« НазадПродовжити »
to all the elegancies of life, may ere long be reduced to a position of serious deprivation ; that many who have thought themselves rich, may find that they are left almost without property. No legislative measures can wholly avert these difficulties. Reverses of fortune are at hand, and are inevitable. They will be only the more severe, the longer the settlement is deferred. To grapple boldly with the difficulty is the surest way to avoid the danger
We cannot remain as we are ; we are evidently on the eve of a great social revolution. The issue of that revolution must depend on the prudence and foresight of those who conduct the affairs of the empire. The potatoes may again be planted without being again blighted, but never with the same feeling of security ; they can never again be relied on as the sole food of three-fourths of the people of Ireland. The position of the country is greatly changed within the past few years. Parliament has virtually declared, that Ireland must be governed by other means than force. Agrarian outrages have fearfully increased. In some places, attempts have been made to compel the resumption of the public works. In others, there is a coinbination against the payment of rent, or of rates, or an endeavour to retain permanent possession of land. Landlords are in some places ruth
lessly evicting their pauper tenantry, or distraining without consideration. In others, they look in vain for payment from tenants who are well able to pay. The minds of men are everywhere unsettled. The present circumstances have brought to a crisis the increasing troubles of years. The future prospects, the happiness or misery of the country, depend on the mode in which this crisis is met. Where is the prudent and able statesman, who can “out of this nettle danger, pluck the flower safety ?” who will prevent revolution by anticipating necessity, instead of waiting until forced by outrage or popular clamour ? There are times of difficulty, in which opposition to the current of events is impossible, and the only course of safety is to yield with prudence to the irresistible force of the torrent.
Last session, a bill was brought before parliament, “to facilitate the sale of encumbered estates “in Ireland.” It was introduced into the house of lords by the lord chancellor of England, who, when introducing it,“ detailed the peculiar evils “ under which the possessors of encumbered estates “ in Ireland laboured, some of which estates were “mortgaged to the extent of their whole value. “In such a case, the owner was only a nominal “ proprietor ; he called the estate his own, but he “ derived no income from it. It went into the “pockets of the mortgagees, who had no interest “in the improvement of the lands which yielded “their income. This was a very great evil to the “individual owners of estates, but it was a great “national evil too."* The house received this bill with approbation ; no voice was raised against it in Ireland, but many expressed their concurrence in its intended objects. Much benefit was anticipated from its operation. The house of lords passed it unanimously, but on reaching the commons, it was withdrawn. The monied interest of London, holding mortgages on Irish property, was alarmed, and opposed it. It was threatened that its provisions should be availed of, to force sales to the extent of several millions. The threat was sufficient, and the session being too far advanced to admit of much discussion, the measure was deferred.f Thus were the interests of Ireland sacrificed to the fears of English mortgagees, and the embarrassed Irish landlords remain, possessing a nominal property, but being in fact merely the agents of English capitalists, privileged to pay the whole poor rate, and condemned by the English public for the abuses of a system which they are powerless to prevent or to cure.
* Times, April 28, 1847. † See Lord John Russell's speech on withdrawing the bill, in The Times, 6th July, 1847.
This bill, if it had passed into a law, would have had most important effects. It purported to enable the owner of any encumbered property to sell it, and to give the same power to a mortgagee or incumbrancer. It follows from this, that no entail made hereafter would prevent the sale of an estate, unless it were unencumbered. Such a circumstance would greatly lessen the injurious operation of entails. To empower the proprietor of an entailed estate which is encumbered, to sell, is a step towards freedom, and must prove highly valuable ; but it seems open to serious question, whether it be right to confer the same power on an incumbrancer, so long as the terms of contract are fulfilled on the owner's part. The owner of property should be entitled to choose his own time for selling it. This bill would not have given to the purchaser any better title than that of the previous owner, and therefore would not have afforded any remedy for one of the most serious evils affecting landed property in Ireland. The government have stated their intention of introducing a similar measure during the present session.*
* A bill for facilitating the sale of encumbered estates had already been introduced into the House of Commons in 1846. It was prepared by Peirce Mahony, Esq., an eminent solicitor of Dublin. This bill would have enabled the owner in fee, or tenant for life of an encumbered estate, to petition the court for a sale; but would not have given any increased powers to an incumbrancer. The extensive practice and legal know.
Whatever doubt may exist as to the propriety of giving an incumbrancer the power of selling an estate, so long as the owner duly fulfils his engagements, there can be no question that when a failure
ledge of the above mentioned gentleman early drew his attention to the injurious effects of the present condition of property. The following extracts from his evidence before the Select Committee on Tithes in Ireland, in 1832, shows the clear view he took on this subject, at a time when it attracted but little attention from the public in general :
“ The very large estates so held in the south and west of Ireland “ are comparatively uncultivated, and are heavily encumbered by judg. “ ments, &c. Those judgments affect the whole and each part of the " estate; as the system is not so much to borrow on mortgage, but even “ when money has been borrowed on mortgage, it is not borrowed, as in “ England, upon separate and distinct portions of the estate, so as to “ enable the proprietor, if he think fit, to sell that separate and distinct “ portion of it, and discharge that particular class of debt; the Irish mort“ gages cover the whole, and thus it becomes scarcely possible for the “ owner to sell in small divisions. This in a great degree accounts for " the immense accumulation of debt that has taken place; because when “ you come to sell, you are forced into the Court of Chancery, and when “ there, endure the effects (upon the creditor as well as the debtor) of a “ most expensive and tedious process; all the different incumbrancers, “ trustees, &c. are (usually) necessary parties to the suit, and it is a “matter of extreme difficulty to make out a satisfactory title; while “ during its progress the suit is constantly impeded by the deaths of “ parties, and the revivals consequently necessary. Hence the owner “avoids selling as long he can; but if the legislature were to interpose “ so as to render the proceedings to a decree for sale unnecessary, “ by enabling the parties to deal as they do with commissioners " for public purposes, and to bring the money into court to be “ there distributed, all that the parties need do would be to put “ forward their respective rights to the fund, and on those being ad“ justed the money could be distributed. I beg to state to the Commit“ tee, as an instance, that a noble lord, whose estate was encumbered “ by judgments, being extremely anxious to pay his debts (this case “ is known to an honourable member of the Committee now present) “ vested his estates in trustees for that express purpose, and instituted a