City of London Livery Companies Commission. Report; Volume 1. Originally published by Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1884.
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Wednesday, 12th July 1882.
The Right Honourable the EARL OF DERBY, Chairman.
His Grace the Duke of Bedford, K.G.
The Right Hon. Viscount Sherbrooke.
The Right Hon. Lord Coleridge.
The Right Hon. Sir Richard Assheton Cross, G.C.B., M.P.
Sir Nathaniel M. De Rothschild, Bart. M.P.
Sir Sydney II. Waterlow, M.P.
Mr. Alderman Cotton, M.P.
Mr. Walter H. James, M.P.
Mr. Joseph Firth, M.P.
Mr. H. D. Warr, Secretary.
(fn. 1) A deputation from the companies' Irish estates, consisting of Mr. R. H. Todd, LL.D., Rev. W. McCay (Ironmongers' Company), Mr. Andrew Brown, J.P. (Salters' and Drapers' Company), Mr. Robert Stewart (Mercers' Company), Mr. Robert Dunn (Fishmongers' Company), Rev. Nath. M. Brown, and Professor Dougherty, waited upon the Commission. The deputation was introduced by the following Ulster members, Sir T. McClure, M.P., Mr. C. Russell, M.P., Mr. T. Lea, M.P., Mr. Givan, M.P., Dr. Kinnear, M.P., Mr. T. A. Dickson, M.P., and Mr. J. Dickson, M.P.
Deputation from Companies' Irish estates.; 12 July 1882.
1815. (Chairman to Sir Thomas McClure, M.P.) Now, Sir Thomas, we shall be glad to hear what you have to say?—I regret that my colleague, the Solicitor-General for Ireland, is unable to attend. He is watching a Bill in the House of Commons, and was not able to come with us, which he is sorry for. I have the honour to attend with a deputation of gentlemen who have been selected by the tenants on the estates of the London companies in the county of Derry to appear before you. They wish to give evidence as to the position and general management of those estates, and especially to convey the earnest expression of the desire of the tenants that greater facilities might be given to them to become owners of their holdings. Your lordship is no doubt aware that those estates were granted nearly three centuries ago for the purposes of encouraging a settled population who might cultivate the land and become a centre of civilization and strength to the nation. It is not my part to enter upon the question of how far that trust has been carried out, but I may state this, that the uncertainty of the terms of the tenure by which the cultivators of the soil held their land has long been the subject of complaint, and I can say, without hesitation, that I believe the companies would best fulfil the duty they undertook and the trust imposed upon them by promoting the transfer of the farms on easy terms to the present occupiers. Having visited all these estates and become acquainted with the tenantry I can state that their character is exemplary, and that they are an industrious thrifty people, and I believe that to make them owners of the land which they occupy would not only be a benefit to them, but also an advantage to the country, by establishing a settled industrious prosperous population. I may now introduce to you the deputation of gentlemen whose names I will just mention. The Reverend Mr. McCay has been selected by the tenants on the Ironmongers' estate to represent them; Mr. Robert Dunn, to represent the tenants on the Fishmongers' estate; Mr. Andrew Brown, J.P., to represent the tenants of the Salters' and Drapers'; Mr. Robert Stewart, to represent the Mercers'; we have also the Reverend Nathaniel M. Brown, of Limavady, who took an active part in the arrangements for the tenants on the Waterford estate, and who can give valuable evidence as to the difficulties in the way of conveyance to tenants and the affording of greater facilities; then we have Mr. Todd who has acted as solicitor for the tenants, and who can give very valuable general information, and we have Professor Dougherty who is well acquainted with the matter and anxious to forward all arrangements that would be for the welfare of the people and likely to promote content and material prosperity. I should state that in March 1881 I was requested to present memorials from all the tenants of the different estates to Mr. Gladstone. I presented them personally, and at the same time read to him a letter which was enclosed, and I beg to hand those memorials and that letter in to your lordship.
1816. Before we go into the general subject perhaps I may suggest that as there are a great many points upon which the argument which you are about to use must be common to the tenants of all the companies it might be convenient and save repetition and a waste of time if you would agree to have that general argument stated once for all, and then questions which are special to the estates of any particular company can be gone into afterwards. I think that will be most convenient?—(Mr. C. Russell, M.P.) I think your lordship will find that that has been already considered by the deputation itself. I think it is proposed that Dr. Todd, who is a solicitor in Londonderry, and who has already communicated to your Commission a paper dealing with the subject generally, shall hand that in as his evidence, supplementing it by such additional observations as seem to him necessary, and that that should be treated as his evidence subject to such examination as individual members of the Commission think right to address to him. I think your lordship will also find that the individual members of the deputation, who speak to particular estates and particular subject matters in reference to these estates, are arranged in the order of witnesses in the paper handed to your lordship. I do not propose to add anything to what my friend Sir Thomas McClure has said, except just to mention this, that as there seems to be a consensus of opinion between all political parties in the state that it would be an advantage not merely to the individuals themselves but to the community generally that there should be an increase of occupying proprietary in Ireland, this (undoubtedly dealing with property, which is of a public nature and of a trust or quasi trust character) would seem to offer an exceedingly advantageous opportunity of trying that experiment without any interference (to which the Legislature of this country undoubtedly strongly objects in general) with what may be called particular private interests. I would add also this further observation, that the dealings of some of those companies with their properties, one notably, I might mention, points strongly, I think, to the great desirability of the right of sale being secured to the tenants themselves and the properties not being offered in the general market. The particular case to which I allude is the case of the Clothworkers' Company, whose property it may be known to some members of the Commission was sold by that Company. The tenants were willing to buy. They offered fair terms for the purchase, I believe terms which in the aggregate would have quite come up to the price which was offered by the individual purchaser, but the Company, I suppose preferring not unnaturally to deal with a single buyer sold to that single buyer, and the result was that the rents to the tenants upon the Clothworkers' estate have been raised, and raised enormously, upon the tenants since that sale to the particular purchaser. I do not think it is desirable that I should mention the name of that purchaser or go into particulars about it, but if the Commission desire to have the particulars they can have them put before them in detail by those who are cognisant of the facts. I would only add my testimony to that of Sir Thomas McClure (being myself an Ulster man by birth and having lived in that province a great part of my life) that a more thrifty, industrious, and hard-working population does not exist in any part of Her Majesty's dominions.
1817. I do not want to interfere with the conduct of your case, but questions of rack renting or high renting it can hardly be worth while to go into now, because assuming the existence of rack renting in the past or in the present a remedy has been provided?— It was not with that view that I was mentioning the particular case of the Clothworkers', but only with a view to securing the right of pre-emption to the tenants, should the estates be sold.
1818. My comment upon that was, and is, that the tenants are secured in the case of there being other purchasers, or in the event of any such difficulty as that to which you refer, or in the event of the rents being raised?—I agree that the difficulty is not so great as it was.
1819. (fn. 2) (To Dr. Todd.) We shall now be happy to hear what you have to say?—I have handed in a printed statement of the evidence I propose to give, and perhaps it would save some time if your lordship would take that as my evidence; and if there are any other questions which you desire to ask me I shall be happy to reply to them. I merely point out that in the printed statement there is one inaccuracy. As I understand you have not had an opportunity of reading the statement, I will just tell you shortly what the substance of it is. I deal with four points. First, the desire of the tenants to buy; secondly, the reasons why the companies, if unwilling to sell to the tenants on reasonable terms, should be compelled to sell on reasonable terms; thirdly, suggested terms of purchase; and fourthly, the disposition of the purchase money.
1820. You say in the first place, as I understand, that the tenants on the estates for which you speak desire to buy the holdings?—That is so.
1821. That I suppose may be taken to be a very general wish?—That may be taken to be a very general wish. It would depend upon the terms, but if the terms are reasonable they are all willing to buy.
1822. But are they prepared to pay for their farms what would be their fair value in the market in ordinary times?—Their fair value in the markets, yes, if the fair rents were fixed all over the estates.
1823. That you have a legal power of obtaining at present without any interference, have you not, under the Land Act?—Certainly.
1824. (Sir S. Waterlow.) Will you state the estates to which you refer so that we may know what you are speaking to?—My evidence is general with regard to all the estates that are unsold.
1825. (Chairman.) All the estates under the companies that are unsold you mean?—Yes. It is not possible for some of the companies tenants to get the rents fixed at present under the Land Act of 1881, because on a good portion of the estates (and on the whole of one estate particularly, i.e., the Fishmongers' estate) the holdings are under lease.
1826. I think we may assume one or two points. I think the Commissioners will be willing to assume that the tenants do probably desire to buy the holdings, that that is a general feeling, and that the question is in the main one of terms?—The question is in the main one of terms.
1827. Supposing that the companies were called upon to sell their estates on the ground that a nonresident proprietary is undesirable and that land had better not be held by corporate bodies, are the tenants prepared to make offers equally advantageous with those which would probably be made by the outside public?—I do not think the outside public at present would buy any of the estates at all. I do not believe that any private individual would buy at the present moment.
1828. Perhaps not at the present moment, but speaking of ordinary normal times?—I do not anticipate that in Ireland it is likely that landlords will invest their money in estates in the future, because it is impossible that they can get any increase of value and the tenants can purchase on equally good terms with private individuals.
1829. We will assume that the rents not only may be fixed, but that they either are fixed by existing leases or will be fixed hereafter by the Land Court? —Suppose the rents were fixed, I believe that the rate of purchase would be about 20 years' purchase.
1830. Is it your opinion that any considerable number of the tenants would be able and willing to pay 20 years' purchase for their holdings?—About one fourth, I think, of the tenants on the various estates would be able to supply from a fourth to a fifth of the purchase money.
1831. That is to say, they would not be able to pay, but they would have to borrow the money somewhere?—Exactly. It would be only by the aid of State money or money to be lent by the companies or private individuals that they could possibly make a purchase of the whole estates.
1832. Let me understand clearly what would be the difference in their position, because at present I do not see it. If they bought under the circumstances you mention, borrowing either from private or public sources, three fourths or four fifths of the purchase money, they would, of course, be paying interest upon that money?—Yes.
1833. In what respect would their position as proprietors liable to pay full interest upon the purchase money differ from that of persons who are nominally tenants but whose rents are fixed for a long term of years by the operation of the law?—They do not propose to pay the full interest on the purchase money; they propose to get at least three fourths from the Government on advantageous terms under the Land Act.
1834. That is to say, they are not prepared to pay the ordinary rate of interest?—They propose borrowing the three fourths from the Government, and in case the Government extend the amount to be given, and advance it on more reasonable terms, they propose borrowing as much money as they can get from the Government, and then ask for the balance from the companies, that balance to be repaid by similar instalments to those by which they repay the loan from the Government. In point of fact no considerable number of the tenants could pay any portion of the purchase money except by instalments.
1835. Do you think it would be a safe financial operation to lend to a man so circumstanced?—Quite safe.
1836. You propose then that the Government should lend three fourths of the money?—Yes; we are in hopes that the Government will lend at least four fifths of the money, but in the meantime the Government will lend three fourths of the purchase money under the Land Act of 1881.
1837. Where is the remaining one fourth or one fifth of the purchase money to come from?—We propose that the companies should be recommended to take payment of that in instalments as well.
1838. Not to receive it at once?—To take payment in instalments in the same way as the Government.
1839. And with regard to the three fourths or four fifths which the State is to contribute, the companies are to receive that down, as I understand you?—Of course the companies would receive the three fourths at once from the Government. We propose that the whole money shall be payable by instalments, three fourths to the Government by instalments and one fourth to the companies by instalments.
1840. Speaking generally, you have stated what you consider to be fair terms—20 years' purchase upon the rent fixed by law?—I propose that the basis of the purchase should be the Government valuation of the land, that is, the present poor law valuation of the land.
1841. Griffith's valuation?—The present Government valuation.
1842. Is that Griffith's valuation?—Griffith made two valuations, but it is the present Government valuation I refer to.
1843. (Sir N. M. de Rothschild.) Is not that considerably below the present rental?—On some estates considerably below the present rental, but considerably above what the rents should be.
1844. That is not the question I asked; is it not considerably below the present rental?—Not considerably. On the Drapers' estate, for instance, it is only a small fraction below that.
1845. (Chairman.) Why do you prefer Griffith's valuation to a rent fixed by the Land Courts?—Simply because it is impossible to get the rent fixed by the Land Court within a reasonable time to complete a purchase, and because tenants who hold under lease cannot have a fair rent fixed.
1846. (Sir S. Waterlow.) You mean the valuation now in force for taxation purposes, do you not?— Exactly; but the Government valuation, exclusive of the houses: The gross Government valuation includes houses. The reason I put it on the value of the land alone is that some tenants have a large proprietary interest in the way of buildings; others have very small buildings, and it would be obviously unfair to say to the tenant that he should purchase on the basis of the houses he had erected himself. Take Mr. Cather, of the Fishmongers' estate; he has buildings on his estate, I should say, worth 200l. or 300l. a year, all erected by himself, and under the present law they are his own property. Taking the gross valuation as the basis of the purchase, you would ask him to purchase the property he built himself.
1846a. I presume you mean that the tenant is only to purchase that property which belongs to his landlord. Of course that which belongs to him he would not have to purchase on any valuation at all?—I propose that he should purchase a little more. I take it if you look at the history of the estates you will find the greater part of the value has been created by the tenant's sole expenditure.
1847. Is he to purchase that?—I think it is not possible to give him full justice. If you gave him full justice you would simply give the landlord about one third of the purchase money that I propose giving him.
1848. (Chairman.) I think we understand your view as to the basis on which the purchase should take place. Now as to your fourth point, the disposition of the purchase money; I understand from your printed statement that you think that that money, or the greater part of it, should be retained in the country?—Yes, I think the estates are clearly trust estates—trust estates for public purposes in Ireland. It is already declared that the estates of the Irish Society are trust estates, and the charter to the Irish Society granted the whole of the lands, the lands not only that they hold themselves, but the lands that are at present held by the companies, and the Irish Society conveyed the proportions to the various companies, who take their title through the charter. There is a declaration in the charter that is sufficient to impress the estates with the public trust, and there have been a considerable number of dealings between the Crown and the public and the Irish Society which show clearly that the intention was that the estates should be administered for the benefit of the public only.
1849. (Sir S. Waterlow.) You are speaking, I presume, only of the estates of the Irish Society?— And of the companies'.
1850. Is it not the other way round; were not the estates granted, and were not the trusts that were imposed upon them all placed upon the estates of the Irish Society, and were not the livery companies estates exempted from them?—Not at all; at least, I think not.
1851. Have not the House of Lords declared that so soon as the public trusts attached to the Irish Society's estates have been satisfied (if that time ever arrives), the Irish Society's estates are to belong to the livery companies?—I am not at all sure that you are correct in your interpretation of that judgment, but I think you will find, if the matter is brought before the court at the present time, that the companies take subject to the trust. They have notice of the trust; the trust is actually impressed in the charter.
1852. Are not the words of the House of Lords these, "so soon as the public trusts of the society are satisfied, if that time ever arrives, then the companies are entitled to the reversion of the estates"? —I have not the words by me, and have not read them recently, therefore I cannot exactly say; but I have not the slightest doubt that the statement made is inaccurate as to the present law of the matter.
1853. (Chairman.) You say in your printed statement, "there can, I think, be little doubt that the companies are not private owners, but trustees of these estates for public purposes"?—Yes.
1854. Has that ever been recognised by a judicial decision?—No, except in the Star Chamber proceedings, where the trust was not denied. It never came before a court of justice in the case of the companies estates. In the case of the Irish Society it did, and it was there argued. The Irish Society set up the same claim as that which the companies set up now, namely, that they held for their own private benefit.
1855. (Sir S. Waterlow.) Was not the case a case in which the livery companies were the plaintiffs and the Irish Society the defendants, and did not the livery companies claim to exercise the control over the Irish Society's estates, and did not the House of Lords declare that so long as there was any public trust to be discharged by the society the companies could not touch the property, but that so soon as those trusts were satisfied, they would be entitled to the reversion?—I am not quite sure that you are accurate in your recollection of the words you are quoting, but I am quite sure that the words you are quoting are inconsistent with the other part of the judgment.
1856. Was not the judgment against the livery company?—It was, decidedly.
1857. Was it not held that they had no control over the property until the trust was satisfied?—Yes; but if my recollection is correct the livery companies claimed to be private owners, and to be entitled to the full amount of the purchase money, whereas they, in fact, would take the residue of the Society's estates subject to the trusts under which they hold their particular estates.
1858. Have not the livery companies not only claimed to be private owners, but exercised the right as owners and sold their property, and made a good title, and do not the private owners hold it now against everybody?—No, certainly not.
1859. Does not Sir Hervey Bruce hold his estates from the Clothworkers' Company?—He does.
1860. Do you desire to challenge his title?—I do not challenge his title directly. I do not challenge his title to hold the lands, but I say that the money the company received from Sir Hervey Bruce should be devoted to public purposes in Ireland according to the trust. Of that I have no doubt whatever, and may say further that the companies have clearly recognised this trust from time to time.
1861. (Chairman.) The trust, I suppose, which you speak of would be a trust for some specific and definite purpose, what purpose has ever been defined as that to which these trusts were applicable?—So far as defined, at all—for educational, religious, and charitable purposes, and the development of the resources of the country. The charter says, "Whereas there can be nothing more kingly than to establish the true religion of Christ among men, hitherto depraved, and almost lost in superstition, strengthen, improve, and cultivate, by art and industry, countries and lands uncultivated and almost desert." That gives the substance of it, though it is elaborated more fully.
1862. (Sir S. Waterlow.) Were not those trusts subsequently imposed upon the estates which were separated from the general body of the estates and granted to the Irish Society in order to carry out the trusts?—Do you mean at the time of the separation of the estates?
1863. At the time they were divided partly among the companies and one thirteenth part to the Irish Society for the purpose of giving effect to this trust? —You mean at the time the estates were allotted?
1864. Yes?—I do not agree with you there at all. I think it was shown afterwards that the estates of the company were taken subject to that trust, because having failed to carry out that trust the charter was revoked, the grant was cancelled, and the estates taken into the hands of the King again, and if you look at the reports of Sir Thomas Phillips, who was then the governor of the country, he states that very distinctly; you will find also that the letters of the King state it very distinctly, and the judgment of the Star Chamber declares it very distinctly. There is a further reason why I think that the money should be devoted to public purposes in Ireland, and more especially in connexion with the county. According to that statement which I have just read to you the lands were impressed with that trust, and the companies were intrusted to reclaim the waste lands. Immediately after getting the second charter (which they got from Charles I. after the cancellation of the grants) they sublet all their estates to middlemen and left the cultivation and reclamation of the estates altogether to the tenants. From that time until the resumption of the estates by the companies in the beginning of the present century, (the companies resumed as the various leases fell out in the present century) the tenants made all the expenditure. They reclaimed 130,000 acres of land in the county, built all the farm buildings made all the fences, drained all the lands, did all the farming improvements on the estates, and raised the value of the estates from 1,800l. a year (which was the amount of the return made to the grand jury at that time for taxation purposes as the value of the whole estates), to the present rent of, in round numbers (I am not sure that I am quite accurate in my figures), about 160,000l. per annum; that is, including the estates of the 12 companies and the Irish Society's estates. That is about the rental, and I should say that in raising the value from 1,800l. to 160,000l. a year the companies never spent more than 20,000l. or 30,000l. at the very utmost, and I believe not so much as that. I mean of course in agricultural improvements. So far as regards charitable purposes they have devoted a good deal of their funds undoubtedly to such objects, but they have not assisted the agricultural portion of the community at all: and what I think is this, that the tenants of the county, having increased the value of the lands of the county to that extent, it would be unreasonable that the land, or the purchase money of that land, representing that value created by the tenant's expenditure should be handed over to any other purposes than purposes in the benefits of which the tenants would participate.
1865. (Chairman.) On the ground that the value has been created by the tenants themselves?—Exactly, that is one of the reasons.
1866. Would not that argument equally apply in the case of a private person selling his estate. As I understand you, you say that if these estates are sold the purchase money ought to go back to the tenants, because it is by their labour that the estate has been created?—Not exactly that. I am afraid I did not put it clearly. What I say is this, in the first place the companies' estates are trust estates, and being trust estates the purchase money of those estates should be devoted to public purposes in Ireland, in accordance with the original purposes declared by the King in granting the estates, but that the county of Derry has a peculiar claim to a large portion of this trust money on the ground that I state. In point of fact, if under the Land Act of 1881 the rents were fixed, and fixed on the principle that no rent should be charged on the tenant's improvements, then, inasmuch as we have clear evidence in this case that no improvements were made by the landlords, also clear evidence as to the condition in which this land was at the time of plantation, and can show the condition of the land now, the result would be that the present landlords would be limited to the original value, or the prairie value, of the land.
1867. Is that a principle which has ever been laid down by the Land Court?—There is a section in the Act of 1870 which is held to be applicable, and that is that the rent at which the lands have been held, the time during which the tenant may have enjoyed the advantages of the improvements effected by himself, shall be taken into account by the court in reduction of the tenant's claim. But I would like to point out to your lordship the construction of that. The tenants are supposed to enjoy advantages before that section applies at all. Now if the improvements do not yield more than a fair return upon the outlay, (and they do not) the tenants have enjoyed no advantages, and the section could not possibly apply. There is the further point that the rent at which the tenant has held the holding may be taken into account by the court, and if during all this time the tenants have been paying not only a full rent on what they got at first, but rent also on their own improvements (and they have been doing that all along), it is clear that they have enjoyed no advantages and have not been recouped for the labour they have expended.
1868. Is not this a question to be settled by the Land Court?—I put it in this way; this is a strong reason why the tenants should get favourable terms; it is a strong reason why, if we cannot do absolute justice by having the rents fixed before purchase, and have to purchase on the scale I laid down, a considerable portion of the purchase money should be devoted to the purposes of the county of Derry.
1869. Is there anything you wish to add to the statement you have made?—There is a matter in one of the paragraphs of my statement that I was anxious to call attention to, in which I find that there is a slight inaccuracy, and that is in the reference to the Fishmongers' estate. It is stated in the 10th paragraph, The last lease to the Earl of Tyrone expired in 1820, the company then resumed possession, revalued the estate, and raised the rental to 10,000l. a year." I may say that there was a rise in 1820 and leases given for 31 years or 21 years; on the expiration of those leases there was a second rise. This is the rental after the second rise and not after the first rise.
1870. (Sir S. Waterlow.) When you said that the income of the companies estates and of the Irish Society was about 160,000l., did you mean the income payable by the tenants to the landlords, or did you mean that the properties were assessed at that in the Government valuation?—I mean the gross rental of the 12 companies estates and the estates of the Irish Society.
1871. Received by the landlords?—Received by the landlords.
1872. (Mr. Firth.) Have you the division of it amongst the companies?—I have not got it in this statement, but I can furnish it to you in a very short time.
1873. (Sir S. Waterlow.) I think you said that the tenants had made all the improvements?—Yes.
1874. I will come to that point presently, but is it not a fact' taking the Drapers' Company's estate as an example, that the value of the tenant's interest in the property is on an average 23 years' purchase of the rental?—I have no doubt it is quite; it should be 25 years' purchase.
1875. If the tenant has an interest in the property equal to 23 years' purchase of the rental, surely that is some compensation for any improvements which he may have made, is it not?—Certainly not.
1876. Does it not show that the property is worth really the tenant's interest and the landlord's interest in it, i.e., twice as much as the tenant is paying the landlord?—Not if the 23 years' purchase would give no return to the purchaser, as is the case, as a rule, with tenant right in the north of Ireland.
1877. Do you mean seriously to tell the Commission that tenant right sells at 23 years' purchase in the north of Ireland, and that when the tenant has bought it it gives nothing back to him?—I do; I know that of my own knowledge. I have been practising the last six years, and know that many of the tenants have bought and have sold the tenant right interest where the actual rent was more than the full value of the land. They have the selling interest, but no valuable interest whatever; that I know of my own knowledge.
1878. Now take a farm of 10l. a year, which is an easy calculation, there is a tenant right of 23 years' purchase, that is 230l.?—Yes.
1879. Do you mean to say that a tenant would go in and pay 230l. without getting any return upon the 230l. which he invested?—I mean to say that he has done it from time to time, and that it is the custom to do it. I do not mean to say that in all cases there is no return, and I do not mean to say that the return in one case is always the same as in another, but I say that tenants have purchased farms held at a rackrent for a considerable number of years' purchase, and I say also that a considerable amount of the purchase money in all cases represents good will and not valuable interest, and this is what we call dead money, which is lying invested in the land until the tenant comes to re-sell and get his money into his pocket again; in the meantime it gives him no return, but simply a home and occupation, and for the purpose of getting that he pays more than the land is value for.
1880. Do you mean seriously to tell the Commission that the money paid in the north of Ireland does not yield to the tenants any monetary return in the shape of profit from the farm?—I mean to say that it yields from 0 per cent. up to 5 or 6 per cent., but in very many cases it yields 0 per cent.; in some 1, in some 2, and in very few over 3 per cent.
1881. How do you account for people giving the money for that which will bring them back no return? —They have no other means of occupation; they have no means of investment; they know of no investment by which they can get a return. In the banks they could only get 1 or 1½ per cent. interest. The amount is very small, and very often men will purchase, and pay a large number of years' purchase money, in order to get into a larger holding, or for the purpose of raising their social status, and getting some other advantages.
1882. Do you know anything about the Drapers' estate?—Yes, but not so much as of the Fishmongers' estate and the Skinners'. I know them very intimately, I have a large number of clients on those estates, and am practising among them daily. But I know that the figures I give you are accurate, or substantially accurate. There may be a slight inaccuracy.
1883. Taking the years from 1870 to 1879, am I not substantially accurate in putting the gross rental at 14,000l. to 14,500l. a year; do you know sufficient to judge of that?—From my recollection of the figures that is the case; I have not them before me, but I think you are about accurate. Mr. Brown has the figures. It is practically correct as you put it.
(Mr. Andrew Brown.) There is an obvious difficulty in having any discussion between the Drapers' tenantry and their landlords, because the Drapers' Company have generously granted a reduction of 15 per cent. upon their rents, taking it off the leaseholders as well as the others; the people are highly gratified with it, and I am sent here to say so.
1884. (To Mr. Andrew Brown.) May I take it from you that the statement you have just made may be accepted by the Commission as evidence that you, as one of the Drapers' tenants, speaking for yourself and others, are pleased and gratified with the arrangements which they have made, and are now making, as to the reduction and revision of rents; is that what you would wish to convey?—They are highly gratified.
(Dr. Todd.) They may be highly gratified with the particular reduction, but I should think they are hardly gratified at being overcharged ever since the rent was raised.
1885. (To Dr. Todd.) I was not asking anything on that. I had intended asking you if you knew the very large amount (more than 50 per cent.) which the Drapers' Company have been in the habit for years past of spending on the estate or upon public objects on the estate?—I say distinctly they recognise their trusts on all the estates; they spend large quantities of money in providing schools.
1886. From your knowledge of the tenants on the Company's Irish estates in the north of Ireland, do you think that those tenants would have been better off if they had been the tenants of private individuals, instead of being tenants of the companies?—With some private individuals they would have been better off, and with some worse.
1887. On the average would they not have been materially worse off?—On the average they are better off than with private landlords; I admit that freely, but I could give the names of landlords that are better landlords than the companies.
1888. Do I understand you to say that you believe that there are no better landlords in the north of Ireland than the livery companies?—I do know better landlords in the north of Ireland than the livery companies.
1889. Can you tell me any one of them?—Lord Castlestuart is one.
1890. Does he spend 50 per cent. upon his property?—No, but he never rackrented his property; he never charged rent on his tenants' improvements, but allowed the tenants to develop the land, without raising the rents. The companies have invariably rackrented, from the time they got hold of their estates until the present time; or, rather, they have allowed the middlemen to do so.
1891. I think you said that the Skinners' on their Pelliper estates increased their rents some short time ago, or some few years ago?—Yes, they did.
1892. Do you know what portion of the gross rental the Skinners' spend on the Pelliper estate?— I know that they have spent nothing in the way of agricultural improvement at all, nothing whatever.
1893. Are you prepared to say that they do not spend out of the gross rental in Ireland on the estates from 25 to 35 per cent. of their gross rental every year?—I believe they do in charitable and religious and educational purposes. I think that is quite accurate.
1894. And in the maintenance of the estates generally?—No. They have paid the lawyers, agents, bailiffs, and surveyors, and they have given money to clergymen, and they have given money to doctors, and they have given money for various other charitable and religious purposes; but in no single instance, to my knowledge, have they spent a single sixpence in agricultural improvements, or given the slightest benefit to their tenantry.
1895. Did not they in 1879 and 1880 make an abatement to their tenantry of 10 per cent. of their rents?—They did, when they should have made an abatement of 50 per cent.
1896. We will take the fact?—Other landlords were making larger abatements, I may tell you, at the same time.
1897. Are they not now negotiating with all their tenants for renewed tenancies, instead of going into the Land Court, and have they not settled with at least 100 of them?—I do not think they have settled with 100 of them; they have settled with a few.
1898. Are you prepared to say that they have not settled with 100?—I am not. I do not know how many they settle with from day to day, but I can tell you the mode in which they make the settlement if you will allow me.
1899. (Mr. Firth.) Tell us that?—They summon each individual tenant into their office; they refuse to allow him to be accompanied by solicitor, counsel, friend, neighbour, or anybody. They bring him in before their own clerk from London, before their own counsel from London, before their own solicitor from London, before their local solicitor, before their agent, before their sub-agent, and before two valuators. I think eight or nine persons altogether.
1900. (Mr. James.) What company does this refer to?—The Skinners' Company. I believe that is the worst-managed estate in the north of Ireland, without exception, and I know it intimately. The tenant is brought in, he has no assistance, he is an ignorant man as a rule, he is in fear of his landlord, as all such tenants are; one question is put to him by the agent, another question is put by the solicitor, a third by the London solicitor, a fourth by the London counsel, the fifth is a suggestion made by a valuator, and so on until the poor man is badgered to such an extent that he agrees to almost anything; the rent is put up to auction, as it were; one suggests so much reduction, another a little more, and another a little more, until they get the man to accept whatever they think right. I can tell you further that the reductions they have given are not in accordance with the justice of the case, and that the Land Court would have reduced them very much more.
1901. (Sir S. Waterlow.) I have not interrupted you because I supposed you were stating what you knew personally?—Quite so.
1902. You have been acting for some of the tenants, as I understand?—For a large number.
1903. Do you not think that a tenant acting under your advice and going in to see his landlord is quite capable of judging for himself what he ought to give for his farm, and if he settles amicably with his landlord, is not that a better settlement than going into the Land Court?—I think it a system of gross tyranny to introduce a poor ignorant man into a room among a lot of intelligent men, and allow them to badger him until he does not know what he is about.
1904. What evidence have you of badgering?— That of the tenant himself.
1905. Do you not think that if the landlord wants to settle with his tenant it is better to have a conference with him?—It is, but he should be allowed the assistance of a friend or valuator or somebody. They refuse to allow him to have a neighbour in with him; and I may tell you further that they take him at once, and without allowing a neighbour to see him at all, or allowing him to consult with anyone, into another room to sign the agreement.
1906. Is it not a fact that the livery companies do expend out of the gross rental of their estates much larger sums in the neighbourhood in which their estates are situated than private individuals do?— They do expend large sums in pursuance of their trust, but they rackrent the tenants and take the money out of their pockets and give it for public purposes, and then pose as benefactors of the country.
1907. You say they rackrent the tenants; what evidence is there of that; are you prepared to state that the rents exacted by the companies are so high that the tenants are obliged to give up?—To give up?
1908. Yes?—They are so high that the tenants are nearly all in arréar and unable to pay the rents, and at present a large number of them are to my own knowledge under ejectment for nonpayment of rent.
1909. Do you wish the Commission to understand that the tenants of the Irish livery companies' estates in the north of Ireland are more in arrear than the average of the tenants in other parts of Ireland?— They are very much more in arrear than on a great number of estates that I have personal knowledge of. I will take the estates of Lord Castlestuart and the Duke of Abercorn for instance.
1910. Will you answer my question to the best of your knowledge. Do you mean to convey to us that they are more in arrear, so far as you know, than the average of other parts of Ireland?—I can speak as of the Skinners' Company, and I say that they are as much if not more in arrear than the tenants on any estate I know of.
1911. Can you tell us whether the Skinners' estate is in arrear more than 12 months on the whole?—A great many of the tenants are much more than 12 months in arrear.
1912. Are you prepared to say that there is more than 12 months' rental owing on the Skinners' estate, taking it all over?—I cannot say that, I have not the return. I speak of cases that come within my own knowledge.
1913. Is it not a fact that there is not 12 months' rent owing on the Skinners' estate?—I do not know that as a fact as to the whole estate, but as to a large number of the tenants they are several years in arrear and utterly unable to pay.
1914. Then you are unable to say whether on the whole there is more than 12 months' arrear?—I know that there are a large number of substantial tenants who have other farms and other means of living, and who have paid out of their other means, but whose farms on the company's estates would not produce as much as would pay the rent and allow them a decent means of living.
1915. You are unable to answer my question as to whether the estate is more than 12 months in arrear?—I don't know whether that is a fact.
1916. (Mr. Firth.) Can you tell us whether the tenants would be prepared to accept a fair rent as the basis of purchase if such fair rent were fixed by the court?—Quite willing.
1917. And if the leases were broken and a fair rent fixed by the court would they accept that?— Certainly.
1918. I ask you that because I see in your evidence you say that the companies' estates "are now value for about 3,000,000l." and of that 2,000,000l. should "in justice be the property of the tenants"? —Certainly, there is no question about that at all, if justice were to be done, but the tenants hardly expect justice.
1919. You say some of these companies have sold their estates?—Yes.
1920. Do you suggest that the money which they have raised and are now using for other purposes should be brought back?—I certainly think the whole of the money should be brought back to Ireland in conformity with the trusts declared originally. I think it was a great breach of trust to bring the money to England at all.
1921. To what purposes do you suggest that this 160,000l. a year (or whatever the sum may be) should be applied if the estates were sold?—I would suggest that at least one fourth should be given to the county itself in reduction of county rates, as some recognition of a part of the value made by the tenants, and that the balance should be applied to public purposes generally.
1922. By which you mean, what?—As to the exact public purposes I will not undertake to say, but what I would suggest is this: if the provincial boards that we expect to have in Ireland, (a modified form of Home Rule), are established, that those moneys should be put into the hands of those boards as trustees for the public, with powers defined by an Act of Parliament, and limited to developing the resources of the country.
1923. You say, "In accordance with the provisions of the charter," which provision is it that you say constitutes these moneys to be used for purposes of that kind?—The recitals in the beginning of the charter.
1924. That is as to reclamation?—Yes, as to both; educational, charitable, and religious purposes as well.
1925. That is what I wish to ask you; I would like you to draw my attention to that provision?—If you will kindly read the whole paragraph you will see it. I may just state this: the difficulty in fixing a particular trust is very great, because it is clear that at this time the King had the desire to benefit the country by all possible means.
1926. That is a difficulty as to which I wish to hear your explanation?—It is so wide that it is very difficult to fix any particular trust.
1927. Which words do you say form the general trust, as you call it?—"To establish the true religion of Christ among men, hitherto depraved and almost lost in superstition." That, I think, there is some difficulty about at present, because there are several sects in Ireland, and we might quarrel as to who would get hold of the money "To strengthen, improve, and cultivate by art and industry countries and lands uncultivated and almost desert." That would be clearly an intention to reclaim waste lands in the north of Ireland.
1928. Surely those were the objects of the plantation articles?—Clearly.
1929. But those are not trusts which apply to the property resulting from it now; however, that is your answer?—That is my suggestion, and I think those trusts so far as they remain unperformed still attach to the property.
1930. (Mr. James.) Suppose that, owing to a series of bad seasons, or from other unforeseen circumstances, a tenant or any number of tenants were to prove unable to pay either their instalment or their interest, what course could the State adopt under such circumstances?—Sell the holding, by all means.
1931. You would sell it?—Certainly, it is available for the purposes of sale.
1932. You do not anticipate any difficulty in carrying out such an arrangement?—Not the slightest difficulty. If the fair rent is fixed it will leave a very large margin to the tenant. It is only the balance— the landlord's interest that will be purchased, and we reckon in the north of Ireland that even apart from the companies estates the half of the full value of the land is the tenant's. That is a general observation and certainly that would apply to the companies' estates with greater force than to the estates of private individuals.
1933. Supposing the value of the estate could not be realised, what, then, would happen in the event of the instalment and interest not being paid; that is to say, supposing the estate were put up to auction to be sold and the value of the estate could not be realised? —You refer to particular holdings?
1934. Yes, I refer to particular holdings?—If it could not be sold the money could not be realised.
1935. Who, then, would be the sufferer?—The State, clearly.
1936. Would not that be rather hard upon the State?—In connexion with that I would just point out that those tenants bear the character of the most industrious and hard-working people in the north of Ireland, and the most loyal; there is no discontent in the way of disloyalty amongst the tenants; they are industrious tenants, and they have borne the system of rackrenting so long that when they get fair rents they will be prepared to pay them, especially if they see a prospect of within 50 years being the absolute owners without further payment.
1937. Have any negotiations taken place with private individuals on the part of companies similar to those that took place in the case of the Clothworkers' Company?—The Salters' Company, I believe, had some negotiations.
1938. To whom did the Salters' Company dispose of their property?—They did not sell—there were some negotiations for a sale.
1939. Do you mean for a sale to tenants?—I thought you asked me whether there were negotiations for sale to private individuals.
1940. Are there negotiations for sale going on with the Salters' Company at the present time?—No.
1941. What were you referring to then?—Negotiations carried on between the Salters' Company and Mr. Adair for the purchase of the whole estate five or six years ago. The tenants wrote to Mr. Adair and put their position before him, and the purchase was not carried out.
1942. (Mr. Alderman Cotton.) Do we understand that you think the tenants should have the right of purchasing their holdings?—Certainly.
1943. And then do we also understand you to say that the tenants have no money so to purchase their holdings?—My idea is this: that if the sale is made to the tenants at all it must be made to all the tenants in order to make it a success, but to make that feasible it is necessary that the tenants should get all the money advanced, because a large portion of the tenants could not advance any portion of the purchase money.
1944. Then you did mean to tell the Commission that the tenants should be allowed to purchase property although they have no money to buy it with?— In instalments.
1945. But no money in hand?—No money in hand.
1946. Perhaps it is an Irish view of purchase, but you think it is right, as I understand, that a tenant should be allowed to purchase his land, the Government giving him three fourths, and then the company or the landlord finding the other fourth for him?— That is not an Irish view. I take that from the report of the House of Lords Committee, which is essentially an English body.
1947. You think that is the right way?—I do think that is the right way.
1948. Do you think that the landlords should be compelled to sell upon those terms?—Not a private landlord. I say these being trust estates, and the object being to improve the kingdom, and the system of occupying owners being one of the means in my opinion of improving the country, and it being a safe scheme to carry out, I believe the money should be advanced and repayment taken in instalments.
1949. It certainly is an easy method of purchasing property, is it not?—It certainly is. No other way would be feasible in the case. It is not like an ordinary case of purchase, because the tenant right means nearly the half, or the whole of the half, of the value.
1950. (Sir Sydney Waterlow.) Will you refer to paragraph 4 of your printed statement. You say, "The plantation of the companies' estates was carried out with public moneys, specially raised from the citizens of London for the purpose." Higher up you say, "It was levied through the convenient agency of the livery companies, each of the twelve principal companies raising 3,330l. odd"?—Yes.
1951. Is it not the fact that the companies themselves raised the money out of their own property, and did not levy upon the citizens at all?—Not at all. It was a tax upon the citizens. If you will be good enough to investigate the records of the period you will find that that is quite clear.
1952. Did not some of the companies sell their property, their plate, and something else for the purpose of raising this very money?—Whether the companies were unable to raise the whole of the tax or not I cannot say, but I know that they imposed a tax upon the citizens for this purpose, and I believe they sold their plate to pay a fine imposed on them for breach of "The Articles of Plantation."
1953. Do you mean seriously to tell the Commission that the public companies at that time had the power to tax the citizens, and that they did tax them for the purpose of raising that money?—The Corporation of London taxed them.
1954. Can you tell me when the Corporation of London ever had the power to levy public taxes in London?—At that time they had the power, or the records of the period are not accurate. There was an order issued by the King in Privy Council to raise the money, and in pursuance of that order the Corporation and companies levied the tax.
1955. Did not each company contribute their share out of their own funds?—No.
The following printed statement was supplied by this witness.
1. The London companies became connected with the county of Derry in the beginning of the 17th century, through the scheme of King James I., known as the Plantation of Ulster. The scheme was devised on the confiscation of the estates of the Ulster Earls, with the view of bringing peace and prosperity to Ireland, by colonizing Ulster with loyal English and Scotch settlers. During the previous century the cost of governing Ireland had been about 26,000l. yearly, while the annual revenue derived by the Crown from that kingdom was only 6,000l. The object of the Crown in the plantation scheme was to save the nation from the vast expense and trouble that Ireland had caused it in the preceding century.
2. As soon as it became known that the King intended to plant the escheated lands with English and Scotch settlers, a vast number of adventurers applied for grants. But the King expressly refused to allot the lands to any except such as were, in his own words, "of sufficient merit and ability" to carry out the public objects he had in view. To prevent any misunderstanding he issued, in the year 1608, a State paper entitled a collection of such orders and conditions as are to be observed by the undertakers upon the distribution and plantation of the escheated lands in Ulster." These orders and conditions, popularly known as the "Articles of Plantation," together with the various other public declarations of the King and Privy Council on the subject of the plantation, are the bases and limits of the title by which the companies hold their Irish estates.
3. The King proposed to the London Corporation to undertake the plantation of a portion of the escheated lands. At first the Corporation refused, but after considerable negotiations they agreed to the King's suggestion. A Committee of the Corporation, afterwards known as the Irish Society, was appointed, a survey and report obtained, and the plantation of the co. of Londonderry undertaken. The substance of the negotiations between the King and the Common Council of the City of London is given in a book entitled "A concise view of the Irish Society," published by order of the Society in the year 1822. During the negotiations the King and Privy Council sent an official document to the Corporation setting forth "motives and reasons to induce the City of London to undertake the plantation in the north of Ireland," and "a statement of the profits which London shall receive of this plantation," which are given at length in the report of the Skinners' Company against the Irish Society. No reference is made in these reasons to any revenue to be derived by the Corporation in the way of rents from the Irish lands. The document deals exclusively with the public good to be derived from the settlement and the advantages to the City of London to be anticipated from bringing within the control of the City the valuable fishings, and extensive woods, and various articles of produce of the north of Ireland. The "Motives and Reasons" and the "Statement of Profits" are given in the Appendix.
4. The money required to effect the settlement of co. Derry was not taken from the funds of the Corporation or of the companies. The required sum of 40,000l. was raised by means of a special tax assessed on the citizens of London. The tax was heavy, and was raised with considerable difficulty. It was levied through the convenient agency of the livery companies, each of the 12 principal companies raising 3,330l. odd. From the negotiations between the King and Privy Council on the one hand, and the London Corporation and companies on the other, and from the various public records of the period and the subsequent dealings of the Crown with the Irish Society and the companies, it seems manifest that (1) the plantation of the companies' estates was carried out with public moneys, specially raised from the citizens of London for the purpose; (2) that it was undertaken reluctantly at the request of the King and not by the desire of the Corporation or the companies; (3) that the estates were granted to the Irish Society and the London companies not for their corporate or private benefit, but as trustees for the purpose of carrying out the plantation scheme; (4) that the intention was to give such advantages to the settlers as would induce them to invest their capital in the soil, and so develop its resources and ensure the peace and prosperity of the province. This is shown even by the charter granted in the year 1613 to the Irish Society, which is the root of these companies' title to their estates. In the introduction to the charter the King states that—
"Whereas the greater part of six counties in the province of Ulster, within the realm of Ireland, named Armagh, Tyrone, Coleraine, Donegal, Fermanagh, and Cavan, being escheated and come to the Crown, hath lately been surveyed, and the survey thereof transmitted and presented unto his Majesty, upon view whereof his Majesty, of his princely bounty, not respecting his own profit, but the public peace and welfare of that kingdom, by the civil plantation of those unreformed and waste countries, is graciously pleased to distribute the said lands to such of his subjects, as well of Great Britain as of Ireland, as being of merit and ability, shall seek the same, with a mind not only to benefit themselves, but to do service to the Crown and commonwealth; and, forasmuch as many persons being ignorant of the conditions whereupon his Majesty is pleased to grant the said lands, are importunate suitors for greater portions than they are able to plant, intending their private profit only, and not the advancement of the public service, it is thought convenient to declare and publish to all his Majesty's subjects the several quantities of the proportions which shall be distributed, the several sorts of undertakers, manner of allotment, the estates, the rents, the tenures, with other articles to be observed, as well on his Majesty's behalf, as on the behalf of the undertakers, in manner and form following." (fn. 3)
In the introduction to the charter granted to the Irish Society, in the year 1613, when the whole county of Derry was placed under the proprietorship of the London companies, both the social and civil condition of the county and the public objects of the plantation are still more explicitly declared. In this royal grant his Majesty says—"Whereas there can be nothing more kingly than to establish the true religion of Christ among men, hitherto depraved, and almost lost in superstition; to strengthen, improve, and cultivate by art and industry, countries and lands uncultivated and almost desert; and the same not only to plant with honest citizens and inhabitants, but also to renovate and strengthen them with good statutes and ordinances, whereby they might be more safely defended, not only from the corruption of their morals, but from their intestine and domestic plots, conspiracies, and also from foreign violence. And whereas the province of Ulster, in our realm of Ireland, for many years now past, hath grossly erred from the true religion of Christ and divine grace, and hath abounded with superstitution, inasmuch that, for a long time, it hath not only been harassed, torn, and wasted, by private and domestic broils, but also by foreign arms; we, deeply and heartily commiserating the wretched state of the said province, have esteemed it to be a work worthy of a Christian prince, and of our royal functions, to stir up and recall the same province from superstition, rebellion, calamity, and poverty, which, heretofore, have horribly raged therein, to religion, obedience, strength, and prosperity." (fn. 4)
5. The Irish Society and the London companies were sequestrated in 1630 for breaches of the Articles of Plantation, and in 1637 the charter to the Irish Society was revoked and the grant to the companies cancelled, in pursuance of a judgment of the Star Chamber declaring the charter and grants void. The society and companies had by this time discovered how valuable the estates could be made, and offered the King 100,000l. for a grant of the estates freed and discharged from the Articles of Plantation. This offer was refused. In 1650, however, Charles II. gave a new charter to the Irish Society, and the society regranted their proportions to the companies, but subject to all the original articles and conditions.
6. After the second grant, the vigilance of the Crown seems to have been considerably relaxed, for from that time up to the present the companies have ignored the greater part of the Articles of Plantation with impunity, and have carried out the purposes of the plantation to a limited extent only. Immediately after the lands were restored to them by Charles II. the whole of the companies leased their proportions to middlemen, in whose hands they continued up till recently. In only two instances, I believe, did the lessees enter into a covenant to observe the Articles of Plantation, and in no case have the companies insisted on their observance. The result has been shown by the Rev. G. V. Sampson, agent of the Fishmongers' Company, in his statistical survey of the county of Londonderry, published in 1814, and by Mr. Slade, Secretary to the Irish Society, in his report of the state of the plantation published in 1802. Mr. Slade's report is as follows:—"But if the measures recommended are likely to promote the original object of the charter, that of encouraging a Protestant colony in the north of Ireland, the nation at large has a right to demand, and the Protestant tenants a right to expect from the society's justice, that every endeavour will be exerted to improve their condition, and make them participate in the benefits of the union which has recently taken place between the two countries. If such an impression as this could once be made on the minds of the Irish it would put a stop to that emigration which a contrary conduct, particularly an excessive rise of rent, has frequently occasioned. This leads me to question the policy, I might say the justice of the city companies, in letting their lands on payment of heavy fines, without stipulating for the performance of the relative duties between landlord and tenant. In the instance of the company to which I myself belong, the Ironmongers', I have discovered on inquiry since my return, that in the year 1767 they let their estate for 61 years and three lives, on payment of a fine of 21,000l. to a gentleman who had acquired a large fortune in India, but who, as far as I could learn, has never seen any part of the company's estates. The Irishman who cultivates the soil might with justice observe that he derives no protection from such a line of conduct, and if he were informed that the sum subscribed by all the companies together in the reign of king James amounted only to 40,000l., and the Ironmongers and their associates' proportion of that sum only to 3,334l., he could not be charged with ingratitude if he appeared to feel no obligation to his landlords in subjecting him to a rent far beyond what can possibly be derived from the product of the soil, and which can be only paid out of the profits of his loom."
Mr. Samson, among other things, says, "This county is rather unfavourably circumstanced. Several of the principal proprietors are absentees. Were it not for the gentlemen of the linen business, and others whose names occur as residents . . . There would be little occasion for the following query, viz., circulation of money or paper."
7. In the State paper, entitled "Motives and Reasons for inducing the City of London to undertake the Plantation in the North of Ireland," the king, after describing the extent of the co. Derry, and defining the common lands that were to be laid rent free to the city of Derry and the town of Coleraine, adds, "The rest to be planted with such undertakers as the city of London shall think good for their best profit, paying only for the same the easy rent of the undertakers." These easy rents are defined by the Articles of Plantation as 6s. 8d. for every 60 acres English, or 1⅓d. per acre, and are thus held out as a special inducement to colonization. 3,210 statute acres was the quantity of land each company undertook to plant. This was 38,520 acres in all, and this, with the 7,000 acres given the city of Derry, and town of Coleraine, and the waste lands adjoining the several proportions, was all the King intended granting to the society and the companies. As it turned out, however, by some mistake, 90,000 acres, in addition to the waste lands, were obtained. For 38,520 acres only, the companies pay the Crown rent of 5l. 6s. 8d. per 1,000 acres, though 90,000 acres, in addition to bogs, mountains, and waste, were granted them. The area of these waste lands was in round numbers 173,700 statute acres, so that the lands held originally by the society and the 12 companies comprised altogether 263,700 statute acres.
8. After the plantation of the county was undertaken each company built a castle, with a bawn attached, and it is believed assisted a few of the first settlers in building houses around the castles, in such a manner as to furnish a garrison and provide outworks for its defence; but the buildings thus erected by the companies would not be value for more than 1,000l. yearly. From the middle of the 17th century, when the estates were leased to middlemen up till recently, when they resumed possession of the estates, the companies do not seem to have spent a single penny in forwarding the work of the plantation. During the reign of the middlemen no assistance whatever was given the tenants in the reclamation or improvement of the estates. Since the estates came into the hands of the companies some of them have advanced money to the tenants to assist them in building and draining, but the sums advanced in this way would not amount in all to more than 15,000l. or 20,000l., and nearly the whole of this was advanced by way of loan, the tenants paying in some cases 4, and in others 5 per cent. on the amount borrowed. The county roads are made and maintained out of the county cess, all of which is paid by the occupying tenants. The farm roads on the companies' estates have, with a few exceptions barely worth mentioning, been made at the sole expense of the tenants. The farm houses, farm buildings, and all drains and fences on the various holdings on the companies' estates, have been made by the occupying tenants without any assistance, except what has been already mentioned. The tenants on the companies' estates, since the time of the plantation, have reclaimed at their own expense 130,000 acres of waste lands. By their own labour and expenditure they have increased the annual value of the estates from 1,800l. a year, which is the estimated value of the society's and companies' estates in 1609, to 160,000l., which is, in round numbers, the present rental of the estates. During this whole period they have been paying the full value of their holdings, though the greater part of that value was created by their own expenditure. Between buildings, roads, drains, fences, and reclamation the tenants have sunk in permanent improvements at least 10l. per acre for every acre of arable land on the estates, or upward of 2,000,000l. in all. Five per cent. on this would be 100,000l. per annum. The present tenement valuation is now about 136,000l., and the present rental is nearly 160,000l. Assuming that what was worth 1,800l. a year in 1609 would, by reason of the companies' expenditure and the change in the value of money now be worth 60,000l. a year, the tenants are paying, in the shape of rent, interest at 5 per cent. on their own expenditure, and as the money expended on these improvements has barely yielded a return of 5 per cent. (agricultural improvements in the north of Ireland seldom increase the letting value of lands to the extent of 5 per cent. on the expenditure), it is clear the tenants have been paying rent on the whole increased value, and have not been recouped in any way for their outlay. The companies' estates, after allowing for all necessary outgoings, are now value for about 3,000,000l. Of this at least two thirds have been created by, and should in justice be, the property of the tenants, and under the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, it would be theirs in point of law if the Act were fully and fearlessly administered.
9. The following tables show the valuations and rents of the companies' estates at various periods:—
10. The companies resumed possession of their estates during the present century as the leases to the middlemen expired; as soon as they got possession they had the estates re-valued, and in most instances raised the rents, though the middlemen had previously, as Mr. Slade states, imposed rents on the tenants "far beyond what could possibly be derived from the product of the soil," the rents being paid out of the profits of the loom. The Skinners' Company raised the rental by about 2,000l. a year over what the middleman, Mr. Ogilby, had been receiving. The rental of this estate was 5,000l. a year in 1803, and in that year Mr. Robert Ogilby paid the company a fine of 25,000l. for a lease of three lives and 61 years, subject to a rent of 1,500l. a year. Mr. Ogilby had entered into a covenant to observe the Articles of Plantation, but immediately he got his lease in 1803 he raised the rental to 16,000l. yearly. When prices fell on the termination of Napoleon's wars, the tenants were unable to pay these rents, and Mr. Ogilby was obliged to reduce the rental to 13,000l.; it was again reduced at the time of the Famine to 11,800l. When the lease expired in 1872, the company resumed possession and again raised the rental to upwards of 13,000l., neither the company nor the middleman, in the meantime, having spent a shilling in improving the property.
The Fishmongers' estate was held by the Beresford family, who paid the company a rent of 400l. yearly, and exacted 2,000l. a year from the tenants. The last lease to the Earl of Tyrone expired in 1820; the company then resumed possession, re-valued the estate, and raised the rental to nearly 10,000l. a year. The tenants who had improved most were subjected to the largest increases, some being raised as much as 1,000 per cent. on the rent payable to the middleman. I have the receipts of one holding the rent of which was 8l. 15s. 6d. in 1820, and is now 66l.; and in another case, the rent was raised from 7l. 10s. to 75l. yearly. In these cases the greater part of the holdings was drained and reclaimed by the tenants, and all buildings and fences erected by them—neither company nor middleman contributing anything to the expense. Similar examples of increases of rent charged on tenants' improvements will be found on any of the companies' estates.
11. It is clear that the companies have violated the Articles of Plantation, and have hindered, instead of assisted, the development of the resources of the county, and that the only way of securing to the tenants the fruits of their own industry, and to ensure the full development of the estates, is to convert the occupiers into absolute owners of their own holdings. The tenants are intelligent, thrifty, and industrious; they have special rights under the Articles of Plantation, and are entitled to special consideration by reason of the vast amount of capital they have sunk in the improvement of their holdings. No difficulties can arise in the transfer as the estates are not subject to any charges or incumbrances. The companies estates therefore present the best possible opportunity for increasing the number of occupying proprietors in Ireland.
As a large part of the rental is charged on the tenant's improvements, there is considerable difficulty in ascertaining what would be a fair price to be paid by the tenants until fair rents be fixed. I know, however, that the tenants would be willing to adopt any scheme which would even partially recognise their claims, and would enable them to become owners of their holdings on reasonable terms. In my opinion the Government valuation of the land, exclusive of houses, would be the proper basis on which to fix the amount of the purchase money; and though by the scheme I propose, the tenant would, in many cases, be purchasing part of his own improvements, I am satisfied that, for the purpose of becoming independent of future interference, the tenants would, in a body, be willing to pay from 17 to 20 years' purchase of the Government valuation of the land. They are, however, so impoverished by rackrenting and bad seasons, that not more than a fourth of them could pay any portion of the purchase money in hand; and in order to make a purchase by the tenants feasible at all, it would be absolutely necessary that the whole of the purchase money should be advanced to them. Under the Act of 1881 the land commission have power to advance three fourths of the purchase money to the tenants, and the tenants entertain the hope that Parliament will shortly empower the commission to make the advance repayable by fifty-two yearly instalments of 3¾ per cent. on the amount of the loan. In my opinion, the companies should leave out the remaining fourth on the same terms. Considering the amount of money the tenants have invested in their holdings, and their character as thrifty, industrious, and lawabiding people, I am of opinion that that both the Government and the companies would be perfectly safe in lending the tenants the whole of the purchase money, and that the tenants would be able to pay the instalments suggested without difficulty.
12. The disposition of the purchase money is a matter of the last importance. There can, I think, be little doubt that the companies are not private owners, but trustees of these estates for public purposes. The Articles of Plantation, the Charter of the Irish Society, the declarations of King James and his Privy Council, the interference of the Crown with the companies' estates, the cancelling by the Star Chamber of the grants to the companies for breaches of "The Articles of Plantation," and the judgment of the House of Lords in the case of the Skinners' Company against the Irish Society, all point unerringly to this conclusion. They point with equal force to the conclusion that the purposes of the trust are purely local. The Irish Society and the companies have all along recognised this fact. It has been judicially declared that the Society's estates are held for the benefit of public of the locality. The companies derive their title through the Irish Society, and so far as can be seen, hold their estate subject to the same trusts. Since the estates have come into the hands of the companies, they have themselves recognised the trusts by expending a considerable portion of their rental on charitable, religious, and educational objects, and in the relief of the poor on their estates. The Grocers' Company, for example, whose estate was sold several years ago, still recognise the public claims on the purchase money by continuing their contributions towards local, religious, educational, and public purposes. The Clothworkers' Company sold their estate in 1871 to Sir Hervey Bruce, but they charged the property with 50l. yearly to the Castlerock, and 50l. yearly to the Fermoyle Episcopal Churches, and in lieu of an annual contribution, they gave 1,000l. out of the purchase money to the Coleraine Town Commissioners in trust for the Coleraine Academical Institution. They left out 75,000l. of the purchase money on a mortgage of the estate. On this Sir Hervey Bruce was to pay 4 per cent. interest; but to enable Sir Hervey to give suitable contributions for educational and charitable purposes connected with the estate, as I am informed, they made an abatement of half the interest or 1,500l. a year. Of this 1,500l., however, Sir Hervey, up to the present, so far as I can discover, has given only about 150l. a year for the purposes intended.
But the county has a further claim on the purchase money, on the ground that it was the labour and capital of the tenants that raised the estates to their present value, and that any application of the fruits of their industry and thrift to purposes in which they had no interest would be unjustifiable. As already stated, the lands were to be let to English and Scottish settlers in accordance with "The Articles of Plantation" at 6s. 8d. for every 60 acres, statute measure. It would appear from the "Articles of Plantation," and from the "Statement of Profits to be derived from the Plantation by the City of London," that no increase of this rent was contemplated. This view is strengthened when we remember that manors were created on all the estates on which there grew up the tenant's right of renewal, referred to in pages 107, 128, and 135 of the Concise View published in 1822. The violation by the companies of this right of removal at the rent fixed by the Articles, and their failure to perform these Articles, and the conditions of their trust are adequate reasons now, as in the time of Charles I., for the interference of the State, apart altogether from the facts that the companies are corporate bodies and non-resident, which furnish additional reasons for State interference. And once that point is established, it seems to be clear the proceeds of the sale should be devoted to public purposes in Ireland, and that care should be taken that the tenants should be secured the right of pre-emption on such terms as would do justice to the claims created by the toil and capital of themselves and their predecessors.
I would suggest that at least a fourth of the purchase money should be applied in reduction of the county rates, and that the remainder should be applied to public purposes, and in the development of the natural resources of the county and district, in the benefits of which the whole of the inhabitants of the county, and of a good part of the Province of Ulster, would participate.
Motives and Reasons to induce the City of London to undertake the Plantation in the North of Ireland.
"The late ruinated city of Derry, situated upon the river of Lough Foyle, navigable with good vessels above the Derry, and one other place at or near the castle of Coleraine, situate upon the river of Bann, navigable with small vessels only, by reason of the bar a little above Coleraine, do seem to be the fittest places for the City of London to plant.
"The situation is such, that with small charge and industry, the aforesaid places, especially Derry, may be made by land almost impregnable, and so will more easily afford safety and security to those that shall be sent thither to inhabit.
"These towns His Majesty may be pleased to grant unto not only corporations, with such liberties and privileges for their good government, &c. as shall be convenient, but also the whole territory and county betwixt them, which is above 20 miles in length, bounded by the sea on the north, the river Bann on the east, and the river of Derry or Lough Foyle on the west, out of which 1,000 acres more may be allotted to each of the towns for their commons rent free; the rest to be planted with such undertakers as the City of London shall think good for their best profit, paying only for the same the easy rent of the undertakers.
"His Majesty may be pleased to grant to these towns the benefit of all the customs of all goods to be imported hither, or exported thence, as well poundage and tonnage as the great and small customs, for 21 years, paying yearly 6s. 8d. as an acknowledgment.
"Furthermore, that His Majesty will be pleased to buy from the possessors the salmon fishing of the rivers of Bann and Lough Foyle, and out of his princely bounty to bestow the same upon those towns (for their better encouragement), which some years proveth very plentiful and profitable.
"And likewise to grant them licenses to transport all prohibited wares growing upon their own lands.
"And likewise the Admiralty in the coasts of Tyrconnel and Coleraine now, as is supposed, in the Lord Deputy by the Lord Admiral's grant, may be, by His Majesty's means, transferred unto them for the term of 21 years.
The Land Commodities which the North of Ireland produceth.
"The country is well watered, generally by abundance of springs, brooks, and rivers, and plenty of fuel, either by means of wood, or where that is wanting, of good and wholesome turf.
"It yieldeth store of all necessary for man's sustenance, in such measure as may not only maintain itself, but also furnish the City of London yearly with manifold provision, especially for their fleets, namely, with beef, pork, fish, rye, bere, peas, and beans, which will also in some years help the dearth of the city and country about, and the storehouses appointed for the relief of the poor.
"As it is fit for all sorts of husbandry, so for breeding of mares and increase of cattle it doth excel, whence may be expected plenty of butter, cheese, hides, and tallow.
"English sheep will breed abundantly in Ireland. The sea coast and nature of the soil being very wholesome for them, and if need were, wool might be had cheaply and plentifully out of the west parts of Scotland.
"It is held to be good in many places for madder, hops, and woad.
"It affordeth fells of all sort in great quantity, red deer, foxes, sheep, lambs, rabbits, martins, squirrels, &c.
"Hemp and flax do more naturally grow there than elsewhere, which, being well regarded, might give great provision for canvas, cable cording, and such like requisite for shipping, besides thread, linen, cloth, and all stuffs made of linen yarn, which is more fine and plentiful there than in all the rest of the kingdom.
Materials for building, timber, stone of all sorts, lime, stone, slate and shingle, are afforded in most parts of the country, and the soil is good for brick and tile.
"Materials for building of ships (excepting tar) are there to be had in plenty; and in the country adjoining, the goodliest and largest timber in the woods of Glanconkene, and Killetroughe, that may be, and may compare with any in His Majesty's dominions, which may easily be brought to the sea by Lough Neagh and the river of the Bann. The fir masts, of all sorts, may be had out of Lochabar, in Scotland, not far distant from the north of Ireland, much more easily than from Norway; other sorts of wood do afford many services for pipe staves, hogshead staves, barrel staves, hoop staves, clapboard staves, wainscot, soap, and dyeing ashes, glass and iron work, for iron and copper ore are there plentifully had.
"The country is very plentiful for honey and wax."
The Sea and River Commodities.
"First. The harbour of the river of Derry is exceedingly good, and the road of Portrush and Lough Swilly, not far distant from the Derry, tolerable.
"The sea fishing of that coast very plentiful of all manner of usual sea fish, especially herrings and eels, there being yearly, after Michaelmas, for taking of herrings about seven or eight score sail of his Majesty's subjects, and strangers for lading, besides an infinite number of boats for fishing and killing.
"Great and profitable fishing are in the next adjacent isles of Scotland, where many Hollanders do fish all the summer season, and do plentifully vend their fish in Spain and within the Straits.
"Much train or fish oil of seal, herrings, &c., may be made upon that coast.
"As the sea yieldeth very great plenty and variety of the sea fish, so doth the coast afford abundance of all manner of sea foul, and the rivers greater store of fresh fish than any of the rivers in England.
"There be also some store of good pearls upon this coast, especially within the river of Lough Foyle.
"The coasts be ready for traffic with England and Scotland, and for supply of provision from or to them, and do lie open and convenient for Spain and the Straits, and fittest and nearest for Newfoundland."
The Profits which London shall receive by this Plantation.
"If multitudes of men were employed proportionably to these commodities which might be there by industry attained, many thousands would be set on work to the great service of the King, strength of his realm, advancement of several trades, and benefit of particular persons whom the infinite increasing greatness (that often doth minister occasion of ruin to itself) of this city might not only conveniently spare, but also reap a singular commodity, by easing themselves of an insupportable burthen, which so surcharged all the parts of the city, that one tradesman can scarce live by another, which in all probability would be a means also and preserve the city from infection; and by consequence the whole kingdom, which, of necessity, must have recourse thither, which persons, pestered or closed up together, can neither otherwise or very hardly avoid.
"These colonies may be a means to utter infinite commodities from London, to furnish the whole north of Ireland, which may be transported by means of the rivers of Bann and Lough into the counties of Coleraine, Donegal, Tyrone, Armagh, and Antrim.
"The city of Dublin, being desolate by the slaughter of the easterlings, who were the ancient inhabitants thereof, was given by King Henry the Second to the city of Bristol, to be inhabited, which, without any charge to the King, Bristol did undertake, and performed it, whose posterity doth there continue unto this day. This plantation thus performed to the perpetual commendation of Bristol, was not the least cause of civilizing and securing that part of the country.
"It were to be wished this noble precedent were followed by the city of London in these times, with so much the more alacrity, as inability and means they excel them, and so much the rather for that the commodities which the city of London shall reap thereby do far surpass the profit that could redound to Bristol by the other.
Orders and Conditions or Articles of Plantation.
"First. The proportion of land to be distributed to undertakers shall be of three different qualities, consisting of sundry parcels or precincts of land, called by Irish names, used and known in the several counties, viz.: Balibetagh's Quarters, Balliboes Fathes and Polls. The first and least proportion to contain such and so many of the said parcels as shall make up 1,000 English acres at least, and the second or middle proportions to contain such, or so many of the said parcels as shall make up 1,500 English acres at the least, and the last or greatest proportion to contain such or so many of the said parcels as shall make up 2,000 English acres at the least, to every of which proportion shall be allowed such quantity of bog or wood as the country shall conveniently afford.
"Second. The persons of the undertakers of the several proportions shall be of three sorts, viz., 1st. English or Scottish, as well servitors as others, who are to plant their portions with English, or inland Scottish inhabitants; 2nd. servitors in the kingdom of Ireland, who may take mere Irish, English, or inland Scottish tenants, at their choice; 3rd. natives of Ireland, who are to be made freeholders.
"Third. His Majesty will reserve unto himself the appointment in what county every undertaker shall have his portion. But to avoid emulation and contro versy, which would arise among them if every man should choose the place where he would be planted, his Majesty's pleasure is, that the scites or places of their portions in every county shall be distributed by lot.
"Lastly. The several articles ensuing are to be observed as well on his Majesty's behalf as of the several undertakers respectively."
(fn. 5) "Articles concerning the English and Scottish undertakers who are to plant their portions with English and inland Scottish tenants:—
"First. His Majesty is pleased to grant estates in fee farm to them and their heirs.
"Second. They shall yearly yield unto his Majesty, for every proportion of 1,000 acres, 5l. 6s. 8d. English, and so rateably for the greater proportions, which is after the rate of 6s. 8d. for every 60 English acres. But none of the said undertakers shall pay any rent until the expiration of the first two years, except the natives of Ireland who are not subject to the charge of transportation.
"Third. Every undertaker of so much land as shall amount to the greatest proportion of 2,000 acres or thereabouts, shall hold the same by knight's service in capite, and every undertaker of so much land as shall amount to the middle proportion of 1,500 acres, or thereabouts, shall hold the same by knight service as of the castle of Dublin, and every undertaker of so much land as shall amount to the least proportion of 1,000 acres, or thereabouts, shall hold the same in common soccage, and there shall be no wardship upon the two first descents of that land.
"Fourth. Every undertaker of the greatest proportion of 2,000 acres shall, within two years after the date of his letters patent, build thereupon a castle with a strong court or bawn about it, and every undertaker of the second or middle proportion of 1,500 acres shall, within the same time, build a stone or brick house thereupon, with a strong court or bawn about it, and every undertaker of the least proportion of 1,000 acres shall, within the same time, make thereupon a strong court or bawn at least. And all the said undertakers shall draw their tenants to build houses for themselves and their families near the principal castle, house, or bawn, for their mutual defence and strength, and they shall have sufficient timber, but the assignment of such officers as the Lord Deputy and Council of Ireland shall appoint, out of His Majesty's woods in that province for the same buildings, without paying anything for the same during the said two years, and to that end there shall be a present inhibition to restrain the felling or destruction of the said woods in the meantime for what cause soever.
"Fifth. The said undertakers, their heirs and assigns, shall have ready in their houses at all times, a convenient store of arms, wherewith they may furnish a competent number of able men for their defence, which may be viewed and mustered every half year, according to the manner of England.
"Sixth. Every of the said undertakers, English or Scottish, before the ensealing of his letters patent, shall take the Oath of Supremacy, either in the Chancery of England or Ireland, or before the commissioners to be appointed for establishing of the plantation, and shall also conform themselves in religion according to His Majesty's laws.
"Seventh. The undertakers, their heirs and assigns, shall not alien or demise their portions, or any part thereof, to the mere Irish, or to such persons as will not take the oath, which the said undertakers are bound to take, by the former Article, and to that end a proviso shall be inserted in their letters patent.
"Eighth. Every undertaker shall, within two years after the date of his letters patent, plant or place a competent number of English or inland Scottish tenants upon his proportion, in such manner as by the commissioner to be appointed for the establishment of this plantation, shall be prescribed.
"Ninth. Every of the said undertakers, for the space of five years next after the date of his letters patent, shall be resident in person himself upon his portion, or place some such other person thereupon, as shall be allowed by the State of England or Ireland, who shall be likewise resident there during the said five years, unless by reason of sicknes or other important cause, he be licensed by the Lord Deputy and Counsel of Ireland to absent himself for a time.
"Tenth. The said undertakers shall not alien their portions during five years next after the date of their letters patent, but in this manner, viz.:—one third part in fee farm, another third part for forty years or under, reserving to themselves the other third part without alienation during the said five years; but after the said five years they shall be at liberty to alien to all persons, except the mere Irish and such persons as will not take the oath which the said undertakers are to take as aforesaid.
" Eleventh. The said undertakers shall have power to erect manors, to hold courts baron twice every year to create tenures; to hold of themselves upon alienation of any part of their said portions, so as the same do not exceed the moiety thereof.
"Twelfth. The said undertakers shall not demise any part of their lands at will only, but shall make certain estates for years, for life, in tail, or in fee simple.
"Thirteenth. No uncertain rent shall be reserved by the said undertakers, but the same shall be expressly set down, without reference to the custom of the country; and a proviso shall be inserted in their letters patent against cuttings, cosheries, and other Irish exactions upon their tenants.
"Fourteenth. The said undertakers, their heirs and assigns, during the space of seven years next ensuing, shall have power to transport all commodities growing upon their own lands, which they shall hold by those letters patent, without paying any custom or imposition for the same.
"Fifteenth. It shall be lawful for the said undertakers for the space of five years next ensuing, to send for and bring into Ireland, out of Great Britain, victual and utensils for their household materials, and tools for building and husbandry, and cattle to stock and manure the lands aforesaid, without paying any custom for the same, which shall not extend to any commodities by way of merchandise.
Certain General Propositions to be notified to the Undertakers of all sorts.
"First. That there shall be commissioners appointed for the setting forth of the several proportions, and for the ordering and settling of the plantation, according to such instructions as shall be given unto them by His Majesty in that behalf.
"Second. That all the said undertakers shall, by themselves, or by such as the estates of England or Ireland shall allow of, attend the said commissioners in Ireland, at or before midsummer next, to receive such directions touching their plantations as shall be thought fit.
"Third. That every undertaker before the ensealing of his letters patent shall enter into bond or recognisance with good sureties to his Majesty's use in the office of his Majesty's chief remembrancer in England or Ireland, or in his Majesty's Exchequer or Chancery in Scotland, or else before two of the Commissioners to be appointed for the plantation, to perform the aforesaid Articles according to their several distinctions of building, planting, residence, alienation, within five years, and making of certain estates to their tenants in this manner, viz., the undertaker of the greatest proportion to become bound in 400l., of the middle proportion in 300l., and of the least proportion in 200l.
"Fourth. That in every of the said counties there shall be a convenient number of market towns and corporations erected for the habitation and settling of tradesmen and artificers, and that there shall be one free school at least appointed in every county for the education of youth in learning and religion.
"Fifth. That there shall be a convenient number of parishes and parish churches, with sufficient incumbents in every county, and that the parishioners shall pay all their tithes in kind, to the incumbents of the said parish churches.
1956. (Chairman to Rev. W. McKay.) We shall be very glad to hear what you have to state to the Commission; I think you represent the tenants of the Ironmongers' Company?— (fn. 6) I do. What I have got to say will be very brief. My evidence is printed, and what has been said by Dr. Todd holds good. In regard to the tenantry on the Ironmongers' estate, they would be desirous to become owners of their holdings if they could do so on favourable terms. Only a few of them would be able to provide the fourth in addition to the three fourths supplied by the Government; we have been enter- taining the hope that the company (which I think is disposed to sell, I mean the Ironmongers' Company) may perhaps supply the other fourth to the tenants, who would be unable to get it within themselves, receiving interest on the same terms (or on such terms as might be fixed) as the Government.
1957. That is to say, you would spread the payment over 40 or 50 years?—A period of 40 or 50 years on this fourth, that would be wanting.
1958. And in the event of these tenants (who Mr. Todd has told us are many of them so poor that they cannot find even one fourth or one fifth of the purchase money), or in the event of some of them, being unable to keep up the annual payments, what would happen then?—In that case I suppose there must be a sale of the farm, but I should think that the cases would be few and far between, speaking from what little experience I have of the tenants who purchased on the Waterford estate. A goodly number of the tenants on the Waterford estate are members of my congregation; and from my experience not a single farm yet has been sold. There are two or three farms, I think, which must be sold, but the tenants of those farms were deeply in debt before the purchase. Each year that they pay the interest upon the money the property becomes of so much more value. 35 years would dispose of the whole of the Government advance of two thirds.
1959. Then I suppose that none of those tenants that you refer to are much in arrear now?—I do not think that many of the tenants on the Ironmongers' estate are in arrear. A few of them are, owing to the very bad seasons we have had of late. We had very unfavourable seasons, which no doubt your Lordship is aware of, and in consequence of that many of the tenants were not able to pay their rents as usual; but still I would like to think that it is not very general.
1960. That they are in arrear, you mean?—Not generally, I should think.
1961. And at the same time they were unable to contribute the smallest per-centage to the purchase money of the farms which they wish to hold?—Many of the tenants that had a little saved have, during the last four or five years, had to draw upon it to pay the rents. Four or five years ago there was far more money among the tenants than at the present moment. It has been used up in consequence of the bad seasons.
1962. Is it not a common thing in all countries for a man who wishes to buy an estate and has capital only to buy say one half of it to obtain the other half on mortgage?—I daresay it is.
1963. What is the objection to that course here?— I do not know any objection to it. According to the Land Act there is permission for a second mortgage upon property where the tenants become peasant proprietors, and our idea was that perhaps as the company would have the money to lend, they might lend this one fourth to as many tenants as would need it, and as a second mortgagee receive the interest upon the same.
1964. In the case of the company's estates that you represent, have they taken any steps to get their rents settled?—We have had no cases tried in the Land Court as yet. There are only a few tenants who have served originating notices. I might say that the Ironmongers' Company for some years have been talking of selling the estate, and the estate is now partitioned or divided among the different companies, that is, among the Ironmongers' Company and the six minor companies. And what the end may be we do not know. I was authorised by the tenants to say that the tenantry would regret extremely to see the property pass out of the hands of the company otherwise than by sale to the occupying tenants. The idea of that is this, that unless the tenants could become owners of their own holdings they do not wish to change landlords. They consider that they are quite as safe if not more so under the company than they would be under any individual private landlord. Of course under the present Land Act no man can extort more than what may be considered a fair rent, but we have no wish to get rid of them unless we can become owners of our own holdings. I hold I may say a small farm under the company myself.
1965. (Sir S. Waterlow.) Do you know anything of the gross rental of the Ironmongers' estate?—I think it is about 7,000l.
1966. Do you know anything of the amount which the company spend in the district of the estate out of the gross rental of 7,000l.?—They give to schools or to schoolmasters from 10l. to 15l. a year, and I think there may be from 12 to 16 schools upon the estate. Latterly they have given 10l. a year to the ministers of the different religious denominations in the district where their tenants or a portion of their tenants are. I may say that I received the first 10l. last year myself, but it is only latterly that they have given anything, specially to the ministers of the Presbyterian Church. They give a little in charities, but I could not say how much—I mean towards the poor of the district in the way of clothing during the winter. They used to give draining pipes to the tenants, and they used to give them tiles for roofing office houses. That latterly has been discontinued; the tiles were not a success, and many of the farmers did not much care for them, and the tile yard has passed out of the hands of the company and been let to a private gentleman as a speculation.
1967. Should you be surprised to hear that in 1878 and 1879 they spent 3,200l. out of the 7,000l. gross rental, and that in 1879–80 they spent 3,100l. out of the gross rental of 7,000l. ?—I should be astonished indeed, only that I now am reminded of the fact that we have got constructed what is known as the Derry Central Railway, and they gave the land gratis, I understand, for that, and each company, the Ironmongers' and the Mercers', are responsible for the interest upon, I think 17,000l. for 23 years. I think they must count that, because it would be utterly impossible for them to have spent the amount you mention on the property in any other way, I should think.
1968. Can you tell the Commission about, on an average, how many years' purchase the tenant right is worth on the Ironmongers' estate?—The Ironmongers' Company limited the tenant right to 10 years' purchase until the passing of the Land Act of 1881, but since that we have had no sales, or almost none, I think, on the estate, but I should say it would vary according to the quality of the farm from 12 to perhaps 20 years' purchase. Tenant right sells very high in county Derry, as, no doubt, you are aware.
1969. And you think that on the Ironmongers' Company's estate it would sell from 12 to 20 years' purchase?—I have no doubt it would, according to the quality of the land and the district of the country.
1970. The Ironmongers' manage it with the other associated companies, do they not, and none of the others interfere?— There are six minor companies, if I am correct, who take part in it.
1971. The Ironmongers' Company alone manage the estate, do they not?—No, there is a member from each minor company that makes six, and then there are six members of the Ironmongers' Company. The committee consists, I think, of 12, one representative from each of the minor companies and six representatives from the Ironmongers' Company.
1972. Have you any idea of the total number of tenants on the estate, speaking roughly?—I really cannot answer that question. I know there are 42 town lands, but I could not ascertain the number of the tenants before I left home.
1973. Do you think there are 150?—I should think more.
1974. And none of them have taken their landlord into the Land Court, have they?—Yes, notices have been served by a few, but not by many.
1975. Do you think that as many as 10 have served notices?—I daresay there may be more than 10, but I think not more than 20.
1976. There have been no cases settled?—None settled yet.
1977. Have the company endeavoured thus to make arrangements to prevent the necessity of going into the Land Court?—There has been no move made in that direction so far as I know.
1978. (Mr. Firth.) Is there tenant right on all the Ironmongers' property, so far as you know?—On every farm.
1979. And I suppose that would be a security over and above the money advanced?—Precisely so. Then we consider that the security becomes better every year. For example, take the tenants that purchased Lord Waterford's property; their property is worth a great deal more now than it was 10 years ago when they purchased, because they have paid interest and two thirds of the money from that day to this; consequently the property is of much greater value, and where it has to be sold, as will be the case with two or three who were in debt before they purchased, the property is of more value now than when they bought.
1980. Let me ask you how you fix 16 to 20 years' purchase. Is that fixed for any reason?—It is just to leave a margin. It is just a general statement, we could not say exactly what it should be.
1981. (Mr. James.) Do the Ironmongers' Company make an annual visitation?—A triennial—every three years they pay a running visit.
1982. What is the average size of the farms?— They vary very considerably. We have some of 50 acres, though only a very few; perhaps there are a few above that; but they run, say, from 15 and 20 acres down to 5 acres.
1983. Do you anticipate in the event of the tenants becoming owners of their farms that any of them would sublet a portion of the farm, or continue its cultivation themselves?—I would not allow them to purchase on condition that they could sublet. They are strictly forbidden to sublet under the Bright's clauses; if they do sublet they forfeit their right, and the Board of Works may sell. None have attempted to sublet, and I know a good dea about them in my own district.
1984. Do you think that that is an arbitrary restriction?—It is one I would heartily concur in. I think it would be very injurious to their own interests to allow them to sublet what is already too small. I might say, moreover that there is a marked change on those farms that were purchased on the occasion of the sale of the Marquis of Waterford's property. Since they purchased improvements have been made that would not have been made. There is a very great contrast between those town lands that the tenants purchased and the town lands that were sold to private landlords at that time. The tenants are happy and prosperous, and content and loyal. The tenants who changed landlords, and got out of the hands of the Marquis of Waterford into the hands of private individuals, got their rents doubled, and sometimes more than that, and they are very far from being satisfied. The Marquis of Waterford was one of the best landlords in the north of Ireland. He had a large property in the county of Derry.
1985. In the case of the Marquis of Waterford's estate, is it not a fact that not all the purchasers have remained and cultivated the land themselves, but have let the farms?— You misunderstand me. I have not made myself clear. There were town lands where the tenants did not purchase that were sold to private individuals. Those private individuals doubled the rents upon the tenants, and I say there is a marked contrast between the town lands where the tenants did purchase and the town lands that were sold to private individuals. I omitted a statement that I should have made in one part of my evidence; it is not material as it is in the printed statement, but would your lordship permit me to say that in addition to what the Ironmongers' Company give to schools, charities, and for religious purposes they have also given 25l. per annum to the Magee College to found a scholarship for the sons of farmers upon the estate. I think it is only fair to give them full credit for all that they have done.
The following printed statement was supplied by this witness.
I am a tenant on the Ironmongers' estate, holding a farm of about 30 acres, and have been appointed by the tenantry on this estate to state to the Commission their desire to become owners of their holdings on favourable terms. In present circumstances the tenantry, speaking generally, would require to have the whole of the purchase money advanced to them on such terms as would render the annual repayment by the purchaser about equal to a fair rent, and if such terms could be obtained, they would be prepared to buy at from 16 to 20 years' purchase.
The Ironmongers' estate, in which six minor companies are interested (the Brewers, the Scriveners, the Coopers, the Pewterers, the Barbers, the Carpenters) contains about 13,000 statute acres. The company, with the associated minor companies, having raised for plantation purposes a sum of about 3,000l. in the time of James I., obtained possession of the estate. Shortly afterwards this estate was leased to a middleman, and the company did not resume possession till about 1840. The tenants were left to make all necessary improvements, the company having no direct connexion with the estate during a long period of years. Since resuming possession, the practice of the company has been to have a valuation every 21 years. There have been two valuations since 1840. The present rental was fixed in 1861. The Ironmongers' Company has been liberal in its grants to religious and educational purposes. National school teachers, and Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Episcopalian clergymen receive annual grants of sums varying from 10l. to 15l. The company contribute to the repairs of churches and school-houses. They have established a scholarship in the Magee College, Derry, of 25l. per annum for the benefit of the sons and brothers of tenants on their estate. They have also, to a slight extent, assisted the tenants from time to time in making necessary improvements.
It is understood that the company has been contemplating a sale of their Irish estate. With a view to such sale, arrangements have been made to apportion the estate among the various companies interested. The tenantry would regret extremely to see the property passing out of the hands of the company otherwise than by sale to the occupying tenants.
1986. (Chairman to the Rev. N. M. Brown.) Do you represent any particular estate?—I do not. It is upon the general question that I have to address the Commission.
1987. Do you confirm what the other witnesses have said as to the desire of the tenants to buy the estates?—I do. I have had considerable experience with regard to a peasant proprietary (and I wish to confine myself largely to that particular phase of the question), inasmuch as I was a purchaser upon Lord Waterford's estate, and inasmuch as I had the honour and pleasure of assisting many of those who were tenants upon the estate to become peasant proprietors.
1988. Then you are able to speak of the success of the experiment in that case?—I wish to do so.
1989. How long is it since the sale took place?—In 1871, I think, in the month of December.
1990. Have they in all cases been able to hold on and pay their instalments?—They have. I think they have paid better upon the whole than any of the tenants upon any of the estates about, and I am prepared to add that so popular has the purchase scheme been, that I believe even the tenants upon all the companies estates are anxious to buy if they could purchase at a reasonably fair rent.
1991. In the case of Lord Waterford's estate do you know at how many years' purchase they purchased ? —I am sorry to say at a very high rate, much higher than we would just now. We paid on an average about 30 years' purchase. The rents were somewhat lower than the Government valuation. That is the reason why it appears high. In some cases the rent was fully as high as the Government valuation.
1992. The transaction, as I understand, was a purely voluntary one on both sides?—It was.
1993. The tenants paid the price they thought the property worth?—What we could get it at; we were very willing to purchase at the time.
1994. And they thought it worth 30 years' purchase of the ordinary rent?—They thought it was well to purchase even at that rate, because in those days we had not the provisions of the Act of 1881 which we have now, and which if we had possessed at that time I am sure we would not have purchased at such a high rate.
1995. You would have preferred to hold on under the Act?—I do not say that, but I think we would have purchased at a much lower rate.
1996. Are you sure you would have been able to purchase at a much lower rate?—I think we would, because I think strangers would not have offered so much for the property, and I think Lord Waterford who bought back one third of the property would not have bought it at such a high figure.
1997. Bought back from whom?—In the court, Lord Waterford's family.
1998. Then if I understand you rightly your idea is that the tenants ought to purchase at the present time, at a price lower than they would in normal periods, because at the present time strangers are not likely to come in?—We regarded Lord Waterford in those days as a very good landlord, and if he had held on we would have been very well content; we were afraid of new purchasers even under the Act of 1870, because under the Act of 1870 the landlords still had the power of raising the rents, therefore to defend ourselves and protect our tenant right we were most anxious to be purchasers even at a high rate, and we purchased accordingly. Some 70 lots were purchased by the tenants at the high rate I speak of.
1999. As I understand you, the tenants of the companies are peculiarly anxious to purchase at the present time?—They are, but not at the same figure. We regard the land as of much lower value when it is brought into the market now, and I think nowhere would tenants buy at 30 years' purchase now.
2000. Another part of the proposal is that they should not find any part of the purchase money themselves?—I should be disposed to say that in Ulster we might very justly claim the whole of it from Government, because I think there would be no risk whatever, inasmuch as the tenant right is so valuable in Ulster. I would suppose that on legislation there can be no exception made in favour of Ulster. I think that whatever legislation is made must be made for the whole of Ireland, including all the provinces, therefore I would say that the safe thing for them to do would be perhaps to give the four fifths of the money, as was recommended by Mr. Lefevre's committee.
2001. We have had it in evidence from a former witness that some of the tenants of those estates were very poor; in fact, that is the reason why it is desired that four fifths of the purchase money should be advanced by the State; supposing one or two bad years were to come, do you think that they would be able to keep up the annual payments?—I am happy to say that we have paid hitherto, and we have passed through as stern an ordeal as we would feel again. The year 1879, to wit, was an exceedingly severe year, and others that followed it were very little better, and yet with all we have paid up the instalments with admirable carefulness and honesty.
2002. You put it in this way, as I understand, that the tenants are so well off that they could be reckoned upon to pay, even if a series of bad years should come in the future, but at the same time they are so impecunious that they cannot afford to advance any part of the purchase money?—No, I do not mean to say that. I mean to say if they can live under a landlord and pay the rent they can live as their own landlord. If they can live under a landlord and pay the rent, they could pay the instalment to the Government as well as to the landlord.
2003. What do you contemplate in the event of their not being able to pay the instalments?—They have a valuable property, and I suppose it must be sold out and the money must be repaid. The Government must not lose. I should say that the Government are thoroughly insured against loss.
2004. You would be prepared, on the part of the tenants, to accept that result?—I would, certainly.
2005. Do you not think that there would be a great popular clamour if any man were compelled to part with his holding in consequence of bad seasons?— People are always apt to be annoyed if put out, but after all I think there should not be any clamour in case a man is only paying his just debts.
2006. (Sir S. Waterlow.) We have been told by previous witnesses that the tenant right of the property belonging to the livery companies and the Irish Society is worth from 12 to 20 years' purchase; do you agree with that ?—Yes, I do.
2007. Then the tenant has a property equal to from 12 to 20 years' value of the rental?—Yes.
2008. Would not that property be a sufficient security, even if the Government advanced four fifths of the purchase money?—I think it would.
2009. Suppose that for nonpayment of the stipulated amount of principal and interest the estate was put up to be sold, say, at the end of two years; that is to say, the value of the tenant right would be sufficient to guarantee the Government and the company who advanced the money?—I think it would, but there would be a difficulty to separate the landlord's interest from the tenant's interest, because the two would be combined in that case.
2010. Surely if the tenant owed the Government or owed the landlord for the purchase money, and only owed two years, and he was sold up, his interest would be sold as well as the other, and that would be sufficient to cover the two years' payment, would it not?—Yes, or much more.
2011. To narrow it into one question, assuming the tenant right to represent an average value of, say, 16 years' purchase, surely two years' payment would be more than covered by a 16 years' purchase?—Yes, in the north the Government would be perfectly safe.
2012. I am only speaking of the property belonging to the livery companies and the Irish Society, because upon that point only have you stated that the tenant right is worth on an average of from 12 to 20 years' purchase?—Yes.
2013. That is as regards those particular properties ?—There is a large tenant right upon them all.
2014. Which would be quite sufficient to secure against two years' payment?—Yes, I am certain of it.
2015. (Chairman to Mr. R. Stuart.) You represent the Mercers' estate?—I represent the tenantry on the Mercers' estate.
2016. You have heard what has been said by previous witnesses, do you confirm that?—I do; the tenants on the Mercers' estate are most anxious to become the purchasers, the same as they are on the other estates, and on the same terms as the gentlemen who have preceded me have spoken of.
2017. We understood from the last witness that their wish was not so much founded upon any ill usage that they had met with from their landlords as upon the wish to become proprietors?—The only ill usage we think they have suffered at the hands of their landlords is in increase of rent.
2018. That we may take it is dealt with by the Land Act, and therefore that question cannot arise again?—No; but the rental some years ago was, of course, much lower than it is now, and since the year 1832 or 1833 we have had at three different times a rise of rent, until the rental is now a little over 12,000l., or a rise from 8,000l. to 12,000l.
2019. Surely that is not a question of practical importance now, because if your rent is too high you have the power of appealing to the Land Court and getting it reduced?—Yes, but we think we will not be successful in getting it reduced so low as it was in 1832 or 1833, and the only great grievance that the tenantry have to complain of is this great rise of rent, the rackrent.
2020. I understand you come here because you are not satisfied that the Land Court will do enough for you in the way of reduction of the rents?—It is not so much that as that we are anxious to become the purchasers of the property.
2021. That is, on the conditions before mentioned, viz., that you do not pay the money for it down?— But we will pay for it in the course of time; we do not want it as a gift; we are willing to pay for it by instalments.
2022. In your judgment would the tenants be prepared to offer the same price for the land as would be offered in ordinary times by outside purchasers?—I think not.
2023. Why?—I think if the land had been sold about 10 years ago it would have commanded a higher price than it would do now. I think there are very few landlords in the country who would wish to purchase an estate at such a high figure as they would have given for it 10 or 15 years ago, and the tenants certainly would not be prepared at the present time to give 20 years' purchase on the enormous rental of the estates.
2024. Then part of their demand is, that they shall obtain the land at an exceptionally low rent?—At a fair rent. The rental of the estate now is nearly 30 per cent. over the poor law valuation of the land. The tenants have built all the houses on the estate. In the very town of Kilrea, with the exception of a few houses built by the Mercers' Company, they were all built by the tenantry.
2025. What I want to get at is this, whether you are contending that the tenant has a claim to buy the land at a lower rate than its ordinary value in the market?—They have been paying this rackrent for so many years that they think they are entitled now to get some justice from the hands of the landlords, inasmuch as they wish to have the land purchased at a cheaper rate, or at a lower rate, than any outside purchaser would give for it.
2026. "Some justice " means that they expect to obtain the land at less than its market value, that is the way you put it?—They think that they should have some concession granted to them by the landlords, and that if the Government could interfere at all in the matter they would take this into consideration, inasmuch as the tenantry have been very highly rented for many years.
2027. You put it in this way, that they are entitled to a retrospective reduction of the rent they have paid to be taken out of the purchase money?—Certainly.
2028. And perhaps it is the idea that that demand is reasonable and likely to be complied with that leads to the general feeling in favour of creating a peasant proprietary?—No doubt.
2029. That is to say, they are not prepared to buy their land at the market value, but think that they are entitled by the help of the legislature to obtain it at a rate below the market value ?—They would not like to give a competitive price for it.
2030. The "competitive price " means the price it would fetch in the market, does it not ?—The price that an outsider would give for it.
2031. Do not let us have any misunderstanding about that; you say the tenants are not prepared to give what would be the market price for outsiders?— Provided that outsiders would offer a price much about the same as that which the tenants would be willing to give, then, of course, the tenants would be prepared to buy it, but they would not be prepared to buy it on the enormous rackrent that they are paying.
2032. They would not be prepared to go into the open market and buy it against any competitor even if money were advanced?—I cannot answer that question; we do not know what outsiders would give for the estate. We think that if we could purchase it on the basis of the poor law valuation that we would be quite content to do that, taking off some of the working expenses of the estate.
2033. Supposing that the companies were compelled to sell their estates, you think they ought to be compelled to sell them at a low fixed rate to the tenants rather than make the most that could be made of them by putting them into the market ?—I think that the tenants should get the first chance of purchase, and if the Government would consider that it was a fair offer on the part of the tenantry that the companies should be bound to take it.
2034. Would you allow a tenant who had bought in that manner to sell again?—For many years the tenants have been making up the land, they got it in a crude state, and for 50 years, and more, they have been making it up, improving it, building on it, and making it as valuable as it is now, and I think that they would be entitled to get it at a low rent.
2035. You do not quite answer the question I endeavoured to put. It is this : supposing the fixed rate at which you say the tenant is willing to buy is lower by three or four years' purchase than can be obtained in the open market (we will take that as a supposition), do you contend that the tenant has a moral right to purchase at that low fixed rate, and that he is to be free again to sell, if he pleases, at a higher rate, because if so that seems to be very much like making him a present of several years purchase of his land with the help of the State?—I am not prepared to answer that question, but I know that the tenants are anxious on all the estates that I know of to buy at as cheap a rate as possible, independently of what they would get for it afterwards; I think that is the feeling over all the estates.
2036. (Lord Coleridge.) I want to know whether I quite understand you. You have told Lord Derby, as I understand (but I do not know whether you meant to tell him), that you think it would be right and proper that those tenants should now, in the present state of things, purchase their property for less than it is worth ?—The way I would answer that question is this—
2037. I follow what you have said by a question; did I rightly understand you to answer Lord Derby so ?—What I meant to convey was this, that they would not wish to purchase on a rackrent now, because if an outsider comes into the market now to purchase the estate he would purchase on the actual rental; he would give so many years actual purchase of the present rental of the estate.
2038. Does it enter into your answer to Lord Derby that at present the rents are too high, that they can be reduced by law by going into the court to reduce them, and that you think that the purchase should take place upon so many years' purchase of the reduced rent?—Of the reduced rent.
2039. Is that what you mean?—That is the meaning I intended to convey.
2040. Then that would be open to anybody—to the outsider as well as to the tenant?—Then the tenant would compete, I believe, with the outsider.
2041. That course would be open to anybody, viz., to go into the Land Court and get the rent reduced. Suppose I came and took a holding now held by one of those tenants, upon a perfectly proper arrangement between myself and him, I could go into the court and get the rent reduced if it were too high, could I not?—Of course you could.
2042. So could he?—Of course he could.
2043. Do you mean more than that when that process has taken place and the rent is reduced to what you say is a fair rent that then the tenant should buy at the full value of that reduced rent?—I mean what I say here in my printed evidence.
2044. A lawyer has a way of liking to have his questions answered in his own way; do you mean more than that?—I really do not perfectly understand you, but if you will kindly permit me to explain myself I will do so.
2045. If you mean more than that you obviously do mean what Lord Derby has said; if you do not mean more than that, it is a qualification of your answer?—What I mean is, that if a tenant should purchase, not at the rental they are paying now, but at the rental which would be fixed by the Land Commission, who have already tried several cases in connexion with the Mercers' Company's estate, and reduced the rental 20 per cent.
2046. I was going on to say, then when that reduction has taken place, do you mean that the tenant ought to stand in any advantageous relation to an outsider, or not ?—I think that the tenants should get a preference before any outsider, they having been so long on the estate.
2047. Do you mean that they should pay less ?—I would like that they should pay less, but I will not say that they should do it.
2048. Do you put forward the proposition that they have any claim to pay less?—I think they have a prior claim to any outsider coming in.
2049. To pay less?—To pay less. I should say that they have been always prepared since there was any talk of the purchase of the estate to give a fair price for the estate; they do not want to take any advantage of the Mercers' Company.
2050. (Mr. Firth.) Have you got a copy of Lord Selborne's ultimatum with you?—I have.
2051. Will you kindly hand it in. If the Land Commission reduce the rent, you say to 9,640l. less 1,900l. for working expenses, the actual rental would be 7,740l.?—Yes.
2052. "Purchased at 20 years, 154,800l.; at 18 years' purchase, 139,320l.; at 16 years' purchase, 123,840l.; at which price the tenantry would willingly purchase " ?—Yes.
2053. Is that the price at which they would willingly purchase ?—They would willingly purchase at the low price.
2054. Would they willingly purchase at 20 years ? —I believe they would.
2055. Would they willingly purchase on a fair rent ? —On a fair rent.
2056. Twenty years' purchase?—Twenty years' purchase.
2057. But you would take the fair rent as settled by the court?—We should do that, and we should be obliged to do that; but I think I am perfectly correct in those figures as to the working expenses on the estate and the rise of rent that has been imposed on the tenantry since 1832.
2058. I do not misunderstand you, I hope, as to the 20 years' purchase. It is 20 years' purchase on the fair rent, not 20 years' purchase after deducting something for working expenses. I put the question about 20 years' purchase upon the fair rent as settled by the court. Would the tenants be willing to purchase at that rate?—If we could not get it for less we would take it at that.
2059. I am putting nothing about working expenses. I see something here, in your statement, which may or may not be important. The question I put to you is this, do I correctly understand you to say that the tenantry are willing to purchase on 20 years' purchase upon a fair rent as settled by the court—yes or no?—They would, by getting four fifths of the money, extending the repayment over 52 years.
2060. (Lord Coleridge.) Then what do you say about the working expenses?—I suppose we should throw them overboard.
(The following printed statement was supplied by this witness.)
In the year 1751 the Mercers' Company leased their estate to Mr. Stewart, of Ards, for three lives, or 61 years, for a fine of 16,300l. and a yearly rent of 420l. The last of the lives expired in 1832, when the rent of the estate was 10,443l. When the Mercers' resumed possession they found the land of the estate in a wretched condition, and the tenantry in a hopeless state of insolvency owing to the rackrents imposed on them by the middleman, Stewart. The Mercers' purchased from the heirs of Stewart the arrears of rent due to them by the tenantry, and swept the same away on receiving from the tenantry 5s. in the pound. The Mercers', on resuming possession of their estate, reduced the rental of 10,443l. to 8,498l., or 19 per cent, nearly. The tenantry continued to pay their rent up to 1855, when the Mercers had a revaluation of the estate, the valuers being Mr. Saunders and Mr. Watney, both Englishmen, the latter being a member of the Mercers' Company. These gentlemen increased the rental to 10,260l., or to within 163l. of the rackrent imposed on them by the middleman Stewart.
Again, in 1876 the Mercers' sent over Mr. Watney to again value the estate, but certainly with the object of increasing the rental. Mr. Watney's valuation was about 14,000l., an enormous increase to be imposed on the tenantry, at a time too when there were 259 civil bill processes issued against the same number of the tenants, or nearly one fourth of the whole number on the estate. These processes were issued for nonpayment of rent only. When the tenants were called on to pay this increase they became alarmed, and resisted the unreasonable demand; they held public meetings and appointed a working committee to manage their affairs. The Mercers' saw that the tenants were prepared for war, and they sent over Lord Selbourne and three other gentlemen from Mercers' Hall to treat with the tenants. Lord Selbourne issued an ultimatum to the tenantry, a copy of which was sent to each tenant on the estate. The offer held out by this document was to be final. The ultimatum said that all rents raised over 40 per cent. would be brought down to 40, with an abatement of 8 per cent., and all others whose rents are raised from 28 per cent. and upwards, an abatement of 8 per cent., and all others whose rents are raised 20 per cent. and upwards, no abatement for them. The tenantry would not take these terms. Consequently over 60 of them whose rents were nearest to the Government valuation, or to all appearances were not highly rented, received notice to quit, and an ejectment process issued against them. They appeared before the chairman of quarter sessions. Mr. John Rea was attorney for the tenants. When the case was being argued, Mr. Rea insulted the chairman, and was committed to Derry Gaol for 12 days. The tenants were then left without a solicitor, but the cases went on nevertheless, and decrees granted against the whole number. Mr. Rea advised them to appeal to the assizes. They did so; the judge ruled against them, not on the merits, but because their claims were not heard in the court of first instance. They were put into 850l. costs. Mr. Dolling was removed from the agency, and Sir William Holmes replaced him. The extravagant rise of rent was manipulated in the rent office, each tenant receiving another notice of the amount they were to pay. The reductions brought the amount down to the present rental, 11,769l., but previous to the last rise of rent in 1876 each tenant and cottier paid 1s. a year for the privilege of cutting turf. Since the litigation with the tenantry each tenant and cottier pays now 5s. a year for the same privilege. There are a large number of tenants on the estate. In 1869 there were 550 holdings on the estate of less than 10 acres; 350 of less than 20 acres; 150 of less than 40 acres; 60 of upwards of 40 acres; making in all 1,110 tenants, or thereabouts. It is safe to calculate that there are still 1,110 using bog for turf—at 5s. a head gives 277l. 10s.—added to 11,769l. it gives a total of 12,046l. 10s., which I assume is the actual rental of the estate, being an increase of 14½ per cent. over the rental paid from the years 1875 to 1876, which was a period of exceptional prosperity for the farmers. This last rise brought the rental 31 per cent. over the poor law valuation. The valuation of the estate is 9,135l. The tenants built all the houses and made all the improvements, receiving no assistance from the landlords save a few arterial drains, and by-roads for turf drawing. In many instances the tenants were called on to contribute towards their maintenance. The rental over the valuation is now 2,911l. The Sub-Commissioners held a court in Kilrea, the chief town on the Mercers' estate, and heard a number of cases, some of them from adjoining estates. The landlords were represented by two Queen's counsel. one of them Mr. Holmes, late Solicitor-General, and the other equally as eminent; also two able solicitors, London valuators, and Mr. Murphy. The tenants had two attorneys. The cases were ably argued on both sides, the result being that the rents of the tenantry whose cases came before the Commission were reduced fully 20 per cent.
Assuming that all the other cases of the tenants be disposed of on the same basis, it would bring the rental of the land and bog down to 9,640l., which would be 505l. over the Government valuation. The Mercers' spend annually large sums of money in working the estate. The agent receives 800l. a year, a splendid mansion and land adjoining, altogether worth 1,000l. a year or nearly. Two clerks, one receiving 150l. the other 80l., an office keeper at 30l., a surveyor 130l., a clerk in the Irish office, London, at 400l., and expenses for deputation coming every year 100l., or in round numbers nearly 1,900l. Assuming that the rental after being cut down by the Land Commission be 9,640l., less 1,900l. for working expenses, it would leave the actual rental 7,740l., purchased at 20 years, 154,800l.; at 18 years' purchase, 139,320l.; at 16 years' purchase, 123,840l., at which price the tenantry would willingly purchase.
The Mercers' land is of an agricultural nature. It is not rich enough in soil to be good fattening grass land. There is none of it that I am aware of set apart for grazing farms, unless on the wild mountain land. As a rule, no wheat nor barley is grown on it; if any, it is of no account. The principal crops are potatoes, oats, and flax. Then three or four years' rest, and then the same rotation again. The flax grown on the estate is of a poor quality, much inferior to flax grown in the counties of Down, Antrim, and Armagh. It is mostly all hand-scutched. It loses a large per-centage. When scutched at the flax mill it is considered so inferior that merchants and spinners from Belfast do not care to purchase it. It yields so badly, and consequently is bought at a price so low, that it does not remunerate the farmer. We have no public works on this estate, with the exception of a small beetling engine concern for linen cloth. No manufactories to give employment to our people. When the young grow up they emigrate, such of them as can find the means of doing so. Those who cannot go to England and Scotland. Much of their earnings come back to the estate to pay the rent. Had it not been for the Irish boys and girls who emigrated from this country and sent home tens of thousands of pounds, the rents would now be reduced more than 50 per cent., for their savings and much of the produce of the land at home went into the pockets of the landlords.
The Mercers' Company do not encourage any extension of the towns of Kilrea and Swatera. They will grant no building leases for longer than 61 years, and there are few who care to invest their capital on such short tenure. I have heard that they are not at all anxious to give any more leases, even for 61 years.
Capitalists and manufacturers would have settled
long ago on the Mercers' property, on their side of the
Bann, had they got leases in perpetuity. The Bann
flows from Lough Neagh to the sea near Coleraine.
Lough Neagh is an inland lake, containing nearly
100,000 acres. From north to south it is 17 miles long,
and from east to west 10 miles long. This great lough
has a catchment basin of 1,865 square miles, or 1,193,600
statute acres. The fall from the bar at Toome, the
entrance to the lough, is 48 feet over the low water at
Coleraine, on the Mercers' property. At Portna we
have the first fall of 14½ feet, equal to 2,457 horsepower. The next fall is 2½ miles down the river, at
Myvanagher, also the Mercers' property. At this place
there is a fall of 8½ feet, giving 1,606 horse-power. The
last fall on this property is at Carnroe, five feet fall,
giving out 945 horse-power. We have on this neglected
property, on a length of river a little more than three
miles long, a power of water equal to 5,000 horses,
flowing unproductive to the sea, a mine of wealth flowing past our doors which, if utilised, would give work
and wages to more than 20,000 people, save the nation
more than 26,700 tons of coal, value for more than
18,000l. a year, a sum equal to nearly two years' rent of
the Mercers' estate when the Land Commission reduces
the rental 20 per cent., and over. No estate can be
prosperous having three loan banks; this estate has
three. One of them, and the one of the greatest importance, is called the Company's bank, was established
about 30 years ago to enable the tenantry to pay the
rent with money borrowed at a high rate of interest.
The agent of the estate is the general manager or chairman of the directors. The office officials are on the
committee; the sitting is in the rent office. When a
tenant wants a loan he travels sometimes five miles to
lodge his application. In a week after he comes again
to know if he has been successful. If so, he brings
with him two solvent securities. He gets the money,
6d. in the pound being first deducted from it. He pays
it back in five monthly payments, each time walking
perhaps 10 miles. The two other banks charge a higher
rate of interest—one of them 1s. in the pound; the
other, I think, charges 9d., but they all do a good business. They are sources of great evil and much misery
to the farmers. It is said by the old people living on
this estate that during the tenancy of Stewart such was
the miserable condition of the tenantry that the girls
living on adjoining properties would not marry with
the boys on the Mercers', because they said they would
be going home to poverty. The subjoined narrative by
Mr. Slade, who was Secretary of the Irish Society in
1802, will strengthen the truth of the tradition.
Kilrea, July 8th, 1882.
Extract from a Narrative of a Journey to the North of Ireland in the year 1802, by Robert Slade, Esq.
The first notice I received of my arrival on lands belonging to the Londoners (as they are there called) was at Kilrea, a market town situated on an eminence near the river Bann, which I learnt from the landlord of my inn was held by Mr. Stewart, uncle of lord Castlereagh, under the Mercers' Company, and that it extended for more than six miles along the road over which I was to pass in my way to Londonderry. Inquiring into the reason of the want of accommodation and the apparent poverty of the place, the master of the inn observed, "that it could not well be otherwise in a part of the country where they never saw the face of the owner of the soil, or even his under-tenant"; and he mentioned this circumstance as a grievance which greatly prevails in Ireland, but particularly in all those parts situate in the north of the island, which belong to any of the city companies. I felt the force of the observation, which impressed me with a greater degree of indulgence for the poverty, ignorance, and laziness of the lower order of the people, who toil for a miserable subsistence, and see the fruits of their labour carried off from time to time by an agent of their landlord, to be spent in a foreign country; while the very same description of people in England are cheered by a hospitable reception in the hall of their landlord when they wait upon him to pay their rent, derive benefit from his expenditure and example, and, in case of petty disputes, find an honest magistrate, a kind landlord, and a well-informed neighbour to reconcile their differences and prevent little misunderstandings from growing into rancour and the desire of revenge. This want of example, assistance, and consolation from the resident landowners deprives the inhabitants of all inducement to union, so that each family lives by itself, in a little cabin without a chimney, with a clay floor, and a bed of straw or rags. A group of nearly naked figures are often seen at the doors, consisting of the wife and children. The husband finds the means by working at his loom to pay an extravagant price for four or five acres of land, on which a cow is kept for the family, and some potatoes and flax are grown. This, with a turf fire kindled in the corner of their cabin, round which the family crouch, with some oatmeal for stirabout, constitutes all the wants, and whiskey the luxury of the Irish peasant; who, never looking beyond it, has no temptation to enterprise or exertion.
I was assured that it was no uncommon thing for a man and his family, after planting their potato ground in the spring, to turn the key of their door, and after employing the summer in begging, to return again to their habitation in order to gather their crop of potatoes, collect a little stock of turf, and thus provide themselves for the winter. If the mere propagation and increase of the human species were to be considered as a proof of the prosperity of a country, the north of Ireland would be the richest in Europe. The cabins swarm with children, and a late ingenious author (the manner of whose death has left an indelible disgrace on those concerned in it) (fn. 7) is said to have made a calculation, by which he ascertained the population of this part of Ireland far to exceed that of any part of England or even Holland. Such is the general state of the northern part of Ireland; and as the late rebellion was checked in an early stage by the exertions of the yeomanry, the face of the country affords but few marks of its effects.
The lands belonging to the Mercers' Company extend from the left bank of the Bann, near Kilrea, for the space of about six miles towards Boyd's Mountain, and are let, as I was informed, in small parcels, from 5 to 30 acres (which is considered as a large farm), at an average of about 1l. 3s. an acre. There are no timber trees on the property, but I learnt from the conversation I had with the landlord of the inn that about 14 years since Mr. Stewart, the tenant, had cut down a great many trees, chiefly ash and sycamore, in the neighbourhood of the town. Mr. Orr, a linen merchant of Londonderry, has a handsome house near the high road, and is now building some cotton or linen works towards the foot of the mountain, which, notwithstanding its dreary aspect and unprofitable soil, is interspersed with cabins.
Instances of Advance of Rents.
James Stewart, Lesacrin. Rent receipts.
|1783||2||18||6||Under Stewart, who leased the estate from the Mercers'.|
|1857||15||8||0||Under the Mercers'.|
William M'Kay, Kilrea:—
1806. Lease for seven years, house and land, 9l. 8s. 7d.
1876. Rent demanded by memorandum of agreement 1876, 18l.
John Johnston, Kilrea:—
Tenants made all the improvements.
(fn. 8) 2061. (Chairman to Mr. A. Brown.) I understand you represent the tenants on the Salters' and Drapers' estate?—I do.
2062. And I gather that you are prepared to state that they are anxious to purchase their farms?— Yes.
2063. And probably you agree with the last witnesses as to the terms upon which they would wish to purchase?—Yes, in general terms I do.
2064. As a rule, are they a poor class of tenant?— The holdings are not very large upon the Salters' estate, and there is considerable poverty prevailing, because during the bad years the Salters' Company never made them any reduction or allowance upon the rents.
2065. Have the tenants applied to the Land Court to have their rents fixed ?—A few of them have. A good many of them are in such a position that they cannot apply, owing to their owing rent.
2066. Being in arrear, do you mean?—Being in arrear.
2067. Then we cannot go into the question of what may be done as to present arrears; but do you consider that they would be able and willing to pay their 20 years' purchase of a rent fixed by the Land Court, assuming the question of arrears to be disposed of?— I do.
2068. Do you think that they would be willing if the estates were put up for sale to bid in the open market against any other person?—I have not the least doubt about that. They would be prepared to bid as far as they considered the value to extend. They are the best judges, because they know the position they are in with regard to poverty, and how they have sunk in the scale in the last six or seven years.
2069. Do you take the same view that the last witness has taken, that they are morally entitled to be protected against the competition of any outside purchasers?—I do not altogether. I believe that taking that view of it is rather an abstract view. The tenants on this property have for the last 130 or 140 years been the sole improvers of it, and I believe as a matter of generosity on the part of the landlords that they would be bound to give the tenants such an opportunity of buying as they would not give to outsiders.
2070. That is to say, that you consider that they have a moral claim to buy at a lower rate than the rest of the world; is not that only putting your own answer in other words?—Their position towards the landlords is different.
2071. I think I may take it, then, that you consider that they have a right to obtain possession of their farms at a lower rate than an outsider would give for them; you have said that, have you not?—At a lower rate than an outsider would give for the whole estate in the farm.
2072. You think that they are entitled to get that upon lower terms?—Yes.
2073. Have you considered on how much lower terms?—I have never considered it.
2074. What do you consider is the advantage in the market that the tenant ought to have from the fact of his being a tenant; would you say three or four years' purchase, or what?—I would not put figures to it.
2075. If there is a right there must be some limit to the right; you have not considered that?—No.
2076. Can you explain what I did not entirely understand upon another point; assuming the tenant to have this monopoly of the right to purchase at a lower rate, is he to be entitled to sell again to any other person and put the difference in his pocket?—I would scarcely put it as strong as your lordship has put it. I would consider him entitled to a monopoly at that rate.
2077. Would you consider that he had the right to sell again after a certain time?—Yes, I think he would be entitled to sell again.
2078. That is to say, supposing that it were determined that being a tenant he had the right to buy at 16 years' purchase, and supposing the value of the holding in the open market to be 20 years' purchase he would be entitled after a year or two to go into the open market and sell at 20 years' purchase what he purchased at 16, and pocket the difference?—If your lordship would allow me to answer indirectly, if you would consider it a proper answer, I would say that if this tenant has for a number of years been paying rent upon his own improvements is he entitled to go into the market under the same circumstances as a stranger ?
2079. Then I think I understand you. You mean that in consideration of improvements he has made he is entitled to a reduction in the price at which he purchases?—To a consideration, I think so.
2080. You say to a consideration?—Yes, a consideration in the price.
2081. Will you define the term. Do you mean a reduction in the rate of purchase?—Yes, I think he should have it at an easy price.
2082. I take it from your answer that you consider a tenant has a right to buy below the market price, and that he has a right having so bought to sell again at the market price?—Yes.
2083. (Lord Coleridge.) May I venture to ask you, do you take any account of the tenant right in that answer?—Of course; the tenant right is a defined quantity, but I take note of this in my answer that the tenant has been paying for a number of years a rent which the landlord had the opportunity of putting upon him without contradiction on the part of the tenant, and that in many cases such rents have been paid upon the tenant's improvements.
2084. I speak ignorantly upon this subject. The tenant's improvements and what he has put into the land is represented by tenant right, is it not?—It ought to be. It is represented by tenant right if the rent has not been raised so as to absorb the tenant right, which it has in times past.
2085. Forgive my ignorance. In Ulster there is tenant right everywhere, is there not?—There is.
2086. The value of the tenant right is ascertainable in a given estate or a given farm at any time, is it not. You can sell the tenant right at any time, can you not?—Yes, of course.
2087. The tenant right has a certain market value? —It has a certain market value.
2088. What a tenant buys is the value of the land plus the tenant right, is it not?—Yes.
2089. If he himself buys his holding he pays the sum it is worth less his tenant right, does he not?— Yes.
2090. What right has he to anything more?—Only this that I have described, that during years gone past he has been paying a rent which has been put upon him—and that he had no option—and a higher rent than he should have paid, and it is now plain from the dealings of the Land Commission that the rent which has been put upon him is more than the fair rent, because the Land Commission, generally, all over the country, is reducing the rents.
2091. And the present landlord must pay to the present tenant what I will assume for the purpose of the question (not for any other purpose) to be the overcharge made by a former landlord to a former tenant?—Yes, that he should consider it in selling to his tenantry.
2092. (Mr. Firth.) The Land Commission, in inquiring into and settling a fair rent, would take into account all these things you are speaking of, would it not?—Yes.
2093. And the fair rent would be settled after their value had been completely estimated?—If all these things were put in evidence that would be so, but that which I describe in regard to payments made upon a rackrent in the future may not be given in evidence. Then I have a statement to make in regard to the Drapers' estate. The tenants upon the Drapers' estate are willing to buy their farms on such conditions as the other tenantry all over the London companies' estates may be buying upon. They wish to enter into no controversy at this time, because the Drapers' Company have given them 15 per cent. of deduction in their rent on the leased as well as on the unleased properties, and in consequence of their going beyond the provisions of the Land Act in giving them the reduction upon the leased lands they are grateful to the Company. It may have been supposed from what I stated before that their gratitude consists in their having received 15 per cent. It does not consist in that, it consists in this: that the Drapers' Company have overstepped what the law provided for them in giving a reduction upon the leases and the leaseholders are grateful for it. I suppose it will be thoroughly understood now.
(The following written statement was supplied by this witness.)
The first requirement towards a purchase of their holdings by the tenants is:—That all the money be provided by the Government, which would be perfectly legitimate, seeing that according to the admission of Mr. Cartwright, agent of the Salters' Company, the tenant has as large and valuable an interest in his farm as the Salters' Company have, but failing the Government, the landlords might advance the portion which the Government would refuse to give, on the same terms of payment. All the money should be provided, because the poor section of the tenants must be protected from falling into the hands of usurers; but if the poorest tenants must go out of the country it is the duty of the Government, first, to give them an opportunity under the system suggested, and if they do not succeed no blame can attach either to the Government or the landlords, and the tenants might emigrate, or whatever seemed best, having no grounds for disaffection.
Any arrangement for purchase must secure a less annual money payment than the present rent, because that which is most of all wanted is a present relief for the tenants, who are steeped in poverty, as will be shown further on. This condition is imperative. A careful scrutiny of the resources of the tenants shows that scarcely one fifth of the acreage is held by men who are able to meet the payment of the portion of the purchase money required under the Bright clauses, and four fifths would require the whole money, so while I require the whole money it is in the interest of the poorest people, and intended to be so, as the deadlock has come under two forces: one, bad land laws, and the other, poverty of the people, the poorer the tenant the greater the claim.
The Salters' Company should sell out their estate because they do not seem to understand their duties: in the year 1874 a memorial claiming to have the tenants placed under the protection of the provisions of the Land Act of 1870 would not be received, and the landlords virtually contracted the tenants out of its provisions without allowing them to appeal even to themselves (the landlords) by memorial. Another appeal was made against an advance of 20 per cent. put on a portion of the estate in the bad year without result.
Another appeal made for a reduction of rent after the bad year with a like result. Another appeal was latterly made with a like result.
A deputation of the tenants at a still later time waited on the Salters' Company respectfully asking them, in the interest of the landlords and the tenants alike, that a fair rent should be fixed without going into court; the tenants were more successful on this occasion. The reply of the Salters' Company to their tenants contains this passage:—
"The value of the agricultural holdings having increased they felt justified in advancing the rents in 1866." Who improved the condition of the holdings? The estate was leased to Messrs. Stewart and Bateson about the year 1754, in whose family it remained up to 1854, and it was impossible the Salters' Company could during that time have done anything towards improving the condition of the holdings. During the 10 years that intervened between 1854 and 1866 there are many living witnesses to prove that none but the tenants did anything to their farms, so that 110 years stand to the account of the tenants for improvements; and from 1866 till 1882 the agricultural holdings have not in any way been improved by the landlords; then by carrying the mind back to the date of the sub-lease to Stewart and Bateson at 500l., and taking the rental as the then present value, you find that in the 100 years an improved value of 20 times the first rent has arisen on improvements made solely by the tenants, as the rental stood at 11,000l. when Stewart and Bateson's lease expired. From 1866 till 1882 the additions placing the figure at somewhere near 17,000l. An averment is made that nearly 50,000l. have been expended on improvements from which the Salters' Company derive no income; but how do public buildings improve the agricultural holdings? and do not the Salters' Company charge as good rent for their stores and markets as any private individual could obtain for such?
The Salters' Company should sell their estate to the tenants, because the fixing of a judicial rent does not settle the land question, for so soon as the rent is fixed, an ill-defined line is taking the place of the judicial arrangement, and growing up until the next judicial term, and there cannot possibly be any lull in the land agitation as the judicial term, depending as it must upon the date that each individual tenant goes before the Land Commission, commits the country to a continual fixing of rents, and the only sound settlement is to sell out the property to the tenants.
Second. The settlement, even on the London companies' estate, would stay the demoralisation of the people, and the sale once accomplished on reasonable terms would lead the people of the country in the direction of their own interests.
The London companies in rising to this position do not require to make an effort attended with any difficulty, but a work lies before them the most ennobling, the most patriotic, that can well be imagined; they can cut the knot of the difficulty that perplexes the statesman; they can restore the people to a state of contentment and loyalty, giving them a stake in their country, enlisting their patriotism. A present feature of the agitation is, that on the small estates where landlords have made arrangements with their tenants (as judicial term), on these disaffection and agitation have literally died, and the people would settle down to the rank of good citizens if once made owners of their own holdings.
The London companies from their position have an opportunity of initiating the transfer to the tenant farmers of Ireland of their holdings; the sequel will prove how far their patriotism will carry them to do a great work for their country; they largely benefit distracted Ireland in the example they lay before the other proprietors to take up the only real solution of the land question.
Third: There is no sacrifice required on the part of the companies, as all the rents go to public purposes. This only directs the current into a new channel, while it may be the means of saving Ireland, and the London companies may take the proud position of initiating the settlement of that most difficult of all social and political problems.
The tenants are willing to purchase their holdings on the following conditions:—
1st. That all the purchase money be provided.
2nd. That the annual payments be less than the present rent.
The tenants do not wish to enter upon any discussion at this time, as the Drapers' Company have generously granted a reduction of 15 per cent. off the rents of all their lands, leased and unleased, thus going beyond the provisions of the Land Act, by abolishing leases, giving all their tenants the same abatement for the judicial term. This arrangement the tenants gratefully accept.
2094. (fn. 9) (Chairman to Mr. Dunn.) You represent the tenants on the Fishmongers' estate?—I do.
2095. Are they considerable in extent?—It is not a very large estate, but it is a valuable estate, it is not so large as some of the others.
2096. You have heard the evidence which has been given by other witnesses; do you agree with them as to the desire of the tenants to purchase their holdings? —I do; the tenants would willingly purchase.
2097. Do we understand that they would require, like the rest, that the whole of the purchase money should be found either by the State or by the landlord?—That is so. I consider that a large per-centage of the tenants would require the money to be advanced by the Government partly, and the remainder allowed to remain for the same term and on the same conditions as that on which the Government is lending.
2098. That is to say, that they should not be called upon to pay down any part of it?—Quite so.
2099. Are they all small and poor tenants?—No, there are a good number of large farms on this estate. There is a matter here which I should refer to which was got up on the occasion of granting the last lease. That was in 1872. There was a considerable advance proposed at the time. The estate fell out of lease, and was revalued. The tenants objected, and considered that they could not pay it, and eventually, after some negotiations between the company and a deputation from the Fishmongers, who came over to visit their estates, and a deputation from the tenants who came over to wait upon the company, it was agreed that the company should hand over their valuator's book, that is, Mr. Nolan's or Messrs. Nolan and Son's, and that the tenants agreed to accept. I may mention that that valuation was made at a time when agricultural matters were in a very prosperous state. It was made after a period of years, in which the price of produce had been high and seasons good. It is shown by statistics that the average gross agricultural produce for the 10 years previous to this was more than the rent, greater than for 10 years afterwards, owing to the fall in the value of produce and inclement seasons.
2100. I understand your wish that all the tenants, large and small, should be enabled to purchase in the same manner, the State advancing nearly the whole of the sum and the landlord the rest?—I should say the State advancing three fourths or four fifths. Three fourths is what they can do at present, the landlords allowing the other fourth to remain on the same terms, and I consider that they would be perfectly safe, as the tenant's interest would be ample for them to fall back upon in the case of the tenant failing to pay the interest as it became due.
2101. In the case of the larger tenants, those who are well off, on what do they rest their claim to assistance from the State to obtain money on cheaper terms than they would otherwise get it?—One reason would be that the State advances money on more reasonable terms. If a man had surplus capital he could invest it better with them than he could at 3 per cent. The present terms upon which the Government offer to advance the three fourths are at the rate of 5 per cent., terminable at the end of 35 years.
2102. A tenant can borrow from the State upon these terms to buy his holding, if the landlord is willing to sell; is not that so?—He can borrow three fourths.
2103. Then the demand for fresh assistance rests on this, that the tenants are unable to find the other fourth?—A great many of them could not.
2104. You have heard the questions which have been put to former witnesses and I need not repeat them; do you consider that the tenants for whom you speak would be willing to pay the fair market price for their farms like anybody else, or would they expect, on the ground of being tenants, that they should have their farms below the market price?—I should think they ought to have a preference, or a little more.
2105. "A preference, or a little more." What does that mean in more definite terms?—I will explain that in a moment. I put in a written statement of my evidence, and the effect of that is to show that this estate has been very highly rented from the time it came into the Fishmongers' hands. In early times it was let to the Earl of Tyrone, and afterwards I believe leased to the Honourable John Beresford for 61 years, which lease expired in the year 1820. I am informed that the estate was let by the Fishmongers to the Beresford family for 400l. a year. They were getting a rental from the tenants of from 2,000l. to 3,000l., 2,000l., I believe, or a little more. Immediately the estate came into the company's hands the rents were at once raised without a valuation to nearly four times the amount the tenants had been paying before.
2106. (Lord Coleridge.) Do you mean that they were raised beyond the 2,000l.?—Yes, four times, 2,000l. nearly.
2107. (Mr. Firth.) Do you mean that they were raised to 8,000l. nearly?—Yes, and that without the company expending 1s. upon the estate. That was done at once. In a few years after that the estate was surveyed and valued. Some of the land was in rundale; the farms were squared, put into shape, and then revalued, and that valuation amounted to about the same as the arbitrary rise of rent would in 1820. Leases, I think, were granted in 1824. These leases were, I think, for 21 years, and some of them, I think, for 19 years, with lives. About the time the leases expired we had a famine, a potato failure. At that time the company certainly did give an abatement of rent to their tenants of 10 per cent. to the larger farmers and 15 per cent. to the smaller farmers, which abatement was continued until 1852, when the estate was revalued by Messrs. Nolan and Son for the company. The revaluation did not increase the rent beyond what it was with the abatement off. It did not bring it up within 10 or 15 per cent. of what it had been from 1825 to 1845 or 1846.
2108. (Chairman.) Then, whatever may have happened in former years there can be no further rents fixed in an arbitrary manner?—I am aware of that; but one thing I want to point out is that it was taken or argued that where rents had been punctually paid for a period of years there could be no claim for abatement. These rents have been paid in one way or other. At that time there were industries that the small farmers had that they have not now. They were able to grow flax, and they earned a good deal of money by spinning and weaving.
2109. Is not all that a question that could be dealt with by a Land Court?—Just so. Then the estate was valued at that time, and a considerable increase of rent put on, I may say, roughly, 20 per cent. over the estate. That was in 1872, and since then we have had a considerable fall, and I am sure the tenant right of any of those properties would not sell for anything like what it would have sold for five or six years ago, nothing like it.
2110. But you cannot rest the demand to have the estate sold upon the ground of arbitrary rent, because that is put an end to. You can only rest it upon the ground that the tenants prefer to be proprietors rather than to be tenants at a fixed rent?—Yes; I stated the one reason why the tenants are anxious to become proprietors on the terms on which the Government lend the money. At the end of 35 years the whole is paid off, and at 20 years' purchase he is paying no more rent than he would have paid as a yearly tenant, while at the end of 35 years is his own landlord.
2111. But supposing that two or three bad years were to come, like those that we had in 1879 and 1880, do you think that those small tenants would be able to keep up the payments?—I think they would. They would be paying no more rent than they are paying now and have been paying.
2112. But if they were not able to do so, do you not think that there would be a great outery against the Government if it attempted to enforce the instalment?—I do not think so. It is the same thing now. If they fail to pay the interest off, certainly their tenant right would be liable to be sold. The tenant's interest would be always a sufficient guarantee for both the first and second mortgages against any loss. There is one matter I would like to say has been lost sight of a little, speaking with reference to the Fishmongers' estate. I must say that the Fishmongers' Company have been most liberal in the way of erecting houses of worship for all denominations and schools, and also in supporting these schools; and in times past they have supplied slates and timber on new farms, only they have exacted pretty high rents. This is what I was going to remark; in estimating the number of years' purchase there is one matter that has escaped the notice of the other witnesses, that is, that the landlords have got to pay the one half of the county cess according to law. Some of them have contracted themselves out of it. I do not mention any names, but they have to pay one half the county cess, and they have to pay one half the poor rates; that is, those who have not contracted themselves out of it; and at present they pay the rent-charge or tithe, their share amounts in ordinary years to 2s. 6d. in the pound; that is 12½ per cent. The whole of that would be thrown on the tenants if they purchased. I put in several statutory declarations as to this supporting my statement.
(The following printed statement was supplied by this witness.)
This estate was let to the Hon. John Beresford, who held as a middleman under the company. His lease expired in 1820. The rental of the estate to Mr. Beresford was about 2,000l. As soon as the estate fell into the hands of the company they immediately quadrupled, or almost so, the former rents without having expended one shilling on the estate. A short time afterwards they altered the boundaries of the farms, or "squared" the farms, had the estate revalued, and kept the rents up to the figure originally arbitrarily fixed. The rents were so exorbitant that in many instance the tenants refused to accept the leases subject to the new conditions imposed. The rents were paid as best the tenants could until the year 1847, when the company were obliged to make an abatement, which they were compelled to continue up to 1852, when the estate was once again revalued, which did not increase the rents paid from 1857 to 1852, showing that the estate must have been grossly rackrented from the time at which it came into the hands of the company. After the revaluation of 1852 leases for 21 years were issued. In the year 1873, at the fall of these leases, another revaluation was made, and an increase of rent followed immediately to the extent of, roughly speaking, about 20 per cent., which now puts them greatly above the Government gross valuation, and I consider that if the tenants were in a position to go before the Sub-Commissioners they would be certain to get a reduction of rent to the extent of at least 25 per cent. But, being under leases, they are precluded from the enjoyment of this advantage. On the whole, I may say that the company have been liberal in providing places of worship. schools, &c., and in addition they have annually subscribed small sums for the benefit of the local clergy. They have also assisted in providing teachers for the schools, and during the famine times they advanced half the money required by their tenants on the estate for draining purposes, likewise supplying slates for new building on new farms. They have also erected houses and offices for some of the tenants, charging an interest of 5 per cent. on the outlay. With the exception of the above benefactions the company have not expended any money for the benefit of the tenants, as the building of houses, offices, draining, fencing, reclaiming, road making—in fact, bringing the land from a state of nature—have been the sole work of the tenants. They have also erected houses and offices for some of the tenants, charging an interest of 5 per cent. on the outlay. I think it is only just that, notwithstanding the leases imposed upon the tenants by the company, the former should be given advantage of the recent legislation, and that the rents should be reduced on an ave rage 25 per cent. I think that the tenants after this would be willing, nay, anxious, to purchase the fee-simple at a fair number of years' purchase.
2113. (Chairman to Professor Dougherty.) You have heard what these gentlemen have said, and I believe you wish to add a few remarks of your own?—I approach the subject from a slightly different point of view. I am one of those who think that an occupying proprietary is the ultimate solution of the Irish land question, and I think that nowhere in Ireland could the experiment of an occupying proprietary be tried with better results than on the estates of the London companies, the tenantry of which are thrifty, industrious, and orderly to a degree. An experiment has already been tried in the case of the Waterford estates in county Derry and in the case of the church lands; and notwithstanding the fact that the tenants on the Waterford estates and the tenants on the church lands bought at a very high rate of purchase, and the fact that the years which have intervened have been exceptionably bad years for farmers in the north of Ireland, as everywhere else, I believe that the repayments of the loans advanced by the Government to enable these tenantry to purchase have been made most punctually. I spoke some little time ago to the local bank manager in my native village, who collects the annual repayment for the Church Commissioners and for the Treasury, and he told me then that there was not a single tenant in that district in arrears. Since then, I believe, one or two have fallen into arrears. The tenantry in county Derry have suffered as I say as everywhere else in consequence of the bad seasons, and in approaching the companies in order to purchase these estates they are anxious to secure that they should not be overburdened by the annual repayment in respect of the purchase money. They are entitled to three fourths of the purchase money from the Treasury under the Land Act of 1881, supposing they arrange to buy. If they have to go into the open market to borrow the remaining fourth the probability is that they will have to pay a very high rate of interest, and that rate of interest, added to the annual repayment to the Government, would amount to a heavy burden, much more than a fair rent, and having regard to their experience in those past years during bad seasons they are unwilling to burden themselves in the future in that way. What they are anxious to do then is to borrow at a fair rate, or a moderate rate, that balance of the purchase money which about three fourths of the tenantry speaking generally would require to borrow in order to purchase. We believe that considering the value of the tenant right in Ulster the security offered for that fourth of the purchase money would be a perfect security—a good security—and it seems to me that instead of going into abstract questions as to the right of the tenant to purchase at a lower rate than other people in the open market, the point we have to address ourselves to is rather this, if it is desirable to try this experiment of an occupying proprietary upon those estates, should we not endeavour to start the experiment upon such terms as would be likely to make it a success.
2114. You would, in fact, propose to give a bounty on the creation of those peasant proprietors, because I need not point out to you that enabling people to borrow on lower terms than they otherwise can borrow is to that extent a gift?—No doubt it is a gift, but a gift for a great public purpose may be desirable and even necessary in some circumstances.
2115. I am not disputing that. I only put it to you in that way, whether what you are proposing does not come to this, that you would give a State bounty upon the creation of peasant proprietors?—It would be hardly a State bounty to ask the companies who have undoubtedly derived a large revenue from these estates for a long series of years to advance, at a moderate rate of interest, a fourth of the purchase money to the tenants who have made those estates so valuable by their improvements; and I may point out that one company (the Clothworkers' Company) in selling to a private landowner (Sir Hervey Bruce) did as a matter of fact advance about half, or more than half, the purchase money at a very low rate of interest, indeed something like 2 per cent., in order, I suppose, to enable him to purchase. If they could do that in the case of Sir Hervey Bruce, I should think that they could much more do so for a purpose which is now recognized on all hands and by all parties in the State as desirable.
2116. You think the tenant right would be security enough?—Undoubtedly. It is a most valuable security.
2117. And you think that if any considerable number of those tenants fell short in their payments there would not be any practical difficulty in enforcing payment?—At the present moment I happen to know a case within my own experience where a tenant on the Waterford estate borrowed the balance of the purchase money which he required. Unfortunately he has not been able to maintain his payment and interest on that portion of the purchase money, and the creditor went into the court the other day and obtained a judgment, and the farm is to be sold within six months to satisfy this judgment. I know the locality well, and it is recognised on all hands as being (at the suit of the creditor) perfectly fair. Perhaps I may be allowed to offer one word of explanation. I am sorry that Sir Sydney Waterlow has left the room. My reading of history is slightly different to his as to the manner in which these companies acquired these Irish estates. In point of fact the King in Council required the citizens of London to provide a certain amount for the purposes of the plantation in Ulster. That sum was levied by poll tax on the citizens. Every citizen was then a member of some trade, and these trades, as we know, were organised in guilds, and the guilds furnished a convenient machinery for the purpose of raising this poll tax. The money came out of the pockets of the citizens of London, and not out of the money of those guilds.
(Dr. Todd.) Would your lordship allow me to explain one or two points. The main point is the claim made by the tenants to rebate from the purchase money or bonus over an ordinary purchaser. I think that feeling exists very generally, and that there is a very substantial basis for that feeling. It is what Mr. Dunn points out that the tenants by purchasing will have to pay all the local burdens. That is a substantial basis to start with. If the landlord purchased he would have to bear a share of the local burdens. On the other hand, the tenant must bear all.
2118. (Lord Coleridge.) Is not that so much off the purchase money? If you buy land in England you buy it subject to the local charges?—There is the feeling that the public entertain, namely, that, owing to the present course of legislation, the burdens are increasing on the landlords and falling off the tenants. The general feeling is that the landlords' portion of the property will be taxed more in future, at least, that is the feeling in Ireland.
2119. If I went and bought I should be in the same position as a tenant; I should have to pay all these things, and if I was a wise man I should take that into account in the price I paid?—Certainly; but in case of purchase the tenants would have to support all the educational, religious, and charitable institutions to which the companies now contribute, and that a private purchaser might not assist in keeping up. Then there is a further point. Lord Derby suggested that the Land Court could take into consideration previous rackrenting. Now there is no provision in the Land Act authorising or empowering the Land Court to go into the past history of rackrenting. The tenants feel that they have increased the value of the estates very largely, but in fixing the rent the court has no power to take that into account, and, that being so, the tenants feel that they have a strong moral claim to some consideration on that account. The Land Court just fixes the rent, and will not take that into account. But what I suggest by way of avoiding any difficulties is this, if it is thought advisable that the estates should be sold to the tenants by the companies, that a Commission should inquire into the price that each tenant should pay for his holding; it might be the Land Commission (as at present established) if not, any other Commission; let them take all the circumstances into account, and then fix the price. If that were done the tenants would be quite satisfied to pay whatever price any court would say they should pay under all the circumstances.