might arise as described by him, in reference to a small Roscommon estate of 164 acres, on which he said there were 222 tenants, he (Mr. Downing) was not at all prepared to say that there was not much weight in another objection which he put—namely, that on a large farm on which there was one suitable house and out-offices, it would be injurious to the landlord in every point of view to have this large farm cut into three or four 30-acre farms. Therefore, it would not only be a matter to be discussed in Committee, but expressing his own opinion, he should be sorry to lose the Bill by retaining the clause. Then the right hon. Baronet the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, in that former debate, asked— What reason had there been shown to the House for this change beyond an old story of landlord tyranny in Ireland, composed of anecdotes dating from any period within the last 500 years, except the present time. What proof had been shown that the revolution in the interest of the tenant and against the landlord was really required?"—[3 Hansard, ccxxviii. 815.] He (Mr. Downing) hoped that the House would agree with him when he alleged that he had given the extremest cases of oppression and disregard of all equity and justice as could possibly occur in any well-governed society; and similar cases he might have given, but feared that he might weary the House. Had he not, further, by the Returns of evictions, to which he had already referred, given startling proof—if proof could prevail—that protection to the occupiers of land in Ireland was a crying necessity. They did more for the ryots of India by Statutes passed in 1868 and 1869, called the Punjaub and Bengal Tenancy Acts, by which they prevented the Chiefs and Zemindars from enhancing rents, save upon grounds specified, and every tenant had the same right to an abatement of rent for other causes, all such claims being cognizable by the collectors of land revenue. The recitals to those Acts were worth hearing. They said— Whereas (amongst other things) that it is expedient to the prevention of illegal exaction and extortion in connection with the demands of rent; and went on to enact as he had stated. This they did against a memorial and protest signed by all the Chief Rajahs and gentlemen of the Presidency. But what had they lately done in Prince Edward Island? They had there, by an Act sanctioned by the present Government, actually compelled every proprietor of land in that island to sell his property, although Petitions in the strongest language were presented praying that the Royal Assent might not be given to the Bill. They had appointed Commissioners, one of whom was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers), to fix the purchase money, and if refused by the owner it was lodged to his credit; and at that moment there was not one of the old proprietors of that island in possession of an acre of his estate. He would conclude by referring to the prosperity and happiness enjoyed by the inhabitants of the Channel Islands by reason of their having perpetuity of tenure. The following extract from the history of Guernsey, by Jonathan Duncan, Esq., would best illustrate it. He said— The plan of leases for seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years, together with the tenancies from year to year, and others as well, is bad in principle, as these tenures merely convey a temporary interest, terminable at a date specified. The working farmer thus becomes a bird of passage, without any fixed home. He may be prudent, industrious, and sober, a good father, a good husband, a good master, a good neighbour, and a good citizen; but these virtues avail him nothing. He lives in a state of agricultural servitude, and at the expiration of his lease the capricious spite of his landlord may expel him from his farm. Widely different is the condition of the Guernsey men. Once possessed of land, he can never lose it except by his own fault, and he continues absolute lord of the property. He feels proud of his position, and the spirit of independence is within him. He is not classed among the locomotive machines of humanity, who in Great Britain and Ireland are shifted from county to county, seeking a precarious subsistence. No; he has a stake in the country, though it may be small. He can say, with honest pride—' This house is mine; that field is mine; and when I die the law will give them to my children.' Enable the Irishman to say the same, and Ireland would become a second Guernsey. He had to apologize to the House for the great length at which he had addressed it, and to express his thankfulness for the patience with which he had been heard. The hon. Gentle-concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. M'Carthy Downing.)


in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, he had been challenged to defend the conduct of Mr. Buckley, or of Mr. Bridge, his agent; but that had no reference to the question raised by this measure. With regard to certain evictions which were said to have taken place in the county of Tyrone, the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland had last year proved by figures that evictions in Ireland, except for non-payment of rent, were exceedingly few. That was in print. In the short space of three weeks Parliament had been called upon for the second time to consider and amend the Land Laws of Ireland. He much preferred the present Bill, extravagant as it was. to that of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Sharman Crawford), which was disposed of the other day, with an odium probandi which was less likely to be mistaken. He thought it must appear extraordinary to the House that after the exhaustive labours of Parliament at so short a time ago as 1870, it should now be thought necessary to re-open the whole question of the Land Laws. The Bill, in his opinion, instead of amending, subverted the fundamental principles of the Land Act. It had been stated over and over again, and not contradicted, that the Land Act of Ireland afforded to the tenants in Ireland greater security and protection than was afforded to the tenants of the other parts of the United Kingdom. That being so, it was surely monstrous to introduce, week after week, Bills to amend the Land Laws of Ireland, as if tenants had not got any protection from the law at all. What were the principles of the Bill? They might be summed up in certain terms of agitation, which were well known as "fixity of tenure"—what were called "fair rents," and "free sale." Political economists had, however, searched and probed those principles to the bottom, and had come to the conclusion they were fallacies. Although they had a specious exterior, they had another skin inside which would not bear the light of day. Fixity of tenure itself, to dispose of it in a few words, whilst it would claim for the good tenant that he should not be disturbed, it was altogether forgotten that it secured to a bad tenant the right of remaining in perpetuity without fear of eviction, which surely no one would contend to be a desirable thing. Another thing which an hon. Member who had spoken with pride of his own tenantry would wish to see in existence was "fair rents," as they were called. Well, the first prin- ciple of fair rents was that the landlords should have no power to say what the values of lands which he let should be, and that the amount of rent was not left to his choice at all. He had a right to nominate an arbitrator; but, on the other hand, the tenant had a right to nominate another. Should they disagree, a third, the assistant barrister for the county, was to be called in, and his decision was to be final. Therefore the landlord would be in the position of having two to one against him. ["No, no!"] At all events, according to his experience. According to all recognized principles of fixture, the landlord was the person who had the right to say what was the value of the farm which was about to be let. The third principle was that of "free sale." Nobody would wish to oppose the right of selling that which was the tenant's property. The only ground of opposition was that he should not at the same time sell that which did not belong to him. But by the Bill he was allowed to sell not only his own interest in the farm, but that which belonged to the landlord. Surely if the tenant had been holding for a long term under moderate rents, low rents, such as the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Downing) charged his tenants, for instance; if he had been holding under low rates, and then had a right to sell the farm to the highest bidder, he not only sold what belonged to himself, but he sold the advantage he had had for years in holding below the actual value of the farm. That was undoubtedly the property of the landlord. This fact had been so thoroughly sifted and analyzed by a distinguished political economist, who put the matter so undeniably before the minds of his audience, that it was impossible to contradict him. A great authority—one who, from time to time, illumined the minds of his audience with political economy and wisdom in Ireland —the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar)— had said in the course of last year, talking of this subject— The landlords are an idle class, and ought to be removed. The best remedy that I see for this is fixity of tenure. That, at least, was a comprehensive criticism, and, coming from such a source, would be valued at what it was worth. Under the Bill the power to evict was totally inoperative, and a bad tenant became practically immovable. It had also been said that the land for agricultural purposes in Ireland had been for many years held on tenancy from year to year, and that it had been found by experience that such a tenure was not sufficient either to ensure to the industrious occupier the benefits of his industry, or to encourage occupiers to apply their best energies to the cultivation of the land; but he (Sir John Leslie) said boldly that the best farmers in Ireland at the present moment were those who held from year to year, and that the man who showed enterprize and industry in the cultivation of his farm never feared eviction. There was no question about it that Ulster was acknowledged to be the seat of the best cultivation, and the best farmers there did not hold from year to year. To give a case in point, he would say that before the passing of the Land Act, Commissioners were sent to Ulster to report upon the state of agriculture in that Province, and in their Report they said— We have found the standard of agriculture higher in the Province of Ulster than we expected, but judge of our astonishment on coming on the best-tilled farm we have ever seen in any country. He (Sir John Leslie) was bound to say that farm was part of the property he had inherited from his ancestors, and which they had possessed for generations. The tenant had never found the necessity of any alteration of the tenure, and had found nothing to prevent him putting the whole of his substance into the land, and the result was that the commendation he received was the greatest that could be bestowed upon the agriculturist in the country. Another defect of the measure was that the device of sub-letting was re-introduced into it; they had again the abomination of the middlemen forced upon the country. In fact, the landlord was deprived by the Bill of every single right now remaining to him—except that of receiving his rent, which was to be valued by somebody else, and, as an hon. Friend close to him said—"if he could get it." It was, certainly, pleasing in the course of 69 clauses to hit upon one in which he agreed; and he would admit his agreement with Clause 7, which provided that the Ulster custom should take effect in leasehold property. That was the recognized custom in Ulster with respect to leaseholds, and if it was not at this moment part of the Land Act, it was merely an instance of omission which easily admitted of rectification. Such an error was not by any means sufficient to necessitate half a dozen different Land Bills, and more especially it was totally insufficient to justify bringing into existence such a Bill as that he held in his hand. The Bill, he was bound to say, was as full of vices as mortal life was full of sin. It was not that Ireland required better Land Laws—she required better cultivation; and if hon. Gentlemen opposite would bestow upon the people of Ireland as much care in counselling them to improve their lands as they did in getting up Bills, they would do more good. Not even from the hon. and learned Member himself (Mr. Butt), whom he was sorry to see absent, from him down to the hon. Member for Cavan, none had ever lectured the husbandmen of Ireland upon the improvement of the cultivation of their land. If they could only prove to the tenants that they could obtain a third more out of the land, they would effect that which they had hitherto failed in doing—to confer on them a lasting and enduring benefit. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving the rejection of the Bill.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Sir John Leslie.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, that after the able exposition of the Bill which was made by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Downing), it was not his intention to expatiate upon or to go into its particulars, for he knew there were many hon. Members sitting on both sides of the House who were far more eloquent and abler to enter into that question than he was; but he could not for one moment divest himself of the feeling that in his position, having no slight interest in the Irish Land Question, it behoved him to say a few words in favour of the second reading of the Bill. Year after year they had brought in a Land Bill, and year after year they invariably had to return to Ireland with the message that that House could not agree to it. As regarded what the hon. Baronet the Member for Monaghan (Sir John Leslie) had said, he (Lord Francis Conyngham) regretted that from his experience, having lived many years in a certain part of Ulster, he could not agree with him. He was not one of those who believed that the Land Tenure Bill would interfere for one moment with the just rights of the landlord, where there were right feelings existing between the landlord and tenant. In fact, wherever the tenants were treated by their landords in a spirit of justice and kindness, the greatest good feeling existed between them, and in such cases there was hardly a necessity for the Bill. It was required, however, as a security and a protection against unjust landlords, who, however, he was happy to say— thank God for it!—were in a minority in Ireland. He would mention a circumstance which related to his old Friend, Tom Conolly, the late Member for Donegal. Some of his estates got into the Encumbered Estates Court. The tenants of those estates, like the rest of his tenantry, were devoted to him, and when they heard his estates were going into the Court, they actually wrote him a letter, beseeching him for Heaven's sake not to barter his people, who were happy men, free-spoken and contented, on his property, and who were quite willing to have their rents raised to continue his tenants. Unfortunately it could not be done, and what was the result? He would not go into details, but bad feelings began to exhibit themselves. After a man had bought it who would have his pound of flesh, Rib-bonism began to show its head, and discontent spread. In pleading for the second reading of the Bill, he thought the House should remember that, speaking for both sides of the House, there were landlords such as the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Kavanagh) and other hon. Members who were pattern landlords, and if all landlords treated their tenantry as these hon. Members did, there would be no occasion for a Bill of this kind. As far back as 1857, when he first had the honour of a seat in the House, then comparatively a boy, there was a miserable attempt to deal with the question. The Bill was treated with sneers, and met with few supporters. He remembered the division well, and he said at the time it was a pity to treat the measure in that way. The day would come when it would become one of the greatest political questions, and he had lived to see it become the subject of a Government Bill of the greatest magnitude. He thanked the Government of the day for passing the Act of 1870; but that Act required amendment, and he believed that with good handling, the present measure would settle satisfactorily this important question, which had been the cause of estrangement between landlord and tenant, and of so much misery to the country. Every time this Land Bill came before the House, the same unfavourable answer went back to Ireland—they would not even look at in Committee. Was it fair or just to treat the measure in that way? He appealed to the House to let the Bill go into Committee, and then the objectionable clauses might be cut and carved away. If all hon. Members knew how that Land Question touched the heart of the people of Ireland, they would not refuse to deal with it. Many things had been said about the question, and those who supported it; but a public man did not mind that, and for his part such attacks fell like water on a duck's back. Some of his family might hold different views in politics, but he was glad to say, all held the principle of live and let live on the estates. If the Bill were allowed to go into Committee, it would show that the House was disposed to meet the wishes of the people of Ireland, and to deal with the question in a favourable spirit, and as an amendment to the Land Act. It was no use for the House to say that having passed the Land Bill, there was an end to the Land Question. If they decided on rejecting the Bill, he could assure them that it would be brought forward again and again, just as year after year for 20 years the Ballot Bill was brought forward, and he ventured to say that, like other measures of justice which had been scornfully refused, it would ultimately become the law of the land. He voted for the Ballot in 1857, and he had lived to see it carried. He believed that if they persevered they must inevitably pass some good measure at last. He was not a Member having the gift of eloquence, and generally preferred to listen; but he felt that was an occasion when the House should know there was a determination to persevere with the question. In the remarks of the hon. Baronet the Member for Monaghan, he was sorry to find a disposition to prejudge the case, and to suppose that under the clauses by which landlord and tenant appointed an arbitrator, there would be a foregone conclusion against the landlord. For his own part, he had the utmost anxiety to deal justly with the landlord, whom he valued as highly as any man; but he was willing to give up his seat, and 50 chances of a seat if by so doing he could hope to see the Land Question settled in a happy manner. Do not let hon. Members say the law was passed. Let the Bill go before Committee, for it was no use calling the Land Act of 1870 a messenger of peace to Ireland while that Act needed amendment.


said, he was glad to hear the assurance of the noble Lord the Member for Clare (Lord Francis Conyngham) that the bad landlords of Ireland were in a minority, because his hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Downing) founded all his arguments upon the necessity of the Bill by stating the number of ejectments, and led the House to believe that the Irish landlords were, as a class, bad. He (Mr. Kavanagh) had listened throughout his remarks, but had only heard reference made to the case of Mr. Bridge, or Mr. Buckley, and another case under the name of Sullivan; and the last name he did not remember ever having heard of. So far as his own experience went, he did not think that numerous evictions had taken place. The hon. Member, however, was stating what he believed to be facts, and it was to be presumed he had satisfied himself of their correctness; but from what he (Mr. Kavanagh) had heard, the hon. Member must have mixed up the notices to quit for non-payment of rent with evictions. He did not think there could be numerous cases of notices to quit such as the hon. Member had referred to. In his opinion, they could not occur without some noise being made upon the subject in the newspapers. The hon. Member then referred to the conduct of landlords when their tenants had made improvements in a manner which, so far as his (Mr. Kavanagh's) knowledge went, was not borne out by fact. He had never heard of such cases, and without wishing to throw doubt on the sincerity with which the statements were made, he should like to see such cases as those mentioned substantiated. The hon. Member went on to hold out the example to this country of what was done with the landlords of Prince Edward's Island. But there was one great difference between the way in which landlords there were dealt with, and the method 'proposed in the present Bill. The Government in Prince Edward's Island paid the landlords a price; but the hon. Member opposite proposed to sweep away all the landlords' rights and pay them nothing. That was a very great difference in the two cases. He must say that when he came to treat of the Bill that he thought hon. Members on both sides of the House had good reasons to complain of being brought down to the House during the latter end of the 19th century to argue first principles. The noble Lord who spoke last complained that motions for their approval or adoption were neither approved or adopted. They complained of that, and some said they were not listened to, and others that they were sick of being listened to. However, the result was the House did not accept the proposal. They argued, therefore, the only way to gain their purpose was by a Home Pule Parliament. He (Mr. Kavanagh) must ask the House whether there was not a sufficient answer to that complaint in the Bill before them? He would ask the House whether the Bill they were now considering did not afford as cogent, as efficacious an answer to what the Home Rulers demanded as could well be given? Was it a reason that because a Home Pule Parliament in College Green would pass the Bill that the House of Commons should? So far from that being so, it offered very strong reasons against entrusting to a Home Rule Parliament at College Green the power of legislating for property. He would ask the House to consider the Bill quietly from this point of view. The Bill was a proposal that re-opened the whole Land Question in Ireland which was settled in 1870 by the Act then passed. It was then gone into most carefully, and legislation was carried to an extent that many believed scarcely possible. That Act was agreed to by many as a compromise, and one that went further than many hon. Members at the time approved of. The result of it was the present Bill, which was not only a proposal to re-open the entire Land Question; but it was a proposal in the coolest, most unwarrantable manner, to hand over what little was left to the landlords to the occupiers. No reason was given for that, except that the occupiers wished it, and as he had no doubt there were many people in the world to whom a slice from their neighbour's possessions would be an advantage, so he believed there were some people who in the inmost recesses of their hearts would be glad to have the slice. But he did not think there were many men with sufficient assurance to avow it. That there were some the Bill gave evidence of, and it was the embodiment of their wishes. He hoped, however, the House would agree with him in thinking that confiscation had already gone far enough, and that it was time to draw a line somewhere and fix some boundary to the encroachments on the rights of property. The Preamble of the Bill which he had read offered a sort of revolutionary lecture upon political economy, the substance of which was that discontent prevailed in Ireland because the Irish people had not possession of the land, and with that possession a right to sell. That must not be forgotten, and that it was discontent that acted as a deterrent to the industry of the country, and prevented that peace which should exist. Now, he thought that Preamble—by merely changing the text of the lecture, and by a few transpositions of words—might be made to refer to any kind of property. By the same argument, hon. Members who were in support of that principle might govern with as much justice all kinds of property. It would be said that the titles of land were quite distinct from that of any other property; but he did not think it was so very different from the case of the merchant or shipowner, who did not possess a stronger title than he did to his land. They had inherited and they had bought their property. So had the landlords, and, as far as that went, the same argument might apply to property in each case. It appeared to be generally accepted as a principle of political economy that, if an owner made a bad use of his property—a use detrimental to the common weal—then the Government had a right to interfere. The Irish landlords were assumed to have come under that ban, and in 1870, the Land Act was in- troduced and passed, and, as all imagined, the complaints against the landlords were effectually stopped. It went, in the opinion of many, even further than that. But he would not stop to argue that point now. What had been the effect of that legislation? Its result was the present Bill. The Irish tenant learned what he could gain by agitation. He was taught the cry—"I have got so much now; I must have more." He had got so much, and he held his land at an advantageous tenure as compared with his class in England and in Scotland; but that did not satisfy him, he still cried for more; and claimed now the fee-simple of the land, subject to a rent-charge. Did the House suppose that was all that was wanted, and that the same cry for more would not follow, and that the rent-charge would not soon follow the fee? The first part of the Bill he hardly thought required much notice; inasmuch as, though not verbally, it was practically the same as the Bill which, 14 days ago, was rejected by the House. It appeared strange to him that the Standing Orders of the House should permit hon. Members to introduce a question the issue of which had been definitely settled in the same Session; but he was sure, if the Bill was technically out of Order, attention would have been called to it. The promoters might shield themselves on that score, by saying of that part of the Bill that, though the same in principle as that of the hon. Member for Down (Mr. Crawford), it extended the principle. He thought that, so far as words went, the present Bill took an even wider scope on one point— namely, the 5th clause. The proposition was to extend the provisions of what was known as the Ulster custom to holdings which had never yet been subject to it now. He did not understand much about Ulster matters, but when it was proposed to extend a custom—to which there were many objections—to holdings never before subject to it, he thought it was hardly fair. The second part of the Bill dealt consistently with the subject, he admitted, for it was framed in the same spirit of confiscation that was the leading feature of the whole, which characterized the Act of 1870, unsettling what had been settled, and re-opening the ground for agitation. Clause 15, to read it shortly, merely repealed the 12th section of the Act of 1870. Perhaps there were many hon. Members present who were not in the House during the passing of the Act in 1870, so it would be no harm to explain what that section was. In 1870, one of the great arguments used in favour of the passing of that Act was, that the Irish tenant was of such a simple nature, such a dependent character, that he was unable to defend his own interest against a landlord, therefore it was thought necessary to protect the tenant from being forced by the landlord to renounce the benefits given by the Act. The words in the 3rd and 4th clauses were— That any contract entered into by the tenant by virtue of which he is deprived of the right to ask compensation under this section, shall, so far as relates to this claim, be void in law and equity. But it was shown afterwards that there was a class of tenants just as well to do, just as independent, just as intelligent, and able to take care of themselves as the landlords—in fact, he did not think he was saying anything not true when he said there were some of them richer than the landlords themselves. It was shown that there was such a class who could not be classed as imbecile, and for them the 12th section was passed. The effect of that was to exclude holdings of the value of £50 from the clause for compensation, in cases where the tenant should have made a contract with the landlord not to make any such claim, virtually preserving to the tenant a right to make a contract. Clause 15 of the present Bill, then, repealed this enactment, and applied the stigma of imbecility to every class of Irish tenantry. Upon that, without comment, he would leave the House to judge. Coming to Clause 16, he did not attach much importance to it, for it was rather thrown into shadow by other parts of the Bill. Clause 18 repealed Clause 14 of the Act of 1870. The effect of that clause was, that if a tenant did any waste to the holding—did anything he was not entitled to do—committed any act of breach of agreement made with the landlord—if he did these things the landlord might evict without compensation. Clause 18 repealed that. [An hon. MEMBER: Only in part.] Well, though it was only in part, the result was, that the tenant was given the right to waste and do many things with the holding he should not be allowed to do. Another part of Clause 14 of the Act justified the landlord in evicting if the tenant refused to let him walk over the land. Clause 18 repealed that; for a right to go over the land, the landlord was referred to the Court of Equity. He would not refer to other clauses in Part II. Clause 22 and 23 he might dwell on. Their effect was to unsettle again the whole matter of notices to quit which were settled by the assistance of the late right hon. and learned Member for Clare (Sir Colman O'Loghlen), whose loss nobody regretted more than he (Mr. Kavanagh) did, and especially in connection with this question. Proceeding to Part III., what filled him with wonder was, that hon. Members who had devised it should have given themselves the trouble to devise Parts I. and II.; because, if Part II. became law, the inconsistencies and, if he might be excused the word, the iniquities of the first two parts were merged into the third. The effect of Part III. was simply this—if the tenant of any holding in Ireland wished to possess himself of the fee simple of the land, he might go to the Chairman of Quarter Sessions, who, being satisfied that the claimant was the real occupier, should give a certificate that he was so, and by that certificate the tenant, by the provisions of that Bill, would acquire the fee-simple subject to a rent-charge. But as far as he (Mr. Kavanagh) could gather, that rent-charge was subject to sundry and divers reductions. To the other claims he would not refer. Clause 22 provided for notices to quit; but what was the use of a notice to quit when the landlord had no power to evict. The clause he would just say a word about was Clause 35. That clause, he understood, was intended as a sort of compensation balance, and was not unimportant—that clause enacted that the tenant should pay his rent on the 1st May and the 1st November, but the usual days were March and September. ["No, no!"] He only gave his own opinion of what was the custom in his part of the world. Well, the effect would be that the landlord would lose a part of his income for the year that the Bill came into operation; then the clause went on to say that the tenant should not sub-let without consent of the landlord, or use his holding for any purposes than those intended. With all that he quite agreed; but passing on, he found that all the good done by Clause 35 was undone by the clauses following. For Clause 38 allowed the letting of lodgings, conacre, the building of houses and cottages. When all that was done, he thought that the landlords would have a good deal to complain of. He would not trouble the House with further remarks, but conclude by saying he was sorry to be obliged to oppose Irish Members on the other side, but he did think that their asking him to accept such a proposal was rather hard lines. It was hard in 1870, but it was harder lines to come down now and discuss first principles, and he hardly believed the proposal was made in earnest. It was of such an extravagant nature that he could not believe that those hon. Members whose names were on the back of the Bill, and whom he had the honour to call his Friends, could be really in earnest in bringing it forward. The Bill was introduced not with any idea, belief, or expectation that it would ever be passed, but for the purpose of agitation—agitation which had been and ever would be, while it lasted, the curse of Ireland, which had stained her soil with blood and made her a bye-word among the nations.


said, his hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Downing), in the course of his interesting speech, entered at considerable length into the details of several recent instances showing the working of the Land Laws. The hon. Baronet who moved the rejection of the Bill (Sir John Leslie) complained that he did so, and regretted that so much time had been occupied in the discussion of what was called the Bridge and Buckley ease, and the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Kavanagh) also complained that so much time should have been taken up in discussing first principles. In advocating that important matter, there was one duty clearly before them, and that was that when first principles were misapplied, they should be able to show how they were misapplied. He did not intend to quarrel with, the hon. Member who spoke last for his remarks on the subject of Home Rule. But he thought it was a most inconvenient thing to complicate the discussion of one subject by introducing another. At the same time, the hon. Member made an admission which was worth noting. He was of opinion that if Home Rule were granted, a measure of this kind would be passed by an Irish Parliament. Without entering on the subject of Home Rule, he thought that the very fact that a Bill of that kind would be passed by an Irish Parliament was, at all events, good ground for the assumption that the measure was one which deserved the impartial and earnest consideration of the House. The hon. Member had said that no reason had been alleged for giving to the occupiers of land in Ireland what was demanded for them in the Bill, except that they wished for it as people, he said, very often wished for things which were not theirs. That was a statement which he (Mr. Blennerhassett) ventured to contradict, and the object of the few remarks he intended to make was to give some reasons which he hoped would prove satisfactory to the House that there were other grounds for their demand besides the ignoble desire on the part of one man to transfer to himself the property of another. The hon. Baronet who moved the rejection of the Bill had stated that no political economist ever expressed himself in favour of the principle involved in the measure now before the House. Unfortunately, the hon. Baronet did not cite the arguments of those political economists. He (Mr. Blennerhassett) had made a careful study for years of political economy, and he believed there was no political economist of eminence whose writings on this point he had not made himself acquainted with, and he was at a loss to know on what evidence the hon. Baronet based his assertion. The question at issue lay, he thought, within a narrow compass. The main point on which all that controversy about Irish land turned might be stated in a few words, and the closer the arguments were kept to that point the more practical and valuable would be the results of the discussion. The one question to be asked was—did the present circumstances of Ireland render it desirable on the part of the State to interfere with the relations of landlord and tenant in that country in such a manner that the landlord's power of indefinitely raising rent should be curtailed? The regulation of rent was the very essence of the proposal before the House. Now, the advocates of legislation in the direction of the Bill had to encounter at the very outset all the un- popularity which attached to the idea of any limitation of the power of individuals to enter freely into relations of contract with one another. What was to be said for a proposal like this Bill, which seemed to run counter to all these recent ideas of legislation—a proposal which had been called an attempt to artificially cheapen the price of land in favour of the individuals who now held farms in Ireland, and which, at first sight, at all events, appeared to limit the sphere of contract, and to enlarge the operation of positive law. His reply was, first, that those matters in which legislative interference had been found mischievous were essentially different from the matter in which it was now proposed; secondly, he denied that the proposal involved any real and substantial limitation of freedom of contract. Freedom of contract could not exist where one of the parties to the contract was wholly in the power of the other. And he maintained that there was no natural sense in which the rents of the peasant-farmers in Ireland could be said to be fixed by free contract according to the only rule of mercantile bargaining. They could not destroy or interfere with that which had never had any existence. He did not, of course, mean to say that there was no such thing in Ireland as free contract for the hire of land. He merely asserted that peasant-rents in that country were not, as a rule, fixed in accordance with the legitimate application of that principle. By peasant-rents he meant rents under that system of cottier tenure which might be taken to include all those cases in which the labourer made his contract for land without the intervention of a capitalist-farmer, and in which the condition of the contract— if contract it might be called—and especially the rent, were determined, not by custom, but by competition. It was to meet the peculiar conditions of this peasant-tenure, which had hardly any place in the agricultural system of England, that the proposal they were now discussing was devised, and it was with reference to that tenure that its merits had to be considered. He mentioned that there was, as regarded the duty of the State, a vital and a most important distinction between that tenure and the ordinary commercial treatment of land with which people were familiar in England and Scotland. It was always unsafe to assume that a principle which was generally true was true universally, and perhaps no principle was more in danger of this undue extension than the belief which seemed in some minds to be gaining ground that all economic teaching was summed up in letting things alone. He thought no one would dispute the proposition that it was essential to the welfare of an agricultural country that the cultivators of the soil, not being the owners of it, should hold the land on such terms as would afford them ordinary encouragement and fair remuneration. That, at least, was necessary to provide for the proper working of the land, and to secure the bulk of the population from being kept in a state of chronic misery and degradation. Now that end might be accomplished either by the operation of commercial principles, or by custom, or by direct enactment. In many parts of the Continent, and in Ulster, occupying tenants were protected by custom, to which sometimes, as in the case of the Ulster tenant-right, a positive legal sanction had been attached. Under the English and Scottish system the full play of commercial principles, acting between capitalists, farmers, and landlords had, generally speaking, a like effect. But wherever in the world, whether in Ireland or elsewhere, the cultivator did not in some way or other enjoy this protection, idleness and misery in the farming class, and in the end national decadence, were the results. A pamphlet called An Essay on the Commercial Principles Applicable to Contracts for the Hire of Land, written by his Grace the Duke of Argyll, and published last year by the Cobden Club, was an elaborate argument for the purely commercial treatment of the hiring of land, and a protest against anything beyond the most limited interference of the State in the relations of landlord and tenant. No one, he thought, would venture to maintain that Irish peasant-rents were limited by commercial considerations, or that there was any real similarity between the position of the Scottish capitalist and that of the Irish petty cultivator. An authority whom all economists would respect had described the working of the Irish system, and he ventured to call attention to the difference—"The produce," says Mr. Mill, speaking of the Irish cottiers' system— Being divided into two portions—that is, the rent of the land and the remuneration of the labourer—the one is evidently determined by the other. The labourer has whatever the landlord does not take. The condition of the labourer depends on the amount of rent. But rent being regulated by competition depends upon the relation between the demand for land and the supply of it. The demand for land depends upon the number of competitors, and the competitors are the whole rural population. The effect, therefore, is to bring the principle of population to act directly on the land, and not as in England, on capital. Rent in this state of things depends on the proportion between population and land. As the land is a fixed quantity, while population has an unlimited power of increase, unless something checks that increase, the competition for land soon forces up rent to the highest point consistent with keeping the population alive. It therefore followed that keeping nearly the whole population of the country just above the level of starvation, would be the necessary result of the rigorous application of the principle of free competition to the hiring of Irish land. That, in many instances, had been the actual result of that principle before one of the most terrible calamities which had ever visited a nation lessened, in a considerable degree, the pressure of population. The principle of competition, therefore, however admirable it might be, was not applicable to the case with which the House had to deal. No definite custom regulating rent could be said to exist in the three Southern Provinces. The good feeling of individual landowners, the sense of justice in some, the respect for public opinion in others; unfortunately, also, in certain districts the dread of agrarian outrage might practically moderate the demands for rent; but the fact was undeniable that the existing state of the land and the social condition of Ireland enabled landlords, if they chose, to exact in the form of rent the entire produce of the soil beyond what was necessary for the bare subsistence of the cultivators. It was equally certain that this power was occasionally used with great severity and hardship, and that the fact of its existence lay at the root of that widespread feeling of discontent and insecurity which was the main source of the industrial and political evils of Ireland. They asked the State, therefore, to assume the responsibility of saying what a fair rent was, and to declare that no landlord should be allowed to avail himself of the peculiar circumstances of the country to exact more than that fair rent for the land. They were willing to assent to any proposal to ascertain, in case of dispute, the fair value, valued in the most impartial manner; but they emphatically stated that no settlement of the Irish Land Question could be final or effectual which left to the landlord the power of indefinitely raising rent. While that power was retained, it would always be possible to defeat the most stringent provisions, and no means provided for the protection of the tenant would make him secure. They might think the English system of large farms cultivated by hired labour better than the Irish system. It might be so, but no one in his sober senses could think it possible to establish that system in Ireland. It would amount to a revolution in the ideas and habits of the people. They could not expect to establish it by abstaining from legislative interference and leaving the power of the landlord uncontrolled. That plan had been tried for many years, and had proved the most dismal of failures. It had now been partially abandoned, and restrictions and penalties previously unknown had been imposed upon the landowner. He did not see how the Act of 1870 was to introduce the English system into Ireland. It was rather a step in the other direction. In fact, it was based throughout on the assumption that the circumstances of Ireland were peculiar, and required special treatment. To establish the English agricultural economy in Ireland would involve two things. They would have to find a large number of capitalist-farmers, and and to reduce the bulk of the existing peasant-farmers to the condition of hired labourers. Such a project was too utterly impracticable to be worth discussion. The agricultural economy of Great Britain was exceptional, and it was only rendered tolerable by circumstances which did not exist in Ireland, or in most other countries. What they had to do was to legislate in the best way they could for the actual state of things. They should dismiss the idea from their minds that the Irish problem was parallel to any which had to be solved on this side of the Channel, or that anything they might do there would be a precedent for a similar course here. They could not set up artificially a large number of wealthy farmers in Ireland, nor divorce the existing cultivators from the soil, and transform them into hired labourers. What they had to do was this—to make the best of the existing tenants, and to surround them with the conditions which were universally recognized to be the most potent incitements to the prudential virtues—namely, security for the fruits of their labour, and a permanent interest in the soil. Do that, and they would not only have placed the one great industrial pursuit of the Irish people on a sound economical basis, but would have dried up the sources of a perennial spring of social and political trouble in Ireland. It was not necessary to interfere with the legitimate pecuniary rights, either actual or prospective, of a single landlord. Security of the occupier did not imply the nonpayment of rent, or the payment of anything less than a full rent. It meant simply freedom from capricious eviction, and protection from arbitrary exaction. Give that protection to the occupiers of land in Ireland, and they would raise up an element of stability in the population which would be the best guarantee of order and of progress. Two or three hundred thousand sturdy and independent peasants, seeing in the maintenance of law and order the secure and quiet enjoyment of their fields and firesides, would banish far more effectively than all the coercion laws that ever could be passed the disturbing and dangerous elements of society. Not a man who would be thus "rooted to the soil" but would be Conservative, not in the sense which regarded that word as the badge of a Party, but in the sense which marked a secure and happy social state. With the settlement of the Land Question would disappear the last great barrier to the cordial union of classes in Ireland. Differences of race and history, memories of conquest and confiscation, persecution on account of religious belief, the long-continued exclusion of the great body of the people from political rights, had all contributed to create a great gulf. The wiser views and juster spirit of recent times were gradually filling up the chasm. The land still remained a source of discord and contention. He was afraid it was in vain to hope for a cordial union between the landlord and the tenant. Landowners were no exception to the general rule which made change unpopular with every interest that had to be disturbed and reformed; while the farmers thought no effort too great to get themselves relieved from a position, if not of actual oppression, at all events of painful insecurity. The influence of this dissension affected the whole character of social and political life. It tended to produce the most dangerous separation that could exist in any society—the divorce of property and social influence from political power. If they removed this disturbing and perplexing agrarian dispute, every year that passed would diminish that separation, until at last the quiet operation of time would have moulded all classes into a harmonious and well-regulated community. With the softening of social divisions would vanish the gravest difficulties in the government of Ireland. Questions of importance would, no doubt, remain; but they would have taken a more sober tone, and they would be advocated in a milder spirit. The rank, wealth, and culture of the country, which were identified with the ownership of the soil, would be no longer out of harmony with popular feeling and with those who held in their hands the control of electoral power. If they thought cultured classes were the natural leaders of the people, let them be assured that they would never take their place until this question was set at rest. On the landowners themselves—and he spoke as one of them—he believed no greater benefit could be conferred than by depriving them of a power which, sometimes abused, and always resented, was in no respect necessary for their protection or their prosperity—to leave them free to assert amongst a sensitive and warm-hearted people the natural and legitimate influence of their position. He was not able to see in the present state of things any element of permanence or any hope of contentment. If he could, he would not support any attempt to re-open the question. He believed the inevitable solution must come from the direction and in the mode he had indicated. He was convinced that the sooner it came, the easier it would be found, and the greater would be its effect in promoting the welfare of Ireland and the good feeling and concord of the United Kingdom.


said, he felt it a duty, and that he should not be worthy of a seat in that House, if he did not oppose such a Bill as that, which he believed would tend, not to the peace of Ireland, but would be one more step to encourage agitation. The Bill proposed to establish fixity of tenure at valued rents and the right of free sale by the tenant. What was the reason for a change so fundamentalin its principles as that asked from Parliament by the supporters of the Bill? Two separate kinds of arguments had been advanced. It was alleged by some that the land of the country was the common right of all, and that any interference with that right was wrong. It was further said in that House that the landowners of Ireland had got a right which they had abused, and therefore it ought to be taken from them. Now, as to the first statement, the right of the people to the land of a country, he did not intend to argue it. If such was the right principle, and if the House was prepared to affirm it, he held that the Bill should not be confined to Ireland. The land of England should be subjected to the same principle; that, however, was not attempted. He gathered that the supporters of the Bill relied on the manner in which the landlords were said to have abused their rights in this way—that they raised their rents so that their tenants could not live; and next, that they exercised their power of eviction capriciously. But on both points the evidence was the other way, and he maintained that the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Downing) had not proved his case by giving one instance. Had the landlords of Ireland abused their position in the matter of rents? When the Land Act of 1870 was under discussion, some hon. Members on the other side of the House went to Ireland to investigate the matter for themselves, and those hon. Members, one of whom was the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. M'Lagan) came to the conclusion that the land in Ireland was low rented, and that tenants, with fixity of tenure, would occupy a better position comparatively than their landlords. He further said it was no wonder the tenants were asking for fixity of tenure, as the rents were so moderate. When the Land Act was passed the landlords of Ireland were naturally anxious to preserve their rights. They, therefore, formed a committee to collect information, and that committee ascertained that the rates of rent in Ireland were less than in any other country in Europe, being, for arable land, only on an average from 15s. to 18s. per acre. From his own experience, he could say that land in Ireland was let at a low rent. In an adjoining county to his, when it was proposed that the rent of land should be fixed, and that the valuation of the Government assessor should be taken, the tenants were most alarmed because the low rents under which they held the land would be raised. But it was said that the landlords of Ireland were now raising the rents excessively. But that was not true. The landlords of Ireland knew too well that if they raised the rents to more than the tenants could pay, in a year or two the latter would "become broken," as they termed it in Ireland, and the landlord lost the rent altogether. Considerations of self-interest, if no other, would therefore prevent the landlord from demanding an excessive rent. Then it was said that it was objectionable that the landlords should have the power of raising the rent to any amount they thought fit. But he denied that they had such a power. The hon. Member for Cork had quoted one case where the rents were high; but, because it was stated that there was abuse in one case, was it to be held that there was to be a change in the law with regard to the whole of Ireland? He had never heard of such a case in his part of the country as that referred to by the hon. Member, and he was sure, if there were any such cases in Ireland, the House would hear of them from hon. Members opposite. As to free sale, of which they had heard, it seemed that it was the idea that the fee-simple would be taken away from the landlord and handed over to the tenant, who might sell it to the person who would give the highest price. Well, that was tantamount to transferring the property of the landlord to the tenant without compensation, and he could not consent to such a proposition. When he came to ask what was left to the landlords, he was told that the rights of the mines and minerals and of the game were left to them; but he was sorry to say he did not value his rights in those matters at a high figure. But, even as to the game, it appeared the landlord was only to have the right to go over his land and shoot what the tenant had left. It was said that a better cultivation of the land in Ireland could not be obtained without security of tenure. He would like to hear more said about security of tenure as compared with fixity of tenure, for the terms were not at all synonymous. The truth, however, was that in nine cases out of ten in Ireland security of tenure already existed. He knew that the great majority of landlords had the greatest desire not to disturb a tenant in his holding, and with that view in times of trouble they made great sacrifices, and gave them the greatest indulgence in the payment of their rent. Under the present system, thus administered, the tenant had far greater security of tenure than he would have under a system under which he would be liable to eviction for non-payment of rent, and under which he could expect no indulgence from a landlord who would only have a rent-charge upon his estate. Moreover, according to the evidence of an hon. Member of that House—the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. M'Lagan)—in cases where there were long leases, the land was not so well cultivated as in other cases. The Preamble of the Bill stated its object to be the promotion of the peace and prosperity of the country; but did the House suppose that, if it were passed, those from whom it emanated would be satisfied to allow matters to remain where it would place them? There were already indications of an agitation in the West of Ireland for the breaking up of large farms, as a proof of which he would refer to the speech of a rev. gentleman in that part of Ireland. In truth, it was absurd to expect that the tenants of Ireland would be satisfied with a measure which would impose rents fixed by valuation, in a great proportion of instances higher than those which were at present paid. At a meeting of an influential farmers' club the greatest disappointment was expressed at it, and no settlement could be effected by it. He hoped the House would reject a Bill which could not be anything but injurious to Ireland and its interests.


said, that although two years ago, he had voted for the Bill, he was not now prepared to do so, because if the House passed it they would pass a measure which was both unwise and unjust. It was unwise, because it would hand over the land of Ireland to the tenants of Ireland on a fixed rent subject to re-valuation—a result which would tend to excite angry feelings; because the landlords would in that case, naturally endeavour, in order to protect themselves, to increase the rents to the highest possible figure. He did not deny the right of the State to take the estates of the landlords if the interests of the State required this to be done. But in that case the landlords would be entitled to compensation. This Bill, however, contained no mention of compensation, and for that reason he said that it was an unjust Bill. If it contained the smallest element of compensation to the landlord, it would have a very much stronger claim than now upon the consideration of the House. Then the Bill was objectionable on another ground. He could not admit that a tenant who took his farm yesterday on certain legal conditions which he well knew was entitled to the same rights and privileges as the tenant whose family had held the farm for perhaps 100 years, and had thus acquired a kind of moral right to continue in its occupation. The Bill was therefore further unjust, inasmuch as it made no distinction between these two cases. Again, the Bill would convey the land of the landlords to the tenants on the payment of a fixed rent. But he would ask whether there were no conditions under which a man was to be entitled to recover his own land? He could certainly conceive such a state of affairs in many cases, and he would instance one. Suppose a village on the estate of a landlord grew to be a small town, with the wants of a thriving and rising community for public buildings and other improvements. If this Bill passed, a landlord would not be able to do anything to develop such a town, or to provide for its wants; because, whenever he tried to do anything for its improvement, he would be met by an impregnable barrier in the rights of the tenants and their fixity of tenure in the land. There was, however, one element of the measure which he could praise. He thought that that part of the measure which related to arbitration as to the amount of rent between landlord and tenant would be useful. He could not disguise from himself that many of the troubles which existed between landlord and tenant sprang from the matter of disputes as to rent, and he believed arbitration would do a great deal of good. It could not be a healthy state of things when they found a man contending with 50 tenants at the same time, and when so many notices to quit arising out of disputes as to the amount of rent were served, as was the case at present. This should be put an end to, and he thought that if the arbitration clause were passed, and some legal means of arbitrating between landlord and tenant were provided, it would be a step in the right direction which would have a happy result, and many of the difficulties which now existed in Ireland would thereby be terminated. He had, indeed, been told that no satisfactory Court of Arbitration could be found, that it would be a mockery, because no Court of the land could resist the popular pressure to which it would be exposed. But, at the most, that only amounted to an allegation that the proposed tribunal like all others of human origin would have its imperfections. He did not, however, believe that they would be such as to interfere seriously with its usefulness, or be an important drawback upon the improvement which it was calculated to effect in diminishing, if not preventing, those arbitrary and capricious evictions, which were the cause of so much misfortune and unhappiness in Ireland.


said, that the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Bruen) alleged that the Bill would, among other matters, interfere with the landlord's right to game—would prevent him, in fact, from walking over his own land, and would confiscate improvements made by him. Well, his answer to that was this—let them allow the Bill to go into Committee, for those were points which should be dealt with in Committee, and he had no doubt the hon. Member would find many hon. Members on his (Major Nolan's) side of the House ready to vote with him. It was said that the present Bill should be rejected, because it would only stimulate the cry for more; but that was really only the answer given to Oliver Twist's request for more porridge. The hon. Member for Carlow had also said that the Bill would take away from the landlords the little power that was left in their hands by the Bill of 1870. That Bill was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, and lately, when he was attacked for having confiscated the landlord's property, he stated that since the passing of that Act the average price of land, as shown by the sales in the Encumbered Estates Court, had actually increased. Again, the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Kavanagh) had told them that it was not fair for them to bring first principles up for discussion. He (Major Nolan) was opposed to his hon. Friend in that respect, and asked in what condition many of the first countries of Europe would now have been placed had they not considered first principles? It would have applied equally to the abolition of slavery in the United States and of serfdom in Russia. He asked the House to allow the Bill to be read a second time without a division; for in Committee it could be considered in detail, and he was persuaded that many hon. Gentlemen, when they came to look into the Bill, would find it of the greatest importance. When it reached that stage hon. Members could oppose the clauses that had been condemned, if they were deemed to be objectionable in their operation. There were, however, good clauses in the Bill, and they would remedy glaring defects in the law. One of these was that no compensation was payable to under-tenants, for whom, when removed, there was no resource but to go to America, as they did not constitute a peasant-class such as was understood by that description in this country. Under the present system landowners had the power to confiscate all improvements, the exercise of which power had been the cause of great emigration. In the Bill there was provision made for a Court of Arbitration to settle any disputes that might arise as to the rent to be paid. That was a very valuable provision; but if it was feared its operation might prove injurious, the Government might, if they thought fit, insert restrictions to guard against rents being unreasonably reduced. He desired that the Bill should be discussed on its merits. It had for three Sessions consecutively been introduced, but had always proved unsuccessful. It was more than probable that next year the Members of the House would be sent to their constituents, and in the case of the majority of the Irish Members, they would have to state that they had done their best to pass into law a Bill to regulate the present obnoxious Land Laws, but could make no impression in Parliament. He trusted the House would see its way to read the Bill a second time.


Sir, I should not have taken part in this debate had not my hon. Friend the Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett) challenged me to answer him. Of that part of his speech which consisted of a lecture upon the Law of Contract, I will say nothing beyond that, historically, it has an interest, but it has no bearing upon the Bill. That which bore upon the question, I will answer with one clause from the Bill. My hon. Friend claims that this is a Bill dealing with cottier tenancies, and that it is to be judged solely by its bearing upon cottier tenure. The first words of Clause 40 are —"Where any farm shall exceed 60 acres." This at once disposes of his argument that the Bill is one of cottier tenure. But as a little experience is worth a good deal of argument, I will relate a case which came under my own notice, and will show how this Bill would affect such cases. Some nine years ago a tenant holding somewhat over 60 acres—Irish—on a long lease at a low rent, demanded that I should buy him out before the expiration of his lease, which had then seven or eight years to run. If I did not buy it, he said he would ruin the farm. I refused his terms, and though restrained by his lease from breaking up an acre of his farm which was rich old pasture, he broke it all up. By an oversight in drawing the lease, no penalty had been fixed in case of a violation of its provisions. My tenant took six successive white crops off the farm, and never put in a single barrow-load of manure. He did not keep live stock of any sort upon the farm. At the end of his lease, having broken up and ruined an excel-lent farm, he claimed £2,222 for improvements. The case went before the County Chairman, and I will now tell my hon. Friend the Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett) why I object to County Chairmen as Judges on land questions. The Chairman made a feeble protest against the iniquity of the claim; but, by way of making things pleasant, allowed some- thing like half of it. There was fortunately an appeal to "the going Judge of Assize." Upon appeal, the tenant's case was conducted by Mr. Butt and three other Q. C.' s; but he was defeated upon every count, and the decision of the Chairman reversed. Now, had this Bill been passed then, what would its operation have been? Not only would the tenant, who had ruined my farm, become its possessor for ever, but the low rent he paid would have been reduced by the amount allowed by the Chairman on the claim for "improvements." For although Clause 58 appears under the heading, "Persons holding under a lease not entitled to apply," it really provides that he is not to apply for fixity of tenure during the continuance of his tenure under lease; but at any time within 12 months of the expiration of his lease he may apply, and the Act shall take effect as soon as his lease expires. Sir, I think I have met the challenge of my hon. Friend, and have answered his speech. I will only point out that Clause 60, under the heading, "Arrears of rent to be paid," provides that in no case shall more than one year's arrears be paid; but I have said enough to condemn this Bill, and will conclude in words quoted by my hon. Friend, that it is "an ignoble and dishonest attempt to transfer to people in Ireland property which does not belong to them."


said, that having on former occasions very fully stated his objections to the Bill, he did not intend on that occasion to repeat them in detail. He might say in a general way that he still believed if the Bill were passed and carried out according to its principles, it would cause the greatest dissatisfaction and confusion in Ireland—that it would destroy the amicable relations existing between many of the occupiers and owners of land in that country, and instead of being a settlement of the Land Question, would only be a prelude to an agitation of a far more formidable character than any which had previously existed. If he did not conscientiously believe what he was now stating, he would not oppose it, for it was a serious thing for one in his position to do. An hon. Friend of his, the junior Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett), whom they always heard with very great pleasure in that House, had stated that he supported the Bill because he believed that the ordinary economic conditions which regulated the price of any commodity did not apply in regard to the price paid for the use of land in Ireland; and that in consequence of the immense competition for that commodity, the fair rent, which he termed the economic rent, was very often exceeded. He (the O'Conor Don) would not dispute that the competition rent was often in excess of what the true economic rent would be; but he would ask his hon. Friend and those who agreed with him, whether the actual rents which were paid were not still oftener lower than the economic rents? Was it not the fact that taking most of the large and long-settled estates in Ireland, the rents would be found to be very much lower than the standard of the economic rent, or the standard fixed in the Bill; and if the operations of the Bill would be to keep down the rents in the one instance, would it not equally tend to raise them in the other? He asked, did the people of Ireland understand this, or did they want it? He felt sure that if they understood it, they would not want it. There were estates in Ireland on which the rental had not been raised for generations. There were cases in which the rents paid now were actually lower than they were 50 years ago, on which the reductions made in the famine times had never been altered, and on which the landlord and his tenants lived in the greatest amity and goodwill; but if the Bill passed, all that would be done away with. Every landlord would feel bound to treat his tenantry on pure commercial principles, to get the full economic rent if he could get nothing else out of his property, and all the friendly relations at present existing between the good landlord and his tenants would be done away with. The very agitation for the Bill was producing those results, and its passing into law, if such a thing were possible—which, however, he did not believe was the case —would make these results inevitable in every case. He would not dwell any longer on his objections to the Bill; he would rather consider whether any, and if so what alterations ought to be made in the present system of land occupancy in Ireland. He had often been taunted, both in and out of the House, that whilst objecting to that and other proposals he suggested nothing in their stead. He did not admit the justice of these taunts. He was not bound to propose a land system for Ireland. He did not occupy any responsible position which involved such a duty, and he had neither been commissioned nor deputed by any Party in Ireland to formulate any detailed or definite plan; but whilst he demurred altogether to the argument that because he objected to the Bill he was bound to supply another in its place, he had no objection to state in a general way the principles upon which he thought any legislation on this subject to be effective should be based. The demand throughout Ireland was a demand for fixity of tenure, and that was the demand which was attempted to be dealt with in the Bill. There was no use in concealing the fact that a great majority of the tenant-occupiers of Ireland believed that they had a right to continuous occupancy of their holdings. He did not mean a legal right, but a moral right, and that moral right they were determined, if they possibly could, to turn into a legal right. Hence all the agitation, and hence the production of the Bill. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) had, on former occasions, explained very fully and fairly the origin of this claim. To understand it, he most rightly said, one should go back and study the history of Ireland. Ireland was a land of confiscations. The soil of Ireland had almost all been confiscated at one time or another, some of it three or four times over, and new lords had been placed over it, aliens in race, and feelings, and religion, and regarded as outsiders by the nation. In some instances the confiscations were conditional upon the retention of the occupiers, and in all instances, the native occupiers were imbued with the feeling that whatever the law might say, they had a moral right to keep possession of their holdings—that if they paid a fair rent or value to the owner he had no reason to complain, and that was all he was entitled to receive. That feeling was strengthened by the fact that the Irish occupier in most cases was left to make for himself all necessary improvements on his farm; he had to put up all the buildings, fences, and other fixtures; he had to drain and reclaim; he had with the hard sweat of his brow to turn barren, unproductive waste into food-producing pasture or tillage; and having done all that, he naturally believed that the land which he had so worked on, and which he had thus transformed ought to be his own, so far, at least, that he ought to be sure that its occupancy would not be taken from him. In the North of Ireland, where the system of tenant-right grew up, that feeling was sanctioned by a custom which had almost the force and operation of law, and a custom which, by the Act of 1870, received the sanction of law. Well, this was the origin and justification of the claim for fixity of tenure. A moment's consideration would show that this claim was really to all intents and purposes a claim for joint ownership in the soil, and he considered that it was very important that this fact should be borne in mind. What the Irish tenant claimed—what he honestly believed he had a right to —was joint ownership with the landlord, the landlord being entitled to the rent, and the tenant to the occupation. That being the case, what they had next to consider was who were entitled to make this claim, upon what conditions should it be recognized, and how far would its recognition interfere with the rights already guaranteed by Parliament to the owners. There were in Ireland two classes of occupiers, holding totally distinct and different positions. There was the class of capitalist farmers, the large graziers, the men who had taken farms of late years under the English tenure, men who followed farming as a commercial pursuit, who could either retain or give up a farm, just as they found whether they were making a certain amount of profit or not, and men who, to all intents and purposes, corresponded in every respect to their brethren in England. He could see no reason for dealing with those men in any different way from that in which such men were dealt with in England. There was nothing in the past history of Ireland to justify a claim on their part to obtain a part ownership in the soil. They were not the descendants of the ancient natives; they had not obtained possession upon any tacit or expressed understanding that their occupation was to be of any longer duration than the terms of their leases or the will of the owners might dictate; there was no general feeling in Ireland in favour of their obtaining anything beyond what they already possessed; and most of them were men of too much intelligence and too fair-minded to think that any real benefit would accrue to the country, or, in the long run, even to themselves, by a violent transfer of property from the owners to themselves; for they could not help foreseeing that the very same reasons which would justify such a transfer would equally justify a demand that their farms should be taken from them, and cut up into smaller divisions and given to the working population. But there was another class of occupiers in Ireland whose position was totally different —they were the men who had an historical claim to the occupancy of their lands. The men who, in the Northern counties, had this recognized by the existence of the custom to which he had alluded before—the men who, in the other parts of Ireland, had either reclaimed the land from barrenness, or whose families had lived on it for generations—the men who were the actual tillers and cultivators of the soil; to whom its retention was an almost absolute necessity; who, if they gave it up had nothing before them but the workhouse or starvation; who were generally men not in a position to make a fair bargain for their holdings, and from whom an unfair and exorbitant rent might be exacted—it was with these men, and these men only, that they had really to deal. His hon. and learned Friend, in the Bill before them, had in a sort of indirect way recognized this fact, for he proposed to exclude the grazier class from its operation; but, strangely enough, while he excluded all the grass farms let before the passing of the Act, he proposed to include all let subsequently. Now, he maintained that in that very provision itself, the vicious character of the Bill was made manifest. Finding that there were in Ireland a class of occupiers who, from one cause or another, had a moral right, or who believed they had a moral right, to perpetual occupancy, or a joint ownership of the soil, arising in the main out of the events of past centuries, his hon. and learned Friend, instead of meeting their claim directly, proposed to alter the whole system of land tenures— to enact that men who were not in occupation at all at present, who had no possible claims or rights, but who hereafter might get into occupation—should have the right to hold it for ever. Well, upon that point he (the O'Oonor Don) differed in toto from the Bill and from its whole principle. It seemed to him that even if it were admitted that there were certain classes in Ireland entitled on account of past proceedings to certain rights, that the proper course would be to ascertain who were entitled to those rights, to what extent those rights should be given, and then at once, and by one decisive act, to give them to them. It was not by attempting to interfere with the whole system of tenure of land, by violating every economic law, by attempting to regulate the price of a commodity by Act of Parliament, and by regulating not only its price, but the very quantities and divisions into which it was to be cut that they could settle this question. The only way in which it could be settled was to meet it boldly. To admit at once that what was required was a transference of a portion of the property of the soil from the owner to the occupier, and then having admitted that, to see how it could be most fairly carried out. Having ascertained who were entitled to make the claim, the next step, he thought, should be to determine upon what conditions it should be recognized. That, no doubt, would be a point upon which some difficulty might arise, for in it was involved the very difficult question of determining what was a fair rent. As he had not undertaken to propose a full and complete Bill on the subject, and as he did not wish to weary the House with too long a statement, he would merely say that he would accept the proposals in the Bill—that the rent should be that which a solvent tenant could afford to pay, and that he believed it would be possible to devise a means by which this could be ascertained. The condition of receiving that right of perpetuity should be either the payment of that rent, or the payment of a sum of money down as its equivalent at a lower rent. The conditions of the perpetuity being settled, it should be offered to all those who could prove that they were entitled to receive it, and who claimed to receive it. It should be forced upon no man; and if there were tenants who preferred to remain as they were, and to deal with their landlords as they had done in former times, they should have the free option to do so, always understanding distinctly that the proposal, when once made, was not to be repeated— that this was to all intents and purposes a re-settlement of the land of Ireland, an attempt to undo all the mischievous consequences of previous confiscations, but not a re-settlement to hang open for ever. It was to be an act once done and then ended, and those who desired should take advantage of it at once or lose their right to claim it altogether. Well, then, so far as the occupiers would be concerned, these were the general principles on which he thought legislation in the direction of fixity of tenure, if it were to accomplish any lasting good results, must be based; but he had a word more to say about the position of the owners. No matter what had been their original titles to their land, whether they dated far back, or were of recent origin, whether they were founded on confiscation or not, he thought that where their full legal rights of ownership had been clearly recognized by lapse of time or Statute, that it would be impossible justly to interfere with them, or take them away, without at least offering them the option of sale. He believed that option should be given to any proprietor whose tenants claimed and established their claims to this perpetuity, and that any proprietor who objected to grant the perpetuity should be compelled to sell to the State, and that on behalf of the public the State should be empowered to purchase—in fact, that compulsory sales and purchases should take place for that purpose, as now compulsory sales took place for other public purposes—the price to be paid for the land, being its full value, to be ascertained by the same sort of evidence now given of the value of land taken up for any other public purpose. The State having purchased the land under these circumstances, should, wherever it was possible, sell it outright to the occupiers, or if they were not able or willing to purchase it after granting the perpetuities, the land should be re-sold to the highest bidder. It was possible, of course, that that re-sale might result in loss to the State. If the supporters of the Bill were right, no such danger need be apprehended; because they maintained that the granting of the perpetuities would in no way diminish, but, on the contrary, would increase the value of land; but if any loss should result, he thought it was manifest that every principle of justice required that the loss should fall on the public, in whose interest this change was to be made, and not on the individual landowner. These were the general principles on which he believed the question should be approached. They differed in toto from the principles of the Bill. They would leave tenure and contract, and all agreements in land perfectly free. They would go directly to the evil which was sought to be removed. They would tend to establish an independent class of yeomen in Ireland, every one of them interested in preserving freedom of contract for the future, every one of them interested in maintaining law, and order, and the institutions of the country. He thought that for the establishment of such a class in Ireland no sacrifices would be too great; and, as a landlord himself, he would only say that he would be willing to give up any of the rights to which he had been alluding, if that result could only be brought about. But the Bill before them, and which they were asked to read a second time, whilst nominally proposing to meet a certain case, in reality was directed to something else. And its justification, being to secure to certain occupiers a term of occupancy to which they had acquired a moral right, its real effects would be to establish a system of land tenure of the most harassing and indefensible character that could possibly be imagined, and a system of tenure, a precedent for which, or a parallel of which, he ventured to say, could not be found at the present day in any civilized country in the world.


said, he had listened with patience to the whole debate, and was rather astonished at the opinions expressed that the Bill should be allowed to go into Committee, and there be discussed and amended. The last hon. Gentleman who expressed that view in a very persuasive manner— the hon. and gallant Member for Gal-way (Major Nolan)—referred to some details in remarks of a somewhat insidious character. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had said, without going into particulars, there was nothing in the essential principles of the Bill which, in his opinion, ought to prevent the House from sending it to a Committee. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Downing), in moving the second reading, had very wisely declined to supply the deficiency; but he (Mr. Gibson) thought it must be seen that the third part of the Bill contained principles which were subversive of the rights of property, and which in time would be equally subversive of the best interests of the tenants of Ireland, and upon that ground he was of opinion that it would not be desirable to give the Bill a second reading. He concurred in the observations which had already been made with respect to passing by without discussion the first part of the Bill; because it was the third part of the measure which must be taken as the part of the Bill in which its principle was to be found. He, however, ventured to say that, so far as the first part was concerned, hon. Gentlemen might have been able to find many topics to discuss in Committee, and he thought the same observations would apply to the second part of the Bill. But the third part had been put forward as that which contained the essential principles of the Bill. Before he referred to the third part, he wished to make one very short observation on an apparently small clause in the second part, because it led up to the entire Bill. The Land Act of 1870, which must be regarded by the country as a measure which had been fairly and honestly worked, contained the principle, that freedom of contract in land must be accepted as a reasonable and necessary governing principle; but there was a qualification adopted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich and those who assisted him in carrying on the Government of the country at the time. They said that the humble class of tenants in Ireland required in certain cases to be relieved from the freedom of contract, and that holders of farms of a Poor Law valuation of not less than £50 might contract themselves out of the provisions of the Land Act. That was the law at the present time. But what did the second part of the Bill propose to do? It proposed to repeal entirely that limitation of £50, and enacted that the farmer in future, no matter what might be his education, no matter what were the conditions of the farm, no matter whether the tenant was worth £500,000, must come under the provisions of the Bill. The present Bill would prevent a man, no matter whether he had received a Unversity education, from entering into a contract with his landlord to cut down or qualify a single enactment in the Land Act, and would say to him—"We treat you as a simple-minded man or an idiot, who is not capable of taking care of his own interests." That was a proposal which he (Mr. Gibson) said ought not to be adopted without more convincing arguments than they had heard at present. What was the cardinal principle of the Bill? It was this— it gave the tenants of Ireland, no matter what might be their tenure or the terms of their contract, or the amount of their rent, the power to turn their tenures into perpetuities. It would not be denied that that was the effect, the intention, and the essential object of the third part of the Bill, and the House could not fail to see that it would operate against the interest of the landlords without permanently benefiting the future tenants. What, he asked, would be the position of the landlords of Ireland if the Bill passed into law? They would be unable to fix the tenure of their tenants; because the tenant could, by the service of a simple notice under the Act of Parliament, if it ever became an Act, convert his tenure into a perpetuity. In fact, the Bill would encourage a kind of golden age of notices, and the tenants of Ireland would be made absolutely masters of the situation by simply serving a notice. Then again, in relation to the rent, the landlord would have no power over that. That was taken out of the landlord's hands and vested in arbitrators. He ventured to think that the measure, if it was to be discussed in Committee, was open to grave argument in that respect. If the Bill attempted to fix the rent, he asked why the County Court had not been taken? The hon. Member for the County Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett), in the course of his interesting speech, said that the rents in Ireland at present were fixed by competition; but that was not his (Mr. Gibson's) own experience. He thought he might take it that nine-tenths of the rents in Ireland were settled by old usage and by custom, in accordance with the friendly feeling which subsisted between the landlords and their tenants, and not at all by com- petition. And he ventured to assert that if the Bill became law, and if it was fairly worked, instead of the rents being fixed by kindly feeling and by custom, they would be settled by competition; because the provision in the Bill was that the rent that was to be fixed by the arbitrators was to be such a rent that the tenant could fairly afford to pay without collusion. The effect would be, if the principle was honestly applied, he thought, to substitute for new rents, rents which would be fixed by competition. His hon. Friend the Member for West Gloucestershire (Mr. E. E. Plunkett) mentioned another matter—arrears of rent, and he asked hon. Members whether the Bill did not practically confiscate arrears of rent? In reference to that, he (Mr. Gibson) would say that there might be arrears for four years, and if under the Bill the tenant served the landlord with a notice of his intention to turn his tenure into a perpetuity, the County Court Judge had at most a discretionary power to order the tenant to pay one year of such arrears, leaving the landlord, to recover the remainder by procedure in the ordinary tribunals of the country. That was a practical confiscation of the arrears of rent. He was bound to say that he did not think there was anything whatever in the present condition of Ireland to justify such a strong and extreme measure. They all knew that, taken as a whole, the relations of Irish landlords and tenants were most satisfactory; and whether in the North or the South, whether in County Down or Tip-perary, in County Galway or County Cork, rents were well paid, and Irish landlords were on good terms with their Irish tenants. The number of evictions had been mentioned in the debate; but it should be remembered that those statistics included the towns, and the number was much swelled by the notices of eviction from small houses in Dublin and other cities. The measure had been ably introduced and ably supported by argument; nevertheless, nothing had been said which, in his opinion, would, as he had before remarked, justify the reading of the Bill a second time, seeing that its operation, if passed, would be to unsettle all existing relations between landlords and tenants in Ireland without permanently benefiting the tenants. He should, therefore, oppose the second reading.


briefly met several of the arguments urged against the second reading of the Bill, observing that most of the points which had been raised could be properly dealt with in Committee.

Question put.

The House divided: —Ayes 86; Noes 286: Majority 200.— (Div. List, No. 8.)

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for six months.