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“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 proprietor for another. This subject is manifestly of the first importance,
* See his Speech, as given in The Times, 26th June, 1847. t Report of Commissioners on Occupation of Land in Ireland. See Appendix Z.
The difficulty of proving a clear title to land in Ireland is well known, and the evils resulting from it are so universally felt and acknowledged, that it seems unnecessary to dwell long on it. It evidently interferes to a great extent with the prosperity of the country, and therefore imperatively calls for the attention of the legislature. The public good requires that some means should be taken to remedy this evil for the past, and to prevent its recurrence in future. If the land is to be properly tilled, if the needful improvements are to be effected, some one must be its owner, and his title must be declared by law to be valid and unquestionable, even at the risk of inflicting injury on individuals to some extent. Ought not the principle of the statute of limitations to be farther extended to land 2 Is it not adviseable to fix a day, after which no claim on land in the possession of another would be valid, unless revived by some public proceedings in the meanwhile; so that when this fixed time, say seven years hence, should arrive, there should be no occasion to go back more than seven years in any search after title—unquestioned possession for that period being sufficient proof of ownership.”
* Seven years is, perhaps, too short a period of limitation for a permanent law; but it is of such paramount importance to confirm the titles of estates in Ireland, that some summary mode of determining all the difficulties respecting titles seems necessary under present circumstances. • The value of the Ordnance Maps for purposes of registration, is alluded to in the following extract from the evidence given by Peirce Mahony, Esq. before Lord Langdale, respecting the registration of deeds in Ireland, as published in the Dublin Evening Post, Nov. 2, 1847 —
To declare all existing titles good, would be of comparatively little value, unless means were taken to lessen the difficulty for the future. A national registry of landed property, appears to afford means not only for facilitating and cheapening transfers, but also for giving perfect proof of titles; as it is only needed for this purpose, to require that all mortgages, and all other acts or deeds affecting the property, shall be registered in the same book of registry, in such a manner that they may be apparent to every one inspecting the registry; say, for example, in a manner similar to the entry of a mortgage on a ship's register. There may be difficulties, but they are not insurmountable. If the evils of the present system be acknowledged, and a firm determination exist to reform it, some one will be found able to effect the reformation. Other countries possess simple forms of transfer, which have been found efficacious. If such answer in Prussia or France, or Belgium, why should they not do for us also 2 The accurate maps of the Ordnance Survey afford great facilities.”
Such a system of registration, under which transfers of property in fee should be made by an authorised entry in the books of registry, much in the same way as a transfer of stock is now made at the Bank, would save most of the legal expenses of transfers. Simple forms of leases provided by the authority of parliament, giving the ordinary powers, might be sold at the Stamp Office, ready - stamped; every one being left at liberty to make use of a fuller and more expensive form if he wished. *
“In preparing the bill for the reform of our Registry Office, and of “which Lord Devon gave me the charge, one of the great objects I had “in view was the ultimate use of the Ordnance Map ; but I don't think “it is possible that we can use it by any direct compulsory legislation; “but in due time we may get the public, through seasonable advice and “precedents (to be circulated), to adopt and understand the system I “suggest, especially if, in aid of that survey, forms for all future deeds “proceed from this commission, based upon a general registry of deeds “for this empire (home and colonial.) By such means, and the simpli“fication of the tenure of lands, so as to get rid of copyhold renewable “leases, &c. in England, fee-farm grants, leases for lives renewable for “ever, corporate leases, customarily renewable leases, &c. in Ireland, “ and such like, we may be enabled to overcome in some degree the “present difficulties, and remove many of the burdens which now sur“round the landed interest. In short, we might by such reforms, make “land and interests in land a portion of the currency, and available as “ part of the capital of this great empire. Until that is accomplished, “ the price of land will fluctuate greatly; at one period it will (as at “this moment in Ireland) be unsaleable, whilst in times of commercial “prosperity it will attain too high a value. The simplicity of title to “which I refer, and for which I am an advocate, may be illustrated by “the system under which railway companies purchase lands. They “take a perfect title on payment into court of the ascertained value of “the land which they want.”
The great number of large estates in Ireland has been already remarked. The confiscated property was in general granted in portions of considerable extent, and the difficulties before alluded to have prevented much subdivision. No class of small proprietors or yeomanry, such as are still to be found in some English counties, ever existed in Ireland. Property constantly tends to accumulate in large masses. The large landed proprietor frequently purchases a neighbouring estate, and unites it permanently to his own by entailing it; thus diminishing still more the number of proprietors in fee. Land becomes vested in fewer hands, and the many are impoverished. It should be the object of the legislature to counteract this tendency, by promoting subdivision of freeholds again,_not by positive laws, but by arrangements which, without interfering with the freedom of property, should encourage the sale of estates in smaller portions.
Is it not of the utmost importance to the wellbeing of society, that the number of those who hold land in fee should be increased ? That land should be held in estates of various sizes 2 That a class of small proprietors or yeomanry should be raised up 2 To entitle the holder of a lease in perpetuity to purchase the fee, would have a very extensive effect, but would hardly produce