Ejectment Legislation - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

« previous page | book contents | start of this chapter | next page »

power), to subdivide farms and create voters. The franchise abolished, there was no longer any political use for the people; and it happened about the same time that new theories of farming became fashionable. "High farming" was the word. There was to be more grazing, more green cropping; there were to be larger farms; and more labour was to be done by horses and by steam. But consolidation of many small farms into one large one could not be effected without clearing off the "surplus population;" and then, as there would be fewer mouths to be fed, so there would be more produce for export to England. The clearance system, then, had begun in 1829, and had proceeded with great activity ever since; and as the tenants were almost all tenants-at-will, there was no difficulty in this, except the expense.

The Code of Cheap Ejectment was therefore improved for the use of Irish landlords. As the laws of England and of Ireland are extremely different in regard to franchise and to land-tenure; and as the Ejectment-laws were invented exclusively for Ireland, to clear off the "surplus population," I shall give a short account of them.

There had been an Act of George the Third (1815) providing that in all cases of holdings, the rent of which was under £20—this included the whole class of small farms—the Assistant Barrister at Sessions (the County Judge) could make a decree at the cost of a few shillings to eject any man from house and farm. Two years after, the proceedings in ejectment were still further simplified and facilitated, by an Act making the sole evidence of a landlord or his agent sufficient testimony to ascertain the amount of rent due.

By another Act of the first year of George the Fourth, it was declared that the provisions of the cheap Ejectment Act "had been found highly beneficial" (that is to say, thousands of farms had been cleared off)—"and it was desirable that same should be extended." Thereupon it was enacted that the power of summary ejectment at Quarter Sessions should apply to all holdings at less than £50 rent; and, by the same statute, the cost of procuring ejectments was still farther reduced. In the reigns of George the Fourth and Victoria, other Acts were made for the same purpose, so that the cost and trouble of laying waste a townland and levelling all its houses, had come to be very trifling. It must be admitted that there is cheap justice in Ireland, at least for some people.

In many parts of the island extermination of the people had been sweeping. At every Quarter Sessions, in every county, ...continue reading »

« previous page | book contents | start of this chapter | next page »

Page 66