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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14

Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Act

Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Act.

This Act enables the Government to give free grants of one year's rent for the discharge of arrears where the valuation of the holding was under £30. Tenants whose holdings were valued at a sum not exceeding £50 could, however, conjointly with their landlords, apply for advance to be made to the landlord, in discharge of arrears, under the 16th section of the Act. Advances so made become a rent-charge for 35 years, charged upon the holding, and declared to be so by Order of the Land Commission. Only 1,090 such applications were made, of which 994 were granted. The number of joint applications under the 1st section of the Arrears of Rent Act (free grants) was 95,452. The number of separate applications was 40,545. In all, 135,997. The number granted was 129,952, and the number disallowed, or withdrawn, 6,045. The amount ordered to be paid was £812,821 4s. 6d. Under sub-section 1, section 1 of this Act, it was necessary (to be entitled to a grant) that a year's rent, in respect of the year 1881, should have been paid or satisfied not later than the 30th November, 1882. Here, then, an arrear of £1,624,262 9s. 0d., two years' rental from the suspense ledger of bad debts, was paid up in full by an Act for the Relief of the Poor —of the Irish Landlords I We quote from the Report: "There were two classes of applications to be dealt with; under the 1st section of the Act, joint applications by landlord and tenant, and separate applications by the tenant alone. Joint page 136 applications were, of course, the easiest, to dispose of, but in the beginning of November it became evident that in a great many separate applications it was necessary to use the utmost exertions, so that we might be enabled to make orders discharging arrears without delay. The most pressing cases were those where the tenant having been evicted, the time for redemption was running out. Cases, also, in which tenants had to apply for writs of restitution were of great urgency." And yet landlords speak of the felony of Mr. Gladstone's Irish legislation!

Griffith's Valuation.

The most minute, exact, and authoritative basis of equitable taxation and of fair rents as applied to the relations of landlord and tenant in Europe, if not in the world. Of this General Valuation of Ireland, which is in the main the authority for the equity of the adjustment of rents under the Irish Land Act, and of which the amount is stated in every published case in the reports of the Land Commission, wo think it of importance to give a short sketch dealing with its origin, and the maimer of its successful completion. In 1825 the Government undertook to make an accurate survey of Ireland, to be followed by an engraved plan showing the exact area of every townland, the outlines of every field, the heights of every hill, the levels of rivers, lakes, valleys, and the contour lines at 50ft. of difference of level. This was mainly conducted by Major-General Colby, to whom it was entrusted by the Ordnance Department. Mr. (afterwards Sir) Richard Griffith, preceded the surveyors as Boundary Commissioner to determine the boundaries of town-lands, and in cases of conflict of evidence to hold a court of inquiry. The boundary survey completed, Sir Richard was then commissioned to make a general valuation of every townland, upon a general and scientific basis, for all Ireland, so that the county taxation for every barony should be assessed on equitable principles. The modus operandi was as follows :—Every separate townland was separately described by the valuator—the constituent or general characteristics of its soil, the geological formation of the district, proximity to or remoteness from market towns, roads, climate, &c., and then, in detail, each 20, 30,100 or more acres, as the diversity of soil or other circumstances warranted difference in value. In the neighbourhood of cities or large towns, a suburban circle was drawn, with a radius of one, two, or more miles, greater or less radius as the influence of the more important large centres of population might require. Houses were all reassessed, and their values determined first by a scale priced Al, A2, A3, &c., as the materials and the construction might determine the class. This being fixed pro tem., the valuation was subsequently submitted to a Board of Appeal (large farmers), the elect of the baronial ratepayers, who, with the concurrence of the Commissioner, or his delegate, altered, added to, or made reduction in the valuation, after which it became the basis of assessments for roads, police and other rates, in the administration of the Grand Jury of each county. The valuation thus made on the basis of uniform scientific detail, and of appeal to the evidence of practical skilled farmers, agents, and proprietors of land, prepared the public mind for an extension of its details to the tenement value of every farm, cabin, house, or homestead assessed to the payment of poor rates and rates municipal over all Ireland.

In the absence of the Parliamentary return, we cannot in exact terms state the actual cost of establishing Griffith's valuation, including (as that should) both Ordnance and Boundary surveys, as well as the valuation procedure; but we know the price per acre for valuation from the contracts made by professional valuators at the time of the tithe commutation. This was, on an average, say twopence per acre. Now that the Ordnance is publishing the plans of the English survey on a scale of six inches to the mile, there remains but to organize a competent staff, and the valuation of the rural districts of Great Britain would not, we are bold to say, exceed one penny per acre. This, for some 36 million acres, would be £300,000, say some £50,000 per year for six years. The cost of the yearly revision of the valuation and survey of Ireland is now £20,000 to £24,000, for there are changes of boundaries, partition and consolidation of farms in every union. To all of these, on notice of any change from the Clerks of Unions, revisors are sent down, and both the plans and the values are made to show, pari passu, the yearly changes in the formation of new streets or houses in towns, and in the partition of the land in rural districts.

The Uncultivated Areas of Ireland.

No. of holdings, average acreage of each; arable land, and waste land in each province of Ireland in 1861.
Holdings. Average Acres. Arable—Acres. Waste—Acres Total Valuation. Borough Valuation
Leinster 98,125 42 4,079,130 622,895 4,435,797 756,570
Munster 1,00,816 45 4,538,054 1,257,987 3,279,944 433,581
Ulster 189,184 22 4,057,563 1,139,743 3,928,043 384,478
Connaught 113.997 24 2,790,078 1,336.713 1,420,332 50,660
Ireland 502,122 31 15,464,825 4,357,338 13,064,116 1,625,289

Assuming the valuation of the 38 boroughs (Dublin, Cork, &c.), with otier towns not boroughs, to be, say 2 millions, the vauation outside the civic assessment would be 11 milions. Add 5½ millions (50 per cent.) to this, the reatal of Ireland in 1882 = 16½ millions. Our Sumnary of the Land Court Returns showed in Ulster 5824 per cent, of addition, in Munster 57.49 per cen., and so of the other Provinces. In fact, the rertal of Ireland in 1882 must have reached even 17 millions or more. What a tax on the indusry of an impoverished people!

In six counties—Cork, Kerry (Munster), Donegal, Tyrone (Ulster), Galway, Mayo (Connaught)—there were as follows:—
Holdings. Average Acres. Arable. Acres. Waste. Acres.
Cork 29,989 48 1,416,994 379,574
Kerry 10,438 44 735,891 404,429
Donegal 30,464 22 672,422 491,173
Tyrone 27,188 20 546,169 219,824
Galway 32,829 30 996,373 455,677
Mayo 34,040 20 715,799 585,072
170,948 5,083,648 2,535,749

1.—These six counties contain one-third of the holdings, one-third of the arable land, and more than one half (5-8ths) of the waste land of Ireland. In these counties also—" the congested districts " —is to be found the major part of the destitution and misery perpetual in that country. One million acres at least of these wastes are reclaimable. The reclamation would give employment, would give food, pro. tem., and by the establishment of a page 137 peasant proprietary on the lands reclaimed, would give, not a precarious or casual, but permanent relief. Nimmo and Griffith's bog reports, a survey authoritative and exhaustive, are in the hands of the Government. The means are there suggested whereby many may be redeemed from misery, have the property of their own holdings, and become conservators of order and of law.

2.—It is to be remarked that the most prosperous counties of Ireland—Armagh and Down—have the smallest average acreage per holding. Armagh, 1882, 14¾ acres; 1861, 14 acres. Down, 1882, 20.10 acres; 1861, 20 acres. There is no change in the average since 1861. But in Kerry—1882, 59.80 acres; 1861, 44 acres. Donegal—1882, 85.78 acres: 1861, 22 acres. The prosperous counties have average; the poorest districts from 44 to 60, from 22 to 36. And, stranger still, the rents have a higher increase over the valuation—in Donegal, 68.19 per cent.; in Kerry, 87.73 per cent. A higher rate of rent, but a deeper depth of misery. Does not this suggest irresistibly the cause of the poverty?

Sales in the Encumbered Estate Court—First 20 years, 1849-1869.

Latterly these sales are almost entirely suspended. No purchasers!
1819-59 Sales £25,190,839
1859-02 Sales 5,940,990
1802-69 Sales 6,950,839
Total £40,082,668
Rental at 16 years' purchase 2,506,167

Of the seven years' sales—1862-69, £8,950,839—the net rental was £508,749, an average of 17½ (17.6) years' purchase. The earlier sales were at a less purchase. On an average of 16 years' purchase, the net rental of the estates sold in the 20 years would be 2½ millions = about one-sixth the rental of Ireland! The mortgagees received their money, but the result to the tenants was ruinous. Attorneys, petty money-lenders, tradesmen, hucksters bought with a view to profit, and they raised rents without stint: they recked not, for the Law gave facilities to the law of greed, and "they joined house to house, and field to field, and ground the faces of the poor."

Irish Landholders, Resident and Absentee.

To the supplementary Return of the Landholders of Ireland, obtained on the motion of Mr. Butt, in 1877, and arranging them in twelve classes, from possessors of "under 25 acres" to those of "20,000 acres and upwards "—there was appended an account of the number of resident, partially resident, and absentee proprietors, with the extent and valuation of their Holdings, first in counties and next in provinces. The following was the summary for Ireland:—
No. of Proprietors. Area in Statute Acres. Valuation.
Resident on or near the property 5,589 8,880,549 4,718,497
Resident usually elsewhere in Ireland 377 852,818 371,123
Resident elsewhere in Ireland 4,465 4,362,146 2,128,220
Resident usually out of Ire-land, but occasionally on the property 180 1,368,347 601,072
Rarely, or never, resident in Ireland 1,443 3,145,514 1,538,071
Public or Charitable Institutions, or Public Companies 161 584,327 234,678
Not ascertained 1,350 615,308 331,673
Proprietors of under 100 acres unclassed 5,982 236,873 257,100
19,547 20,046,182 10,180,434

According to the Domesday Return there were in Ireland 68,758 owners of land, 20,159,678 acres in extent, and valued at £13,419,258; and of these 32,614 had an acre and upwards each, and 20,150,612 acres in the aggregate, with total valuation of £12,052,809.