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“I can imagine no fault attaching to any land system which does not attach to the Irish system. It has all the faults of a peasant proprietary, it has all the faults of feudal landlordism, it has all the faults incident to a system under which the landlords spend no money on their property, and under which a large part of the land is managed by a Court; it has all the faults incident to the fact that it is to the tenant’s interest to let his farm run out of cultivation as the term for revising the judicial rent approaches.”

A.J. BALFOUR, on the Second Reading of the Land Bill, May
4th, 1903.

The reason for the importance of the system of land tenure in the social conditions of Ireland is to be found in the manner in which the restrictions on Irish commerce in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries drove the population to secure a livelihood in the only direction left open to them namely, agriculture. The results of this are to be seen to-day in the fact that there are 590,000 holdings in the island, and that out of a total population of four and a half million people it is well within the mark to say that three and a half million are dependent, directly or indirectly, on the land for their means of existence.

The system of tenure in Ireland was as different as possible from that existing in Great Britain. The gist of the difference lay in this, that in England and Scotland landlords let farms, while in Ireland they let land. “In Ireland,” wrote an English observer more than a hundred years ago, “landlords never erect buildings on their property, nor expend anything in repairs.” This feature, which was the result of historical reasons, was due to the fact that Irish land-owners were the descendants of settlers intruded on Irish land, who brought with them English notions of tenure, but had not the capital to render economic the numerous small holdings situated on their estates. Hence it came about that the provision of capital by an English landlord for the equipment of farms with cottages, outhouses, fencing, and a drainage system, which results in a sort of partnership between landlord and tenant, was, to a large extent, a thing unknown in Ireland, where, as was aptly said, tenants’ improvements were landlords’ perquisites, and where point was lent to the differences by the fact that the few properties on which the equipment of the holdings was provided by the landlord were known as “English-managed estates,” and the number of these, Lord Cowper told the House of Lords in 1887, could be counted on one’s fingers.

Irish landlords have been compared, not to English squires, but to the ground landlords of London, bound to the occupiers only in so far as they received from their tenants a rent-charge liable to increase as the tenant improved the holding, or as competition arose with the growth of population.

The reasons for this state of things are to be found in the number and the small size of the Irish holdings, but more than this in the fact that from the first landlords came there in a business capacity.

Les uns comme les autres,” says a French writer, M. Paul-Dubois, “ils n’ont vu dans la terre Irlandaise qu’une affaire, et non une patrie. Ils sont restes conquerants en pays de conquête. De la cette consequence que, conscients d’etre des etrangers, des intrus, ils se sont crus libres et quittes de toute dette envers pays, de tous les devoirs de la propriété."

Planted on land which was confiscated, and, as a result, insecurely held, to risk the expenditure of money would have been unnatural, the more so since the expenditure which, in the circumstances, fell upon the tenant in the matter of improvements, provided the best possible security to the landlord by making the tenant all the more anxious to remain on the holding on which he had sunk what little capital he possessed, and in consequence virtually obliged, at risk of ejection, to submit unwillingly to periodical enhancements of rent.

In addition to the few English-managed estates it was only in Ulster that matters were otherwise, owing to the existence of the custom an embryo copyhold, Lord Devon called it known as tenant-right. On the various confiscations of land, grants of which had been made to the “undertakers,” many of the latter were either public bodies, such as the great City Companies, others were landlords who, even if not resident at a distance, had neither the means nor the inclination to spend the necessary money on their estates. This was provided by the tenant, who, without aid from the landlord, made improvements on his holding by his own labour; and in Ulster, where the tenants were settlers from England and Scotland, there arose an equitable proprietorship vested in the occupier, by which, on quitting the farm, he was entitled to claim from the new tenant a sum of money partly in compensation for the money and labour he had invested in the holding and partly as a price paid for the goodwill or possession, which the new tenant would have no other means of acquiring. The nature of this “Ulster Custom,” which, until 1870, had no sanction or protection from the law, was clearly defined by the Master of the Rolls, in the case of M’Elroy v. Brooke, in the following words: “The essentials of the custom are the right to sell, to have the incoming tenant, if there be no reasonable objection to him, recognised by the landlord, and to have a sum of money paid for the interest in the tenancy transferred.” The English system we see then, with its competitive rent fixed by contract, and subject to the laws of supply and demand, did not exist; the social and prescriptive ties which in England bound the owner and the occupier to each other never arose under this state of things, and in their absence did not arise one of the strongest inducements to a landed gentry to live on their estates and to concern themselves in the welfare of their tenants, a social system which, by the interchange of kindly offices wherever in England the proprietors live on their property, does much to make the countryside attractive to the poorer classes and to check migration.

There is no more erroneous idea than to suppose, as do some people, that there was a large body of resident landed proprietors in Ireland until the land war drove them to seek safety across the Channel. As a matter of fact, long before this had begun there existed an absentee aristocracy dependent on middlemen or agents “the vermin of the country,” Arthur Young called them who constituted a mere mechanical medium for the collection of rent, and as such were the worst exponents of the amenities which, in happier circumstances, are supposed to subsist between owners and occupiers of agrarian land. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the increase of population in the island and the high prices resulting from the war led to a very great sub-division of holdings, while the exercise of the franchise by the forty shillings freeholder until the year 1829 provided an additional inducement to the landlord to multiply the number of tenants on his land, since by doing so he increased the number of votes under his control, and, pari passu, his political influence.

After the famine, when it was found that one-third of the Irish landlords were bankrupt, the Encumbered Estates Court Act was passed to cope with the situation which had arisen of a country full of numerous landlords saddled with land which, owing to mortgages, debts, and incumbrances, was inalienable. Under the Act the Court was empowered, on the petition of any person sufficiently interested, to sell the encumbered estate and give an indefeasible title, so that persons who before had a claim on the estate should now have a claim only on the purchase-money. It was a piece of strong legislation in its disregard of vested rights and in the manner in which it set aside express contracts under which creditors had a claim on the land which could only be disturbed by paying off that claim.

In the event the rush of creditors to this Court created to afford relief from the delays of Chancery in effecting alienation was so great that, as a result of the consequent fall in prices, land became a drug in the market, and properties in many instances did not realise enough to meet the mortgages. To the landlords ruined in this manner succeeded a new class, who bought up bankrupt estates, often with borrowed money, as a commercial speculation, and caring nothing for the tenant or his welfare, looking only on the business side of the transaction, raised rents arbitrarily to such a pitch that the tenantry were unable to meet their liabilities. Wholesale evictions ensued, and in this wise arose the condition of things in which the Times never an unfriendly critic of the landed interest was constrained to admit in 1852 that “the name of an Irish landlord stinks in the nostrils of Christendom.”

By an Act of 1858 the Encumbered Estates Court was replaced by the Landed Estates Court, which had power to carry out the sale of, and give an indefeasible title to, any interests in land, whether hypothecated or not, and after the passing of the Judicature Act of 1877 the name of the Court became the Land Judges’ Court.

The disfranchising clauses of the Emancipation Act, and the consequent disappearance of the advantages accruing to the landlords from a multiplication of holdings on their estates, the miserable poverty resulting from the famine, the anxiety of the proprietors to escape the burdens of the remodeled Poor Law, and the demand by the new class of land speculators for large grazing or tillage farms, to form which the consolidation of existing holdings was demanded, were the factors which resulted in the clearances of 1849 and the subsequent years. “Notices to quit,” in a historic phrase, “fell like snowflakes,” at a time when it was truly said that an eviction was equal to a sentence of death. In a few months whole counties, such as those of Meath and Tipperary, were converted into prairies; cabins were thrown down, fences removed, and peasants swept off, and in ten years nearly 300,000 families were evicted from their homes, and a million and a half of the population fled across the Atlantic. “I do not think,” said Sir Robert Peel and his verdict has been endorsed by the judgment of history “I do not think that any country, civilised or uncivilised, can offer similar scenes of horror.”

The Devon Commission, the Report of which was issued in 1845, recommended that in future compensation should be given to Irish tenants for permanent improvements effected by them. Bills to carry out the recommendation of the Commission were introduced in 1845 by Lord Stanley, in 1846 by Lord Lincoln, and in 1852 by Mr. Napier, the Attorney-General for Ireland. But it was not until the Act of 1870 was passed a quarter of a century after the Report of the Commissioners had been issued that its recommendations were embodied in an Act of Parliament. So far was this from being the case with the next statute dealing with Irish land Deasy’s Act, passed in 1860 that it aimed at the substitution of the commercial principles of contract for the equitable principles of custom in the relations between landlord and tenant, in this respect that it refused to allow compensation to the tenant for improvements other than those made with the landlord’s consent. The object of this Act the last word of the Manchester School on the Irish Land Question was, therefore, to destroy any claim by a tenant in respect of future improvements, unless under the terms of some contract, express or implied. In point of fact, the Act proved almost a dead letter, and the one result which ensued from its passing into law was to make the position of the tenant less secure, in so far as it made the process of ejectment less costly and more simple, and enabled the landlord in many instances to confiscate improvements.

Twenty-three Bills in favour of the tenants were thrown out in the forty years which followed Emancipation. The struggle between landlord and tenant was occupied with the attempts of the latter to enforce the custom of tenant-right in Ulster, and secure its application in the other provinces. The Land Act of 1870, for the first time, gave legal sanction to this principle by giving the tenant a claim to compensation for disturbance. It gave its imprimatur to the doctrine that an Irish tenant does not contract for the occupation of a farm, that Irish land is not the subject of an undivided ownership, but of a simple partnership. The pecuniary damages to which a landlord was liable under its provisions was a blow aimed at wanton evictions, and with the curtailment of the power arbitrarily to effect these, the threats by which landlords had been able unjustly to raise rents were robbed of much of their force.

The tenant under the Act secured a recognition of his property in the land and of his right to occupy it, provided he complied with certain conditions, and, in addition, he obtained compensation, albeit inadequate, for disturbance for non-payment of rent, in cases in which the Court considered the rent exorbitant, and in which failure to pay was due to bad seasons. Thus tenant-right, which Lord Palmerston had dismissed with epigrammatic flippancy as landlord wrong only a few years before, received the sanction of law from his own party.

In actual practice under the Act the landlords recouped themselves for the compensation which they had to pay to an evicted tenant by raising the rent on his successor in the tenancy in the comparatively few cases in which the evicted tenant could afford the legal costs which the filing of a claim for compensation entailed, but this much at least had been secured, that the virtual confiscation of the tenants’ improvements had been stopped. The Act of 1870 had been passed to prevent arbitrary evictions and to secure to the tenant compensation for improvements, and in certain cases for disturbance. It succeeded only in making arbitrary evictions more costly for the landlord, it gave the tenant no fixity of tenure since the compensation for disturbance was inadequate. To remedy this Isaac Butt in 1876 introduced a Bill based on the “three F.s” fair rent, free sale, and fixity of tenure but it was rejected by 290 votes to 56, and several other amending Bills were thrown out by the House of Commons between 1876 and 1879. In 1880 the Government were at last stirred to action in the introduction of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, which caused the retirement of Lord Lansdowne from the Cabinet, and was followed by threats of resignation on the part of the Duke of Argyll. Under the Act of 1870 only those occupiers were entitled to claim compensation for disturbance whose rents were not in arrear. By this Bill it was proposed to extend the right to that claim to all those who were unable to pay as a result of bad harvests, and who were willing to hold their farms on just and reasonable terms, which the landlord refused.

After passing through the House of Commons, in spite of Lord Randolph Churchill’s denunciation of it as the first step in a social war, the Bill, although there had been a large majority in its favour in the lower House, was thrown out by the House of Lords at a time when the need for remedial legislation was illustrated by the presence in Ireland of 30,000 soldiers and 12,000 policemen for the protection of life and property.

The Royal Commission, under the chairmanship of Lord Bessborough, which was then appointed, reported in the following year that the Land Act of 1870 afforded no protection to the tenant who remained in his holding, since compensation for improvements could only be claimed on giving up a tenancy. The Commissioners, by a majority of four to one, declared themselves in favour of the “three F.s,” which the leader of the Opposition denounced as “Force, Fraud, and Folly,” and the Commissioners justified their attitude by this statement, which was echoed by the Richmond Commission, which reported soon after, “freedom of contract, in the case of the majority of Irish tenants, large and small, does not really exist,” the reason being that tenants in occupation were ready to pay any rent rather than sacrifice the capital and labour they had sunk in their holdings. The good seasons after 1870 had made this rise in rent possible, but with the bad winter of 1880 the results became disastrous.

In this manner the “three F.s,” which the Land League demanded, and which were secured by the Act of 1881, were conceded against the will of the Government by sheer force of circumstances. A rumour which gained currency early in 1880, that the Bessborough Commission would report in their favour, was stigmatised by Mr. Gladstone as incredible, and the adoption of the principle enunciated by the Commissioners resulted in the resignation from the Cabinet of the Duke of Argyll. The demands which had been made in 1850 by the Tenant League, the first concerted action of North and South since the Union, were repeated. They included a fair valuation of rent, the right of a tenant to sell his interest at the highest market value, and security from eviction so long as he paid his rent. Their claims were scouted in 1870, and it was not till eleven years had passed that in 1881 these “three F.s” fair rent, free sale, and fixity of tenure, the notion of which had so recently been repudiated by Mr. Gladstone were secured by the Land Act of that year, which recognised to the full the dual ownership of Irish land by occupier and landlord. Under this Act also was created a Court to fix fair rents for judicial periods of fifteen years.

Mr. Gladstone himself had admitted that the Land Act of 1870, which a Conservative member, destined to be a future Chief Secretary Mr. James Lowther described as “pure Communism,” together with the Church Act of 1869, was the outcome of the Fenian agitation of the sixties, which drew the attention of English statesmen to the Irish question. In the same way the passing of the Act of 1881, which made a far more active assault upon their prerogatives, secured from a house of landlords through fear that which they denied on grounds of equity. “In view of the prevailing agitation in Ireland,” said Lord Salisbury of this measure which assailed every Tory principle as to the sacredness of property, “I cannot recommend my followers to vote against the second reading of the Bill.” What Fenianism had effected in 1870 the Land League secured in 1881. “I must record my firm opinion,” said Mr. Gladstone ten years later, “that the Land Act of 1881 would not have become the law of the land if it had not been for the agitation with which Irish society was convulsed.”

The Bill was denounced by the Tories as one of the most unquestionable and, indeed, extreme violations of the rights of property in the whole history of English legislation. Lord Salisbury declared that it would not bring peace, and that henceforth the Irish landowner would look upon Parliament and the Imperial Government as their worst enemies. The Earl of Lytton declared that it was revolutionary, dangerous, and unjust; that it would organise pauperism and paralyse capital; yet for all that he warned their lordships that its rejection might be the signal for an insurrection, of which the whole responsibility would be thrown on the House of Lords. But perhaps Lord Elcho expressed the feeling which predominated in the Gilded Chamber when he expressed the opinion that the Bill was the product of “Brummagem girondists.” In the event, as we have seen, Lord Lytton’s warning bore fruit, and the Bill was passed. “There is scarcely a less dignified entity,” as Disraeli had said in Coningsby thirty years before, “than a patrician in a panic.”

Under the Act, let me repeat, for the first time was frankly recognised the legal partnership between the tenant who provided the working gear and the landlord who provided the bare soil. The latter could only evict the tenant on default, the tenant was at liberty to sell his occupancy interest at will without the leave of the landlord, and the rent payable by the tenant to the landlord was to be fixed by a judicial tribunal the Land Commission the establishment of which was but the carrying out of a suggestion made three years before by Parnell. The results of the agitation which had brought about the passing of the Act were seen when the Court decreed an average reduction of Irish rents by 20 per cent., knocking off no less than L1,500,000 at one stroke from the rack-rentals of the country.

The Act was not applicable to tenants whose rent was in arrear those, that is to say, who were in the poorest circumstances and a Bill introduced by Parnell in 1882 to wipe out these arrears by a grant of public money, was thrown out, being denounced by Lord Salisbury as a dangerous precedent of public plunder to mislead future generations.

As ballast to lighten the Act of 1881 the leaseholders were thrown overboard. For this exclusion from the benefits of the Act there was, on principle, no excuse. A Bill of Parnell’s to remedy it was thrown out in 1883 by a majority of four to one, and the 35,000 tenants who suffered from it were not entirely accorded the privileges of the other tenants until the passing of the Rent Redemption Act of 1890. The average reduction in rent effected for this class of tenant has amounted to 35 per cent.

One further fact in connection with the Act of 1881 deserves mention as showing that though Parliament may propose a remedy for an admitted grievance, the Courts of law are able to dispose its application by their interpretation in direct contravention of the intentions of the legislature.

Section 8, sub-section 9, of the Act of 1881 provided: “No rent shall be allowed or made payable in any proceedings under this Act in respect of improvements made by the tenant or his predecessors in title, and for which, in the opinion of the Court, the tenant or his predecessors in title shall not have been paid or otherwise compensated by the landlord or his predecessors in title.” In the case of Adams v. Dunseath, in February, 1882, it was held by the Court of Appeal, in the teeth of the obvious intention of Parliament, that the fact that a tenant had for a longer or shorter period of time enjoyed the benefit of his improvements might be taken into consideration by the judge as being an equivalent for compensation and as serving to limit the reductions in rent effected by the Commission on land which had been subjected to these improvements. By this interpretation many thousands of pounds were put into the landlords’ pockets during the years which intervened before 1896, when it was superseded by a provision in the Act of that year which re-affirmed and established the principle, the enactment of which had been intended in 1881.

We must now turn to the introduction of land purchase. In 1847 Lord John Russell, in a project which was subsequently dropped, advocated, as did J.S. Mill in later years, the solution of the land question by the establishment of a peasant proprietary. The nidus, however, out of which this policy germinated was the right of pre-emption which John Bright secured for the tenants of ecclesiastical land under the Church Act of 1869. A further step in the same direction was taken in the Land Act of 1870 not more than two-thirds of the purchase-money being advanced to the tenant under its provisions. Under the Church Act 6,000, and under the Act of 1870 1,000, tenants purchased their farms.

In 1878 Parnell urged the establishment of peasant proprietorship, and under the Act of 1881 three-quarters of the purchase-money was to be advanced on such terms as to be repayable by instalments of five per cent, per annum for thirty-five years, but only 1,000 tenants took advantage of the facilities thereby offered.

Four years later was passed the Ashbourne Act, so called from the Irish Lord Chancellor responsible for its introduction, and in it we have the first Act purely for land purchase which has been applied to Ireland. By it the Treasury found the whole of the purchase-money up to a total of five millions sterling out of the Irish Church Surplus Fund, and forty-nine years were allowed for repayment of the purchase-money to the State at 4 per cent., of which L2 15s. was interest on the advance and L1 5s. went to a sinking fund for the liquidation of the loan.

Only 2,000 tenants took advantage of the terms of this Act, but it is nevertheless of importance as marking the point at which the principle of peasant proprietorship was recognised as the solution by both English parties. In this way was realised, not much more than twenty years ago, the importance of that change of ownership which, in Arthur Young’s well-known phrase, turns sand into gold, and which has progressed ever since. A shrewd French observer Gustave de Beaumont saw in 1837 that this was the way out of the impasse of the Irish land system, and half a century ago a great opportunity presented itself at the time of the Encumbered Estates Act of establishing a peasant proprietary, when more than two million acres one-sixth of the whole soil of Ireland were sold in ten years, and were bought in lots of 200 to 250 acres by some 8,000 to 10,000 land-jobbers.

The Land Bill which Mr. Gladstone introduced as a pendant to the Home Rule Bill of 1886 offered to every Irish landlord the option of selling his estate to his tenants, who would thereby become occupying owners at once, paying an interest of 4 per cent. for forty-nine years on the price, which would be twenty years’ purchase of the judicial rents, paid by the State issue of fifty million pounds of Consols with the revenues of Ireland as security. After the Unionist victory of 1886 Mr. Parnell brought in a Bill which also was destined never to receive the Royal Assent, but which again is of importance in view of subsequent legislation.

He based his demand upon the fall in prices which prevented tenants from paying judicial rents. By this Bill it was proposed that the Land Court should have power to abate rents fixed prior to 1885 if it were proved that the tenants could not pay the whole amount, and would pay one half and arrears, and further, if these amounts were paid evictions and proceedings for the recovery of rent should be suspended, and, lastly, the Bill aimed at the inclusion of leaseholders under the Act of 1881.

It was roundly denounced by the landlords. Lord Hartington declared that were it to pass it would have the effect of stopping the payment of rent all over Ireland, and Sir Michael Hicks Beach spoke of it as “one which, though purporting to be a mere instalment of justice to the poor Irish tenant, is an act of gross injustice and confiscation to the landlords of Ireland.” The Bill was thrown out by a majority of ninety-five, and the Plan of Campaign on the part of tenants against the payment of impossible rents was the result.

A Royal Commission, under the chairmanship of Lord Cowper, was appointed to inquire into the administration of the Land Laws. The Commission reported in January, 1887, and bore out the grounds on which Parnell had based his Bill of the previous year. It felt “constrained to recommend an earlier revision of judicial rents on account of the straitened circumstances of Irish farmers.” It recommended that the term of judicial rents should be lowered from fifteen years to five, that those rents already fixed should be revised, and that leaseholders should be brought under the Act of 1881. In reference to the Bill of the year before Lord Salisbury had said that the revision of judicial rents would not be honest and would be exceedingly inexpedient. The Bill, which is known as Lord Cadogan’s, which was introduced on the last day of March, 1887, and which purported to carry out the recommendations of the Cowper Commission, opened the Land Court to leaseholders, setting aside in this way the more solemn forms of agrarian contract. As regards authorising the reduction of judicial rents on the ground of the fall in prices, it did nothing, and the Prime Minister repeated his opinion that “to do so would be to lay your axe at the root of the fabric of civilised society."

Mr. Balfour, who, in the month of March, had become Chief Secretary, proclaimed with equal force that it would be folly and madness to break these solemn contracts. In the Bill, as at first brought in, the Court had, in fact, power to vary contracts by fixing a composition for outstanding debts and determining the period over which payment should extend. In May the Government accepted the principle that the Court should not only do this (settle the sum due by an applicant for relief for outstanding debt), but also should fix a reasonable rent for the rest of the term. The Ulster tenants insisted on this, but, at the bidding of the landlords, it was subsequently withdrawn, and, finally, in July the Premier summoned his party and, telling them that if the Bill were not altered Ulster would be lost to the Unionist cause, passed into law a Bill sanctioning a general revision of judicial rents for three years, and in this way did the Tories lower rents in breach of a clause in the Act of 1881 that guaranteed rents fixed under its provisions for a term of fifteen years.

As a speaker of the day put it “You have the Prime Minister rejecting in April the policy which in May he accepts, rejecting in June the policy which he had accepted in May, and then in July accepting the policy which he had rejected in June, and which had been within a few weeks declared by himself and his colleagues to be inexpedient and dishonest, to be madness and folly, and to be laying an axe to the very root of the fabric of civilised society.”

When the advance of five millions for land purchase under the Act of 1885 was nearly exhausted, a further sum of equal amount was earmarked for the same purpose in 1888. Lord Randolph Churchill in 1889 expressed the opinion that something like L100,000,000 of credit should be pledged to effect purchase. In 1891 Mr. Balfour authorised the devotion of a further sum of L33,000,000 for this purpose. The whole of the purchase-money was to be advanced by the State by the issue of guaranteed land stock, limited to the amount stated, and giving a dividend at two and three-quarters per cent., repayment being effected in forty-nine years by the purchaser by the payment of an annuity on his holding of four per cent. The Act was too complicated to work well, but under its provisions 30,000 sales occurred, in comparison with 25,000 which had been effected under the Acts of 1885 and 1888. The passing of this Act marks the close of the experimental stage in land purchase. Under the Land Act of 1896 was asserted the principle of compulsory sale in the case of estates in the Landed Estates Court, whose duty it was to sell bankrupt property, if they came under certain specified conditions, and if a receiver had been appointed to them.

This roused the fury of the landlords to the highest pitch. “You would suppose,” said Sir Edward Carson, “the Government were revolutionists verging on socialism.... I ask myself whether they are mad or I am mad? I am quite sure one of us must be mad.” In spite of denunciations of this order the clause respecting compulsory sale of the estates mentioned was passed, occupying tenants having in those cases the right of pre-emption. Under its provisions the period for the repayment of the money advanced was extended to sixty-eight years. The annuity payable by the tenant during the first decade was to be calculated and made payable upon the total purchase-money advanced, but at the end of each of the first three decennial periods, as the debt was reduced by the accumulation of sinking fund, the annuity was to be re-calculated and made payable on the portions of the advance remaining unpaid. Under the Act every purchaser was to start with a reduction of not less than 25 per cent. on the rent which he had hitherto paid, and this amount was to be still further reduced by not less than 10 per cent. at the end of each of the first three periods of ten years. This Act effected the sale of 37,000 holdings. The applications for sale under it numbered 8,000 in 1898, and in the succeeding years the number steadily diminished, so that they amounted in 1899 to 6,000, in 1900 to 5,000, and in 1901 to only 3,000. The reasons for this are not difficult to find. The payment in Consols was profitable so long as securities stood at a high figure, but the expenses arising from the South African war resulted in a fall of Stocks from 112 to 85, and as a result new terms for land purchase became imperatively needed. In consequence Mr. Wyndham brought in a Bill in 1902, which was, however, stillborn, but its withdrawal was accompanied with a promise of legislation in the following session. The situation in the winter of 1902 was critical. An Irish Land Trust had been formed by the landlords to oppose the United Irish League, and on the 1st of September there was issued a Viceregal proclamation, putting the Coercion Act in force in Dublin and Limerick. By a curious coincidence, the papers published the same day a letter from Captain Shaw Taylor, an Irish landlord, inviting representatives of tenants and landlords to meet in conference in Dublin and discuss a way out of the agrarian impasse. The proposal was scouted by the Times, the Daily Express, and the Dublin Daily Express, but was favourably received by the Press in other quarters. A motion by Lord Mayo at the Landowners’ Convention, in favour of the conference, was rejected by 77 votes to 14. A poll on the question being demanded, 4,000 landlords, each with an estate of more than 500 acres, received voting papers, and of these 1,706 replied, 1,128 in favour and 578 against a conference, while the small landlords were almost unanimously in its favour. A second appeal was then made to the Landowners’ Convention through its president, Lord Abercorn, but an answer in the negative was received, for it went on to say “It would be merely to give long-discredited politicians a certificate of good sense and of just views, we might almost say of legislative capacity to sit in an Irish Parliament in Dublin, were we to accept Captain Shaw Taylor’s invitation to join them.”

The criticism of an unbiassed foreign observer on this attitude of rigid cast-iron non possumus is instructive. “Rappelons nous,” writes M. Bechaux, “que parti irlandais au Parlement, si grossièrement insulte représente 4/5 du peuple irlandais, nous avons un specimen de l’esprit réactionnaire et irreconciliable du landlordisme irlandais.” In spite of this the Conference met at the end of the year. The landlords’ representatives were: Lord Dunraven, Lord Mayo, Col. Hutcheson Poee, and Col. Nugent Everard; and those of the tenants were: Mr. John Redmond, Mr. W. O’Brien, Mr. T.W. Russell, and Mr. T.C. Harrington. On the 3rd January, 1903, a joint report to serve as the basis of the new Bill was issued.

The Report was in favour of purchase as the only possible policy to be carried out on such terms that the yearly payments of the tenants should be 15 to 25 per cent. lower than second term rents, while the sum received by the landlords was to be such as at 3 or 3-1/4 per cent. interest would yield them the same income as second term rents, less 10 per cent. deduction, as an equivalent for the cost of collection under the old system. The difference between these two sums was to be bridged by a bonus from the Treasury to the landlords in the interests of agrarian peace. The Report was further in favour of enlarging small holdings by dividing up grazing lands, and under it evicted tenants who, as such, were not entitled to have judicial rents fixed were to be given the option to purchase.

Second term rents are those fixed for the second judicial period of fifteen years under the Act of 1881, and they were on an average 37 per cent. less than those before the passing of that Act.

Under the Act which Mr. Wyndham introduced on March 25th, 1903, the Treasury may advance a sum up to one hundred millions at 2-3/4 per cent. interest, with another 1/2 per cent. sinking fund. The advances to the tenants, which are limited to L5,000 or, in exceptional circumstances, L7,000, are made in cash by the Land Commissioners, of whom three, serving as the Estates Commissioners, are expressly responsible for the working of the Act. A Treasury loan at 2-3/4 per cent. provides the necessary funds. Under the Act the issue of this Stock was limited to five million pounds a year for the first three years, but in January, 1905, this was changed to a sum of six million. By adding to the 2-3/4 per cent. interest which the tenants pay on the loan the further sum of 1/2 per cent. which they contribute to sinking fund for repayment, we arrive at 3-1/4 per cent. which they have to pay for sixty-eight and a half years to obtain the fee-simple of their land. The security which Mr. Wyndham produced for the repayment of interest was the credit of the Irish peasantry, of whom, out of more than seventy thousand purchasers owing an eighth of a million to the State under previous Purchase Acts, only two had incurred bad debts, which, as being irrecoverable, had fallen on the taxpayer. As a further safeguard the payment is secured by the annual grants-in-aid paid by the Treasury to the County Councils, which can be withheld on default to pay interest on purchase advances. In order to facilitate sales the system of “zones,” which has been so much canvassed, was devised. Under it the Estates Commissioners are bound to make advances of purchase-money in all cases in which the total annuity paid by the tenant ranges from 10 to 40 per cent. less than the rent which he has hitherto paid. If it be a first term rent the reduction must be at least 20 and not more than 40 per cent. less, and if it be a second term rent there must be a reduction of not less than 10 and not more than 30 per cent. It will be, perhaps, clearer if put in this way. If a first term rent amounts to L100, then the tenant-purchaser has to pay at least L60, and at most L80, as annuity, while if the L100 represent second term rent the yearly payment varies from a minimum of L70 to a maximum of L90.

If purchases are proposed outside the zones, in which, that is to say, the annuity proposed is under 10 or over 40 per cent. of the judicial rent, the estate must, before sales are effected, be surveyed by the Estates Commissioners in order that they may see whether the security is sound, and whether the equitable rights of all parties concerned seem to be safeguarded, and without this sanction advances will not be made in the case of sales in these circumstances. The amount received by the landlord, of course, does not, if invested in Trust Securities at 3-1/4 per cent., provide the same income as did his rent roll, even when one takes into account the 10 per cent. for collection to which we have referred. On the other hand, he is secured from the possibility of further reductions in rent in the future, and there is a likelihood that the securities in which he invests may rise, but, in addition to this, a sum of twelve millions of bonus is to be devoted to bridge the gap between his former rent from the tenant and his present income from his investments.

Under this provision every landlord gets 12 per cent. bonus on his sale, and this sum is part of his life estate, and need not, therefore, be invested in trust securities, but may be invested in stock yielding a higher rate of interest. This point was not clear in the Act of 1903, but was explicitly enacted in an amending Act of 1904.

In order further to accelerate sale an investigation of title deeds, documents which a great English lawyer Lord Westbury once described as “difficult to decipher, disgusting to touch, and impossible to understand,” is not necessary prior to sale; for an enjoyment for six years of the rents of an estate brings with it the right to sell, and proof of title is needed only after purchase has been completed in order that the vendor may establish his right of disposal of the proceeds, and as further inducement he gets a sum not exceeding one full year’s arrears of rent, or at most 5 per cent. of the purchase price.

The good results which have accrued where a peasant proprietary has arisen are admitted on all sides. Mr. Long himself, in words which form an illuminating commentary on landlordism, confessed that the blessings and advantages of a change of ownership are obvious. Everyone is agreed that the happiness, bred of security on the part of the occupying owner, brings in its train sobriety and industry. The business of the gombeen man is going, and one may well hope to see arise before long that thrift and energy characteristic of the peasant proprietor, whether in France, Belgium, or Lombardy.

It must not be forgotten, however, that land purchase to bring peace must be universal. In 1901 the De Freyne tenants rebelled against the payment to their landlord of a rent which was 25 to 30 per cent. higher than the purchase annuities paid by the neighbouring tenants on the Dillon estate, which had been bought up by the Congested Districts Board. Under the Wyndham Act there are in progress reductions of annual charges, ranging from 10 to 40 per cent., on holdings adjacent to those where either the landlord is recalcitrant and refuses to sell or where the slowness of administration has delayed progress and secured no sale, and, as a result, dissatisfaction reigns among the less fortunate tenants.

According to the last report of the Estates Commissioners nearly 90,000 holdings had been sold in the period of the application of the Act, from November 1st, 1903, to March 31st, 1906. The total price of all the sales agreed upon was nearly forty millions, but the amount advanced by the Commission was less than ten millions. There is little doubt that the number of agreements for sale would have been half as many again but for the lack of money and administrative powers. One of the Estates Commissioners, in his evidence before the Arterial Drainage Commission, stated that under the Land Purchase Acts passed before that of 1903 in twenty-five years 75,000 tenants had purchased at a price of twenty-five millions, and if to these are added the ninety thousand purchasers under the Act of Mr. Wyndham the result is seen that nearly a third of the tenants have in the last quarter of a century become occupying owners.

The immense acceleration in the rate of sale which these figures indicate, leads one to ask how far the sales under the Wyndham Act have been as advantageous to the tenants as those concluded under former statutes. In the first place, it must be noted that more than four-fifths of the direct sales which have occurred have taken place under the zones. When the price proposed is above the zones the reason why inspection is demanded is obviously that the solvency of the purchaser, with which the State, as creditor, is concerned, is in question. The minimum limit of the zones was said to be necessary to protect those with rights superior to those of the landlord, but, as was observed, the value of land does not depend on the mortgages with which it is charged. In view of the modern methods by which, on purchase, there is a Treasury guarantee, inspection before sale tends to reduce the price, and the absence of inspection under the zones has tended to enhance prices. It must be further noticed that the minimum price fixed by the zones is higher than the mean price of sales effected under Purchase Acts from 1885 to 1903, and by this method in the case of every sale brought about without the delay of inspection, the provisions of the Act have secured an artificial inflation of price for the benefit of the landlord, amounting to a minimum of one year’s rent. The reduction of the annuity payable by the tenants from 4 per cent. to 3-1/4 per cent, of the capital has served to obscure the amount of purchase price paid by tenants who are apt to fail to appreciate the fact that the annuity is payable over a more extended period of years, and the provisions as to the sale and re-purchase of demesnes have at the same time secured for the landlords themselves facilities for obtaining advances of ready money on reasonable terms. These are the factors in the Wyndham Act which have made M. Paul-Dubois declare of it that “Emanee d’un gouvernment, ami des landlords, elle cache mal, sous un apparence d’impartialite d’adroits efforts pour faire aux landlords de la part belle pour hausser en leur faveur prix de la terre.”

The average price per acre for the five years before 1903 was L8 9s.; since the Act it has been L13 4s., or taking into account the bonus L15. The prices before the Wyndham Act rarely exceeded eighteen years’ purchase, and were, moreover, paid in Land Stock and without a bonus. Under this Act the reasons which I have tried to outline have brought it to pass that twenty-five years of second term rents are being paid in cash, which, with the bonus, makes the total purchase price amount to twenty-eight years. Hence it is that there is widespread anxiety in Ireland lest land is being sold under the zones at prices which the Land Commission, had it been entitled to inspect, would have been unable to sanction as offering a safe security, seeing that the purchaser must pay his annuity for sixty-eight years without hope of reduction a danger, in the event of bad seasons, which might have been diminished if the sinking fund had been fixed at a higher rate and the decadal reductions of earlier Acts retained, so as to reduce the incidence of the burden in its later stages. This, be it noted, is one of the points in which the provisions of the Act differ from the recommendations of the Land Conference.

I have referred already to the block in sales under the Act owing to the scarcity of money which is forthcoming to meet sales already effected. By the financial provisions of the statute, so as not to demoralise the market, a definite check was put upon the issue of the land stock, and just before the late Government resigned Mr. Long, as Chief Secretary, made a proposal, which was not received with enthusiasm by the parties concerned, that the landlords should in future be paid partly in stock at a nominal value and partly in cash. Nothing has since been done, and the only step taken so far has been the appointment of a judge in addition to those formerly so engaged, to accelerate the judicial inquiries necessitated by the process of transfer. The whole cost of the finance of the Act falls on the Irish taxpayer, and before the introduction of Mr. Wyndham’s proposal the idea was mooted only to be abandoned of reviving a proposal made by Sir Robert Giffen in the Economist twenty years ago, which would have made the annuities paid on purchase the basis of the funds from which the local bodies in Ireland would draw their revenue, while the Imperial Exchequer would be relieved to an equivalent amount by deductions from its grants to local services.

The cost of the flotation of the Land Stock is borne by the Irish Development Fund of L185,000 per annum, which is the share of Ireland, equivalent to the grant for the increased cost of education in England under the Act of 1902. More than one-half of this fund has already been hypothecated for the costs of flotation of the twenty millions of Land Stock which have already been issued, and under the present system of finance, after a further issue of another twenty millions of stock, the whole loss will be thrown on the County Councils, and through them on the ratepayers, who have already been called upon to pay L70,000 to meet certain of the losses in this connection, which amount to twelve per cent. of the value of the stock floated.

The breaking up of the grazing lands, which in many instances the landlords are keeping back from the market, has not met with much success under the Act, and it is difficult to see how compulsion is to be avoided if the country is to be saved from the economically disastrous position of having established in it a number of occupying owners on tenancies which are not large enough to secure to them a living wage.

Under the Land Act of 1891 was created the Congested Districts Board, with an annual income of L55,000, for the purpose of promoting the permanent improvement of the backward districts of the West. The districts which come under its control are those which answer the following test, that more than twenty per cent. of the population of a county live in electoral divisions, of which the total rateable value gives a sum of less than 30s. per head of population. Such electoral divisions occur in the nine counties of Kerry, Cork, Galway, Mayo, Clare, Roscommon, Leitrim, Sligo, Donegal. In these counties there are 1,264 electoral divisions, of which 429 are congested. The setting up of particular districts as “congested” is, of course, quite arbitrary. There may be places outside the congested areas the condition of which is much worse than that of some of the congested districts, but if the population of these districts does not form one-fifth of that of the whole county they are ruled out of the scope of the Board’s activities.

The conditions which subsist in them have been ably described by M. Bechaux from personal observation, and he declares that the standard of living is lower than in any other country of Western Europe. Their inhabitants number more than half a million that is to say, 10 per cent. of the total population of the island. Most of them have farms of two to four acres, and they pay from a few shillings to several pounds for rent. In many instances the rent which they pay is rather for a roof than for the soil. They eke out a precarious livelihood by migration to England, for there is but little demand for agricultural labour owing to the prevalence of pasture in the West. Fishing has served as a secondary source of income, and kelp burning was a profitable addition to their means until the discovery of iodine in Peru sent down the price to a marked extent.

The right of turbary, which nearly every tenancy possesses, is the one thing which has kept this population from starvation, and in the case of seaside tenancies a further gain accrues from the use made of seaweed as manure, which, owing to the absence of stall-feeding, is only to be obtained in this way. Home industries, such as weaving, form another source of profit, and last, but not least, must be reckoned the money sent home by relatives who have emigrated to America. Calves, pigs, and poultry are maintained in these circumstances, and, owing to the sale of the best of the stock, the breed has steadily deteriorated. In the winter months potatoes, milk, and tea are the main articles of diet, and after the potato harvest is used up American meal, ground from maize, and American bacon of the worst possible kind take their place. The bacon of their own pigs is far too expensive for them to eat. The maize flour serves also as fodder for the live stock, and the oats which are grown are-eaten as gruel by the people as well as by the animals which they rear. The Congested Districts Board was established to remedy, as far as possible, this state of things primarily by reorganising tenancies and amalgamating them into economic holdings, and at the same time enlarging them by the purchase of untenanted land, followed by its addition to existing tenancies. The slowness of its operations is seen from the fact that after fourteen years it had purchased less than 240,000 acres, of which three-quarters were untenanted land, while the whole extent of the congested districts is more than three and a half million acres. In justice to the Board, however, one must add that it has concerned itself with many other branches of rural economy notably the improvement of the breed of horses, cattle, and pigs, the sale at cost price of chemical manures and seed, the making of harbours and roads, and the sale on instalment terms of fishing boats.

It is impossible to exaggerate the work done by the Board on the Dillon estate in Counties Mayo and Roscommon and in Clare Island. But when one reads in the Report for 1906 the fifteenth annual report of the Board that since its establishment the Board has enlarged 1,220 tenures, re-arranged 537, and created 220, and realises, further, that there are in Ireland 200,000 uneconomic holdings, one may well ask what are these among so many?

Under the Act of 1903 the Board’s purchases are financed by the Land Commission, and the results are to be seen in an acceleration of purchases, for while in the twelve years 1891 to 1903 the Board had bought about 200,000 acres, of which less than 45,000 were unlet land, in the three years from November, 1903, to the end of March, 1905, the acreage bought was over 160,000 acres, of which 48,000 were unlet, and negotiations were in progress for the transfer of another 100,000 acres, of which 20,500 were unlet.

Under the Act, however, in the case of “Congested Estates,” which are defined as those in which one-half at least of the holdings are of valuation of L5 or under, or which consist of mountain or bog, the Land Commission is empowered to purchase and re-sell to the tenants, even at a loss, so long as the total loss on the purchase and improvements of these holdings does not exceed 10 per cent. of the cost of the total sales effected in the course of the same year. The amendments of the House of Lords, however, made the part of the Act dealing with this question a dead letter, and the Land Commissioners have given up the attempt to put it in force. The landlords, having a choice between sale direct to their tenants and to the Land Commission, have refused to give their consent to the declaration of their estate as a congested estate, which is necessary for the application of this section, unless they receive a guarantee that the holdings shall not be sold to the tenants at a lower price than they themselves could have obtained. The result is that if the Commissioners were to pay these maximum prices there would be nothing left for them out of which to make the necessary improvements, and, in consequence, this provision of the Act has been a failure.

As regards the evicted tenants, the first condition in the settlement arrived at by the Land Conference, and embodied in the Wyndham Act, was that they the wounded soldiers in the land war, as they have been called to whose sacrifices in the common cause is due the ameliorative legislation enacted by Parliament, should be restored to their holdings. In actual practice, by means of restrictive instructions issued by the late Government to the Commissioners, two of whom protested against this action in their report for 1906, the provisions of the Act which promised this reinstatement were made a dead letter the Executive once again, in a historic phrase, driving a coach and four through the statute.

With the advent to power of the Liberal Government these instructions were withdrawn, but a further serious obstacle was to be found in the refusal of some landlords and those, too, the worst to allow their estates to be inspected with a view to find holdings for evicted tenants. This was the condition of affairs to which Mr. Bryce at that time Chief Secretary referred, when he said “If the remedy for this state of things is compulsion, then to compulsion for that remedy we must go.”

It is to be observed that the three Estates Commissioners were unanimous in thinking compulsion necessary, and that which was demanded was that the occupants, or planters, who in some cases have been bona fide farmers, but whom the Land Commission inspectors reported had in many cases allowed the land to get into a bad and dirty state, should, on dispossession, be generously compensated or given their choice of other lands. It was originally thought that one thousand would be the limit of the number of applications which would be made for reinstatement, but, in the event, out of ten thousand tenants evicted in the last quarter of a century, such applications were made in 6,700 cases, and some notion of the poverty of these peasants who were turned out upon the roadside may be inferred from the fact that nearly one-half paid a rental of less than L10 a year.

At the beginning of the session of 1907, out of the total number of applicants 1,300 had been rejected as not coming within the scope of the provisions relating to them, and 650, or less than 10 per cent. of the whole number who applied, had been reinstated. In the case of more than half the total number of applicants no report had been made, and in more than 450 cases, including, of course, those on the Clanricarde and Lewis estates, inspection of the property had been, as it is still, refused by the landlords. At this juncture Mr. Birrell declared that further legislation was imperatively needed, and to this announcement Mr. Walter Long replied that he accepted the view of his predecessor, Mr. Wyndham, as to the bargain which had been come to in regard to this question, and he went on to say:

“There can be no doubt whatever that in the interest not merely of these unfortunate people, whatever their past history may have been, but in the interest of the successful working of the Land Purchase Act, their reinstatement is looked upon as an essential element and a thing promised by Parliament.”

The voluntary system, to which a tentative agreement was given under the Act of 1903, having broken down, the Evicted Tenants Bill was designed as a tardy act of justice to remove the cause for disaffection on the part of a tenantry to which Mr. T.W. Russell paid a notable tribute the other day as being not naturally lawless, but in point of fact the most God-fearing, purest-minded, and simplest peasantry on the face of the earth. That his diagnosis, that unrest is merely the product of suffering under cruel circumstances, is valid, is illustrated by the complete restoration of peace on the Massereene estate, when, on the death of the late peer, the planters were replaced by the tenants who had been evicted.

The land which it was proposed to affect by the Bill was a mere matter of some 80,000 acres, a bagatelle to the landed interest of Ireland, but involving vital consequences to the poverty-stricken peasants of the West. It was a Bill, as the Lord Chancellor declared, to deal with the tail of an agrarian revolution, and to effect this with the minimum of suffering, compulsory powers and a simple and expeditious procedure were demanded, but in spite of the lip service which Unionists paid to the principles involved, in spite of their admissions that it proposed only to carry out their part of the agreement, arrived at no less than four years ago; by their amendments in the House of Lords, introducing limitations and appeals involving delays and costs, they succeeded in large measure in destroying the value of the measure. One can understand the attitude of Lord Clanricarde, who roundly denounced the whole proposal as “tainted with the callous levity of despotism,” but it is difficult to speak charitably of the members of the Opposition, who, while repeatedly protesting their anxiety to see the evicted tenants restored, took care, through the agency of the House of Lords, to place every possible obstacle in the way of their speedy re-instatement.

Many of the amendments designed by the House of Lords were proposed by two of the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, who sit in that House primarily as judges, and who are supposed to keep free from political entanglements. They aimed at an enhancement of the prices at which compulsory purchase should take effect, with a view, it was admitted by their organs in the Press, to afford a precedent for further schemes of land purchase at large. Of this nature was the compensation which they demanded fortunately without success in accordance with the provisions of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, which, if accepted by Government, would have given to the landlords on sale a douceur of 10 per cent. in addition to the 12 per cent. bonus which they already enjoy over and above the market value of the land, and the fixation of such a price would have prevented any reinstatement, for this reason, that the instalments of the tenants in those circumstances would have been too high to have been within the means of the tenants whom it was proposed to reinstate.

There was a curious irony in the spectacle of the House of Lords standing out for the principle of fixity of tenure, and defending tooth and nail the tenant-right of a few hundred planters, when little more than thirty years ago this same body offered the most relentless opposition to any recognition of the right of compensation for disturbance on the part of four millions of Irish tenants. In this matter the Lords gained their point, and compulsory powers are not to be applied under the Act to the holdings on which the landlords have placed planters, who are held to be bona fide farmers. An amendment to this effect was thrown out by the House of Commons, by a majority of more than four to one, on a division in which only 66 voted for the amendment, but although the Bill in its original form offered sitting tenants the fullest compensation ever offered to such persons, and although most of the planters would be only too glad to accept such terms, the Upper House insisted on over-riding the will of the great majority in the Commons.

Lord Lansdowne, on the second reading, gave three reasons why the Bill should not be incontinently rejected by the Peers. In the first place, it came to them, he said, supported by an enormous majority in the other House, “and their Lordships always desired to treat attentively and respectfully Bills which came to them with such a recommendation.” Secondly, the late Government, as well as the present, had pledged themselves to a measure of reinstatement of some kind, and if they threw out the Bill on a second reading “it would be said that they had receded from a kind of understanding arrived at in 1903,” and lastly, “the summary rejection of the Bill might greatly increase the difficulties of the Executive Government in Ireland.” One would have thought that the fact that the Bill was given a second reading did little to exonerate the Upper House from similar consequences as a result of their mutilation of the Bill in Committee.

In its final form the Act allows an appeal on questions of value from the inspector, to two Estates Commissioners, and from them to Mr. Justice Wylie, sitting as Judicial Commissioner with a valuer. On questions of price there is no appeal from him. Other appeals, on questions of law and fact, are, by Section 6, to be heard by a Judge of the King’s Bench, with whom rests the final decision whether a particular planter is or is not to be evicted. Demesne lands and other lands, purchase of which would interfere with the value of adjoining property, are omitted from the scope of the statute, and its operation is limited to the case of 2,000 tenants, whose claims must be disposed of within four years. The power vested in the Estates Commissioners compulsorily to acquire untenanted land, not necessarily their former holdings, for the reinstatement of the evicted tenants, is of no practical value in the case of the Clanricarde estate, since all the land on it is occupied, and the fact that on that plague-spot the nucleus of the whole disturbance no settlement will be possible under the Act, shows to what an extent was justified Mr. Birrell’s declaration that the final form of the statute was a triumph for Lord Clanricarde, and affords a curious commentary on the repeated declarations of the Unionist leaders, that nothing was further from their desire than to effect the wrecking of the Bill.

Rejection of similar measures of relief notably the Tenants’ Compensation Bill of 1880 has led in the past to a recrudescence of strife in Ireland, and Mr. Balfour’s unworthy retort to Mr. Redmond’s deduction from every precedent in the history of the struggle for the land, that it was an incitement to lawlessness, was a mere partisan retort to an avowal of a danger which every unbiassed observer must see arises from the betrayal by the House of Lords of a confidence in a final settlement which was formerly encouraged by a Conservative Govern merit.

One of the weapons used by the Orangemen in their attack on this Bill was to be found in their repeated insinuations as to the unfitness of the Estates Commissioners to exercise dispassionately the functions which would be demanded of them. In this the Unionists were hoist with their own petard, for the necessity recognised by the Government for placing the Estates Commissioners in a position other than that of mere Executive officers, by giving them a judicial tenure independent of ministerial pressure or party influences, was strongly shown by the incident of the Moore-Bailey correspondence of last session, which should provide food for reflection on the part of those who imagine that intimidation is to be found in Ireland in use only on the National side. Mr. Moore, the most active of the Orangemen, asked in a supplementary question whether it was not a fact that the delay in the Estates Commissioners Office was due to Mr. Commissioner Baileys continued presence in London. These visits, it should be noted, were paid to London by Mr. Bailey in the discharge of his official duties for the purpose of consultations with the Government in connection with the Evicted Tenants Bill. On reading in the papers Mr. Moores question implying negligence to his duties on his part, Mr. Bailey wrote to Mr. Moore the following letter, marked private:


“DUBLIN, March, 1907.

“DEAR MOORE, I see that as a supplemental question you asked the other day whether the delay in land purchase was due to the continued absence of Mr. Bailey. I do not know, of course, what was your object, but it may interest you to know that for the last year I attended more days in the office than either of my colleagues, and that, as a matter of fact, I did not take much more than half the vacation to which I was entitled. You will thus see that you have been strangely misinformed, and I can only surmise that another of my colleagues was meant.

“Faithfully yours,


To this Mr. Moore replied:


“BELFAST, March 19th.

“DEAR BAILEY, You were appointed by a Unionist Government to see fair play between Wrench and Finucane, and you have sold the pass on every occasion. The first thing my colleagues and I will do when we come back, which will not be very far off, will be to press for an inquiry into the working of your department. You can destroy your evidence now, and show this to whom you please.

“Yours truly,


In reply the Estates Commissioner wrote:

“Mr. Bailey desires to acknowledge receipt of Mr. Moore’s letter of the 19th inst., and inasmuch as it contains grave statements of a threatening and unfounded character he will take an early opportunity of bringing the matter under notice in the proper quarter.”

The final letter was Mr. Moores reply:


“BELFAST, March 25th.

“Mr. Moore hopes that when Mr. Bailey publishes the correspondence he will make it clear that Mr. Moore’s reply was directed to a disloyal attack by Mr. Bailey on one of his colleagues in his letter to Mr. Moore. This is all that was omitted from Mr. Moore’s reply.”

The next step in this discreditable incident occurred on July 23rd, on which day Mr. Moore denounced Mr. Bailey in the House of Commons for his partisanship towards the Nationalists, and gave a graphic picture of the private letter which Mr. Bailey had written to him to protest against his personal attacks. Mr. Redmond rose and asked that Mr. Russell should read to the House Mr. Moore’s reply, and Mr. Russell thereupon read the second of the letters given above, upon which Mr. Balfour, regardless of his own share in the partial suppression of the Wyndham-MacDonnell dossier a few years before, demanded the production of the whole correspondence. This was done on July 26th, when Mr. Moore read the letters in the order given above. In his personal explanation he represented it as an extremely suspicious circumstance that Mr. Bailey had been seen in the Lobby in conversation with the Nationalists. “That may be legitimate,” he said, “but I think it very undesirable,” and in the very next breath he confessed that another of the Commissioners was a particular and personal friend of his own, to whom he would have shown the first letter from Mr. Bailey if it had not been marked private.

The comment of the Times in which Mr. Moore as a rule finds an active admirer of his political methods is interesting:

“Mr. Bailey is a public servant entrusted with certain quasi-judicial functions. That a member of Parliament, whatever may be his opinions of the conduct of such an official, should inform him that he had been appointed ‘to see fair play’ between his colleagues, and that he had not seen it, and should couple this charge with a promise to press for an inquiry into the working of the department whenever there should be a change of Government, is indefensible.”

The whole incident is worthy of attention as showing the atmosphere of suspicious hostility with which the Orange faction in Ireland surrounds every act even of Civil Servants and Executive Officers who are not as active supporters of the ascendancy as they would wish.

Of further legislation dealing with the laws of tenure, the Town Tenants Act of 1906, which Mr. Balfour denounced as highway robbery, gives tenants in towns compensation for disturbance so as to prevent a landlord making a vexatious use of his rights. An attempt was made by the House of Lords to limit the compensation so paid to one year’s rent, but the rejection of the amendment by the House of Commons was acquiesced in, and no such limitation exists in the Act.

With regard to the question of the agricultural labourers, the fact that the last Census Report discloses that there are in Ireland nearly 10,000 “houses” with one room and one window apiece, wretched cabins inhabited by about 40,000 people, the peat smoke from the fire in which escapes through a hole in the thatch, gives some idea of the miserable conditions existing in parts of the West of Ireland. Of the quarter of a million of cottages in the second class of the Census those, that is, with from one to four doors and windows a large number also no doubt are quite unfit for habitation, and do much in the way of leading to the asylum or to emigration. It is to secure the replacement of these by cheap sanitary and comfortable cottages that the Labourers’ Acts, ever since the first of the series introduced by the Irish Party in 1883, have been passed. By them Boards of Guardians, and by the Local Government Act, Rural District Councils, may build such cottages. In 1905, 18,000 cottages had been built under existing Acts, and they are let to tenants at rents of from 10d. to 1s. a week, but the difficulty had always been to effect the improvements sufficiently rapidly owing to the costly and elaborate procedure which involved an appeal to the Privy Council and a heavy burden on the rates of a poverty-stricken community. The Act of 1906 has simplified procedure by replacing the appeal to the Privy Council by an appeal to the Local Government Board, and that it was needful is seen from the fact that under Wyndham’s Act only 25 cottages were built. It is hoped thereby to circumvent the apathy of District Councils, and their parsimony is to be appeased by the fact that the funds, which are largely derived from economics in the Irish Executive are advanced at a rate of interest, not as heretofore of 4-7/8 per cent., but, as in the case of land purchase advances, of 3-1/4 per cent., repayable in a period of 68-1/2 years. The urgency of the problem is obvious. The bearing of this state of affairs in rural housing on the fact that in 1904 two out of every thirteen deaths were due to tuberculosis shows that it is impossible to overestimate its importance, and I think that this condition of things, put side by side with the other economic facts with which I have dealt, are a sufficient reply to those who declare that conditions in Ireland would appear couleur de rose were they not seen through the jaundiced eyes of a discontented people.

If the catalogue of Acts of Parliament which have been found necessary to effect the transformation of the system of tenure in Ireland from the state in which it was forty years ago to that in which it is to-day is evidence of the pressing grievance under which the country has suffered; it is also proof that there cannot be legislation other than by shreds and patches on the part of a legislature which lacks sympathy for and knowledge of the country for which it is making laws.

The need for exceptional and separate legislation in Ireland has been admitted, and the system which existed in fact, obtained legal sanction only in 1881, to be in its turn swept away by further legislation which will have a deeper economic bearing on the future of the country than any other change since the relaxation of the Penal Laws. For the rest I cannot do better than quote, in this connection, the opinion of the most dispassionate critic of Ireland of recent years Herr Moritz Bonn. Speaking of the landlord who has sold his estate he says “He has no further cause of friction with his former tenants, who now pay him no rent. He no longer regards himself as part of an English garrison. He will again become an Irish patriot. He no longer talks of the unity of the Empire, for Home Rule has few terrors for him now. He talks of ‘Devolution,’ of the concession of a kind of self-government for Ireland. He will struggle for a while against the designation Home Rule, because not so long ago he was declaring that he would die in the last ditch for the union of the three kingdoms, but he will soon be reconciled to it. It will not be very long till the former landlords, whose chief interests lie in Ireland, have become enthusiastic Nationalists.”