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office in the year 1844, but to constitute nearly one-third in the counties of Tipperary, Leitrim, Roscommon, and the King's County.
These outrages occasionally, though rarely, arise from sectarian prejudice; or they are perpetrated with a view of regulating wages or rents, or of compelling the letting of land by con-acre, or of regulating its price; but in almost all cases they are more or less connected with an anxiety to retain possession of land, which, in places where it is extremely difficult to obtain employment during a large part of the year, offers the only certain means of subsistence. To lose the possession of land, to be refused ground on con-acre, is to be deprived of all means of support. * It is often a question of life and death to the unfortunate peasant. The perpetrators of these outrages are screened from justice, by the active sympathy of the labouring classes and small farmers, who consider them as supporting the cause of the poor against the rich. Murders are committed in the open day, before hundreds of spectators, and no offer of reward can procure information. If the party be arrested, it is difficult to obtain a conviction. Witnesses refuse to give evidence. Juries are often unable to agree, even where the evidence appears conclusive of the
* See Appendix A A.
guilt of the accused. The perpetrators of a large proportion of agrarian outrages escape detection.
It is evident that the insecurity of possession, for which a remedy is sought in these outrages, has a most depressing effect upon the industry of the agricultural population. “The greater portion of the occupiers of land in Ireland hold as tenants from year to year."* If, as is the practice in England, the farms were let, with suitable houses and farm buildings, with good gates and fences, and that the tenant had merely to keep the place in order, he might perhaps dispense with all security, except for the gathering in of his crop. But having to erect all buildings, to make fences and gates,† to do every thing in short which may be necessary to render the ground available as a farm, and still liable to be turned out at six months' notice, without any compensation for his improvements, it is not to be expected that he will expend much of his labour or capital, where it is uncertain how long he may be permitted to enjoy the fruits of his exertions. The Irish tenant acts in these circumstances just as an Englishman would do if in his place ; he spends on his farm as little both of capital and labour as he can. The buildings are
* Digest of Evidence before Commissioners of Inquiry into Occupation of Land. Part I. page 234.
† See Appendix W.
temporary, a mud cabin thatched, perhaps a cowhouse of the same materials. They cost him but little, and will not be of much value to his successor. The fences are inexpensive ; the gates are make-shifts; perhaps the cart, or a turf-creel turned upside down, is run into a gap in the ditch. He never thinks of draining. The long winters are passed in idleness. If successful, he conceals his success. He pretends poverty, lest his landlord should be tempted to raise the rent. His capital is not expended on the improvement of the farm, but he tries to lay by something, perhaps hidden in a hole in the thatch, to enable him, if dispossessed, to get another. It is true that there are many proprietors of land, who would not take advantage of such improvements on the part of a tenant, in order to raise his rent; but a very few instances to the contrary are sufficient to shake confidence and paralyse exertion.
It has been already stated that more than half the farms in Ireland are under five acres. Various causes have combined to produce this. The desire to create voters, in order to increase the parliamentary interest of the landlord, had considerable effect, so long as a lease for lives, giving the lessee an interest of forty shillings per annum, conferred the franchise. Higher rents could also be obtained for these small farms, than large fariners were willing
to pay; and therefore many tenants with long leases sublet their holdings in small portions, thus obtaining a considerable profit rent. Another, and perhaps the principal cause was this, that the possession of land having heretofore offered the only certain means of subsistence, the father looked upon his farm as a provision for his family, and subdivided it among his sons at his death; thus often dividing it into portions so small, that the whole produce would have been insufficient for the support of a family, even if there were no rent to be
• “The parent possessed of a farm, looks upon it as a means of provi“ding for his family after his decease, and consequently rarely induces “ them to adopt any other than agricultural pursuits, or makes any other “ provision for them than the miserable segment of a farm which he can “ carve for each out of his holding, itself perhaps below the smallest size or which can give profitable occupation to a family. Each son, as he is s married, is installed on his portion of the ground, and in some cases, " even the sons-in-law receive as the dowries of their brides some share of " the farm. In vain does the landlord or agent threaten the tenant; in “ vain is the erection of new houses prohibited, or the supply of turf “ limited. The tenant relies on the sympathy of his class to prevent “ ejectment, and on his own ingenuity to defeat the other impediments “ to his favorite mode of providing for his family.
“The peculiar system adopted in most parts of Ireland in subdividing “ land, adds much to the evils necessarily accompanying the existence of “ holdings so minute as those which the practice of subdivision tends to “ create.
“ Instead of each sub-tenant, or assignee of a portion of the farm, re“ceiving his holding in one compact lot, he obtains a part of each particu“ lar quality of land, so that his tenement consists of a number of scattered “ patches, each too small to be separately fenced, and exposed to the con“ stant depredations of his neighbour's cattle, thus affording a fruitful
The only remedy for this great and increasing evil was “consolidation ;" to re-unite several of these minute holdings into one of reasonable size. To effect this, it was necessary to eject many of the holders of those subdivided farms : or, in other words, to “ clear the estate."* This has been a work of great difficulty, and a fertile source of outrage. The tenants have availed themselves of every means to retain possession, and have frequently succeeded by illegal combination and threats of violence. Sometimes ejectments have been effected on a large scale. The inhabitants of whole villages have been turned adrift at once, without a home to go to, without the prospect of employment, or any certain means of subsistence. Some few landlords, feeling bound to help those whom they have dispossessed, have procured for them other means of
“ source of quarrels, and utterly preventing the possibility of the intro“ duction of any improved system of husbandry.
“Lord George Hill records, among other facts relating to land held in “this way, or according to the provincial term, held in rundale,' that " one person held his farm in forty-two different patches, and at last gave “ it up in despair of finding it: and that a field of half an acre was held “ by twenty-two different persons.
" It frequently happens that when land has been sublet or subdivided, " but one tenant is recognised by the landlord, although there are several “ actual occupiers. In this case, each portion of land being responsible “ for the rent of all, the industrious tenant may be forced to pay the “arrears really due by his idle partners." —Digest of Evidence on Occupation of Land, Part I. page 419.
* Sce Appendix X. for the remarks of the Commissioners on Occu. pation of Land respecting consolidation.