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encourage dishonesty. “The leading principle of this Bill,” said Lord Palmerston of the moderate proposal of 1858, “is to transfer the property of one set of persons to another and a different class." Permit this laxity in regard to land, and what kind of property would be secure? Concede the rights of tenants in Ireland, and how can you resist a similar claim when made by tenants in England ? It was natural that, seeing things in this light, English landlords should make the cause of Irish landlords their own. Nothing, indeed, is more evident (and it is an instructive fact) than that the real strength of the opposition to the various tenant-right measures was in England, not in Ireland. It was men whose experience was confined to the English agricultural system who urged most strongly that the tenants' claims were incompatible with the rights of ownership. They refused to recognise that Irish experience had already settled the point. To the Irish mind there was no incompatibility; the only question was whether it had become necessary for the State to interfere on behalf of the tenant."

But the fears or the prejudices of the landlords were not the only obstacles in the tenants' way. Men of business joined the landlords in condemning a policy which apparently conflicted with the principles of free trade, asserting that it was as mischievous to protect a tenant against his landlord as to protect both against foreign competitors. Political economy, though the greatest political economist of the time thought differently, thus seemed to confirm the landlord instinct. The Whigs, who found, in the financial debates of 1860 and 1861, that the battlefield of free trade had not yet been finally won, took this high ground of principle in opposing all forms of tenant-right. The straitest school of Radicals, free from

1“ The landlords themselves meet you, not by asserting their right to do what they will with their own, but by saying that they never do evict without satisfying the tenant. In short, I find that whatever a man may be, landlord or no landlord, if he is only an Irishman, there is no difficulty in fairly discussing the question with him. It is not in him to scout the tenants' claim as utterly monstrous and unreasonable” (“The Irish Land,” by Sir George Campbell, p. 103).

1870] ENGLISH OPPOSITION TO TENANT-RIGHT 495 the emotional influence which made Mr. Bright champion the Irish cause, saw the matter very much in the same light, and believed that half the evils of Ireland were due to the bad business arrangements between landlords and tenants. “They must trust in Ireland to private bargaining,” said Mr. Joseph Hume, "and the only practicable tenant-right would be in passing laws to remove every impediment which precluded fair and equal dealing between landlord and tenant.” It is indeed a noteworthy, though not a surprising, fact that the Tory party, in which the landed interest was so strong, had all along been much more inclined than their opponents to treat the tenants' claims in a sympathetic spirit. Lord Derby, who on one occasion confessed that he had “burnt his fingers with tenant-right," was frequently denounced for playing with revolutionary ideas. In 1859 the Saturday Review declared that “Derbyism has ever since 1846 been in more or less friendly association with the communists of the Irish Tenant-Right League," and there is no doubt that in some degree the leaders of the Tory party deserved the credit of the reproach. It was natural that the old defenders of protection should be thus less rigid than the new advocates of free trade. They certainly believed tenant-right to be landlord wrong, but they were little hampered by economical scruples, and could hardly feel that the tenants' claims were any the worse for apparently conflicting with free-trade principles. Except in 1852, however, if even then, their leaders never took any serious interest in the subject.


1 Shee, “ Papers, Letters, and Speeches on the Irish Land Question,"

p. 210.




The failure of the legislation in 1860 and the increasing distress in Ireland opened the whole question. Mr. Maguire succeeded in getting a select committee appointed to inquire into the working of the Improvement Act of 1860. Very valuable evidence, to which we have already referred, was given on the position and prospects of Irish tenants; all the more valuable because no witness was examined who held extreme views on either side of the question. The weight of evidence was distinctly in favour of strong legislation in the tenants' interest, not one of the six witnesses maintaining that things could be left as they were; but the committee decided otherwise. They reported that, though certain modifications in detail were expedient, "the principle of the Act of 1860. . . . that compensation to tenants should only be secured upon the improvements made with the consent of the landlord, should be maintained." Further evidence was collected by a committee of the House of Lords, appointed in 1867 to report on a Bill introduced by Lord Clanricarde, the aim of which was to encourage voluntary contracts between landlords and tenants. Meanwhile both a Liberal and a Conservative Government had attempted a settlement. In 1866 Mr. Chichester Fortescue introduced a Bill by which tenants not holding under existing leases would have been entitled to compensation for specified improvements in cases where the improvements were not prohibited by a written agreement between the parties. In 1867 Lord Naas produced another scheme, of which the chief feature was that the tenant might submit his plans of improvement to a public commissioner; if the 1870]



commissioner approved them, they could be carried out, notwithstanding the landlord's dissent. These measures went a long way beyond the Act of 1860, and involved principles which in 1860 had been strongly opposed. But they had come too late. They were the last attempts, as Mr. Butt said, "to remedy the most flagrant evils of the insecurity of tenure without interfering with the landlord's absolute dominion." 1

The question was now not whether the landlord's rights should be restricted by law, but what the restrictions should be. Innumerable plans were suggested. Mr. Butt, for instance, proposed that occupiers of agricultural tenements should be entitled to hold for a term of sixty-three years at a fair rent, to be fixed by the chairman of the Civil Bill Court, the landlord having full power of eviction on nonpayment, and being entitled to prohibit sub-letting. Judge Longfield's scheme would have given to Irish tenants power to purchase a parliamentary tenant-right at a definite price, based upon the rent of their holdings; the landlord of a parliamentary tenant would then be restrained from evicting, except for breach of covenant or non-payment of rent, and if the rent were raised the tenant would be entitled to surrender his holding, and to receive from his landlord the value of his tenant-right. In addition to such proposals for the protection of tenants, the creation of a farmer proprietary began to excite considerable attention. We do not dwell upon these and other schemes except to note that it had become almost a commonplace of the subject that a satisfactory measure must be retrospective. No one, from


1 “The Irish People and the Irish Land," p. 220.

Fixity of Tenure; Heads of a Suggested Legislative Enactment, etc.," (1866). Mr. Butt intended his plan to be temporary; as soon as an independent tenantry could be created, freedom of contract was to prevail.

" Systems of Land Tenure," chaps. vi., xiii. ; and see Professor Cairnes's exposition of the scheme in Barry O'Brien, “ Parliamentary History of the Irish Land Question,” p. 196. A strong feeling existed that the Longfield scheme did not receive sufficient consideration ; its advocates claimed for it the merit of giving security to the tenant with the least possible disturbance of Irish ideas.

3 66


4 " In considering the question of tenants' improvements, it appears to me that a satisfactory settlement for the past is even a greater desideratum than the most favourable arrangement for the future” (Dufferin, “Irish Emigration and Land Tenure," p. 271). Lord Dufferin, it should be noted, was ready to reverse the presumption of law that what is affixed to the soil belongs to the landlord (p. 256).


reading the debates of 1870, could imagine what an outcry used to be raised against the retrospective clause in the Bills of the Tenant League.

So rapidly had opinion ripened that Mr. Gladstone's Bill, though it underwent some important alterations, passed through Parliament without meeting any very serious opposition. The Land Act of 1870 has often been called a revolutionary measure, and yet nothing is more remarkable than the care with which it was laid on Conservative lines. “In appearance," as Professor Richey said, “it gave the tenants new rights, nor in anywise deprived the landlord of any; but attempted to effect its object in a circuitous manner by affixing what was essentially a penalty to the exercise of rights which it admitted to be legal."i In this attempt can be found the chief cause of the failure of the Act, though it must be remembered that the application of a bolder and more direct method would certainly have resulted in the rejection of the measure by the House of Lords. The leading provisions may be shortly summarised. The Act gave legal force to the Ulster custom and to similar usages prevailing in the other provinces, but did not by definition or otherwise establish uniformity of tenant-right. Customary tenants might elect to renounce the custom and claim the new statutory rights, but this meant descending to a much less favourable position.

A noncustomary tenant, when disturbed in his holding, could claim by way of compensation or damages a sum not exceeding so many years' rent, the number of years varying inversely with the Government valuation of the holding, and the sum in no case exceeding £250. Ejectment for non-payment of rent was not to be deemed a disturbance, except in cases where more than three years' rent had been allowed to fall into arrear, or in the case of tenancies the

1 « The Irish Land Laws," p. 64.

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