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tribunal therein provided for assessing the value of improvements was an impartial one; for if the parties immediately interested could not come to an agreement, the case would be adjudicated by the authorities, who, in Ireland, possessed the confidence equally of landlords and tenants. In no circumstance could the former suffer pecuniary loss, and he maintained that the right of the inprover of the land to the value of his improvement, so far from A infringing the rights of property, was of itself a right of the same description with those of property. When he heard the representatives of the Irish national party declare that the tenantry would be content and satisfied with this minute concession, and that a people who had suffered so much and bitterly could be thus easily conciliated, he called upon the House to seize the golden opportunity which now presented itself to secure such a great and important result.
The Bill was supported by Mr. Dillon, Mr. Pim, Mr. Saunderson, and other members, who argued that the former Bill, giving compensation for retrospective improvements, which had been agreed to by several members on the other side, viz., Lord Naas, Sir H. Cairns, Mr. Whiteside, and Mr. Napier, went even further than this measure.
Mr. C. S. Read examined the provisions of the Bill from the position of a practical tenant farmer, concluding that in an occupancy of twenty-one years the tenant would have reaped the full benefit of most improvements; that many improvements might be made which would be a detriment to the landlord ; and that if this exceptional legislation were sanctioned, it would be difficult to maintain the law of distress and the law of hypothec in England and Scotland.
Mr. Whiteside argued at length in favour of the resolution, condemning the measure as unprincipled, unjust to the landlord, and delusive to the tenant; and contending that it had been introduced simply for political purposes, as part of the compact with the Irish Liberals concluded by Mr. Bright's letter to the Lord Mayor of Dublin.
The debate was adjourned, but owing to the change of Government which soon afterwards took place, there was no opportunity of resuming it, and the Bill, like others on the same subject which had preceded it, became abortive. Another attempt, equally unsuccessful, to deal with the land question was made in the House of Lords by the Marquis of Clanricarde. The noble marquis described the object of his measure to be to improve, but not to alter, the existing system of land tenure in Ireland. The Act of 1860 was based on the principle of written agreements, but its efficacy had been diminished by certain clauses which gave rise to doubts and constant litigation. It was, therefore, one of the objects of this Bill to make the law more plain, by requiring all agreements between landlord and tenant to be in writing. Lord Clanricarde vindicated the landlords of Ireland from the
charge of having by their harsh evictions of their tenants driven a large portion of the population from the country, and showed by statistics that such could not have been the case; and concluded by stating that if the Bill was read a second time, he should not at present proceed to any other stage, but would await any other cognate measures which might be proposed to Parliament.
Lord Dufferin declined to assent to the second reading of the Bill. The Government, he said, had brought in a measure of their own in the other House, and he thought that the provisions proposed by Lord Clanricarde would fail to remedy the evils conplained of. There was considerable difference of opinion upon the merits of the Bill, Lords Bandon, Dunsany, and Wicklow objecting to its principle; Lord Wodehouse (Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland), Lord Drogheda, and Lord Clanricarde being in favour of the second reading. Earl Grey thought it better that the motion should not be pressed at the present time.
The Earl of Derby remarked that the difficulties connected with this question sprung from exaggerated notions of the rights of tenants. He was favourable to the principle of compensating tenants for improvements, but at the same time the landlord should have the right of selecting his tenants, so that he might let his property to those who would and could make improvements. Lord Derby added that he was inclined to vote for the second reading of this Bill, but thought that no inconvenience would be sustained if that stage were postponed until the Government measure came before the House.
The motion was ultimately withdrawn, and the Bill dropped.
On the 2nd of August, the Earl of Derby's administration having succeeded to power, and the Marquis of Abercorn being LordLieutenant of Ireland, the Government came to the conclusion that the Act for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus could not in the existing circumstances of Irish affairs be allowed to expire at the time limited by that Act (Sept. 1st) without risk to the public peace. It therefore became the duty of Lord Naas, the Chief Secretary, to move for leave to bring in a renewal Bill. In so doing the noble lord stated to the House of Commons the grounds on which the Government deemed the continuance of restrictions upon personal liberty still necessary to the security of Ireland. He stated that from the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, up to the 23rd ult., 419 persons who had been imprisoned had been discharged, mostly on condition that they should leave the country. From every authority he learned that it would be dangerous to release some 320 prisoners who remained in custody at once, by the expiry of the Act. None of them were enabled to offer such security for their good conduct as the Government required, and most of them still boasted of the ultimate success of the Fenian movement. It was in order to enable the Government to discharge with safety those prisoners that the Suspension Act, which would expire in September next, was sought to be renewed, and there was every disposition to deal with them leniently. Another reason, however, was, that the Fenian conspiracy still existed in force in another country, and it was necessary to be prepared for a movement towards Ireland from abroad rather than against action in Ireland. Nevertheless, there were still in Ireland newspapers advocating the Fenian cause, which disseminated seditious and treasonable sentiments through the country, while recently secret drillings of the population had been renewed.
Mr. Maguire moved as an amendment that the state of things which justified the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland no longer existed; that the ordinary tribunals had sufficiently vindicated the supremacy of the law; that there was a gratifying diminution of crime, and likewise an absence of political excitement in Ireland; and that measures of repression, unaccompanied with measures of a remedial character, tend rather to aggravate than lessen discontent and disaffection. He contended that no case whatever was made out for continuing despotic government in Ireland, and urged that the bulk of the prisoners would gladly accept their release on adequate terms, and that all danger from the Fenian conspiracy had died out.
Mr. Gladstone said that all who had listened to the speech of Mr. Maguire must admire the ability which he brought to this discussion. If the present were the occasion, he should probably be found voting with Mr. Maguire. But he did not think it would be proper when a new Government had entered on office to anticipate their policy towards Ireland; but in asking a renewal of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, the Government was adding to their responsibilities in regard to their administration of that country. Alluding to a speech delivered by a gentleman now a member of the Government, he deprecated the principle there laid down, and which was based on material assistance afforded to Ireland by money grants. In regard to the Bill before the House, he urged that the duty of preserving the peace of the country was paramount with the Government; and without considering whether the general policy of Ministers would be such as he could approve, he could not refuse to strengthen their hands in such a way as they deemed necessary. The late Government, while asking for a suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act for an unusually short period, had held out a prospect of the renewal of that proceeding. He did not think that an absence of general crime in Ireland implied an absence of political disaffection, and although the state of things in that country was not now the same as it was in February last, there might be still justification for the renewal of the Suspension Act; and he pointed out that the fact of Parliament not being in session for some months was an additional reason for affording the Executive the means of prompt action if any necessity for action should arise. On the whole, if the late Ministry had been in office, it would have been their duty to have made precisely the
same application to Parliament as that which had now been made by the existing Government.
Mr. B. Osborne enumerated the several occasions on which the Habeas Corpus Act had been suspended in Ireland, and after declaring his dislike to entrusting the present Government with arbitrary powers, said there was one man in the Government who understood Ireland. If Mr. Disraeli were not oppressed by the great mass of bucolic respectability which weighed him down, the Irish question might safely be left in his hands. In 1844 that right hon. gentleman, then sitting for Maidstone, said: “If they want to permanently settle Irish affairs, with credit to themselves and with satisfaction to the Irish people, they must reconstruct the social system of that country, and they must commence by organizing a very comprehensive and pervading Executive. He wished to see a public man come forward to say what the Irish question was. Let them consider Ireland as they would any other country similarly situated when reading in their closets. They would then see a starving population, an absentee aristocracy, an alien Church, and, in addition, the weakest Executive in the world. That was the Irish question. Would not gentlemen then say at once that the remedy was revolution ? But the connexion with England prevented revolution; therefore England was logically in the odious position of being the cause of all the misery in Ireland. What was the duty of an English Minister in such a state of things ? To effect by his policy all those changes which a revolution would do by force.” That right hon. gentleman was now in power, and had the opportunity of effecting, by his policy, the change which he had advocated in 1844.
After some further discussion, the second reading of the Bill was affirmed by 105 votes against 31.
The second reading of the Continuance Bill was moved in the House of Lords by the Prime Minister himself on one of the last nights of the Session. The noble Earl expressed his deep regret that the condition of the island was not such as to justify the Government in allowing the present measure to expire. He eulogized the manner in which the powers of the law had been put in force and administered by the Earl of Kimberley, the late Lord
Lieutenant, and expressed a hope that on the re-assembling of · Parliament next year matters would be so much improved that he
should be able to advise a return to the ordinary course of procedure.
The Earl of Kimberley, the ex-Lord-Lieutenant, declared that if he had remained in office he should have recommended the adoption of this Bill by Parliament. No one except those intimately acquainted with the facts could be aware how formidable the Fenian conspiracy had been. Since 1798 there had not existed so dangerous a condition of the public mind as in the past year. The persons who had been the promoters of the scheme had not been the poorer and more ignorant classes, but the class which was best described as artisans and small tradesmen ; whilst in the south-west of Ireland, if a rebellion had broken out, there was no doubt the farmers also would have been ready to take part in it. Adverting to the alleged grievances of the Irish people, the noble lord observed that the question of land tenure was one which must shortly occupy the earnest attention of Parliament, and that the anomaly of an Established Church must also be considered, although he seemed to regard the former as entitled to precedence of the latter. He believed that the Land Tenure Bill of the late Government was well suited to the occasion. Still, he would be ready to support any other that was equally calculated to effect the same object and that might be introduced by the present Government.
The Bill, having the support of both the leading parties, of course passed without difficulty, and unhappily the events of the ensuing autumn but too well justified its enactment. Once more the Fenian conspiracy, having its centre of operations in the United States and liberally fed with money from the expatriated Irish immigrants in that country, re-appeared in the same alarming form as in the preceding year, and called forth all the energies of the Government for the protection of the public peace. Again it was announced through the Fenian organs of the press that the Irish nation were about to rise in arms against their oppressors, the English Government; that Stephens, the escaped "Head Centre," was coming over to take the command of the national force, and that the green flag would be speedily unfurled, under which the patriot forces would march to victory. These announcements, though in some quarters regarded as little better than bluster and bravado, excited in many parts of the country a painful amount of suspense and alarm. Apprehension of local outbreaks, even if a general rising should fail to take place, was sufficient to destroy the confidence of the peaceable inhabitants, and to keep them in a fever of anxiety as to the future. The Executive felt it their duty to adopt the most energetic measures for the prevention of the threatened disorder. A reward of 20001. was offered for the apprehension of Stephens. But though it was given out by the Fenian organs that he had left the United States for Ireland, it was believed by the best-informed persons that this announcement was a feint, and that the Head Centre had not really left America. Fresh regiments were sent to Ireland and all the suspected points were strongly guarded. A large consignment of breech-loading rifles was despatched to Dublin, for distribution among the constabulary. Armed vessels were employed to watch those parts of the coast where it was apprehended that the Fenian companies from America might attempt a landing. The county and town of Limerick were proclaimed under the Peace Preservation Act. The police were incessantly employed in searching for arms, and by their exertions very large discoveries were made in various parts. Rifles,