Incumbered Estates Act - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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pauperism and despair. But so it was: the maxim was that "the property of Ireland must support the poverty of Ireland;" without the least consideration of the fact that the property of Ireland was all this time supporting the luxury of England.

The next measure passed in the same session of Parliament was the "Incumbered Estates Act:" the Act of 12th and 13th Victoria, c. 77. Under this, a royal commission was issued, constituting a new court "for the sale of Incumbered Estates;" and the scope and intent of it were to give a short and summary method of bringing such estates to sale, on petition either of creditors or of owners. Before that time the only mode of doing this was through the slow and expensive proceedings of the Court of Chancery; and the number of incumbered landlords had grown so very large since the famine began, their debts so overwhelming, and their rental so curtailed, that the London Jews, money-brokers, and insurance offices, required a speedier and cheaper method of bringing their property to the hammer. What I wish to be fully understood is, that this Act was not intended to relieve, and did not relieve, anybody in Ireland; but that, under pretence of facilitating legal proceedings, it contemplated a sweeping confiscation and new "Plantation" of the island. The English press was already complacently anticipating a peaceable transfer of Irish land to English and Scotch capitalists; and took pains to encourage them to invest their money under the new Act. Ireland, it was now declared, had become tranquil: "the Celts were gone:" and if any trouble should arise, there was the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act; and the horse, foot, and artillery, and the juries. Singular to relate, however, the new Act did not operate satisfactorily in that direction. English capitalists had a wholesome terror of Tipperary, and of the precarious tenure by which an Irish landlord holds his life; insomuch that the great bulk of the sales made by the Commissioners were made to Irishmen:—and in the official return of the operations of the court, up to Oct., 1851, I find that while the gross amount produced by the sales had been more than three and a half millions sterling, there had been only fifty-two English and Scottish purchasers, to the amount of £319,486.

Down to the 25th May, 1857, there had been given orders for sale to the number of 3,197: the property had been sold to 7,216 purchasers, of whom 6,902 were Irish—the rest English, Scotch, or other foreigners. The estates already sold brought upwards of twenty millions sterling, which was almost all distributed to ...continue reading »

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