§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ * EARL SPENCER,
in moving the Second Reading, said: My Lords, not unfrequently I have had to address your Lordships on the difficult subject of Irish land. I know that it is not easy to anyone in this House to discuss the question, more particularly to any one of the Party to which I have the honour to belong. In approaching this subject, I desire to avoid anything which would lead to bitterness or ill-feeling. I feel that, the Bill which I have to introduce is one which heals rather than inflicts wounds, and therefore I wish to approach the subject which I have in hand in a spirit of conciliation. No one who has been in this House, particularly those who have had to take part in discussions on the Irish Land Question, can avoid being struck with this—that we cannot approach this subject with any hope of doing justice to it if we start from the standpoint of English or Scotch land legislation. The Land Code in Ireland is entirely different from that which prevails in those parts of the United Kingdom. No doubt over 30 years ago an attempt was made to legislate for Ireland in the same way as England has been legislated for, and to extend the principle of contract in Ireland which has been, on the whole, so successful in England and Scotland. 655 But all the great attempts which, have been made to deal with this question since 1870 have followed a different course. Legislation has been framed—and there has been a necessity for it—on the customs and laws which prevailed in Ireland. There is another point of difference to which I must refer, and that is that the industry of agriculture in Ireland has for its surroundings quite a different state of things from that which prevails in the Sister Country. Unfortunately, there has been for many years past in Ireland a feeling of want of confidence on the part of the people in the laws which regulate that country; and too often the consequence has been that, when unfortunate differences have prevailed between landlord and tenant, and when the landlord has had to exercise his legal rights, agrarian disturbance has arisen of a very serious kind. I deplore that state of things. I wish that we could legislate for Ireland as we have legislated in the past for England and Scotland. I regret that we are obliged to make this exception for various reasons—on account of differences in the original law, differences in customs, and differences which exist in the social and political condition of Ireland. But while I regret that, I feel that we have been right in the mode in which we have treated this subject, and it is therefore for this reason that I must appeal to your Lordships most earnestly to look at this question not from the English or Scotch point of view, but from the Irish point of view, in order to deal with the difficulties which exist in Ireland. The legislation for Ireland has been of two kinds. We have had legislation of a permanent character, and we have also had legislation of a temporary character. Legislation of a permanent character is to be found in the Land Acts of 1870, 1881, and 1887; and in the Purchase Acts of 1885 and 1891. Legislation of a temporary kind has been found in the Arrears Act of 1882, in certain clauses of the Act of 1887, giving power to revise judicial rents; and notably in a section of the Act of 1891, to which I shall have presently to refer. At the outset I wish to say this with regard to the landlords of Ireland. I am not one of those who condemn the whole body of Irish landlords. On the contrary, I believe there is a considerable number of landlords in 656 Ireland who are, and have been, as anxious to be just in their dealings with their tenants as have landlords on this side of the Irish Channel. But, unfortunately, there have been other landlords who, either from necessity or unwillingness, have not followed that course. Some of them may have been driven into this course by the poverty of their position, by the necessity of extracting the last farthing from their tenants. But others have been actuated by a different spirit, have been unwilling to acknowledge any grievance on the part of their tenants, and have turned a deaf ear to the advice given to them by their friends and neighbours. To those persons are due, I am afraid, the exceptional measures of legislation which have been passed, and which have pressed on all landlords in Ireland, whether good or bad. This Bill which I have to introduce necessarily comes under the category of temporary measures. It is one of those temporary measures which have been brought in owing to some sudden emergency caused either by an unusually bad season, or by some social or political agitation in the country. It is necessary to establish the fact that such an emergency exists before you can justify the introduction of a measure of a temporary character; and I shall endeavour at once to show that there is an emergency of this kind at present. Let us look at Ireland with regard to evictions. We find that there is a very largo body of evicted tenants in various parts of the country. The number may be roundly stated at 4,000. These tenants are either scattered about on different estates and in different parts of the country, or are collected in groups, owing to the exceptional measures which have been taken on one estate or another. Now what is the condition of these men? Their condition is miserable in the extreme. They are not only very poor, but they have practically no homes. The live either in the houses of their friends, near to their own farms, or they live in miserable huts which have been erected for them. Now, my Lords, the first question we have to ask is: Have these tenants a grievance, and, if so, ought that grievance to be remedied? I say distinctly that they have a grievance. Some of the tenants are men who left their farms before the Act of 1881, which established a tribunal for the 657 fixing of fair rents. Others left their farms before the Act of 1887, which included leaseholders within the operation of the Land Acts. Others there are who left their farms owing to serious agitation in the country. Some left their farms after the no-rent agitation, and others left after the starting of the Plan of Campaign, to which I shall presently refer. It is fair to point out that many of these men would probably have been able to battle against the difficulties which surrounded them had the enactments which were carried subsequently to their eviction been in force at the time. Naturally when this is the case there is very serious discontent owing to their grievances against the laws of their country. In my opinion it is right to sift these questions and these cases by an authoritative tribunal. I believe that while you have these large bodies of men in different parts of the country, full of discontent and grievances, you have a serious danger to the peace of the country. Let me examine this latter part of my proposition a little more fully. We believe that the existence of these largo bodies of men in every part of the country, in sight of their former farms, and often in districts which are extremely liable to disaffection, with, in some cases, the land overgrown with weeds and the houses and buildings in ruins and going to decay, and in other cases with new tenants occupying the laud of the old ones—occupying it, no doubt, with a perfectly legal title, but at the same time occupying it, as it must be borne in mind, in the teeth of the feelings of those who have been turned out, and who are living around them—we believe that that state of affairs is dangerous to the peace of the country. We have often heard in this House of particular districts in Ireland where there have been outrages, boycotting, and disturbances. We have heard of these in Cork, Kerry, Limerick, and Tipperary, and a very large number of the evicted tenants remain in those counties. In those four counties, roughly speaking, there are over 900 tenants who had been evicted from their farms. In passing, I would say that when I referred roughly to 4,000 tenants who had been evicted, I did not refer to all the tenants who have been evicted throughout the country, many of whom have 658 since been restored to the farms from which they were evicted. I only refer to those who are not now occup3'ing land of their own in the country. For the purposes of this Bill we take the number from May 1, 1879—the date mentioned in Clause 13 of the Act of 1891, passed by the late Government. Well, I maintain that this number of evicted tenants, with their grievances, which they feel so strongly, are so many mines of powder in various parts of the country, and that any spark of discontent may cause an explosion at any time. This is not a question which must be dealt with by a Liberal Government particularly; it is a question which, maintain, demands, and will demand, the attention of any Government which maybe in power. I believe if the noble Marquess opposite succeeded to power to-morrow he would have to face this difficulty and to try to put an end to the trouble connected with these evicted farms. I referred just now to the Plan of Campaign, and though I do not wish to enter at length or in great detail into that very thorny controversy, I feel it right to refer to it while dealing with the condition of the evicted tenants. I have never concealed the fact that I disapproved entirely of the Plan of Campaign. I have stated that in this House and elsewhere. What I wish to say now is that while no doubt the Plan of Campaign has increased the number of tenants who are evicted in Ireland, the Plan of Campaign is not the sole reason for introducing this Pill. And I am sure it will not be argued that because of the existence of the Plan of Campaign, which has been most unfortunate in its results, and in some cases disastrous, we are not entitled to deal with this question. I will claim the support of Her Majesty's Opposition in favour of the proposition that it is essential this question should be dealt with. I have referred already to the 13th section of the Act of 1891, and I will now deal with it more in detail. That section was accepted by the Leader of the Conservative Party in another place, who was then Chief Secretary for Ireland. It was accepted by Mr. Balfour, and that is a matter of considerable importance. What did that section admit? It was not compulsory. I begin by at once admitting that. That section enabled certain tenants who had lost their rights 659 to obtain all the privileges which they would have obtained had they been existing tenants under the Purchase Act of 1891.
§ EARL SPENCER
No doubt with the consent of the landlord. I quite agree in what the noble Marquess said. It was a privilege conferred upon tenants who had been evicted and were not within the scope of the Bill and tenants who had been evicted probably in consequence of the Plan of Campaign. I think that is a matter of considerable importance, and I must dwell further on this clause. Unfortunately, the 13th clause of the Act of 1891 had very little effect in Ireland. Very few cases were dealt with. I find there were only 189 applications on 19 estates up to the 31st of March this year; 138 cases on 12 estates were settled; 42 cases were then outstanding. I have no information of what has happened to them; nine cases were refused. I think that will show that the clause was not successful, and that it did not operate as it was intended. Why has it failed? Perhaps it is a rash thing to point out where a measure of this sort has failed, but I will venture to give two or three reasons. First, its operation was limited to a short time—six months. Then the parties who were to come under the Bill hesitated to come forward, because they considered it would be an act of weakness on their part to do so. I should like here to refer to a very notable remark made by the Chief Secretary of that day. I am only speaking now, my Lords, about the necessity of a settlement, not as to compulsion in this matter. Mr. Balfour said—For my part, if I were an Irish landlord, even if it were not to my own pecuniary interest, I should desire to have peace in that part of that country in which my property was situated, and that these men should on fair, equitable, and even generous terms be restored to their homes.I cannot conceive a wiser or more equitable sentiment than is contained in those words. Another distinguished person, who is not a supporter of Her Majesty's Government, Mr. Courtney, also said recently it was a matter of urgent necessity that this crowd of evicted tenants, 660 landless and workless, should be restored He said—I do not commit myself for one moment to the particular method which is adopted in the Bill, but that it is desirable, urgent, and necessary to deal in some way with the crowd of evicted tenants who are found in a landless and workless condition near the places where they once worked as tenants is, to my mind, an abiding conviction.Now, my Lords, I venture to think that the case is established that it is indispensable for peace and for law and order in Ireland that a settlement should be arrived at on this question. I will now turn to the Bill itself, and endeavour, as shortly as I can, to explain its provisions to your Lordships. The first thing it does is to establish a body of Arbitrators to deal with the subject. The Arbitrators have been named in the Bill, and, as far as I know, very little exception has been taken to them, to their impartiality, their ability, or their experience. The noble Marquess shakes his head, and although what I say will not carry weight with him, I am bound to give my opinion, knowing all three gentlemen, that no more impartial, able, and experienced men could be found than those named in the Bill to carry out their work. It has been over and over again said, Why do you appoint a fresh body; why do you not leave the settlement of these disputes to the Land Commission? There are two reasons: First of all, the Land Commission has an enormous mass of business to get through, and it is most undesirable to add to that business. In the next place, it is not desirable that the Laud Commissioners, with all their difficult duties in connection with landlords and tenants in different parts of the country, should be mixed up in matters which may raise acute and difficult questions. These are the reasons why Her Majesty's Government thought it desirable to appoint special Commissioners for this task of conciliation. The Arbitrators are appointed for two years. Any tenant of a holding, agricultural or pastoral, or partly agricultural and partly pastoral, may make an appeal to the Arbitrators to consider his case for reinstatement to his holding. The Arbitrators may then go into the matter, and make a Provisional Order in the case; they may dismiss the case, or they may decide in favour of reinstating the tenant subject to conditions. 661 On the Provisional Order being made, they send it to the landlord, and if the landlord assents, this Order is made absolute, with such conditions as the Arbitrators may decide. If, on the other hand, the landlord objects, the Arbitrators are bound to hear, either in public or private, his objection, and then make their decision. This, my Lords, is the only part of the Bill in which compulsion is introduced. The landlord may require the tenant to purchase his holding, and the purchase-money has to be settled either by the Land Commissioners or the Arbitrators, and if the tenant refuses to buy the holding his claim for reinstatement ceases. The rent of the holding shall be the former rent until a new rent is fixed. Either the Laud Commissioners, or, if the landlord and tenant so desire, the Arbitrators themselves may fix a new rent. To explain the necessity of this provision, I may say, first of all, that there may be tenants who, in the opinion of the Arbitrators, should be reinstated, but who held their farms before the Act of 1881, and there may be others who held their farms before the Act of 1887. In these eases it is right that a fair rent should be fixed. In the case, again, where the farm has been derelict for a considerable time, the former tenant should not be compelled to give the same rent as before. And in another ease it is right that a fair rent should be fixed—namely, where the landlord has, during his own tenure of the holding, laid out a large sum of money upon it. With regard to the provision as to purchase, thata guarantee deposit shall not be retained out of the Guaranteed Land Stock issued for the advance of the purchase-money,it may be said that the Government are diminishing the Guarantee Fund on which this country depends, and running considerable risk to this country in the event of default on the part of the tenants. Now it is satisfactory, at all events with regard to past purchases, to notice that out of £10,000,000 that have been advanced since 1885 for the purchase of holdings, only about £2,000 has been taken from the Guarantee Deposit Fund, and I need hardly say that if the same proportion prevails with regard to these farms the amount will reach a very small sum indeed. Coming to the case where the Arbitrators find that a new 662 tenant is in occupation of the holding, the same process is gone through which I have already described, and if the new tenant objects the Arbitrators shall not make an order for reinstatement. So far as we can tell, the provision in this clause applies to about 1,500 of the evicted tenants. If the Arbitrators think it desirable, they may allow the landlord two years' arrears of rent or a part, thereof, and they may, out of the funds at their disposal, pay one half of the sum. In case the farmhouse or buildings are in a state of dilapidation, a sum not exceeding £50 may be paid to the incoming tenant for repairing them. The third sub-section of the fourth clause contains an important provision—namely, that where a new tenant objects to an order for reinstatement—The Arbitrators may, upon all claims on the holding being renounced by the former tenant, award to him, out of the moneys at their disposal for the purposes of this Act, such sums as they deem reasonable, not exceeding the sums which, in their opinion, might have been payable out of the said funds in respect of the said holding if the order for reinstatement had been made.This is in order to facilitate the process of settlement, because it would be an immense boon to the tenant and would probably enable him to settle on some other farm, and this would, in our opinion, be a great step towards a solution of the difficulty. Then there is a clause encouraging voluntary agreements between landlords and tenants. In those cases the Arbitrators may award such compensation and take all the steps which would have been taken had a decision been made under their arbitration. The sum at the disposal of the Arbitrators will be £250,000, charged on the Irish Church Temporalities Fund. Notwithstanding the enormous number of calls there have been on this fund, I am assured that there will not be the slightest difficulty in the money being provided out of the fund. But there is another point. Will this sum be sufficient for the purpose? As far as I can make out, it will exceed considerably what will be necessary to carry out the provisions of the measure. If every landlord were to receive from the Commissioners one year's arrears for tenants taking the benefit of the Act, that would amount to about £142,000. I need hardly point out that nothing 663 like that number will come under the operation of the Bill, and therefore, as far as that part of the measure goes, there will be ample money at the disposal of the Arbitrators. The balance, after dealing with the arrears, will, in the opinion of the Government, suffice to meet all other requirements of the Act. Lastly, there is a provision with regard to migration, the Land Commissioners being empowered, on the recommendation of the Arbitrators, to buy land to sell to tenants. My Lords, having now dealt with the Bill, I will come to these parts about which the greatest amount of contention exists—I mean the compulsory provisions. Though there may be objections to other parts of the Bill, that is the crucial difference between Her Majesty's Government and the Opposition in this matter. I will say at once that in the opinion of the Government compulsion will be the surest way of effecting a settlement. Where is it that the difficulty exists? Surely it is in those landlords who are unwilling or unable to meet their former tenants. I would quote here again Mr. Courtney, who has taken such a leading part in the discussions on this Bill, and I rely entirely on the arguments he used. He said—I confess it is difficult to take up the position of affirming that it is desirable, expedient, and reasonable that the credit of the State should be used and the procedure of the Courts extended and made more elaborate in order to bring hack tenants to their holdings, and that at the same time it is reasonable to allow an unreasonable landlord to object. The thing in itself is a thing we desire as a matter of Imperial policy. You may get half-a-dozen individuals—certainly not expressing the views of the majority of the Irish landlords—unreasonably preventing what you say is a reasonable solution, and you will not allow the interference of the State to prevent these plague spots being removed.That is the view which Her Majesty's Government take. We believe that without compulsion these plague spots will not be removed. I do not like to speak of my own personal experience in this matter, but I cannot help referring to the experience which I had in Ireland, and which bears on this subject. The first time I went to Ireland we had a state of murderous agitation and combination in Westmeath. The second time I went to Ireland I found a terrible agrarian convulsion pervading the whole 664 country. We met the difficulty as we could, but I remember full well this—and I think it will be the experience of others who have had to deal with the subject—that very often the most successful way of dealing with a disturbed district was to obtain a settlement of the agrarian difficulty between landlord and tenant. Time after time was I able to do this, and I know that whenever a settlement in any part of the country was effected we were able at once to remove the police and the military, without whom before that settlement life was not safe in the district. I quote this experience of mine in support of the weighty words which were used by Mr. Courtney. It is these plague spots in different parts of the island which are the real and serious danger, and I fear that unless these are dealt with no measure will prove satisfactory or of much effect. At the same time, I will say this: that another method might relieve to a great extent the tension in Ireland—I mean voluntary settlements. But the one condition on which a voluntary measure can be successful is this: that we must have some guarantee that both sides to this bitter struggle are ready to act loyally in the matter. I regret to think that as far as we have sroue—although there have been several notable instances of leading men who are desirous of a settlement—we have not had any declaration from lending landlords in Ireland that would encourage us to adopt a voluntary measure. On the other hand, the Irish Members have expressed a willingness to meet the other side half-way, if they could be assured that the landlords would act loyally in this matter. I shall not say more on this point. Now, my Lords, I will refer to another matter which I have seen used as an argument why your Lordships should not accept this measure—namely, the conduct of the Government in another place. I shall not go at length into that subject. I only wish to say that I cannot for a moment think that your Lordships would adopt any argument of that sort. Criticisms may be made on that subject in this House, and if they are my noble Friends will be able to defend the action of the Government, but I cannot conceive how this will be an argument for your Lordships not dealing with the subject when your Lordships have it entirely in your own. 665 hands—though I should deprecate it—to remodel the Bill. I have only a few-words more to say, but they are words of earnest entreaty. You have too often in the past curtailed provisions in Irish Bills which have come from another place, and have been supported by the majority of the Irish people. You have too often rejected measures which the majority of the Irish nation considered of vital interest to their country. On the other hand, you have passed measures which are hateful to them. I do not for a moment say that your Lordships had not an absolute right to follow out your own opinions, but a very deplorable and unfortunate state of things occurs from this opposition of your Lordships to the opinion of the country as made known through the majority of the Irish Members elsewhere. You have now another important Irish measure before you. You have another opportunity of making a concession to Irish opinion, and to settle a bitter quarrel. This opportunity may not come again, or it may not come under such auspicious circumstances. At this moment Ireland is in a state of quietude such as she has not enjoyed for 20 years. Too often in this controversy the arguments opposed to Irish measures have run in what I may call a vicious circle. If Ireland is quiet you are told there is no need for legislation; if Ireland is disturbed you are told you must wait till she becomes quiet before introducing healing measures. I repudiate that doctrine. I desire your Lordships to seize this opportunity of trying to settle this serious and great difficulty. I cannot forget a memorable occasion 14 years ago when the Liberal Government proposed a measure which they deemed necessary to the peace of Ireland—I refer to the Compensation for Disturbance Bill. Your Lordships rejected that measure. The terrible land agitation which then had begun was not abated, but increased, and culminated in one of the worst outbreaks of crime ever known in that country. I do not say that similar events will follow the rejection of our present proposal; God forbid! The condition of Ireland is better; the temper and feeling of the Irish people is better; but you will exasperate the feelings of a large body of men who up to the present time have looked to Parliament 666 to meet their grievances, and if your Lordships reject this measure they will know that they have no hope, at all events from this House. I entreat your Lordships not to refuse the demands of the Irish people. I do not say that the Irish Government will not be able to meet the difficulties which may arise, but I do say that their difficulties will be enormously increased. This proposal is made in the interests of law and order, and I feel very strongly that a most serious responsibility will rest with this House if they reject the measure, the Second Reading of which I have the honour of proposing to your Lordships.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl Spencer.)
*LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH moved that the Bill be read a second time that day three months. He said no one could rise to follow the noble Earl in a Debate in the House without paying a tribute to the high tone of his speech and his evident desire to do what in his heart he believed to be fair and equitable. They would all agree that it was incumbent on them to see whether this controversy could not be settled on a fair and equitable basis, but when they came to discuss what was fair and equitable a very wide divergence of opinion might be found to exist, lie would say, however, that if all the speeches on this subject had been made in the same conciliatory tone as that of the noble Earl, he believed the two sides would not have been now so far apart as he was afraid they wore. What were the pleas advanced for this Bill by the noble Earl? He told them that a great emergency existed in Ireland—that there was a sore and a grievance existing, and that if the present state of matters continued it would in all probability be the source of grave difficulty and danger to the Administration. That was a plea to which noble Lords on that side of the House would not be likely to turn a deaf car; but they considered that if any attempt was to be made to deal with this matter it must be done upon right lines and with due and fair consideration to the private rights of others. They thought this Bill was not on lines which ought to be accepted, and there was too much evidence that even if it were to be accepted
it would not settle the controversy. The noble Earl dwelt at some length upon the difference between the conditions of the land problem in Ireland, and in England and Scotland, and had cited some of the provisions of the Acts of 1870, 1881, and 1891. But in all those cases the general assumption underlying the legislation was that it dealt with two parties who had rights. Did the noble Earl believe that all those who would be affected by this Bill had rights which could be defined and determined in the same way? Then the noble Earl appealed to the policy embodied in the 13th section of the Purchase Act of 1891, but it was only by a stretch of imagination that they could justify the argument that because a certain body of persons had agreed to accept a certain line of policy if worked voluntarily, therefore they were equally bound to accept it if it was to be imposed without the consent of both the parties concerned. What did that clause really do? It enabled two persons to enter into a bargain, and if the bargain was approved by the appointed agents of the State, the State would assist them and ratify the bargain, provided that the interests of the State were duly safeguarded. But in the present Bill there was no such supposition of two persons to the bargain, but the bargain, whatever it was, was to be imposed on two persons, neither of whom, perhaps, might be willing to accept it. It might be said that there was not sufficient time for the 13th section of the Act of 1891 to work. If that ground was taken, why could not the Government re-enact the section and give it sufficient time to effect the purpose in view? The Government should not destroy all possibility of a real settlement being effected by standing over the parties concerned with a big stick and saying, "Unless you agree you shall be forced to do so." The broad fact remained, and could not be denied, that the Bill placed those men who had resisted and broken the law in many respects in a better position than those who had not done so, but had obeyed the law. No appeals to sentiment nor to considerations of any other kind would remove this great defect in the proposal of the Government. He did not profess to be an authority on all the conditions attaching to ownership of Irish land, but his opinion was that if ever a
really equitable settlement was to be arrived at in this matter it must be made more or less by agreement, not only among politicians on different sides or political Parties, but between those whose private interests and rights were affected on one side and the other. One of the complaints of the Opposition was that in this matter the Government had all along thrown the whole weight of their influence on one side, and from first to last they had been the eager advocates of compulsion. But this had not always been the case. They entertained a prejudice against having their former declarations quoted against them, and he did not intend to go deeply into that fertile subject of controversy; but there was a time when Members of the Government evidently felt that all the right was not on the side of the tenant and all the wrong on the side of the landlord. On the 7th of January, 1886, the present Chief Secretary for Ireland used these words—
The late Government to their great honour passed an Act to prevent landlords confiscating the property of their tenants. That was a noble exploit. I do not think we shall be able to deal satisfactorily with Ireland until we have passed some legislation to prevent tenants from confiscating the property of their landlords.
What had Mr. Morley done since then to prevent tenants from confiscating the property of the landlords? There had been visits to Tipperary. He would not contradict what had been said by the noble Earl in moving the Second Beading, that he had heartily condemned the Plan of Campaign, and he did not say that Mr. Morley had not condemned the Plan of Campaign, but he thought he had erred lamentably on the side of weakness when he spoke of it. Members of the Government, when in Opposition, went about making promises to the tenants in Ireland. After the present Government was formed, Mr. Morley announced in ominous tones, that in this matter ho "meant business." Then followed the appointment of Mr. Justice Mathews Commission. After that Commission had reported, all the Members of the Government in the other House voted for a Bill introduced by one of the Irish Members containing provisions for the absolute reinstatement of every evicted tenant, no matter whether his holding had been, let or not. It was impossible to fail to
see that these proceedings of the Government had raised hopes in the minds of the tenants, which the Government were now finding it very difficult to satisfy. He frankly admitted the attractive character of the appeal of the noble Earl to let bygones be bygones, and were he an Irish landlord he would voluntarily yield much for the sake of peace; he would desire honestly to make peace, and he would welcome any voluntary course which would bring about a fair and real settlement, but he would resist by every legal means being compelled to make peace on the compulsory terms of the Bill. It seemed to him that there could be no hope of permanent peace secured by putting one side absolutely under the heel of the other, and giving that other a sense of triumph. He had no desire to be vindictive, but he asked the House and the Government to consider what were the special lessons which they would teach the people of Ireland if this Bill was passed. They would teach them that their special favour, their special reward and privileges, were reserved for those who had combined to rebel against the law, and who had promised, in no indistinct terms, to do it again. So far as he was concerned, the chief obstacle in the way of the Bill was its element of compulsion, but it should not be left out of sight that there were other objections to it. He could not fail to see the effect it would probably have on the new tenants, whose position would be made much worse than it was at present. Not only would the Bill not bring about a permanent settlement; there was only too much reason to apprehend that it would not bring about even a truce, if any confidence was to be placed in some of the declarations that had been recently made. But, in addition to this, grave objections might be taken against the machinery of the Bill, even if the element of compulsion was removed. The noble Earl had quoted the number of persons who were likely to apply under the Bill, and had stated the number as 4,000. It was difficult to know exactly what was the intention of Her Majesty's Government in the matter. Surely there had been changes in their policy to which the noble Earl had not referred in his speech. They had been accustomed to speak of the Bill as an Evicted Tenants' Bill, and understood that the Mathew
Commission was appointed to inquire into the number of evicted tenants. He appealed to the terms of Mr. Morley's-letter to Mr. Justin M'Carthy, announcing the decision to appoint the Commission. Mr. Morley wrote—
We intend that the area of the inquiry shall principally cover estates within the scope of Section 13 of the Act of 1891, where disputes still exist between landlords and evicted tenants, but excluding all cases where the evicted tenants have left the country.
On the Second Reading of the Bill in another place Mr. Morley indicated that there would be about 5,900 persons likely to claim its benefits, of whom 4,000 would claim with success. Those figures were challenged at the time. He repeated that it was difficult to know what the Government meant as to the number of evicted tenants to be dealt with. It would appear, from the statements made by Mr. Morley, as reported in The Times of the 9th of August, that there might be more than 32,000 persons who would claim under the Bill. He had no wish to mislead the House nor to detain it by quoting a somewhat long conversation. Mr. Bartley on that occasion said
there was nothing to prevent those 32,000 evicted tenants from claiming under the Bill;
and Mr. Morley answered—
I think not; but each case will be determined upon its merits.
§ * EARL SPENCER
said, he had referred to a large number of tenants who had been evicted up to a certain time, and there might have been 32,000. But almost the whole of these had since then been restored to their holdings, and the 4,000 represented those who had neither been restored nor were living on land of their own, and who would, therefore, come within the scope of the Bill.
* LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
said, that hardly disposed of the whole case, though, of course, the noble Earl knew the intentions of the Government and the probable scope of the Bill much better than himself. In reply to a question Mr. Morley stated that from 1881 to 1887 there had been 24,400 evictions, and from 1887 to 1894 8,975 evictions; making a total of over 33,000. It was quite true, as stated, that some of those persons had been reinstated and others had gone into other callings, and that of 671 the 5,900 evicted tenants expected to claim only 4,000 might be expected to claim successfully. But, after all, the exact number of those concerned in the operation of this Bill was a matter of small importance as compared with the dangerous change of policy of Her Majesty's Government in connection with their measure. It now applied not only to cases where the eviction had been for non-payment of rent, but to all tenants whose tenancies had determined subsequently to the 1st of May, 1879. It applied to tenants whose tenancy had determined without any eviction—e.g., where the landlord had purchased the tenancy from the tenant at a Sheriff's sale or by private sale; where the tenants had voluntarily surrendered the holding with or without compensation; where the tenant was evicted for breach of one of the statutory conditions attached to tenancies where a fair rent had been fixed by the Act of 1881; and it would also include tenants evicted by order of the Judge of the High Court—by the Lord Chancellor, for example—where the owner was a minor or lunatic; or by Mr. Justice Monroe, the Land Judge. In those cases the Judge must have considered all the circumstances before ordering proceedings, and presumably no injustice was done. Why should all these persons be entitled to demand to be reinstated? Why should they be restored to their holdings when nothing was done for men who had quitted their farms in similar circumstances in England? The policy of this Bill and the lessons taught by it could not be confined to Ireland. This was not merely an Irish question, but it would act and react upon the government of this country. It must exert a powerful influence on the methods of government in the country, and therefore he viewed it as one of the gravest and most dangerous steps that Parliament had ever been asked to take. If the Bill were confined to the cases of those who had suffered some undeserved misfortune, and who had been evicted in circumstances over which they had no control, it would appeal to the sympathy of almost every Member of their Lordships' House. For himself he should be ready to facilitate the return to their holdings of men who had lost them in consequence of some technicality in the law, if that could he done with fairness to 672 others. But it was altogether a different thing when they were asked to restore wholesale to their holdings men who had joined together to resist the payment of their just obligations which they boasted they could in many cases have discharged if they had chosen. Partnership in these matters was urged, but by enacting a measure for the compulsory reinstatement of tenants they would be arraying all the forces of the Government against the very partner in Irish land affairs who had fulfilled his share of the contract. They would, in addition, be justifying and rewarding the authors of the Plan of Campaign. They would be giving not only State reconsideration, but State reward to men who had broken the law, who had rebelled against authority, and who had not acknowledged that they were wrong in so doing. He felt inclined to ask whether the Government had no misgivings of teaching such lessons? To pass this Bill would be teaching that rebellion against the law was one of the surest roads to favour and reward at the public expense. To reinstate compulsorily men who had broken their contracts would be to establish a precedent fatal to the future tranquillity of Ireland, and to create far more danger than could be compensated by any present gain which possibly might be purchased by such a measure. Another consideration was this: both Parties in the State were committed to large schemes of purchase, and by-and-by the State would probably have become the largest landlord in Ireland. What would be the effect then of this teaching they were now inculcating? The noble Lord opposite used as an argument the. fact that there was to be a body of high-minded men appointed as Arbitrators, and had urged that it would be wise to trust this tribunal as one of the safeguards of the Bill. But even supposing that those gentlemen were the most capable and impartial men in Ireland, the duty which the Government proposed to lay upon them was a duty which no men could perform satisfactorily. There was no foundation of law for them to work upon; there were no rules made by a higher authority than themselves for their guidance, no sanction of procedure to which they could appeal if their acts were called in question, and the position which they were to 673 occupy was not such as would preclude the possibility of pressure being brought to bear upon them. Their salaries were to be on Votes, which was not a satisfactory method of dealing with the salaries of men who had such very difficult and controversial duties to discharge. He did not wonder that the Government shrank from saying openly they were going to put back all the tenants who were going to join the Plan of Campaign, and they were laying down no rules to guide the Arbitrators. If there were supporters of the Government who would not allow them to frame Rules for the guidance of the Arbitrators and to lay down conditions which should govern questions of reinstatement, could they think that those supporters would be likely to accept quietly the decisions of the Arbitrators if those decisions should not be in accordance with their views? He did not say that the Nationalist Members—having led certain persons into the difficulties in which they were now placed, having induced them to join the Plan of Campaign—were not acting under a certain sense of chivalrous honour which prevented them from deserting men who had accepted their guidance, but this in no way diminished the responsibility that attached to the Government, who ought to be the guardians of law and order, for proposing such a measure as that before the House. The Government said they had provided safeguards in the Bill, but he must say that the procedure proposed in the Bill was one of the most unjust things he had ever heard. A primâ facie case for reinstatement was to be made out in the first instance; but there was to be no appearance upon oath, and he supposed that a small sheet of paper containing the signature of the applicant would be sufficient to establish a primâ facie case. No power was given of getting information which would be useful for purposes of cross-examination. Surely some Rules should be laid down—something to guide the Arbitrators in the difficult duty they were asked to discharge. The landlord was apparently not to have notice until a subsequent stage, and even then there was no power to put the applicants upon oath or to summon witnesses. Then another provision, one of the most extraordinary he had ever seen, 674 was that the Arbitrators were told that they were to take into account "the circumstances of the district." What had the circumstances of the district to do with the matter? If a district was peaceful, was everybody to be reinstated; and if a district was turbulent, was nobody to be reinstated, or was it the other way? They were entitled to know what were the intentions of Her Majesty's Government in this matter. He trusted that before the Debate closed they should hear from the Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Lord Kimberley), whose ability and adroitness in debate they all admired, and who had power sometimes to make the worse, as they considered, appear the better reason, what was his interpretation of the instruction to the Arbitrators that they were to take into account "the circumstances of the district." He would also like to ask the Prime Minister, who had said on a recent occasion that he was not going to make any impromptu speeches, to tell the House perhaps to-morrow night, by which time he could have thought it out, what effect, in his view, "the circumstances of the district" were to have on the minds and the judgment of the Arbitrators. He hoped also that the Lord Chancellor would give their Lordships the benefit of his legal ability and knowledge in guiding them in this difficulty, as to what was the intention of the Government in inserting the extraordinary sentence that the Arbitrators were to have reference to "the circumstances of the district" Perhaps the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack would not object to give his judgment upon the case, though it was not laid before him with all the paraphernalia of wig and gown. The noble Lord at least must have paid attention to the drafting of the Pill, and it would be interesting to know from the noble Lord what was the intention of the Government in putting into the Bill that most extraordinary sentence that the Arbitrators were to have reference to "the circumstances of the district." He did not propose to argue at any length as to what would be the position of the landlords under the Bill. He did not know that grievances of landlords found a very receptive place in the minds and hearts of noble Lords opposite; but it did appear to him that it was inflicting a hardship on the landlord to force upon 675 him perhaps an insolvent tenant, instead of a solvent one; to compel him to take a man who had perhaps treated him badly, instead of one with whom he was working on terms of perfect peace. The landlord, in his judgment, would lose either way. If the farm were left derelict on account of the eviction of the tenant, as he understood the provisions of the Bill, the landlord would receive less rent for it in the future; and if the landlord had been able to keep up the farm and spend money upon it, there appeared to be no adequate security that a due return would be forthcoming. It was said by the noble Earl that the landlord might demand a sale. They first made his position as uncomfortable as they could, and then they proceeded to buy him out at a reduced price, to be fixed by their own agents. That did not seem to him to be either a fair or a reasonable position in which to place the landlord. Then there was another point. It was important to consider most carefully what would be the effect of this Bill on those who had taken farms from which tenants had been evicted. It would not, he thought, be disputed that there was an obvious desire on the part of certain persons in Ireland to prevent farms from being taken. He did not think he would be wrong in describing that as one of the cardinal points in the policy of those people. Land-grabbing was denounced in every conceivable form, though the persons guilty of this so-called offence were only exercising the ordinary and natural rights of citizenship. The land-grabbers were called "legalised brigands," "public thieves," and other epithets. The object was clear. It was to prevent new tenants from taking farms, for if that end could be attained a great blow would be struck at eviction. If farms could not be let there was, of course, less inducement to evict. He would not say that eviction was a nice and pleasant process, but in certain circumstances it had to be resorted to as a melancholy necessity. If they were going to make eviction more difficult than at present, how were they going to enforce payment of rent? It seemed to him that the farmers of Ireland—hedid not complain of that—were already hedged about with every reasonable safeguard. But the matter did not stop there. It was said that the number of farms, vacant or taken, might 676 be held to represent the barometer of peace in Ireland. Mr. Gladstone used to go about the country, some years ago, saying—"There is no peace; no settlement in Ireland. Your policy is not successful, because farms are standing empty." But would this Bill lighten or would it make more difficult the position of those who had taken farms? Could it be doubted, having regard to the views of the Irish Members, that one of the effects of the Bill would be to make the position of the new tenants more intolerable than it was at present? Was it not obvious that every man who was evicted, and saw his farm in the possession of another tenant, would see that the landlords had been coerced, and would feel that one man's life was the only obstacle which stood between him and the possession of his old farm? "Persuasion," as it was called, would be brought to bear on the new tenants to give up their farms; and it was easy to imagine what "persuasion" would be held to include under those circumstances. There could be no doubt that the Plan of Campaign was a political movement, intended to embarrass the administration of Mr. Balfour in Ireland. It should be remembered, however, that these tenants had helped to defeat the Plan of Campaign; they had trusted to British law and the British Parliament, and to desert them now and to add to their danger would not only be a wrong, but an infamy almost too great for words to condemn. No one, he imagined, would deny that the Bill was an exceptional interference with private rights, and that the only justification for it was that it would accomplish a great end and lead to a lasting peace. But did anyone really hope that the Bill, as it stood, would have that effect? No Irish Member had defended the Bill out and out, nor had it been accepted as it stood by any section of the Irish Members. The Irish Members had asked for more; they had divided against the Government in Committee of the Bill in their desire to get more, and their Lordships could not ignore the fact that the Bill would not satisfy in its entirety the real object of the Nationalists—namely, to get rid by some wholesale process of the new tenants. But though he said that, he could not deny that the Bill would be of great use to the Nationalist Party. The Bill would be of use as a precedent and 677 as a reason for asking for more. The programme of the Irish Members was known. In their opinion—and in this they were supported by some of the English followers of the Government— rent, even judicial rent, was an immoral tax, and their intention was to take slice after slice of the landlords' property until they had reduced it to what was called prairie value. If, therefore, the Bill was not going to close the controversy, what did their Lordships gain by passing it? He knew that in asking their Lordships to reject the Bill they would be open to much misconstruction and perhaps some abuse. The supporters of the Government might go about the country and abuse their Lordships in the future as they had threatened them in the past. His opinion was that those arguments could only affect those who cared for them; and if their Lordships once yielded to them they would have done much to damage their position. If their Lordships passed this Bill, would they earn respect or bring about peace? They would do nothing of the kind? They would only add contempt to the hostility which already existed. Was this a just, expedient, fair proposal? He did not deny that there had been occasions, and there might be occasions again, when in matters of opinion and of judgment their Lordships' House ought to yield to others; but it appeared to him that the question now before the House was one pre-eminently of principle. It was a question which, more than any other, ought to be decided on the abstract ground of justice; and on that ground it seemed to him that this Bill was incapable of defence or of justification. If their Lordships passed this Bill they would cast to the winds every principle of law and government which had hitherto been received in this and every civilised country. No consideration of their comfort or their privileges should in this matter weigh with their Lordships to the slightest extent. He did not say that he should vote against the Bill without regret; but he did say that he would go into the Lobby against it without hesitation. He concluded by moving that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.
* THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, I rise, not without some regret, to follow my noble Friend. I do not think it is generally expedient that two Members of the House on the same side should follow each other, but, my Lords, we are in exceptional circumstances. I have no doubt that a number of Peers opposite will vote for the Second Reading of this Bill. I hope that some of them will speak who are not connected with the Government. But, as far as I have seen the list of those who are likely to take part in this Debate on the opposite side of the House, this strange fact has been evident—that every one of them is either a Member, or an office-holder in the Government. That is an unusual circumstance in the case of an important Bill. But I congratulate the House on one fact connected with this Bill, and that is the position of your Lordships' House in regard to it. When important Bills come up to us from the other House we have always two duties to perform. We have to discuss the Bill on its merits, and we have to consider the authority on which it comes. Sometimes it is not very easy to reconcile these two duties Sometimes measures come to us with very little merit, but with very great authority. I congratulate the House on this fact—that this Bill has no merit at all, and that it comes to us with less than no authority. I am not going to dwell upon the circumstances under which this Bill has passed the House of Commons. I do not like to speak of what is called "the gag." The reputation and honour of the House of Commons is a matter of deep concern to all of us; but we are not the guardians of that honour, and we can do nothing to maintain it. We must trust for that to the constituencies of the country. But we can judge of that part of our duty which enjoins upon us to weigh the authority on which Bills come; we can take notice of these facts and shape our course according to the authority with which the Bill comes to us. Now, my Lords, before I pass to the Bill I wish to dissociate myself entirely from some of the arguments which have been used against the Bill out-of-doors. I shall not vote against this Bill, because I am un- 679 willing to give a place of repentance to the wounded and fallen soldiers in what was a great social war. I speak for myself only, but I should be willing to give them a place of repentance; and with a proper tribunal, really judicial and acting under the authority and direction of Parliament, I should be willing to vote for any measure, voluntary in its character, which would facilitate the reinstatement of men who have been the dupes of others more designing and wicked than themselves. Again, I am not unwilling to vote for a measure—though some have expressed such unwillingness—which would take the Irish Church Fund for the reward of those who have disobeyed the law. On the contrary, I am rather disposed to think that the sooner that Church Fund is dispersed the better. It has done some good, no doubt, in the hands of Mr. Balfour; but at present it is a fund out of which every political job in Ireland is paid for, and will be paid for as long as it lasts. Besides, I really think that both the Government and their protégés have qualified themselves to take advantage of this fund. Your Lordships may remember the original destination of that fund as defined by Mr. Gladstone. It was to be spent "on those who had lost their minds—on lunatics." That was the destination appointed by Mr. Gladstone when he introduced the Irish Church Act. I have always thought that that was the most wonderful example I have ever known of the power of a great man, wielding great eloquence and authority, to impose upon a popular assembly. Could any human being believe that the Irish Church surplus was to be expended only for lunatics in Ireland? But that was swallowed by the House of Commons at the time, and it stands on record as the destination which Mr. Gladstone intended for this fund. I must say, however, that I think that those who have lost their farms in Ireland under the favourable conditions they now enjoy may be considered as having lost their minds; and I should be glad to see this fund wisely and justly distributed for their relief. Once more, it has been objected to this Bill that in the last resort it looks to the taxpayer of this country; and so it does. But I remember the time when Sir Robert Peel gave a large loan for landowners not only in 680 Ireland, but in this country also. It was at the time of the abolition of the Corn Laws. I was myself a landlord at the time, and I took a large advantage of that loan. I spent it on emigration and on improving lands; and I flattered myself that the money was laid out to great public advantage, both locally and generally; and I, for one, would not object to any advance from public funds in Ireland which is really necessary for the healing of any of its wounds. I believe that the Purchase Act has been admirably successful; that those who have bought land under the security of loans from the public Treasury have been honest in the repayment of those loans, and it is a great encouragement to us to proceed in the same direction, provided that we do it on just and sound principles. Therefore, I throw aside all those objections to the Bill, and I concentrate my attention—and I should be glad to concentrate the attention of the House—on the real objections to this Bill. In the first place, I say that it is a Bill with a false title. It is absolutely false; it misrepresents the object of the Bill. It is called a Tenants Arbitration Bill; but the Court which this Bill sets up is not an Arbitration Court. It is not a Court to which both parties by agreement can come to settle their differences by arbitration. It is a revolutionary tribunal, before which both parties can be dragged by one of them in his own interest alone. That is not an Arbitration Bill. I say, then, that the principal title is intended to deceive the people of this country by concealing the violence of the proposals which the Bill contains. The second title is "An Act to facilitate and make provision for the migration and restoration to their holdings in Ireland of certain former tenants or their personal representatives." Why "certain former tenants?" That means that the Bill has defined the tenants that you are to protect and reward. That is what the Bill ought to have done; but it is what the Bill has not done. I have tried to draft a title which should be a strict and accurate account of the Bill, and I think a better title would have been this:— An Act to empower certain persons to reinstate in their former holdings any or all rural tenants in Ireland, or their heirs, who have lost their holdings 681 during the last 15 years, either by bankruptcy, or dishonesty, or criminal conspiracy, or any other cause." The Bill might be described in other terms as "An Act to empower certain persons to deal with all agricultural tenancies in Ireland, so that the law may be a praise to them that do evil and a terror to them that do well." Those titles would suit the Bill perfectly; and I do not know why one or the other was not adopted, to direct the attention of the people to the monstrous character of the proposals. But as to the great peculiarities of this Bill. My noble Friend's able speech would have been exhaustive but for this: that the demerits of this Bill are absolutely inexhaustible. If every Member of this House were to speak every night for a month we should still find some new monstrosity to expose. The speech of the noble Earl who introduced the Bill was no more directed to this Bill than it was directed to the man in the moon. He might have been speaking of a different Bill altogether. He said that it was to provide for some 4,000 unfortunate men who had fallen by the Plan of Campaign. Why, my Lords, it applies to every tenant in Ireland who has lost his holding from any cause during the last 15 years. There is another characteristic of the Bill to which I wish to direct attention, and which strikes me very forcibly. It is a Bill retrospective, retroactive, and entirely ex post facto. I venture to say that an ex post facto law dealing with property in a way which is retrospective and ex post facto in its operation is of itself condemned as unjust and almost unprecedented. This is a Bill which is highly penal in its consequences. It punishes some and lavishes rewards on others. It punishes those who have acted in accordance with existing laws, not those who disobey a law in the future which you are now laying down. It rewards those who have disobeyed your laws in past times. It punishes those who acted under the authority of your laws, and who, on the faith of your enactments, entered into transactions with other men. It rewards those who, during a certain definite period, have acted against your authority and in violation of their obligations to society. All this it does, moreover, without one single word of provision for the future. You go 682 back to a limit of time. How much do you take? You take in 15 years. Why do you fix upon that limit of time? Why, because it takes in the whole of the Act of 1881 and two years of the Act of 1870. Then, does it not follow that the agrarian legislation of 1881 and 1870 is disparaged and damaged, although not actually repealed? My Lords, I never expected that I would have to stand here and defend the Act of 1881. Perhaps some of your Lordships may think that I am somewhat hypocritical in doing so. My attitude with regard to that Act is well known. I have been attacked on this subject in another place by a Member of the Government, who shares with the noble Lord opposite something of the Leadership of the Ministry. I should be sorry to say anything against Sir William Harcourt. He is an old friend of mine, an old colleague, a personal connection, and in private life he is a most estimable person. In politics, I confess I have always regarded him as an opportunist of the most perfect transparency. I did in regard to the Act of 1881 that which Sir William Harcourt could not conceive any man doing. I sacrificed place, political position, and political friends rather than agree to sacrifice that which I believed to be essentially wrong in principle. Sir William Harcourt could not conceive anyone being such a fool as to do that. I would advise those who wish to pursue so unimportant a matter as to attack my political reputation should choose some other subject than my conduct in regard to the Laud Act of 1881. It is a fact which, I am sorry to say, is unquestionable, that every prediction I made with regard to the Act has been amply fulfilled. It has not settled the Irish question. Everybody admits that it has not settled that question, and is not likely to do so. The speech of my noble Friend to-night was exactly the same speech we heard over and over again, if I may say so, usque ad nauseam before the passing of the Land Act of 1881. All these most disingenuous attacks on the landlords of Ireland we heard over and over again before this land legislation began, and they are now repeated word for word, when they cannot possibly be true. Look at the language of the Nationalist Party. Do they say that the Act of 1881 has 683 settled the question? No, they do not. They demand more and more, and the more you give them the more they will ask. Nevertheless, I will not vote for any Bill that repeals the Act of 1881 without providing any substitute, and that is what you are asked to do by this Bill. You are asked in this Bill to strike at the existing law, to damage it to the last degree—to reward those who have defied it, whilst at the same time you are not providing anything to take the place of the Act of 1881. Let me now direct attention to the gross injustice implied in this Bill directed against the Act of 1881, as compared with what may be truly said of its effects. I will take the last category first. In the first place, it is true that it has dissociated the whole rental of Ireland from the improvement of the soil. The landlords do not now feel safe in laying out a shilling of the rental in the improvement of any land in the occupation of the tenant. It may be that many landlords, out: of what Tennyson calls "old habit of the mind," still go on improving tenants' holdings; but as a rule the Act of 1881 has put an end to the improvement of the soil of Ireland held in tenancy out of the whole rental of the country. Was there ever such ruinous blow struck at the economic condition of any people? Again, that Act has made the attempt to provide that the State should fix the value of one particular article. Has that succeeded? I believe the Land Court has acted in the most conscientious way, but it has acted on no known principle and under no guidance from Parliament. All is done on the personal reliance of individual men. I say that it has not settled the question of rental in Ireland, because although the people submit sulkily to the new scale of rents, they have no real confidence in the perfect justice of the decisions; and both in the North and South of Ireland you have not unfrequent indications of the inevitable objections of the tenants to rents fixed on no known principle. In the third place the Act of 1881 proposed to give a great gain to the tenant-farmer. I deny that it has made land a shilling cheaper to those who were not holders of land when the Act was passed. On the contrary, by the encouragement which you gave to the exaggerated value 684 of tenant-right, every man who came into a farm since the Act was passed has had to pay through the nose for the privilege. The result is, that people are as "rack-rented" as ever. Then, again, what do the farmers charge for conacre? The Land Court fixes the landlord's rent, say, at the rate of 10s. an acre; but the farmer lets the land in conacre to the labouring classes at £4 and £5, and I have seen £12 an acre. Not one farthing of advantage has gone to the people of Ireland except to the existing holders when that Act was passed. Another effect of the Act has been to accustom the people to the working of an arbitary and a secret tribunal. Look at the demoralisation which has been created as manifested in this Bill. It seems to be now generally accepted that you may remit the whole interests of fellow-subjects, certainly as to property, and indirectly as to liberty and life, to the irresponsible action of three individual men. The fact that this Bill has been brought forward shows the extent to which the people have been accustomed to giving to an arbitrary tribunal judicial power. My Lords, whatever the rents fixed by the tribunals under the Act of 1881 may have been, they are not "judicial." How often have I wondered that noble Law Lords in this House, jealous as they always are of the honour of their great profession, should have permitted the word "judicial" to be used in connection with a tribunal, which acts according to no law, but on the personal authority of individual men. Do you remember what passed after the Act of 1881 was carried? A noble Lord moved for the appointment of a Committee to consider what those Commissioners were doing. I voted against that. I thought it premature. Do you remember the objection made by Mr. Gladstone? He was furious. He quoted the words of Chief Justice Holt when he was called upon by the House of Commons to give an account of one of his decisions. He said something like this—"No; my decision was a decision on the Bench, in the robes of my office and in the discharge of my duty to the country. I will give no explanation out of the Court in which my Judgment was delivered." Mr. Gladstone held that up as a pattern —as the answer which should be given to your Lordships' Committee if they dared 685 to ask a question of the Commissioners as to the principles upon which their judgments were based. Twelve years have passed, and the Liberal Party, or the Party which calls itself Liberal, have appointed a Committee to inquire into the working of the Act, and to question those Judges, as they are called, as to the principles of their proceedings. I noticed the other day in the public Press an observation made by a Member of this House of Commons Committee to one of the witnesses. An Irish Member interrupted the evidence and said, "This man will say or swear anything." These are the insults given to your "judicial" tribunals. I say again that in that respect the Act of 1881 has been a total failure. You have not established "judicial" rents; you have not established rents which anyone has any confidence in, because no one knows the principles upon which they have been decided. Then, my Lords, last of all I maintain that the Act of 1881 has spread political corruption through Ireland. These rents are arbitrarily settled by the arbitrary will of individual men. What do we hear said now by candidates for the House of Commons? They say "Vote for us, and we will keep in a Government who will give us new Commissioners of a different type when existing men have retired or are dead; men who will settle your rents on different principles, and who will give you your lands at prairie value." But the Act of 1881 was passed; and I agree with what my noble Friend, Lord Salisbury, said three or four years ago, that bad as it is, the Act of 1881 might work tolerably well if you only allowed it to work, kept to it, and supported the decisions of your officials. But that is exactly what you are not doing. This Bill condemns all that has been done under the Act of 1881 and for two years before. You introduce this Bill which sets aside the Act of 1881 at the very time that the illustrious author of that Act is retiring from public life; a Bill which virtually says that that Act, which was supposed to be the one great triumph of a great political career, has been an absolute failure in all its objects. My Lords, I will not vote for this Bill, because it repeals the Act of 1881, without providing any substitute for it. But I will tell noble Lords opposite, if they care to know, what are the principles upon which 686 I would reform the agrarian law of Ireland. My noble Friend, Lord Spencer, spoke of Ireland being different from England and Scotland. Have we not acted on that view long and far enough? Are there not rules of legislation which belong to mankind and to the civilised world—natural laws which are the laws of God? You propose virtually to abolish the Act of 1881 and you substitute nothing for it. I will tell you what you should do. Go back to the natural law, the law of all civilised nations. You have adopted free trade in the produce of land; adopt the principle of free trade in land itself. Throw the laud of Ireland open to all purchasers, secure them in their tenures, encourage capital expended in the improvement of the laud, act as men act all the world over, and your present difficulties will disappear. But until that has been done; until some Government of common sense, learning from your successive blunders in Ireland, discover that everything that has been done only increases the difficulties you have still to deal with; until that day comes, support your existing laws and insist on their being obeyed. In the meantime I must confess that the Act of 1881 had some virtues in it. In the first place, it supports the possibility of eviction. I say that if there is property in land or in anything else, those who hire that property must pay the price of hire or they must submit to be put out. I say evictions ought to go on in Ireland just as they do in London. Is there any Member of your Lordships' House who would not be evicted to-morrow if he determined not to pay his lawful debts? Do you suppose that the laws of nature and morality are to be suspended in favour of the Irish? What folly this is! There must be a certain amount of eviction. And when I heard Lord Spencer give the figures of the cases to which this Bill would apply, I must say it seemed to me an absolute proof of the great lenity and generosity with which the landlords of Ireland had behaved. I say that under the Act of 1881—however great its failures in other respects—unjust, cruel, and capricious evictions became impossible. It was for that object the law was passed, and in that object it has succeeded, and succeeded perfectly. Have your Lordships ever read the instructive address of Justice O'Hagan in opening the Land 687 Court? It was his object to explain to the people of Ireland the immense advantages which it secured for them, and if you read the speech you will see, especially in the passages where he dealt with the 13th clause, that so far from the Legislature facilitating unjust eviction, it strained its ingenuity to prevent landlords having even the power of just eviction over bankrupt tenants. And what is the result? Lord Spencer tells us that the total number of men who have lost land in Ireland since 1879 is 31,759. As the Return was reported in The Times those figures were not quite correct. As I make it out, the Returns show a total number of tenants evicted of nearly 38,000, and if you take in those tenants who have been compelled to sell because they were bankrupt to avoid eviction, I have no doubt the total number of tenants who have been in one way or other evicted has been 50,000. Do your Lordships remember how many tenants there are in Ireland? Four hundred thousand. You will find, if I am not much mistaken, that the number evicted is a fraction more than ½ per cent, per annum. The evictions in England and in Scotland of men who have fallen in the economic battle of life are infinitely more than that. The Land Act of 1881, therefore, I hold, cannot justly be accused of not having prevented capricious evictions. Now, my Lords, I look at this Bill from another point of view. What is to be our future when this Bill is passed? My noble Friend Lord Spencer in his half-hearted speech—I wish such duties were not always imposed upon him, from his high character and well-known truthfulness of language and sincerity of character—did not tell us what was to be the new code. This Bill provides nothing for the future, but it does not follow that it has no effect on the future. I say that it will have a most disastrous effect. The very first clause will still further discourage landlords from employing their capital on the improvement of the soil in Ireland, even when in their own possession. Let your Lordships think what a mischief that is. Do you not know that Irish land in the occupation of the landlord is the only land, as a rule, upon which money is laid out in improvements? Yet you are deliberately discouraging landlords from thus 688 employing their capital in the improvement of the soil of Ireland, and you are sentencing them to severe penalties if they dare to do so. Are we fools that the Government should ask us to adopt such a Bill as that? Have any of your Lordships read the Blue Books about the employment of labour in Ireland? Blue Books, I must say, are generally weary reading; but still there are significant facts in many of them which the intelligence of the public Press generally make public. But in one of those Irish Blue Books I saw a statement about Kerry which amused me very much. The Inspector, if I recollect right, a genuine Irishman named O'Brien, wrote of the little employment of labour in Ireland, because the small farmers worked their own land, and the landlords were discouraged in making improvements. But this Mr. O'Brien found a certain place in Kerry where a landlord was employing a large number of people, and he was amazed, and added that, no doubt, he would very soon stop. I thought it well to make some inquiries into this matter; and I found, as I expected, that this wonderful gentleman, who came all the way from England to lay out money on land in Ireland, was laying it out on land that was not in the occupation of tenants, but in his own occupation. That is the beneficent process which you wish to stop by the first clause of this Bill, and you adopt the most violent and unjust measures to stop it. By the first clause you enable an arbitrary tribunal to take from a landlord land of which he has got legitimate and legal hold, which he may have added to his demesne, which he may have largely improved, and on which he may have built houses. You take it from him, and give it back to the man who tried to rob him. Now, look at the new tenant. Under this Bill the new tenant will have to go—that is to say, solvent men have to go, and insolvent men are to be put in their place. Those men who are to go out had not to pay tenant-right; consequently, they were unmortgaged. They were free to use any capital they had on the improvement of the farms. Every other tenant got his farm by paying tenant-right, and was mortgaged up to the eyes. You are evicting men who are keeping the land in good condition, and putting 689 in their places individuals who very likely have disobeyed your laws and have violated their contracts and obligations. Then how are those men to he provided for when they are reinstated? The noble Earl has described them as penniless. Mr. Morley has said they are not so penniless as is supposed, and that many an Irishman looks very poor; but when you come to inquire you rind he has plenty of money. That is a well-known fact. It has been proved that in times when relief was distributed Irishmen hid their furniture in the bogs in order to get some of the relief. Mr. Morley says—Do not suppose those men are so poor as they look; they can get command of means if they like.If that is true it proves that in not paying their rent they were not merely unfortunate, but fraudulent; and these are the men you wish to restore. I come to another class of men who are to be turned out without a moment's hesitation. These are the men they call "planters" The term is not defined. Does it mean all new tenants? Yes, if the Arbitrators say so. These three men have absolute power to define what existing tenant means. They may condemn every existing tenant as a planter and kick him out arbitrarily. I believe there are some cases where there are planters in the strict sense of the term. Landlords having war waged against them, in spite of the advantages of the tenantry, have put in men to hold their laud as a garrison. These are planters in the strict sense of the word, and I venture to say that these are the men who ought not to be turned out. What better use could you put laud to, what better crop could you raise upon it—than loyal men instead of disloyal men—men who will fulfil their obligations instead of men who break them? What better use could you make of laud than that? What, in the history of the world, has been so strong for the improvement of the world as planted races? And in Ireland, of all places in the world, toicondemn planters! Is not all Ulster populated by planters, or the descendants of planters? Are not the whole of the King's County and Queen's County populated with the descendants of planters in another epoch of the sad history of Ireland? And all over the South and West even are there not by thousands men who are the descen- 690 dauts of planters? Those are the very best elements of the Irish people. What silly nonsense it is to denounce planters. I am not speaking now of its injustice in the way of dealing with men who had done nothing against your law. I am talking of the folly and idiocy of legislation directed against that element in the population which you know to be always the best and the strongest. Who are these men who are denouncing planters? Why, they are very often the descendants of planters themselves. Talk of the Celts in Ireland! There is hardly a pure Celt in the whole of Ireland. Is Lamella purely Irish name? Is Redmond, or Dillon a purely Irish name? Are they not obviously of Norman origin? I will venture to say that they are all the descendants of planters, which, in successive waves during seven centuries, have populated Ireland. Then what is your prospect of the future? Lord Balfour asked that question. I hope it will be answered. The Solicitor General said all our Irish legislation had failed, because it always had had the effect of placing a certain number of Irishmen in a most unfair position in comparison with their neighbours. The unequal distribution of benefits! I ask your Lordships to test the future under this Bill. Look at the new inequalities which' you will set up. I admit the validity of the Solicitor General's objection. I think that if you pass partial legislation which gives to one man and does not give to his neighbour,or gives very much to one and very little to his neighbour, you raise up a false standard of expectatation and plant deep the roots of discontent. Look what you are doing under this Bill. First of all you have men favoured by the arbitrary selection of a triumvirate giving no reasons. My noble Friend did not tell us whether that triumvirate would make a selection or restore the evicted tenants all in a lump; but I assume that he thinks there would be some selection. The principles of that selection are not laid down by the Bill. They are absolutely in the breasts of three men. My noble Friend says he knows them to be excellent, respectable men. I have no doubt they are; but I object to this new Liberal doctrine, giving away the lives and property of men to individuals whom you know, forsooth, to be excellent and respectable men. But I 691 am now asking what satisfaction do you think will be given by the arbitrary selection of these men among those who are not reinstated? You are there setting up a new inequality. Then look at the inequality as between farms which have been let and farms which have not been let. In the case of farms which have not been let, you turn out the landlord neck and crop, but in the case of farms which have been let to planters or genuine tenants the former tenants are not to be restored if the existing tenants object. On what principle of justice do you defend that? Do you think the claim put forward by Mr. Redmond will not be pushed to the hilt by those men who could not get back their land because it had been what they called "grabbed"? Do you think they will not be savage at the treatment they have received, and renew the agitation which you pretend to satisfy? The expectation is futile and childish in the highest degree. Then look at another inequality. Why does the Bill go back to 1879? I was myself a party to the Act of 1870, and I am very glad to remember that it was working extremely well when it was upset by the Act of 1881. A great number of tenants were undoubtedly dispossessed under the operation of the Act of 1870. Why do you pick out those ejected during the last two years of that Act and do not take those ejected during the seven preceding years? But why stop at the Act of 1870? Why do you not go hack through the seven centuries during which it has been falsely said England has misgoverned Ireland? But there is another inequality, if possible, even more serious. Look at the men who have purchased their farms. Under the Church Act and various other Acts passed since 1881 a large number of men have purchased farms at high prices. Many others have purchased farms which tenants had been obliged to sell under danger of eviction, and for which they very often paid less than if they had been bought in the open market. Why, will not all these men come back and say, "We demand that our farms which we sold for a comparatively small price should be restored, or that we should receive the money which we lost by forced sale"? You will, then, I say, by this Bill create new inequalities, new 692 injustices, and new sources of discontent. Lastly, what are you to do with the new evictions of the future? The 400,000 tenants of Ireland will, in the ordinary economic course of things, provide a new crop of bankrupts. Are they never to be evicted, and, if they are, will they not come and ask to be reinstated in the same manner that those who were evicted before them were reinstated? Is there any end to the complaints and demands due to the inequalities you are now setting up? The tribunal you are setting up is only to last for two years. But it will necessarily last longer than two years, and, therefore, you will have two permanent Commissions in Ireland— one to declare what shall be a fair rent, and another to let men off for not paying it. Legislation of quite an Irish character! What a triumph of Irish ideas! I say, then, that this Bill—and it is my most serious complaint against it—will destroy the existing Land Act of 1881, and will substitute nothing for it. "Chaos" is the word which represents the condition it would bring about. As to the larger aspects of the question, I wish to say that I have some hope that it will not be without a great effect. We are now in a crisis of the political world, in which Parties are being reconstructed. This Bill will help it. It is a perfect foretaste of the kind of legislation which we may expect from an Irish Parliament; it is a perfect specimen of the legislation which we are now having under a Government which is the servant of an Irish faction. There is not a principle governing human society which is not violated by this Bill, not a principle of common sense which is not abandoned in it, not a truth of history which is not set at naught by it, and that is what you will have in Ireland and what you are having now under the present Government. I ask the noble Earl the Prime Minister, the head of the Government—or who is called the head of the Government—though I have some doubt as to how far he is the head of the Government—he has the place and patronage, but I do not think he has the power—is this Bill the product of his clear intellect, of his calm sense, is it even the product of his sense of the ridiculous? The noble Earl the other day was pleased to allude to the place in which I sit in this House. It was a trivial circumstance for the Prime 693 Minister of England to refer to, but if he wishes to know why I sit here on the Opposition side of the House I will tell him. I sit on this Bench because I opened my career in this House on that Bench in the year in which he was born, and during the time he was passing from his long clothes to his small clothes. I sat upon that Bench in company with men whom I loved and have lost, and I never expect to be associated with any others who can be compared with them. For 32 years I sat on the Benches opposite as a Member of the Liberal Party, and I claim to know what Liberal principles are as well as any of the noble Lords opposite. I do not recognise in them my leaders—to teach me what are Liberal principles. Where did the Liberal Party get this new love for secret, arbitrary, irresponsible tribunals dealing with the lives, and liberties, and properties of the people? My Lords, my notion of Liberal politics is this—that we should always be on the look-out for every new idea, and for every old idea with a new application which may tend to meet the growing requirements of society. Hitherto I have seen the Leaders of the Liberal Party like men standing on a watch tower to whom others could apply and ask, not" Watchman, what of the night? "but" Watchman, what of the morning and of the coming day? "Where are you standing? Nowhere; but sitting on the fence, perpetually thinking on which side of it you will put your feet down in order to collect votes and unite the cabals of the different Parties in the House of Commons. Look at the speech of the noble Earl the other day. Why does lie expect me to sit where I had sat for the last 32 years? Am I expected to sit behind him with his teaching to the Liberal Party? Look at his speech at Edinburgh—Here I am, gentleman, the Prime Minister of England. I have no enthusiasms of my own: I ask you for impulse. I have no opinions of my own; I ask of you direction.He sought for both impulse and direction, not in his own excellent head, not even in the great traditions of his Party, but from the people who happened to be gathered in a public meeting before him. Am I to sit behind men of that kind, and am I to receive from them the principles of the Liberal 694 Party? No, my Lords, I cannot. The Party that claims to be Liberal, I hold, has been descending rapidly from its once high position. My Lords, Whig and Tory are names that are now pretty well played out. I have been born a Whig, and have been attached to the Whig Party for many years. That Party has passed through many periods of great trial, and among them was the period of Mr. Pitt. Mr. Pitt called himself a Whig to the last. He claimed to belonging to that great historical Party, and I say that, with all its faults, descending, as it sometimes has done, to the position of a faction, to that Party in the main England owes her constitutional liberties, and I am proud to have belonged to it. But what do I see on the Benches near me? I see my noble Friends on the Conservative side of the House, and I say that in fundamental matters they are more really Liberal than noble Lords opposite. I never hear from them any argument in favour of narrow, irresponsible, secret tribunals dealing with the liberties of the people. And therefore, my Lords, I say, following the advice of the noble Lord opposite in his famous speech at Paisley—out of which he has tried to wriggle on many occasions, but most ineffectually—I dissent and depart from men who have debased the position of English Ministers—debased is perhaps too strong a word for the noble Lord; I will say lowered—who have lowered the position of English Ministers by a servile compliance with an Irish faction, by the sacrifice, as I have shown your Lordships to-day, in this Bill of every principle which has hitherto governed the Liberal Party. There is another thing with regard to which I have hope from this Bill. The Bill will not pass this House, and its rejection will strengthen our position in the country; for the country has no interest in this measure. In so far as it understands the Bill at all, it sees that it is a monstrous violation of every principle. It is against the will of the predominant partner, as the noble Lord called England; it is against the will of England by a large majority, and there are indications that it is against the will of Scotland too. The noble Earl lifts his eyebrows in surprise. But I have just returned from Scotland; I have held conversations with men who are 695 advanced Liberals, and I heard one of them say, "I am a bit of a Radical, but this Irish Bill I cannot stomach." This Bill will, I hope, do you harm in the country, because it is such a barefaced exposure of the arts of arbitrary government. Well, my Lords, I rejoice that twice within 12 months this House has had a great duty to perforin—we have delivered Ireland from a great peril, and we have redeemed England from a great disgrace.
* LORD MONKSWELL
said, that, in any circumstances it would be with the greatest diffidence that he would address the House in a Debate of this description; but as the Bill came from that Department of the Government which he represented in the House, he desired to say a few words in support of it. He was sorry the noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill had not attuned his speech to the tone of the noble Earl who introduced it. He was sorry the noble Lord should have made what he thought was an exasperating speech. The noble Lord certainly used language of the strongest possible description in denunciation of the Bill. The noble Lord said the Bill was an "infamy too great for words." And why did he give it that description? Because, he said, it rendered the condition of the planters worse than before. But the Bill did nothing of the kind. On the contrary, it made the position of the planters better than before. By compelling unreasonable landlords to come to terms with their tenants it tended to do away with the animosity with which planters were regarded; and therefore, so far as the Bill operated at all on the planters, its operation was distinctly favourable to them. Indeed, if he thought it well to retort on the noble Lord the language he had used in regard to the Bill, he would say—and he thought he could say so with a great deal more reason—that the rejection of the Bill would be, from the point of view of the planters, "an infamy too great for words." The noble Lord also complained that the Bill made no distinction with regard to the tenants it proposed to reinstate. The Bill appointed Arbitrators; the Government thought their hands ought to be as little fettered as possible, and if the Arbitrators were to be trusted at all they could be trusted to deal with those questions and difficulties which the noble 696 Lord had put forward. The noble Lord contended that there ought to be in the Bill Rules to regulate the procedure of the tribunal. But if that were done it would be only making more difficult the position of the Arbitrators, for they would have to interpret rules of procedure, which after they had passed through the ordeal of the House of Commons might be framed in such a way that it would not be easy to interpret them. The position occupied by the Government in regard to the Arbitrators was, as he had said, that they ought to have as free a hand as possible. The noble Duke who followed the noble Lord said that the Bill had no merits, and less than no authority. It appeared it had less than no authority because what the noble Duke called "the gag" was applied in the House of Commons. If the noble Duke held the view that a Bill which passed the House of Commons under "the gag"—or rather under the threat of "the gag," for "the gag" in this instance was not used at all—had no authority, he did not quite understand how the noble Duke supported the actions of the late Conservative Government in Ireland under their Perpetual Coercion Act, which was passed by means of "the gag" in the House of Commons. If the noble Duke was consistent—and he seemed to think that consistency was a very great virtue indeed—he would have condemned the Perpetual Coercion Act of the Conservative Government as an Act of no authority. The noble Duke complimented the noble Earl the First Lord of the Admiralty on his high character; but, all the same, he did not hesitate to accuse the noble Earl of a disingenuous attack on the Irish landlords. It might have been an attack which gave the noble Earl great pain to make; it was an attack that was made in the hearing of a great many Irish landlords who were perfectly capable of answering the noble Earl; but why the noble Duke should call the attack disingenuous it was difficult to understand. He would not follow the noble Duke in his disquisitions on the Laud Act of 1881, except to say that though the noble Duke complained of it—it was very natural that that Act should be followed by other Acts. It did not follow from that circumstance that the 697 Act of 1881 was a failure. The Act of 1881 was the best measure that could have been put forward at the time, because Parliament was then only in the initial stages of understanding the Irish Land Question; and when they got to understand that question more, other Acts were passed to do away with the anomalies and injustices which the Act of 1881 had left untouched. The objection which was taken to the Bill on principle would, no doubt, be of great force if it could be substantiated. It was said that the Bill put a premium upon fraud and lawlessness. He did not deny that the Plan of Campaign bad been called an illegal conspiracy by a high judicial authority, but there was another legal pronouncement which put the Plan of Campaign in a different light. The Mathew Commission, in Section 41 of their Recommendations, said—Whatever may be said as to the character of the combination into which the tenants entered, we do not think that, as a body, they deserve to be stigmatised as fraudulent and dishonest.Those two pronouncements were not so difficult to reconcile as perhaps they might appear at first sight. He looked upon the matter in this way—that they must discriminate between the tenants who joined the Plan of Campaign and the leaders who organised the Plan of Campaign. The leaders, no doubt, incurred great responsibility, but their conduct was not at issue before the House. What was at issue was the conduct of the tenants who had joined the Plan of Campaign — the tenants who were called by the noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill "the dupes of the Plan of Campaign." The noble Duke had acknowledged, very fairly, that the Plan of Campaign was a great social war, and had said that he would not object to any fair Bill for the reinstatement of those tenants, simply because they had joined the Plan of Campaign; and in that the argument of the noble Luke was to he preferred to the argument of the noble Lord. But let them for a moment consider the question of the morality of the tenants who had joined the Plan of Campaign. There was not the slightest doubt that those tenants were—whether rightly or wrongly—smarting severely under a sense of injustice, and that they followed the advice 698 of their most trusted and revered leaders. The morality of the Plan of Campaign depended, to a great extent, on the bona fides of that sense of injustice; and that the tenants had that bonâ fide sense—whatever might have been the merits of the case—could hardly be denied. Under those circumstances, surely it was natural for the tenants to follow the advice of their leaders? He asked the House to put a charitable construction on the acts of those tenants. A well-known exemplary Prelate used to say, whenever he saw a man who had succumbed to temptation—"But for the grace of God I might be in that man's place." He wanted that to be the spirit in which their Lordships approached the question of the morality of the Plan of Campaign. The noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill very fairly acknowledged that, from a certain point of view, the conduct of the Nationalist leaders with regard to the reinstatement of the evicted tenants might be considered to be chivalrous. He, therefore, put it to noble Lords opposite whether, after all, the action of the tenants joining the Plan of Campaign might not have been dictated, however mistakenly, by generous motives? Suppose the Irish landlords were placed in the position of those tenants, was it perfectly certain that they would not have succumbed to the temptation to which the tenants had succumbed? It appeared to him that those characteristics which led landlords to take an extreme view with regard to the rights of landlords led tenants to take an extreme view with regard to the rights of tenants. Surely it was too much to talk about the immorality of the tenants in following the advice of their leaders in the Plan of Campaign. Surely it was not an unamiable or a vicious disposition to take upon trust, or with too great confidence, the advice of those with whom one was associated? Surely, too, it was only fair that they should recognise that a person might take a very strong view, even a violent view, of one side or the other of this question of the laud in Ireland and yet be perfectly honest in his convictions. One word about Section 13 of the Act of 1891. It appeared to him that the Conservative Government themselves, when they introduced that section, must have taken the same view with regard to the 699 conduct of the Plan of Campaign tenants that he was endeavouring to impress upon their Lordships' House. The noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill complained that it proposed to give privileges to those who had indulged in lawlessness and disorder in Ireland. Why that was precisely what the Conservative Government did by Section 13 of the Act of 1891, because by that section the Conservative Government gave to the tenants of the Plan of Campaign special facilities for obtaining public money, and some was obtained even by tenants who had forcibly resisted eviction. Surely it was too much to expect that the Government should place an insuperable barrier to the restoration of these tenants to their holding simply because they had yielded to the Plan of Campaign! Then with regard to compulsion, the Government thought that the experience of the past taught them that compulsion was necessary. They contended that compulsion was necessary because very few tenants had availed themselves of Section 13 of the Act of 1891. He would not trouble their Lordships with any further observations, except to say that the situation was undoubtedly extremely critical, and he hoped and trusted that the House would co-operate with the Government in endeavouring to remedy a state of things that constituted a constant menace to the tranquillity and well-being of Ireland.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
said, that no one would really complain of the tone and temper of the speech to which they had just listened, but he ventured to think that some of them would like to have had it infused by a little more practical acquaintance with the subject-matter of the Debate, though he admitted that to deal with a subject-matter so intricate and difficult would tax the powers of any speaker. He had for the last 24 years had the honour of a seat in that House, and ho believed since he first entered it there had not been a single Session in which there had not been some legislation attempted, more or less, with respect to Ireland. They had got during that period four Laud Bills, and he was afraid to say how many other measures affecting the land of Ireland. 700 He confessed that he had come to the conclusion that any legislation, by whomsoever proposed, to be really beneficial must comply with four conditions: It must be founded upon precedent and experience; it must be founded on sound principle; it must have some promise of finality in it, and the machinery by which it was proposed to work its provisions must be adequate to the ends in view. He ventured to say that the Bill now before the House fulfilled no one of these conditions in any respect. Take the first—the question of precedent. He knew it was asserted that the Compensation for Disturbance Act of 1880, the Land Act of 1881, the Arrears Act of 1882, were precedents in point. But he would point out that every one of those measures was limited to holdings, the Poor Law valuation of which did not exceed £30, whilst the scope of the Bill before the House had been enlarged, so as to include all holdings of every character which had been rendered vacant by any means whatever since 1879. He should be curious to know whether the noble Lord on the Woolsack, when he took part in this Debate, could quote any precedent for a grant of public money, under these circumstances, to a body of men who had been declared by the highest judicial authorities to have taken part in an illegal conspiracy? He agreed that Clause 13 of the Act of 1891 did go further than the Acts to which he had referred, but that Act was optional and not compulsory in its character, and the option which was given under it was to be exercised within six months. It was said that that Act had failed. To a certain extent it had failed; but why? Because the popular leaders in Ireland had done their very utmost to prevent those whom it was intended to benefit from taking advantage of its provisions. Some of the tenants did take advantage of its provisions, but the great mass of them followed the bad advice which was given to them by those who had given them bad advice before, and they declined to avail themselves of the provisions of the Act; therefore, there was really no precedent in point in that Act for legislation so drastic and so exceptional in its character as the Bill before the House. He now came to a question of principle. Could it be said that any sound principle was established by a Bill which passed over 701 the great majority of tenants who, under circumstances of exceptional temptation, and sometimes of exceptional peril, fulfilled their obligations, and which promised a boon to those who had done none of these good things, but who were led away by bad advice, and who had repudiated obligations which they had entered into voluntarily, and had thereby got evicted from their holdings? And yet to these latter parties it was proposed by this Bill to apply not only public moneys—to which their Lordships were, perhaps, not entitled to object if the people's Representatives in the other House chose to vote away English money for such a purpose—but the Bill also proposed that the remains of the funds of the Irish Church, that was originally devoted to spiritual uses, should be diverted from those objects by Act of Parliament, and should now be dissipated by this Bill upon people who had entered into a conspiracy declared to be illegal by the highest authorities, and stigmatised as unjust by the head of the Church to which these tenants belonged. Surely there never was such a travesty of justice as this. He was old enough to remember when Mr. Gladstone, who was then Prime Minister, denounced a very moderate proposal for the allocation of a portion of this Church surplus for a very different purpose as a fraud upon the important interests which were created under the Disestablishment Act. He observed that the same opinion seemed to be held by the present Government in the case, at least, of the Welsh Church, because, when he turned to the Welsh Disestablishment Bill—one of the abortive measures of the Government—he found the express statement that under no circumstances was any portion of the Church funds derived from the disestablishment of the Welsh Church to be applied to any purposes in the reduction of rates, so carefully guarded were those funds. And yet it was proposed by this Bill to dissipate the funds of the Irish Church for very unworthy objects. With regard to the question of finality, he did not for a moment deny that it was impossible to achieve finality in politics. They could not bind the next generation; but what they could say was that, during the continuance of the present generation, no attempt should be made to tamper with the provisions of an 702 Act passed in that generation. But no assurance of that kind was given in the present Bill. The Representatives of the people of Ireland had been challenged over and over again to say whether, if any compromise could be arrived at under the Bill, they would be content to hold out the olive branch and stop the land war in Ireland. What was the answer? The answer was either silence or a distinct refusal to give any pledge of that kind or character. He saw also that the Bill found no favour even with those whom it was intended to benefit. It was only that morning he was reading an account of a meeting of evicted tenants held in Cork at the close of last week. What happened at that meeting? The President denounced as traitors to their country the Nationalist Members, who had permitted dust to be thrown in their faces by the Government; he said he was convinced that such a Bill would not pass; but if it did, it fell far short of the demands of the evicted tenants which were embodied in the Bill introduced by Mr. O'Kelly last Session. That was not encouraging; but this gentleman went even further, for he said that the time had come when it was necessary for the tenants to take action for themselves, when the grabber should be made to feel the power of public opinion, and when he should be let severely alone by the whole population. Everyone acquainted with Ireland knew what was meant by such expressions as "organised public opinion," and "letting them severely alone." They meant boycotting, and their Lordships well knew what stood behind boycotting. But there was another party in the question who ought to receive some consideration from their Lordships' House. Those were that numerous body of respectable men who had taken evicted farms as a matter of business. There was a meeting of those who had taken such farms, also in the City of Cork within the last 10 days, and with one voice they declared that no greater injustice could be inflicted upon them than that which was inflicted upon them indirectly by this Bill. He asked, therefore, if the Representatives of popular opinion in Ireland in another place, if the evicted tenants themselves, and if the new tenants all with one voice rejected these proposals what chance was there of there being any finality 703 whatsoever under the Bill? Hitherto every concession that had been made by Parliament had been used as a stepping-stone to something else. There had been two remarkable instances of this, both of which were initiated by Bills in their Lordships' House. One was the admission of leaseholders to the benefits of the Act of 1881, from which they had been deliberately excluded by Mr. Gladstone under the original Act, and the other was Clause 13 of the Act of 1891. Both of these were voluntary concessions made by a Government who commanded not only a majority in this House, but also a majority in the other branch of the Legislature, and not the smallest thanks had been given for these concessions by those who had benefited. On the contrary, it was now asked that an advance should be made on the step taken in the Act of 1891, without any of the safeguards which were in that Act. With regard to the machinery by which it was proposed to work this Bill, that machinery seemed to be founded upon the same principle which Sidney Smith once described as government by commission composed of three barristers of seven years' standing, whom he termed the favourite animals of the Whigs. They had in the tribunal under the Bill three Commissioners. Of the principal member of the tribunal, Mr. Piers White, he could not but speak with respect. He was the leading member of the Equity Bar, and was a man of impartiality, but one who, up to the present, had had Very little experience of the Land Question. Mr. Fottrell, the second Commissioner, was undoubtedly a man of ability and of intimate acquaintance with all the bearings of the Land Question, but he had not been hitherto known as a special sympathiser with the landlords. As regarded the third Commissioner, he thought the less said of him the better. The warmest admirers of Mr. Greer must admit that a more thorough-going partisan could not have been selected. And these gentlemen were entrusted with what? In the first place, they were to be entrusted with the reinstatement of all tenants where the Land Courts were in the possession of holdings or where the holdings were derelict. In the second place, they were to be entrusted with the compensation of those tenants whom they could not reinstate because their farms 704 were full and the new tenants objected; and, in the third place, they were to be entrusted with the compensation of those tenants, not only with a money value, but, by the assistance of the Land Commissioners, with other farms purchased for them in some other district of Ireland. The whole management of a very large portion of Ireland would pass under their hands, and, in addition to all these things, by another clause, if the landlord called on the tenant to purchase after reinstatement, and the tenant agreed to do so, they were to be empowered to band in the case to the Land Commission, who would be bound to effect a purchase. Well, what would be the result of this if the Act was largely availed of? If the Commissioners took a lenient view, or what would be called, perhaps, by some a "wide" view of the subject, he ventured to think that the money which was available for purchase under the last Act of Parliament passed for that purpose would prove insufficient for the end in view, and Parliament would be further asked to supplement that by a further grant of public money. But supposing that were not the case, were ever powers so large and legislation so drastic entrusted to a Board of three gentlemen, none of whom had yet taken the first rank in public life, and none of whom had risen to the Bench? He could hardly conceive anything more serious than the vista which was thus opened up both to landlord and tenant, because mistakes once made could not be redressed, and injustice if it had once been done on the one side or the other would remain, and could not be remedied. Some allusion had been made by his noble Friend who had just sat down to objections to the title of the Bill. That seemed to him (Viscount Midleton) to have been a drafting blunder. The alteration in the title was not what was objected to, but the alteration in the scope of the Bill. In his first statement Mr. Morley had estimated that the number of tenants affected by the Bill was 4,000, of whose farms from 1,400 to 1,500 were in the hands of new tenants. It now appeared that the figure had been under-estimated. They had to go back to 1879, and it turned out that the number of cases in which tenants had left their holdings had not been 4,000, but nearer 20,000; the 705 exact number was still to be defined, and these cases were not only of tenants who were still in Ireland, and even of those who had gone to America and other countries and were to be permitted to return, but of tenants who had voluntarily sold their occupations to their landlords. These might, now claim to be off their bargain and to be reinstated. The sole safeguard against monstrous injustice was the chance that two of the three Arbitrators would refuse to listen to unreasonable applications. This power was altogether too great to place in the hands of any three men or of a tribunal not only in Ireland, but the highest in the land—namely, their Lordships' House. Yet this was the Bill which Parliament was asked to pass at the fag-end of a Session—brought in when Members of the other House were weary—never having been introduced in a, practical form till July, having been laid on the shelf since it was read a first time, and those who wished to discuss it in the other House were subjected to the gag and the guillotine. Anything like fair discussion was absolutely refused. The other House was told that if by a particular day the whole matter was not concluded the Bill would be passed through all its stages by the power of the majority. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had animadverted very strongly on the impropriety of their Lordships' House's cognizance of the way in which business was conducted in another place. And he (Viscount Midleton) entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman. He thought it entirely beyond the province of their Lordships' House. But this, at least, he might say: that if any compromise had been rejected and any Amendment had been ref used, and the greater proportion of the Amendments had not been discussed at all, the Bill came up to their Lordships under very different circumstances from what it would have come up under after a free and fair discussion had been given to it in another place. It stood to reason that a Bill dealing with such important interests needed very careful attention and discussion. Some Members of the Government only began to understand the Bill after it had been in the House for a considerable time, and after what he had heard that night he was inclined to doubt whether some of them understood it yet. All 706 he could say was that a more complicated piece of legislation, one affecting wider interests and going down to deeper principles, it had never been his misfortune to encounter. A great deal had been heard in the course of the discussion of the "irreconcilables" in Ireland. The only irreconcilables whom lie had ever come in contact with were those who were determined that there should be no landowners at all in Ireland. Speaking of the Irish landlords as a class, lie was pursuaded that they were not irreconcilables of any sort or class. Ninety-nine hundredths of the landowners were only too anxious to bury the hatchet, and to put an end to an unhappy dissension which they had neither initiated nor fomented, but for which those who declared themselves their worst enemies were responsible. Not only were the dissensions not begun by the landlords, nor continued by them, but at the earliest possible moment they would be happy to put an end to them. They had a real and heartfelt sympathy for many of the deluded men who had been misled and had adopted the courses they had pursued through the advice of men whom they had trusted. He believed that any measure drawn in a fair and equitable form which proposed to deal with such a question would receive not only the hearty, but the active support of the great mass of the Irish landowners. Individuals these might be—though he had not come across them—who might object, but there were individuals who were not to be taken as samples of the class to whom they belonged. But had any such offer been made? Finality in this matter had been repudiated by those who considered themselves qualified to speak for the Irish tenants. It had been notorious that if the Bill contained compulsory powers it would not be accepted by those who sat on the Opposition side of the House. If, even at the eleventh hour, there was the slightest chance of the withdrawal of the compulsory clause, if there had been a semblance of promise on the part of Her Majesty's Government that they would endeavour to secure a full discussion in the other branch of the Legislature for the clauses and Amendments which had not yet been discussed at all, he believed that the matter might still be settled. But 707 no such hope had been held out, and no such hope would be held out, because Her Majesty's Government dared not risk it. The Government dared not offend the men who kept them in power; and so long as that view prevailed good and useful legislation for Ireland was impossible. Some day a statesman might arise who would be superior to the claims of Party, and who would endeavour, looking at it from a broad and statesmanlike point of view, to settle this difficult question. If so, he (Viscount Midleton) was sure he might be promised the active and hearty support of all who were interested in the welfare of Ireland. There was one sentence to which the Chief Secretary had given utterance which would find a response in the breast of everybody who had the interests of Ireland at heart—Do not let these unfortunate men be made the pawns in the political game.That is exactly what they had been made for the last 15 years. But they had not been made the pawns in the political game by the Conservative Party. They had been made the pawns by professional politicians on the other side of the Channel, who thought they could use them with advantage—who no doubt, in some instances, believed they were serving their country by inducing these unfortunate men to join in an agitation which could have but one result, and which had had the result which might have been anticipated—namely, their ruin, more or less complete. He believed that in those who owned the land in Ireland there was no bitter feeling—nothing but a desire to bury the memories of the past, and to restore those amicable relations which used to exist all over Ireland between landlord and tenant, and which he was thankful to say in many parts of Ireland still subsisted. But if that were to come about, remedial legislation must not be accompanied with injustice, and must not be launched at the head of Parliament at a time when it could not be properly considered. If he saw the slightest prospect that this Bill would really be for the benefit of the country his voice would be raised in its favour even now. But he could not see that it would be. The Bill was founded on no precedent. It was contrary to the lessons of experience, and there was no principle underlying it. There was no finality in 708 it, and he was convinced that, if passed, it would be simply used as leverage by which further and still more objectionable measures would be demanded as a matter of right. Nor was the machinery proposed sufficiently strong or impartial for the task assigned to it. He regretted that one more opportunity of healing divisions in Ireland had not been availed of. One more chance had gone which, if it had been differently utilised by noble Lords opposite and their supporters, might have been successful; therefore, he should feel compelled, when the Division was called, to vote with his noble Friend below him.
said, the measure which was now before their Lordships was one calculated to do immense harm to Ireland. In the past years English statesmen by their legislation encouraged disloyalty, dishonesty, and crime in Ire-laud. This Bill was simply a continuation of the same disastrous policy. Was there in either House a man having any stake in Ireland, or any regard for her welfare, who supported the Bill? Who were the Irish Members who voted for it in the other House? What stake had they in the country? Had they an interest in seeing Ireland prosperous and contented? When addressing their Lordships last year he quoted from speeches made by Irish Members who had supported the Government, showing clearly what the real meaning and object of the land agitation was—namely, the destruction of English power in Ireland. The speeches of the Nationalist Members were very mild when made in England compared with their words in Ireland and America. It seemed incredible that statesmen could bring forward such a measure as this to restore men to farms from which they were evicted for non-fulfilment of their just and lawful obligations; and remember that many of these men refused to pay their rents and let themselves be evicted not because they were unable to pay, but under the advice and at the instigation of those who were supporting the Government in the other House. The Government wished to restore those who acted dishonestly, and to do this in many cases they must turn out honest and industrious men from their homes. They were teaching and had taught a fine lesson to the people of 709 Ireland. "Agitate; make a disturbance; break laws both human and Divine, and the Government will give you what you ask. But be honest and law-abiding, and the exigencies of public policy prevents the Government from protecting you or guarding you from robbery; you are no use to the Government. You are not represented by their friends and supporters." This might be state man ship, but it was not statesmanship that would do good to Ireland. The dupes of the Irish Nationalists were to be restored at the expense of the honest men. This was neither honourable or just. How many of the noble Lords who were supporting this Bill really knew anything of Ireland; how many of those who voted for it in the other House knew anything of the country? He did not know if the noble Earl at the head of the Government had ever been to Ireland. The noble Earl had admitted that he was not certain of anything with regard to Ireland, and he (Lord Muskerry) was not aware if he knew Ireland or Ireland knew him except through the Press—unless indeed he had been at Punchestown. The noble Earl, in his speech on the Home Rule Bill, honoured him by mentioning his name. His noble Friend the Marquess of Waterford, speaking afterwards, informed the noble Earl that he was one of those who represented the loyal minority of the South and West of Ireland. Now, that was not a small minority, but it was so scattered as to be outnumbered in individual constituencies. Surely no Englishmen of any class, and much less their Lordships, would deny what he always understood was so dear to the English heart, and that was fair play and a fair hearing. Their legislation had practically left that minority no representation in the other House, and it was to their Lordships' House they must look to have the grievous wrongs they had already suffered brought before Parliament, and to protest against any further injustice. The English Government had shown no gratitude to the Loyalists of Ireland. The honour of England was often spoken of and often praised, but that honour had been sadly prostituted by statesmen in their dealings with the Irish landowners. Last year the Government were willing to commence the process of dismembering the 710 Empire to satisfy their Irish friends in the House of Commons. He would never believe that the great mass of the English people sanctioned that Bill, and unless the English character was greatly changed this Bill, to turn honest and industrious men out of their homes in order to reinstate defaulters, would not be to their liking either. How many of their Lordships, or how many of those who voted for this Bill in the Commons cared what happened in Ireland so long as they were not personally concerned? But they who lived there, they who had seen measure after measure passed (some passed, others proposed) fatal to the true interests of Ireland, they who had seen their property confiscated without compensation and for mere Party purposes, they took some interest both in the measures when they came before Parliament and in their working afterwards. He could well believe that in both Houses they were weary of Irish affairs: but whose fault was it that they were so persistently before the Government? It was their own. Give Ireland fair, just, and firm legislation, and they would no longer have such cause to complain. He might be speaking somewhat strongly, but it was the truth, and what one of the Government—if he were in his place, if he were one of those who had been so unjustly treated—what one of them would not use the same, or stronger, language? What language did their Irish friends use in speaking of Members of the Government? Take, for instance, a comparatively mild extract from United Ireland about Lord Spencer when he was Viceroy—He" (Lord Spencer) "stuck at nothing— not at secret torture; not at subsidising red-handed murderers; not at knighting jury-packers; not at sheltering black official villainy with a coat of darkness.Why was this said of the noble Earl? He would tell them. Because the noble Earl did his duty fearlessly and like a true man—because, as a result of the action of the Government such a state of things had arisen as called for the most severe and drastic measures. Lord Spencer had to carry these measures out, and he did so in a way that gained him the admiration and respect of every loyal and honest man in the country, and that was more than some other Members of that Government could say. When Sir George 711 Trevelyan in one of his speeches used these words—Why did Lord Spencer leave such a very hateful memory? I should imagine the reason was that he vindicated law and order—he should have said who had the very hateful memory of Lord Spencer. They were the Government's own friends; the men at whose instance this Bill was before their Lordships, and the reason for their hatred was that the noble Earl vindicated law and order. Though noble Lords opposite might support this Bill they knew well that it was not an honest Bill, that it was not just. It was only a political weapon, and a very dirty one, too. Their Lordships had doubtless heard of the many agrarian murders which had stained Ireland. They had heard a little of the dastardly crime of maiming cattle, but they had not heard of the 100th part of the serious assaults, of the terror in which whole districts were kept by scoundrels who were too lazy to do honest work, and who expected that if they could only create disturbance enough they would get what they asked from the Government. It was all very well to hear of these things, but he fancied that if some of the Members of the Government lived in Ireland and witnessed the crimes done there—crimes which, in times gone by, their friends instigated and encouraged by their speeches—they would take a very different view of the situation. Did they see some of the results of their policy, they might consider if, for once, it were not well to sacrifice policy in the interests of justice. The Government practically evicted the Irish Church from her position as an Established and Endowed Church. If this Bill became law, was she to take advantage of it? There was one thing he would recommend to the serious consideration of the Government, and that was if they intended legislating for Ireland on the same lines that they had done hitherto, and were doing, they should provide some fund to keep the victims of their policy from starvation. They had been very generous with other people's property; but when it came to their receiving money, ah! then the Government would have its pound of flesh. Should their unfortunate debtor, through no fault of his, but as an outcome of the Government's policy, be unable to pay quit rent, tithe rents, or other charge, 712 what mercy did they show? The mercy that droppeth as the gentle rain from Heaven? No; in this case it was frozen rain, and neither blessed they that gave nor they that received. He could quote to their Lordships pages of extracts from speeches made on the Irish Land Laws by men who afterwards brought in and supported measures so different to the sentiments they expressed before, that it was difficult to believe they were the same men. Who was morally responsible for the agrarian crimes in Ireland? Those who by their legislation encouraged agitators to spread ruin through the country. It was said that it was never too late to mend, and he trusted that, as a sign that they in England might expect some fairness in the future, some consideration, some scant measure of justice as a sign that they might hope they would throw out this measure in its entirety.
said, that after the able manner in which the shortcomings and danger and injustice of this measure had been exposed, he should have been well content to have given a silent vote against it; but residing as he did for a great part of the year in Ireland, and especially residing in one of those counties which were mentioned by name by the noble Earl who introduced the measure, he thought it his duty to say a few words and give a few reasons why he could not support it. He, for one, could not see the necessity of such a measure as this. He could understand that there were Party reasons why the Bill should be introduced. But that there were political reasons for its introduction of any great force he was prepared to deny. This question was always approached as if these evicted tenants, whatever their present position, were at the time of their conviction in a helpless and hopeless condition. Anybody who knew the practical working of the Land Laws in Ireland knew that it had been the constant habit of tenants who found themselves in difficulties to dispose of their interest in their holdings. That he could answer for; it was the common practice before the passing of the Act of 1881. Then, out of the North of Ireland—out of Ulster—it was accomplished with the consent of the owner. In Ulster the 713 tenant-right custom existed which enabled tenants to do so without that permission. But since the passing of the Act of 1881, the custom which previously was permissive became a statutory right on the part of the tenant, and that right often was exercised by him. But for one case in which it had been exercised recently it was availed of 20 times before that Act passed. And why? Because every obstacle was thrown by the political advisers of the people in the way of their adopting that remedy, and also for another reason—namely, because the tenants, from the character of recent legislation, and from the constant hopes that were held out to them of further legislation, had been led to believe that some boon, whether it might be the reduction of rent, or the abolition of rent, or whether it might be some specially-favoured system of purchase—whatever it might be, they had been living in hopes of some change being brought about by legislation. Therefore, naturally, when they got into difficulties they hold on, as was said, like grim death to their holdings, and refused to accept even an exorbitant price for their holdings when they could get it. There was nothing that an Irish tenant was more jealous of than that his neighbour should get the better of him. And they had a natural feeling that if they parted with their little holding to-day somebody else would hold it for nothing tomorrow. They therefore refused to avail themselves of the remedy which the law put into their hands to enable them to get out of their difficulties. He would like to give one recent instance to show the amount of money that a tenant might put into his pocket in this way. He had heard of a case quite recently in which a tenant paying £30 a year rent — the Poor Law valuation being £30, so that he was not rack-rented — was evicted owing several years' rent. He was induced to sell his interest, and he obtained for that £475. Out of that £475 a sum of £85 only was claimed on the part of the landlord. The man, therefore, who had held a holding at £30 a year went away with £390 in his pocket. Well, he (Lord Ventry) did not think the tenant under these circumstances had very much to complain of. There was no question that in 99 cases of 100, where the tenant 714 was evicted, if he sold the holding—not always to the highest bidder, but to a tenant approved by the landlord—he would go away with a substantial sum generally far more than the commercial value of his interest in the holding. So much for that. But he certainly had asked himself, whilst listening to the speech with which the noble Earl introduced the Bill, whether the Government ever really intended that the Bill should pass. His firm belief was that if they intended a Bill of this kind to pass they never would have introduced it into the House in the shape it had assumed. He could not conceive that they would willingly undertake the responsibility of managing the country after the passage of the Bill. The Bill would unsettle everything and settle nothing. The noble Earl had talked of the risks their Lordships ran in throwing out the Bill, and the consequences which would follow to Ireland. Well, whatever those consequences might be, he did not think that it would be the throwing out of the Bill that would be responsible for them. It would not be the Nationalist Party in Ireland, because in taking the course they had done they had only played a move in their game — a move which might or might not be a wise one on their part. It was an action which might fairly have been expected of them; but he could not understand that Her Majesty's Government should willingly undertake, as he had said before, the responsibility which would devolve upon them if the Bill passed for what would then be the position of tenants who had taken farms. Did the Government for a moment imagine that the evicted tenants in that case would sit still and rest content and allow matters to take their course? Would they not consider their grievance tenfold greater because it would have been indirectly admitted by Parliament that they had a grievance. And were not their Lordships well aware of the methods to which they would be likely to resort in that case to enforce what they more than ever would consider to be their rights? There was a Member of Her Majesty's Government who would naturally support the measure on whose estate an outrage was recently committed. That, he thought, showed that the Irish peasantry had not for- 715 gotten those methods. This outrage was a very systematic one, and not an affair of the moment. It was not a sudden outburst. He had reason to know that the man who was at present in custody, and who would be tried for committing that offence, did not reside within many miles of the place where the outrage was attempted. He believed it was committed in the County of Cork, and that the man was resident in the centre of Kerry. Well, if under present circumstances, with the restraint which had, by some means or another, been put on these hill-side men such an outrage occurred when that restraint was withdrawn, would this be an isolated case? Did they not think that that example was likely to be followed, and that gentle hints would be given to these so-called land-grabbers to quit their holdings? Was not a temptation almost held out—because there was a provision in the Bill by which the evicted tenants were encouraged to bring forward their cases and to take steps to bring about amicable settlements. Well, if it appeared that a primâ facie case was made out against these unfortunate land-grabbers would not there be a double justification in the minds of these men for taking strong action to enforce their behests? But he had also to say that, while there were a large number no doubt of these evicted tenants who were interested personally in the passage of such a measure as this, there were a very large number who were not so interested. He believed that in many cases the last thing that the neighbouring tenants would like to see would be the return of many of these persons to their holdings. He believed also that, in addition to the people who had taken the evicted farms, there were their friends and relations to be considered. Everyone who understood the state of agricultural society in Ireland knew the wheels within wheels which existed, and how marriages, family arrangements, and other influences were brought to bear on these transactions. They knew how it would not only be the land-grabber who would have to quit his holding, and how it would perhaps be a daughter, or sister or some other near relative of some honest rent-paying neighbour who would also feel aggrieved by a relative being turned out on the world. Of course, there were 716 some means contemplated of compensating the outgoing tenant, but everyone who knew the feeling which attached to occupancy amongst Irish tenants must know that that would be a very small consolation. Then, there was also the question of law-abiding, paying, tenants, and he was happy to say he knew a large number of them. What would be their feelings if they found that the evicted tenants obtained these advantages? Would they not in many cases feel that they were most unjustly treated, when they saw that they who had worked hard and paid their way and honestly met their obligations were having nothing done for them, but that all this special legislation was for people whom they knew to be little deserving of it? Therefore, it would not do to say that there were only so many hundreds of these so-called land-grabbers. The full effects of the Bill would extend far beyond them, and the measure would cause new difficulties and new troubles in addition to those with which they already had to cope. Then as to the method of dealing with this case. There was elaborate machinery in the Bill by which the Commissioners were to be first approached by the tenant; then the landlord was approached, and he had the alternative of insisting on the holding being bought, and so on. He observed that at the tail-end there was a provision by which the Commissioners, if they thought fit, could buy laud elsewhere for evicted tenants. Well, would it not be a much shorter way of dealing with this question at once to face it by offering to buy these farms from the owners? The Government could then reinstate the tenants on their farms, and in that way avoid all this complicated machinery. Of course, in saying that he was not admitting the justice of the compulsory portion of the Bill, and he still thought that if even such a measure as that he indicated were adopted it would be most unjust to the landlord to go beyond voluntary powers. He could not see the justice of taking from a landlord against his will land into which he was put in possession by due process of law. In many cases the landlords holding that land instead of being a disadvantage to the public might be quite the reverse. It might be an advantage to the rest of his property, and he could not see any 717 justice in taking it by force. As he had started by saying the evils of the Bill had been so thoroughly exposed by preceding speakers, he hardly thought he need say more. But he could not sit down without saying that if a reasonable, just, measure of a voluntary character could be brought forward which would deal fairly with this matter, he, for one, would certainly be delighted to support it. To do a great good he would be willing even to do a little wrong, but to do a great wrong for the sake of no good at all was quite another matter. He should certainly vote against the Bill as it stood, and in so doing would feel that he never gave a vote with a clearer consciousness that he was doing what was right and just.
§ * LORD RIBBLESDALE
said, that up till now the speeches from the Opposition had teemed with objections to the Bill. The noble Duke (Duke of Argyll) told them that no one speech could exhaust the list of its demerits, but surely what one speech could not do a great many from the other side must have achieved. There had been a good many objections made to the Bill, some ingenious, some fanciful, and some very sound, practical, and arguable, but after all they resolved themselves into the question put to noble Lords opposite by Earl Spencer in moving the Second Reading—do you, or do you not, hold that the presence of these large bodies of evicted tenants in close proximity to their former holdings constitutes a social and administrative difficulty? If noble Lords opposite contended that no difficulty was thus created, or if they agreed with Mr. Chamberlain that the difficulty was quite insignificant, and might be dealt with by the 13th clause of the Act of 1891, then their attitude of negation with regard to, and their rejection of, the Bill would be quite logical; moreover, they would be accepting to the full the burden of responsibility and proof. But if they agreed with Mr. T. W. Russell and Mr. Courtney rather than with Colonel Saunderson, Mr. Chamberlain, and the Duke of Argyll, then the issue narrowed itself down to the particular means by which they desired to obtain a common end. He was afraid that there was no chance of their reading the Bill a second time, and equally he feared there was no chance of what the noble Marquess called on a former occa- 718 sion "beneficent after-thoughts" being added to it by mutual arrangement in its later stages. Still, in the meantime, he would like to try and persuade them if he could that the Bill even as it stood was not so full of dire contingencies as some more active and sanguine opponents, and especially so the noble Duke, assumed at the time when he—well, he would not say fortified, but rhetorically embellished, his able speech by taking up what he called higher ground—that is, the philosophical and historical arguments against the Bill. Personally, he would try to shun extremes, and render their Lordships' reasons why the Bill as drawn was worthy a Second Reading, and worth, indeed, passing into law. At any rate, whatever view noble Lords opposite took of the Bill, the supporters of the Government recognised that a social difficulty did exist in connection with the evicted tenants, and that the delay which necessarily occurred in dealing with it last Session had in no wise diminished it. They had therefore appointed and equipped a tribunal with wide discretion and sterling credit to deal with it. The noble Duke had called it a revolutionary tribunal, but even Mr. Chamberlain had not gone so far as that in another place. He, indeed, was good enough to admit that the Arbitrators might be impartial, but only for the purposes of a "chopping at logic" argument — to the effect that the more impartial they were the less there would be for them to do — he compared three impartial Irishmen to three black swans, and suggested that an evicted tenant with a fair and deserving case for reinstatement was an animal as extinct as the Dodo. But the impartiality of the Arbitrators, which Mr. Chamberlain only conceded for the sake of argument, was, in the view of the Government, a cardinal feature of the measure, and a guarantee against injustice. What were the causes of complaint against the Bill? He would at once dismiss such ingenious and fanciful ones put forward by the noble Duke, and would come at once to the reasonable and practical arguments. The Government had been told by The Times and the Unionist Press that the Irish Members were their masters, and by the noble Duke that they were the servants of au Irish faction. Surely that was a ridiculous contention. Once the Bill was read a 719 first time in the House of Lords, the noble Marquess opposite was, in a sense, their master by means of the majority behind him; he had Peers to the right of him and to the left of him; he had Peers behind him, and he was sorry to say he had Peers in front of him, all prepared to do his bidding, and to speak in support of any line he chose to advance upon. If, on the other hand, it was said that the Irish Members were the masters of the Government, in the sense that the Government had consulted and considered the views of the Representatives of the Irish people in regard to their legislation—and he, for one, did not know how far or how little they had been consulted—he could only say that he hoped they had been consulted. He could point to measures the success of which had been achieved through acting in concert with the Irish Members, and, as one instance, he might mention the Ashbourne Act of 1885 The noble Lord to whom the success of that Act was largely due was a most sympathetic member of a very sympathetic race; he always approached Irish questions with an enlightened appreciation, but it should not be forgotten that the great success of the Act was due to the fact that it was made a matter of friendly and proper negotiation between the Government and the Irish Members represented by Mr. Parnell. Again, there was the amending Statute of 1885 of the Act of 1883, which provided better accommodation for the labourers of Ireland, and gave Local Authorities compulsory powers to purchase land for cottages and gardens. That, too, was a matter of friendly arrangement and agreement. He might take higher ground, and say that the present peaceable condition of Ireland, which must be a source of satisfaction to noble Lords opposite, was attributable to the wish of the Government, as far as its Irish policy was concerned, to consult and consider the views and wishes of the Irish Members who represented the Irish people. As to the objection that there was no finality in the Bill, finality in legislation belonged to the same category as the Greek Kalends, and that was especially so in Ireland, where they had introduced a system of State intervention on behalf of an industry which depended on agricultural prices, and which, in these days 720 of agricultural machinery, of new markets and trade routes, foreign competition, and even of improved cattle breeds, was liable to be completely transformed almost in the twinkling of an eye. Then they were met with the argument that they were setting anew precedent, and that that precedent would prove a dangerous one. That he denied. It was also suggested that they were following no precedent, but that reminded him of what occurred upon the first Committee of their Lordships' House, of which he had the honour to be a Member. A leading counsel was reminded that there was no precedent for the course he was suggesting, and he at once retorted with the statement that a well-known Chairman of Committees was in the habit of declaring that they sat to make and not to follow precedents. What they were doing in this instance neither added to nor took away from the many anomalies which had unfortunately distinguished Irish legislation for the last few years. That legislation was a history of gift, of compromise, and of composition, and he could remember a Debate in that House, some few years previously, in the course of which a noble Lord, the late Lord Fitzgerald, in giving his hearty support to the Arrears Bill, admitted that it would not stand economic tests. This, however, was the outcome of 80 or 100 years of mismanagement and mistakes. Now, however, he came to a formidable and highly debateable objection taken by the noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill, and taken also by the noble Duke. It was, in effect, that by the Bill they were whitewashing the Plan of Campaign; that they were indeed doing even worse, and offering it a premium, that they would demoralise the whole country, and that their action would lead to all sorts of moral and social disorder. He did not wish to go back and open up controversy and recrimination, or he might suggest that Parliament itself was possibly a little accountable for some of the Plan of Campaign cases, by delaying to do until 1887 that which it had been urged strongly to do in 1886. But he would prefer to look forward and not backward. In as far as the Bill would whitewash the Plan of Campaign, it had been anticipated by the 13th clause of the Land Purchase Act of 1891, under which, according to the Report of the 721 Mathew Commission, 74 evicted tenants, all stalwart campaigners on the Ponsonby estates, were reinstated as owners in their former holdings by means of purchase money advanced by the State. He did not wish to go into details as to the terms, but any one examining Mr. Balfour's Bill would see that a remarkable advantage was given to the purchasing evicted tenant as compared with that given to the sitting unevicted tenant on the same sort of holding. Let him take a hypothetical instance—say a ease of a holding rented at £100ayear. An Evicted Plan of Campaign tenant on the Ponsonby estate would be allowed to buy, say, at 16 years' purchase if he did so. He only had to pay £64 a year interest and instalments, a betterment in his favour of £36 a year. He did not complain that noble Lords opposite were not right in passing such a clause, but he would ask why, if their action was right, the action of the present Government was wrong? The noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill said it would operate in a direction contrary to the maintenance of peace and security; but Mr. Carson bad told them in another place that the existence of these evicted tenants constituted a question having grave reference to the peace of Ireland. Which view were they to take? He preferred Mr. Carson's. Now he came to a much ridden "cheval do bataille." The 13th clause of the Act of 1891 re-instated the evicted tenants as purchasers of their former holdings, the purchase money being advanced by the Imperial Exchequer.
§ * LORD RIBBLESDALE
said, that was so. What was the Land Purchase Bill of 1891? It was a Bill of very large scope; 33 millions sterling was the sum involved, and it was apparently advanced at the risk of the Imperial Exchequer, with the British taxpayer behind it. But, as a matter of fact, the British taxpayer was secured by a local guarantee in Ireland. Was that a voluntary guarantee? No; that guarantee was au absolutely compulsory one. Under that Act the Irish ratepayer became what they called in Yorkshire the bondsman of the purchasing tenant, but his 722 assent to the transaction was not asked; he backed a Bill he had never seen the face of. Noble Lords would remember that the necessary security was provided by a compulsory hypothecation of local resources and of Imperial contributions to Ireland for education, pauper lunatics, and similar purposes. And in addition to that the Lord Lieutenant was granted power to levy rates on a defaulting district without the consent of the ratepayers. Thus the principle of compulsion was found underlying the whole Act of 1891 as it affected Laud Purchase. The noble Lord (Lord Balfour) laid great stress on the importance of both parties lo a bargain being consulted, but in this ease the Local Bodies whose moneys were hypothecated were not consulted at all. He held there was very little to choose in principle between compulsion applied to land purchase in this way and compulsion applied to the re-instatement of the evicted tenant. "Compulsion" was no doubt as uncomfortable a word to the politician as the noble Marquess said "evolution" was comfortable to the man of science. But surely there was a little exaggeration in the view taken of compulsion by the Opposition. To listen to the speeches which had been delivered one would imagine that the Bill was compulsion all round, that the Arbitrators must arbitrate, that the former tenant must petition, that the now tenant must refuse all terms of adjustment, and that the landlord must show himself obstinate and stiff-necked to all temptations to compromise of any sort. The question had indeed been argued as if the word "may" in the Act had in every case been transformed into "must" or "shall." He might, however, point out that this was a Bill, as it affected landlords, which was drafted not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. Under it he did not believe that any landlord who had behaved with consideration or with mercy tempered with justice in regard to his tenants, its many had, had anything to fear, nor could he think that any thriftless or insolvent tenant had anything to expect, or had any claim to indulgence under the Bill. Mr. T. W. Russell, who spoke with great authority on this subject, had declared that under a voluntary measure 80 per cent, of the cases, to deal with which this measure had been 723 brought in, would be settled out of Court by arrangement. What was to prevent that now? He did not think the landlords would be so wrong-headed and foolish as lie understood Irish tenants had been in turning their backs on the benefits of legislation because of a point of honour. On the contrary, he believed that the fact of the Bill being compulsory would encourage voluntary settlements; people quickly developed an aptitude for avoiding litigation and delay, and strenuous and sincere opposition to a Bill usually meant self-adaptation to an Act. But admitting that the view of Mr. Russell was correct, there would, under a voluntary measure, remain a residue of cases for which no provision would be made. What was to become of this unlucky residue, and might it not consist of the very people whose cases ought to be met, men not unwilling to come to terms, but unable, and the fault lying at the landlords' door? The noble Marquess (Lord Lansdowne), who was to follow him in the Debate, always spoke with great ability and moderation in that House, and was admittedly a high authority on Irish land questions. He supported the compulsory principle of the Arrears Bill of 1882. Speaking on July 27 in that year be pointed out that the optional clauses as to arrears of the Bill of 1881 had failed because they were optional, and that in the then sore and irritated state of relations between laud-lord and tenant in Ireland they could not but fail, and then he went on to point out that the compulsory clauses of the Bill of 1882 were valuable to the Irish landlord because they would prevent his attitude towards his tenantry from being misrepresented and traduced. Lord Sel-borne in the same Debate held very much the same language. He fully recognised troubles and perplexities which the Irish landlords had had to face, and the excellent spirit with which, as a body, they had dealt with them. Of course, harsh, unreasonable, and stupid landlords were found in all countries. In Ireland, as in 1844 Lord Norman by pointed out, with a monopoly of the means of existence the landlord had a power which did not exist elsewhere—namely, the power of starvation. Declarations of that kind, however, were no longer made, such things could no longer be asserted with any justice, and 724 the rapacious landlords were in a miserable minority. But still there must be in Ireland, as elsewhere, a few harsh, unreasonable, and obstinate landlords-He did not think anybody would dispute that, and Mr. Chamberlain even had admitted the possibility that there-might be cases of gross injustice and hardship, and if there were such among the 20 per cent, of eases which were not likely to be voluntarily arranged, surely that was sufficient to justify the inclusion of the compulsory principle in the Bill. Indeed, it seemed to him that its omission would jeopardise its object and operation. He did not wish to detain the House at greater length. He would point out that land was life in Ireland, and that the possession of it meant to the peasantry the difference between starvation and existence. Landlords had a monopoly of the only article of consumption which the Irish peasant depended upon for his every-day life. Their Lordships could not speak about a free contract between the owner of land and the man who wanted land in Ireland any more than he could speak about free contract between, say, the Great Western Railway Company and a passenger when he wished to travel. But, in the case of the railway, Parliament protected the traveller in the same way as in the case of gas and water it protected the consumer, and this consideration might be advanced as a plea for the legislation which Parliament recommended to be adopted in Ireland in 1881. Whatever course their Lordships took, the attachment of the Irish tenant to the soil would remain undiminished; they could not evict a feeling, and he did not think that in their consideration of questions affecting the agrarian future of Ireland their Lordships could leave those sentimental considerations entirely aside. The Bill had been attacked on the ground that it was a political proposal. He was aware that this phrase was supposed to carry a sharp sting in its tail; but if a political proposal meant that it was an honest attempt to do something for the welfare of society, whether in Ireland or anywhere else, then he said that he welcomed a political proposal, and as such he supported the Second Reading of the Bill without hesitation, and he wished that he could persuade their Lordships to do the same.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
This Bill has been recommended to the House by the noble Lords who have supported it as a measure of healing, as the reparation of a great wrong, and as likely to bring back peace where discord at present prevails. If I were inclined to use a captious argument, I would say that we have heard that sort of thing before. It reminds mo of the words of a well-known character in one of Sir Walter Scott's novels—These truces with the infidels make an old man of me. I remember three, and each of them was to last for 50 years.We can remember more than three truces with the clients of the noble Lords who sit behind me, and they were to last, not for 50 years, but were represented as a final settlement. I do not, however, wish to press that argument. I rather agree with the last speaker in believing that finality in these matters is somewhat difficult of attainment, and I will take it upon myself as an Irish landlord to say that, if we could really see our way to facilitate a reasonable settlement of this long-standing difficulty, I and others would be ready to assist to the best of our ability; and, in making that attempt, we would certainly not be too pedantic in regard to the principles on which we might insist, or be too much inclined to scrutinize jealously the terms which might be embodied in any proposal before the House. But what we complain of is that we are placed in the position of having to choose between the rejection of a measure which is proffered to us in the interests of humanity and the acceptance of proposals which we sincerely believe to be, both in principle and procedure, some of the most dangerous which has ever been submitted to Parliament. I say that, assuming that I am right in believing that the Bill before the House is in its essence a compulsory measure. It is to that principle of compulsion our main objection applies. I make no doubt your Lordships did not fail to notice the fly thrown over to us by the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of the Bill. I understood him, in the course of his opening speech, to say that although he himself believed a compulsory Bill was essential, he thought much good might be done by a voluntary measure; and then he added that it was open to the House of Lords to remodel the Bill 726 although, I think, the noble Earl said he deprecated such a course.
§ EARL SPENCER
I said that a voluntary settlement might do a great deal towards settling this question on one condition—namely, were we assured that both parties to the contest would try loyally to carry it out.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
If that offer was intended by the noble Earl as a holding out of the olive branch I must say that I never saw an olive branch held out in such a timid or halfhearted manner. I do not profess to have a knowledge of draftsmanship, but it seems to me, after reading the Bill, that it would be altogether beyond the power of your Lordships to convert it, at this stage, from a compulsory into a voluntary measure. The Bill is structurally a compulsory Bill from beginning to end. There was, I remember, a popular caricature in which three British tourists were depicted inspecting Wallenstein's horse, which had been stuffed for exhibition to the public. The show-woman says to them, "The head and neck and legs and part of the body have been restored, but all the rest is the real horse." That is the kind of remodelling this Bill would have to undergo if we are to rise to the noble Earl's fly, and to endeavour to transmogrify it in Committee. Speaking entirely for myself, I say that I am ready to accept the noble Earl's challenge, and I will suggest to the noble Earl that, if he is really in earnest in his proposal, let him bring forward in black and white the Amendments which he is ready to propose or to accept from others. We shall then see if anything can be made of them. But for your Lordships to take upon yourselves the task of remodelling this Bill seems to me to be an altogether dangerous and improper proceeding on your part. In making that proposal it seems to me that the noble Earl was endeavouring to lure your Lordships away from the sound ground on which you are now standing to much more treacherous ground on which the real issues of the conflict would probably be entirely lost sight of. Before leaving the question of compulsion I must notice what has been said by the last speaker with reference to the discussion on the Arrears Act. The noble Lord reminded me that in that Debate I not only accepted the principle 727 of compulsion, but expressed myself favourable towards it. I ask the noble Lord not to imagine that I am opposed to compulsion in every case. There are certain cases in which compulsion may clearly be indispensable. In the case of the Arrears Act we had to deal with a large number of poor tenants in Ireland in extremely embarrassed circumstances, to whom it was necessary that some relief should be given if they were not to lose their holdings. Does the noble Lord mean to contend for one moment that to offer relief to those tenants to save them from eviction was the same thing as to use compulsion for the purpose of imposing on a landlord, and of compelling him to take back on his land a body of tenants who have joined in a conspiracy which has been denounced as immoral by the Church and stigmatised as illegal by the highest legal authority? The case is entirely different. The House has, it seems to me, to consider, first, what are the dimensions of the emergency with which we have to deal; and, secondly, whether the proposals of the Government are really effectual to deal successfully with that emergency. Attention has already been called by more than one speaker to the apparent discrepancies between the number of tenants to whom it is expected that this Bill will give relief. The total number of tenants to whom the Bill applies is unquestionably very large indeed. There is no doubt about that, because the Government have found themselves compelled to re-christen their Bill, and its present scope is much wider than anyone originally supposed. I will, however, take the number of tenants at 4,000, the number given by the Representatives of Her Majesty's Government; that number represents only 1 per cent, of the 400,000 who are to be found in the whole of Ireland. It represents, too, the evictions of 15 years, during which agriculture in Ireland has undergone the severest trials to which probably it has ever been subjected. Some of the evicted men are no doubt worthy of compassion, but I venture to assert that the dimensions of the emergency have been tremendously exaggerated. The Bill is really designed, not for the relief of the larger body of evicted tenants, but for the relief of the smaller number who are connected with 728 the Plan of Campaign estates, number of these was stated by the Mathew Commission to be between 800 and 900. The noble Lord who introduced the Bill repudiated the idea that the measure was intended for the Plan of Campaign tenants. But can he say that but for those tenants this Bill would ever have seen the light? Many deductions must, however, be made from the total in order to find the actual number of tenants who would be relieved by the Bill, and who could not be relieved by other means. There are, in the first place, those whom the tribunal would set aside as ineligible; men whose conduct and antecedents would not entitle them to relief. Then we must deduct those whose holdings have passed into the hands of bonâ fide new tenants, whom the Bill gives no power to dispossess; and, finally, there are those who would obtain relief by private settlement. That last class has alone been estimated at 80 per cent, of the whole; and therefore, after these deductions have been made, the total is made so infinitesimally small as to be altogether out of proportion to the magnitude and gravity of the proposals in the Bill. The difficulty is, in fact, political rather than administrative. It is felt, not on the Irish land, but in the Lobbies of the House of Commons, and this Bill has been produced, and is the price we are asked to pay in order to extricate the Government from its difficulty. It seems to me that of all the objectionable features of the Bill none is more objectionable than the proposal that Parliament shall shirk and transfer to an irresponsible tribunal a duty which properly belongs to itself. I am all for lightening the work of Parliament where it can be done by means of Commissions and Committees, but it is a very serious thing indeed to hand over to a tribunal of this kind the decision of great issues, affecting the public morality and the safety of the United Kingdom, without a single word of guidance as to how the powers conferred are to be exercised. Look at the extraordinary vagueness of the language by which the Arbitrators are directed to act, in deciding whether there is a primâ, facie case for reinstatement. They are to consider the circumstance of the district, and the circumstances under which 729 the determination of the tenancy took place. There is not a word to show whether those circumstances are to be agricultural, climatic, or political. And, as if that were not sufficiently vague, the Court is to consider—If there is not some other cause appearing to them sufficient to justify the reinstatement of the tenant.I honestly believe that there never has been a case of reference to a tribunal in language so dangerously vague. Again, supposing the Arbitrators came to the conclusion that a primâ facie case had been made out, the parties are to be allowed to appear and to show that there has been unreasonableness on one side or the other. What does the inquiry into the "reasonableness" of the parties mean? It means that the whole of the history of these intricate cases is to be ripped up by the tribunal, the antecedents of both landlord and tenant are to be inquired into, the management of the estate is to be scrutinised, and the whole of the negotiations between landlord and tenant to be investigated. If it does not do all this, the tribunal will scamp its work and perform it in an unsatisfactory and perfunctory manner. And then, when the facts have been ascertained, what is the criterion of reasonableness to be? Different people will clearly take entirely different views; and the test applied by the tribunal will be a purely political test wholly without regard to the intrinsic merits of the ease. One most important hint was given by the Chief Secretary when he announced that in all probability the cases would be dealt with in groups; and we must also note that indiscreet supporters of the Government have intimated that those tenants who have been able to pay their rents but who had refused are, on the whole, objects of admiration. If that is true, what will be the result? It follows that the tribunal will not go fully into the cases. They will be dealt with in wholesale fashion. The dupes and the knaves, the solvent and the insolvent, the thrifty and the ne'er-do-weels, will all have the same undiscriminating treatment meted out to them. But if, on the other hand, proper discrimination is exercised, then many of the applicants must be disappointed, and so that which is intended as a settlement will only bring vexation and dis- 730 appointment. If the tribunal does its duty the insolvent and broken-down tenants must be excluded. Noble Lords sometimes speak as if bad and improvident farmers are never to be found in Ireland, but only in other parts of the United Kingdom; but that is not the case, and I think I am warranted in saying that that class is likely to form a large proportion of the tenants who have refused to pay their rents. The Plan of Campaign has had an irresistible attraction for that class of tenant. It gave them au opportunity of extricating themselves and refusing to fulfil their obligations. Persons of this sort will, therefore, be numerously represented among the applicants. Under the Bill they are to get £50 for the repair of buildings; but there is no grant for restocking the land, though such a grant to be secured by the rates was recommended by the Mathew Commission. That proposal, however, was one which the Government had no taste for. The consequence will be that we shall under the Bill have an ill-starred union of broken-down tenants and derelict farms. The condition of these is forcibly described in the Report of the Mathew Commission. The present condition of the farms, that Report states, is deplorable. The land has gone to waste, fields which, when cultivated, were thoroughly productive are now covered with furze and weeds, while tracts reclaimed by the industrious tenant from bog or mountain are returning to their original condition. That is the kind of holding to which these men will be restored if this tribunal comes into existence, and is lax in its interpretation of its duties. But if the tribunal is strict and conscientious, these men will get no relief, and the sore will remain unhealed. I see no escape from the dilemma. Then there is another class which will be left out in the cold, those who have seen their farms occupied by, some bought by, bonâ fide new tenants—commonly called "planters." These men, I venture to say, deserve all the countenance and protection which Parliament can give them. They are men who have shown that they possess that quality of self-reliance which is too often absent in the Irish peasant, and it is altogether an exaggeration to describe them as they are frequently described, as merely men of 731 straw. I have some personal knowledge of these cases, of which a considerable Dumber is to be found on an estate which has gained a certain amount of notoriety in connection with this dispute, and I am able to tell your Lordships that the planter tenants on that estate are far from being mere men of straw. They are men who are firmly established upon their holdings, who are thriving upon them, who have paid their rents—rents about equal to those which their predecessors refused to pay—and met their obligations with punctuality, and who are by no means men who are likely to readily abandon the farms which they now possess. The strongest proof of their bonâ fides is, I think, to be found in the fact that most of them have purchased their farms, for before they were allowed to do that their cases were inquired into by the Land Commission, who satisfied themselves that each applicant was a fit subject to purchase, and that he had punctually paid his rates and taxes before he was admitted to purchase. Now, my Lords, what I wish to impress on this House is that in the case of the tenants whose farms have been occupied by planters of this description the Bill can give no relief; their holdings are gone, and are not likely to be restored to them. If the planter sits fast, the former tenant can have no hope of being reinstated. Then there will arise this anomaly: You will have cases where a comparatively deserving former tenant finds himself excluded because his farm is occupied by a planter, and you have other cases in which a comparatively undeserving man will be reinstated because the farm is still in his landlord's hands. That is an argument which weighs very much with me, because the tenants on the estate to which I referred just now are men to whom I confess I should be glad to see relief given were it still possible to give it. They are men, the main body of whom, at all events, certainly deserve to be classed amongst those who were duped and intimidated into the folly which has led them to lose their holdings. It would not be proper that I should detain the House with a personal matter of this kind, but I cannot help doing so, in order to make good what I have said. I should like to read a short and significant extract from the evidence before the Mathew Commission. One of the local 732 leaders of these tenants was the curate of Luggacurren, who was one of the witnesses examined, and this gentleman was asked—When did you become curate of Luggacurren?" and he replied "I became curate in 1886.Had you been in the neighbourhood before that; had you been stationed in the parish?" "No, sir.Were you present at the meeting at which the tenants adopted the Plan of Campaign?" "No, sir.Did you take any steps to inform yourself as to the rents?" "I did not, sir.And yet it was under the guidance and leadership such as this that these unfortunate men entered into a foolish and unequal contest. I confess I should have been very glad if it had been possible to open a door through which they might find relief; and in order to show that this is not an idle profession on my part, I might mention that in 1891 nine of these tenants were actually reinstated on payment of two years' rent, which is somewhere about the amount required in the Bill before you. But it is now too late for the rest to expect reinstatement, and in their cases, at all events, the Bill will not afford the relief which is expected from it. Now, we have been warned that the failure of the Bill in this respect will prevent its being accepted by the tenants of Ireland. I do not know whether your attention has been directed to a statement made recently in the other House by Mr. J. Redmond, in which he said that if the Bill applied to all classes of tenants, that fact would go a long way to assist the Chief Secretary in preserving peace in Ireland: but that if the Bill passed in a defective condition as to exclude the cases in which the former tenants had been replaced by planters, which cases, he said, "lay at the very centre of the trouble," then he thought the prospects of preserving peace would be much more grave than they would have been even if we were to go the length of evicting the new tenants. I believe that, if in your Lordships' opinion anything like a general reinstatement of the evicted tenants is a condition precedent to the restoration of peace, it would be better to have a wholesale and indiscriminate reinstatement upon liberal terms of compensation than the futile, unnecessary, and abortive attempt at discrimination 733 contained in the Bill as it now stands. But, my Lords, the anomalies and the injustice which will be done to individuals are nothing compared to the disastrous effects which this Bill will produce on Irish society generally. It will produce a shock to public confidence in the authority of law such as has never been paralleled. Who in Ireland will ever trust our word again if we do this thing? The landlords have seen one inroad after another made on their property. They have seen the confiscation of rights which the law had recognised—contracts broken, and judicial rents which they had believed to be sacred modified at the first provocation; and now in this case, after they have been driven by a conspiracy of the most dangerous kind into vast expense, after they have been harassed by prolonged litigation, after they have been subject to abuse and obloquy of every kind, when at last they have reconquered their own and asserted the rights which the law still left to them, they find themselves liable to be ousted at the bidding of the Irish allies of Her Majesty's Government. How often during the Debates on the Land Bill of 1881 were we told that, if our rights were curtailed, we should at least be left secure in the enjoyment of those which the law still left us? Are we not excusable if we ask whether there is, in the opinion of the Government, any point at which Irish landlords may, with a clear conscience, and with the certainty that they will not be thrown over, enforce the rights which the law of their country confers upon them? Then consider the effect of this legislation upon the honest tenants who have punctually met their obligations. The First Lord of the Admiralty knows Ireland well enough to be aware at what risk these people isolated themselves from their neighbours and met their obligations when they were ordered not to do so. He knows the risk they ran to their own lives and to the safety of their families. What will be the feeling of these men when, after having had the courage of their opinions, they see their less honest neighbours reinstated—restored in triumph to their holdings, with flags flying and drums beating, and a grant from the Irish Church surplus to enable them to rebuild their homes? Will not they ask themselves, "If ever the hour of trial comes again, will it be worth while to stand aside; 734 will it not be better for us to throw in our lot with the rest? Another result will follow. If this Bill passes, who will ever in Ireland dare to take an acre of evicted land again? This is a very important matter, because, as has been said here and elsewhere, eviction is, after all, in Ireland and elsewhere, the ultima ratio. I find that the other day the Leader of this House indulged in a little eviction of his own, and I have no doubt he was perfectly justified in his action. Evictions must take place, if the payment of rent is not to become optional on the tenant's part. But what this legislation means is that in future if a landlord gets rid of his tenant he will have to hold the laud himself, and that nobody else will be so foolish as to rent it. Consider, again, what the effect of such legislation will be on the dishonest section of the community: will they not understand that no conspiracy is so dark that it may not be taken part in with impunity? Will they not realise that no conduct is so extravagant but that Parliament will step in and condone it; that no game is so dangerous that you cannot play it with safety if you only play it long enough? These people will be taught that it is safe for them to plunge deeper and deeper into the morass of agitation, because in the end they may be sure that Parliament will come to the rescue and extricate them? The proverb used to run that if you make your bed you must lie on it. These people will be taught that, however they may make their beds, somebody else will have to lie on it—the landlord, or their neighbours, or the taxpayers of this country. There is another incidental result of the Bill of which I would like to say a word. What will be the effect of it on the prospect of laud purchase in Ireland? I have always been a firm believer in purchase as the solution of the Irish land difficulty. I remember that, immediately on the Report of the Bessborough Commission, I expressed publicly my belief that if dual ownership of the kind suggested were to be adopted only one solution was possible—namely, by means of purchase, which would, in effect, place the tenant in the position of being sole owner of the land. I think we ought to watch the question of purchase carefully, because, after all, it is the one solitary success 735 which we have achieved amidst a whole wilderness of failures. Upon the millions advanced to the tenants there is hardly a shilling of bad debt. That is because the purchasers have been selected in the most careful manner; there has, in the first place, been a process of natural selection, because the operation has been confined to those who have been thrifty and self-reliant, and who were not afraid to place themselves in the position of tenants to the State, instead of to private individuals. A further process of selection has taken place through the agency of the Land Commissioners, who have rejected all but those who were thoroughly fitted to own their farms. You have therefore among these tenants got a sort of corps d'élite of the tenantry of Ireland. But under this Bill you are going to assist a body of men which will probably contain an exceptionally large number of the most thriftless, turbulent, and unimproving class. I cannot conceive any action more likely to discredit the prospects of land purchase in Ireland than the passage of such a Bill as that upon the Table. I will summarise in half-a-dozen words my objections to the measure. I believe that the Government has from the first greatly over-estimated the extent of the administrative difficulty with which they have to deal. I believe no Bill, whether voluntary or compulsory, will remove that administrative difficulty entirely. There must be in either case a certain residuum of tenants to whom it will not afford relief, and I very much suspect that that residuum would not be any larger in the case of a voluntary measure than it would he in the case of a compulsory measure, because, while a compulsory measure would be carried out reluctantly, a voluntary measure would receive every facility from the landlords. I believe, further, that if the measure were perfect and the tribunal which was to carry it out was the incarnation of prudence, such interference would be full of danger; but to give the powers contained in the Bill to such a tribunal as that constituted under it seems to me a disastrous abrogation of the proper functions of Parliament. If, however, Her Majesty's Ministers, who are responsible, are so cowed and dismayed by the administrative difficulty that they feel themselves unequal to carrying on the government of the country without 736 some settlement of it, then I say we would gladly have accepted a voluntary Bill, and should have done our best to make it a success. It has been said that a single perverse landlord could make a voluntary Bill a failure, but I have shown that under the Bill as it stands a single obstinate planter tenant can make it a failure? We have been threatened with the consequences that will arise if the Bill is rejected. There is a point at which these predictions approach perilously near to suggestion, and I trust that that consideration will not be lost sight of. But if the rejection of the Bill should have the effect of leading to some recrudescence of the wickedness and folly of the last few years, I believe that the result will be less disastrous in the end than the consequences of such a surrender to the forces of disorder as that which is advocated in this Bill. Be this as it may, if trouble arises the blame will lie not with us who have disappointed these expectations, but with you who have raised them. Your Lordships' action will no doubt be misrepresented, as it has been on former occasions, but we may find some consolation in the reflection that the people of this country were beginning to understand the Irish land question better than they did. They are beginning to realise, amongst other things, that the Irish tenant farmer, instead of being the most oppressed and downtrodden of the cultivators of the soil, enjoys privileges and advantages which are not shared by any occupant of land in any part of the globe. If he neglects his opportunities and declines to avail himself of these privileges and advantages, either from weakness or contumacy, or from the guidance of bad and disloyal advisers, then to say that we ought to apply legislative compulsion for the purpose of extricating him, either at the cost of the creditor whom he has defrauded or the neighbours whom he has endeavoured to lead astray, or the taxpayers of this country, whom he has already involved in great trouble and expense, is an outrage upon common sense and a fraud upon the whole community.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
said, that like no doubt a large number of the noble Members of that House, he had been a strong believer in the old adage that there was nothing 737 new under the sun; but for the last few hours he had been speculating whether there had ever been such a complete instance of absolute inconsistency in any former probable proposition as was instanced by the noble Earl who introduced this measure. In September last he introduced a measure which had for its object the separation of Ireland from England—he who had before been the strongest and staunchest of (Unionists. Now they saw the noble Earl introducing a measure for no other object than to benefit a body of political agitators, some of whom he had imprisoned without trial. The noble Earl had not formulated a single valid argument in favour of the measure before them; he supposed because none was possible. He could show, perhaps, on what lines the argument would be based that they sympathised a good deal with the evicted tenants, and they had to maintain themselves in office. They must conciliate the leaders of the agitation, and to do that they must reinstate them in the minds of their unfortunate dupes. It was nothing more nor less than that. Pie thought if that argument had been put forward it might have prevailed somewhat, but the argument which was put forward could not prevail at all. He could not but think that in introducing the Bill the noble Earl had not realised the magnitude of the measure he was submitting to them. In the first place, it was proposed to take £250,000 of State money, to which an Irish fund was to be added known by the name of the Paris Fund, to found what was neither more or less than a Political Fund to benefit those who were called the wounded soldiers of the Plan of Campaign, which was nothing more than one of the methods of agrarian outrage. What the noble Earl really proposed to do was to take State money for the purpose of separating England and Ireland. He maintained, on these grounds alone, that their Lordships would be absolutely inconsistent, and would falsify their action in September last in rejecting the Home Rule Bill if they did not reject this measure. The noble Lords opposite knew full well that they could not challenge the rejection in September last; and if they went to the country they would not dare to challenge them on this measure. For his own part, he objected to the Bill for many reasons. In the first place, he 738 objected to the main principle which advocated a repudiation of debt and of legal contract. It might be said that this measure only applied to Ireland, but he did not think for a moment that its influence would be restricted to Ireland; and if they passed a measure repudiating debt in Ireland, he believed that at no distant period an attempt would be made to apply a similar principle to England, and what would result?—the whole of the great trade interest of this country would be affected. They knew their great commercial interest was based upon the fact that contract was acknowledged, and they did not repudiate their debts; i but the Government were now inaugurating a measure which had for its purpose not only the repudiation of debt, but the legalisation of the repudiation of debt, and the reward of persons who repudiated their debts and broke their contracts. More than that, he maintained that the measure proposed by the noble Earl was a direct attack on the foundations of social order. The law was always allowed to be among all classes stronger than any individual or body of individuals; it was recognised as having been made for the whole community, and that it was no less the interest than the duty of the community to obey the law as against individuals. That was always allowed until it broke down. This WHS a measure that proved that a small body of men could break the law with impunity, and it also proved that not only might law-breakers be rewarded, but that those who had obeyed the law would suffer. He did not think it would be denied that this measure was introduced to benefit the victims of the Plan of Campaign. Of that there could be no doubt whatever, because when the present Government were in power from 1880 to 1886 they proposed no such Bill for the reinstatement of evicted tenants. He would ask them why they did not bring in a measure then? Why? Because they did not see the necessity for it; but now that pressure had been brought to bear upon them they brought in this measure. The tenantry on the estates on which the Plan of Campaign fastened were not ill-used, or rack-rented, or over-rented at all. Lord Clanricarde had often been denounced as a harsh landlord; but his estate was really very low-rented, as was 739 proved by the fact that very few tenants took advantage of the fair-rent clauses of the Land Act. The Luggacurren estate was another property that was certainly not over-rented, and one of the evicted tenants there admitted he could pay his rent. It was a fight of intelligence against intelligence he said, and the same statement applied with equal truth to the Smith-Barry, the Massereene, and the Ponsonby estates. The Plan of Campaign was, in fact, established on these properties not because the tenants were hardly used, but as "a political engine," to quote the words of a Nationalist Member. Having failed to benefit the unfortunate dupes who embraced the Plan of Campaign, the leaders of the Nationalist Party now sought to reinstate them, with the help of the Government, in order that they might not be discouraged from taking part in future land agitations. The money collected under the Plan of Campaign was banked in the name of the leaders of the agitation, who had no right whatever to it. The miscellaneous expenditure incurred, including travelling expenses, amounted, according to Mr. Dillon, to £17,035, and this sum had never been properly accounted for. He should be the last to make a charge against any man; but he maintained that if any public business man was asked whether £17,000 was not a large sum to be accounted for, he would say it was. Unless Mr. Dillon and the trustees of the Plan of Campaign could say how it had been spent, he maintained that the tenants who were the dupes of these men had a perfect right to put any construction they chose on the manner in which that money had been expended. Though the enforcement of the Plan of Campaign had been most vigorously and steadily carried out by Mr. Dillon and the rest of the Nationalist Party, he was glad to think that a great number of honest tenants on the Plan of Campaign estates had insisted on paying their just debts and paying what was due to their landlords under great and serious difficulties. He found, on turning to the Parnell Commission, a statement to show that. He confessed that he heard with sorrow the noble Earl (Spencer) sneer at the Irish landlords. The noble Earl should have remembered that the Irish landlords were his truest friends at a time when he was discharging arduous duties in Ireland. When he heard the noble 740 Earl sneering at Irish landlords because of the absolute necessity they had been under to evict, he could not refrain from calling the noble Earl's attention to a newspaper extract which stated that the noble Earl had evicted tenants at Wimbledon.
§ * EARL SPENCER
I never heard of any eviction there; I have hardly any tenants at all at Wimbledon.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
said, he would not then refer to the paper. He was aware that no better landlord than the noble Earl existed in England, but he asked that the noble Earl and his colleagues should give the same credit to Irish landlords as they did to the Prime Minister. The noble Earl stated that he disapproved the Plan of Campaign, which had been forced on the unfortunate tenants by terrorism. But the noble Earl did not denounce that organisation, though he must have been aware of the harm it caused; and other members of his Party had gone so far as to put forward extenuating circumstances in its favour. Mr. Parnell's Bill would have embraced only a tithe of the tenants who were forced into the embrace of the Plan of Campaign. Mr. Parnell's Bill dealt only with leaseholders and judicial tenants whose rents had been fixed before September, 1884. A few statistics would show the small extent to which that Bill, if carried, would have affected the Plan of Campaign estates. On those estates there were 1,800 tenants, of whom 150 were judicial and 150 leaseholders. Therefore, Mr. Parnell's Bill did not apply to 1,500 out of the 1,800 tenants on the Plan of Campaign estates. On the Luggacurren estate there were 31 tenants evicted, of whom hardly one was a judicial tenant or a leaseholder. On the Coolgreany estate there were 114 tenants —15 judicial tenants and 22 leaseholders; and therefore there were 77 tenants who were unaffected by Mr. Parnell's Bill. On the Massereene estate there were 327 tenants—90 judicial and 20 leaseholders, leaving 217 tenants who were unaffected by Mr. Parnell's Bill. On the Vande- 741 leur estate there were 24 tenants evicted, 12 of whom were non-judicial, and therefore 12 were unaffected by Mr. Parnell's Bill. He could quote many other instances to show that Mr. Parnell's Bill would have embraced only a tithe of the tenants who were forced into the Plan of Campaign. But that was not all. The landlords had offered better terms to the Plan of Campaign tenants than they would have got under Mr. Parnell's Bill. Under that Bill the tenants were to pay 50 per cent, of the arrears, and reserve the remainder until the rents fixed between 1881 and the 31st December, 1884, had been revised. But numbers of landlords of Plan of Campaign estates had offered to take half a year's rent in settlement of all arrears. Why had not those terms been accepted? Why was not Clause 13 of the Act of 1891 taken advantage of? Simply because the promoters of the Plan of Campaign were determined that there should be no settlement between landlord and tenant, and it was their main object to keep the evicted farms derelict, if possible. Mr. Dillon, speaking in Gal way, said—We organised a system of keeping evicted farms unoccupied, and it was the greatest weapon ever placed in the hands of the Irish people. Long may it be before the Irish people forget that lesson!Could their Lordships wonder now why Section 13 of the Act of 1891 had not been taken advantage of, and why all the efforts of the landlords who had done everything in their power to effect settlements had come to nothing? The reason was that the men who had declared that they held the present Government in the hollow of their hand were determined that no settlement should be arrived at; and now that the evicted tenants saw their folly, this measure was brought forward simply because the political agitators wished to reinstate themselves in the minds of their unfortunate dupes. The most important part of the measure was that referring to the new tenants. The English people would never allow the men who had exercised their absolute right to occupy vacant farms, and who had sunk in those farms their capital and industry, to be evicted. It was the fashion to speak of these tenants as bogus tenants. Mr. Shaw-Lefevre had so referred to them during a tour he 742 made in Ireland in aid of the abettors of the Plan of Campaign. It would have been better if the right hon. Gentleman had had the courage to repeat that statement in the House of Commons, where he could be answered. But evidently Mr. Shaw-Lefevre was one of those gentlemen who thought discretion to be the better part of valour, for the Bill went through the House of Commons without a word from him, except in the form of a correction to another speaker, as to whether or not he had been under police protection while in Ireland. He himself had taken considerable trouble to find out the position of the new tenants. He had learned from Mr. Lloyd, the agent of the Massereene estate, that the capital necessary to work the holdings of 29 new tenants on that estate was no less than £12,200; while the probable amount that the tenants would require as compensation for disturbance would be £23,300. Therefore, on the Massereene estate alone £35,000 out of the sum allotted in the Bill would be required—that was out of the £250,000 which the noble Earl in introducing the Bill said would be amply sufficient for all the requirements. Mr. Dillon had referred to the new tenants as humbugs and impostors, and declared that £200 or £300 well spent would get rid of the whole crew. He asked the noble Earl opposite if he endorsed that statement? If he did, then he should give it the flattest contradiction in his power. He had had letters from a number of new tenants on the Massereene estate, on which alone the value of the new tenant properties was £35,000. Andrew Wilson, a large tenant, wrote that his rent was £90 a year, and that he was £50 better off than 12 months ago, notwithstanding boycotting. Andrew Hodge, a small tenant, who took a farm that was in a very neglected state, consisting of 38 acres, at a rent of £30, cleared £60 last year, notwithstanding boycotting, and was spending £10 a year on permanent improvements. He was aware of another case where the new tenant would not take less than £1,000 for the goodwill. These tenants appealed to their Lordships to reject this Bill, which would cause them great disappointment and loss of property. They were not bogus tenants; they were boná fide tenants, who had worked their farms, and who 743 had as much right to them as he had to the coat on his hack. If the Bill passed, what would be the future position of these men? It was said that the Bill brought no compulsion to bear upon them, and that they could not be turned out of their holdings. There was talk of moral compulsion, but their Lordships knew what moral compulsion was in Ireland, and when there was a bribe held out in the shape of money to the evicted tenants, that would not make the lives of the new tenants—men who were in the possession of property they had every right to enjoy—very comfortable in that possession. There was, he thought, no doubt what the future of these men would be. They had been told by Mr. Redmond, Mr. Dillon, and Mr. O'Brien, in the House of Commons, that the land-grabber's life should not be a happy one, and if further proof wore wanted it was supplied by Father Humphreys of Tipperary, who bad said that if the evicted farms were not given up there would be bloodshed. It might be asked why he took so much interest in the future of these tenants? It was because in the autumn of 1888, when he was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, he made a speech at Belfast which he might say, without presumption, was of an important character, inasmuch as almost every organ of the Press in the United Kingdom took notice of it. In that speech he said that they were grappling with the Plan of Campaign, and that they were grappling with it successfully, because the evicted farms were being taken in large numbers. He said that the proof that the Plan of Campaign had been defeated was that these evicted farms were being so taken, and he assured the tenants who had taken evicted farms that they should receive the protection of the Government. He had made that statement deliberately, with the sanction and approval of his right hon. Friend, Mr. Balfour, who was then responsible for the government of Ireland; and having in that way pledged himself to these men that they should receive the protection of the Government, if he failed to stand by them in their hour of trouble—if he allowed a measure such as this to pass the House without objecting by vote and voice, he would be very justly denounced by these men in the same manner as the evicted tenants 744 were denouncing Mr. Dillon and Mr. O'Brien as the greatest traitors that ever cursed the Irish soil, for leading them into danger and then deserting them. It was because of these denunciations that Mr. Dillon and Mr. O'Brien had forced the Government to press forward this Bill. He was thankful to think, though he was an humble Member of the late Conservative Government, that that Government never repudiated those pledges; and so long as he had a voice and vote he would use them in defence of these unfortunate men, and to prevent them being offered up as sacrifices to the promoters of the late agitation in Ireland. He could promise that the Unionist Government would never desert these men. Under ordinary circumstances he would now resume his seat, in the conviction that their Lordships would reject this Bill by a large majority; but he desired to deal with a question that was not altogether relevant to the subject before the House. He did it for the reason that Irish Debates were of so rare an occurrence in the House that matters with regard to Ireland were difficult to be discussed. They might remember that some months ago he raised an Irish Debate in the House in connection with the murder of the unfortunate caretaker, Donovan. He entered at considerable length into details of that murder; he asked the Government whether they were going to take notice of the speeches to which he attributed the crime, and whether they were going to repeal the Crimes Act, which was the only Act that could deal with crimes of that description. So long as he had dealt with the details of the murder, the Prime Minister retained his seat in the House, but when he left these details and proceeded to question the policy of the Government the noble Earl rose from his seat and executed a strategical retreat by going below the Bar with a speed which could only be equalled by his own equine representative on Epsom Downs. He caught sight of the noble Earl just as he was leaving, and he asked him to come back, which the noble Earl did. He asked the question as to what the Government intended to do in the case of this murder. No answer was then given by the noble Earl, but after the lapse of five days the noble Earl proceeded to Manchester and there delivered a speech a portion of which he 745 did him the honour to devote to him (Lord Londonderry) on the particular subject he had raised in the House. What the noble Earl stated in Manchester was one of the most unfair and one of the most unworthy statements ever made by a Minister of the Crown. He directly stated that the Unionist Government gloated over the murder of the unfortunate man Donovan, and that it came down as rain on parched ground, and was a subject of a luscious and fruit ful character to them——
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I do not think those were the words. I think I was alluding to the noble Lord's eloquence in those terms.
* THE MAEQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
was extremely flattered by the remark of the noble Earl, but he thought he was correct in saying that the spirit of the speech of the noble Earl at Manchester was that the Unionist Party rejoiced at the opportunity of bringing homo to the Government an outrage in Ireland.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I will not now retire below the Bar, as it seems to annoy the noble Lord, and perhaps I shall cut short a digression which is against all the Rules of Order of this House, if I at once say that what I said was that the noble Marquess seized with alacrity the opportunity of discussing the murder before even an inquiry had been held into its origin.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
said, that all he would say was that, as an humble Member of the Unionist Party, he repudiated that statement. The reason he brought the matter forward was because, having had official experience of Ireland at a time when crime and outrage were rife, he knew that speeches such as he referred to were the cause of such murders, and therefore he thought he would lose no time in pressing upon Her Majesty's Government the necessity of preventing those speeches. He ventured to say that when Parties changed positions in the House and when questions about Ireland were put to the Marquess of Salisbury by the present Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the action of the noble Marquess would be different from the action of the noble Earl. The noble Marquess would not retire to the Bar of the House; he would not lose one moment in repelling the attack. But then the noble Marquess had un- 746 doubted advantages over the noble Earl. Lord Salisbury was a master of debate, unrivalled, in his humble opinion, by any other Member of either House of Parliament, and he possessed great courage. In conclusion, he would only say, from his own experience, that if their Lordships rejected this Bill, as he knew they would by an overwhelming majority, their action would be endorsed by the vast majority of the electors of this country whenever Her Majesty's Government had the courage to give them the opportunity of recording their opinion.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord TWEEDMOUTH)
said, he ventured to ask their Lordships' indulgence because, in the first place, he was but a recent Member of the House, and, secondly, because he stood to-night as the spokesman for a small minority of their Lordships. Some of his friends outside the House had often said to him that it must be a pleasant and enviable thing to represent in the House, and give utterance to in the House, opinions that were held by perhaps one in every 20 of their Lordships. But he could not feel any pleasure of that kind. He was bound to confess that the genus loci oppressed him; that he felt it hard to kick against the pricks; but however irksome it might be to do so, he was determined to tell their Lordships that, in his opinion, if they rejected this Bill they would be doing an act of detriment and danger to the State; that they would once more be refusing to take advantage of one of those opportunities which again and again had been presented to this House in regard to Ireland, and that the time would come when their Lordships might regret having let this opportunity pass, as they had done in other instances in the past. He had listened with regret to the speeches which had been delivered. He had thought this was a question like some which had come before them of recent years, on the principle of which they were agreed, and that the question was only as to the methods for carrying out that principle. But every speech delivered against the Bill had breathed hostility against it—root, branch, and detail. It was futile to say that the Government had shown themselves slow to offer compromise. How was compromise possible in the face of speeches such as 747 had been delivered to-night? If compromise was to come about over this measure, the compromise must come from the Opposition or the Liberal Unionist Bench; it was impossible, after the denunciations of this Bill, that from the Government Benches an offer of compromise could be expected. The noble Marquess who had just sat down founded his speech on assertions rather than on arguments. He had made several assertions about Lord Spencer. He had said that the noble Earl had introduced the Home Rule Bill as a measure of separation between England and Ireland; and that the present Bill was a further measure of separation. That might be the opinion of the noble Marquess, but it was not the opinion of the Government. They on the Ministerial side believed that both the Home Rule Bill and this Bill, so far from leading to separation, would conduce to the union of the two countries. The noble Marquess said the Government dared not challenge the opinion of the country either on the rejection of the Home Rule Bill or the coming rejection of this Bill. But they did dare to challenge the opinion of the country. The English people had learned what was the position of things—they had been educated on the Irish Question during the last six years, and he ventured to tell their Lordships that when the Government came to refer their Irish policy to the decision of the electors of the country that the verdict of those electors would be in favour of their policy and against the policy advocated by the noble Marquess opposite. The quotations of the noble Marquess with regard to the Plan of Campaign, and other incidents in Ireland during the last few years, proved what no one denied, that a great agitation had taken place in that country. But the agitation had to a great extent closed. He believed that even the noble Marquess would admit that; and the Government had confidence that the proposals they now submitted would do much to close that agitation for ever. The noble Marquess said that the result of the Bill would be to drive the new tenants from their farms. He found no such proposal in the Bill. On the contrary, the question whether the new tenant was to go and make room for the evicted tenant was left entirely to the new tenant to de- 748 cide; if the new tenant decided to remain, remain he would, for the Bill could not make him go; but if he decided to go, it awarded him compensation. Reference had been made by the noble Marquess to the new tenants on the Massereene and Luggacurren estates. The noble Marquess had quoted two estates which were favourable to his argument; but he would ask how many bonâ fide new tenants there were in Ireland outside these estates? The argument with regard to the number of tenants that would be dealt with under the Bill had, it appeared to him, gone on a vicious circle. On the one hand it was said the number was so large that it would be impossible to find money to satisfy their claims, while on the other hand it was said the number was so small that it was not worth while considering them, and that therefore the Bill was objectless. In dealing with an argument of that sort they had got to cut the vicious circle, and he ventured to say that while it was true that the Bill applied to all tenants in Ireland whose tenancies had been determined for any reason whatever between 1877 and 1894, yet the number of tenants who would come under the provisions of the Bill was not a very extensive number. He believed that the calculation of the Irish Office would probably be found to be correct, and that the number would be between 4,000 and 5,000. An immense number of the evicted tenants had been reinstated either as tenants or caretakers; and as the population of Ireland had decreased by 500,000 between 1881 and 1891, in a large number of the worse cases the men had left the country and would not come under the operation of the Bill.
said, that a certain number might come back; but, after all, if 500,000 people left Ireland between 1881 and 1891, and a large number of them were evicted tenants, the proportion of these tenants who would return from their position in the colonies or in America would not be great. It was the fact that the number of evicted 749 tenants who would come under the Bill would be small, but they would be the worst cases of all, for they would be the cases from those estates — he believed they were few in number—the landlords of which had refused settlements. He did not desire to bring any charges against the Irish landlords. All he would say was that bad men would be found in every class, and it was with the cases of that fraction of Irish landlords who were irreconcilable that the Bill was intended to deal. The allegation that a large portion of these men were insolvent would not apply to the Plan of Campaign tenants, because the first condition of getting the benefit of the Plan of Campaign was the payment of the former rent, less the claimed reduction, into the bank. Therefore, those tenants, at least, could not be insolvent. It was said the Government were forced to bring in this Bill, because of the exigencies of the Lobby in the House of Commons. He met that charge with the most absolute negative. All classes seemed agreed that it was necessary to deal with the question of agrarian tenants. Men varying so much as Mr. Carson, Mr. T. W. Russell, and Mr. Courtney had agreed that the position of these tenants was one of danger, and ought to be dealt with.
said, that so much did Mr. Carson say so that his letter to The Times on the subject drew a protest from Earl Grey, who wrote—The object of Mr. Carson's letter is to deny that there is any ground for the idea that the Unionist Party in the House of Commons have adopted a non possumus attitude on the question of the evicted tenants in Ireland and their reinstatement, and have refused all compromise even on the basis of a purely voluntary Act. Those words clearly imply that the Party for which Mr. Carson speaks would have approved of a purely voluntary Act for the reinstatement of those tenants; and if I am not mistaken it is to be inferred that their approval would not have been withheld if the 'voluntary Act' proposed had included the provisions contained in the present Bill for granting public money in aid of the desired reinstatement.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble Lord said Mr. Carson admitted that it was necessary to deal with those evicted tenants. My memory inclines me to doubt very much whether Mr. Carson said that.
said, that what Mr. Carson wrote to The Times was as follows:—I find that notwithstanding Mr. Balfour's very specific statement to the contrary an idea prevails in many quarters that the Unionist Party in the House of Commons have adopted a non possumus attitude on the question of evicted tenants in Ireland and their reinstatement; and have refused all compromise even on the basis of a purely voluntary Act. Any such idea is absolutely without foundation, and has only gained currency from Mr. Courtney's speech.
LORD TWEEDMOUTH (resuming)
said, that a good deal of criticism had been directed to the position of the Arbitrators under the Bill. He always understood that one of the first necessary conditions of arbitration was that the Arbitrators should have a perfectly free hand—that they should be entirely unfettered. Now, he contended that if the action of the Arbitrators under this Bill was to be fettered by strict Rules an arbitration would thereby be instituted which, in its very essence, would be likely to fail. He should like to know whether the Prime Minister could have brought about a settlement between masters and men in the case of the coal strike; or the Home Secretary in the case of the coal strike if he had been fettered by conditions?
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
The noble Lord spoke about bringing the parties together. It is not suggested from the beginning to the end of the Bill.
said, the procedure under the Bill was this: the tenant in the first place stated his case; the Arbitrators had then to decide whether the tenant had made out a bonâ fide case; if they thought so the landlord was asked whether or not he objected to the reinstatement, and if he objected to show cause. The whole question was then gone into; and the Arbitrators were left unfetterred in their action. He believed that if they laid down Rules for the Arbitrators the Bill would be a failure. The noble Duke who spoke early in the Debate—the Duke of Argyll—had asked why the Government had chosen the limit of the year 1879 in the Bill. They had done so for exactly the same reason that the Conservative Government chose 751 1879 in relation to Clause 13 of the Bill of 1891, because that year was an exceptionally bad one in Ireland, when evictions were unusually numerous. He would not go into the long disquisition of the noble Duke on the Land Act of 1881—a disquisition which was introduced in order to give the noble Duke the opportunity of talking about himself, and not on account of any particular relation it bore to the Bill before the House. But the noble Duke said the effect of the Act of 1881 had been to stop any expenditure of rental on the improvement of land. There might be exceptions; but the noble Duke must know that the custom in Ireland was that the whole of the improvements should be carried out by the tenant, and that the landlord should spend no money on them at all.
said, he entirely denied the statement of the noble Lord that the landlords never spend money on their estates. They had spent large sums, and he would not listen to such accusations against Irish landlords.
replied that he stated that there were exceptions, but the general rule with Irish landlords was that they did not spend money on improvements.
said, that if the noble Lord said that it was the general rule for Irish landlords to spend money on the improvement of their land he propounded an altogether new doctrine, and one which would not find acceptance either in that House or with the public outside. The Duke of Argyll also stated that this Bill superseded and did away with the Act of 1881 without putting anything in its place. But the Bill did not touch the Act of 1881 at all; it ran on totally different lines; it dealt with special cases which had arisen since the Act of 1881, and that Act was in no way superseded by the Bill. The two main arguments adduced in support of the demand that their Lordships should reject this Bill was, in the first place, that the House of Commons had not discussed the measure and had been forcibly prevented from discussing it; in the second place, the Bill was a compulsory one. The first argument, he thought, was neither serious nor sincere, for the whole time 752 devoted to the consideration of the Bill in the House of Commons amounted to 59 hours and 50 minutes, or nine Parliamentary days, a considerably longer period than their Lordships were wont to devote to any Bill, however important. But they might have discussed it at much greater length in the House of Commons. For what happened? No proposal to closure the Bill was brought forward till two days had been spent in Committee on the first two lines of the first clause. It was the Opposition which made it perfectly clear that it would be impossible to get the Bill through the other House at all without some such measures as were adopted, and he thought these measures, so far from being on the side of severity, were on the side of leniency. What were those measures? It was proposed by the Government to give five more days to the Committee stage, and one day for the Report stage before the Bill should be closured. But Members of the Opposition preferred to throw up the sponge and to say they would not play. The Government knew there was nothing which the Opposition desired so much in the House of Commons as that the closure should be applied, and that it should be applied in its sharpest and quickest manner. In the first place, men desired to go to the country, to their watering places, to their yachts, and to their grouse moors, and they also wished for the closure in order to give their Lordships the best reason for rejecting this Bill. To say then that a fair opportunity was not given to discuss this Bill in the House of Commons was to say the thing which was not true, a point he was prepared to discuss at any meeting in the country. The second main argument against the Bill was the question of compulsion. He thought a great deal more talk had been made than was necessary with regard to the small measure of compulsion in this Bill. It was not a new principle; it appeared in the Land Acts of 1870, 1881, and 1887. The principle was perhaps adapted to the greatest extent of all in the Act of 1887—passed by a Conservative Government—which absolutely interfered compulsorily with the judicial rents fixed under the Act of 1881. It was said that it was a very hard thing for a landlord to be forced under this Bill to accept a tenant he did not wish to receive. But 753 the Irish landlord had to do it already under the Act of 1881. Under the free sale clause of that Act any person who bought the tenant-right of a farm must be received by the landlord whether lie liked it or not. [Cries of "No!"] Perhaps e had put it in rather too strong a manner. At any rate, the practical effect of the free sale clause of the Act of 1881 asked that a landlord very often had to receive a tenant whom he would rather not receive. It was true that in this case a landlord would be bound to receive back a tenant he had evicted, and whom, perhaps, he did not want to receive back. But the Bill did not do that without giving the landlord any alternative. It should be borne in mind that a landlord to whom application was made under this Bill to reinstate a tenant might require the tenant to purchase his holding. That right appeared to him to constitute a considerable mitigation of the alleged hardship of compulsory reinstatement. He regretted very much the line which was taken in this House with regard to the Bill. He believed their Lordships' House was not the best of tribunals for dealing with such a question as this. They were, in the first place, a House of landlords. A tribunal of one class only, however impartial it desired to be, must almost necessarily be affected by the interest of the particular class to which it belonged. He did not think there was any offence to anybody in saying that was his view. He believed this House had a still further disqualification in dealing with this question. In their Lordships' House they were free from feeling any of the influences which were brought to bear on the Members of the other House by the general mass of the electors. It might be for good, or it might be for evil, but after all, the Government of the country was in the bauds of the electors, who had been successively enfranchised, and he thought it was a dangerous thing for a body of men to decide questions regarding Ireland who were not in constant daily contact with the mass of the electors of the country. It might be said that he was taking a Whip's view, which was supposed to be the view of a man who cared nothing for the means he employed, but thought only of the end. That might have been the case with a former generation, but it was not so now. In the old 754 days Whips had great patronage, and had great sums of money, including the £10,000 for secret service, at their command. In these days the Whips had no patronage to bestow, and with regard to money, the other side might have largo sums of money at their command, but he could answer for it that the Liberal Whips had none. In his opinion, no man could successfully fulfil the duties of the position which he had once the honour to fulfil in the other House, unless he realised the true inwardness of the subjects to be dealt with by his Party from time to time. He had enjoyed very exceptional and unusual opportunities, therefore, for testing the opinion of the country, not only through Members of Parliament, but through the opinions of all conditions of men throughout the country; and he deliberately told their Lordships that, in his judgment, in rejecting this Bill they were making a great mistake, and a mistake which they would live to rue.
§ Moved, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(The Duke of Devonshire.)
§ Motion agreed to; further Debate adjourned till To-morrow.