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Ireland. He sympathises with the tenant, and sees the gravity of the case. “The question," he says, “will require a statesman, when there is one to spare." But he is plainly speaking on a subject to which Englishmen were paying little heed.

The future of the question, however, depended not so much on the will of the landlords at Westminster as on the conduct of the landlords in Ireland, the less worthy of whom were doing a more effectual service to the cause of tenant-right than the league itself. Individual cases of injustice, indeed, or even a general knowledge that the absence of security prevented Irish tenants from improving their position, would not have sufficed to produce any change in the Irish policy of English Governments. The answer was always ready that English tenants prospered under land laws almost the same as those of Ireland, and that consequently the people, and not the laws, were in fault. It was an insufficient and inaccurate answer, ignoring the manner in which the law had been made and administered in the interest of the Irish landlord, the different circumstances of the tenantry in the two countries, and the different part which landlords took in cultivation; but at the time of which we are speaking it satisfied English politicians. What did impel them to attend to Irish grievances was not the hardships of the tenants, but considerations of social order. Year by year, amid congratulations on the general tranquillity of the country—it is now “one of the most tranquil countries in Europe," said the Marquis of Clanricarde in 1860—the presence of a shadow was always felt. The existence of Ribbonism furnished the only ground on which ministers justified the renewal of the Peace Preservation Act. Now, whatever may have been its nature formerly, Ribbonism had become at this time almost purely agrarian. “There is nothing political or religious," says Mr. Senior, in the journal of his last visit to Ireland, “... in the Ribbon code. It is simply agrarian. It recognises the obligation on the part of the tenant to pay rent, but no other obligation. It

· Letters of a Representative to his Constituents, letter xlv.

1860]

LAND GRIEVANCES AND RIBBONISM

455

"I 2

resents all interference by the landlord in the use of the land."1 He quotes the opinion of Mr. Stuart Trench, who for the best part of his life had been a land agent, as to the contrast between English and Irish crime. “The Irishman,” said Mr. Trench, "murders patriotically. He murders to assert and enforce a principle—that the land which the peasant has reclaimed from the bog, the cabin which he has built, and the trees which he has planted, are his own, subject to the landlord's right by law to exact a rent for the result of another man's labours. In general he pays the rent, generally he exerts himself to pay it, even when the payment is difficult to him; but he resolves not to be dispossessed. He joins a Ribbon lodge, and opposes to the combination of the rich the combination of the poor.' Mr. Trench loved exaggerated effects, as every one knows who has read his “ Realities of Irish Life," and when he speaks of a patriotic element in Ribbon crimes his words must not be pressed. Nevertheless, it is true that these outrages, however brutal and cowardly, were not quite of the lowest form of crime. The victim received at least the form of a judicial trial—he was sentenced, and members of the lodge were deputed to carry the sentence into effect. In nearly every case the offence related to land; a landlord had evicted a tenant, or a farmer had taken land from which a tenant had been evicted. With all their baseness there was thus what may be called a public side to the agrarian crimes of these otherwise tranquil years, and the peasants, in sheltering the criminals, recognised this fact. Though the Crime and Outrage Act of 1848 had been renewed from year to year, and still existed, substantially unmodified, under the title of the Peace Preservation Act, the law had hitherto utterly failed to crush out this widespread conspiracy, simply because in Ribbon districts the popular sympathy was with the criminal, and not with the law. In 1859, over the whole of Ireland, fifty-three persons

1 “Journals, etc., relating to Ireland,” vol. ii. p. 214.

? Quoted in Barry O'Brien, “Fifty Years of Concessions to Ireland," vol. ii. p. 265. On the preponderance in Ireland compared with other countries of "exemplary or preventive" crimes over those committed from merely personal motives, see Cornewall Lewis, “ Irish Disturbances," chap. iii.

were acquitted out of every hundred committed for trial, while in England and Scotland the percentage was only twenty-five. Of every one of the agrarian murders it was believed and asserted, and it was probably true, that the people of the district knew the murderer perfectly well. Trial by jury is a weak instrument in such cases, and strong proposals were made for amending the system. In a series of letters on the state of Ireland published in 1856 we find this bold suggestion: "In all cases of Ribbon trials, where murder has taken place, either Roman Catholics should be by law excluded, on the ground of their sympathy going to screen their co-religionists on trial for murder; or, in case they wish to be on the trial of Ribbonmen, for the murder of Protestants, let the verdict of the majority be taken, instead of the unanimous verdict which is now required by the law.”i By such foolish plans for raising the percentage of convictions was the real meaning of the immunity of Ribbon murderers obscured. In a country where the calendar of general crime was exceptionally light, the popular condemnation of crime meant that, barbarous as the Ribbon code may have been, it dealt with a real injustice in the land system of Ireland.

The peace of Ireland did not suffer from Ribbonism alone. The town of Belfast was the frequent scene of scandalous riots caused by the savage intolerance of the Orange Society. So dangerous to the peace of the country did this organisation appear, that in 1857 Lord Chancellor Brady, in a letter to Lord Londonderry, gave notice that for the future he should require from every person holding the commission of the peace an assurance that he was not, and would not while he held the commission become, a member of the society. His bold declaration raised a storm of indignation ; but it seemed for a time as if the Government would stand firm and support him. Early in 1858 a deputation of Irish Conservatives, introduced by Mr. (afterwards Lord) Cairns, waited on Lord Palmerston to present a memorial of protest against the chancellor's

1 “The Highlands of Cavan," by a Looker-on, p. 271. The adoption of the Scotch jury system had frequently been pressed upon the Government.

1860]

RIBBONISM AND ORANGEISM

457

declaration, and were met with words of chilling discouragement. Lord Palmerston was at a loss to understand the use of the association, and gave his opinion that nothing could be more desirable for the real interests of Ireland than its complete abandonment. There the matter ended. The Brady letter led to nothing, in spite of the fact that the ministry entirely agreed with it. Many people in Ireland asked whether their action would have been the same if Limerick instead of Belfast had been the scene of religious outrages, and a Catholic priest had played the part of the Rev. Dr. Hanna. The truth was that for political reasons no English Government had the courage to declare open war on Orangeism. But the agrarian discontent of which

bbonism was the outcome could not safely be neglected. Feeling this, the ministry of Lord Palmerston, which took office in the summer of 1859, determined that something must be done to place the law of landlord and tenant on a better footing. In the following year they introduced two very imposing measures, which, in spite of a good deal of opposition, they succeeded in carrying through Parliament. The first of these, the Landed Property (Ireland) Improvement Act, dealt with the existing restrictions on the powers of limited owners, and with the improvements effected by certain classes of tenants upon their holdings. Subject to judicial sanction, limited owners were enabled to charge the inheritance with the cost of specified improvements, and to bind their successors by leases for specified periods. Simple agricultural leases for a term not exceeding twenty-one years could be given by the limited owner without judicial intervention, but every improvement lease required the sanction of the chairman of the county in which the lands were situated. To tenants who should carry out certain specified improvements on their holdings, the right to compensation was granted, either in the form of continued possession or of an annuity charged on the land; provided that before improving there had been an agreement with the landlord, or that the tenant had given notice of his intention, and the landlord had not within three months notified his disapproval. His disapproval excluded all right to compensation. In both cases the sanction of the chairman of the county was required. An amendment had been strongly pressed by which an appeal would have been given from the landlord to the chairman, as had been provided for in Lord Stanley's Act of 1845, in Lord Lincoln's of 1846, in Sir W. Somerville's of 1850, and in Mr. Napier's of 1852. Mr. Monsell (afterwards Lord Emly), Mr. Butt, Lord Fermoy, and others, urged that without such a restraint on the exercise of the landlord's power the Bill would be good for nothing. Mr. Conolly, an Irish landlord himself, said that "he would compel the landlord in certain cases to make improvements. He knew there were landlords who would prefer to sit down with their hands in their pockets, and very little else in their pockets besides their hands, rather than comply with the just requirements of the tenants." But the amendment was negatived by 192 to 48. The principle of retrospective compensation, of course, was not admitted.

1 Before the commission of inquiry into the Belfast riots of 1857, Dr. Hanna was questioned as to open-air preaching: “And would you consider it your duty to preach when you believe riot would ensue?-I would, sir. Our most valuable rights have been obtained by conflict; and if we cannot main. tain them without that, we must submit to the necessity” (Q. 7904).

The second Act, the Landlord and Tenant Law Amendment Act (Ireland), consolidated and amended the law. Like the corresponding Napier Bill, on which it was modelled, it declared that the relation should be deemed to be founded on the express or implied contract of the parties, and not upon tenure or service. It cleared away a great number of inconvenient rules concerning the assignment of tenancies. It confined the remedy of distress to the recovery of the rent of the last preceding year. In various ways it also simplified'and rendered less costly the process of ejectment.

Few Acts have ever more completely failed. Scarcely a single landlord applied for judicial sanction to projected

1 Hansard, June 29, 1860.

2 One of the most important changes was in requiring the writ in ejectments for non-payment of rent to be served only on the persons in actual possession of the lands as tenants or sub-tenants (sect. 55). In De Moleyns's “Landowner's and Agent's Practical Guide,” the Act will be found set out with the changes in the law noted in the margin.

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