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TEACHERS AND FIXITY OF TENURE.…

f COUNTY COUNCIL ELECTIONS.

THE LAND QUESTION.

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THE LAND QUESTION. THE resolution which was moved by Mr JOHN REDMOND^ and seconded by Mr T. W. RUSSELL last week in the House of Com- mons, has served to bring tht. land question once more into prominence. Irishmen of all creeds and parties agree upon one thing —that Irish land legislation has failed of its purpose. It is worth while, therefore, at a time when W'elshmen are seeking for a solution of the land problem in Wales, to examine dispassionately the course which events have. taken in Ireland. The Irish Land Bill of 1881 established the "dual owner- ship of the soil in Ireland that is to say, while it safe-guarded the landlord's pro- prietorial right, it gave to the tenant the three F's—fair rent, fixity of tenure, and free sale. It was a great, a comprehensive, and a statesmanlike measure of land reform. But after 20 years experience of it, Irish- men of all opinions and classes agree in < saying that its success has not been as j marked as its proposers anticipated. The 1 evils which have resulted from it arise from two sources. First in order is the abuse of the right of free sale." It is important to understand what really is meant by the term free sale," and in order to make it clear, it is best to take a concrete illustration. A tenant holds 30 acres of land, and the Land Court has assessed the fair rent at .£.30 a year. That rent is the judicial rent for 15 years. We will suppose that the "rack rent"—as opposed to the fair rent "—■ would be X50, and that, therefore, the tenant would be making a margin of profit of X20 for 15 years, until the farm was re-valued and the rent re-fixed. If the tenant remains on the farm no difficulty would ensue, but suppose he did not ? What has happened in many cases is this The tenant wants to quit his farm, and the Act gives him the right to dispose of his interest in it. He puts' up ihis tenancy for sale; land hunger being rife, he has no difficulty in finding purchasers. One man outbids the other, with the result that the tenant obtains, we will say, X200 from the in-coming tenant as" goodwill." The new tenants therefore-in addition to paying a fair rent" of X30 a year to his landlord- pays X200 to the out-going tenant as good- will. So that really he still pays a rack rent" for his holding, though no longer to his landlord, In fact, "free sale" has destroyed the principle of fnir rent." But that is not all. The machinery of the Land Court is both costly and cumbrous. The Commissioners fix the rent, say, at £30, the landlord appeals to a Court pI esidd over by Mr Justice MEREDITH. After intolerable delays and great expenditure, the Court raise the rent to .£31, and the tenant having lost the appeal, has to pay the costs. Mr JOHN MALEY appointed a commission to inquire into the working of the land laws, and it was found that a million of money had been squandered on these appeals! There are other minor grievances, with which, however, we do not at present pro- pose to deal. Suffice it to say that an in- tolerable situation has been created in Ire- land, which will have to be remedied at the earliest opportunity. It is at this moment that the united Irish party came forward with a bold and daring demand. Their in proposal briefly is that the Irish landlords 1 should be bought out at a cost of £140, 000,000, and the sole ownership of the land } vested in the peasants. The Government. j having spent that sum in making war in ] Africa is now asked to spend a 1 similar amount in making peace in Ireland. Irishmen are not backward in asking. They care nothing for English opinion. They are in Parliament to repre- sent Ireland, and they generally get what they want, because everybody knows they won't be happy, and won't allow anybody else to be happy until they get it. Mr BALFOUR knows Ireland, and knows he cannot govern Ireland if Ulster is rebellious He does not mind shooting Catholics in Mitchelstown, but he will take precious good care not to shoot down the Protestants of Ty rone. If the "Nationalists" alone were concerned, the answer would be easy. But Ulster is concerned, and if Ulster is denied. Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right." That is what lends significance to the position. With the example of Ireland before us, what should Welshmen do ? Should we persist in demanding a Land Court—as the Welsh Land Commissioners recommended— or should we modify our demands ? That is the practical question, and it is upon the answer that the future of the Welsh land question will turn. The country has two alternative schemes before it,—the scheme of lr. BRYNMOR JONES and the Land Com- mission, on the one hand, and the scheme of Mr. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS and his friends on the other handt The Commissioners propose to set up a Land Court with the procedure and authority of a County Court, from which the litigants will have the right of appeal to a higher tribunal. The Land Court-contrary to the Irish practice-will have to give reasons for its decisions; the Act which constitutes it will contain elaborate recommendations to the Judge, and the ground for appeals will be- thus almost indefinitely enlarged. The little finger of the Welsh Land Court will be heavier than the loins of its Irish prototype. Mr. WILLIAMS, on the other hand,, proposes to set up a much simpler and less costly machinery. He wants an official to be appointed by the Government for each county—or for a large area if need be-in Wales. If landlord and tenant fail to agree as to the amount of the fair rent," the landlord and the tenant should each appoint a valuer, who should meet the Government official on the farm. The official,. after con- sultation with the valuers, should fix the rent, and his decision should be final. The Welsh Land Commissioners are. dead against land purchase in any shape or form. They think that peasant proprietorship is alien to the Welsh genius and unsuitable to the conditions of Welsh life. Mr. BRYNMOR JONES refused to vote for the- IIrish amend- ment last week because its proposal was to set up the farmers as freeholders. In fact, as Mr. LLEUFER THOMAS points out in his "Summary," the proposals of the Welsh Land Commission are distinctly Socialistic. Mr. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS, and his friends, on the other hand, believe that the craving for the ownership of land is the master passion among Welsh as among all Celtic peasants, and that no solution of the land problem can be final or satisfactory which either ignores or runs counter to this ineradicable characteristic. They are not in favour of immediate and compulsory land purchase," but they think that Land Commissioners should be appointed with powers, under certain conditions—suck as were laid down in the Irish Act of 1881-to acquire estates which could be re-sold at reasonable prices to sitting tenants. We have no space this week to elaborate these proposals, but we think they are ripe for careful consideration and discussion, and especially by the farmers whom they most concern.

NOTES AND COMMENTS. \ +.