페이지 이미지

I cannot remember a case in which so many gentlemen, governed by the simple motives of patriotism and philanthropy, have devoted their time, thought, and attainments, not to recommend the narrow views of a section, or a party, but to elucidate and clear up the real difficulties of the case. Members of the Bar, to whose name the title of 'learned' is not a mere formal appendage; men versed in historic knowledge; men foremost in professional skill and in the knowledge of the principles of agriculture; Members of this House too, I am glad to say, some who were with us in times past, and some who are here to aid us now—gentlemen whose names it might be invidious to enumerate lest I should by chance be guilty of any omission;—have rendered us by the results of their inquiries the most valuable assistance. And I think I may say that no part of the studies which they have made known to the public has escaped our careful scrutiny and consideration." He next referred to what he termed the " prepossessions adverse to the character of the Irish people" which still prevailed in England—their Celtic origin—the relics of conquest—and the absenteeism of landlords. He then proceeded to discuss in detail the evidence of the " present sensitiveness of Ireland, and recent tendency to an increase of Agrarian crime," attributing it, so far as that evidence was conclusive, to recent diminution in the progress of Irish prosperity, to evictions, and to the transference of land from tillage to pasture. "But then" he added, "it is also said, and not unreasonably, nay, with perfect truth so far as the literal sense of the proposition is concerned—you have legislated in favour of Ireland for a century, and yet the people of that country are not, after all, content." He showed how the Act of 1793 giving the franchise to Roman Catholics induced the creation of 40*. freeholds—and how the abolition of the 40*. franchise in 1829 partly introduced, and beyond all doubt if it did not introduce vastly extended, the mischief, and perhaps, under the circumstances of Ireland, the still greater mischief, of mere yearly tenancy. "Then came the Act which was passed, I think, in 1849 or 1850, called the Encumbered Estates Act, which has since passed into the Act for dealing with the sale of landed estates. Well, sir, what was done by that Act? It had a most benevolent object; it was intended to introduce capital into Ireland, to relieve impoverished proprietors of that country from that which was to them not a privilege but a burden—the possession of land which they could not rightly use or manage—and to transfer it into the hands of a more vigorous and opulent race of proprietors, with a view to the development of the riches of the soil. In that Act also, however, there was contained one fatal oversight, so grievous in its operation that it is doubtful at this moment whether Ireland, on the whole, is better or worse for that Act. In 1845 the Commission of Lord Devon and the Government of Sir Robert Peel had recognized the right of the tenant to be invested with a title to improvements. Although the older landlords of Ireland sometimes, no doubt, may have improperly increased the rent, and compelled the tenant to pay an increased amount in respect to the value which he had himself added to the soil, yet in many cases they made no such extortion. The improvements were not theirs in a moral or equitable point of view, and they did not exact a price for them. But when these properties came into the Encumbered Estates Court they sold the estates precisely as they were. The purchasers bought them as they were, and no distinction was drawn between the soil itself and the improvements made by the tenant. So that the improvements were sold to persons who gave a price for them; sold away from the tenant to whom they ought to have belonged; and the price was paid to the outgoing landlord, who, undoubtedly, ought not to have been entitled to claim the property in them, and would not have been so entitled if the legislation recommended in 1845 had been adopted. Every one of these measures, all of them beneficently intended and for other purposes operating beneficently—the Act of 1793, the Act of 1829, and the Encumbered Estates Act—was attended with consequences most fatal to the best interests of the great mass of the occupiers of Ireland. And it is not too much to say, with regard to the Encumbered Estates Act, that the operations which have been effected under that Act, and the use that has been made, and not unnaturally made, of it by some of those who have come in as new proprietors, may be reckoned as specific causes of those disturbances which have recently disfigured the records of our intelligence from that country. . . . Then there is another remedy, emigration, which landlords have in many instances been sedulous to promote. Emigration, sir, when it is voluntary and free, is the process which the Almighty has ordained for covering and cultivating the waste places of the earth. But that is when the emigrant is one whose wish it is to go. When, on the other hand, he is one whose wish it is to stay, who is truly, strongly, passionately attached—and no people ever were more passionately attached to the soil on which they were born and on which they have grown than the Irish—then to say—' We cannot insure to you the possession of your holding—we cannot even give you a reasonable probability that you will be able to exercise your industry with confidence; but there is the way across the Atlantic, and there are the wide plains of America open to receive you'—do not let us conceal from ourselves that, under such circumstances, emigration is another word for banishment, and that the country whose laws inflict that punishment and cause that banishment cannot expect, and does not deserve, the affection of the people."

Another change for the worse, as regards the tenant, was made by the Act of 1816, facilitating ejectments. All these things had been done by Parliament, and no compensation made to the cultivator of the soil.

The speaker then proceeded: "The motion I am about to make assumes that it is desirable we should interfere for the purpose of 'amending the law relating to occupation and ownership of land in Ireland/ At this first stage I do not suppose much scruple will be fe\t,because up to a certain point the law, in the nature of the case, must always interfere. It must interfere—namely, with reference to the cases in which parties make no contract for themselves; and the law now is that where there is no special contract tenure shall be understood to be from year to year. We do not propose to reverse this assumption. But we propose, looking at the condition of Ireland, not to leave it to parties without the interposition of law to make the contracts which they may be wiUing to make; and this it is whicb at first sight may appear to be harsh. No persons value more highly than we the freedom of contracts; it lies at the root of every healthy condition of society. But even in those conditions of society which we recognize as healthy it is not possible to allow perfect freedom of contract. English legislation is full of such interferences; and Parliament has shown a very decided tendency of late to multiply them. You will not allow the man who has a factory to contract with the persons whom he employs on terms which may suit their inclinations, but which you have forbidden; and you will not allow the shipmaster to carry the emigrant across the seas on terms on which he desires to carry and the emigrant desires to go. These are cases that justify interference; but much stronger is the case for Ireland, because in substance these contracts, though nominally free, have not been really free under the peculiar conditions of life which that country offers. Even where the law has left the Irishman free, his circumstances have deprived him of freedom, and it has thus become our duty and our necessity to interpose, within limits cautiously and strictly guarded, for the purpose of repressing that evil. In an agricultural country, in a country where the population has been such as to cause a demand for land always in excess of the supply, and where the excess of this demand has recently been met and aggravated by the tendency to carry land in large quantities out of tillage into pasture, and thereby to diminish agricultural holdings and employment; and again, by a desire to consolidate farms, and thereby once more to narrow the means of supplying the demand for land; lastly, in a country which is almost exclusively agricultural, and does not offer to the adult Irishman that choice of professions and occupations which he can easily find in a land where mining and manufacturing industry prevails, there history has but too well supported the proposition that the freedom of contract which the Irish peasant possesses is but a nominal freedom. It may be necessary, therefore, to prescribe by law in certain respects the terms and conditions on which land shall be held in Ireland. Strict freedom of contract, then, having proved to be a great evil, what is the precise nature of that evil? The Devon Commission has pointed it out. It is that insecurity of tenure which not only abridges the comforts of the cultivator of the soil, but which limits and paralyzes his industry, and at the same time vitiates his relations in a vast number of cases with the landlord, and in a still greater number with the law under which and the society in which he lives." Mr. Gladstone next

entered into the various schemes of remedy, sometimes described by the word perpetuity, sometimes by security, sometimes by certainty, sometimes by fixity, sometimes by stability of tenure, and repudiated them all on the part of Government. "Is there," he asked, "any mode of mitigating the admitted evils of insecurity of tenure, without resort to the extreme measures of perpetuity?" The first of these to which he alluded was the "custom of Ulster," as understood in Ireland. "I am far from saying that it would be desirable or possible to reproduce all over Ireland the exact state of things which prevails there as regards the occupation of land; but the state of the Province of Ulster I hold to be perfectly and demonstrably available for the present argument up to this point— that you can apply a remedy to this profound and fatal evil of insecurity of tenure, and yet that such a remedy can be found and applied without shaking the foundation of property. Sir, that proposition—that such a remedy can be discovered and applied without shaking the foundation of property—is so important that I must ask the House to consider for a few moments what is the condition of Ulster. . . . Arthur Young, fortunately for us (writing in 1779) distinguishes between the rents of the eight counties where the Ulster custom prevails—which may be conveniently called tenant-right counties—and the rest of Ireland; and the case is this— The rental of the eight counties where security or stability of tenure prevails was in 1779, 990,000/.; in 1869 it was 2,830,000/. That is, the rental has more than trebled, and that under a system, I admit, in some respects defective, and in some extravagant, but which still gives practical security. The rest of Ireland minus Ulster is what we must compare with the eight counties. Well, Sir, the rest of Ireland, minus Ulster, in 1779, according to Arthur Young, had a rental of 5,000,000/.; and in 1869 that rental was 9,200,000/. That is to say, in the provinces where the power of the landlord is greatest and the tenure is least secure, the rents did less than double themselves, whereas,'where the power of the landlord is least and the tenant is most secure, namely—in Ulster—the rental has increased more than three-fold. But, again, it may be said that in Ulster you have the influence of manufactures, and that manufactures tend powerfully to increase rents. Well, sir, but Ulster had manufactures in 1770. I am not aware that the manufacturing character of a certain part of Ulster dates from any period later than 1770. . . . But there is another point which we shall do well to notice as to manufactures. Manufactures do not tend directly in the neighbourhood of their own immediate seats to produce good agriculture. Manufactures, by stimulating prices, produce good agricultnre in a country generally; but the great manufacturing counties of England are not those most distinguished for good agriculture. ... It is admitted on all hands that Ulster is greatly poorer in national resources than any of the other three Provinces of Ireland. But what are its products? Its products may not be thought very extraordinary, perhaps, until I illustrate them by finding' a measure of the natural producing power of the

soil of Ireland in its different Provinces. The rateable product of

Ulster is now somewhat higher than that of the rest of Ireland.

The land under crop in Ulster is 6/. 3*. per acre; in the rest of

Ireland it is hi. 18*. In land under tillage it is for Ulster 11.12*. 6d.,

for the rest of Ireland it is 11. lis. 6d. You may say that this is

no very great difference; but consider the difference of natural

fertility; and we have a remarkable test of this natural fertility,

because there was a period when a very careful valuation—as I may

almost call it—of the respective fertility of the four Provinces of

Ireland was made by the Parliament of this country, which was

most closely sifted and tested by individuals who had a peculiar

interest in arriving at the truth. At the time of the Great

Rebellion the Parliament organized an army to send into Ireland.

For that purpose it was necessary to raise money. It was obtained

from a body of persons called Adventurers, who were to supply the

necessary funds, and were to be paid by lands taken at certain prices,

and these prices were to be different according as the lands were in

one or another Province of Ireland. They were to have lands in

Ulster at the price of 200/. per 1,000 acres; they were to have lands in

Connaught at the price of 300/. per 1,000 acres; they were to have

lands in Munster at the price of 450Z. per 1,000 acres; and they were

to have lands in Leinster at the price of 600/. per 1,000 acres. . . On

the whole, at least, it is no unfair statement if we follow this

classification, and say that the natural producing power of the

ordinary soil of Ulster appears to be little more than one-half the

producing power of Munster and Connaught; and yet under the

state of things as it exists the actual produce of the soil is greater

in Ulster than in the rest of the three Provinces. So, then, sir, I

think I make good my proposition that Ulster shows us, at any

rate, as much as this; it is possible to find a remedy for this deadly

evil of insecurity of tenure, and yet at the same time not to shake

the stability of property." After noticing some subsidiary measures

which it was the purpose of Government to introduce in other

Bills, for improving the law relating to the Tenure of Land both in

Ireland and the United Kingdom generally, he described the nature

and constitution of the Court of Arbitration and Civil Bills Court

to be constituted for the purpose of the Irish Land Bill. He then

continued as follows :—

"I proceed to say that with respect to the legislation itself upon the tenure of land, there are four descriptions of holdings in Ireland which we have thought it our duty to keep specially in view. The first of these is the class of holdings which now exist under the Ulster custom. The second is the class that exists under other customs analogous, more or less, to that of Ulster, prevailing irregularly and variously over a large part of the surface of Ireland, bat not having that definite existence and that weight of tradition and authority which belong to the Ulster custom. The third class is that residue of yearly tenancies which have not practically enjoyed

« 이전계속 »