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in the habits of the people, than they do from the counties in the extreme west. An endeavour has been made to delineate some of the principal features of the south and west. These are, briefly: estates of great territorial extent, in most cases strictly entailed, heavily mortgaged, and otherwise encumbered; the owner often non-resident, and unable to expend any thing for the improvement of his property; the land cut up into minute sub-divisions, held by a tenantry who have little inducement to improve a property of which they have no’ certain tenure; a large cottier population, heretofore living on potatoes, the produce of their own gardens, now without employment or any means of support. These difficulties, though most severely felt in the west, exist in a lesser degree throughout the whole country. Almost every where the land is held in large estates;” the proprietors are generally bound up by settlements, embarrassed by mortgages and other encumbrances; the ground, with some exceptions, is in want of draining, and ill-cultivated; the holdings are generally small, the tenants too often ignorant and lazy. Every where the dis
* M'Culloch estimates, on the authority of Dr. Beake, the proprietors of land in England and Wales as having been 200,000 in 1801. It is said that there are only about 8,000 persons in Ireland who hold land in fee.
proportion exists between the demand for and the supply of labour. Can we doubt that the large estates held by embarrassed proprietors, who are unable to improve the property themselves, and are restricted by law from selling it to others, produce most of the other evils which afflict the country? And is not the natural remedy, to remove these restrictions, to allow the sale of these large estates, to apply the principles of free trade to land 2 The great difficulty of Ireland is the want of security, as respects the title to and possession of land. Hence arises the want of capital, as no one will expend labour or money in improving the soil, unless he be assured of reaping the fruits of his outlay. Until some change be produced in this respect, no improvement can be expected. This insecurity affects both the proprietor and the tenant. The first, in many cases, holds by a doubtful title, or one so difficult to prove, as seriously to interfere with the power of sale; and the estate being entailed, he has only a life interest, and is therefore disinclined to expend money on improvements which will not be immediately remunerative. The latter is merely a tenant-at-will, and always liable to be evicted; having no certainty of possession, he will not of course give any labour or expend any money, for which he does not expect
an immediate return. In both cases, the most injurious consequences result. A large proportion of the land is strictly bound up by settlements. The present landlord has merely a life interest; he is in reality not the owner; he cannot deal with it as an owner; he is merely a trustee for others; he has no interest in its future though permanent improvement, except so far as he may wish to benefit his successors; he cannot reap the benefit himself; he cannot sell ; he cannot dispose of a part, even though the alienation of a part might greatly enhance the value of the remainder; he holds it during his life-time, as his predecessor held it, unaltered, unimproved, to transmit it to his heir clogged with the same restrictions, alike injurious to him and to his country. These are the results of the system under the most favorable circumstances, when the property is unencumbered and the landlord free from debt. But let us suppose, as is generally the case, that the heir has received the estate encumbered under a settlement, with a jointure to the widow of the late possessor, and provision for daughters and younger sons. Or let us take the extreme, but by no means uncommon case, in which he comes into possession, burdened with debts of his own, contracted on the faith of his inheritance, R
and borrowed on terms of usurious interest, proportioned to the risk incurred. In what difficulties is he at once involved —this owner for life of a large tract of country, with a long rent-roll, but in fact a small property He cannot maintain his position in society without spending more than his income ; debts accumulate; he borrows on the credit of his life interest, and insures his life for the security of the lender. Of course he cannot afford to lay out any thing on improvements; on the contrary, though perhaps heretofore kind-hearted and just, his necessities force him to resort to every means of increasing his present rental. He looks for the utmost amount; he lets to the highest bidder, without regard to character or means of payment. His object is immediate income, not the future value of the property. If his tenants are without leases, he raises their rents. If leases fall in, he cannot afford to give the preference to the last occupier. Perhaps, with all his exertions, he is unable to pay the interest, or put off his creditors. Proceedings are commenced against him, and the estate passes, during his life-time, under the care of the worst possible landlord—a receiver under the court of chancery. If the evil were confined to the proprietors of estates, they might be left to the results of their own imprudence; but the country suffers. Even when the life owner is provident and economical, he cannot in many cases afford to improve. He will not expend money for the benefit of his eldest son, to the prejudice of the rest of his family. He must save out of his income for his younger children. Or perhaps he has daughters and no son, and the estate must pass to a distant heir-atlaw. He will not even expend what is necessary to maintain the property in good order. The following instance has been communicated by a party acquainted with the circumstance. It is that of an old gentleman of independent property, residing on an estate of about two hundred acres. The fences are almost levelled, and the house, except that the roof is staunch, is in wretched repair; no money has been laid out on it for years ; his family is large, and he is eighty years of age. The jealousy thus kept up between father and son, and the necessity for the former to use means so injurious to the estate and to the country, in order to provide for his younger children, are amongst the worst effects of entails.”
* The following extract from the evidence of Peirce Mahony, Esq. given in 1835 before the Select Committee on Public Works, is strikingly descriptive of the injurious effects of entails:–
“In the case of a provident holder of an estate for life, the difficulties “he encounters are almost equal to those of the person who is encum“bered largely by previous debt. Such a person, under the usual terms