§ THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD
asked the Lord Privy Seal (Lord Car-lingford)—First, In what form Her Majesty's Government have ordered daily Returns to be sent in to Dublin Castle of evictions, with opinions thereon of the magistrates and police as to whether they are cases of hardship or not; Secondly, when such order came into force, and what steps are taken by the magistrates and police so as to enable them to form a correct judgment on the matter; Thirdly, whether the landlords and others interested are given any opportunity of explanation before a Return is sent in on which a public official charge that they have acted in a cruel and unpatriotic manner may be founded; Fourthly, whether Her Majesty's Government will take care that outrages are not encouraged by hasty censures passed upon 1731 those who appeal to the law for the assertion of their legal rights? He put those Questions in consequence of a statement made in "another place" during last week by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He should, in the first place, like to draw the attention of their Lordships to a speech by the Prime Minister, made, he believed, in October last, in which he made what was considered a most cruel and unjustifiable charge of cowardice against the Irish landlords. The matter was of so much importance that he would read the Prime Minister's words. He said—That other unhappy fact is the traditional sluggishness and incapacity of the wealthier portions of society in Ireland to do anything whatever for themselves.And further on he said—A general cowardice seems to prevail among all the classes who possess property, and Government is expected to preserve the peace with no moral force behind them. That is the great scandal and evil of Ireland, and until the evil is removed the condition of Ireland will not be thoroughly sound and healthy.Since the delivery of that speech the landlords had been, as they thought, supporting the Government by enforcing their legal rights, which the Prime Minister believed they ought to do; but the Chief Secretary for Ireland had lately called them "cruel and unpatriotic" for doing so. During the winter the landlords were led to believe that it was their absolute duty to enforce their legal rights, and that by doing so they would materially assist the Government in putting down the Land League. This was after the issue of the "no rent" manifesto. The landlords had since asked, not for the whole of their rents, but for a portion of them, some payment on account, and they were now called "cruel and unpatriotic "for doing what the Government in the first instance had recommended them to do. The Chief Secretary stated that the magistrates and the police were to send in reports to Dublin Castle, on hearsay evidence, gathered in a hostile country, as to whether evictions were cases of hardship or no. He (the Marquess of Waterford) maintained, considering the present condition of Ireland, and that the people were entirely hostile to the landlords, that it would be difficult for even a Court of Law to find out whether an eviction was a ease of hardship or not, especially when they knew what power the Irish tenant had of 1732 hiding his money. He trusted the Lord Privy Seal would tell them what opportunities landlords would have of rebutting the accusations made against them. Apparently the police would make these reports and send them into Dublin Castle, and the poor landlords would not be allowed to say a word in their own defence. No men had ever been so outrageously ill-used. Their property had been confiscated by the Government, notwithstanding it was stated by the Government that the Act would not have that effect. Many of them had nothing to live on except their rents; and many of them had not received them for several years. Mortgagees and others holding charges were now pressing them to pay. After two good seasons they asked the tenants to pay something on account or else to give up the land; and then they wore called "cruel and unpatriotic." It was a monstrous thing that such imputations should be cast upon the landlords of Ireland. A few among them might have acted harshly; but they were a small minority. A landlord would not be such a fool as to evict a tenant when he knew he could not get another in his place. They all knew the state of Ireland at the present time, and that the Land League prevented tenants taking farms from which others had been evicted, and, therefore, what could induce a landlord to evict a tenant if he had no chance of getting any rent from him at all? He hoped the noble Lord would answer the Questions fully, because he thought they were of the utmost importance. The last one was of special importance, because he feared that if hasty and unjust censure was cast by the Chief Secretary on those who up to the present time had been in the very gravest danger of outrage and assassination, it would not much conduce to their safety, nor would it conduce to the decrease in the number of outrages in Ireland, which he was certain the noble Lord and Her Majesty's Government were so anxious to bring about.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRIVY SEAL)
My Lords, I am willing and anxious to answer the Questions of my noble Friend as fully and as accurately as I can. First, as to the Returns of evictions, about which the noble Lord inquires; these Returns of evictions are nothing new. There is no novelty of any consequence that I 1733 know of in these Returns, or in their form. It has been the duty of the Constabulary for years past, under an article of their Code, to report all cases of evictions to the Inspector General, and upon forms that have been long in use. These forms, I find, were made some what fuller, so as to comprise a greater number of particulars, by the late Mr. Burke about a year ago. These Returns have included the statements of the police as to the nature and circumstances of the evictions, so far as they could learn. The instruction upon that point is contained in these words—The statement is to comprise information as to the circumstances of the cases, the causes of the evictions, and whether they produce hardship or lead to excitement in the neighbourhood.These Returns are made to the Inspector General. So far as concerns the mere number of evictions, they come every day before the authorities in the office, and when the Inspector General finds anything special in a case he sends it to the Chief Secretary or the Under Secretary, calling attention to the statement of the police as to the circumstances of the eviction. Of course, if the Government had their attention called to a special case they would ask for the Return. The system, I understand, has been in operation for a long time. In the same way the Resident Magistrates report every week upon the general state of the districts or the county or counties over which they have charge, and, among other matters, give an account of the evictions that have taken place, expressing their opinions as to the character of them. I have looked through a number of these Police Reports, and they strike me as being singularly impartial. I have found in them no trace of animus on the part of the police in the descriptions they give of the character of the evictions. These statements of the police have been made use of over and over again for purposes quite different from those to which the noble Lord has called attention. They have been made use of for showing the undue and improper resistance that has been made to the payment of rent legally due on the part of many Irish tenants, and to prove the influence of the Land League in that direction, and the progress of the "no rent" movement. When these reports, of 1734 which complaint has hastily been made, were used for other purposes, they were trusted as evidence of the facts. I believe they were good evidence, and I believe they are equally trustworthy evidence as to cases of eviction. I find that in cases of reported hardship reasons are given for believing that they are such. My noble Friend is aware that, generally speaking, the police have sufficient means of knowing what is going on. On the other hand, I find numerous cases in which the police report facts that are very unfavourable to the tenant, showing that the landlord has been justified in asserting his rights, and that the tenants have been unduly and improperly, very often under external influence, resisting those rights. The Irish Government are of opinion that, on the whole, these reports are trustworthy, and can be depended upon as much in one direction as in the other. What I have stated has answered the first two Questions. As to the other Question, I have to say, on the part of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that he never intended to pass any censure, hasty or otherwise, upon the landlords merely because they appealed to the law in the assertion of their legal rights. As my noble Friend has reminded us, the Government more than once expressed the opinion that the Irish landlords ought to enforce their legal and just rights. We did not question it for a moment; but my right hon. Friend, on the basis of official information, referred to certain cases of hardship in this matter of evictions. I have to say, on his authority, that the phrase which he used, and which has been often repeated, was not correctly reported. He spoke on one of those days on which a good deal of condensation takes place, and the phrase which he used did not apply directly to the landlords. The phrase he used was this. He said "that these cases of hardship in evictions, of which he believed a certain number had taken place, were cruel to the Executive Government." He used the phrase in the sense that they increased those difficulties which already press so enormously on the Government. My noble Friend may rest assured that neither the Chief Secretary nor any other Member of Her Majesty's Government contests the perfect right of Irish landlords to assert their just rights; but, undoubtedly, 1735 in the present condition of Ireland, the assertion of those just rights does require great consideration, great prudence, and great humanity.
§ THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD
My Lords, I have hero the quotation to which I referred. According to the report in The Times, the Chief Secretary for Ireland said—He deeply regretted that there were landlords who did not adopt the attitude of the hon. Member for Carrickfergus, and who, at a time when the Executive was grappling with a situation of extreme difficulty, asserted their rights in a cruel and unpatriotic manner.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRIVY SEAL)
My Lords, I have a positive assertion from ray right hon. Friend that he said "cruel to the Executive Government."
THE EARL OF DUNRAYEN
said, he wished to know whether he rightly understood the Lord Privy Seal to say that no fresh orders to the police had been issued? His impression was that some new instructions had been given to the police to report as to evictions, whether they inflicted hardship or not. But even if the police made exactly the same reports that they had always made, he submitted that at the present moment it would be very injudicious that such reports should be relied upon, or should give rise to any action on the part of the Government, because, although in ordinary circumstances the police and the magistrates might possibly be able to form a just opinion as to whether hardship was inflicted or not, he maintained that it was absolutely impossible for them to do so now. Matters had been entirely altered by the circumstances in which the landlords were placed. What might be thought unjust if a landlord were not hard pressed, would be legitimate and right if he and his family were in circumstances of great difficulty, and compelled to get the land in their own hands or to obtain their rents. Under the circumstances, great injustice might be done if the reports of the police were considered to be reliable at the present time. All Irish landlords, he felt sure, would be only too pleased if an inquiry could be made into their conduct at the present time and during the last two years. He did not think any information that was worth anything could be gathered from the reports which were now handed in by the police. 1736 The position of Irish landlords was very peculiar and very difficult. They did not know how to act. At one time they were twitted by prominent Members of the Liberal Party because they ran away, and at other times they were told that they caused great inconvenience to the Executive Government because they did not exercise their rights more strictly. These were two very different views, and it seemed impossible to know how Irish landlords were to conduct themselves so as to please the various Members of the present Government. The one thing they did not appear to be allowed to do was to exercise those rights which the law of their country had yet left them. The Lord Privy Seal said the Government wished to see the landlords exercising their legal and just rights; but the difficulty was to get unanimity of opinion as to what was just in the matter. It appeared to him that the landlords, as long as the law allowed them to make use of certain means to obtain what was due to them or to get back their property into their own hands, had a perfect right to exercise those means. There were many other difficulties in the way of Irish landlords. It appeared to him that their position was often misunderstood and misrepresented in this country. He had seen their conduct compared with that of the English landlords. It had been asserted that the Irish landlords had not made allowance for bad seasons, and had not treated their tenants in the same way as English landlords did. But the circumstances of the two countries were altogether different. In Ireland it was impossible for a landlord to know whether a reduction was really wanted by a tenant or not. In England, on the other hand, there were many circumstances from which a landlord could ascertain this. In England, if a tenant found himself unable to pay his rent, he took his money out of the farm and went away. This was never done in Ireland. Again, the difficulty was increased in consequence of the action of the Land League and the "no rent" manifesto. How was it possible for any human being to ascertain for certain whether a tenant could or could not pay his rent, seeing that, in point of fact, a great number of tenants who could pay did not pay? There were cases, no doubt, in which hardship was inflicted by landlords in 1737 Ireland. Some landlords, irritated by the conduct of Her Majesty's Government and by other causes, might exercise their rights very harshly; but the victims of such injustice had only to thank the Land League and those advisers who had recommended them to pay no rent. He was very glad to hear the Lord Privy Seal give some explanation of the extraordinary expression used in Parliament by the Chief Secretary. He was glad to find that the right hon. Gentleman did not consider the Irish landlords were cruel to their tenants, but only thought they were cruel to the Executive. Still, he did not believe that the Irish landlords were cruel, even in that limited sense. The noble Lord had not shown why they should be supposed to be unpatriotic. He could understand, indeed, that they were unpatriotic from the Nationalist or Separatist point of view; but from the point of view of the Union between the two countries, he could not see how their conduct had been unpatriotic. Could anything be more injudicious than the words spoken by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, even under the construction put upon them by the noble Lord? They were only to be equalled by some of the expressions as to Ireland which had fallen from the lips of the Prime Minister.
§ EARL COWPER
First of all, my Lords, I wish to make one or two remarks on the Police Returns, as to whether there is hardship or not in cases of eviction. I can assure the noble Lord who spoke last that if the reports err at all, they err, on the whole, in the other direction from what he assumes. I think they are, on the whole, very impartial. In these days evictions cannot be carried out in a hole-and-corner manner, but an account of them appears in the papers. These reports go far to prove how false some of the newspaper reports were, and to show that the landlords did not behave so badly as a great portion of the Press tried to make out. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Waterford) said that two different charges had boon brought against the landlords of Ireland. I am not here to defend the language of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I do not even remember what the words were; but, as far as I can judge, the explanation given of them removes any blame 1738 which might be attached to the right hon. Gentleman for the language he is reported to have used. I do think there have been cases of considerable harshness in Ireland. The noble Marquess is a most excellent and conciliatory landlord, and has never acted harshly towards his tenants, and I do not think there is any one of your Lordships who has property in Ireland of whom the same thing might not be said. But I think all who know the country will admit that there have been cases, particularly in the crowded parts of the West and North-West of Ireland, where the people have been absolutely unable to pay, were in a state of starvation, with nothing else in the world to turn to, and hopelessly in arrear, and have been turned out in a heartless manner. It may be true that it might be much better in the long run that these estates should be cleared, and only those for whom there is room allowed to remain; but this should be done in a cautious and kind manner, provision being made for those who are removed. Similar difficulties from overcrowding had arisen in the Highlands of Scotland, and some of the proprietors had emigrated the people in a kind and careful manner—no doubt at considerable expense—and very small thanks they got for it. All that is a matter of history. We know also that many landed proprietors in Ireland have behaved in a very kind manner towards their tenants; but it is certainly true that there have been cases of hardship among the tenants. I think in these days, when there is such a cry against the landlords, that they ought to be the first to dissociate themselves from those who have behaved in an unpatriotic manner. While, on the one hand, the Government have had to complain of the harshness of some landlords, in others there has been observable a certain amount of laxity and want of combination. That, I think, is what the Prime Minister referred to. There have been many cases in which men have allowed their tenants to remain without paying rent when they were perfectly able to pay. There have been other cases in which notice has been given that proceedings would be taken against tenants able to pay, a force of police and soldiers have been brought together, a great deal of trouble has been taken by the Executive, and at the last moment the landlord, for 1739 some unexplained and inexplicable reason, has drawn back. In many cases it would have materially assisted the Government if the landlords in disturbed parts of the country had agreed among themselves and made an example of the tenants in certain districts; but, for want of combination, that has not been done. I am bound to say that if a landlord who had tenants who were perfectly well able to pay, and whoso rents were fair and just, had, in combination with his neighbours, made an example of the ringleaders in the "no rent" movement, he would have done a good thing for himself and a service to the country and to the cause of law and order. My Lords, I will not detain you further, but will only observe that, though among a large body of men there must be some who act in one way and some in another, yet I am happy to say that there is a great number who have acted in a just and firm and, at the same time, conciliatory manner, and are well deserving of thanks for what they have done.
said, that the statement of the Chief Secretary for Ireland was made last Wednesday, and though some days had elapsed there had been no explanation or contradiction given to it, though the statement had been circulated throughout the country. The effect of such a statement would be greatly to increase crime and outrage, and therefore it required the strongest condemnation. When the Chief Secretary saw the way in which he was reported he should have taken the earliest opportunity of contradicting it. With regard to the answer of the Lord Privy Seal, he should like to ask upon what grounds the police proceeded when they stated that a particular eviction was a harsh one or the reverse, for he believed that no application was ever made either to the landlords or their agents to make any report to the police on the subject? It was only fair that the reports sent to Dublin Castle should contain both sides of the question. As to the general condition of the country, he might mention a case which occurred to himself the other day. A tenant of his who owed him £500 had been pressed over and over again for the amount, but declined to pay. Last year an ejectment decree was issued against him, but withdrawn. This year a decree was obtained, and 1740 men were got down from Dublin to execute it; but the very next day the brother-in-law of the tenant came forward and paid £400 out of the £500. This clearly showed the difficulty of deciding before a man was turned out of his holding whether ho had money or not. It was well known that there was a great deal of money deposited by the tenants in the savings banks, on which they were obtaining interest. With respect to evictions, the Lord Privy Seal appeared to forget that the County Court Judges possessed a power of staying evictions, and that that power was constantly exercised. The noble Earl the late Lord Lieutenant had blamed the Irish landlords for not combining to resist the "no rent" movement. He could say for the County Clare that the landlords of that district did their utmost to combine so far as possible; but no one who had not experienced it could understand the difficult and dangerous position in which they were placed. When he rode into his own county town, every country gentleman ho saw came accompanied by his escort of soldiers or police. It was impossible for the landlords to combine with regard to evictions in the manner suggested by the noble Earl. He maintained that the landlords had behaved in a most patriotic manner; in every case they had been as lenient as they could towards their tenants, while doing their utmost to put an end to the combinations used against them. He would repeat that the language used by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was deserving of the severest condemnation. The non-payment of rent caused evictions, not for inability to pay, but because the tenants acted upon the advice given to them by the Land League.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
pointed out the dangers by which Irish landlords were surrounded, and the difficulties in the way of their doing more than they had done to act in combination against the forces opposed to them. Even speaking in their Lordships' House was dangerous, for the Irish papers circulated among the people garbled extracts from their speeches, combined with the grossest possible abuse and misrepresentation. Up to the time of the new departure, the Irish landlords certainly did not think that the govern- 1741 ment was carried out as it ought to be, or that the Executive showed sufficient force and energy; but they found the tenants were beginning to be tired of what was going on, and were coming in to pay whatever rent they could, and also to make arrangements for future rents with their landlords. Since the new policy had been introduced, however— since the "suspects" had been released and the Arrears Bill introduced—there had been hardly a shilling of rent paid, and few, if any, men would make agreements. He thought it was a great hardship that some tenants should be forced to be evicted merely because other people would not pay their rents. He knew of one case in which 30 notices of eviction were served, and 29 of the tenants came forward just when they were being turned out and paid every shilling that was due from them. The 30th tenant showed the money and said, "You may have the land." It was the unfortunate vacillating policy of Her Majesty's Government, constantly changing front, and constantly causing new expectations to be entertained by the tenants, that had increased, and would continue to increase if it was still adhered to, the unfortunate and disastrous state of Ireland which at present
said, if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had only used the words which had been attributed to him by his noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal (Lord Car-lingford), and not those which had been reported in the newspapers, he thought the Chief Secretary ought, in justice to the landlords of Ireland, have taken the earliest available opportunity of explaining what it was he said, or intended to say. That was more especially the case because there were at the present time so many charges flying about against Irish landlords, in reference to evictions, both in the public Press and on public platforms. The parties who made those charges were ready at once to turn to account any words uttered by a Member of the Government which helped them, or any of the exaggerated reports which they circulated; and in proof of this he would read an extract from a letter sent to the Press by Dr. Donnelly, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Clogher, in reference to the Rossmore Estate. In that letter, Dr. Donnelly said— 1742Writs are being issued on the Rossmore Estate for rent and arrears. Everyone knows that the tenants are unable to pay, so the enforcement by Lord Rossmore of his legal right means the entire destruction and annihilation of the unfortunate tenants.The County Inspector of Constabulary in that district subsequently called at the Estate Office to make inquiries as to what was going on, and he supposed the fact of the Inspector having done so would throw some light on the means which were being taken by Her Majesty's Government to obtain information as to the action of the Irish landlords in these matters. In the statement addressed by the agent of the estate subsequently to the County Inspector, the following explanation occurred:—At the time Dr. Donnelly wrote the letter to the Press only three writs at the suit of the landlord had been issued on the estate for six months previous; and, as a matter of fact, only seven writs had been served on the tenants during the last 10 years. Now, he thought, when such sweeping charges were made upon such slender grounds, and were being sown broadcast throughout the country, that Members of Her Majesty's Government ought to be very cautious how they let fall a word which could strengthen the hands of those who made such charges. With respect to the general question of evictions, speaking of the district with which he was best acquainted, he could say that there had been nothing in the conduct of the landlords generally in that county to call for such reprobation as had been passed upon their acts. He did not believe that their conduct had been either cruel or unpatriotic, either towards Her Majesty's Government or towards their tenants. He believed that they had evicted in many cases; but he also believed that they had abstained from taking any steps in numberless cases where they would have been perfectly justified in acting differently. He would not detain their Lordships any further upon the subject.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
said, it appeared to him to be a very serious thing that an arbitrary report should be made by the police of the cases which came under their notice. It might be that the report was favourable to the landlord; but, on the other hand, it might be very unfavourable, and that report went up to the Irish Executive, 1743 and the landlord in question had not the least power in the world to make a contradiction.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
said, that was the case; but the tenant, being on the spot, was more likely to have a chance of contradicting the report than the landlord. What he wanted to ask his noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal was, whether the Government could not manage to produce those reports? He should like to know what the reports were; and he could not see that there could be any objection to producing them.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRIVY SEAL)
I do not know that I can add anything to the information which I have already given to your Lordships, and to what has already been said by my noble Friend the late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (Earl Cowper) as to the nature of those reports. As to the reports themselves, there is nothing new in them. As to the production of those reports to Parliament, that, I think, would be quite inconsistent with their nature. I entirely concur in all that was said by my noble Friend the noble Earl behind me (Earl Cowper) as to the impartiality of those reports, and as to their general bearing, and I also agree with my noble Friend that in very numerous cases they must have had the effect of correcting exaggerated and unfair reports against the landlords.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I do not think that the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal has entirely comprehended the evil of which my noble Friend (the Marquis of Waterfowl) complains. The Irish landlords at the present moment are the objects of a great deal of very vigorous popular censure. It is said some of them are very bad, and many of them are very good. I cannot quite agree with the view of the noble Lord the late Viceroy of Ireland, that we ought to be anxious to disconnect ourselves from the Irish landlords.
§ EARL COWPER
Will the noble Marquess pardon me. What I said was that the good Irish landlords ought to disconnect themselves from the bad ones, and not that we in England ought to disconnect ourselves from the Irish landlords.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am glad to hear the noble Lord make the correction; but I think it is right to recollect in connection with the Irish landlords that if some of them, and perhaps some of the poorer class, have taken a purely commercial view of their position—if they resolved to treat the money which they expended on their property as a pure investment—they may have done wisely or foolishly, but they have, no doubt, followed the teaching of Parliament itself. They were induced to make these investments at a time when a different philosophy prevailed, when the doctrines of political economy were in force. They were induced to make these investments in the belief which Parliament then entertained, that the application of purely commercial principles to land in Ireland would tend greatly to cure all the evils under which that country suffered—that the application of those principles would have the effect of pushing out a population that could not properly live there, and would induce men to invest capital in the country; and that the ordinary results of the investment of capital, the establishment of a proper equilibrium between the population and the resources of the country, would relieve the chronic poverty, and, with that, its political difficulties would disappear. That, I believe, was the view held by both political Parties 30 years ago, and it was under that belief that the Encumbered Estates Act was passed. It was at the invitation of Parliament that small capitalists from different parts of Ireland and England invested their property in land in Ireland. Yet, after being told by the Judge of the Encumbered Estates Court that the rents might be raised—when they act in accordance with the principles which have been accepted from generation to generation by every body of statesmen, and by every writer who has dealt with the question of Irish difficulties—when they act on their undoubted legal rights, they find that Parliament turns round and rejects as folly the philosophy which it preached before, and that unfortunate landlords who have invested their all in this land at the invitation of Parliament, and who only try to get fair commercial interest for their investment, are blamed by my noble Friend the late Viceroy, and other landlords are asked to shun 1745 them as though their touch were contamination. I admit that it may be a misfortune that landlords should press their rights in too hard a manner. We must all wish that in times of difficulty all classes of Her Majesty's subjects should show consideration one to another; but I cannot help deprecating the censure passed upon those who are only acting consistently with the doctrines preached by Parliament itself. There is also another consideration which ought to be kept in view. These Irish landlords are pressing for their arrears, and they are pressing for them by way of eviction. But has not Parliament given them a broad hint to do so? Do they not know that a Bill is now before Parliament for the purpose of confiscating absolutely the property of those landlords who have been foolish enough in past times to be indulgent on the subject of arrears, and may they not wish to save themselves from the results of the predatory instincts of the Liberal Party? These things must be remembered when you propose to condemn a class of Irish landlords who are themselves struggling with dire necessity, and who have been reduced to this position through the action of Parliament itself. I wish to impress on your Lordships the extreme danger of this indiscriminate censure upon Irish landlords. If you are anxious to condemn an Irish landlord, name the man whom you condemn. State your indictment against him and prove it; but if you are not prepared to take that course, do not condemn in flowing phrases a certain body of Irish landlords, not indicating whom you condemn nor whom you absolve, and, when taken to task, merely say that you only intended to condemn the few. That reservation, it should be noticed, is not made by those in Ireland who read the words uttered here. This is not the first time that these careless words have sharpened the edge of public bitterness against an unpopular class, and tended to stimulate and maintain the animosities to which disaster and outrage are due. But a few years ago the Prime Minister stated that tenants might regard eviction as a sentence of death; and that phrase, the echo of which still rings in our ears, is still repeated by the Prelates of Ireland as an undoubted truth, admitted by the Prime Minister of this country, and still used to embitter Irish tenants and the 1746 whole public opinion of Ireland against those who use a fitting legal remedy to maintain an undoubted legal right. I regret very much that the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant should have used these words. I regret very much that when he saw that they were in some degree misrepresented he did not at once correct the dangerous character that had been given to them in the report. But I regret still more, and I trust that my regret may not be intensified by future occurrences, that Ministers should rashly and hastily level these bitter words against a class of men who are struggling with difficulty against pressure, against indigence, which Parliament itself has, to a great extent, inflicted upon them— who are struggling to maintain their rights in the face of the strongest public resistance, and against whom any careless language spoken by men high in authority here is too apt to be the certain messenger of death.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, a rebuke from the noble Marquess with regard to the use of rash and hasty words—
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
No, not in Office, and, therefore, without official responsibility. A rebuke from him, no doubt, presses heavily upon us; but I would address a slight remonstrance to him in his turn. If there is one thing to be remembered in connection with Irish affairs, it is the violent language that is used, and the violent passions that are roused. We hear in this House about the predatory instincts of the Liberal Party. Out of it we hear of predatory landlords and plundering tenants. I believe that there is nothing more dangerous than that landlords and tenants should bandy such words, and I regret that the noble Marquess should have made use of the bitter language which he knows how to use with such effect. Does the noble Marquess mean to deny that there are such persons as harsh landlords? Why, they exist in England as well as in Ireland. Does the noble Marquess mean to say that there is no such thing as the exercise of proprietary rights in a harsh manner? It is a matter of every-day experience, both in Ireland and England, that many landlords would think it harsh to push to the full extent their undoubted legal 1747 rights; but, on the other hand, there are cases in Ireland in which the tenant has been subjected to great hardship. I do not know, however, any reason why all the good and fair landlords in Ireland should take to themselves an accusation which only applies to some members of their class. What is it that has been said? What has been said, and what I most earnestly believe from my own experience is, that in the present crisis in Ireland great hardship has been done towards some tenants. I am not an Irish landlord; I am an English landlord; but I should not consider that I was outraged or insulted if I were told that there had been some cases of hardship inflicted by landlords in England. It is quite true that small proprietors have invested money in land in Ireland, and in many cases, no doubt, they find themselves hard pressed. In many cases, also, they have not pressed their rights more than is desirable, and upon such as have not done so I should be chary, indeed, to express censure. But there have been cases in which hardship has been inflicted, and all the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant said was this—"That landlords who enforced their legal rights in a harsh manner, acted unpatriotically." I agree with that opinion, and, keeping Ireland alone in view, I say that those who act in that manner are men who are unpatriotic, men who increase the unfortunate gulf which separates landlord and tenant by their want of readiness to act with forbearance. The Chief Secretary, therefore, in my opinion, said nothing of which he should be ashamed. The state of Ireland is a grave question, and for Heaven's sake let us not make it still more grave by exaggerating existing evils, and endeavouring to increase, by Party attacks, a bitterness which has already attained such proportions as to menace the welfare of the nation.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
said, the condition of Ireland was indeed grave, and the words which had fallen from the Members of the Government were naturally watched with anxiety, because the effect of those words was not confined to those gentlemen who had been called bad and shameless landlords, but the legislation of the Government, founded upon those utterances, was addressed to good as well as to bad landlords in Ireland. For the sake of the 1748 worst, the Government had inflicted a penalty upon the good landlords; and, therefore, when language was addressed to the public, it was not unnatural that men should put upon it an interpretation consistent with the acts of the Government—acts which had been addressed to all the Irish landlords. The difficulty in Ireland was a formidable one, and it was hard to keep silent with respect to the evils existing there. It was natural, under the circumstances, that landlords who were using their just rights should complain when the Government were steadily pursuing a downward course, destructive of all rights of property, and were employing language which would not apply to those who were using their just rights.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Seven o'clock, to Thursday next, a quarter past Ten o'clock.