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to me, that the arrears were generally occasioned by the very high rate at which land had been let, and in consequence of that, I recommended in the case of lands in the hands of the court, where the persons to whom those lands belonged were persons for whom the court had a right to act, as infants and persons of that description, or where general consents could be obtained, that the state of the property should be examined, that inquiry should be made as to the rate at which the lands were let, and where it was found that the land was let very high, that abatements should be made, and that those abatements should be retrospective---so far as it should appear upon inquiry, that the rents which had been reserved were for the past period beyond those which the tenants could fairly pay; that recommendation has been acted upon very much, and the result is, that the rents having been reduced, the lands are now let on what appear to be fair and reasonable terms, such terms as enable the tenant to pay to his landlord a fair rent for the enjoyment of the land, and enable himself to live by it; these rents are paid pretty regularly. The tenants have also been relieved from the old arrear, so far as it appeared to have been produced by their holding at an exorbitant rent; this has produced a very good effect; the arrears lay as an incumbrance upon them, pressing them down, and discouraging them altogether; since they have been relieved from it they have become more active, their energies have revived, and their rents are paid.
Have many instances come before you of severity of conduct, in enforcing the payment of rent, by distress or otherwise !--I have found generally, I think, that distress for rent is more common in Ireland than in England ; I think it is a rare thing in England to see cattle in pound for rent, but in travelling through Ireland you scarcely see a pound without some wretched horses, or cows, or sheep in it, which you are told have been put there for rent. I think a pound thus filled one of the most distressing objects that strikes the eye in Ireland.
Have instances come before you of the sub-letting of land to any great extent ?-Yes. - Do you find that to be at all a general practice !--Very ge
neral, and as mischievous as it is general. · In what way do you consider it to be mischievous ?-I do not think that the man who sub-lets, has that sort of feeling towards the persons to whom he lets, that the proprietors of the land would have; at least that the proprietor of the land in England would have. I know that, from my own experience of the manner in which landed property is managed in this country.
Is not that system of sub-letting carried on in succession, from one sub-tenant to another sub-tenant, in many cases in a long series ?-I have known, I think, two or three persons intervene, between the owner of the land and the occupier of the soil.
Do you know whether this practice is carried on with the consent of the landlords ?-I believe the contrary, if by the question is meant the head landlords; and it has occurred to me, that it is a subject that calls for legislative interference.
What difficulty have landlords encountered in preventing it ?-Unless landlords introduce covenants into the leases which they grant, to prevent sub-letting, they cannot prevent it ; and as it is a principle of the law of England to favour commerce, if you introduce a covenant against under-letting or assignment, and you once permit an assignment or an under-letting, the covenant is gone for ever, even though you should expressly restrict the waver to the particular case.
Do you mean, that if you wave it in the case of A. the waver will hold good in the case of B. ?-Yes; I will put a case: suppose I grant a lease to A., with a proviso in it, that A. shall not assign without my leave; A. assigns to B., and I consent to that; B. may go on assigning afterwards, without my consent.
Does not receiving of rent from a sub-tenant deprive you of every remedy that you may have attempted to secure by covenant ?-It may, or it may not.
In cases where landlords have done no act to wave their right, and have appealed to courts of justice to enforce their covenant, have they not met with great difficulties in doing so ?-I can only speak to that point, with reference to my practice when at the bar, and my practice at the bar was not of that description that could bring me much acquainted with cases of the character alluded to; but I conceive a landlord must always find difficulties, so long as the principle and policy of the law be in favour of assignment. Whatever the opinion of a court may be, as to the expediency of it, they are bound by the policy as settled by decisions ; it has very frequently occurred to me, that there is in the English statute book, a statute which is very familiar to every lawyer, the statute of Quia emptores, a principle which might be acted upon and extended to Ireland, so as to correct this mischief; the statute of Quia emptores was passed in England, for the purpose of preventing sub-infeudation of manors, that sub-infeu
dation of manors producing in England the mischief which sub-letting now produces in Ireland.
Is it your opinion, derived either from your own experience, or the information you possess, that a landlord would experience very great difficulty in'devising covenants, upon the efficiency of which he could rely, for the purpose of preventing sub-letting ?-I think he would find difficulties, creating almost an impossibility.
Are you of opinion that the taking away the power of distress from the middle-man, and giving it only to the head landlord, would answer any beneficial object ?-I think it would, because it would relieve the unfortunate occupier from double or treble distresses; but there is a practice which prevails very much in letting property in London for building, which if it were made an universal practice by law in Ireland, would I think, in a great degree, cure the evil that I have alluded to, and which is alluded to in the question put to me. In London, where a person possessed of any very extensive property makes a lease to a builder, he agrees with the builder to join with him in making sub-leases, so that the lessees shall be his tenants, and not the tenants of the builder ; thus the rent which originally extended over five thousand feet, becomes apportioned among houses, covering fifteen feet, twenty feet, forty feet, and so on, and the tenant getting a lease to which the head landlord is a party at an apportioned rent, paying that rent whether to the head landlord or to the builder, according to the reservation in his lease, is secure : I think that would afford a principle for legislation as to Ireland; I mean, that all sub-letting should be prohibited, unless the landlord be a party.
Do the modes come under your knowledge, which are most resorted to by landlords in Ireland, for preventing sub-letting?-I cannot speak to that question ; I am not acquainted with the modes they have resorted to ; I suppose covenants..
Has it come under your knowledge, that it is ever the practice to let at a certain rent, that rent not being intended to be received, and a covenant being entered into on the part of the landlord, not to take that rent in the event of the tenant not sub-letting ?-I have heard of such attempts to prevent subletting, but I should think the attempt would be very likely to fail; very nice questions of law or of equity would arise upon it. There might be a question, whether the difference of rent should be considered in the nature of a penalty, and if it is to be considered in the nature of a penalty, whether an act done with a different intent might not nevertheless for ever waye it.
You say, that you never heard that oath complained of, by which persons of the Roman Catholic persuasion are required to disclaim using any privilege they obtain to the injury of the established religion of the state ?- Never.
You have, as being of an old Roman Catholic family in Ireland, had much opportunity of intercourse with the body of the Roman Catholics; have you had opportunities of very great communication with the Roman Catholic clergy in Jreland ? I have.
Have you had opportunities of speaking to them on subjects connected with their religion, as it affects the State ? Frequently.
Upon the entire of your communication with the clergy, and with the laity of the Roman Catholic body, have you any reason to suspect that there is any wish or object on their part, hostile to the Protestant establishment of the country ?-I never found amongst the Roman Catholics, any feeling of hostility to the establishment, so far as civil rights were concerned; except a notion that the property of the church was public property, and was more than the church ought to possess; that feeling I have perceived amongst some Roman Catholics, but not more than amongst Protestants.
Did you ever perceive any feeling or disposition to have transferred to their own body the property of the established church?_Whether the clergy, as men operated upon by the natural feelings of men, would wish it, I cannot state, otherwise than by conjecture; as to the laity, I believe they would deprecate it very much ; I have heard the clergy themselves declare that they would not wish it, and I dare say when they said so, they spoke what they felt and thought at the moment; but if the offer was made to them, one would not answer for its being refused.
Have you any means of forming a judgment, whether the Roman Catholic clergy would be pleased, if they were not supposed to be surrendering the principles of the laity, to accept a provision from the State ?-My opinion certainly is, that accompanied with the settlement of the Roman Catholic question, and so regulated as not to prejudice their independence, they would receive a provision from the State with gratitude ; that is the opinion which I have formed from conversations with them, particularly with the superior clergy; and my own opinion is, that it is a thing which, in the event of a settlement of the Catholic question, would be most desirable.
Do you think such a provision being made for them would be attended with any beneficial effect, in attaching the lower class of people to the state and government of the country?
I think it would produce a good feeling amongst them; it would make them understand, that their church was not looked upon with any hostile feeling, but the contrary ; I think it would also be a very great relief to them, because I believe that the dues which are collected from the lower class of people by the Roman Catholic clergy are felt very heavily; I do not mean to censure the Roman Catholic clergy for collecting those dues, they are their only means of subsistence ; but I believe the payment of them is often felt very severely by the lower orders. The members of the Committee may recollect what passed in the county of Galway, when the ribbon system spread so much there; they will probably recollect, that one of the grievances complained of was the amount of the dues paid to the Roman Catholic clergy; they were complained of as much as, or at least in common with the tithes.
Do you think, that the settlement of what you call the Roman Catholic question, and the making a provision for the Roman Catholic clergy, such as they would be willing to accept of, would, or not, be calculated to give additional security to the Protestant establishment in Ireland ?-I think that settlement, upon wise and sound principles, would be above all others a measure calculated to give strength to the establishment, and repose to the country; I think the present state of the law is obviously erroneous; it is calculated not to secure, but to endanger the establishment, it creates bad feelings, and affords no security against them. The Act of 1793 took things at the wrong end; it elevated the lower orders, and left the higher in a state of depression. The security of the Protestants in Ireland is in the strength of property against numbers; what you have done is to grant to the Roman Catholics a privilege in which number tells against property, and to withhold a privilege in which property tells against number; you allow the lowest orders of the people to vote, and you do not allow the higher orders to sit. I certainly should consider, in the settlement of the Catholic question, if ever it is to be settled, that the qualification for the exercise of the elective franchise in counties ought to be reviewed and altered.
Do you think that a raising of the qualification that should entitle the freeholder to vote, would be calculated to meet the mischief you have adverted to ?mI think it would in a very great degree ; though I am a Roman Catholic, I speak with a sincere desire, that whenever the Catholic question is settled, the rights of the established church should be secured ; and I think they would be secured in proportion as you increased the political power of property, converted public discontent