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though made at considerable expense, may yet be unsuitable to the situation, and of little value to his property as a whole. Is there not great danger that any law on this subject, attempting to provide for such a variety of complicated circumstances, and to meet so many difficulties, may fail in giving satisfaction to either party, and may lead to serious perplexity and much litigation ?
A bill was laid before parliament, founded on the report of the commissioners of inquiry into the occupation of land in Ireland ; but it was afterwards dropped. Probably some difficulties, not before anticipated, presented themselves in the attempt to carry out the details. It had no retrospective effect ; it gave no right to compensation for improvements already effected, or for any improvements unless registered. It would therefore have tended rather to increase than to allay the present irritation; inasmuch as, by inference, it admitted the justice of the claims for compensation, but refused the legal power to enforce them.
Such security is imperatively called for, as will make it the interest of the tenant, whether holding under a lease or at will, to continue the proper cultivation of his farm as long as he holds it. In England, there are customs of tenantcy which have the force of law, and which have been sufficient for the old modes of husbandry ; though, with the pre
sent extended rotation of crops, some additional security appears necessary, and is generally demanded by the tenants. Similar arrangements may no doubt be extended to Ireland with advantage. But it appears very doubtful whether it be practicable, by legal enactment, to enable the temporary occupant of a farm to effect its permanent improvement, without loss to himself, and without injustice to the landlord. To erect houses and farm buildings, to make good and substantial fences, to effect any improvement which increases the permanent value of the land, seems peculiarly the province of the proprietor, and can hardly be executed satisfactorily by any other.
To put an end to Agrarian Outrage is of the utmost importance to the welfare of Ireland. Until this be done, nothing effectual is gained. The supremacy of law, and security for life and property, are essential to improvement. The most despotic government, which protects its subjects in the enjoyment of the rights of property, and enforces the observance of the laws, is greatly more conducive to the well-being of a country, than the semblance of freedom and popular institutions, without power to enforce law, or to repress or punish crime.
For nearly one hundred years, agrarian dis. turbances have existed in some part of Ireland. Crimes of the deepest dye have been committed in the face of day, in the presence of many witnesses, and have remained unpunished. There was no one to prosecute or to give evidence. The people sympathized with the offenders, and endeavoured to protect them. If any one convicted of crime was exposed to punishment, he was looked upon by his comrades as a martyr to the cause, and held in honour as a soldier who had fallen in battle. The same character has marked these disturbances from the first. Arthur Young, in 1776, alluding to the Whiteboys, who had first appeared under that name in 1760, mentions the want of evidence to convict ; “ even those who suffered by them” not not having “ the spirit to prosecute;" and assigns as a reason why they were not put down, the necessity“ of any person that gave evidence against them, “ quitting his house and country, or remaining “ exposed to their resentment.” The very same remarks apply equally to the present and to all the intervening time. Yet during this time the strongest measures have been taken to put them down ; coercion acts, insurrection acts, martial law, severities without number have been tried, and all without effect. If these outrages ceased for a time, under the pressure, they re-appeared as soon as it was withdrawn. Coercion will not do ; the most stringent laws are unavailing, so long as the causes of outrage remain. The only remedy is to seek out and remove the causes of irritation, and thus lessen the temptation to commit crime ; and to produce such a change in public opinion, as may facilitate the execution of the ordinary laws of the realm.
It must not be supposed, that resistance to the law is every where prevalent throughout Ireland. This is far from being the case. These outrages are confined to particular districts; and throughout the greater part of the country, life and property are as secure as in any part of Great Britain. The population of the large towns and cities are probably as free from crime, and as amenable to the laws, as the civic population of any other country. Most of the northern and eastern counties are free from such outrages ; and even in those parts of the west, where the greatest want has existed, and still exists, the people bear their sufferings with extraordinary patience and resignation. The people of Ireland have always evinced a desire for justice, and a willingness to obey just laws; and the fact of agrarian outrages existing in parts of the country for so great a length of time, may in itself be considered a proof, that there is something
in the law which presses unjustly, and therefore requires alteration.*
The compiler of the “ Digest of the Evidence in respect to the occupation of land in Ireland,” states, that “ the great majority of outrages appear to “ have arisen from the endeavours of the peasantry, " to convert the possession of land into an indefea“sible title ;" and further, that " in the northern “ counties, the general recognition of the tenant“ right has prevented the frequent occurrence of 6 these crimes.” He also refers to “the disproportion “ between the demand for and supply of labour, “ as the original source of agrarian outrage;" on account of which disproportion," the possession of “ land, however small its extent, has become the
* The authority of Sir Robert Peel may be cited, in proof of the general obedience to law in Ireland. In his speech on the discussion of the bill for repressing agrarian disturbances, (now passing through parliament) he says:
“ It is most unjust to judge of the general disposition of Ireland, “ from the iniquity of these particular districts. I declare, with re“ spect to the great towns of Ireland—for instance, Dublin, Limerick, “ and Cork,—where the people are collected together in large bodies, " that they seem to be almost more submissive to the laws, more obe. “ dient to the authorities, than they are in this country; and the same “ may be said of the inhabitants of Wicklow, and other counties. In “ many districts of Ireland, I think the people are more peaceable, more “resigned, and patient under privation, than the people of this coun. “ try, and they are quite as obedient to the laws; and I conceive that “ nothing can be more unjust, than to judge of the general character “ of the people of Ireland, from these plague-spots which have been “ mentioned."— Times, Nov. 30th, 1847.