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to the tenants, who might leave three-fourths of the purchase-money on mortgage at four per cent. The ordinary tenants of the Church numbered 8432, and of these up to November 1, 1880, 6057 had become owners of their holdings at an average price of 22 years' purchase. They have repaid their loans with remarkable regularity, and the change in their position has been observed to produce an immediate improvement in point of contentment and industry. In 1881 the powers and property of the commissioners were transferred to the Irish Land Commission. Having concluded their labours, the commissioners gave striking testimony to the ability with which the Act of 1869 had been framed. “It might have been expected,” they said, “that in administering a measure so intricate, and which dealt with such a variety of interests, we should have discovered many omissions, and that cases would have constantly arisen that were unprovided for in its clauses. Without asserting that there were no such cases, we can state they were extraordinarily few in number, and that the skill and foresight with which the statute was drawn up were very striking as it came to be practically carried out.'

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i See a detailed account of the administration of the Act in Thom's Directory (1888), pp. 641-644. On the reorganisation of the Church and the internal dissensions to which it gave rise, see “ Letters and Memorials of Archbishop Trench” (1888), vol. ii. pp. 102 et seq.

2 “Report of Church Temporalities Commission for 1880," p. 20.


THE land question, bristling with even greater difficulties than that of the Church, had next to be faced. Certain aspects of the land grievance have already presented themselves, but we have hitherto seen merely the surface. Let us now look more closely at the position of a typical tenant, with a holding of fifteen acres, more or less. He was probably born on the land. He or his fathers had reclaimed it from bog and waste, had built the wretched homestead, and had made the rude fence. It was he, and not his landlord, who had brought the soil into cultivation; for, as the Duke of Newcastle happily expressed it, "in England and Scotland the landlords let farms; in Ireland they only let land."1 He and his family tilled the land, very rarely with any outside assistance, so that we might fairly place him in the class of labourers rather than in that of farmers. His rent was almost always in arrear; in fact, he had probably agreed to pay more than the condition of the land warranted because he knew that punctual payments were scarcely expected. To all appearance, and very likely in truth, he was a man without capital beyond what he may have sunk in purchasing the goodwill of his holding. If he accumulated a little store, he did not dream of expending it on the land, but hoarded it up.

1 Compare the interesting sketch of a representative Irish farmer in Brodrick, “The Irish Land Question, Past and Present," pp. 29 et seq. That, in spite of the great clearances, Ireland was still a country of small holdings is shown by the following table :


I acre and


I to 5 acres.

5 to 15 acres.

15 to 30 acres. Over 30 acres.

1841 1851 1861 1871





48,625 149,090 157,833 159,303

On these figures we may remark: 1. The change in Irish holdings was nearly completed in 1851. 2. The increase in the larger holdings took place, not by the introduction of a new class of farmers, but by annexing a vacant holding to another holding near it. “A ten-acre farmer has been converted into one of twenty acres by the Procrustean device of stretching him ” (Mr. Dalton in reply to Lord Dufferin : quoted in Butt, “ The Irish People and the Irish Land," p. 134). 3. The ill success of the attempts to cultivate larger farms with the capital of smaller farms may explain why, after 1851, the process of consolidation did not go further. " An examination of counties that may fairly be compared," said the Times correspondent in 1869, “ shows that the resources of Ireland have increased most where the small-farm system has not been invaded, and that they have increased less where there

an effort to introduce hastily the large-farm system " (O'Connor Morris, “ Letters on the Land Question of Ireland,” p. 286).

" As soon as the poor tenant has brought his farm to that degree of fertility which enables him to pay a rent and live, all further improvement is studiously avoided, as a thing which the tenant believes will only increase his labour to produce a larger rent for the sole benefit of the landlord, whom he regards as a vigilant spy upon every symptom of ability to pay more rent. ... He therefore avoids every exhibition of prosperity and comfort, in his dwelling, in his dress, and in the condition of his wife and children. He believes that his safety lies in the deplorable appearance of his hovel, his family, and his rags. This feeling is not

1 Hansard, August 9, 1851. On this point the classical passage is in the Devon Report : “It is admitted on all hands that, according to the general practice in Ireland, the landlord builds neither dwelling-house nor farm-offices, nor puts fences, gates, etc., into good order, before he lets his land to a tenant. The cases in which a landlord does any of those things are the exceptions. The system, however, of giving aid in these matters is becoming more prevalent. In most cases, whatever is done in the way of building is done by the tenant, and, in the ordinary language of the country, dwelling.houses, farm buildings, and even the making of fences, are described by the general word 'improvements,' which is thus employed to denote the necessary adjuncts to a farm, without which, in England or Scotland, no tenant would be found to rent it" ("Digest,” p. 1123). When the system of giving aid became more prevalent, the landlord generally charged five per cent. on his advance, and added it to the rent. For building the landlord often gave the slates and timber (see “Reports from Poor Law Inspectors on the Relations between Landlord and Tenant," 1870).




confined to the poor reclaimers of bog and mountain; it pervades the great majority of tenants from year to year of all the land so held in the country.” 1

In the eye of the law, the landlord had virtually absolute dominion over the land. The tenants had no security that they would be left in undisturbed possession. It was wholly at his discretion whether they should stay or go. The law required, indeed, that he should not remove them save in certain prescribed ways; but the tendency of land legislation for Ireland had been to facilitate and cheapen the process of removal, and some of the restrictions were capable of easy evasion. Thus the old rule that a tenant from year to year, not holding under a written agreement, could not be evicted for non-payment of rent without a sixmonths' notice to quit expiring with his year of tenancy, was got over by the device of an annual notice to quit.? That the tenant had improved his holding was not material, and the landlord was not bound to recognise any claim on that account. He might have looked on and given no warning while his tenant expended time and money on the land; he could still appropriate the result. For the land was his, and all that adhered to it was his. Quidquid plantatur solo, solo cedit, or, in Mr. Shee's happy translation, “Tenants' improvements are landlords' perquisites.” Therefore, so far as the law was concerned, the landlord was lord and master, and his tenants were dependent on his fortunes and personal character. He might add the obligations of decency and honour to those of law; but, on the other hand, he might make his legal rights terrible weapons of tyranny, selfishness, and bigotry.

i Fitzgibbon, “ Land Difficulty of Ireland,” p. 28. Mr. Cotter Morison, in “ Irish Grievances,” p. 43, says, One of the most distinguished of the scientific men of Ireland recently told me the following anecdote : Seeing a farmer whom he knew to be not without means clad in the most shabby and tattered garments, he asked him the reason. •Sure,' said the other, 'the last new coat cost me 2s. 6d. an acre more rent.'”

2 See Devon Commission Digest, chap. XX. On many estates every yearly tenant was regularly served with a notice. Even after the law was changed, the practice was not abandoned. As late as 1870 the whole body of Lord Leitrim's tenantry were said to be served every April with notices to quit (“ Report of Poor Law Inspectors,” etc., p. 15).

3 The English Law was not different, but it was applied in wholly different circumstances. It would not be easy to parallel on an English estate the case of OʻFay v. Burke (8 Ir. Ch. Rep., pp. 225 and 511), a case in which the Master of the Rolls expressed his regret that he was compelled by law to administer injustice; or the story of the demolition of Kilkee by the Marquis of Conyngham. The story is well told in a pamphlet entitled “Tenant Wrong illustrated in a Nutshell" (1867), by the Rev. Sylvester Malone ; and the accuracy of Mr. Malone's account is confirmed by the criticism of the Marquis of Conyngham on some points of detail (see Mill's “ England and Ireland,” 3rd edit. p. 8).

Over nearly the whole of Ulster, and in a much weaker and less definite form in the rest of Ireland, prevailed a custom of tenant-right which mitigated the harshness of the law. The essential features of Ulster tenant-right 1 were two: first, that so long as the tenant kept to the conditions of his tenancy and paid his rent, he should be left in undisturbed possession : and, second, that on giving up possession, whether voluntarily or through inability to pay the rent, he should be entitled to sell his interest in the holding. The landlord might periodically revise the rent, though a rack-rent by extinguishing the tenant's saleable interest would have been a breach of the custom; he might refuse, but only on reasonable grounds, to accept the proposed new tenant; and when he himself took over the farm, he had to buy the tenant-right at a fair value. All arrears of rent due by the outgoing tenant were deducted from the price of the tenant-right. The custom varied on different estates. On some there was practically free sale; on others the price was regulated by the landlord, either at so much per acre or at so many years' purchase. In Londonderry it is said to have varied from five to twenty years' rent, or £6 to £24 the Irish acre; in Antrim and Down, to have been seven or eight years' rent, or from £30 to £40 the Irish acre. Cases were known where it sold for seventy or eighty years' purchase. Over the whole province the tenant-right was estimated to have a selling value of £20,000,000. Yet this valuable form of property was absolutely unprotected by law. Unlike so many English

1 In addition to the account of the custom in the Devon Report, see Judge Longfeld's Essay in the Cobden Club volume on “Systems of Land Tenure," chap. vi. ; Dufferin, “Irish Emigration and Land Tenure," p. 308 ; Donnell, “Land Reports :” introduction ; Richey, “ Irish Land Laws,” p. 100 ; Barry O'Brien, “ Parliamentary History of the Irish Land Question," p. 131.

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