Great Britain. Commissioners of inquiry into the w.

Report of Her Majesty's Commissioners of Inquiry into the Working of the Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act, 1870, and the acts amending the same online

. (page 123 of 295)
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4675. Then , if I understand you aright, you would
not have simply legalized the tenant-right custom on
estates where it existed at the time of the passing of
the Act, but you would have enacted a well defined
law, which would have bound all landlords in all parts
of Ireland, establishing fixity of tenure? — Precisely.
I stated my views at the time in the papers I have
mentioned, reasoning a priori from the principles I
have stated, and also from my own special knowledge
of the way in which certain great improvements were
carried out upon farms in Leinster. I have seen great
improvements effected in Ulster, but I saw commenced,
carried out, and completed, under my own eyes greater
improvements in Leinster than I ever noticed in Ulster,
and by men whose tenant-right was not worth sixpence.

4676. Upon estates on which there was no custom?
— No custom.



4677. Simply tenancies from year to year? — ^Y(
or very short leases which are no better.

4678. The tenants did it, I suppose, trusting th
they would be fairly treated by their landlords ? — We
sometimes people do odd things, without fully co
sidering the consequences. I intend before I am do]
to give you an illustration of the extent to which son
people will go in that way. I may mention one mo
remarkable case, inasmuch as it occurred under n
own eyes. About forty years ago, a person nam*
Collier got possession of a small farm upon Loi
Fitzwilliam's estate, which was in many parts a ma;
of granite boulders, either on or immediately under tl
surface. He commenced working at it and improvin
it, and worked at it I think for about thirty years
removing the boulders, cleaving some, blasting other
and burying others. At the time he got the land it w{
worth about ten shillings an acre. It was good landi
other respects — wherever the l-oulders did not tone
it was covered with trefoil and shamrock. Now, wei
I patting a rent upon that farm, I would not estimai
the cost of that man's improvements, because if I di
that I should put a price upon it perhaps greater tha
the value of the fee-simple ; but I would say " if th
farm was worth ten shillings an acre when that ma
got it, it should be worth ten shillings an acre now :
it were in the same state," and I would give him
lease of the farm in perpetuity at that rent.

4679. That is ten shillings an acre ? — Yes ; it is no-
worth thirty shillings. I don't know whether th
rent of that farm has been raised. It is a mos
beautiful farm, well fenced and well drained —
charming bit of land, but I think, in my own mine
that the equity of that man's case would be to give hit
a grant in perpetuity at ten shillings an acre.

4680. Chairman. — Do you know anything of th
family 1 — I know the Colliers very well.

4681. Do you know there was some dispute ? — Yes
I knew Collier was put out, and he became stewan
to my mother.

4682. Do you know whether he received an annuit
fromLord Fitzwilliam? — I heard that he got an annuity

4683. And that the family continued in occuisatioi
of the holding and are there still ? — Yes, I know that

4684. Baron Dowse. — The case you have men tionei
raises a serious question. Suppose a landlord has upoi
his estate a bare mountain side, worth, in its unre
claimed state, very little, and that he lets it to a tenan
who improves it by an immense expenditure of tim^
and labour, so much so that if you were to calculat'
the value of his improvements they would be wortl
more than the fee, so that he raised the value of th^
land to thirty shillings an acre, would you say tha
the whole value of that improvement should be ih
property of the tenant ? — Certainly.

4685. Would you give nothing to the landlord fa
the inherent quality of the soil ? — I would not allov
him for the tenant's adventure.

4686. Would you give no consideration to the fac
that after all the landlord was the owner of the land
and that it was the latent quality of the soil, and it
capacity for imj)rovement, that enabled the tenant ti
make it something worth ? — I would not. I am clea:
that in Collier's case, he could not have effected thi
improvements he did for less than the value of the fee
simple, and I am at a loss to see why the landlorc
should get more than the land was worth before th(
improvements were made.

4687. Of course you know there are pieces of lane
in many parts of Ireland, conventionally known by tli(
name of " land," but of such poor quality as woulc
never pay for improvement 1 — Many.

4688. But if given to a tenant who has a little monej
and a good deal of spare time, he might by labouring or
that land, putting soil on it, and improving it, ultimately
make it something worth ; in a case of that description 1
can well understand that the landlord should get nothin|
beyond what the land was worth originally ; but sup
posing it was another sort of land, improvable land
land which would easily repay expenditure, so that s



MINUTES OF EVIDENCE.



177



tenant by expending time and money on it might, in a
few years, repay himself to a great extent ; in such a
case as that would you give the tenant the entire value
of the improvement, and no part of it to the landlord ?
— "Well, I confess, I have not met a case like that.

4689. The O'Co^^oii Don. — You have never met a
case of land that could be improved by a small expen-
diture so as to be doubled in value'? — I don't think I
have.

4690. Are you aware land is very much impro\'ed
by drainage ?— I am.

4691. So that by an expenditure of £5 or £6 an acre'
in drainage, you may increase the ^alue of some land
ten shillings oi- fifteen shillings an acre t — I would
have no difiiculty about such h. case as that. I would
in that case say " what was this land worth without
being drained f I would take it in that way.

4692. You would not give the landlord any share
in the improved value ^ — I would not be disposed to do
so, because it was not he that made the improvement.

4692a. Chairman. — Suppose there was a piece of
land worth very little in consequence of being a swamp
— suppose the landlord lets it to a tenant at 5s. an acre,
that the tenant expends .£5 or £6 an acre in draining
it and makes it worth something, and that he con-
tinues to hold it at the low rent for a certain number
of years, is it not possible that the tenant might during
that time recoup himself for his expenditure? — He
might, if he got it at such a low rent, and that his
expenditure was not very large.

4693. He might repay himself^ — He might.

4694. And leave a surplus 1 — Possibly, but I confess
I never met a case of the kind.

4695. If 3'ou did meet a case of the kind, do you
thinkthe landlord should get a portion of the value from
the improvements ? — I find a difiiculty in dealing with
such a case. But I would allow credit to the landlord
if he had let the land at first at a rent manifestly less
than its then fair letting value,

4696. Do you know the profit which Mr. Collier
made by the granite that he got out of that land 1 — I
do not ; I know he made gate posts of a good deal of it.

4697. Do you know that he sent it round the coun-
try to considerable distances, it was so much prized ? —
I do not think he sent much of it at all. I lived very
near him, and I knew he placed it along the road for
anyone that wanted gate posts, but I never heard that
he made anything considerable by it.

4698. But are you aware that lie was put out of the
farmby an arrangement with his own family 1 — I am not
going into that part of the case at all. I have nothing
to do with that. He may have been fully compensated
by Lord Fitzwilliam, for anything I know. I merely
mention the case as it ocouri-ed under my own observa-
tion, and in which the tenant, I have not the slightest
doubt, expended more than the fee-simple of the land
was worth.

4699. "What is your opinion of leases 1 — I have not
a very high opinion of them. Unless the lease is a
very long one a man might as well not have a lease at
all. I have seen people expend a gi-eat deal of money
upon short leases, but the general feeling is very much
against them now. Most tenants would just as soon
have no lease as a short one.

4700. A tenant under a lease has it only till the
end of his term ; but a tenant from year to year may
remain in occupation for ever, practically 1 — Yes ; and
if he is under a good and equitaljle landlord a tenancy
from year to year is equivalent to a lease for ever.

4701. Baron Dowse. — Have you known instances
in "Ulster of the tenant-right custom being eaten into
or damaged in value by raising of rents 1 — I have heard
of it. Some landlords have been constantly raising
rents. I have a strong opinion on that gubject — in
my opinion the rents of the original servitors, whoever
they were, should never have been raised one shilling.
I feel that very strongly, considering the circumstances
under which they got their holdings. I will illustrate
that better when I give my statement of the facts con-
nected with the settlement of the barony of Shillelagh.



4702. It is very difficult now to bring the origin of Sept 21, I88O.
tenant-right, arising out of the plantation of Ulster, ,, j~^3
into the region of practical politics t — Ko doubt. We Morton,
must take things as they are, and for that reason I have

said that in adjusting the question of rent and tenant-
right I would not go behind the time of the last pui -
chase for value. "Whether you are going to put on a
fixed rent or to lea\'e it su.bject to a periodical re-
vision, you must take the fair rent as being what a
solvent tenant could afford to pay for the land as under
a tenancy from year to year, minus the tenant's im-
provciments effected since the date of the last sale
anterior to 1870.

4703. Chairman. — ^Would you give the tenant a
compulsory power to purchase his holding 1 — I would
give thg,t to every tenant, but I would limit it in this
way ; it would be very inconvenient to have every
small tenant dragging up his landlord at every moment ;
but I would give it to a tenant whose holding was
value for £50 a year, or to the tenants upon any one
townland, or in any one district, so as not to make
the thing too small and inconvenient.

4704. You would give the tenants that power for
the purpose of enabling them to acquire estates in fee ?
— Precisely.

4705. Baron Dowse. — Peasant proprietors? — Yes,
or rather farm proprietors. The expression " peasant
proprietors " might be supposed to mean proprietors
of very small holdings. I would extend it to the very
largest holding.

4706. "What we generall}^ understand by " fixity or
tenure " is, tenancy under a landlord ; but the effect
of the scheme you advocate would be, to get rid of the
landlord '! — That would depend on the extent to which

it was availed of. •

4707. Would you set on foot a scheme for purchasing -
out the landlords of Ireland at one swoop? — I would
not ; because the result of that would be that I don't
think half of them would pay the instalments, and
the State would have to resell.

4708. What I understand yovi to suggest is that
when a tenant has some money he ought to have
power to purchase his holding 1 — Yes.

4709. How much do you think he ought to have?
One-third.

4710. You would facilitate him in borrowing the
remainder ? — Yes.

4711. That would have the effect of naturally
creating a class of fee-simple proprietors ? — Yes, but
there is one difiiculty which presented itself to my
mind as a solicitor (having been concerned in taking
land for a railway), namely, the costs of making out
title, and of the application of the purchase-money.
These costs ought not to be thrown upon a compelled'
vendor; they would have to be borne by the purchaser,,
and in many cases they would be quite too heavy for
a small tenant to bear, and must be jjaid by the^
State.

4712. As you have mentioned railways, of course
you are aware that where a man's property is taken
from him against his will for the purposes of a railway,
he gets something extra for compulsory purchase 1 — I
know that is talked of, but really what it means is
this — that he is- to get the fullest price. The landlord,
if compelled to sell, is entitled to the fullest price — to
such a price as would, if invested on the best security
recoup him the income he has lost.

4713. According to your experience do you think
the power of purchase would be largely availed of by
the tenants if they had it? — I think it would iia
Ulster very much, and I think in Leinster also.

4714. Would you work it out by a modification
of the Bright Clauses of the Land Act ? — I would
work it through the County Court Judges ; I would
give them the jurisdiction. I would move the Countv
Court Judge by a short petition, and give him power
to call for title deeds, and do all necessary acts the
same as the Land Court has at present.

4715. Would not that be very expensive? — It would
involve some expense.

2 A



178



IRISH LAND ACT COMMISSION, 1880.



Sept. 21, 18S0.

Mr. James
Morton,



4716. Is that the expense which you contemplate
throwing on the State 1 — Yes.

4717. Throwing it on the State means throwing it
on the taxpayers? — Yes, I would throw it on a
particular class of taxpayers.

4718. Who would they be? — I think you would
yourself come in for a portion of it. I would throw it
on every income of over £1,000 a year in the United
Kingdom arising out of land or invested personalty.
I would do it on this principle — ^that it is placing the
tax on the shoulders of those best able to bear it,
which I think is the turn the taxation of the future will
take ; and also for this farther reason — England owes
Ireland immense compensation for the legislation
which hindered her trade and crushed her manufac-
tures in the past.

4719. It would be rather hard to make the present
generation pay for that 1 — I think not. The present
generation oi English traders have, owing to the legis-
lation to which I reier, now a walk over in Ireland.

4720. Chairman. — You mention, in the notes
which you furnished to us, that you are of opinion
arterial drainage works should be undertaken by the
State ? — I do ; through the Board of Works.

4721. Through what means is the State to be re-
comjDensed for the expenditure? — That is another
question. I don't see how the work could be done,
except by some such imperial taxation as I propose.
The country has been left without manufactures ; it is
very poor, and I don't think Ireland could, of itself,
bear the tax.

4722. Baron Dowse. — How would you settle the
fair rent, suppose there was a difierence between land-
lord and tenant as to the amount ? — By arbitration, if
they would agree to reier it to arbitration ; if not,
then let them come belore the County Court Judge.

4723. Do, you think that tribunal would give satis-
faction ? — I think it should. I would give an appeal
if either party wished it.

4724. An appeal to the Judge of Assize ? — Yes. I
see it might give rise to a good deal of litigation, but
it can hardly be helped.

4725. Are there any other points in the Land Act
requiring amendment in your opinion ?— Yes ; section
4, proviso 1, sub-section A, which excepts improve-
ments made before the passing of the Act, and twenty
years before the claim ot such compensation shall
have been made. I see no reason for that exception.

47 2 G. You would not limit it to twenty years? — I
would not. I see no reason why it should be limited.
I was concerned in a case of great hardship myself of
that kind.

4727. Don't you recollect that at the time this Act
was passed it was considered by some a gi'eat hardship
thatitshoulddeal retrospectively at all? — Iknow it was.

4728. And it was thought reasonable to put some
limit on its retrospective operation, and that was the
reason of the twenty years' limitation because the
Act altered rights, is not that so ? — Yes ; it did alter
rights.

4729. It made a man liable to pay in respect of a
thing past and gone, and over which he had no con-
trol ? — Yes ; but I see no reason for making the excep-
tion at all, once the retrospective jirinciple is admitted.
I know of a case of great hardship near Belfast
— Torrens v. Johnson — it was with reldrenoe to a
farm of twenty acres near Bellast. All the improve-
ments, fences, houses, offices, everything had been
done by the tenant or her jjredecessor . The lease expired
and an ejectment was brovight. She made a claim in the
alternative, claiming compensation for improvements,
and alsofor the Ulster tenant-right. She proved thatthe
custom of tenant-right existed on the adj oiuing estate of
the Marquis of Downshii'e. She proved that the im-
jirovements had all been effected by herself or her pre-
decessor. The rents she bad been paying was a full
occupation rent, but she did not get a farthing.

4730. Do you object also to exceptions 3 and 4 ? — I
do. I object to every limitation — I consider there
should be no exception — that the court ought to have



power to award compensation in every case where the
oircumstanceg were such as to entitle the party to
get it.

4731. You would compensate a tenant for his im-
provements no matter when made ? — I would, provided
they were unexhausted. I would give him their
value at the time he quitted his holding — the only
exception being where he got the lease, or became the
tenant on the express terms of making the improve-
ments. There is another matter I wish to mention,
that the rents are much more moderate in Ulster than
in any part of Leinster I am acquainted with.

4732. For the same class of land? — Yes, and I
attribute it to the Ulster custom.

4733. The O'Conoe Don.— You think the Ulster
custom has a tendency to keep down the rent ? — 1
think so.

4734. Baron Dowse. — The landlords in Ulster did
not charge so much rent for land as the landlords in
the south did, because they admitted the rights of the
tenants ? — Yes.

4735. Complaints have been made to us, both in
Dublin and here, that a contrary practice has prevailed
here lately ? — So I have heard.

4736. And that the landlords are destroying the
tenant-right by gradually raising the rents ? — Yes.

4737. Has, that system of raising the rents prevailed
only since the custom has been legalised by Act of
Parliament or beiore it? — Before it — I have heard of
many cases both before and after the Land Act became
law. I was told of one case in which the rent was
raised 130 per cent.

4738. Might it not have originated in this — that
for some years latterly the tenants were well off, they
got good prices and good harvests, and the landlords
thought they had a right to share in that prosperity ? — .
Yes, but it took jjlace in times long anterior to those
— it took place in 1850.

4739. Baron Dowse.— -I have heard landlords say
that the rents have been the same for the last thirty
years, but that though the tenant got better and higher
prices for every kind of farm produce his land'ord got
none of those advantages — have you heard of cases of
that sort? — Frequently landlords have told me so.

4740. Have you any land yourself? — I have not.

4741. Is there any other point to which you wish to
call our attention ? — I wish to make a statement of
facts in relation to the settlement of the barony of
Shillelagh. In the commencement of the last century
the barony was one ol the wildest of wild places — it
was the last resort of the wolf in Ireland. The roads
were mere tracks, and I don't believe there was a bridge
in the whole district. The Marquis of Rockingham in
the first half oi the century planted it with a numerous
yeomanry and with some families of a different class —
men of means. Frank Morton came there from the
Queen's County. He settled at Tinnahely, where
there were then, as I am informed, but two small
cabins. He built a house. There was at that time
no market and no trade in the locality. He built a
corn mill, a distillery, a malt house, a brewery, and a
tanyard, and carried on all those trades himself
Before he died he had a market town there, with a
market house in the centre of it. He died leaving four
sons ; the youngest remained in possession of his own
house and farm, a large one. Some years afterwards the
rebellion of 1798 broke out. His eldest son, Harry
Hatton Morton, a wellknown magistrate of the quonnn
in three counties, went through the Roman Catholic
peasantry and farmers, and urged them to remain at
home, and they followed his advice — conduct for which
it always struck me that HaiTy Hatton Morton deserved
a civic crown — for they remained steadfast and peace-
able during the whole period of the rebellion, cultivat-
ing their own fai-ms and also the farm of his brother,
J ames Morton, who was a yeomanry officer, constantly
iinder arms, and marching to repel invasions. There
were repeated invasions, but six corps of yoemanry
repelled them and held the barony for the King and
the absentee landlord. In the course of time James



MINUTES OF EVIDENCE.



179



Morton died, and witli Urn expired the lease. He had
an only son, Frank Morton, who had a number of
little boys. He was living on a very large but poor
farm, one of the very worst on the estate ; his father's
was one of the best. He thought that though the
lease of his father's farm had expired on his death, that
his claim as son would be recognized, and that he
would get the farm ; but no, he was informed that the
farm was required to be cut up into townparks and
that he would not get it. The agent took possession
of the feirm, the old farmstead oi Prank Morton, also
the malt-house and other buildings including some
houses in the town, and the only compensation
allowed was a gratuity of £10 a year to the
daughter of Captain James Morton. I am not now
casting any blame either on Earl Fitzwilliam or his
agent. I am merely showing what the system is, and
what can be done under it.

4742. The O'Conoe Don.— "When did James
Morton die ? — I think it was in 1833. I was twelve
years old at the time.

4743. That was long before the Land Act? — Yes.
I am merely stating these facts to show the results of
the insecurity ot tenure. That land was not worth
more than 5s. an acre on the day Frank Morton came
to Tinnahely. It was Frank Morton that created the
town, there is no doubt about that, unless tradition is
altogether in error on the matter. It was his industry
that created the town, and that had indirectly given
to that land the value it subsequently acquired as a
site for townparks.

4744. What was the result of the conduct pursued ?
— Frank Morton the younger from that time forward
spoke of nothing but emigration, and the same feeling
took possession of his sons. His second son, George
D. Morton, emigrated to Canada, and is now a director
and one of the principal proprietors of the St. Lawrence
Bank. His third son, William Morton, went to Mel-
bourne, and has been successful there. The youngest
son also went to Canada and is now a physician there
and said to be in large practice. Not one of those
tliree men would have thought of leaving Ireland had
it not been for the discouraging conduct pursued.
That I can certify from my own knowledge.

4744a. Baron Dowse. — Whatdoyou say should have
been done by the landlord when the lease expired 1 —
What I say is that the son of James Morton should
have been given the . .xm in perpetuity at 5s. an acre,
that being the value of it when Frank Morton got it.
Whatever additional value it afterwards acquired was
the result of the industry and energy of Frank Morton.
That farm was worth £2,000 at the least when the
lamily of the Mortons were deprived of it. I am not
blaming Earl Fitzwilliam, nor his agent, I merely
mention the case to show the efiect upon those men
oi what they considered injustice.

4745. But according to what you have stated it
appears they are all tar better off now than if they



had remained in Tinnahely ? — Undoubtedly. But that Sept. 2i, 1880.
is not the point. No doubt what occurred turned out „ . "
all the better for them ; but the point is, the effect Morton,
such conduct has on the industry and prosperity of this
country. That case had the efiect of drawing my
attention to the subject of the Plantation of Ulster,
and the Ulster custom. I have endeavoured to lock
at it in the most equitable way I could, and I think
what I have said would have been the equitable way



Online LibraryGreat Britain. Commissioners of inquiry into the wReport of Her Majesty's Commissioners of Inquiry into the Working of the Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act, 1870, and the acts amending the same → online text (page 123 of 295)