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1860]

THE LAND ACTS OF 1860

459

improvements; scarcely a single tenant took advantage of the compensation clauses; and the number of leases continued steadily to decrease. Landlords and tenants alike were deterred by the necessity for having judicial sanction at almost every step. The second Act made the tenant's position worse than before. “Every improvement in the real property law," says Professor Richey, “has been injurious to the tenants; to a man in possession, a defendant in ejection, no system of law is so advantageous as one hopelessly entangled and incomprehensible."i The legisla

1 tion of 1860 carried a stage further the process of improving away the tenant's safeguards, which had steadily been going on since 1816. Reporting in 1866 on the causes of failure, Dr. Hancock said that the simplification of procedure in regard to recovery of possession diminished the tenant's security for compensation, as formerly compensation was often given in order to avoid legal proceedings. It has been said that the Acts were passed in the tenant's, rather than in the landlord's, interest; but, whether this was so or not, it is remarkable that almost the only important alteration in the law which really worked was that which practically increased the landlord's power.

The evils which were stirring up the land war in Ireland had not been so much as touched. The first Act came into operation on November 2, 1860; the second on January 1, 1861. On November 20, 1860, began the notorious evictions on the Partry estate of Lord Plunket, the Bishop of Tuam, which the Tiines described as "a hideous scandal,” reminding one of “a closed drain or some other nuisance." Most people believed, though Lord Plunket denied it, that the tenants were evicted because they refused to send their children to the Irish Church Society's School; and nothing in the Acts of 1860 would have prevented such an exercise of a landlord's power. Equally legal and equally harsh were the evictions carried out by Mr. Adair at Derryveagh, in Donegal, commonly referred to as the Glenveagh evictions, which divided the general indignation with those of Lord Plunket.

" Twenty1 - The Irish Land Laws," p. 44.

eight houses were unroofed or levelled; 46 houses evicted; 47 families, comprising 37 husbands, 35 wives, 159 children, 13 other inmates, making a total of 244 persons." That was the official report as quoted in the House of Commons in 1861. What was the reason in this case ? Mr. Adair's manager was murdered one November night in 1860, and the murderer could not be found. On the supposition that he lived in the district, against which there was at least a strong presumption, the district was cleared. Mr. Adair acted on a principle sanctioned about a year before by Lord Derby himself. A murder had been committed on his estates at Doon, county Limerick. The murderer could not be found. Lord Derby served notices to quit on eight or nine tenants near the place of the crime, and defended his action on the ground that “it is the duty of a landlord, if he has reason to believe that persons on his property are conniving at the suppression of evidence or the concealment of facts with respect to a brutal murder—not, indeed, to punish the innocent for the guilty; but to say to those persons, 'You and 1-you standing under this grave suspicion, and I being responsible for the interests and happiness of the district--you and I shall not hereafter stand in the relation of landlord and tenant.'”2 Public remonstrance prevented Lord Derby from carrying out his threat. But so far as the law was concerned, he might have done as Mr. Adair did.

We have not to search far in order to discover why the legislation of 1860 failed. It was never intended to deal with such cases as we have referred to. It was, in short, an elaborate attempt to accomplish an impossibility, namely, to meet the grievances of tenants without sensibly diminishing the rights of landlords. It was even a backward step. It conceded less than had been admitted in the Derby, the Newcastle, and the Napier Bills. It was based on a more rigid doctrine of the right of property in land, and showed less consideration for the facts of the Irish

· The previous history of Mr. Adair's relations with his tenants, and the details of the evictions, will be found related in Mr. Sullivan's “New Ireland.”

2 Speech at Liverpool, Times, October 31, 1859.

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1865]

CASES OF OPPRESSION

461

tenants' position. The one clear good that it effected was to show the hopelessness of settling the question on the principle that a landlord can do as he pleases with his land.

This was a lesson which had to be taught by other methods than Parliamentary argument.

From 1860 to 1865 things were allowed to drift, Parliament occupying itself more with the affairs of Italy and the misgovernment of Poland than with the condition of Irish peasants. Yet in Ireland it was an anxious and critical time. A series of adverse seasons, beginning in 1859, gave a sudden check to the steady though slow progress which had been made since the famine, and straightway the old misery and discontent returned. Agrarian crime broke out with renewed violence, employment grew scarce, and the number of emigrants rapidly increased. Excessive rain brought back the potato blight, and the people had to endure great hardships for the want of fuel. It was said that half the inhabitants in the barony of Erris, county Mayo, had not enough to eat. Cases were quoted where whole families stopped in bed all day to allay the cravings of hunger. Coroners' juries returned verdicts of death from want. Famine-fever, and other diseases caused by unwholesome food, again appeared, as in 1847 and 1848. Nor was it alone the poorest class who were affected by the prevailing distress. Many small farmers, who in the good seasons had paid their rents with regularity, were now obliged to borrow in order to procure the simplest necessaries, and thought themselves fortunate if, with the assistance of relatives in America, they could find means of quitting the country. Even if we allow for much exaggeration, it is evident that great distress existed, and that in parts of the west the people were living on the verge of famine.

In 1862 the conditions of poor relief were made somewhat less stringent by an Act passed in accordance with the recommendations of a committee appointed in the previous year to inquire into the Irish poor law system. The

1 See reports of poor law inspectors on the condition of the poor in Roscommon, Sligo, Galway, and Mayo (1862) ; and correspondence relating to the Skibbereen and Castletown Unions (1862).

most important change consisted in a modification of the “quarter-acre" clause. The Bill originally provided for the simple repeal of the clause, but the House of Lords decided that it should still be maintained as regards out-door relief.1 Believing that the poor law could now cope with the distress, the Government washed their hands of responsibility. The existence of any real grievances which Parliament could redress was strenuously denied. The Acts of 1860, indeed, had admittedly failed; but to go further in the way of concession to the tenants would be simply to legalise robbery. Though Lord Palmerston's ministry were not greatly occupied with the matter, their evident opinion was that politically the land question had been settled. As for the Church, which had so long been left undisturbed, an attack was at length made in 1863 by Mr. Dillwyn and Mr. Bernal Osborne; but it led to nothing—not even to an inquiry. The then Irish Secretary pledged the Government to an uncompromising defence of the establishment. "I shall be found," he said, “ay, and acting under the advice and guidance of the noble lord at the head of the Government,-I shall be found contending on behalf of those principles which for two centuries have ever been—and God grant they may long continue to be!—the centre of loyalty to the throne, and the bulwark of civil and religious liberty." 2

1 On the defects in the law which the Act of 1862 failed to remedy, see A Comparison between the English and Irish Poor Laws with respect to the Conditions of Relief,” by J. K. Ingram, LL.D. (Journal of Statistical Society of Ireland, May 1864).

? Hansard, June 29, 1863.

FENIANISM

In respect of both the great Irish grievances, the Church and the land, it needed a violent revolt to change the current of English opinion. Since 1858 that revolt had been in preparation.

For ten yearsa fter the Young Ireland trials the cause of Irish nationality seemed to have been abandoned. So secure did the Government feel, that in 1854 a pardon was granted to Mr. John Martin, Mr. Smith O'Brien, and Mr. O'Doherty on condition of not returning to Ireland, and in 1856 the pardon was made unconditional. But disaffection had not died out, as was plainly shown by the strong anti-English feeling excited during the Crimean War. Especially in the small towns, whose prosperity was declining, a state of unrest prevailed. They were filled with men and women from the country districts, who had been unable to emigrate, and whose own misfortunes made them ready listeners to denunciations of English rule. Meanwhile Stephens and O'Mahony were plotting in Paris, and keeping up communication with friends in Ireland. The first step was taken in 1858. Stephens went to Ireland, and O'Mahony to America. In the little town of Skibbereen, a club, called the Phoenix National and Literary Society, had recently been started by a number of young men, of whom the most prominent was Jeremiah Donovan, afterwards known as O'Donovan Rossa. Excited by Stephens, who visited the place in May 1858, and who won them over by promises of American support, and by pointing out the favourable opportunity which the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny had given to Ireland, the members of the, Phenix Society set about

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