§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, it is not necessary for me to point out to your Lordships the difficulty and importance of the task which has fallen upon me this evening. I feel that I have no right to claim your Lordships' indulgence—I can only promise to do my best in explaining the grounds and provisions of this measure. I am afraid that I shall not be so full—certainly not so clear—as your Lordships might desire; but I hope not to be very long; and I trust and believe that I shall introduce no topic of a personal or party character which may create irritation in a debate which I am sure your Lordships feel ought to be carried on with great calmness and impartiality. One part of my duty—and that not the most difficult one—is to show that there is necessity for legislation on this question. Now my own impression is, that since the Report of the Devon Commission legislation has been inevitable. It was attempted, indeed, immediately after the Report of the Commission, by a Conservative Government; and other Administrations have since repeated the attempt. It happens that this very day last year I had the honour of moving the second reading of the Bill with regard to the Irish Church; and it may be remembered that some of your Lordships argued that that was a Bill which the Irish laity did not care about, their minds being entirely absorbed in the land question. I believe none of your Lordships can doubt that the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland are not of a perfectly satisfactory character. Both landlords and tenants have grievances. The grievances of the tenants, as I understand, are their liability to capricious eviction, to the danger of having their rents exorbitantly raised, and to the confiscation of improvements which they have themselves made. They state that, while their condition is intolerable under bad landlords—who, I rejoice to believe, are in a minority in that country—even under good landlords they do not feel security, on account of the chances of death, of succes- 5 sion, of a change of agents, and particularly of sales. Two of the Poor Law Inspectors—Mr. Knox and Mr. Hamilton, stated, the one that the feeling of insecurity is chiefly created by sales, and the other that it is the usual rule, when sales have taken place, to raise the rents without any reference to the improvements which have been made by the tenants; and your Lordships must feel that this ground of insecurity is not inconsiderable, when we know that by public, apart from private sales, during the last 20 years, one-eighth of the whole property of Ireland has changed hands. The landlords, under the existing state of the law, have also their grievances. It is stated, on good authority, that the rent of land in Ireland is lower, considering the capability of the soil, than that of any civilized country in Europe. We are told also that it is the fact that the usual number of years' purchase is about one-third less than in this country. We know, moreover, that the interest of money lent on mortgage is higher. Besides this, landlords complain of the difficulty of dealing with tenants, and that they are subjected, in some parts of Ireland, to sad outrages on themselves, their agents, and their families. My Lords, I do not know that I could give a summary of the grievances of the landlord in fewer words than those used in your Lordships' House last year by the late Lord Derby, who, your Lordships are aware, was not only an eloquent statesman, but a most shrewd and sagacious man of business. He told your Lordships that 40 years before the time he was speaking he undertook the management of the family estates in Ireland, and that during that time he had expended upon them a sum equal to the fee simple of the whole property, and that at the end of that period he was not deriving more income from them than he derived when he commenced that expenditure. Lord Derby further said that fixity of tenure practically existed, arising partly from practice and partly from a cause which he did not mention, but which, unluckily, it was only too easy for us to understand. It is worth while to consider what can be the law—what can be the circumstances—to which, in a great degree, such a state of things may fairly be attributed. I have often heard it said that the law 6 respecting land in Ireland is the same as in England. I believe such is not the case—it is not so either in its letter, or in its spirit, or in its administration. With regard to the circumstances, we know that improvements are generally made by the tenants in Ireland; by the landlords almost universally in England. We know that middlemen rarely exist in this country, and we know what evil they have created in Ireland. The law, moreover, regarding land in England grew out of the old feudal system, and has been completely acquiesced in by the landlords and tenants of this country. In Ireland it was imposed by strangers, and has never been practically acquiesced in by the tenants. The letter of the law, too, has undergone far more frequent changes in Ireland than in England. It has been changed by statute to a certain degree in England, sometimes in the interest of the landlord and sometimes in that of the tenant. I have seen it stated—and it has not been contradicted—that during the reign of George III. alone, while some half-dozen Bills were passed affecting land in England, 60 Acts were passed in Ireland, every one of them being more stringent on the tenant and more favourable to the landlord. That being the state of things with regard to the law, how is it as to its administration? In this country we have various customs in various counties—in Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Surrey, Kent, and, I believe, several other counties—which have been recognized by the Judges of the land. In all cases it has been the continuous disposition of Judges in this country so to administer the law as to mitigate its severity when it bears against the tenant. Exactly the reverse has been the case in administering the land law in Ireland—a law which already, in the minds of the Irish, was connected with confiscation and with the Penal Laws—for the law has been administered with so much severity that more than one Judge has openly deplored the necessity, owing to precedents which he was bound to follow, of administering injustice from the Bench.
My Lords, before I go further, I may, perhaps, venture to give your Lordships some account of the attempts which have been made at various times to correct these defects in the land law of Ireland. It is now 35 years ago that Mr. Sharman 7 Crawford introduced a Bill of a limited character, applying only to tenants holding leases, those leases having been given not on commercial principles, but chiefly for electioneering purposes; and I believe there is little doubt that the giving of those leases in large numbers for this purpose, and their being afterwards withheld, strengthened in the Irish mind the notion of tenant-right. Subsequently—indeed, during the whole period that he remained in Parliament—Mr. Crawford, in conjunction sometimes with distinguished English or Irish Members, resident landlords like himself, introduced no less than 11 Bills on this subject; and it is worthy of remark how the subject grew in his hands, and how the scope and strength of the Bills increased. At his death the work was taken up by Mr. Serjeant, afterwards Mr. Justice, Shee. Notwithstanding his high character and eloquence, Mr. Serjeant Shee, by the concessions which he made from time to time, lost the confidence of those whom he represented in Ireland, while he seemed to excite still more the opposition of those who were his opponents in this country. To him succeeded Mr. Moore, and then Mr. Maguire, who is now alive to see what I hope will be the achievement of what he has so long striven to procure for the tenant. In addition to the Bills I have mentioned, I believe the only other Bills—two in number—brought in by individual Members were introduced in this House, one of them by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde), on which great pains were bestowed by several eminent Members of the House, but which I think your Lordships will all feel was not, and under present circumstances could not, be an adequate settlement of the question. The other was a measure recently presented by the noble and gallant Earl (the Earl of Longford), the late Under Secretary for War; and which—though, of course, I do not admit it to be a worthy rival of the Bill I am now submitting to your Lordships for second reading—recognizes, I am glad to see, the right to compensation of an out-going tenant for goodwill. Leaving now the Bills introduced by private Members, I will now refer to the various attempts made to settle the question by successive Governments. The first of these was brought in by Sir Robert Peel's Administration in 1845, and was intro- 8 duced into this House by the late Lord Derby, then Lord Stanley. It was consequent upon the state of affairs disclosed by the inquiry of the Devon Commission, and was based upon those different circumstances of England and Ireland as to customs and improvements which I have already mentioned. The Bill contained a provision that the tenant should be compensated for the improvements he might make, and that in some cases he might make them without and contrary to the consent of his landlord. In the following year Lord Lincoln brought in a Bill which substantially contained that provision, which—perhaps with the view of making it more clear and comprehensible to the Irish mind—was curiously called a compulsory agreement. The belief in tenant-right was much strengthened in the minds of the tenants of Ireland by the effect of the application of a section of the Lands Clauses Act, which decreed compensation to a tenant who was turned out for the purpose of making a railway, for the term of his unexpired interest, for the reasonable compensation which he would receive from an incoming tenant, and also for the loss and injury which he might sustain by eviction. The next Bill, I think, was that of my noble Friend below me (Lord Athlumney), who at the time he introduced it was Sir William Somerville, and Chief Secretary for Ireland. His Bill contained, in some slight degree, advances over its predecessors, inasmuch as it was the first which dealt, though very tenderly, with retrospective compensation. The question became much greater, and, in 1852, Lord Derby's Government, with the assistance of Sir Joseph Napier, introduced a Bill which, in the fullest degree, adopted the principle of retrospective compensation. The following year a Bill, substantially akin to it, was introduced into this House by the succeeding Government, and was allowed to pass the second reading, on the understanding that it was not to proceed further that Session. The next year it was re-introduced, and was rejected by your Lordships by a large majority. I am not aware that after that there was any attempt at legislation on the question until a Bill was introduced by Mr. Cardwell in 1860—a Bill which passed both Houses and became law, but one which has had no practical 9 effect, partly from defects in its machinery, but also, I believe, because some of the circumstances which facilitated its passage through the two Houses prevented its taking a firm grasp of some of the most difficult questions connected with the tenure of land in Ireland. To remedy those defects Mr. Chichester Fortescue, in 1866, introduced a Bill which I think some of your Lordships, who are strongly opposed to legislation on this subject, and possibly to this Bill, regret did not receive greater consideration. Lord Mayo, under Lord Derby's Government, rather strengthened the provision with regard to improvements by tenants contrary to the wishes of the landlord, and proposed an advance of money to enable them to make improvements. There was another Bill under the same Administration which was not presented to Parliament, and of which there are no traces in the Irish Office, so that I am unable to speak as to the provisions it intended to introduce. To finish the somewhat monotonous catalogue of Bills which have failed, I now arrive at the time when Her Majesty's present Administration was formed, and when they gave a pledge to the country that they would make another attempt to settle this difficult and important question. Your Lordships will, no doubt, remember that last year Her Majesty's Government were much pressed, and particularly in this House, to state distinctly their views as to the character of the measure they proposed to introduce, and that I had several opportunities of stating distinctly that we should not adopt the wild, violent, and revolutionary measures which some agitators had proposed; but that at the proper time we should introduce a Bill based on the principle of just compensation to the tenant, while maintaining the proprietary rights of the landlord. My noble Friend on the Cross Benches (Earl Grey) was good enough to say that those declarations were as much as the Government could make in a general way; and he also expressed an opinion, in which I very much agree with him, that no such declarations could be satisfying unless they were embodied in a Bill. Well, my Lords, at the time that remark was made, I stated that I thought it would be a most difficult thing for the Government to introduce a Bill last Session on this subject; and I own—though 10 it was most natural for some of your Lordships to press for it, and though I admit that, had it been possible, it was in every respect most desirable that a Bill to settle the question should have been introduced a year earlier than the present—subsequent experience has convinced me that it would have been almost impossible. I do not know whether your Lordships will agree with me; but my belief was that at that time public opinion, both in England and Scotland, was not sufficiently ripe to consider the question with a view to legislation. Moreover, notwithstanding the discussion which went on all the autumn; notwithstanding that great amount of information which was afforded; notwithstanding the immense amount of information that had been collected, read, and digested by the public, particularly by Members of Parliament; notwithstanding the fact that the Bill of the Government upon its introduction was received with great cordiality by the House, yet the number of Amendments that have been proposed to the Bill, and the length of time which it has taken to pass the Bill through that House, have confirmed my impression that it would have been physically impossible last year, had a Bill been introduced here, to pass it through the other House. But I go still further, and I say that, whether I am right or wrong in that conclusion, I am perfectly certain it would have been impossible for the Government, under the pressure of other and really necessary legislation, to have framed a Bill which they could, with honour and satisfaction, have presented to the public. They might, indeed, have done that which they were determined not to do—namely, have introduced a Bill adopting fixity of tenure, taking away his property from the landlord, and establishing a valuation rent. They might thereby have excited in Ireland—at all events, for the moment—an enthusiasm which would have made reasonable legislation impossible. They might, too, have presented a small, limited, and feeble Bill, which, so far from settling the question, would most assuredly have excited a feeling of indignation and injustice which it would have been difficult to appease. It may be invidious to pay a compliment to my own Colleagues; but, having been a Member of several Administrations, I may venture to say that on no measure whatever have I ever 11 seen the same amount of time and labour expended as on this. I speak of the labour not only of the Irish Government or of the Prime Minister, but of all the Cabinet, individually and collectively, in framing the Bill, and in trying to solve the problem of making it fair to the tenant without being unjust to the landlord.
My Lords, as the provisions of the Bill are perfectly well known to your Lordships, I need not dwell upon them in detail; but it may, perhaps, not be disagreeable to your Lordships if I explain the main principles of its enactments under a few general heads. The Bill applies solely to agricultural and pastoral holdings, exclusive of demesne lands, labourers' holdings, and certain other temporary lettings. Its primary object is to give—first, to tenants who may be disturbed by their landlords, although willing to pay their rent, compensation for "occupation value" or the loss which the Court may find the tenant has sustained in being forced to quit his holding; secondly, to secure to tenants quitting their holdings, whether disturbed by their landlords or not, compensation for improvements made by them or their predecessors in title. In the Province of Ulster, and in any other part of Ireland where a like custom prevails, the tenant is permitted, but is not obliged, to claim compensation according to the custom, and if he makes such claim, it will be understood to include compensation for occupation value and improvements, and he will be debarred from making any other claim under the Act which he might otherwise have preferred. Where no claim is made under a custom the compensation for occupation value is assessed according to a maximum scale, the amount being in inverse proportion to the value of the holding, and in no case to exceed £250. The value of the improvement is settled by the Courts. In every case of application to the Court, the Court may consider its equitable aspect, and may award compensation, having regard to the conduct of landlord and of tenant; a tenant whom the Court decides to be entitled to compensation cannot be forced to quit his holding till the amount of compensation awarded has been paid to him, or till the payment has been secured by the lodgment of a sum in Court. Supposing, however, the tenant to be indebted to his landlord for 12 rent, breach of covenant, or otherwise, the sum due to the landlord will be set off against the compensation due to the tenant. In addition to the compensation for occupation value and improvements, every tenant, in the absence of any agreement in writing to the contrary, is entitled on quitting his holding to his away-going crops, or, at the option of the landlord, to be paid the value of the same. Where a claim is made under a custom, the custom, as in the case of all other compensation, is assumed to include the compensation for away-going crops. This is really the pith of the Bill. The requisite machinery is, of course, provided. When any question arises between landlord and tenant, the parties may either refer it to arbitration—which, I believe, is a mode of settling differences which is not unusual or unpopular in Ireland—or they may bring it before "the Court." In the case of arbitration, the arbitrator, or arbitrators, with an umpire, are constituted the Court of Arbitration, and will have the same powers as to awarding compensation as the Civil Bill Courts. The Court taking cognizance of disputes under the Act between landlord and tenant will usually be the Civil Bill Court—which, I understand, is equivalent to what in England we should call the paid Chairman of Quarter Sessions, sitting, in effect, as Judge of a County Court. An appeal from an order of the Civil Bill Court is provided in Dublin to two Judges of the Superior Courts, and in the country to two Judges of Assize. The limitations of the Bill with respect to compensation for occupation value or improvements are necessarily of a more complicated character. The following persons are excluded from any right to compensation for occupation value:—1st, tenants ejected for non-payment of rent, or having quitted their holdings voluntarily—subject to a decision of the Court in favour of ejected tenants paying exorbitant rents at the time of the passing of the Act; 2nd, existing leases in all cases—that is, being so at the time of passing the Act, and future leases for terms of not less than 31 years; 3rd, existing tenants from year to year of holdings of a rateable value of more than £100; and, 4th, tenants subdividing or subletting their holdings without the consent of their landlord, with a qualification for certain sublettings for cottages 13 or gardens to labourers bonâ fide required for the cultivation of the holding. Thus, the persons entitled to compensation for occupation value will be—1st, existing tenants from year to year of holdings of a rateable value not exceeding £100, who have been turned out by their landlords for some other cause than non-payment of rent; and, 2nd, future tenants of holdings for a term of less than 31 years, who have not violated the provisions of the Act against subdividing or subletting, and have been turned out by their landlords for some cause other than non-payment of rent. With regard to limitations as to improvements, they are of two classes. Certain persons by reason of the nature of their tenancies are prohibited from making any claims in respect of certain improvements, and certain improvements are excluded from the list of improvements in respect of which a claim can be made. A leaseholder for 31 years is not entitled to compensation, except in respect of permanent buildings or reclamation of land and unexhausted tillages. An existing tenant, moreover, is not entitled to compensation in respect of any improvements his title to which is excluded by contract. And no tenant whatever is entitled to compensation in respect of any improvements which his landlord has undertaken to make, except in default of the landlord, or in respect of improvements which the tenant has undertaken to make for a valuable consideration, or has undertaken in writing not to make. A tenant having claimed compensation for occupation value cannot also claim for improvements in cases where his holding exceeds £10 rateable value, and where he has claimed more than four years' rent, or where his holding does not exceed £10 rateable value, and he has claimed more than five years' rent. There is likewise a provision that no improvement made 20 years before the passing of the Act can form the subject of a claim, unless it consists of permanent buildings or reclamation of land. A landlord cannot by contract prevent his tenant from making improvements necessary for the proper cultivation of his holding; but power is given him to prohibit an existing tenant from availing himself of his possession of the estate to make improvements to be paid for by the landlord, though calculated to diminish its 14 general value. I hope your Lordships will observe that the landlord may divest himself altogether of the necessity of paying for improvements where the tenant quits his holding of his own accord, by giving him permission to dispose of his interest in his improvements to the in-coming tenant on such terms as the Court deems reasonable. A further stipulation in respect of improvements is made by the enactment that all improvements in the holding, with certain exceptions in respect of improvements made before the passing of the Act, shall primâ facie be deemed to have been made by the tenant. The Bill imposes a charge on the landlord for improvements, even when a tenant quits his holding voluntarily. To prevent this being oppressive to the landlord he is empowered to borrow the amount of the Commissioners of Works; and the sum so borrowed is to be repaid by an annuity imposed as a first rent-charge on the land. The only remaining part of the Bill with which I need trouble your Lordships refers to the sale of land to tenants. It is provided that a landlord, being tenant for life, or having a greater estate, may sell any holding to the tenant, the holding passing to the latter free from encumbrances. Money is paid into the Court, and is distributed, free of cost, among the persons entitled to it. The tenant, on the deposit of one-third of his purchase-money, may borrow the balance from the Commissioners of Public Works, to be repaid by an annuity in a period of 35 years.
Such, my Lords, are the main, and indeed all, the essential provisions of this Bill. Tour Lordships will observe that it is founded on the assumption that the great bulk of the Irish tenants are incompetent to contract for themselves, and that they require some protection from the law. Your Lordships will see that, in trying to deal with the evil, we have not proceeded on any ambitious theory, or tried to strike out any new plan; but, recognizing the evil, we have tried to remedy it with as little disturbance, and as little change, as possible. We have tried to find examples and precedents in Ireland itself which may serve as an antidote to the evil which we lament; and I think we have found them, first, in the customs which undoubtedly exist there, and, secondly, in the practice of good landlords, who, I 15 am happy to say, are numerous in different parts of the island. As to the customs, the Bill is very much based on the tenant-right of Ulster. Now, I am aware that there may be objections taken on general principles to that custom; but it cannot be denied that a degree of industry, of agricultural improvement, and of good feeling between landlord and tenant has sprung up in Ulster, which is much more rare in other parts of the country. I dare say it may be alleged that that result is not so much owing to that custom as to the race which inhabits Ulster, and to the consequent manufacturing industry which exists in the Northern part of the island. Now, I will not repeat an argument which was urged at great length in "another place," and which, as far as I am aware, was not answered—namely, that though manufactories undoubtedly, by the increase of wealth, promote the cultivation of the soil in any country, it is not found that the highest average cultivation of the soil exists in the neighbourhood of manufacturing towns—as, for instance, near London, Liverpool, or Manchester. With regard to race, I will not quote ethnological opinions on the subject, though I believe there is no doubt that in the most disturbed part of Ireland the inhabitants are not Celts, but belong to a race which, under other circumstances, is particularly amenable to good government. If your Lordships will look at one of the recently published letters of one of the least excited statesmen I ever knew, Sir George Lewis, you will see an admirable exposure of the fallacy that the evils of Ireland are to be attributed to race. As to the advantage of tenant-right, I can conceive nothing more conclusive than two statements made in this House last year. One of them, to which I have already referred, was made by a man of great wealth and intelligence, who, after giving for 40 years his personal superintendence to the management of his estate, and laying out much money upon it, had not increased his rental. The other was made by a noble Earl sitting behind me, who said that his family 40 years ago introduced the Ulster tenant-right into a part of the country where it had not previously existed; that during those 40 years they had not spent a farthing in improving the estate, but that the happiest relations existed between landlord and te- 16 nant, and that the rent was double what it was 40 years ago. What is the explanation of this contrast? I have heard nothing which clearly explains it, except that there is something in the principle of tenant-right which is congenial to the traditions, to the spirit, and to the ideas of the Irish tenantry, and that, though not fixity of tenure in the slightest degree, it gives them a feeling of security which excites their industry, by which industry both they and their landlords largely benefit. When the Bill was first framed we thought much might be made of other customs which exist in other parts of the country; but, as we went on, we found it was difficult to adopt these, and subsequent discussion in the House of Commons showed that that part of the work must be abandoned. What we have done, therefore, for those persons who cannot claim under the Ulster or similar customs, is to adopt those general provisions which I have described, and which we think will make capricious eviction more difficult, and thus give them a feeling of security. Should eviction nevertheless occur, the tenants will obtain compensation for improvements and for the loss sustained by such ejection. I feel that I have been exceedingly feeble in the statement of only a few arguments in favour of the course which we have adopted. I should have liked much to anticipate some of the objections which may be made in the course of debate; but I feel some difficulty in anticipating what the character of those objections will be. I have no right to assume that those or some of those offered in "another place" will be urged here. On the one hand, I do not think it likely that your Lordships will exercise any great pressure, as many Irish county and borough Members did, to induce the Government to go very much further than they were willing to go—which pressure your Lordships, I think, will observe the Government resisted with great firmness and determination. On the other hand, I should be sorry to anticipate any attempt on the part of your Lordships to prejudice the position of the tenant and improve that of the landlord. I have, therefore, looked back to see what objections have generally been made in this House when this subject has been discussed, or when Bills have been brought forward on previous 17 occasions, and I find that they are mainly these—I find that retrospective compensation has been objected to, as ex post facto legislation. Now, I admit that nothing can be worse than ex post facto legislation. Whether in criminal or civil matters, it is a principle from which we should all shrink: and the one thing which enables me to defend it in the present instance is the general concurrence that it is not only expedient, but almost necessary, that you should deal with past improvements by the legislation which is only now beginning. Indeed, a leading Member of the Opposition declared in the House of Commons that retrospective compensation was alone sufficient to oblige him to agree to the second reading of the Bill, whatever other provisions there might be in it; and I feel that, after the general admissions and acknowledgment, first of all pointed out by the Devon Commission, and afterwards endorsed by successive Governments, of the injustice to the tenant of giving him no property in the improvements he has made, Parliament, having neglected during those years to remedy that injustice, is now bound to make that reparation that is so necessary and just. I am sure, moreover, that if 11 years ago a Conservative Government thought it right to propose retrospective compensation and ex post facto legislation for this purpose, it is absolutely clear that the obligation is ten times stronger on the present Government and the present Parliament to do this tardy justice. When Lord Derby first introduced a Bill, great blame was thrown on Sir Robert Peel and his Colleagues for having appointed the Devon Commission, and so agitated a matter which should have been left quiet. I cannot contemplate that your Lordships will raise that objection, for I am convinced that nobody here sitting on a barrel of gunpowder would think that keeping it dry and warm was the best way of avoiding an explosion. As to the interference with freedom of contract, I do not know whether the objection will take the common-sense or the legal form. If the former, your Lordships must feel that the Bill proceeds throughout on the theory of the incompetency of the bulk of the Irish tenants to make free compacts for themselves. Withdraw that principle, and the Bill would be a complete sham, and would have no 18 effect whatever. If the objection is a legal one, I confess I shrink from entering into a discussion of it in which I am likely to be followed by noble and learned Lords; but I own I do not understand how interference with freedom of contract, per se, is contrary to the principles of our law. There are instances in which the law steps in and interferes with the freedom of contract. A shipowner is subject to such interference, with regard to taking on board his vessel persons who, in other respects, are quite competent to enter into a contract. That restriction is a perfectly wise one; and it is one of many instances showing that it is no positive principle of the law to forbid interference with freedom of contract. But I am not confined to a solitary instance. As an employer of labour in the Midland counties, I believe I should not only derive a certain amount of profit, but should confer a certain amount of advantage on my workmen if I were to supply them with a portion of their wages in goods, which, buying in larger quantities, I should procure better and more cheaply than they can. They being adults, I could freely contract with them for that purpose. Owing, however, to the abuses of the truck system, Parliament most properly stepped in and prevented that arrangement. I am obliged to pay my workmen in money; and, in consideration of the general good, I am precluded from doing what in many cases would be beneficial to both parties. I believe the law is a good one, and I am only afraid it is too often evaded. It clearly shows that the public good is not inconsistent with interference with freedom of contract. I may mention one other case—for this is an important point, which, I think, has been misunderstood out of the House. A few years ago I wished to make, in the interest of a relative, an arrangement with a Friend, based on his title to a reversion. He was a man of my own age, and of great intelligence. I went to a learned friend and asked whether there was any difficulty. He said there was none if I could trust to the character of my friend; but that, if asked as a lawyer whether it was safe, he must tell me that there was the greatest possible difficulty, for though my noble Friend was as competent as anyone to make a free contract, the jealousy of the Courts with regard to reversioners was 19 Such that I should probably find myself without a legal remedy. He mentioned to me—what, of course, I knew before—the numerous cases in which freedom of contract is interfered with between attorneys and clients, guardians and wards, in which, for the sake of the public good, persons were deemed by the Courts unable to take care of themselves; an assumption, often a false one, on which this principle of the law seems to be founded. I could point to cases of which I am personally cognizant; but I venture to give one which may affect us all this evening. I think it possible that on the adjournment of the House the supply of cabs may be less than the demand. Suppose one of us were to attempt to get an advantage of his brother Peers, and were to promise an intelligent, middle-aged cabman 5s. if he would take him home in his hackney carriage—the cabman might be willing to trust one's honour, but the bargain would be absolutely void in law, although in other respects the two parties might be perfectly competent to contract together. Another point which has always been urged when a Bill like this has been sought to be introduced is that it would damage and injure the landlord. My Lords, I will answer generally that my firm belief is that there is no one person so interested in this measure as the proprietor of the soil, if it be, as I think it is, really calculated to promote good relations between tenants and landlords—if it be, as I believe, likely to increase the prosperity, the peace, and the order of Ireland, and to mitigate that system of intimidation to which I have previously referred. It is impossible on these subjects to prophesy; but I am glad to be able to bring to your Lordships' attention one fact contained in an extract from a letter received only yesterday, which I think has some bearing on the probable future effect of this Bill, if your Lordships agree to it, on the value of Irish estates. It relates to the effect which the announcement of this Bill, and the probability of its passing, have had on the value of land sold in the Encumbered or Landed Estates Court of Ireland. The Judge of that Court was asked by my noble Friend the Lord Lieutenant whether the introduction of the Bill had operated injuriously or otherwise upon the value of land in Ireland; and the 20 extract in answer to that question which I will read to your Lordships is as follows:—I may say with perfect certainty that, forming a judgment from the actual working of the Landed Estates Court, the selling price of Irish land has been higher since the Land Bill has been introduced and discussed. The Landed Estates Court did not press parties to sell when time was asked on the ground of uncertainty of the law; but when properties were brought to sale (necessarily below the average), the prices realized were higher than at former periods. In no way has it appeared that any deterioration in the value of property has occurred. Private offers for the sale of land have been made to the Court and approved, and in all cases have been at rather higher prices than were usual at sales; and no application has ever been made to the Court to accept an offer on the ground that the land law contemplated, or, in course of being passed, rendered it prudent to accept the offer.My Lords, I think that testimony is satisfactory, as far as it can have any bearing on this matter. [The Earl of LUCAN asked by whom the letter was written.] It comes from the learned Judge Lynch, who presides over the Irish Landed Estates Court. I freely admit it is a matter of opinion whether this Bill is likely to be beneficial to the landlord, and I know that in the conviction of many of your Lordships it will be absolutely the contrary. But on this point I should wish to make one remark—because I believe very few of us will not agree that the Bill does contain very valuable provisions in favour of the Irish landlord. I think that Parliament has something to answer for in the delay that has occurred in legislating on this great and important question. But I will say that, at the present moment, that has happened which, I think, is creditable to the governing classes of this country. By the House of Commons—the great majority of which are, I believe, either landlords themselves or persons closely connected with those who are—the Bill has been received with great cordiality, and passed with the support of large majorities. And now, sitting in this Assembly, in the midst of some of the greatest landlords in England, Scotland, and Ireland, I feel a sanguine anticipation that your Lordships will assent to the principle of, and give a second reading to, the measure I now venture to ask you to adopt. There is a closing passage in the Report of the Devon Commission in which it canvasses the respective opinions of 21 those who think that legislation can do everything in this matter, and of those who think that legislation can be of no avail. I believe the Commissioners were right in coming to the conclusion that while legislation can do an immense amount of good, to do so it must be supported by the general co-operation of the community at large in that island. My Lords, I cannot conceive of anything which will give a greater impulse to that good spirit and that wish to cooperate than that this House, composed as it is pre-eminently of landlords, should consider, discuss, and decide this question, as I most confidently hope it will, not only in a just, but in a large and generous spirit towards the tenantry of Ireland.
My Lords, I will now only thank you for the indulgence which I did not venture to claim, and which you have accorded to me in so singularly gracious a manner.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl Granville?)
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
My Lords,—My noble Friend (Earl Granville), in the course of his speech, has put one or two questions to me with which, before I enter on the few remarks that I wish to make on the present occasion, I had better deal. In the first place, my noble Friend, in that portion of his remarks in which he dealt with the question of freedom of contract, asked me what I should do, if I were at the Board of Trade, with the adult ship-master and the adult sailor. My noble Friend will, I hope, forgive me for saying that I do not think the subject of landlord and tenant in Ireland is at all upon all fours with such a case; and I am sure he will not think me discourteous if I decline to enter into the case of the adult shipowner and the adult sailor, who have no more to do with the question under discussion than the "intelligent foreigner" who is not seldom brought under our notice. No less than three times within the last 12 months your Lordships have been asked to consider great measures of exceptional legislation in regard to Ireland, and the reasons given for introducing them have always been that an exceptional state of things exists in Ireland; that the circumstances prevailing there cannot be found either in England or in Scotland, but that the condition of 22 affairs in Ireland is such as renders it absolutely necessary that such measures should pass—and that such measures cannot be applied to England. Some 10 months ago your Lordships were asked to pass a Bill for the disestablishment of the Established Church of Ireland, and we were told on that occasion that that change was to be the harbinger of a better state of things—that Ireland was by its means to become prosperous and contented, and that, after the Church had been disestablished, further measures would follow which would greatly improve the condition of that country—in short we were taught to expect that a new era as regards Ireland was about to be ushered in. But what has taken place? Have these hopes been realized? So far from there being a better state of things in Ireland since the disestablishment of the Church, your Lordships, within the last four months, have been invited to pass probably one of the most stringent and most coercive measures ever inscribed in the statute book of this country. That measure must be so familiar to the minds of your Lordships that it is perfectly unnecessary for me to specify its provisions in order to show you how stringent and coerceive it was. It is sufficient for my purpose to say that it was brought forward and supported upon the hypothesis that such an exceptional state of things existed in Ireland as called for such peculiar and exceptional legislation. And now the Land Bill is introduced, and supported by similar arguments as in the former cases, based upon the peculiar circumstances of Ireland. My Lords, I am not prepared to assert that this is not so:—I am not prepared to assert that the state of things with regard to the land question in that country is not exceptional; but I do say we ought to take very great care that, in legislating for this exceptional state of things, we are not too ready to adopt a species of legislation which may be hereafter brought forward as a precedent and reason for applying similar measures to other portions of Her Majesty's dominions. And, my Lords, I think I am justified in making that remark, because within the last few days I find that an hon. gentleman, when appealing for the suffrages of a large portion of an English county—I refer to Mr. Paget, who stood as a candidate for a division of Leicester- 23 shire, and who put himself forward as an ardent admirer and supporter of Her Majesty's Ministers—stated that he thoroughly went with all the measures they had brought in, and more especially praised their Bill for dealing with the Irish land question, observing that, as soon as that Bill should have become law, he saw no reason why a similar measure should not be applied to England—on the contrary, he saw every reason why it should be applied to England, because, he said, the case of the tenant in England is like the case of the tenant in Ireland, and if you protect the one against the landlord you ought also to protect the other. My Lords, I do not assent to the argument urged by that gentleman; but it shows that there is danger in some questions of this exceptional legislation being regarded as worthy to be made the rule. I confess I agree to a certain extent with what was said by my noble Friend opposite—that the circumstances which exist in Ireland, impelling us to legislate in a certain manner, do not prevail in either England or Scotland. Therefore, in any course I may take in regard to this Bill, I wish to guard myself particularly against being thought to admit that anything which may be done by the Bill with regard to landlord and tenant in Ireland can be applied in any way to the case of landlord and tenant in Scotland or in England. My noble Friend asked, towards the close of his remarks, what view was to be taken of the Bill now under consideration, and he put it that there were two ways of viewing the question—the one the common-sense and the other the legal view. My Lords, before I conclude the few observations I have to offer, I think I shall be able to show that a portion of the Bill, at least, is worthy of condemnation alike on the common-sense and the legal aspect of the question. There are, I think, three points to be considered in this discussion. The first point is, the state of things which renders such a Bill necessary; the second is, whether the Bill itself really meets the difficulties which my noble Friend suggested; and the third is, whether it does not in some of its details go beyond the absolute necessity which requires its introduction. As to the Ulster tenant-right provided for by the 1st clause of the Bill, and those other analogous customs which are dealt with in the 2nd 24 clause, I do not think that any Government would hold themselves bound to bring in a Bill simply to legalize customs which, by the course of time, have now in all respects the force of law; and, therefore, in considering the necessity for this measure, we may put the whole Province of Ulster out of the question. But if the Bill is wanted—as my noble Friend opposite has put it, though he has gone in that respect rather farther than I should be prepared to go—to protect the Irish tenant from capricious eviction, and from having his rent arbitrarily raised from time to time, and the landlord from appropriating the benefit of the tenant's improvements, that is a different matter. My noble Friend said that the bulk of the Irish tenants are quite unfitted to make contracts for themselves, and that, therefore, it was necessary to frame a clause which would protect them from being capriciously evicted without compensation, and which should also provide ample remuneration for improvements they may have made. Now, my Lords, I think my noble Friend has done the Irish landlords as a body some injustice. I know he said that a great proportion of the Irish landlords were good landlords; but he also said that the bulk of the Irish tenants were unfitted to make bargains for themselves, and must be protected. If the Irish landlords were good landlords, I think the necessity for this Bill is not made out. But I want to show to your Lordships and to the country, that which I think ought to be shown clearly—namely, that the bulk of the Irish landlords—I am taking them now as a large class—do not treat their tenants in a harsh or unjust manner. If your Lordships will forgive me for quoting from a book which has been procured at the instigation of the Government—I mean the Report of the Poor Law Inspectors—I think I shall be able to make good my position, that for the great bulk of the Irish landlords, and that for the great bulk of the Irish tenantry the proposal of Her Majesty's Government is not absolutely necessary. I do not wish to assert, however, that any injustice, though operating on however small a body of the people, is beneath a remedy. I do not mean to assert that if there is any injustice done to any portion of the tenantry of Ireland, they should not be protected by legislation—if any injustice 25 is inflicted I think it the duty of Government to find a remedy—but what do the Poor Law Inspectors say with reference to the general conduct of the Irish landlords? Mr. Hamilton, speaking of the Northern counties, Donegal, Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim, &c, says—There are not many instances of tenants losing altogether the value of improvements effected at their own expense through eviction or disproportionate increase of rent; but there are, undoubtedly, such cases.He goes on to say—So far as I can learn, notices to quit are, throughout my district, of rare occurrence. It is, however, the usual practice to resort to such notices on the occasion of a revaluation of an estate, with a view to an increase of the rental, or when the occupiers are disputing and quarrelling among themselves about the boundaries of adjacent farms, &c, and the landlord or his agent wishes to adjust and determine the matters in difference between them.He then quotes a statement of Major Ellis, Chairman of the Omagh Board of Guardians, an extensive land agent in Tyrone, to show the advantage to be derived from a judicious exercise of this power. Major Ellis says—Tenants are never evicted, but notices to quit are often served—generally to enforce the award of the landlord or agent in the oft-recurring cases of disputes brought before them. These disputes are, for the most part, as to boundaries and fences, and rights of turbary. I hold courts periodically to settle these cases; the tenants willingly submit them to my award; but in many instances the party against whom the decision is given would not abide by it, if I had not the power of enforcing it by notice to quit. Should such be taken away, it would be essential to substitute some other in its place, or else the disputes would either be left unsettled or recourse must be had to the superior Courts in trifling matters—a course which would be most expensive to small tenants.Mr. Horsley, speaking of Kerry and parts of Cork and Limerick, says—Any reclamation that has taken place has, almost without exception, been the work of tenants alone, and, in most cases, of tenants-at-will, who invariably expect—an expectation in which they are seldom disappointed—that they will be left in undisturbed possession of their holdings, without any increase of rent, for a sufficiently long period to compensate them fully for their labour and capital.He goes on to say—Although this class of tenants are positively without any legal security for receiving fair and proper treatment at the hands of their landlords, in practice, so far as my district is concerned, this precarious position is more imaginary than real. Scarcely any well authenticated cases of oppression or extortion on the part of landlords towards tenants-at-will have been brought under my notice within the last 12 years, and happily 'notices 26 to quit' are now very rare, and only resorted to in extreme cases. … Although, as already stated, tenants-at-will possess no real security for the value of the improvements made by them, it has been customary for landlords in my district to deal fairly with holders of this class whenever they wished to surrender their farms with a view to emigration or an abandonment of agricultural pursuits; and I am not aware of any instances where—except in the case of a change of owners of property—the landlord has closed upon or appropriated to his own benefit the value of unexhausted improvements; nor has it, so far as I can learn, been the practice of landlords in my district to raise the rents of tenants-at-will on account of the enhanced value of their holdings, derived from their own skill, labour, industry, and capital.I only quote these extracts, because I believe there is a general feeling in some parts of the country that this Bill is necessary because all Irish landlords are tyrants, and all Irish tenants slaves. But, my Lords, it is nothing of the kind; and these passages will bear me out when I say that the Irish landlords as a class are inferior to no other class in Her Majesty's dominions. Mr. Robinson, reporting on Wicklow, parts of Carlow, Dublin, and other Eastern counties, says,There is not much money laid out in this district in the reclamation of waste lands, except by means of drainage; in some places a tenant is given lime by his landlord to improve and reclaim his ground, and when he does so, and cultivates a portion of mountain or cut-away bog, he is usually allowed to hold it for some time at a mere nominal rent, and thus repay himself for his outlay… On every estate where the Ulster tenant-right custom is recognized by a proprietor, an understanding of course exists that a tenant, if he leaves his farm, may receive a sum that will compensate him for his improvements; but in other cases the tenant generally incurs the expenditure, trusting only to the justice and fair dealing of his landlord; in the great majority of cases this confidence is not misplaced, for tenants who pay their rent regularly are very rarely evicted, while the revaluation of a farm held at will, for the purpose of raising the rent, is not of frequent occurrence, and when such takes place the value of the improvements effected by the tenant is very seldom added to the rent. I have been informed by two professional valuators, that when they revalue for the purpose of adjusting the rent, it is usual for the tenants to be allowed the full value of buildings, or other improvements, created by themselves. … Considering the number of agricultural holdings in this district, there are very few evictions, and these are principally for nonpayment of rent; I find, also, that not much more than half the ejectment decrees that are obtained are executed. Notices to quit are not of frequent occurrence. I am aware that it has been asserted that 'it is the practice on many estates in Ireland, to serve the agricultural tenants from year to year with legal notices to quit, so that they may be every moment at the absolute mercy of their landlords;' but, having carefully inquired into 27 the matter, I do not believe that any such practice exists in this district.Dr. Brodie, writing of parts of Cavan, Clare, Galway, King's County, and the West centre, says—On many of the larger and well-managed estates, the tenants of a superior class, equally with the smaller tenants, enjoy continued occupancy by descent or succession, and are very generally tenants-at-will. Under some landlords the tenant improves according to his ability and inclination, at his own expense, in the confidence that his occupation will not be disturbed nor his rent increased.There is one more remarkable passage which I will quote from Dr. Rougham. Speaking of Sligo, he says—The tenants in this county, while they have no exact guarantee that they shall receive compensation for their improvements in the event of surrender, or that they will be allowed the undisturbed enjoyment of the effects of their improvements for a certain definite period, seem to me to have the most implicit reliance on the honour of their landlords. To go through the many instances in which tenants have related the many acts of paternal kindness they have experienced from their landlords is foreign to my purpose. For five-and-twenty years ejectments have not been known on some of those estates. … Where improvements have been executed by the tenant at his own cost, there is almost unanimous testimony to the effect that, excepting where he holds by lease, he has no absolute security for his expenditure, no understanding that he will receive a fair proportion in the event of eviction or surrender, no guarantee of undisturbed enjoyment of the effects of his improvements for a certain definite period—nothing beyond the confidence which he places in the character and good faith of his landlord, and the practice of the estate. There is much evidence to the effect of—'the feeling of confidence that they will not be evicted'—'certain not to be disturbed while he pays his rent'—'hope that the landlord, being a good man, may never disturb him'—'the invariable practice of the estate'—'the honour and honesty of his landlord'—'good disposition of his landlord'—'good feeling and liberality of his landlord'—'guarantees do not exist'—'custom does away with the necessity'—usage is the guarantee which the tenant has of not being disturbed'—'occupation' is 'fixity of tenure'—'the practice is to be thankful for a good tenant, and keep him'—'the tenant relies on the honour of his landlord that he will be treated fairly'—'undisturbed enjoyment'—'general custom of not disturbing solvent and improving tenants'—'feel that so long as they pay their rents they have practically fixity of tenure.'I will not weary your Lordships by reading any more extracts to show that the Irish landlords, as a class, do not evict their tenants or take to themselves the benefit of the improvements which their tenants have made. No doubt there is a class of holdings in Ireland, those which have been purchased under the Encumbered Estates Court—on which 28 possibly the conduct of the landlords may bear a different aspect. It is very natural to suppose that a man who goes over to Ireland to purchase land as a matter of speculation, who can have no possible feeling of personal regard for the people, and who only desires to get the best return he can for his money—it is natural to suppose that such a man may, in some instances, treat his tenantry in a manner to a certain extent harsh. I believe, according to the book from which I have quoted, that about one-sixth of the soil of Ireland has changed hands under the operation of the Encumbered Estates Act, and I think it is fair that some provision should be made to meet cases in which the tenantry so situated suffer. I therefore admit, with my noble Friend, that some measure is necessary. It is not to my purpose now to inquire what has rendered it necessary—whether it has been brought about by past legislation, or whether it is by the agitation, which has been sometimes extremely active in Ireland, and which has induced the people of that country to believe that they are very much injured by their landlords—a belief which no true friends of the Irish people would have inculcated. But it is not my purpose to go into these topics now: I admit that some legislation is necessary, and that we must deal with an admitted necessity, and deal with it in an effectual and comprehensive manner. I admit the position to be this—that we must so legislate as to protect the smaller tenants in Ireland from the effects of capricious eviction: I am sure the smaller tenants have much fewer grievances than they imagine, but I believe legislation so far to be necessary.
And now, my Lords, I come to the measure introduced by my noble Friend for this purpose. And here I must say that when I first read the Bill I did so with feelings of the greatest amazement; because I venture to say that a more direct interference with the rights of property has seldom, if ever, been brought under your Lordships' consideration. My noble Friend, with that prophetic eye with which he is so often blessed, seeing beforehand what might possibly happen, deprecated anything of what he calls a personal character being imported into the discussion on this Bill. Now, I am always anxious, when I can, to concur with my noble Friend's views, 29 and I am not going to introduce anything of a personal character into the discussion, except what maybe absolutely necessary for the purpose of my argument, and that, I hope, in no offensive manner. I read the Bill, I say, as introduced into "another place" with great amazement, because I considered that it did interfere most essentially, and does still interfere, with the rights of property. Whether you have brought about such a state of things in Ireland that it is necessary to legislate in that direction I will not now inquire. I will come to that afterwards. It will be in the recollection of your Lordships that during the last Session of Parliament the noble Marquess now on the Cross Benches (the Marquess of Clanricarde) introduced a measure called the Land Tenure Bill (Ireland), and some debates occurred upon this question; but the noble Marquess was not induced by the conduct of the Government to press his measure through this House. My Lords, at that time another very large measure was under discussion. My noble Friend opposite when he was asked what the Government were going to do with regard to the Irish land question, declined altogether to give us any information. We were told then that the disestablishment of the Irish Church was the larger measure and would occupy so much of your Lordships' attention during the Session that it would be unwise to undertake to deal with so great and important a question as Irish land. They were pressed pretty often on the subject, but they preferred to keep silence. My noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies on the 20th of April used these words—The noble Marquess has himself said he was quite aware it would not satisfy those visionary persons who expect that all the laws of property should be set aside for their benefit. I quite concur with him in that opinion, and I trust that no such law can possibly pass the Legislature of this country."—[3 Hansard, cxcv. 1164.]I was rather struck by the light manner in which my noble Friend has now passed over the remarks he then made. I may here remark that I see the noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal taking notes. I will save him the trouble, because I will tell him exactly what he said on that occasion. The Lord Privy Seal was rather in advance of his Colleagues. In his remarks on that occasion he was rather more incautious, for after saying— 30It would, therefore, be most improper to attempt by anticipation to indicate the provisions of any scheme which may be brought forward in a future Session,he proceeded to say—But I am sure I speak the feeling of my Colleagues when I say that we should not consent to a measure upsetting the rights of property and inconsistent with the just rights which must be maintained throughout, the United Kingdom. The sound principles laid down by the noble Marquess must be borne in mind, that while we should endeavour in some way to devise a scheme which may satisfy moderate men in Ireland, recognizing that some different arrangements are necessary there than now exist to secure to the tenant the enjoyment of the money he has laid out, at the same time we ought to take care not to unsettle the rights of property throughout the United Kingdom."—[3 Hansard, cxcv. 1181.]He here distinctly tells us that the object of the Bill which was to be brought in was not to unsettle the rights of property throughout the United Kingdom, and that the tenant would be compensated, not for what is now called "disturbance," but for the money which he has laid out. To that principle I believe no one would object. I, at all events, confess that, for one, I should not. If a man has improved my property it is only right he should recoup himself, and I am sure that all the Members of this House on whatever side they may sit will agree to that. But I do say that in this Bill the Government have gone very much farther than my noble Friend gave us any reason to believe he would do last year; and that may account for one of the statements made tonight by my noble Friend, in which he told us, in praising his own Cabinet for the time and labour they had bestowed upon the measure, that there were many opinions last year which they had to overcome in order to arrive at some definite conclusion. Then on another evening, the 26th of April, my noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies said—At the same time (Lord Athlumney) expressed his great satisfaction with the assurance given by my noble Friend (Lord Kimberley) and myself that we should not propose anything in the least subversive of the rights of property.[Earl GRANVILLE: Hear, hear!] My noble Friend says, "Hear, hear!" but he will have to explain it much more clearly if he believes that it agrees with this Bill. I have looked at the Bill from the light of those speeches made last year, and it occurred to me while I read that, at all events, those two noble Lords could have had no hand in preparing it 31 —and that, indeed, the main share of the labour had fallen to the Prime Minister himself, who has told us that he looks upon the measure as one which is to bring happiness and contentment into the country; and he has expressed his belief that it is by this measure, and by this measure alone, that any real good can be effected, and he hopes that it will result in a happy union between Ireland, England, and Scotland. Now, I want to see what was in the minds of the Government when they drew up the Bill. The Postmaster General (the Marquess of Hartington) has taken an entirely different view of the subject from his Colleagues, and a very remarkable one.—He is connected with Ireland by property, and ought to have some knowledge of the country, and he is of opinion that the Bill will make no alteration whatever. He savs—I believe, that, in the great majority of cases, affairs between landlords and tenants in Ireland will go on precisely as they have hitherto done. … I believe that Irish landlords have, as a body, done their duty to their tenants, while they have, perhaps, put up with more and sacrificed more than any body of landlords in either England or Scotland have done…… I cannot see why the landlords of Ireland, good as I believe them in general to be, should object to a measure which will give to the tenants that sense of security which, in fact, they now possess, but which the acts of a few have hitherto prevented them from feeling."—[3 Hansard, cci. 23.]Well, but if they enjoy security now they ought to be satisfied. If they enjoy security, of what service will the sense of it be to them? For my part I would much rather enjoy the substance than the shadow. Looking at these various and discordant opinions, I cannot think that the Cabinet were altogether at one on the subject.
Now, my Lords, I wish to call your attention to some of the provisions in the earlier part of the Bill—of those earlier clauses which I maintain do interfere, and interfere very seriously, with the rights of property. Take the 3rd clause, which gives compensation in the absence of custom. Take the case of a tenant from year to year. Of course every landlord wishes to maintain the character of his estate and also of his tenants. A landlord feels that the character and intelligence and industry of his tenants reflects credit upon him; and everyone is desirous that his tenants should be good, worthy, and proper men, and men who will improve the agriculture of the 32 district. But suppose a landlord has on his estate a tenant who is a bad farmer, an immoral man, and a pest to the country in which he resides, a man who has not a single qualification which a good tenant ought to have. The landlord says "This man is not a credit to my estate—he is a bad example to everyone round. I will get rid of him." But what does this Bill say? "If you get rid of him you must pay him." When you enact that a landlord cannot get rid of a bad tenant without paying a fine you are, in my opinion, committing a distinct interference with the rights of property. Then take a case of interference with the rights of property which has not yet been put. Take the case of a tenant who is in arrear of rent. He assigns his farm to a third person, who clears off the arrears, and the landlord finds himself saddled with a tenant of whom he probably never heard before, and of whom he knows nothing, except perhaps, upon inquiry, he finds that he is the greatest blackguard in the country. And yet he cannot get rid of a man who became his tenant against his wish without first of all paying for it. I want to put it to your Lordships as landlords whether you think it right or fair that a tenant should be able to hand over his farm to somebody over whom you have no sort of control, and whether it is not a direct interference with the rights of property that you should not be able to get rid of such a tenant without having to pay a sum of money to obtain his removal. And then my noble Friend opposite (Earl Granville) tells me that this Bill is not an interference with the rights of property. Why, if he can say that, he can say almost anything. Now, my noble Friend the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll) is, I dare say, very familiar with the 19 years' lease in Scotland. With that lease—and I speak more particularly of the North—a Scotch farmer will build houses, reclaim land, convert a barren soil into a fertile holding, and at the end of the 19 years he will be perfectly satisfied with the first offer of the farm at the renewed rent which the landlord may choose to put upon it. But nothing less than the giving of a 31 years' lease will exclude a landlord in Ireland from the operation of the 3rd clause of this Bill. While I am upon the 3rd clause I wish to point out to my noble Friend another most extraordinary provision. 33 This provision, which is to be found on page 3, says that any tenant in the higher scale may, at his option, claim to be compensated on so much only of his rent as will bring him into a lower class. Under this clause a tenant paying a rent of £41 would be entitled to three years' compensation, or £123; but he may say to his landlord—"I will cease paying you £41 rent, I will pay you only £39," and then he would be entitled to compensation for four years, or £156. I do not think that result could have been intended by the Government, and I trust my noble Friend will see the propriety of altering it. If not, I shall certainly divide your Lordships against what I consider a most anomalous state of things. I will not trouble your Lordships with any remarks on Clause 4, because it has very much reference to improvements made by money laid out by the tenants; but I must call attention to the very extraordinary provision contained in Clause 5. That clause is a most material one; the marginal note is this—"Presumption in respect of improvements." You entirely alter the existing state of things by the operation of that clause. You propose to presume by this Bill that all improvements have been made by the tenant unless the landlord shall prove the opposite. Improvements, I take it at present, belong to some one; you cannot take them at a lump sum, and let the tenant and landlord scramble for them. The tenant may claim them; but if he does, surely the onus probandi should be laid on him? He knows what he asks for; he knows where he has laid out his money; he can produce, if he choose, books and bills to substantiate his claim; but you call on the landlord to prove a negative—which is one of the most difficult things any man can be called on to do. I see a great many noble Lords who are connected with Ireland, to whom I might appeal on this point. I have had information given me with respect to one estate in particular, upon which, during the last 20 years, very large sums of money have been laid out in improvements by the landlord. Once pass this Bill, declaring that the presumption shall be that improvements belong to the tenant, and I am told the landlord will not be able to establish his claim in any case whatever. My Lords, that is a strong proof, as far as my opinion goes, that 34 this Bill does interfere with the rights of property; because, if you take away the improvements which now belong to me and give them to someone else, I cannot regard that as anything but a very serious and decided interference with the rights of property. My Lords, I will not trouble you with a longer argument to establish that fact, because the Chief Secretary for Ireland admitted it in the other House of Parliament. He stated, in corroboration of a statement by the hon. Member for Carlow, as follows:—I know perfectly well that what the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Kavanagh) said to-night is true—that, under this Bill, the landlord will not be able to do as he wills with his own.Well, what is that? Is it not interference with the rights of property? Then he says, as a matter of opinion—But I know equally well that these restrictions will be for his own good, as they are for the good of the tenant."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 1448.]That is the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman. I cannot say that I quite agree with that view—taking away my property and giving it to some one else.
Well, my Lords, these being the views I entertain on the subject-matter of the Bill itself, it has been with some difficulty that I have been able to make up my mind as to the course we ought to pursue on this occasion. I have given the subject my most anxious consideration, and the result I have arrived at is this—that I ought to support the second reading of the Bill. I regret that such a measure should be necessary; but I find, on looking around, making use of all the information open to me, that the Bill is generally, to a certain extent, acquiesced in by a great number of people. The Bill has been thoroughly and fully discussed in the other House of Parliament, and I am bound to say that during its passage through that House the alterations which have been made have very much amended it—the Amendments have been wise and proper; and I think it would be very unwise to ask your Lordships to undertake the very great responsibility that would attach if I invited you to reject this measure. I believe that the Irish landlords as a body, and the Irish people generally, are anxious that it should pass, and I think it would be a very great responsibility to incur the odium, I may say, of rejecting the Bill. Disappointment would 35 naturally prevail during the autumn and winter, and the almost certain result would be that next year we should have to discuss a measure probably worse, if anything could be worse, than the Bill now before us. I shall, therefore, go into Committee, if the Bill is read a second time—which I hope it will be—with a strong determination of introducing such Amendments only as appear to be consistent with the principles on which the Bill is framed; and I can assure my noble Friend that I shall not attempt by any side-wind to upset what may be considered the cardinal points of the measure. I shall ask your Lordships to take the function on yourselves, which I think fairly and properly belongs to you—of criticizing, amending, and, I hope, improving, the measure now under consideration.
Perhaps it may not be inconvenient, although I have been some time addressing your Lordships, if I point out some of the objections I entertain to portions of the Bill. In regard to the scale, I think it might be amended—the lower part of it might be altered; and I have a strong opinion that the clause with regard to cottages should be struck out altogether. I think that clause a very unsafe one. According to that clause you allow a tenant of 100 acres to subdivide his farm into four. He is enabled to build four cottages thereon, into which he may put four of his sons, so that the farm of 100 acres is divided into four farms of 25 acres, with a cottage on each of them; and you have not the smallest reason to suppose that these cottages will be anything better than the common mud cottages which are said to prevail in Ireland, utterly inconsistent with cleanliness, decency, or morality. The effect would be, that the landlord, when he resumed possession of the farm of 100 acres, would find himself saddled with four cottages, which he would much rather had not been built; and, in addition to giving the man money to go out of the farm, he would have to give a further sum to get rid of the cottages, before he could put the farm into a proper state or expect to receive any rent for it. Then, as to the length of the lease which a landlord must give, in order to work himself out of the provisions of the Bill, I think the term proposed is too long. Instead of 31 years 36 it need not be more than 21 years. I appeal to my noble Friend opposite (the Duke of Argyll) whether any one of his farms in Scotland is let for a longer term than 21 years, and whether the tenants are not perfectly satisfied? In the Lothians, where the farms are more like gardens than farms, the leases do not exceed 19 or 21 years. I think, also, my Lords, some period of time should be fixed and stated in the Bill, the lapse of which should extinguish the tenant's claim to compensation for improvements. There should be a certain term for houses, for lands, and what in the Bill are termed "other improvements." Then with respect to what is termed "disturbance," I think it should be in the power of the Judge to say whether there had been on the part of the tenant a breach of reasonable provisions sufficient to cause a disturbance. The Judge ought to decide that. The landlord and tenant should also have the power of settling matters without going into Court. If a landlord disagrees with a tenant, or if one makes a claim from which the other dissents—as I read the Bill, and as others more learned in the law have read it, it is compulsory on the landlord and tenant to go before the Court, although they may be perfectly willing to agree among themselves, without troubling the Court at all. I shall be prepared with Amendments, embodying all these views, when we go into Committee. Then, I think, some better provision ought to be made with regard to subletting—for instance, there should be some provision, that no holding should be assigned to an insolvent person; that I think essential. And another point, which is also of great importance, is, that the award made by the Judge of the Civil Bill Court should bear upon the face of it all the particulars that he has decided in the case; for if the Judge does not state in his award the reasons which have induced him to arrive at his decision, the person desiring to appeal to the Superior Court will have nothing upon which to found his claim in seeking that the judgment of the Court below may be reversed. Anyone may say—"The Judge has decided against me, I am dissatisfied with that decision, and I wish to appeal;" but unless he has some substantial ground on which to base his claim, how is it possible that justice should be done? The Judge ought also, in my opinion, 37 to be able to decide without a jury. The constitution of this tribunal appears to be peculiar—I certainly do not know a parallel for it in this country— but I am told that the Judge of the Civil Bill Court, before whom the parties are to go, is at liberty—I was going to say to empanel a jury—but to call upon any three persons who may happen to be in Court at the moment, and to ask them to decide the case. That I consider to be a very unsatisfactory state of things. If the Judge is fit to occupy his position in the Court, he ought to be able to decide these questions, and I would far rather leave the matter to him. The clause relating to distress seems to me to have been framed and inserted somewhat hastily in the other House of Parliament; in fact, it is altogether inconsistent with the principle which my noble Friend lays down, and I am so anxious for his credit, so desirous that he should be in all things consistent, that I will call his attention specially to the point. Clause 66 provides that—It shall not be lawful for any landlord to make any distress for rent due out of any holding held under a tenancy created after the passing of this Act, unless such holding shall be so held under a tease or written agreement, regulating the terms of such tenancy, and giving a right of distress to the landlord.This is a clause pointing distinctly to a bargain between the parties; but the ground on which the noble Earl justifies the introduction of the Bill is that the parties are not competent to enter into a bargain at all. It is clear that Clause 66 is inconsistent with everything else in the Bill, which assumes that the Irish tenantry are not fitted to look after themselves at all—the two cannot go together at all—and my noble Friend no doubt will agree with me that to be consistent this clause must be struck out of the Bill. As to con-acre, it seems to me that this most injurious system will require to be guarded with provisions such as were suggested in the other House of Parliament.
I have now to say a very few words with regard to Parts II. and III. of the Bill. I confess that I have the greatest possible objection to both these parts of the measure. I quite understand the principle of money being advanced by the Government for purposes of drainage, of planting, of fenc- 38 ing, and other like operations which will improve, and permanently improve, the face of the country. By so doing you really confer a benefit upon the country. But I cannot conceive how by advancing money to small tenants to enable them to become proprietors you are in any way conferring a benefit on the country. My Lords, I have always thought—and anybody connected with land will be of the same opinion, that large holdings are very much better than small ones. In the first place, a man with a large holding ought to have, and generally has, a larger capital than a man with a limited holding; he is thereby enabled to spend a great deal more money in his own immediate neighbourhood and district; and I ask your Lordships whether it is not often known that a gentleman's farm does not pay him, merely because he lays out more money upon it in labour than is actually remunerative? Thereby, of course, the neighbourhood and people in humble circumstances are benefited, and they accordingly reap much greater advantages where the holdings are large than where they are small. For my own part, I think it would be very impolitic to create such a set of proprietors as this Bill has in contemplation. And I will, with your Lordships' permission, make one quotation from the writings of a gentleman, who has been referred to by the Prime Minister as knowing more about the people of the country and their wants and circumstances than almost any other writer upon the subject. I allude to Judge Longfield, who says—It has been supposed by many that a beneficial change might be produced in the condition of Ireland by creating and keeping up a large body of peasant-proprietors—that is to say, of men holding small farms in fee simple. I shall not enter into much discussion respecting the utility of such proprietors, because I believe it would be very difficult to create them, and impossible to keep them up in such a country as Ireland… Where they have long existed they may continue for a little longer and be sustained by habits and feelings traditionary in the families. But such habits and feelings cannot be created by any law, and they are inconsistent with the mental activity of Irishmen. They are inconsistent with railways, penny postage, a cheap newspaper press, and national education. Men will follow where their interests lead them, and in general it is not for a man's interest to be a peasant-proprietor.I entirely concur in those remarks, and that is one reason why I very much object to the provisions in the second 39 and third portions of the Bill. I am, at the same time, perfectly aware that it may be replied—"This a question much more for the other House of Parliament to discuss; and if the House of Commons, who are the guardians of the public purse, are satisfied to advance money for such a purpose, the House of Lords ought to look leniently on the scheme." But the Prime Minister himself has thrown out that it is quite possible that this may only be a temporary arrangement; and, by a singular coincidence, the very means taken to give effect to the scheme, in all probability, will render it really inoperative. All the money that is set apart to enable tenants to buy land in Ireland, and to repay landlords for their outlay, is the sum of £1,000,000. The rateable value of property in Ireland is somewhere about £16,000,000; and taking that at 20 years' purchase, it would give a total of something like £300,000,000. To purchase all this property, the only fund available will be £1,000,000, or, adding the third, which the tenants themselves are to contribute to the two-thirds advanced by Government, £1,500,000. Accordingly, the very means which the Government take to carry out this project will, I hope, show the utter futility of the machinery which the Bill proposes to bring into operation. But let us consider the working of the plan. A man wishes to purchase land, and the Government will lend him two-thirds of the money necessary for that purpose. He certainly will not be a very provident man who begins by borrowing two-thirds of the money needed to purchase that which he wishes to buy; and, for all I can see, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the man from borrowing the remaining one-third of the money from somebody else. But having incurred this debt at the outset of their career, I ask your Lordships whether these peasant-proprietors have any chance of being successful in their speculation with regard to land? I am very happy to think that no tenantry with whom I am connected are likely to be in that disastrous state of having no capital of their own and of having borrowed all the capital which they propose to put into the land.
My Lords, I must not further extend these remarks, and I have to apologize for the very unwonted length at which I have addressed you, but deeply impressed 40 as I am with the gravity of the occasion, and considering the extraordinary character of the measure before us, I have felt it my duty to enter into these details in order to justify to your Lordships and to the country the vote which I am about to give. I fervently trust that the results of this legislation may realize the views and expectations of its most sanguine supporters; and if the Bill does put an end to that state of things which has so long disturbed Ireland, if it really does improve the relations between landlord and tenant, and by increasing the general sense of security, gives a stimulus to the agricultural resources of the country—above all, if it terminates that mischievous agitation which has so long delayed all progress in Ireland—then I shall be satisfied at having overcome the objections which I feel to the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and at having voted for the principles which I believe this House affirms in assenting to the second reading of this Bill.
§ EARL RUSSELL
My Lords, having been for many years consulted in the preparation of Bills which have been introduced for the settlement of the questions between landlord and tenant in Ireland, I venture to intrude upon your Lordships by a few words. I admit that the noble Duke who has just sat down (the Duke of Richmond) has treated the question now before us very fairly, and has pointed out the conscientious opinions which he entertains against the second reading of this Bill. But I confess it appears to me that the noble Duke has looked upon the Bill more from the point of view connected with the rights of property than from the side of the advantages it promises to the establishment of the claims of justice. It appears to me that in this, as in other matters, we must look to the general principles of justice, and ask ourselves whether those general principles are affirmed or otherwise in any measure that may be before us; and, if there be any evils existing arising out of the violation of those general principles, whether this measure be the proper and sufficient remedy for them. Now, the general effect of the Paper to which the noble Duke alluded—the Report of the Poor Law Inspectors of Ireland—which I must say is a very able Paper, and contains a great deal of information, from landlords, from agents, and from 41 tenants—from every class of society in Ireland—the general effect of that Paper gives from so many sources of information very nearly the same account of the state of things in Ireland, and that account is—not that the relations between landlord and tenant are satisfactory, as the noble Duke supposes, but that the tenantry in general are dissatisfied; for that there is among them a prevalent feeling of insecurity; and that the landlords, on the other hand, are menaced in their lives if they dispose of their property in the way they would do if they were free to follow their own will. Therefore I say, that the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland are highly unsatisfactory, and very different from those existing in this country. The rights of property are talked about; but I will quote from the Paper two cases, relating to different persons. A man had laid out a considerable sum of money upon his farm, and had got the promise from his landlord that he should have a 31 years' lease. But the property fell into other hands; the promise was denied; the money which the man had laid out in building a house was altogether lost; and the Inspector of Poor Law says that he himself saw the materials of the house carried away. Now, I ask if that was fair justice to receive the value of the man's improvements, to pull down his house, and to give him no compensation? The other case is that of a widow who tells her own story—that her husband had laid out £100 on a holding of no great extent, and that he had reclaimed some acres from the bog; but that having some time afterwards given a vote at an election which was not agreeable to the master, as she called him, under whom they lived, they were turned out of their house, and the man died soon afterwards from vexation of spirit. Now, is this justice? Can any noble Lord declare that this is not gross injustice? If you are to respect the rights of property on the one hand, let me ask you on the other to have respect to the claims of justice. I say that it is not justice that a man should be allowed to lay out a sum of money—be it great or be it small—on the land, and that he should then be turned out without a farthing of compensation. A piece of land is the property of the landlord. He can dispose of it in any way he 42 pleases; he can let or lease it for a term of years, or he can let it on a tenancy from year to year; it is in his power equally to let or to refrain from letting the land; but when he has once done that, then I say that the landlord has entered into a tacit compact with the tenant; and the landlord ought not to be allowed to turn the man out of the land which he has cultivated, out of the house which has cost him a considerable amount of labour, and no small sum of money, and then to deny him, without any show of justice, all compensation. Yet such is the law in Ireland. Every man knows that if he gets notice to quit in due course of law and if he comes before the Court of Quarter Sessions to have his case heard, he cannot put forward any claim, nor will he be heard on the plea that he has laid out money or that he has done anything for the benefit of the farm; but the decree will take from him his holding without any compensation. This appears to me to be a failure of justice. The Bills that have hitherto been introduced to remedy this injustice proceeded in conformity with the principles laid down by Lord Devon's Commission, to provide that the tenant should be paid for his improvements, that a regular account should be kept of them, and that he should be entitled to compensation for them; but with regard to the occupation itself—whether that occupation was by a written contract or from year to year—there was no compensation. In that respect all our previous Bills failed—in that respect the present Bill differs from all its predecessors, and in that respect I think it goes in the right direction. I remember that a case was once mentioned in the House of Commons, a great many years ago, where an eviction was carried out on a large scale, and no fewer than 1,100 persons were turned adrift upon the wide world. The eviction took place about Christmas; and when the land surveyor was asked if any person had perished in consequence of it, he replied that he believed a good many elderly persons having no food or shelter had perished. Now, is that justice? Is it consistent with the ordinary relations that ought to prevail between landlord and tenant? The noble Duke says the present relations are satisfactory; but on this point I will read a short extract from the Report of Mr. Brien, 43 who furnishes the following statement of an agent for two large estates in Ulster:—Notices to quit are very rare, except for nonpayment of rent; but many landlords would eject with a view to consolidation, dealing liberally with the ejected tenants, but they are prevented by the fixity of tenure which has been established by the Ribbon blunderbuss.Generally speaking, the character of the Irish landlords is good; but, unfortunately, when one landlord evicts capriciously or for political purposes, then, as the Inspectors state, one or two instances of that sort spread general terror through the district.
In this country there are many estates where the tenants do not choose to ask or accept leases. They go from generation to generation without any lease or written paper, and go on with the most complete security that, on the death of their landlord, his successor will act towards them just as he had done. But is that the case in Ireland? On the contrary, you there hear it repeatedly said—"We have a good landlord, and we are confident that he will not do us any injustice; but we do not know into whose hands the estate may go next. It may go to a person who will take a different view of his rights or his power as a landlord, or to a young man, who, after dissipating his fortune, will find it necessary to sell his land; and we may be turned out without compensation."
If your Lordships will forgive me I will take an historical view of the subject. Let us inquire what was the difference in the internal state of this country at the time of the Government of Cromwell in England and in France at the time of the Great Revolution. I think you will find that in England the gentry—even those who took part in the war with the King and against the Republican party—for the most part continued on their estates. They were allowed to live quietly, and at the time of the Restoration they retained their estates in security; their tenants had continued to pay the rents, and their houses were uninjured. The French historian, however, who describes England at the time of the War of the Roses, says that nothing could be better than the government of this country, for, even in a time of civil war, nobody suffered except those persons who were actually in arms on one side or on the 44 other. But was that so in France? Were the rights of property respected in France at the time of the Great Revolution? Will anyone tell me that the houses of the landed gentry in France—even of those who dwelt in the country—were not destroyed, and that their property was not confiscated and subdivided? What was the cause of the difference? The cause is pretty plain. It was that, from the time of the Wars of the Roses down to the Civil War, the people of this country felt themselves secure in their holdings. And what has been the state of Ireland? Does it resemble the state of England, where the relations of society were established undisturbed; or does it resemble that of France, where the poor peasants were ground to the earth, where—as a Member of the House of Commons expressed it—"they appeared more like ghosts than men," and revenged themselves in a bloody manner? I am sorry to say that the state of Ireland much more resembles that of France than the condition of England. And it is no wonder. Owing to the contests that took place from the time of Elizabeth down to that of William III., and to the opposition thereby created between the proprietary class and the tenants, there has been a total want of confidence between those classes. Circumstances are better now, no doubt, and for a long time I entertained the opinion shared by my noble Friend (Lord Athlumney)—who was then Chief Secretary for Ireland—that the best way for Parliament to deal with the relations of landlord and tenant in that country was to allow the parties to settle the matter between them—for I felt that no legislation could be sufficiently certain or minute to regulate matters which are so delicate and so difficult. I am, however, forced to the conclusion that that cannot be, and that it will be necessary to legislate, because of the state of uncertainty existing between landlords and tenants. Although it is true that there are only a few bad landlords, and although I trust there are not many Ribbonmen who go out to plunder with revolvers, still there are enough of both classes in the country to produce a feeling of insecurity; and where there is that feeling of insecurity, you are bound to legislate. Her Majesty's Ministers have undertaken a great task—they may fail in that task; but, in my conception, it was right they 45 should undertake it, and I believe they are in the right path to solve this great difficulty; but, with regard to some of the landlords of Ireland, I believe that the phrase used on a former occasion by my noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs (the Earl of Clarendon) was not too strong—their conduct is "felonious" when they appropriate to themselves that which is the result of the skill, industry, and toil of others. Then in what way is this Bill to operate? Unless it operates in some way like the Ulster tenant-right, I should hold that it would not succeed; although I think the Government were quite right in not extending the Ulster custom to the whole of Ireland. In many cases, especially in the South and West of Ireland, the Ulster tenant-right could not be introduced without producing much mischief, as it would introduce a class of tenants who would divide the land and cultivate it worse than the present occupiers. If, however, you give a tenant a claim for that which he has really effected, and grant him a lease, you will apply a remedy where a disease exists; and you will in time gradually—not suddenly, but gradually—restore those relations between landlord and tenant which ought to prevail in every civilized community. But then we are told that we ought not to take this course, because it is not based on the state of things existing in Scotland or in England; and the noble Duke opposite appealed to my noble Friend the Secretary for India (the Duke of Argyll), and asked him whether leases for 21 years were not considered sufficient in Scotland. Now, we all know that the Scotch farmer contrives—being very intelligent, and aware of all the processes by which land is improved—in the course of 21 years to recover his expenses, and at the end of that time he is often very glad to take another farm which is not so much improved, and transfer to it his skill and capital. But is this the state of Ireland?
§ EARL RUSSELL
Well, that is not the case in Ireland; and this Bill even proceeds on the presumption that all the improvements have been done by the tenant. The noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond) very naturally finds 46 fault with that part of the Bill, and considers it an interference with the rights of property. But the Reports of the Poor Law Inspectors have over and over again shown that improvements, and even permanent ones, have been made by the tenants. I know, however, that the system of raising a presumption is very clear to the legal mind. With regard to another part of the Bill, I think it is not quite clear what is to be the case with tenants-at-will. The phrase "tenants-at-will" is very commonly used in Ireland, as applied to those who are in reality only tenants from year to year, who having come into occupation in November or May receive at the time of entering a notice to quit in six months, so that, practically speaking, they cannot be turned out for 12 months. There have, however, been some landlords who wished to put aside that custom, and have tried to force their tenants to give up their occupations at various times. There is an instance quoted by a Poor Law Inspector in which a landlord wished the rent due in November to be paid on the 1st of August, and the tenant to give up possession on the 1st of November.
§ EARL RUSSELL
I suppose the noble Earl will not dispute the case of Mr. Scully. That is often spoken of as a case of eviction: but what he wanted to do was to make all his tenantry sign an agreement, which might well be called compulsory, that they were to give up their land on a fortnight's notice. It was a case of great oppression—a most unjustifiable act, and we can hardly wonder at the unlawful and unjustifiable violence with which it was resisted. This Bill provides that any person holding an occupation for any arbitrary term shall be entitled to the same notice to quit as if he were a yearly tenant; but there is no clause specifying the time at which such notice shall be given. I only desire that the Bill shall be so drawn that there can be no mistake about such tenants receiving a legal notice. As to amending the Bill in Committee, I will only say that the objections which I entertained to it when it was first produced have been removed by the alterations which it underwent in the House of Commons. I find it, as it was there amended, vastly improved, 47 and it is not for me to declare that I propose to add to those improvements. If there was any man who, owing to his habits of mind, was likely to bring forward satisfactory Amendments in the Bill, and to enforce their adoption by his great powers of eloquence, it was Sir Roundell Palmer, and various changes were made in it to meet the objections which he urged. If I understand rightly, these changes were such as to satisfy Sir Roundell Palmer, with that with which he was satisfied, I, too, am content. I shall certainly, therefore, not vote for any Amendments which may be brought forward in this House. If the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond) should succeed in carrying any of the Amendments which he has indicated it to be his intention to propose, they will, no doubt, receive the careful consideration of the Ministry and of the House of Commons, who can accede to them or reject them as they deem proper: but, for my own part, I look upon the Bill with approval, and I confess I entertain the most sanguine hopes as to its operation. The result of that operation will, I believe, be to show that the British Parliament—this united Parliament, which the Repealers are so constantly throwing in our teeth—desire the good of Ireland; that they wish for the benefit of the tenant as well as of the landlord; that they are anxious to do justice to all parties; and that if any further grievances actually oppress the Irish people their complaints will be freely listened to and remedies devised to meet them, so far as lies in our power. If such a feeling is produced by this Bill, I look upon it as a great source of obtaining that cordial union of Ireland and England which it has always been our object to secure. We know it could not be attained in former times: but happy is the Sovereign who can achieve that which Elizabeth with all her power, and that which William III. with all his wisdom and capacity were unable to accomplish. Happy is the Minister who is able to do what Burleigh and Somers could not carry into operation; and happy is the Parliament which, instead of heaping up, as was said by Burke, penalty upon penalty against the Roman Catholics of Ireland, and passing oppressive laws, finds itself bound together in promoting the good of that country, ready to listen to all her just claims, and, 48 as I hope, likely to establish peace and harmony throughout the land as the result of their efforts.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
said, that if, in the course of his observations, he should find it necessary to refer to some remarks that had been made by noble Lords opposite on previous occasions, he hoped it would be quite understood that he had not the slightest intention of making any party attack. He felt it to be his duty to ask their Lordships to reject this Bill, because it contained, as had been admitted by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, principles which had never yet been accepted by the Legislature of this or any other country. The noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Dufferin) had also placed on record that principles, which were substantially similar to those on which this Bill was founded, would be not only detrimental to the interests of the landlords but also a gross infraction of the first principles of justice, and would be fraught with mischief to the community at large. What were the arguments that were or might be alleged against the course he asked their Lordships to adopt? It had been said that it was impossible for their Lordships to reject a Bill that had been carried by so large a majority through the House of Commons, because to do so would be to act in direct antagonism to the Constitution. To that argument he would merely reply that, if the principle which it embodied were assented to, the Constitution would have ceased to exist, for we should be governed simply by one Chamber. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) had referred to what had passed in the other House during the progress of the Bill; but he (Lord Oranmore and Browne) believed he might say that almost every English and Scotch Member of the House of Commons had repudiated the provisions of the Bill as utterly unjust and unfair as between tenants and landlords. Two or three Liberal Members, too, of considerable weight, had moved Amendments in the Bill that would have considerably modified it; but they had, he believed, been checkmated by means of messages sent round to their constituents and the calling of sensational meetings, so that rather than risk their seats for an Irish measure, they either withdrew or did not 49 persevere with their Motions—they gave up what they thought just and reasonable proposals for the sake of party and personal interests. The fact was, that the only excuse for introducing such a measure was, as had been pointed out by previous speakers, that different Governments had proposed similar schemes; but there was nevertheless a great weight of authority among the Liberal party against the principles which the present Bill contained. They had been condemned by three Cabinet Ministers. The noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, for whose opinion he entertained the highest respect, had given expression to views in direct opposition to them; the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that having studied the question attentively he could not see that any case had been made out for separate legislation with regard to Ireland; and the noble Duke at the head of the India Office (the Duke of Argyll) had pointed out that it was impossible any improvement could be made in that country unless the small-tenant system were abolished; and the Chief Secretary for Ireland had given it as his opinion that the principles contained in the second part of the Bill were entirely revolutionary. He feared that party necessity was the real cause for the introduction of the Bill; but in "another place" the reason assigned was that the exceptional position of Ireland made exceptional legislation necessary. Now, he (Lord Oranmore and Browne) denied that crime and outrage in Ireland originated with, or were caused by, the land laws of Ireland. In ordinary times agrarian crime was localized in the Midland counties, and it was caused by a society of trade unionists under the name of Ribbonmen, who banded themselves together not, as English trade unionists did, to keep up the price of labour, but to keep down the price of land. Both were legitimate objects if carried out legitimately; but if associated with violence and assassination they were simply iniquitous. As far as the landlord was concerned, no good reason could be shown for the change now proposed—a change for which no precedent could be found in the land laws of any civilized country. The noble Earl who introduced this measure acknowledged that land in Ireland was let extremely low, and that, as a rule, Irish landlords were liberal and 50 indulgent in their dealings with their tenants. The value of stock there, as was shown by Thom's Statistics, had been increased three-fold within the last 20 years; the sums lodged in the savings banks had doubled; the increase of holdings above 15 acres had been three-fold; 2,000,000 acres of waste land had been reclaimed, and though a large portion of this was in pasture, 32,000 acres were added to the tillage, though with a smaller population than there were 20 years ago. The consequence was a large increase in wages, while rents were regularly paid; and Judge Longfield stated that the value of the tenants' interest in their present holdings, apart from improvements made by them, could not be less than £50,000,000, or one-quarter of the value of the whole fee simple of Ireland. In the face of such facts, how could it be said that Irish tenants were unable to take care of themselves, and that special legislation was required for their protection? He knew something of Ireland himself, and, generally speaking, except in times of political excitement, the greatest good feeling and good-will existed between landlords and tenants; excitement and violence were caused by political agitators who desired to make political capital out of the misfortunes of their country. He asked their Lordships to reject this Bill for the additional reason that it took away the property of the landlord without compensation—as great an act of dishonesty if committed by the State as if committed by any petty robber. There could be no dispute that the 3rd clause, under which the landlord was bound to give the tenant compensation, not only for improvements, but for disturbance of occupancy, must inevitably deteriorate the present value of property, whatever increase in value the promoters of the Bill might foretell in the future, and he estimated that if an estate bringing in £1,000 a year were now forced into the market, the practical result of the Bill would be that the property would fetch only £14,000 instead of £20,000. Was this the principle which anybody would think of applying to property on this side of the water? No such attempt upon the sanctity of private rights ever had, or ever would be, made in England, where, if it became necessary for the good of the State to deal with the property of private persons, it 51 was always done with the utmost caution, and with all care that they sustained no loss by the transaction. Why, in the name of common fairness and honesty, were they to be less scrupulous in Ireland than in England? Another objection to the Bill was, that it would operate in restraint of contract, and would give rise to infinite litigation. He had recently had some conversation with two very eminent lawyers on this subject. One of them prophesied, as the result of the Bill, enormous litigation, the end of which would be that the tenant would be ruined and the landlord shot. The other advised a gentleman to make a barrister of his eldest son, and attorneys of his two other boys, adding—"And then they will divide your property and that of all your neighbours among them!" He was present in "another place" when the Solicitor General for Ireland, taking the Bill in his hand, and turning to the Conservative side of the House, said that certain clauses were all in the landlords' favour, and then, turning to the other side of the House, said that other clauses were in favour of the tenants. What could be the end of such a Bill but litigation, and the continuation of ill-will instead of the introduction of peace and good-will? It had been said that public opinion in Ireland was in favour of this measure; but he had been unable to discover any of the usual indications of the fact. There had been no Petitions in favour of it presented to either House of Parliament—none of that excitement and strength of public opinion that had been evident in the case of the Irish Church Bill. It was certainly not liked in England; with one exception, the Farmers' Clubs of Ireland had declared against it, and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Wexford, on his part and the part of the other Bishops now at Rome, had declared that this Bill gave no kind of satisfaction. He could not, therefore, see any ground for saying that the Bill would settle this question and produce good-will in Ireland. Apologizing for the much too great length at which he had intruded on their Lordships, and thanking them much for their kind indulgence, he would ask their attention to a very few remarks in conclusion, and beg their Lordships to consider rather whether they were true than whether they were agreeable. Irish people believed that the exceptional 52 state of affairs in Ireland was the result of the exceptional system of legislation by which the Parliament and people of Great Britain had now governed Ireland for six centuries. They believed that such measures as the present introduced no new era, but were only another phase of that same one-sided, interested policy, the action of which had reduced Ireland to its present disastrous state. True, this measure and that of last Session were all in favour of the Roman Catholic clergy and the Roman Catholic peasant; whereas legislation for the last two centuries had been favourable to Protestants and Protestant landlords. But why? Because formerly the ruling power in this country was more Protestant and aristocratic; whereas now democracy was the road to power, and so the Government must secure the democratic vote in Ireland. Thus, the Government of Ireland was still carried on, not for the good of Ireland, but it was made subservient to the interests of party politics in this country. Englishmen did not intend this—Parliament did not intend it; but party interests had become so paramount that the political vision of the English people, which was perfectly clear with regard to the duties of its home Government, or to the duties of foreign Governments, was absolutely darkened by a thick cataract when once it had to legislate for Ireland. It was but lately that the hearts of the whole nation were stirred to their inmost core with grief and indignation when they heard of the murder of their countrymen in a foreign land—grief for their loss, indignation at the impotence of a Government which was unable to fulfil the first duties for which it existed. Quickly Her Majesty's Government declared in indignant terms that the lives of British subjects were not to be sacrificed with impunity, and the noble Earl at the head of the Foreign Office (the Earl of Clarendon) was justly congratulated on the activity with which he had stimulated the Greek Government to bring the criminals to justice. But for the last 18 months outrages and murders had been of common occurrence in Ireland, and few of the perpetrators had been brought to justice; and at this time the daily Press related, often without comment, outrages and murders in Ireland, and where was the sympathy, where the just indignation? And yet we were men and brothers. Indeed, 53 sympathy was seat in "messages of peace"—peace which was no peace, but a message of renewed animosity and discord. Let them not send measures like the present, which were alike contrary to all principles of public morality and public justice; let them not sacrifice the true interests of Ireland to petty party interests, but rather govern her as an integral part of the United Kingdom; let them extend to her the same rule of even-handed justice which had made England the great nation she is, and then, but not till then, would the people of Ireland united in themselves, be united not in name, but in feelings and interests with the people of this country.
§ Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and insert ("this day six months.")—(The Lord Oranmore and Browne.)
spoke in support of the Bill, and expressed the hope that the House, comprising as it did many of the wealthiest landlords of Ireland, would deal justly and generously with Irish tenants. He believed the Bill would give security of tenure, the want of which had caused the mutual distrust which had existed between landlords and tenants; that it would make tenants peaceable, contented, and loyal; and that it would bind Ireland closer to this country.
said, he congratulated himself on the opportunity of obtaining information he had long sought as to the nature of tenant-right, and he would therefore venture to ask the noble Lord who had just spoken for his definition of it.
said, it was the right of the man who sowed to reap, and of the man who built a house to be paid for it.
said, that was what he had advocated for 30 years; but he denied that what this Bill provided was confined to that. He disliked the Bill; not because it took a considerable portion of their property away from the landlords, but because it cast a cold shade on the whole prosperity of Ireland. Everyone who had been acquainted with Ireland for the last 30 or even 20 years, must be conscious of the extraordinary advance she had made under the present state of the law. Not long ago he came across an old letter, refer- 54 ring to the wild district in which he lived, and it stated that all the tenants on the townland—the second largest in Ireland—had shut up their cabins and gone out to beg. That townland was inhabited now by a tenantry as respectable as any in Ireland, and as little likely as any tenantry to go out to beg. Yet this improvement had come about by the working of the existing land laws. Upon this point he would read an opinion of Lord Palmerston, who in 1865 said—Now, it has been well observed that no great agricultural improvements can be made except upon large holdings and with large capital. Everybody knows that the great majority of the tenants of Ireland have but small holdings of some 5, 10, or 15 acres, nor have they capital to improve any larger quantity of land which they might hold. But what does that condition of Ireland arise from? It is not from the mis-government of England. England has nothing to do with the subdivision of holdings, by which an immense, and—as many people have thought—a redundant population has been created in Ireland. It arose from the very cause which is now held out as the remedy of the evils complained of—it arose from comparative fixity of tenure. It was fixity of tenure which led to the multiplication of holdings, to the immense population, and to the comparative backwardness of agriculture in Ireland. It is the long leases granted in the last century for 61 years and three lives—lives which had the peculiar property of enduring for an immoderately long period, lives which frequently outlasted the 61 years—that created the evil. The occupying tenants who held under these leases were the least improving people in the world. They never improved; and I can say from my experience that, when leases of that sort fell out, and those who held them became tenants-at-will, it was then they began to improve, assisted, no doubt, in some degree by their landlords; but they had a spirit of improvement inspired into them which they never had at any period of the long holding which might be compared to fixity of tenure, and which was greater than the 31 years' lease that the hon. Member for Dungarvan said was sufficient time for any improvement the tenant might make."—[3 Hansard, clxxviii. 620.]That was Lord Palmerston's opinion, and on that opinion Lord Palmerston acted. He remembered going over Lord Palmerston's property in Ireland at the time when a very large number of the tenants were evicted; but every man was restored to his holding, except a few to whom money was paid to emigrate, and the tenantry were put into more comfortable and more compact farms. The property was held on the "rundale" system, and Lord Palmerston laid out a large amount of money in bringing the farms together, and securing more of 55 the comforts of life to the tenants. The property thus dealt with was now among the most thriving in Ireland. But nothing of that kind could have been done under the present Bill. Was he not right, therefore, in saying that this measure would cast a cold shadow over the returning prosperity of Ireland? The case of Lord George Hill's property, in the county of Donegal, was a similar one. When that property was bought it was in such a condition that one farm was scattered over 42 different patches. The tenants were evicted and all restored again to their holdings, and made considerably more comfortable than they were before. Lord George Hill, in 1838 and the following years, bought five adjoining estates, containing 24,000 acres of wild mountain land near the sea-coast in the county of Donegal, upon which there were 2,400 inhabitants and 500 tenants, the rental being £600, and some of the farms being 1,000 yards by six yards wide. The Conolly estate was sold in 1867, the rental being £516; the rent to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the tithe amounting to £183, and the number of tenants under £4 being 448, while under £2 the number was 290. Were their Lordships going to stereotype such a miserable state of things as that? It would be impossible under this Bill for the landlord to improve such property, and therefore he said the measure would operate as a total check on the prosperity of Ireland. So much for the effect of the Bill on the tenants. He now came to its effect on the landlords. There were three classes of Irish landlords. The first consisted of the fruges consumere nati—of whom in every country there was a considerable number—who disregarded the duties attached to the possession of land. To them the Bill would be a blessing; it would relieve them from any compunction they might occasionally feel that they were not doing their duty. They had paid little heed to Mr. Drummond's axiom—"That property had its duties as well as its rights." The next class of landlords—and the largest class—were those who made great sacrifices to benefit their tenants and their country, and who were unheard of in England only because they were unneeded there. To that class this measure would be a most bitter disappointment. Then there was the third class of landlords— 56 the least numerous—who had treated their tenants as serfs, and violently usurped the property which the tenant had invested in the land. Nobody would pity that class of landlords; but was it wise, for the sake of meeting the case of a small class like that, to infringe, as that Bill infringed, the great laws of property and of political economy which obtained in every other civilized country, and which necessarily must be the foundation of all true national prosperity? But while he thought the Bill infringed those laws, he believed, at the same time, that it would be a most unfortunate step for their Lordships to accept the Amendment of his noble Friend for the rejection of the Bill. If the Bill were thrown out, in what position would they be? There would be an appeal to the constituencies, and by the Constitution, it would be the duty of their Lordships to bow to their decision. Could they hope that the constituencies, constituted as they were, would reverse the policy of the Government, or diminish the following of Mr. Gladstone upon such a question as this, which would be represented to them as one affecting a class? Could they for a moment believe that, after the manner in which the Government and the House of Commons had committed themselves to the policy of the Bill, it would be possible to go back? Apart from these considerations, and objectionable as he deemed many parts of the measure, he nevertheless felt bound to say that the Bill did contain one valuable provision—namely, that which gave the tenant the right—the right which ought to have been given him many years ago—to have secured to him the property he had invested in the land with the knowledge and sanction of the landlord. He should, therefore, extremely regret if the Bill were wholly rejected. He now turned to another point. It had been frequently asserted that the Irish peasantry had a property in the land before the introduction of English law into Ireland. The fact was that, under the Irish sept system, a small portion of arable land belonging to the tribe was divided among them every year, according to the number of cattle each man had; but no man had any property in it, while the rights and powers of the Chief were enormous. He would quote a curious letter showing what was the opinion entertained about 57 his rights over the land by one of the greatest Irish Chiefs in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It was a letter from O'Neil, Earl of Tyrone, dated May 23, 1607, in answer to the claim of his son-in-law, O'Cahan, to lands in Derry, and it said—The defendant for answer saith that there is no such country called O'Cahan's country, other than that of late times, by corruption of speech, which the plaintiff would complain of, called by the name of Irraght-I-Chahan; and as for any title that may be made by the plaintiff to the said land, the same is merely determinable by course of common law; and further, as to the request of the plaintiff, that he, the plaintiff, may be permitted to surrender and accept a new estate from His Majesty thereof, defendant thereto answereth and saith that the plaintiff thereunto is not to be received, for that he, the plaintiff, hath no estate in said lands that he may surrender, nor did he or any of his ancestors ever hold the said lands, but as tenants at sufferance, servants, and followers to the defendant and his ancestors; and further, that defendant saith that Con O'Neill in the bill mentioned, grandfather to the defendant, was seized in fee of the lands in the bill mentioned before his surrender to the late Prince of famous memory, Henry VIII.One story was as good as another, and that letter showed the opinion entertained by an Irish Chief of the rights of those who held land under him in three counties. There was one way in which this difficulty about tenant-right might be met, and that was by simply inserting in the Bill that which was univerversally acknowledged to be just—namely, that the landlord should have the power to accept or to refuse an incoming tenant. That would probably do away with all the mischief which would arise from legalizing that right. He had asked one of the ablest Chairman of Quarter Sessions in Ireland what course he would take if the Bill became law; and his answer was that he would deal with each case that might arise according to the custom on each property. He had since looked to see what these customs were, and he found that in one case the tenant-right was equivalent to about two years', and in another to about 50 years' purchase. Another part of the Bill, which was most unfortunate, was that which empowered the tenant to build without the landlord's consent. The consequence would be that the tenant would put up a house on every 25 acres, not for the use of labourers at all, but simply for the purpose of subdivision or subletting. But there was an Act passed in 1860, which had done ten 58 times more for the labourer than this Bill would ever do, and which was founded on principles diametrically opposite—he meant the 23 & 24 Vict. c. 154. Clause 81 of that Act was as follows:—When any landlord shall by any agreement or memorandum in writing let a tenement, wherever situate, consisting of a dwelling-house or cottage without land or with any portion of land not exceeding half an acre, at a rent not exceeding £5 in the year, for a month, or from month to month, or in like manner for any lesser period of time, and shall thereby undertake to keep the said dwelling-house or cottage in tenantable condition and repair, such tenancy shall be constituted and deemed a cottier tenancy within the meaning of this Act, and shall be subject to the provisions hereafter contained in respect thereof.Clause 19 of the Bill was exceedingly objectionable. It provided that the Judge of any Civil Court should, in all cases, take evidence; and, according to the existing law, he would have the power of calling in a jury. As these juries would be composed of tenants themselves, he would like to know what sort of verdict would be likely to be given in the case of dispute between landlord and tenant. Only the other day he was present at a Court of Road Sessions, and a person put in a claim on account of a house which he said had been burnt down in the middle of the day—a fair day too—by a man who mounted a ladder and set it on fire. Of course, the thing could not for a moment be believed, and it was known that the night before persons had been gambling in the house, and that the priest had called them over the coals for it. But the Sessions decided that it was a malicious injury. It would be most unsafe, therefore, and unjust to leave this 19th clause as it now stood. As to how encumbrancers were affected by the Bill, he would read the opinion of a lawyer on the subject—As the Bill now stands encumbrancers are only to be paid off in dribblets. Let us suppose a case in point. A B, the incumbrancer, has a charge of £5,000 upon the estate of C D, the landlord; C D contracts with a tenant, X Y, for the purchase by the latter of his holding, valued at £100. A B has then to look after his own interests in the Landed Estates Court, and when all the delay and investigation of title, &c, in the question has been gone through, may hear that a sum of say £25 or £30, or some such trifling amount, has been lodged to his credit at some particular bank, and that he must now take this as part payment of his principal, and also as the compensation for his loss of security arising from the alienation of so much of the estate as was comprised in X Y's holding. 59 This process may go on while an acre of the landlord's estate remains together, and so expose the encumbrancer to continual vexation and attendance upon Court, possibly to legal costs more than enough to swallow up the repayments. But this, although bad enough, is not the worst feature of this part of the Bill as it at present stands. There is no provision for the payment of annuitants, such as widows with jointures. The alienated portions of the estates are only to be subject to the Government annuity, in lieu of purchase money advanced, quit-rents, tithe rent-charges, rights of common, &c, heriots, &c., charges for drainage, &c. Consequently, if the unsold portion of the estate be not sufficient to pay the jointure, or if the whole estate be sold, the widow may be left penniless, as, in very many cases, their jointures are the only means of maintenance for this class.Now came the serious part of the business. They were told at the time of the Union that Ireland should be dealt with on equal terms with England—"Yorkshire was to be as Ireland and Ireland as Yorkshire," were the words used by Mr. Pitt. No principle but that of identity with England could excuse the binding of two countries together so dissimilar as Ireland and England. If that identity had been brought about the greatest blessing ever conferred upon any country would have been conferred upon Ireland. But the Imperial Parliament had not patience to let this work go on and allow steam and civilization to complete the identity. Let them look at Scotland, where a different course had been pursued, and where in the wide world, England not excepted, was there so glorious a country? Why did they not let Ireland alone a little longer? And what had been the result of all their conciliation? He held in his hand a paper received only two days ago, and he found from it that at a meeting, composed of some of the most respectable men in Ireland, the following resolution had been passed:—That it is the opinion of this meeting that the true remedy for the evils of Ireland is the establishment of an Irish Parliament with full control over our domestic affairs.There was the result of their conciliation. Some four years ago, he heard in "another place," with a species of horror, a Member of the Government, whose illness friends and foes alike deplored, say that if Ireland could be loosed from her moorings and anchored at the other side of the Atlantic, the Irish people would rejoice. No doubt a great number of the Irish people might rejoice; but he knew that no Protestant would 60 do so, and, probably, neither Protestant nor Roman Catholic. But could that be said now? It was quite certain there were numbers of people, Protestants and men of property, who felt most strongly that if Ireland had been unmoored 10 years ago, and anchored off the coast of New Jersey or of Brittany, neither by the Americans under a strong public opinion and sense of justice, nor by the powerful hand of the Emperor of the French, would the Irish Church have been disendowed—certainly not to the same extent as it had been. While property would have been protected industry would have been successful, and competition for land would have ceased in consequence of plenty of employment. The competition for land in Ireland had arisen solely from the want of other employment, and that was due to the disturbed state and unsecurity of property in that country. Without that continued disturbance this Bill would never have been introduced into their Lordships' House.
My Lords, although every noble Lord who has risen to address your Lordships in reference to the momentous subject now under your consideration, has felt it necessary to preface his remarks by an appeal to your indulgence, I am sure it will be readily understood that there is no one on the present occasion who has greater need to throw himself upon the kind feeling of the House than myself. For, my Lords, independently of the inherent difficulties incident to the discussion of so complicated a measure, I am still further embarrassed by circumstances of a personal nature. On the one hand, as a subordinate Member of Her Majesty's Government, I am under an obligation to approach the question with the utmost caution and reserve, to abstain from making any damaging admissions, and to limit my advocacy of it to the regulation cut and thrust of a trusty man-at-arms; while, upon the other hand, I feel that as the only occupant of the Treasury Bench in this House, whose entire property is situate in Ireland, as well as from the fact of having already taken part in many of the controversies on the Irish land question, it would be impossible for me to engage in this discussion either with self-respect, or with the hope of being able to sub- 61 mit any useful considerations to your Lordships, unless I did so with the most unfettered and independent freedom of expression. In this dilemma it is the latter course I propose to follow; it is the only one consistent with my personal honour, and I am sure it is the one which my Colleagues behind me, as well as the distinguished chief to whom I owe allegiance would wish me to pursue. In the observations therefore which I am about to make, I hope your Lordships will remember that it is not merely a Government official who is addressing you, but a large Irish proprietor, one who is nothing else but an Irish proprietor, who does not own an acre of land elsewhere, the whole of whose material interests, as well as those of his children, depend upon the proper solution of this question, and who falls behind no one in this House in his jealous appreciation of the rights of property, and in his determination to maintain them. If, then, my Lords, with these convictions and predilections, and with a distinct apprehension of the gravity of all the issues raised by such legislation, I rise, in my place in Parliament, and in the most earnest and anxious language I can command, I entreat of your Lordships not only to give a second reading to this Bill, but to pass it without material alteration, the House may be sure that I do so, neither subdued by the prestige of a powerful Minister, nor engulphed in a blind flux of Liberal sentiment, nor intimidated by that formidable agitation across the water, to which murder and outrage have lent such a sinister character, but because I believe the main provisions of the Bill to be just and equitable in themselves, compatible with a fair interpretation of the rights of property, and likely to prove conducive to the general benefit of the agricultural interest in Ireland. Now, my Lords, in corroboration of—I will not say the sincerity, for I do not think the sincerity of any avowal I may make will be called in question—but of the deliberation with which these opinions have been formed, I will appeal to the views I have ventured to submit to your Lordships and the public during the last few years. And perhaps the retrospect is all the more necessary from the fact that, having at one time felt it my duty to bring into chief prominence the tenant's view of the case, when Parlia- 62 ment and the public were alike deaf to his representations, and at another, and at a later period, when agitation had given birth to extravagant pretensions on his part, having set myself to vindicate the equitable rights of the landlord, I have suffered the fate of all those who endeavour to walk between extremes, and have been sometimes equally misapprehended by both parties to the controversy.
My Lords, I will first inquire what are the leading and characteristic innovations which are introduced into the relationship of a landlord and his tenant by this Bill. They may be very briefly enumerated. There is the retrospective right of the tenant to all his existing improvements, and the change in the presumption of the law as to all future improvements. There is the legal validity of custom, whether in Ulster or elsewhere—wherever, in fact, it actually exists. There is the right of compensation on eviction attributed to every tenant-at-will; and there are Mr. Bright's Clauses for lending money to tenants for the purchase of the fee simple of their holdings. Well, my Lords, 17 years ago, when such views were not so fashionable as they are now, I laid upon the Table of your Lordships' House, a Bill, in which the Irish tenant would have been invested with a retrospective right to his improvements, under conditions, and within limits, almost identical with those adopted in this Bill, and I enforced my proposal on the ground that the small Irish tenant could hardly be regarded as an agent capable of free contract, and that, however right it might be to hold to the principles of free contract as a rule, it would be folly and childishness to ignore patent facts in practical legislation, out of a prudish deference to logical symmetry. Again, at the same time, and in the same speech, when pointing out the mischiefs incident to the use of the tenant-right custom, I was careful to call your Lordships' attention to its beneficial effects as a substitute for a more business-like system, and in the absence of proper tenures; while, at a subsequent period, before a Committee of the other House, I stated, at the very time I was criticizing its economical results, that wherever it existed as a recognized practice and custom, with the express or implied sanction of the landlord, it would be the 63 height of injustice to violate or ignore it. Still further—in illustration as to what my opinions have always been as to the position and claims of a tenant-at-will—I will ask permission to read to your Lordships an extract from a pamphlet published in 1865—that is to say, at a time when neither the Liberal party in this country, nor even the extreme tenant-right party in Ireland had ventured to put forward such a pretension on his behalf, in which, after arguing that a fair lease should extinguish all claims against a landlord, except such as might survive on account of permanent improvements, I went on to plead that—In the case of a tenant-at-will who is suddenly required to surrender his farm, a further consideration comes into play—namely, the inconvenience and loss occasioned by the unexpected interruption to his industry. ….It is evident he has an equitable claim to compensation on account of the disturbance introduced into his calculations.To such a paragraph as this, standing, as it does, in the midst of a widely-circulated pamphlet, in which the very words "compensation for loss on disturbance," now adopted in the Bill, are the terms made use of, I do not think I need add much to justify myself in supporting this part of the measure. Lastly, with respect to Mr. Blight's proposals in another pamphlet published a few years later, although I certainly permitted myself to point out the obvious objections to them in the crude and unqualified shape in which they had been originally suggested by that right hon. Gentleman, I was careful to conclude my criticism by stating—That I heartily sympathized with Mr. Bright in his desire to see a yeoman class established in Ireland; that to many individual cases the objections I had indicated would not apply; and that, although I might have misgivings as to the result of the experiment on so extensive a scale as that proposed, should he succeed in persuading the British taxpayer to come into his views, I, for one, would offer no objections.My Lords, I feel that I owe an apology to your Lordships for occupying your time with so unimportant a topic as the vindication of my own consistency; but I can assure the House that it is not from any vain or egotistical desire of proving myself either more liberal or more prescient than the rest of the world; but in the first place I have been challenged on the point by a noble Lord opposite, and being anxious to use every endea- 64 vour to induce your Lordships to pass this Bill, I feel that any recommendation I might make to that effect would very properly have very little weight with your Lordships if it were supposed that any of its main provisions were out of harmony with my previously expressed opinions. But, my Lords, of course it may be said that the fact of having held certain opinions, for no matter how great a length of time, is no evidence whatever that such opinions are either sound or reasonable; and therefore, in a few brief sentences, I propose to submit to your Lordships the grounds on which I think these may be sustained. In embarking, however, in this part of the discussion, I do not think it will be necessary to linger long over those parts of the Bill, which important or momentous though they be, have ceased to be the points round which the main controversy is likely to turn. For instance, everybody is, I imagine, pretty well reconciled to accepting the principle of retrospective compensation with regard to existing improvements actually executed by the tenant, and in respect of which he has received no consideration in money or money's worth, whether that money's worth be represented by length of tenure, low rents, or otherwise. The barest equity requires this concession to be made, and I do not imagine that one of your Lordships would gainsay it. Neither do I apprehend that serious objection will be taken to changing the presumption of the law in respect to the authorship of improvements, whether in the past or future. No vital principle affecting the rights of property is concerned in this change, and it cannot be disputed but that the law is not only free, but is bound as far as possible to assimilate presumption with fact. Now there is no one in your Lordships' House who has contended more earnestly than myself against the assumption, which has been so sedulously propagated, to the effect that the landlords of Ireland have contributed only in an insignificant degree to the improvement of their properties. Such a statement as this is a cruel and outrageous calumny. In no country in Europe, I believe, have such exertions been made or so much time, labour, anxiety, and money been expended in the amelioration of the agricultural status of the country and of the peasantry, as in many parts of Ire- 64 land during the last 30 years. This is a fact which, I am happy to say, is at last receiving public recognition. But still, making every allowance on this score which truth may demand, it must still be admitted that, from the peculiar circumstances of the country, a great proportion of what in England are called "landlords'" improvements, such as buildings, &c, in Ireland have been, and in a multitude of instances will continue to be, executed by the tenant. This being so, my Lords, I, for one, have always been strongly of opinion, that in Ireland, both in respect of the past and the future, the presumption of law should harmonize as closely as possible—I will not say with fact—but with probability. In saying this, however, I do not refuse to recognize the propriety of applying this rule with a more inflexible rigidity to the future than to the past. When once the bias of the law has been pronounced upon such a point, as often as fact is contrary to presumption, it is always competent for the party interested to preserve a record sufficient to disprove presumption. But, as far as the past is concerned, inasmuch as the law itself threw the owner off his guard, and no landlord ever dreamt, when he built a cottage or sunk a drain, of calling upon sun, moon, and stars to witness his achievements, it is but just that the term within which his retrospective liabilities are to be resuscitated should be of such a reasonable duration as to deliver him from fictitious claims, and to place the means of evidence within his reach; while, above all, ample latitude should be left to the Court, in the absence of strict technical proof, to make an award according to its own convictions in the matter. Again, with respect to the clauses which enable the Irish tenant to purchase up the fee simple of his farm with money borrowed from the State—although many of your Lordships may entertain doubts as to the result of the experiment if indiscriminately tried in every part of Ireland, you would not probably be inclined, as a body, to intercept the intended bounty vouchsafed by the other House to a portion of the Irish people. For my own part, although I admit that the original scheme was open to grave objection, its application under the present Bill has been so jealously hedged, guarded, and qualified, and so many precautions have been 64 taken to confine its operation to those persons who are least likely to put the advantage it offers to an evil use, that the chances of its possible miscarriage have been reduced to a minimum. Of course, the great danger to be dreaded is the anomaly of the State lapsing into the position of a landlord to the Irish people; but, inasmuch as a considerable amount of the purchase-money must, as a preliminary, be found by the tenant, the area over which the scheme can apply will be proportionately reduced—none but responsible persons can become applicants for the boon—and their obligation to the State will be a constantly diminishing quantity, representing, even at its outset, an annual payment amply covered by the letting value of the farm—so that the State will stand to the tenant, not in the position of a landlord, but of a mortgagee or rent-charger, which, of course, is a much less obnoxious relationship. A far greater danger is lest these petty proprietors should eventually subdivide and sublet their plots of land, over which they will be eventually entitled to exercise unrestricted control, and no one who knows Ireland can say that this is not a probable contingency. On the other hand, we must remember two things—in the first place, that the nature of the arrangement contemplated extends, by a process of natural selection, these opportunities only to those who have already proved themselves provident and industrious; that already—at least this is true in respect of this class of persons in the North of Ireland—the more intelligent members of the farming class have awoke to the folly of subdividing holdings already too contracted, instead of encouraging their children to adopt other pursuits; that a period of 35 years must still intervene before a single acre of the land thus dealt with can be severed from the farm within which it is now incorporated; and that between this and then there is a fair ground for hope that the sound opinion, already beginning to spread amid the farming class in Ireland in reference to this vital subject, will have taken deeper root, and that by the time these inchoate purchasers have become owners in full of their several holdings, a strong feeling in favour of primogeniture will have been created in the mind of Mr. Bright's peasant-proprietary. Whether or no 64 this wholesome feeling on the subject eventually recommends itself to the good sense of the Irish people will in a great measure depend upon the favour with which it is regarded by the Roman Catholic clergy. If it is their desire to foster a prosperous and well-to-do community, to discourage improvident marriages, and to create a wealthy and independent middle class, it is very evident that their influence will be thrown into the scale of economical progress; if, on the contrary, they should consider their own position more likely to be sustained, and the revenues of their Church more readily provided, by a rapid expansion of population and the multitudinous contributions of penurious millions, the danger arising from this portion of the Bill will be considerable. Notwithstanding, however, the ominous recommendation of some of the Irish Catholic Bishops, that every tenant under the present Bill should be allowed to subdivide his farm ad libitum, I cannot but hope that the dictates of common sense and common humanity, in connection with this subject, will eventually be permitted to prevail; and, should this prove to be the case, considerable advantages may be expected to flow from these clauses.
But, my Lords, passing from the subsidiary and less vital provisions of the Bill, I would ask leave to address to your Lordships a few further observations with respect to those far more important sections of the measure, in regard to which alone, I apprehend, will any serious issue be joined—namely, the legalization of Ulster tenant-right and of custom generally, and the recognition of the claim of the tenant-at-will to damages on eviction. Now, my Lords, I have been represented, at all events in Ireland, as the unfaltering and irreconcilable enemy of tenant-right; and I am free to confess, that I have taken considerable pains, from time to time, to point out to the public, to the people of Ireland, and to my own tenants, the many mischiefs which have arisen out of the extravagant and unrestricted development of tenant-right; and, what is more, so far from having modified any of these opinions, I adhere to them with a firmer conviction than ever. But what are these opinions? Are they a blind unqualified condemnation of a practice of which several high authorities, and 64 many landlords approve? Far from it! Whatever criticisms I have passed upon tenant-right, however severe, have been, at any rate, discriminating. In 1849, after enumerating the many disadvantages attending on the custom, I said before a Committee of the other House, and still say—I think that the existence of tenant-right has, upon the whole, been a benefit to the North of Ireland; though, in another sense, it has not been a benefit.And again, in reply to the question—In that sense it cannot be considered of use or benefit to the nation at large?I replied—No, not in that sense; but, upon the other hand—because I do not wish to run the custom down unduly—inasmuch as a very large proportion of the tenants who have entered into the occupation of their farms remain from generation to generation in those farms, the knowledge that if they are removed, a custom exists under which, in some shape or other, they will obtain a fair compensation for their expenditure, has undoubtedly stimulated the industry of the population of the North of Ireland to an enormous extent, and has given them a delight and an interest in their occupations, which is very rarely to be met with in any other part of the world with which I am acquainted.So that it will be seen that, while denouncing the abuses of tenant-right, I have all along been very sensible to the respects in which its operations may have been fairly considered beneficial. But still I do not deny that, in the main, and with the qualifications I have enumerated, I look upon an unrestricted tenant-right with disfavour, while so far from thinking that the prosperity of Ulster is to be attributed to tenant-right, I am quite convinced that the reason why the agricultural status of Ulster, under conditions equally favourable to its development in respect of climate and soil, the energy and thrift of its inhabitants, and the proximity of manufacturing industries, is inferior to the agricultural status, we will say of Aberdeenshire, is because under the tenant-right customs of the Province, the tenantry of Ulster have been weighted with an initial tax, or rather a differential duty—which the admirers of the custom take a pride in estimating at £20,000,000 sterling—from which their fellow-tenants in the Scotch county have been exempt. It is true, on the one hand, a portion of this sum represents probably an encroachment on 64 the accruing rise of rent due to the landlord, which the outgoing tenant has discounted and appropriated, and, on the other hand, it may be said that in return for their expenditure the tenants of Ulster have obtained an exceptional security of tenure; but the first is a characteristic of tenant-right which your Lordships will probably not regard with admiration, while those who know the good relations which exist between the Ulster tenants and their landlords must acknowledge, that without paying a halfpenny, had they only seriously chosen to demand it, they might have had a far more definite and satisfactory security, both for their improvements and in respect of their occupancy, than a shadowy and disputable custom, under which, even after it has received legal validity, they will only be able to recover the caput mortuum of the capital thus unprofitably locked up in the land. In Scotland a man gets a farm on a good long lease, and at a fair rent for nothing, and if he happens to have a spare £500, over and above what is necessary for the cultivation of his farm, he invests it in such a manner as to double its amount, within the specified period. An Ulster tenant, on the contrary, enters on the farm at as smart a rent—for the friends of the custom contend that tenant-right, instead of prejudicing, enhances the landlord's rent, in which opinion I do not agree—without a lease, and pays away the £500 to some one who probably goes off with it to America, leaving him with no better prospect of recovering his money, when he in turn quits his holding, either for his own convenience or under the compulsion of his landlord, than the chances of the tenant-right market, which in proportion as farmers get wiser will probably be a falling one. But it will be said—If you think so badly of the tenant-right custom, how can you be a party to its legalization? Well, for the same reason that I would sentence the murderer of an illegitimate infant to be hanged. I do not approve of adultery; but the creature is there, and being there, is entitled to the protection of the law. Tenant-right exists. Its presence is acknowledged, though in a somewhat sheepish way, as is usual on such occasions, by one thoughtless author of its being—the landlord—and has been nursed into a monstrous sturdy bantling 64 by the partner of his folly, who not unnaturally appeals to the parish, or rather to your Lordships, in vindication of her rights. If this is so, and the admissions made by Ulster landlords as to the pretty general existence of such a custom in that Province, in "another place," have been too definite and frank to be ignored or repudiated in your Lordships' House, the abstract merits of tenant-right, or indeed whether its incidents should receive legal recognition or not, are scarcely debateable subjects.
But that point being conceded there does arise a very formidable query—namely, whether or no its recognition should be accompanied by any description or definition of what it is. After due consideration Her Majesty's Government have declined, and the other House of Parliament has declined, to define tenant-right. In this reticence they appear to me to have exercised a wise discretion. If I were to be called upon to define the custom of tenant-right I should describe it as a privilege acquired by certain tenants-at-will in Ulster and elsewhere to sell their interest in their farms, whether that interest represents improvements or any other marketable incident of occupation, under the same conditions as those under which they purchased it. But, my Lords, though this definition is sufficiently wide to embrace most of the customs of Ulster, it would be a very unsafe phrase to introduce into an Act of Parliament. Many of the tenants contend that the Ulster custom confers upon them an unrestricted and unconditioned right of selling their farms to the highest bidder, and inasmuch as this right is incompatible with the landlord's right to a competitive increment of rent, they claim that his rent should be restricted by a Government valuation. They found this pretension on historical grounds. They say that when King James originated the Plantation of Ulster he introduced certain fiduciary covenants into his grants, under which the landlords of the day were constituted as mere rent-chargers, while a permanency of occupation was secured to their tenants, and that the present tenant-right of Ulster is a modified representation of these relationships. Now it is quite true that in some of the grants made by James an obligation was imposed upon the grantees to issue leases 64 to their tenants, with which conditions many of the "Undertakers," as they were called, failed to comply; but in my opinion it is idle to refer the custom of tenant-right to such an origin. It is only in a certain proportion of the Jaco-bæan grants that any such conditions were introduced. The obligation imposed did not imply fixity of tenure at a given rent, but terminable leaseholds, on the expiration of which perfect freedom of contract was intended to supervene. On many properties these conditions were complied with, as will be seen by a reference to Pynnar's survey. Pynnar was a Government official, sent over in 1619 for the express purpose of ascertaining how far King James's injunctions had been obeyed. He examined a great number of properties, and from his report it would appear that although, in frequent instances many of the "Undertakers," as they were called, had failed to grant leases, and were maintaining their tenants as "Irish tenants—" that is, as tenants-at-will—in direct contravention to the terms of their grant, yet that nearly 2,000 families had been established on the soil, either as freeholders or as lessees for lives or years, in various parts of the six Ulster counties. Pynnar then proceeds to describe the conduct of various individuals in this respect. For instance, on Sir W. Cole's portion of 1,000 acres, he notes that two families had been established as freeholders, seven on leases for lives, and 11 on leases for years. As the farms thus allocated consisted of from 50 to 150 acres, it is evident that a considerable portion of the estate thus granted must have been leased off. Again, Sir R. Hamilton is reported to have divided his lands amongst three freeholders and 11 leaseholders. The Earl of Abercorn located on 2,000 acres, 14 families on 61 years' leases, and six on freehold properties: Sir G. Hamilton did the same. In Armagh, Mr. W. Brownlow introduced on his 2,500 acres upwards of 50 leaseholders and five freeholders. The Goldsmiths' Company seem to have behaved in an equally liberal manner. Many of the London Companies, however, are denounced by Pynnar for their neglect of duty in this respect. On the Grocers' estates, for instance, he reports that all the houses were built by the tenants, but no leases had been granted. 64 On the Ironmongers' property there were only agreements for leases, and these but for 31 years. The Goldsmiths, on the other hand, had duly planted 24 leaseholders and six freeholders on their property; and so he goes on noting with perfect impartiality the names of those who had and of those who had not complied with King James's behest.
Prom the foregoing entries we see that, inasmuch as upon numerous estates the conditions of the grant were complied with, it is useless to argue that the tenant-right now claimed by the present occupants of such estates was granted as a recompense or substitute for their infraction. It seems to me that the tenantry of Ulster could not commit a greater mistake in their own interests than to found their claims upon so unsubstantial a basis. If a tenant in my own county were to appeal to the Jaco-bæan grants as the origin of his claim, how would he be met? If he held land in one end of the county—by being told that the townland upon which his farm was situated was never dealt with by King James at all, the ancestors of its present owner having bought it of an Anglo-Norman or Celtic proprietor, with whose property King James never meddled. If in another district, that being Bishop's land, its tenures had enjoyed a similar immunity. If in a third that, though it was indeed included in King James's settlement, instead of there being a single fiduciary condition in the grant on which he relied, he would find himself confronted by a clause under which the landlord was expressly empowered to let his land on any terms he might desire, whether on leases for fives, or years, or whether at-will. But, my Lords, although I am myself convinced that the historic origin of tenant-right is entirely imaginary and fictitious, it would be out of the question for Parliament to base its conclusions upon mine or any other man's assertions upon such a subject; and, inasmuch as the tenant's claim may be considerably affected by the proof or disproof of the theory, it will be necessary that the whole subject should be judicially investigated; but of course an antiquarian inquiry of this kind can only be conducted by competent tribunals, furnished with the proper appliances for arriving at the truth. Again, there are others, and, as I think, wiser and better informed champions of the tenant's cause 64 who, discarding altogether as useless and irrelevant these references to old-world arrangements—between which and the present time, a deluge of multifarious occurrences has intervened,—content themselves with pointing to the fact that, no matter how it may have arisen, a practice does very extensively prevail in most parts of Ulster, under which the existing tenant has paid a sum of money to his predecessor with the knowledge of the landlord, in the expectation that, when in turn he may have occasion to surrender his holding, he shall be permitted to dispose of his interest in it under similar conditions. Now, my Lords, wherever such practices as these prevail, it does seem to me that it is right and proper the law should give them due validity. When a landlord has allowed or encouraged a tenant-at-will, that is to say a man with no "occupation" right beyond the current year, to assign that right for a sum of money, altogether out of proportion to the nominal consideration thus transferred, he does ipso facto, and according to the fair and equitable construction of his intentions, give the purchaser to understand that he has acquired by his expenditure something more valuable and more enduring than a yearly tenancy; but when this connivance and complicity of the landlord is still further emphasized by his appropriation of the whole or a part of the money which changes hands, the claim created against him becomes indisputable, and the barest morality requires its recognition. But, though it may be easy enough to lay down a broad principle of this kind, it will be found that, in its application, a thousand disputable issues will be raised, both in respect of matters of fact as well as in respect of the inferences to be drawn from such facts. There are, indeed, some persons who believe that the custom of tenant-right was a kind of heaven-sent and ready-made dispensation which descended upon Ulster as the manna through the encampment of the Israelites, or the dew upon the fleece of Gideon, covering that favoured Province with the sudden and exact precision with which the crust covers a tart; but there are others who contend that there are many parts of Ulster where no such custom exists, and that even in those districts where it has crystallized into the most distinct and positive shapes, its na- 64 ture, its character, the rights and privileges which it secures to the tenant, and consequently its money value is modified in a hundred different ways. As far as my own opinion is concerned, I believe tenant-right—so far as it does not represent compensation for improvements—to be of comparatively recent origin. It has probably grown up within the present century. It is the expression of a certain force. That force is competition. In the South the competition for land produced by the rapid increase in population gave birth to the middleman, who renting land at a fair rent let it to subtenants at a rack-rent; the large grass farms of the South, combined with other circumstances, favouring this comminution of tenancies. In the North, which is an arable district, and where the farms are consequently smaller, the same facilities for subletting did not prevail; but though the Ulster tenant had not the opportunity enjoyed by his southern compatriot of peopling his farm with a multitude of sub-tenants, and converting himself into a petty landlord and squireen, he was in quite as favourable a situation to profit by the change in the circumstances of the country. He held his land at a lower figure than the enhanced rents outsiders had become willing to give, and consequently he had an opportunity of assigning his tenement for a valuable consideration—that is to say, holding land at 20s. an acre which in the meantime had become worth 30s. an acre in the open market, he was able, if he chose, to pocket a sum of money which represented in the lump the accumulated difference between those two amounts. As long as the tenant held a lease—and up to within the last 50 or 60 years I am inclined to think leases were the rule in Ulster—this transaction was a perfectly legitimate one. Unless specially barred by covenant, the tenant possessed a definite legal interest, which had grown to be of a very valuable character, and of which he had the legal right to dispose. Nor did the practice create under these circumstances anything approaching to a custom that clashed with the landlord's interests. The incoming tenant knew perfectly well what he was doing: that he was acquiring only a definite and terminable interest, and that his right of occupation would disappear with the expiration of his tenure. A single illustration will 64 enforce this conclusion. A leaseholder became bankrupt: quite independent of the landlord's wishes the law required the sale of the lease for the benefit of the creditors. The incoming tenant paid money for the valuable consideration represented by the lease, and the destination of that money, whether paid in satisfaction of the landlord's claim for rent, or in liquidation of any other of his predecessor's debts, was a matter with which he had no concern; but when in process of time, as I regret to say has been the case, the system of leasing fell into desuetude, and tenancies-at-will came to be bought and sold as if they implied valuable and continued rights of occupation, at the same time that the increasing pressure of population, and the force of competition, forced up the letting value of land, to a higher figure, and at a more rapid rate than considerate landlords were willing to adopt—a state of confusion, of conflicting claims, and of disputable issues supervened, which nothing but a strong sense of equity on the part of the landlords, and great moderation and good feeling on the part of the tenants, have prevented from culminating in constant quarrels between the owners and the occupiers of the soil of Ulster. Even as it is, and notwithstanding the ties of traditional good feeling which have bound these two classes together, I feel convinced that the vaunted custom of Ulster tenant-right has subjected, on the one hand, the rights of the landlords to undue encroachments, and left the equitable interests of the tenant open to hardly less formidable chances of invasion. So rapidly, in fact, were these mischiefs coming to a head, that even if an Irish land question had not incidentally forced Parliament to deal with the Ulster tenant-right, it would by itself have required special legislation.
But, my Lords, be that as it may, I think I have said enough to show that, even on the theory we have been considering, the claims preferred under the head of custom in various parts of the North of Ireland will have to be considered and estimated according to the circumstances and facts affecting not only every particular estate, but every particular farm on the same estate. Five years ago I may have set out a portion of land, hitherto in my own occupation, to a tenant for a specified term; or my predecessor, 30 years ago, may have 64 granted a lease to a man who never paid a farthing to the outgoing tenant; or I may have purchased up the tenant-right of a farm on which the custom was acknowledged. On another townland, belonging perhaps to the same owner, an unrestricted tenant-right has prevailed for years; the tenants may have been told they were free to sell their farms at whatever price they could get in the market. On an adjoining townland these sales may have taken place under certain specified and long-established restrictions, both in regard to the choice of the in-coming tenant, and in respect of the price he was to pay; while, perhaps, on a fourth property, the term tenant-right in the apprehension both of tenant and landlord might have meant nothing more than compensation for improvements; and, in some instances—though these, I imagine, will prove to be very rare—the continual maintenance of the leasehold system, or other circumstances, may have excluded altogether the notion of vague and merely "customary" arrangements. Such being the Protean character of these tenant-right practices, it is very evident that the nature, or rather the pecuniary value of any rights claimed under them can only be determined by the most minute and searching investigation by evidence as to facts which it will require legal acumen to appreciate; and, above all, by a full consideration of such pleas as the tenants may allege in support of what may, perhaps, often prove a well-founded allegation—namely, that practices which had already acquired the solidity of custom have been arbitrarily interfered with and restricted to their prejudice by innovations on the part of the landlord. Under these circumstances, I am strongly of opinion that it would be simply impossible for Parliament to define tenant-right. However undesirable it may be to throw upon the Courts of Justice what are akin to legislative functions, no other alternative is open. The tenantry of the North of Ireland say that such and such valuable privileges have, as a matter of fact and as can be proved by evidence, been conceded to us by our landlords. The landlords themselves admit, and many of them boast, indeed, that these assertions are true; but neither landlord nor tenant can agree exactly in a description or definition of what they mean. The whole subject is 65 an incomprehensible puzzle to the intelligence of the British Parliament. The notion of a commercial value attaching to land, independent of and in addition to the landlord's rent and the farmer's profit, is to them an incomprehensible enigma. They have a vague but just instinct that this strange birth is not a thing it would be either politic to propagate, or just to ignore; they therefore say what exists in fact shall exist in law, but the proof of its existence must precede its legal recognition. The same considerations which have led the Government on the one hand to legalize the Ulster custom, and on the other to leave its definition to the Courts, appears to me to justify their method of dealing with custom in other parts of Ireland wherever such custom may be found. I consider myself that it has been all along a mistake to allude to tenant-right as a purely Ulster custom. Although, from the peculiar circumstances I have referred to, it has acquired a more general recognition in Ulster than elsewhere, it exists in other parts of Ireland even in a more concrete form than in many parts of Ulster; and, wherever it is found, in its main characteristics it is absolutely identical with the Ulster custom. In fact, it is plain that wherever there is intense competition for land, the opportunity of obtaining a rack-rent will exist, whether in the North or South; and that if, through the negligence of the landlord, or from his short-sighted desire to recover arrears of rent, he allows a tenant-at-will to sell to his successor this marginal value—which a wise owner maintains as a reserve fund on which the actual tenant should always be able to fall back in case of an emergency—there you have at once the Ulster tenant-right in full force; and, of course, where this is the case, as we have already concluded, it becomes entitled to legal validity.
But, my Lords, passing from the consideration of the mode in which the Bill deals with what, after all, are exceptional interests—interests which have been incidentally created, and are claimed but by a minority of the population, we have still to consider the provisions which have been framed for the protection of the great mass of the tenantry of Ireland—namely, those embodied in Section 3. Now, my Lords, it would be useless to deny that in these provisions 66 resides the active principle of the Bill—the characteristics which distinguish it from our ordinary legislation—the innovations which, to the apprehension of some, constitute its danger, and in the expectation of others contain a panacea for the ills of Ireland. The legal recognition of customs, the right of a tenant to compensation for his improvements, alterations in the presumption of law— all these are phases of legislation, which not only carry with them the manifest sanctions of equity, but are justified by the analogy of existing laws. But the arbitrary creation in favour of the mere tenant—that is to say, of the man who yesterday might have had no connection with the land, who might have dropped upon it from America or the moon, who has hired it at an advantageous rent, who has never spent a halfpenny upon it, who is occupying a house built, and fields put into a state of perfect cultivation by the landlord—the creation in favour of such a personage as this—of an irradicable claim against that landlord, amounting to one-fourth or one-fifth of the fee-simple value of the soil, is an exercise of power so extraordinary and apparently so unjust, so directly at variance with the acknowledged rights of property, that, in calling upon your Lordships to sanction it, both the Government and their supporters are, I admit, bound to show in the clearest manner, what are the principles they appeal to for its justification. Well, my Lords, unpromising as the attempt may appear, I think it will be possible to satisfy your Lordships that the proposal is compatible with the ordinary principles of equity, is in harmony with previous legislation, and in no real way hostile to a fair interpretation of the rights of property. But, my Lords, before stating the considerations which have recommended this view to my mind, I wish first of all to repudiate all complicity with those advocates of the tenant's cause who, though they have arrived at the same conclusion with myself, found their case on assumptions and on deductions with which I have no sympathy. First of all then I discard, as altogether monstrous and untenable, any claim preferred in behalf of the tenant, to any partnership or proprietory interest in the soil on the ground of ancient Irish habits, or tribal laws and customs, or on the strength of ethnological characteristics, or prescriptive 67 rights of occupation, or any other of the fantastic apologies which have been lately invented for the purpose of glossing over the real character of the more violent proposals for the settlement of the land question which have been suggested from time to time during the last 12 months. If legislation of the kind we recommend is to receive the approval of a British Parliament, it must be on far more truthful and substantial grounds than these. As an inevitable incident to this discussion, men of acuteness and impartiality have been induced to examine the truth of these elaborate excuses, to which years of uncontradicted currency have given an undue authority. What has been the result? Why, at the first touch of critical research their absurdity has become apparent. Unhappily, exceptional circumstances have rendered the growth of such fanciful theories peculiarly exuberant in Ireland. One of the consequences of the long leases of the last generation was to fix in the mind of the ultimate representative of the original lessee, as well as in the minds of his derivative tenants, who were perhaps unborn when the lease was granted, habits of thought and ways of viewing his relationship to his holding which made it difficult for him to understand the terminable nature of his interest in it; and, in a lawless and uneducated population, these feelings would find expression in claims incompatible with all rights of ownership, and which have often been vindicated by deeds of violence and bloodshed. But, my Lords, I, for one, will never agree myself, or try to persuade your Lordships, to sanction the unjust claims of one class, or to sacrifice the legitimate interests of another, merely because successive Governments have been impotent to make the laws obeyed, to protect life, or prevent the demoralization of the popular conscience. And, my Lords, I abandon these fines of defence all the more readily, because it appears to me that a very simple consideration, and a very explicit argument, is sufficient to justify to the utmost the principle in the Bill which we are considering. What is the spectacle presented to us by Ireland? It is that of millions of persons, whose only dependence and whose chief occupation is agriculture, for the most part cultivating their lands—that is, sinking their past, 68 their present, and their future—upon yearly tenancies! But what is a yearly tenancy? Why it is an impossible tenure—a tenure which, if its terms were to be literally interpreted, no Christian man would offer, and none but a madman would accept. In fact, my Lords, it is not a tenure which practically can be said to exist. No human being, whether landlord or tenant, on entering into such a bargain in respect of an agricultural holding—I except, of course, special and specific cases—ever dreams that the term of occupation is to terminate within the year specified. In the apprehension of both parties a reasonable period is intended. In no other expectation would a furrow be turned or a seed sown—for it is evident that in proportion as agriculture has developed into an elaborate art, and its processes have come to extend over a cycle of several seasons, the unit of time required to complete a single agricultural operation would be of several years' duration. But the law of England already recognizes the principle that the man who sows shall reap; consequently, the same analogy by which the law now converts a tenancy-at will into a longer term—namely, a tenancy from year to year, would amply justify its taking a step further in the same direction, and in declaring every unexpired tenure to be one commensurate with one or other of the approved agricultural courses. But further, independent of the actual capital invested by the farmer in the soil, in respect of which we all acknowledge he has a right to be recouped, there are other elements of value which he incorporates with his enterprize—namely, his skill, his energy, his industry, his previous training, not to mention the sacrifice of other opportunities of pushing his way in the world. This composite expenditure gives birth to expectations not only of remuneration but of profit. Unfortunately, however, agricultural returns are slow, and profits require a considerable lapse of time for their accumulation. The exact interval necessary will vary in accordance with 100 different circumstances, and almost every country in the world has a different customary term. In Belgium it is from 3 to 9 years; in Scotland from 13 to 19; in England from 12 to 21; in Ireland from 21 to 31. The equity of these arrangements is so self-evi- 69 dent that they are generally observed without the compulsion of a legal contract; and there is no human being with a sense of justice or humanity in his composition, who, under ordinary circumstances, after having invited another to occupy his land and irretrievably to commit his future destinies to the soil, in the prospect of being permitted a considerable term of occupation, would take advantage of a legal subtlety to divorce him from his enterprize and to confound his legitimate expectations. But, my Lords, although these honourable considerations regulate the relationship of landlords and tenants both in England and in Ireland, there exist in Ireland peculiar circumstances which occasionally interrupt this operation. In innumerable instances the tenantry of Ireland have not been inducted into their farms by the present owners. It was to a totally different class of tenantry in many instances that the land was let. The present tenantry of Ireland in many places are a deposit of the middleman; consequently the sense of obligation in the mind of the landlord towards persons who have frequently been intruded upon his property, in the teeth of covenants to the contrary, is less keen than it otherwise might have been. At the same time, a revolution has occurred in Irish agriculture. The undue cultivation of the potato, which was formerly its keystone, though still clung to by the least provident portion of the population, is regarded by the owners of property with suspicion and alarm. The catastrophe of 1846 has taught them that millions of infinitesimal holdings sustained by this treacherous root serve only as an ambush for famine to their occupants, and ruin to themselves. Consequently, a desire has arisen, as opportunity offers, by enlarging the holdings of the peasantry to render agriculture in Ireland a less precarious pursuit. These attempts, though necessitated by the circumstances of the case, and undertaken with the most benevolent intentions, have naturally been unpopular with many classes of the community; and for the last 30 years the landlords of Ireland have been denounced as exterminators and tyrants with the most persistent impetuosity. That, on the whole, the improvement of our agricultural system has been conducted with caution and humanity 70 cannot be disputed. Consolidation of farms can hardly have been excessive in a country where are still 300,000 holdings below 15 acres, 136,000 below 30, and only 86,000 above 50 acres. But, however gross and exaggerated these accusations may be, and however well-intentioned the landlords may have been in their endeavours to guard against the recurrence of the calamity of 1846, it is undoubtedly the fact that there is a tendency in the minds of some owners of property in Ireland to regard the smaller tenancies with exaggerated impatience. In some cases, changes which ought to have been left to time and opportunity have been harshly accelerated; in others, clearances have been effected on a scale which has shocked the public conscience; and a system, which has been justly enough stigmatized as one of arbitrary eviction, has been too frequently resorted to. These occasional acts of harshness, reminding them too forcibly of their own dependent position, have naturally alarmed that vast proportion of the agricultural population, whose sole security for their most vital interests was the will—nay, the whim—of their landlords. They have accordingly called upon Parliament to intervene; and Her Majesty's Government, with the consent and with the approval of the popular branch of the Legislature, now asks your Lordships to impose upon all such landlords in Ireland as have chosen, or shall choose, to leave their tenantry liable to a sudden and unexpected eviction, the obligation of compensating the person with whom it may be their interest or pleasure thus to deal for the loss he is likely to sustain in the sudden interruption of his enterprize, and for his disappointment in his expectation of those profits which would have accrued to him had he been permitted to conduct it to its legitimate termination. In assessing the amount of this loss, of course, it is necessary to adopt an arbitrary scale; but, inasmuch as profits are always considered to be proportionate to rent, it is very evident that the compensation to be awarded, must of necessity be a certain number of years' purchase of rent. In my own opinion, I do not think that the figures adopted by the Government subject, as they will be to modification at the discretion of the Court according to the 71 circumstances of each case, are open to objection. I imagine they very fairly represent the limits within which it has been the habit of most of your Lordships to compensate your out-going tenants under similar circumstances, and I sincerely trust that whatever this House will do to the rest of the Bill, it will not attempt to reduce their amount.
But, my Lords, it may be objected that, although the arrangements proposed are such as in equity ought to be observed, it does not therefore follow they should be rendered matters of legal obligation, and that legislation in this sense is a violation of that freedom of contract which is one of the most vital and valuable characteristics which can attach to property. My Lords, there is no one in your Lordships' House more alive than myself to the necessity of preserving the right of contract as free and unfettered as is possible; nor am I one of those who would venture to argue that the restraint of contract may not prove a modification, and a very considerable modification both of the nature, and of the value of property. So keenly am I sensible of this fact, that had this Bill been universally applicable to the whole of the landed property in Ireland, I should not have been able to support it; but it seems to me that one of the chief characteristics of this measure is, that it recognizes in the fullest manner that freedom of contract should be the rule and any interference with it the exception. The question, therefore, reduces itself to the simple issue whether in view of the defenceless position of a particular class, and of their incapacity from peculiar circumstances to make a bargain for themselves, the State should be entitled to intervene and make the bargain for them. My Lords, I admit that this is a very anxious and delicate question. It is a principle of legislation very open to abuse and liable to be converted into a dangerous precedent; but it appears to me, that for the sake of obtaining a practical good, and of preventing a manifest injustice, such considerations should not be invested with exaggerated importance, and that one of the essential attributes of English statesmanship has always been to determine questions of this kind without too pedantic a regard to logical theory. Many years ago I argued in your Lordships' House that the Irish tenant being in too dependent a position to 72 make a bargain for himself, was entitled to have his concerns regulated by the interposition of Parliament. To that opinion I still adhere, and, believing as I do, that, on the whole, the conditions imposed by this Bill in behalf of the smaller tenants of Ireland are equitable and just, I, for one, do not shrink from admitting the right of Parliament to introduce them as a compulsory term, into what, in every other respect, will be a perfectly free contract. And, my Lords, in reference to this part of the subject, I would ask your Lordships to remember that although this Bill, by a remarkable ingenuity of conception, does do the most ample and consummate justice to the tenant, it avoids everyone of those abuses and violent restrictions upon the freedom of the landlord which has characterized almost every other proposal of the same sort. In the first place, it leaves him in the complete possession of his property—unless by his own act he will not be precluded from resuming any portion of it at his pleasure. No obligation is imposed upon him even to grant a lease, nor is any attempt made by the State to dictate to him the terms, whether as regards time or money, on which he is to let his land. The tenant is not empowered, as was the case in almost all previous projects, to compel him either to make or to pay for any improvements which are not conducive to his interest. All that the landlord is required to do is to act towards those who have undertaken to cultivate his land in a way in which every man with any honour and self-respect would be prepared to do without the compulsion of this Bill.
My Lords, I have now gone through, at what I am afraid you will have considered a wearisome length, the leading provisions of the Bill, and I have stated the grounds on which, in my opinion, each provision can be justified. I have done so not because similar considerations are not likely to have occurred to your Lordships, but because I desired to distinguish in the most express manner my reasons for supporting the Bill from those, as it appears to me, dangerous and unsound theories by which many persons have endeavoured to influence our legislation. I have discarded altogether from my vocabulary the phrases with which we have been lately so familiar, about tenants by status and 73 tenants by contract, about occupancy rights, the Brehon laws and the Jacobæan grants, and I have based my advocacy of it on principles already known to English law and which are familiar to our practice. With respect to the chief and vital characteristic of the Bill—namely, that compensation be awarded to the tenant-at-will on eviction, I have argued that it is an equitable obligation in itself, and that being an equitable obligation, the State, as it has already done in the analogous case of women and children employed in factories, has the right to impose it on behalf of those who are not in a position themselves to stipulate for its observance. My Lords, in considering whether the recognition of such a principle is consistent with the rights of property, I admit that you are bound to exercise a most jealous scrutiny, a scrutiny which shall not only have regard to what is now enacted, but to the consequences which hereafter such an admission may lead to, and I further admit that you are all the more bound to do so, from the fact that the guardianship of property is one of the special functions of this House. Some people are wont to make a mock at what they are pleased to denounce as the selfish instincts of property. I believe, my Lords, that those instincts are among the most useful and virtuous which have been implanted in the human breast. They are the instincts from which have sprung, order, law, civilization, and every blessing and amenity that preserves, supports, or adorns the life of man; to outrage those instincts is to commit one of the worst of crimes in respect of the present, and one of the most disastrous blunders as regards the future. The three possessions human beings most prize, are liberty, property, and life; but they will ever be ready to sacrifice the last in defence of either of the two first. But, my Lords, these considerations should not deter your Lordships, but rather should compel the House patiently to distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable interpretations of proprietorial rights; and inasmuch as you are known to be the justest, the most independent, as well as the wealthiest body in the world, to allow plain common sense and considerations of practical equity to override mere logical and theoretical objections in your distribution of justice to 74 those two great classes, the landlords and tenants of Ireland, who by mutual consent have agreed to submit their differences to your august jurisdiction.
§ The Marquess of SALISBURY and the Earl GREY rising at the same time to address the House, it was moved by the Earl Stanhope, That the Marquess of SALISBURY be heard; on Question, agreed to.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I am sorry to offer in my own person an instance in favour of the Motion which was under the consideration of the House last evening. Had it not been for the course adopted by the noble Earl (Earl Stanhope), I confess that I do not see how we should have overcome the difficulty in which the House was just now placed. I think it is due, however, to the noble Earl (Earl Grey), who rose with me, that when I got up I did not know that he intended to speak. If there has been anything scandalous, ignominious, or disgraceful, in the mode of selection which has just been adopted, I can only say that I regard it as the consequence of the refusal of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) to take any step calculated to remedy the defects in the present practice of the House.
My Lords, I feel that I should not be doing my duty were I not to tender to those occupying the Treasury Bench the expression of my sincere sympathy for the feelings with which they must have listened to the speech which we have just heard. The occasion reminds me of a king of Moab, who invited a prophet to express certain opinions, and who was painfully surprised to find that the prophet expressed opinions totally different from those which he had anticipated. It is not in my power to condemn the proposal of Her Majesty's Government with the force and distinctness that have characterized the speech of the noble Lord (Lord Dufferin). My Lords, I never rose to address the House, either in praise or in condemnation of a measure, with greater feelings of difficulty than upon the present occasion. The Bill before us contains, as it appears to me, points white, gray, and black—things which I admire exceedingly; things the intention of which I respect, but the means of which I distrust; and things 75 which I must condemn with my whole heart. And first I will address myself to the more agreeable portion of my task. The clauses giving compensation for improvements—barring certain matters of detail, which can be set right in Committee—meet with my hearty approbation. Upon this point I may even go further, and say that in "another place" I endeavoured to impress upon a Government—not differing much in its elements from the Government which now sits upon the Treasury Bench—the importance of establishing the principle of compensation for improvement. At that time that principle was treated with much less respect than is now shown to it. That principle I believe to be not only wise, but eminently just; and if we are now compelled to deviate from sound principles by sanctioning the retrospective payment for improvements long since effected, it must be remembered that Parliament will merely be doing justice to the claims of the tenants after 25 years' delay. Had the Bill consisted of these clauses only, it would have been impossible for me to have opposed its second reading; and I only wish for the credit of Parliament, that our machinery acted somewhat less slowly, and that the principle of compensation for improvement had been adopted directly after the Report of the Devon Commission was made. There is another portion of the Bill, in approving which I am afraid I shall not obtain the sanction of the noble Lords behind me—and, indeed, I doubt greatly whether I shall even obtain that of Her Majesty's Government. I mean the clauses known as Mr. Bright's Clauses. [Earl GRANVILLE: Hear, hear!] The noble Earl is too good a politician to refuse to cheer that declaration. I do not mean to say that these clauses are perfect; some details in them I wish to see altered; but the broad and general principle which commends itself to me is this—that although an undue preponderance of small proprietary is objectionable in an economic point of view, which is a small question—in a political point of view, which is a large question, it is quite possible to err as much on the point of large as on the point of small proprietary. My feeling is this—that had there been a larger number of small proprietors in Ireland we should never have seen such a Bill as this we are now discussing, which 76 is a proof that the Irish landlords are, as a body, politically weak, and that they are not capable of holding their own in the open fight of politics. I confess that what has passed recently on the Continent has impressed itself deeply upon my mind, and I have no doubt that it has equally affected the minds of your Lordships. The fact that a Government across the water, in spite of many faults and many shortcomings, in spite of financial failures and political blunders, should have been supported by an overwhelming majority of the peasant-proprietors, shows the existence of a state of political security which Irishmen may well envy. I wish that I could be as certain that an approval of the present state of things—were the matter submitted to the universal suffrage of the Irish people—would be expressed by three out of every four of the population. The words I have uttered may not be acceptable to this Assembly; still, while it may be right to oppose the artificial separation of property, there would be more security in Ireland if the base of property were widened. I have said this much, because I hold that, on a question of this kind, I am bound to express my true feelings, and because I feel that no Government can be secure unless a large number of persons are personally interested in its maintenance. While taking this view, I cannot say that I approve the machinery by which the clauses to which I have referred are proposed to be carried into effect; neither do I think that there will not be some waste of public money resulting from the scheme—but on the broad and general ground that it will widen the basis of property in Ireland, I confess that I am in favour of the plan. Upon this point I can only express my regret that I should have differed so greatly from the noble Lord the Member of the Government who has just spoken. Having thus adverted to the white, I must now begin upon the gray parts of the Bill—those portions of it, the intention of which I respect, but the machinery of which I disapprove—I mean those which limit the liberty of contract for the future. Now, I have heard it said that it is an unheard-of thing, and opposed to all doctrines of political economy, to fetter the liberty of contract between landlords and tenants. But, when I am told that a thing is contrary to the doc- 77 trines political economy, I confess that I never exactly know what the expression means. Political economy is an oracle whose utterances we profoundly respect; but which, like a certain oracle of old, is apt to suit its utterances to the wishes of those who have the guardianship of it for the time being. On a certain occasion, when the Delphic Oracle was in the power of the Macedonian army, its utterances were said to be "Philippized," and I am afraid that the utterances of political economy now-a-days are only too apt to be "Gladstonized" When I first entered Parliament, it used to be regarded as an axiom, that could not be controverted, that commercial treaties were founded on erroneous and unsound principles, and could not be for the benefit of the countries entering into them. Circumstances, however, have changed; political economy has reviewed its doctrines; and commercial treaties are now regarded as the most orthodox things imaginable. Again, some time ago, it was a fundamental doctrine of political economy that Governments should not enter into manufacturing operations; whereas, it is now actually proposed that our Government shall manufacture coin for foreign States, and I presume political economy has altered its language accordingly. And so it is with regard to liberty of contract. Formerly, it was supposed that political economy required that the power of contract should be unrestricted; whereas now nothing can be more admirable or more just than that people should be deprived of that power. Amid all the vagueness and uncertainty that prevails upon the subject, there is, at least, one proposition on which we feel absolutely certain, and that is that political economy is the property of the Liberal party, and that, therefore, its doctrines must take whatever form may best suit their views for the time being. Well, my Lords, I will now pass from political economy, and will descend to I the common-sense question of whether the provisions of the Bill in restraint of freedom of contract are, or are not, expedient. In the first place, I do not doubt for a moment that it is within the competence of Parliament—if Parliament should choose so to act—to limit the freedom of contract; and there can be no more striking illustration of that proposition than the Usury Laws, which; 78 were passed for the purpose of preventing extortion in pecuniary transactions; and Parliament then, believing that ordinary people were too weak to stand up against the money-lenders, as they now believe the Irish tenants are unable to stand up against the landlords, passed artificial laws for their protection, and made certain contracts void. I do not think it can be disputed that it is within the competence of Parliament to pass such laws; but I think it will be admitted by everyone who examines the history of the subject, that the policy of interfering with the making of contracts, except in matters which affect human life, is one that has been constantly on the decline; and that, year after year, Parliament has retraced its steps for the steps of our forefathers, and got rid of these restraints on contracts. The noble Earl who moved the second reading of the Bill gave a mutilated view of the English law when he said that it was forbidden for adult shipowners to engage adult seamen. I do not know what infant shipowners and infant seamen are allowed to do by law; but I presume he referred to the provisions of the Passengers' Act. Those provisions are not connected with this case at all, because they refer to the matter of human life; and this overruling principle has always prevailed, that Parliament does not recognize that any man's life is his own property; that it is the property of his country, and Parliament always has interfered, and I trust always will interfere, with a strong hand to prevent people from imperilling their own lives. With regard to contracts in other matters the other rule has prevailed, for this reason—because it has been found, by unvarying experience, that whenever you try to prevent two people who wish to contract from contracting as they like, they will contrive in some way or other to evade the provisions of your law. That was found in the case of the Usury Laws, and in other laws of the same nature. It has been found that those laws were perpetually subject to evasion, and we have had to retrace our steps. That will be the case with this Bill, and the astuteness of Irish lawyers has been very much overrated by those who know them, if any part of these provisions against free contract are not such as any one of them can drive a coach and six through. It is not for me to suggest 79 the ways in which, the legislation proposed by the Government could be evaded; but I think it could be easily done in several ways. In the first place, there is the very obvious mode of consolidating farms until you bring them up to £50 in value, and of making the tenant of one of these consolidated farms the fictitious servant of the other; or the landlord may induce his tenants to become fictitious servants to himself, and thus take them out of the operations of the law. Many other ways will be discovered by which these provisions can be set aside; in fact, I cannot help feeling that with the powerful legal ingenuity at the service of the Government, these clauses have been designed more for the satisfaction of a political cry than for the future good of Ireland. At the same time, the object is to give tenants sufficient compensation for their improvements, or that their tenancy should be sufficiently secure; and, in this respect, I freely admit that the intention of the clause is good. The manner of securing these objects, however, is utterly inefficient. Now, I regret to say I come to what I must call the black part of the Bill; and I call it black, because it is very difficult in such a case to avoid substantives and adjectives which have reference to the Tenth Commandment. I am anxious to avoid saying anything of a personal nature; and I have good reason for saying—not as a mere matter of courtesy, but as a matter of positive belief—that I admit fully, in justice to the Government, that it must be said that the failure of the machinery of Parliamentary government in dealing with this matter of Ireland, has prepared for them a difficulty which was not entirely, or at least not mainly, of their own seeking; and, therefore, if they have adopted some eccentric mode of getting out of it, all the blame should not be laid upon them. What do they do? There is some objection to using the word "spoliation," which, we are told, was once prevalent, though not pleasant to ears polite; the Government is very much insulted if such a word is used, and regard it as evidence of an extravagant disposition and a violent temper; but I entreat the House to consider, apart from the circumstances of Ireland, and apart from the disturbing question of the moment, what it is we are asked to do? We agree that the 80 tenant is to be fairly compensated for all his outlay on the soil, and we agree that every true custom—that is, every custom which has been assented to by both sides—should be observed. When you have agreed to these two things, you have disposed of absolutely all the right the tenant has to the land. He has not, beyond that, an atom of right to the land—there is no law, there is no principle known to English jurisprudence which will give a man any right beyond these two; and yet you propose that in certain contingencies he shall have a sum varying from one-fourth to one-third of the value of the land he occupies. You take from the landlord that money; you put it into the pockets of the tenant. The fact that this is done only in the event of certain contingencies does not alter the character of the act. A robbery is a robbery, whether it is certain to occur daily or only on certain conditions. And on what grounds do you do this? What defence is advanced for it? I am told by the noble Lord who has just sat down, in that part of his speech which was devoted to wiping away the defects of his earlier arguments, that it is the poverty of the Irish tenant which justifies this course; and, in the same way, the Prime Minister, when asked in "another place" for what loss the tenant was to be compensated, replied that the tenant's loss was the loss of his livelihood; he had nothing before him but the workhouse or America. Is it come to this, then, that we are to compensate everyone who loses his employment, the loss of which would expose him to the workhouse or America? Are you prepared to accept that proposition in its breadth—to apply it to all circumstances of life, and to all parts of Her Majesty's dominions? We have had great distress recently in the East-end of London. We have had dockyard labourers living on the very verge of their resources. If they were "disturbed" in their employment, their loss was to them the choice between the workhouse and America. Would you be prepared to entertain a measure forcing their employers to give them seven years' wages as compensation upon dismissing them? ["Hear, hear!"] The cheers I hear from the Liberal side lead me to believe there are many Members of this House who are prepared to go so far; but I cannot believe that the employers of labour of 81 the House of Commons who voted for this measure would be prepared to go so far. But where is the difference between these two cases? The Government seems to be content to say that this applies to Ireland only, and that they do not intend it should be applied to England; they appear to be of opinion that a consequence ceases to be logically deducible where they refuse to deduce it themselves; they seem to think that whenever they shut their eyes the sun goes out. But it is not speculative politicians who will have the deduction of this argument—it is men all over the country who are struggling for their bread, and who well know that it is upon the decision on this argument their livelihood depends. When they hear that there is a large class in the neighbouring country, having no rights whatever in the soil, who have been compensated out of their landlords' pockets for the loss of their employment at the rate of seven years' wages, they will say to themselves—"What have these people done that they should be so much better off than us?" And what will the answer be?" Why the difference between you and them is this—that you have submitted quietly to be dismissed from your employment, while those in Ireland who have been compensated on this extravagant scale have shown their worthiness of it by shooting those who refused to keep them on their farms." The difference between England and Ireland is this—that in England we put up with loss of bread, and in Ireland they shoot their employers; a paternal Parliament, therefore, compensates the Irish to induce them not to shoot their landlords. Well, my Lords, I know I shall be told the old cuckoo cry that the circumstances of Ireland are different; but it is of no use to say the circumstances are different unless you show me in what way they differ. I say these Irish tenants have no right by law. I am an Irish proprietor; I pick up a man from the streets; I put him on a farm and make an agreement with him from year to year; two years afterwards you say I must pay him seven years' rental if I turn him away from my farm. I know there are many cases of long hereditary tenures; but if you intend to plead these in extenuation of what you are doing, you should confine the operation of the law to them alone. As it is, you leave 82 the law so general that it will apply to short tenancies as well as long, and you are setting a precedent for all other departments of labour which you will assuredly one day regret. My Lords, I feel that in this legislation you are doing a great deal more than simply giving the money that belongs to one man to another; you are doing more than bribing one class by plundering another; you are teaching a lesson which will not be forgotten; you are teaching the landlord that if he deals liberally by his tenants, allowing the tenure to descend from father to son, his liberality will some day be used against his class, and that which he did in charity will be made his obligation; you are teaching him that if it was his custom to give money to those whom he wished to assist in their new career of life, he is sinning against the interest of his class and preparing loss and injury for them in the future, for what was his charity will be made their obligation; you are teaching the capitalist that if he again listens to Parliament when Parliament urges him to invest money in land, Parliament may come down a few years afterwards and take a third or a fourth of the value of his investment from him. And, I fear, these lessons will not be forgotten. By this Bill you will make an obligation of all that which good Irish landlords have done out of the honesty of their hearts; and you will be holding up generosity and kindness as subjects for penalty; you will discourage—nay, almost forbid, exhibitions of generosity for the future. From this time forth you must not hope for cordial relations between landlords and tenants in Ireland. From this time forward every landlord will look upon a tenant as an enemy holding adverse possession, and as one who has been an accomplice in the agitation which has divorced from him his rights. At all events, every landlord will be anxious to repurchase his estate, and to clear off all the encumbrances which have been thus suddenly put upon it, and henceforth there will be very few landlords who will ever forgive their tenants a penny of their rent. He will seize every opportunity of wiping away the unjust terms which Parliament has imposed upon him. The Prime Minister, in introducing the Bill, went through a melancholy catalogue of the measures which had been proposed for the relief of distress 83 and the redress of wrongs in Ireland, and showed that while the intention in every instance was good, the object aimed at had scarcely ever been attained. I fear that catalogue is too true; for some malignant spirit appears to have presided over all our legislation for Ireland, so that it may be truly said with reference to recent Irish history that Irish disaffection has commenced from the moment when English concessions began. I am afraid you are now only about to add one more item to the melancholy catalogue. You complain of absenteeism as a great evil; but you are about to divorce the landlord from the management of his property, to mate him powerless to remove a Ribbonman or a Fenian who may establish himself upon it, and to render the neighbourhood so unbearable to him that absenteeism will become almost a necessity. You complain that capital does not go to Ireland, and yet you are about to set up one of the grossest instances of faithlessness to Parliamentary obligations which—I had almost said—any civilized Government has recently displayed. And I fear that, at a time when you are complaining that the division between classes in Ireland is the one great evil—at a time when you are ransacking history to find how that division arose, and are rushing into extreme measures to bridge over the gulf—you are establishing a new source of difference between landlord and tenant, and adding one more to the causes of the acrimonious dissensions which already separate so widely the various classes of the Irish people. I respect the intentions and wishes of the Government in bringing forward this measure. I believe they are sincerely anxious to put an end to the somewhat disgraceful history of the connection between England and Ireland in modern times; but I do not believe that end is to be attained by disregarding every sound principle which our legislation has hitherto observed; and least of all do I believe that English optimism is the quality by which Ireland can be relieved.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, Her Majesty's Government has certainly no reason to complain of the tone in which this measure has been discussed by noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite. I should prefer to dwell, my Lords, in the first place on those points in regard to which entirely agree with the noble Mar- 84 quess (the Marquess of Salisbury) who has just addressed you. It was with great pleasure that I heard the noble Marquess state that he approved the Compensation Clauses of the Bill. That circumstance in itself shows how great an advance we have made on this question, and how much public opinion has changed since the introduction into Parliament of the measure known as Mr. Chichester Fortescue's Bill. I rejoice further to find that in the principle of retrospective compensation the noble Marquess finds nothing to disapprove. The next portion of the Bill which the noble Marquess approves is contained in those clauses which are based on the scheme first proposed by my right hon. Friend, Mr. Bright, and which are spoken of as Mr. Bright's Clauses. It might, perhaps, seem to some of your Lordships that Her Majesty's Government were lukewarm in support of those clauses; but for myself alone I must confess that I most earnestly concur in the remarks made by the noble Marquess upon this subject, and sincerely hope that the House will act upon the advice he has given. I freely admit the difficulty of introducing the system and of maintaining it, but it is, at all events, well worth while to make the experiment, and it will be much better to try it on a small scale at first, because if it is successful it will be very easy to extend it. I agree with the noble Marquess in thinking that nothing can be more advantageous—nothing can be more conducive to the safety of the large landlords than that they should have the support of a numerous body of small landlords interested in the preservation of property and order. An obvious objection to Mr. Bright's scheme is that it is not desirable to allow large numbers of tenants to become owners of property and debtors to the Government. I wish, however, to point out that the men who purchase these properties will have to give a large security to the Government in the shape of the one-third of the purchase-money they must themselves contribute. Here, then, we have a guarantee that the money advanced will be punctually paid, and in my opinion the scheme will not be so complete a failure as some suppose. In Ulster the tenants have invested, it is said, £20,000,000 in quasi property, which is merely secured to them on the honour of their landlords, and if the Irish people 85 have so strong a desire to possess property it is extremely probable that these clauses will have a much wider application than is generally imagined. The noble Marquess then came to what he called the "gray" portion of our Bill, and objected to limiting the freedom of contract. He said, and with truth, that in this country the tendency has been more and more in favour of freedom of contract, without the interference of the law, and he argued that it was going backwards to introduce legislation of this kind with regard to Ireland. Now, I do not for a moment dispute the accuracy of the facts adduced by the noble Marquess. I admit there is a growing tendency in this country in the direction of allowing contracts to be freely entered into; and I even admit that this is a retrograde step when compared with the state of affairs in England and Scotland. But while I think that under a system of free contract the state of agriculture will improve in England and Scotland, I am prepared to assert that the economical principle of freedom of contract is not the principle which can as yet be applied to agricultural contracts in Ireland. Ireland is a country of small holdings. Out of a total of 682,000 holdings, no less than 644,000 are under £50. It appears, too, that there has not been the largest amount of agricultural prosperity in those parts of the country where freedom of contract has prevailed. Indeed, agriculture has flourished most in that part of the country in which the principle of free contract has been most violated—I mean in the Province of Ulster. I agree with my noble Friend behind me, that, looked at in a purely economical point of view, it is scarcely possible to imagine a custom which would be more prejudicial to agriculture than the Ulster custom. In the first place, it is clear, theoretically, that the custom reduces the amount of rent; because, if a sum of money is to be paid by the tenant on entering into possession, it is clear he cannot pay so high a rent as he otherwise would, and the profits of the farm must be pro tanto diminished. But this being the theory, what are the facts of the case? In point of fact, the rents in Ulster are higher than in the rest of Ireland; a fee simple is worth a larger number of years' purchase, and the tenants are more prosperous than in the other Provinces, while, instead of there being litigation and discontent, it is the one part 86 of Ireland where they least prevail and where there is a comparative immunity from agrarian outrage. To solve this most difficult question you must base your measure on Irish experience and Irish usage, and you may reasonably infer that this is an economical principle well suited to the case. What then was the conclusion the Government were entitled to draw from this state of facts? If you found that a custom of this kind was successful in one part of Ireland, it would be reasonable to inquire whether that custom was introducing itself into other parts of the country, and whether it would be desirable to extend it? We know that this custom, being congenial to the Irish mind, was, to use the expression of one of the Inspectors, "creeping" over the rest of Ireland, and we found that even where the Ulster custom did not prevail there existed, according to the Inspectors, payment for goodwill. That being so, it seems natural to conclude that you may extend the system to the rest of Ireland in some modified manner, and that is the effect of the Scale Clause. If you introduced the Ulster custom simply into other parts of Ireland, you would have a great violation of the rights of the landlord, for this reason—that, under that custom, the amount of rent to be obtained is a competition amount, and hence there is this difficulty, that under that system it is essential you should limit the rent. Now, we have not wished to propose a general valuation of rents in Ireland; and, where no payment for goodwill is established, to fix the precise amount of the rent which should be paid would be to proceed upon an entirely arbitrary calculation, founded on no principle. There is one portion of the Bill which the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) says he looks upon as being entirely bad, and which he seems to regard as neither more nor less than a spoliation of the landlord. Now, I would point out to the House that if nothing whatsoever is to be given to the tenant but that to which he is actually entitled by the letter of the law, the noble Marquess must in consistency object to the clause which legalizes the Ulster custom; because, although that custom is regarded by the landlord as binding in honour, yet it is a custom which is based on no law, and which cannot be enforced in a Court of Law 87 against a landlord, except in so far as he acquiesces in it. By legalizing that custom, therefore, you distinctly take away from the landlord a portion of his rights. In considering, however, what the rights of the landlord are, you must take into account whether the act which you are about to do is likely to be beneficial to him or to increase the value of his property; and whether, if you were to extend to the rest of Ireland the system which has promoted prosperity in Ulster, it would not equally tend to promote the prosperity of the whole of that country? Now, if it turns out—as we think it will—that this measure should produce the same amount of contentment in the rest of Ireland as the Ulster custom does in Ulster, and if the value of land in the Provinces of Connaught and Munster should be raised in the same way, would any injury, I would ask, under those circumstances, be done to the landlord? Suppose the Bill operated so beneficially that agrarian outrages should greatly decrease, do you not think that increased security is a thing which it would be most desirable to purchase by such concessions as landlords are called upon to make under the provisions of this Bill? Are we calling upon the landlords of Ireland to do more than is done by a good landlord now? If you look into the Reports of the Poor Law Inspectors you will find that it is the general practice of the landlords, when they happen to evict a small tenant, to give him a sum of money to take him to America, or to set him up elsewhere; and, practically, this Bill does no more for the tenant than is done at present every day by the good landlord. But the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond) says that we mulct the good landlords in order to meet the case of the bad. The fact, however, is that it is the good landlord who is mulcted as things at present stand, and if the bad landlords—and they are, I am happy to say, small in number—can be prevented from doing acts which tend to raise feelings of discontent nobody will gain so much as the good landlord by such a result. The noble Marquess endeavoured to frighten us with a description of the consequences which might ensue if the principles of the Bill should be thoroughly understood in England, and brought across the water to be applied not only in the case of 88 agriculture, but to the general relations between employers and labourers. With respect to that point, it seems to me that the noble Marquess answered himself, because he pointed out that in this country the tendency was more and more towards free contract. That I believe to be the fact; and I do not look upon it, therefore, as being in the slightest degree probable that this portion of the Bill to which the noble Marquess so strongly objects is likely to be made applicable to this country. What is more, I do not think the intelligent farmers of England and Scotland would desire that it should be so; while the principle I maintain will be likely to work well in Ireland, it being one of its merits that it will not introduce a cast-iron system, because if you can consolidate farms and establish habits in accordance with the English and Scotch system this Bill will not prevent that from being done. [Lord CAIRNS: Hear, hear.] I infer from the cheer of the noble and learned Lord that he looks upon this as a strong encouragement to the consolidation of farms, and considers that one of the results of the Bill will be evictions to a greater extent of small tenants. The process will not be so easy, however, as the noble and learned Lord may imagine, because the landlord will have to take into account the sums which he will have to pay before he can consolidate farms in this manner. With regard to the labourers, the case of the two countries is not analogous. There is this difference between England and Ireland—that in Ireland there is no employment for the people except in agriculture. There are occasions, no doubt, when, owing to stagnation in trade, artizans or labourers here may be unable to procure work; but, as a rule, you have not in this country the cruel alternative which exists in Ireland, where the labouring population must either be employed in agriculture or not be employed at all. In England, except in times of exceptional stagnation, the alternative is never presented to the people of the workhouse or America. I think the noble Marquess went beyond the bounds of historical accuracy when he suggested that Irish disaffection came into existence about the time of English conciliation.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I said "English concession." What I 89 meant was that the historical period of English concession commenced about 1778, and the historical period of Irish disaffection about 1779.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
Yes, the noble Marquess believes that the period of concession by England was the period of disaffection in Ireland. Now, I always had a notion that Irish disaffection was of much more ancient date than that assigned to it by the noble Marquess. I will not take your Lordships through a course of Irish history; but whatever period of Irish history I have ever taken up I have invariably found disaffection. You shall go back to the Wars of the Roses, and down to the reign of Elizabeth, when the despatches written to the Queen by the Lords Deputies were full of complaints of disaffection. You shall go from the reign of Elizabeth down to the Revolution; and then, no doubt, there was a period of exhaustion and apparent quiet in Ireland. As soon, however, as Ireland ceased to feel that exhaustion, and found England in a difficulty, disaffection broke out again. You then repealed your Penal Laws. Does the noble Marquess think that Irish disaffection, caused to a great extent by these Penal Laws, was occasioned by the repeal of those laws, and that it would have been better to refuse all concession? If he does not think so, what other policy than that of concession could England pursue? Are you to say, when disaffection shows itself—"We will not attempt to remove it, because concession is followed by disaffection?" I say, on the contrary, that when you find chronic disaffection in Ireland you are bound to try to remedy it, and to shrink from no sacrifices until you have removed the cause of disaffection. I acknowledge the failure of past efforts by this country to remove it. Successive Governments have met with the same failure. But Englishmen are not to be permanently baffled. Parliament showed last year that it would not shrink from sacrifices in the effort to remove disaffection in Ireland, and I hope the same spirit will be shown now. He would, no doubt, be a sanguine man who would prophesy the result of any measure in Ireland. It is possible that this Bill, like others, may fail; but I augur well for its success, from the tone of the debate in this and in the other House of Parliament. 90 I acknowledge the generous feeling towards Ireland which has been shown in the speeches of some of your Lordships. Still, the Bill may fail; but if it succeeds I trust that your Lordships will have laid the axe to the root of Irish disaffection, and will have conferred on Ireland a benefit greater than that which your ancestors have ever conferred.
§ THE EARL OF BANDON
said, he would not follow the noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal into the question of ancient Irish disaffection, but would remind him that the Penal Laws were enacted, not by an English, but an Irish Parliament. He confessed that he was unable to discover what was the real meaning of Mr. Bright's Purchase Clauses; but the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) seemed to think that they would result in the creation of a small proprietary in Ireland. If the object was to create a peasant-proprietary in Ireland, he believed it would prove perfectly illusory. It would be inconsistent with every principle, and would, if really effective, create the greatest jealousy in those who would not be the recipients of the bounty of Parliament. But he had specially risen to refute the charge that had been brought against the South of Ireland. It had been asserted that there leases were the exception, and security of tenure did not exist. The fact was, in the large county of Cork about two-thirds of the land was held under lease. He hoped that he correctly understood the noble Earl who introduced this Bill that he did not intend to interfere with existing leases. If the Bill did so, he could not help thinking that it would throw the whole property of the country into confusion. Having had much experience of the landlord and tenant question in the course of his residence in Ireland, and having sat for several years in the House of Commons, he could not agree with the Prime Minister in regretting that former Bills upon this subject had not been carried. On the contrary, he thought that it was the greatest blessing that none of them were carried, and he wished he could hope the same of the measure that was now before them. His own experience led him to believe that it would be the greatest blessing to Ireland that they should do nothing at all; but if it were considered necessary that some measure should pass, he implored 91 their Lordships so to frame the clauses of the Bill as to avoid what everyone dreaded—the creation of endless litigation in Ireland. With regard to the Compensation Clauses, they enacted what practically every landlord at present gave to his tenants; but it was a very different thing to give from generosity, and to be compelled to give by law. Not one of his own labourers paid him rent, and it would be deemed a scandal if one who had grown grey in his service went to the Union; but would Parliament pass a law to make him pension them off liberally? He would now refer to the Bills that had been brought forward from time to time on the same subject. Mr. Sharman Crawford introduced a measure which failed to meet the approval of Parliament, although it did not go to the lengths of the present Bill. He (the Earl of Bandon) believed if the Government had adopted some of the principles of that Bill they would have averted much of the mischief which the introduction of the present Bill had occasioned. The late Sir Robert Peel, though desirous of conceding much to the Irish people, condemned in the strongest language the principle of fixity of tenure, and if the Government had come forward, in the first instance, with a declaration condemnatory of the demands set up by some of the Irish agitators for fixity of tenure, they would have probably dissipated such an idea, and prevented its growth. The Bill of the Government of 1845 was unsuccessful because it was denounced by Mr. O'Connell and the Repeal Association of Ireland. Again, in 1852, the Government failed to carry Mr. Cardwell's Bill, which would have been of the greatest advantage to Ireland, because it proposed that the tenant should make improvements without the consent of the landlord; and Lord Mayo's Bill, although it contained provisions of the greatest importance, because it contained conditions which changed the relation of landlord and tenant in this respect. He quite agreed with the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Dufferin) that the great evil of Ireland was the existence of a large population wholly dependent upon the soil for their livelihood. But why was that? Was it not because no attempt had been made by the British Government to introduce manufactures or other employments for 92 the people into that country? If the Government had adopted that wise policy of fostering a manufacturing industry in Ireland, they would have done more to improve the position of the people of Ireland than any such measures as the present could effect. The Prime Minister in 1862 declared that he knew of no boon that could be conferred upon Ireland, so comprehensive in its operation, so impartial, so free from the taint of suspicion of ministering to one particular interest, as the development of its railway system——Video meliora proboque, Deteriora sequor.The Irish landlords were accused of appropriating the improvements of their tenants; but what could be more practically absurd than such an accusation? If he were to appropriate a tenant's improvements he would suffer more than the injured tenant, for he would find that no man would put any trust in him again. The wording of some of the clauses was such as made them very difficult to understand. There seemed to be a distinction attempted between towns and large villages, so that different rules would come into operation on contiguous portions of his own estate. As to the compensation question, it should be recollected that there were in Ireland what were called middleman's leases, under which it would be almost impossible in many cases to ascertain who had really effected the improvements on the farm, or at what time they had been made; it would, therefore, be difficult in such cases to carry out this principle of compensation. He particularly objected to the recognition of retrospective compensation in the Bill, because he thought it would operate most unjustly; and if you took from one person what confessedly belonged to him and gave it to another, where were you to stop? Then, again, he was opposed to the presumption that every improvement had been made by the tenant, unless it was otherwise shown by the landlord. There would be many cases in which the improvements had been made, not perhaps by the landlord himself, but by the tenant at the landlord's expense. Was it very likely that the documents necessary to prove this would be forthcoming? He hoped, upon reflection, that the Government would see the justice of giving up that principle. He also thought the scale of 93 compensation much too high. It was I advocated as a penalty upon the landlord which would prevent him evicting the tenant; but the same penalty would prevent the landlord taking up the land when he required it for purposes of improvement. Their Lordships had read of an instance in which the landlord was anxious to build houses, and was deterred by a tenant who asked enormous tenant-right compensation, so that the whole population on the estate suffered; and he knew instances in which this provision would very much increase the difficulty of getting land when it was required for such a purpose. The most objectionable part of the Bill he took to be the assignment of the tenancy, without the consent of the landlord, to another tenant. He had often told his own tenantry that it was much more for their interest than for his that a bad man should not be brought upon the estate. Much had been said about the changes of tenants. He must say, however, that when looking over the roll of ratepayers in his capacity as Poor Law Guardian, he found that there was very little change of tenants in the district from one year to another; and of those who had formerly been engaged in the cultivation of the land very few indeed had been driven to the workhouse; on the contrary, he found the larger part engaged in setting up shops in the small towns and villages; and he believed that a gradual feeling was coming over the minds of the people of Ireland that small farms would not pay. He would say, farther, that whatever the intention of the Government might be, the consolidation of farms would be the undoubted result of this Bill. He would remind the House that they heard nothing of this tenant-right cry two years ago. He would remind the House of another historical fact, that in 1715 there was the same cry of oppression to the tenant-farmer as there was now—that the Irish land was all laid down in pasture; and to relieve the people Archbishop Boulton brought in a Bill obliging the landlords to lay down five acres for tillage for every 100 that was devoted to pasture. Professor Woodward showed only 16 years afterwards the misery and distress that resulted from the Archbishop's measure. And so it would be now, for he believed that in allowing the subdivision of land as this 94 Bill did, they were stereotyping the miseries of Ireland. He believed that the true policy would be to develop the resources of Ireland, to extend her trade and manufactures and develop her railroads; by adopting this policy they would make Ireland a prosperous, a happy, and a united people.
§ LORD MONCK
said, that notwithstanding the observations he had heard from noble Lords opposite, he was still of opinion that both political parties were what lawyers called estopped from denying the necessity for legislation as to the land question of Ireland; because successive Ministries had brought in Bills for which there would be neither justification nor excuse if the present state of the law was satisfactory. The problem which had to be solved, in order to estimate the adequacy of the measure now proposed, related to the true nature of the grievance which it was sought to redress, and what were the objects that should be kept in view. The grievance appeared to him to lie very much nearer the surface of society than seemed to be the opinion of most noble Lords who had spoken in this debate. Speaking on this subject from a personal experience of considerably more than a quarter of a century, and acquired in the South and East of Ireland, and judging also from what he had observed in connection with emigration, he inferred that although evictions might seem to be numerous, yet, compared with the number of holdings, they would be found to be exceptional cases. The testimony of gentlemen who had made this matter a subject of special investigation, and who were certainly not animated by any friendly disposition towards the landlords of Ireland, was that rents in that country were not too high. From a variety of sources of information he came to the conclusion that fixity of tenure was practically the rule in Ireland, and that the tenants enjoyed hereditary succession on many properties as regularly as their landlords. But, although he entertained a good opinion of the general body of landlords, he was bound to admit that there was a large minority who, either from a desire for inordinate power or with a view to excessive gain, exercised their legal rights in a way which brought discredit on the class to which they belonged, and created feelings of discontent among the tenants of Ireland. 95 It was against the acts of such men as these that Parliament was called upon to legislate; and it was a good omen for the satisfactory settlement of this question that the rights which Parliament was asked to abridge or abolish were those which the righteous and just landlords of Ireland had already relinquished; for, if the majority of landlords had of their own accord already given up the exercise of extreme rights, it could be no hardship to impose the same rule on the unrighteous and unscrupulous members of their class. A reference to authorities from the time of Elizabeth to the present would show that the liability to disturbance had always been a great grievance in Ireland, and that uncertainty of tenure had prevented the possibility of good cultivation of the land, or of energy and contentment among the people. But there was a still more important cause of dissatisfaction, which must never be forgotten in considering this question, because it seemed to be the key to all their grievances and to afford a justification for the provisions of this Bill—namely, that everything necessary for the profitable occupation of the land was the work of the tenants. No one could have lived among the Irish people without learning that among them local attachment worked with the intensity of a passion. He left it, therefore, for their Lordships to imagine what must have been the state of feeling among the people of that country when the irritation caused by the general uncertainty of tenure was aggravated by exceptional instances of injustice. In his county there was a tradition that it was at one time one vast oak forest; and that tradition was expressed in the saying that a squirrel might have passed from one end of the county to another without touching the ground. The greater part of that land was now in a productive condition, and had been made so by the unassisted efforts of the tenant. In such a state of things, was it to be greatly wondered at if a feeling of sullen discontent existed which was apt, on sudden provocation, to break out into disorder or open resistance to the law, even leading sometimes to outrages which could not be extenuated or palliated? The evils and the grievances to be remedied suggested the objects to be kept in view in their legislation. In the first place, they 96 ought, in the interest of the public—for whose advantage it was that they should obtain the largest amount of produce from the soil, to secure to the occupiers in Ireland such a tenure as would encourage their enterprize. In the interests of justice, also, they ought to secure to the tenantry a legal right to that portion of the value of the soil to which he believed they had an equitable claim, because it had been the creation of their capital and industry. And, farther, in the interest of the public peace, they should endeavour to provide as far as possible against those hostile relations between landlord and tenant which produced so much mischief in Ireland and which were incident to the present mode of managing property in that country. Those were the tests he wished to apply to the Bill before their Lordships; and, looking at the measure from that point of view, it appeared to him that by giving the sanction of law to the custom of tenant-right in Ulster, and to analogous customs prevalent in other parts of Ireland, they, so far as those customs were concerned, gave additional security to the tenure by which the tenant held his land; while, by the fines they imposed on the disturbance of occupation, they at once secured that object, and recognized, according to his notion, the right of the tenant to the ownership of a certain portion of the value of the soil. So far in principle and in practice the Bill was satisfactory to his mind. But there he was obliged, to a certain extent, with much reluctance, to part company with his noble Friend; because, looking to the third object which he had pointed out—namely, the prevention of hostile collisions between landlord and tenant, he was bound to say there were provisions in the measure which would not only not attain that end, but would have a contrary effect. In all the schemes of tenant-right put forward by the farmers of Ireland and those who represented them—and the fact was highly to their honour—none that he had ever seen failed to include a provision for giving the landlord any future increase of rent due to the increased value of agricultural produce, and to the advancing prosperity of the country, or to any expenditure that he might make on the holding. How was that proposed to be done by this Bill? Supposing he had a tenant with whom 97 he found no fault, except that he did not think he paid him enough rent, and that he did not want to disturb him in his holding, or to quarrel with him. He asked him to pay an additional rent, and he refused to do so. His only course under the Bill was to serve the tenant with notice to quit, and when that notice expired, the tenant might at the end of a year claim compensation. The landlord could then serve him with a counter notice, stating that he had offered him the farm at a fair rent, and that he would go into Court. Why should it be made obligatory on him to go through that odious and protracted process in order to obtain, at the end of about a year and a-half, the legal decision of a question which was as ripe for determination at the beginning of that period as it was at its close? Bad blood and ill-feeling between landlord and tenant would thus be needlessly excited or prolonged. Why should not the question whether the rent proposed was fair and reasonable be referred at once to the Assistant Barrister or the Civil Bill Court? The operation of that provision would be to leave it in the power of unscrupulous and unrighteous landlords—the very class whom they desired to control—to harass their tenants, and embroil the relations of landlord and tenant throughout the country just as much as they did now; while the just and forbearing landlord would be placed at a disadvantage in seeking to obtain that fair increase of rent to which he was entitled, by reason of the increase in the value of produce or in the prosperity of the country. Then, in regard to appeals, he had had the advantage of consulting some of the Irish Judges on that point, and their opinion was that there was too great a multiplication of appeals under that Bill. It was proposed that appeals should go from the Assistant Barrister or the Civil Bill Court to the going Judge of Assize, and again from that tribunal to the Court for Land Cases Reserved. What had been suggested to him was that the Judge of the Civil Bill Court should be empowered, where he thought fit, to state a case to go direct before the Court for Land Cases Reserved; so that a binding judicial decision might be got from a Court of high authority on any question of that kind—a mode of proceeding that would be less expensive and less onerous to the 98 suitor. He must say, in vindication of himself, that he regretted that the Government had not accepted in the other House the alternative provisions of the Bill known as Sir John Gray's scheme of permissive tenant-right—a proposition which, he thought, if adopted, would have contributed to the satisfactory settlement of that great question. On the whole, however, considering the Bill contained so much that he valued and heartily approved of, he should still support the second reading, and he must confess he heard with great satisfaction the declaration made that evening by the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) that it was not the intention of the great party opposite to take a Division at that stage of the Bill or, at least, not to make a party Division of it. He had heard that announcement with the greater satisfaction, because he had lately learnt the views of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) on a kindred subject, when he said that the policy of conciliation for Ireland was a failure and had reached its limits.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I never made use of that observation. I dare say it is true; but I should like to think a little before I say so.
§ LORD MONCK
said, the noble Marquess had used the substance of those words on the debate on the Peace Preservation (Ireland) Bill. He had only referred to them in order to express a hope that the noble Marquess and the great party with which he acted would deal with this question in a large and generous spirit, and that they would prove to the majority of the people of Ireland—and it was of great importance to establish the conviction in their minds—that while they were determined to maintain the rights of property as far as they were consistent with equity and fairness, they were equally resolved that no reasonable complaint of the Irish people should be left unheard, and that nothing that could be fairly called a grievance should remain unredressed.
§ LORD CAIRNS moved that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Motion agreed to: Debate adjourned to Thursday next.
§ House adjourned at a quarter to One o'clock, A.M., to Thursday next, half past Ten o'clock.