ANOTHER WORD ON THE IRISH DIFFICULTY.
Dublin, 13th April 1852. Sin—The suspicion given vent to in your kind notice of my letter last week is perfectly well-founded. I am not "admitted to the secret councils of the Castle," and I was not aware when I wrote that the Northern Whig had been placed on the index expurgatorius of that establishment. Neither do I feel any vocation to defend, as I am unable to explain, that measure. It was, in my opinion, only equalled in absurdity by a confession made by Earl De Grey, when he filled the Viceregal throne, that " he never read news- papers?' One of the misfortunes of "the Castle" system is, that the ma- nagement of the details of the little court is, perhaps unavoidably, intrusted to household officers even littler in proportion than itself. I have known grave offence given to persons whose cordial support of a Government would have been important, by the systematic exclusion of their families from "the Castle" hospitalities ; while others, neither ornamental nor useful, were at the same time systematically included in the list of guests. The fact was, that the Chamberlain practised the ancient rule, "gif-gaf makes good fellow- ship," and invited to his master's table those who welcomed himself to their own, and (so far as the matter was left to him) vice verse. Knowing that this state of affairs has existed, I should not be surprised if it be still, to some extent, in operation ; and that the Northern Whig was dis- continued because it was privately obnoxious to some official under- ling. So far ae I know of theJournal in question, I believe it to be a specimen of a class rare in Ireland—an independent, self-sustained organ of a sectional public opinion; not indeed "of the preponderating political sen- timent of Ulster," but of Nonconforming Presbyterianism. Being such, to exclude it from the Castle reading-room, was voluntarily to shut out or treacherously to conceal from the official eyes most necessary information on the subject of official duties. I hope, however, my views will not be discredited because I look with my own eyes and not through Castle or other particoloured spectacles; and there- fore I will attempt to complete the design of my last letter, by adding a word or two in explanation of the position of the Land question, considered as one of the parts of the Irish difficulty. I entertain hopes that the Derby Govern- ment will do for this what they have done for Protection in England, and what they may do for the education and religious questions in Ireland—that they will burst the bubble. The Irish Attorney-General has pledged him- self to undertake—first, the codification of the existing statutes which refer to the tenure and occupation of land; secondly, to investigate the various measures proposed for the settlement of the landlord and tenant question; and thirdly, to construct a measure that shall contain machinery for the en- forcement of a fair and reasonable adjustment between the parties when vo- luntary agreement becomes impossible. If he perform his pledge, he will settle the Land question by a sort of reductio ad absurdum. In codifying and rationalizing the existing land-law, if he be guided (as his antecedents per- mit us to hope that he may) by the well-known and irrefragable principles of internal commerce, he will not bind the land more rigidly, but probably set it free from many technical trammels of the law which interfere with its marketable character, and consequently reduce its value. In investigating proposed measures, he will expose their quackery ; and in any efforts he can make for the construction of a legal guide to bargaining for land, he will prove to himself and to the world the impossibility of usefully interfering between individual buyers and sellers in transactions of which no legal tri- bunals can form so sound a judgment as themselves. The Land question, I must explain, has now two sides. From one point of view it is seen, by agi- tators and aspirants for Parliamentary honours, as an excellent grievance, which being irremediable, they may pledge themselves to remedy without fear of being held to their words. Looked at by another set of beholders—
the small farmers and middlemen—it is thought to offer a means for con- verting their tenancies into fee-simple estates, over which they shall have all the rights and be bound to discharge none of the duties of landlords. By the term "tenant-right " every man in Ireland knows—whether or not he may choose to confess to the knowledge--that Ulster and other tenants mean pre- cisely whatis termed "good-will" in England. In that kingdom it is a common matter to sell the good-will of a public-house, or of a medical practice, or of a milk-walk, or of a licensed chapel; and in Ireland it has been equally common to sell the good-will of a farm held at will or on lease. But here the traffic was (before the famine) complicated by the fact that the purchase immunity from understood to include, not merely a valuable opportunity, but mmunity from the vengeance of the former occupier. I have myself known in Ulster, ten or fifteen years' purchase of the full rent given to an emigrating tenant- at-will for leave to occupy his deserted holding, which the landlord would willingly have given to the purchaser without any increase of rent and with- out fine orpremium. It is plain that, in this case, the fears of the in- comers conferred an estate in the land upon the departing tenant little if at all inferior in value to that of the legal owner in fee. Now, however, mat- ters are changed. The alteration in the circumstances of the country has diminished the pressure for land, and when a tenant makes up his mind to go to America he will seldom find a merchant for his tenant-right. He looks, therefore, to Mr. Sharman Crawford and his fellows for a conversion of this imaginary commodity into a real marketable article • and these gen-
tlemen encourage his expectations because they believe that are utterly impossible to be realized.
I will endeavour to be just to Mr. Crawford ; although I am far from thinking that the fashion of praising a mischievous man because he is sup- posed to have a good heart and kind intentions is in accordance with ab- stract justice. I will, nevertheless, admit that I believe Mr. Crawford is entirely unconscious of his own offences against society and his country. It has happened to me to discuss the matter of his bill with himself both in public and private, and I will fearlessly challenge any man who ever heard i
him speak on the subject, to deny that he is altogether ignorant of the scope, tendency, and probable operation of his own measure. In the very preamble of the bill, he bases its intended action upon elements so undefined as " fair rent," " just proportion of the money value of the gross produce," " a fair system of improvement and culture," " allowance for labour,"—elements which can only be approximately estimated by a trial of the market, and which are of the kind that in every species of traffic, as well as in that of land, supply the matter of trading competition. Mr. Crawford thinks his phrases are definite ideas, and probably no experience would convince him to the contrary ; but Mr. Crawford's backers and supporters, those who put forward pledges to support his bill as claims for the favour of te- nant constituencies, know well that every one of those we have cited would supply a fruitful source of contention, which would render the working of the bill an absolute impossibility. Such men profess that they will support Mr. Crawford's measure because they are convinced in their own minds that it is impracticable; and among this class are some of whom better things might have been expected. There are others whom I cannot call worse, a- muse they are desperate, often homeless and landless men, (though honour- able Members of Parliament) who do not restrain themselves within the phrases of this crazy project of law, but who talk, even as their constituents, of the rights of occupation- " The good old rule, the simple plan, That he shall get who has the power, Ana he shall keep who can."
These men mean not what they say ; they only intend to amuse an election mob ; but their sport is the cause of many a tragedy as bloody as those of i Chambre, Bateson, and Mauleverer, and it is time the play were ended. It will be ended under the Derby Government, if Mr. Napier will redeem his pledge and air the whole question before the Commons of England. An honest attempt to work out the threefold plan he laid down for himself, would show to English gentleman how small is the power of law to interfere by any constitutional or really effective means in the trade bargains of individuals, and how far from satisfying the real desires of the Tenant-Righters any such interference would be. If the bubble were once exposed to the light, it would show its true colours and burst; and so might the third and even the most important element of the Irish difficulty be removed for ever from the calcu- lations and the path of wise and honest statesmen. H. M.