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ment are so well known, that it is unnecessary to repeat them here. To use the true and forcible words of a pamphlet recently published, it may be said, that “in very many cases, where encum“bered estates have fallen under the management “of law courts, the district has usually rather resembled one which has been plundered by an enemy, than one under an enlightened government, in a country long exempt from the calamities of war.”
The mode of tenure by lease for lives, with a covenant for perpetual renewal, on payment of a fine, sometimes merely nominal, on the fall
“may be estimated at 10 per cent. on the gross rental; so that the no“minal owner of a rental of £5,000 per annum really has but £500 a “year (supposing his whole rental duly recovered) to live upon. I have “no doubt but that such an estate should be sold, and that selling it is “the only prudent course which A. could take. In the one case, (a “sale) he may preserve £1,000 per annum clear rental; in the other, he “has but £500 encumbered, with the name and station of a gentleman “with £5,000 a year estate. Such is the condition of many of the “landlords of my country.” The following is extracted from the evidence of the same gentleman before the Select Committee on Public Works in 1835:— “The chief part of the estates in Ireland are in large masses, “strictly, and almost continuously from generation to generation, en“tailed. Upon the arrival at age of the eldest son, it almost invariably “follows that the estates are opened, a new set of incumbrances let in “upon them, and then a re-settlement takes place; and so on, until “they are dispersed by sales under the Court of Chancery, to discharge “the incumbrances so created.” * “Observations upon Certain Evils arising out of the Present State of the Laws of Real Property in Ireland, and Suggestions for remedying the same.”—Dublin: Thom: 1847, p. 5.
of each life, is universally felt as a severe grievance, causing uncertainty, trouble, and expense to all concerned, except the solicitor who prepares the deed of renewal. This tenure, though evidently intended to be perpetual, has yet given rise to much litigation,” and property which was looked upon as certain, has in many cases been lost by some trifling lapse on the part of the tenant. It is stated that one seventh of the land in Ireland is held under this description of lease. The remedy is clear—to convert them into perpetuities, making an addition to the rent, to compensate the landlord for the renewal fines. This course was recommended by the commissioners on the occupation of land, and has been promised by the government. It is to be hoped that the next session will not be allowed to pass, without carrying it into effect. Another evil which greatly needs a remedy has resulted, during a long course of years, from the present laws and the present feeling respecting landed property; namely, that in some parts of Ireland, there are several parties intervening between the head landlord and the tenant in possession, each deriving a profit rent, and holding the land, in many cases, for a term equivalent in value
* See Appendix U.
to a perpetuity. The head landlord, having long since let the lands on long leases, at a rent far below its present value, has really no interest in it, except to receive his annual rents, as he might receive his dividends, if the same value of property were invested in the funds. He cannot hope ever to come into possession, or to derive the least advantage from any improvement that may take place. In many cases there are middlemen under similar circumstances, who have again sublet the property on terms which preclude the expectation that it can ever revert to them ; whilst the lowest holder by a long lease, the party really interested in the improvement of the property, is debarred from many of the powers essential for its improvement. He may sell his whole interest, but he cannot dispose of a part, except by again subletting it. For many purposes, he is obliged to obtain the consent of those above him before he can act. Advantageous opportunities may present themselves, of which the terms of his lease forbid him to avail himself. If a mine be found on the property, he has the mortification of seeing its profits engrossed by another, whilst the attempt to work it is perhaps a serious injury to the agricultural value of the land. It very often happens that the first lessee, holding a large tract of country, has sublet in several portions; these lessees have probably subdivided it again; and in this case, if the first lessee omit to pay his rent punctually, (a common occurrence) the head landlord can distrain, for the rent of the whole, from any one of the tenants in possession.* This often produces much hardship. When the first lease is for lives renewable for ever, no lease in perpetuity can be granted except by the same tenure. The amount of land leased in perpetuity, or for long terms of years, is very great, perhaps as much as one-half of Ireland. To enable the holder of such a lease to purchase the fee on equitable terms, on the principle already acted on as respects the quit and crown rents, would be a great advantage to the country. It would create a large additional number of proprietors, and greatly facilitate improvement, by freeing a large extent of land from the difficulties of a divided responsibility. Lord John Russell, in his place in the house of commons, has alluded to these various derivative interests as “a subject worthy the attention of parliament,” and has suggested the consideration “how tenures “in Ireland might be simplified,” with the view to “establish the same connection between the pro“prietor and tenant as exists in England and Scot“ land.”* The present scale of stamp duties, being proportionately so much heavier on the smaller purchase money than on the greater, has a discouraging effect on the sale of land in small portions, and consequently on the division of large estates. The expenses of an enquiry into title are so great, as absolutely to prevent the sale of a small portion of an estate, unless the purchaser be satisfied to take it without enquiry. In consequence of these heavy charges on transfers, and other causes, “it “rarely happens that land is brought into the “market for sale, in lots of a moderate or small “size. Estates are so generally encumbered by “family settlements or otherwise, that the expense, “delay, and difficulty which would attend the “dividing of them, so as to sell in separate or “ detached portions, deter a proprietor from taking “this course, although a larger sum might be raised “by it on the whole.”f When a large estate is brought on the market, it is frequently purchased, in part at least, with borrowed capital, and thus the country merely exchanges one embarrassed pro
* A most remarkable case in point has been communicated to the author, viz., that of the manor of Mount Eagle Royal, in the county of Kerry, containing 40,000 acres, granted in fee farm in 1733, by an ancestor of the Earl of Powis, at a fee-farm rent of £1900 per annum, every acre of which remains liable for the entire rent.