Tenant-Right of Ulster - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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

The problem to be solved was, how to get rid of the people. There was a "surplus population" in Ireland—this had long been admitted in political circles—and the alarming masses of powerful men who had trooped to the summons of O'Connell, and had been by him paraded "in their moral might," as he said, at so many points of the island, brought home to the bosoms of Englishmen a stern conviction of the absolute necessity that existed to thin out these multitudinous Celts.

One of the strongest demands and most urgent needs of these people, had always been permanence of tenure in their lands;—O'Connell called it "fixity of tenure," and presented it prominently in his speeches, as one of the greatest benefits to be gained by repealing the Union. It was indeed the grand necessity of the nation—that men should have some security—that they who sowed should reap—that labour and capital expended in improving farms should, in part, at least, profit those who expended it. This would at once prevent pauperism, put an end to the necessity of emigration, supersede poor-laws, and prevent the periodical famines which had desolated the island ever since the Union. It is a measure which would have been sure to be recommended as the first, or indeed, the only measure for Ireland, by any other Commission than a Commission of Irish landlords.

In the northern province of Ulster, there was, as before mentioned, a kind of unwritten law, or established custom, which, in some counties, gave the tenant such needful security The "Tenant-Right of Ulster" was the name of it. By virtue of that Tenant-Right, a farmer, though his tenure might be nominally "at will," could not be ejected so long as he paid his rent; and if he desired to move to another part of the country, he could sell his "good will" in the farm to an incoming tenant. Of course the greater had been his improvements, the larger price would his Tenant-Right command; in other words, the improvements created by his own or his father's industry were his. The same custom prevented rents from being arbitrarily raised in proportion to the improved value; so that in many cases which came within my own knowledge, in my profession, lands held "at will" in Ulster, and subject to an ample rent, were sold by one tenant-at-will to another tenant-at-will at full half the fee-simple value of the land. Conveyances were made of it. It was a valuable property, and any violent invasion of it, as a witness told Lord Devon's Commission, would have "made Down another Tipperary." ...continue reading »

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

Page 69