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tenant right

tenant right was a phrase much in use in Irish politics, especially after the famine of 1846. Since custom and practice differed from province to province and from estate to estate, the term was not precise and landlords complained that tenants devised new rights as soon as old ones were conceded. The immediate aim of the Tenant League, formed in 1850, was to secure the Ulster custom, whereby a tenant could sell his goodwill or interest in a farm, thus gaining some compensation for improvements. The three Fs for which the league later campaigned were free sale, fixity of tenure, and fair rent—all of which were slogans difficult to quantify and to adjudicate on. Gladstone's Land Act of 1870 legalized the Ulster custom where it existed. The Irish Land League of 1879 renewed the campaign, organizing rent strikes and boycotts and resisting evictions. Gladstone's second Land Act of 1881 conceded free sale, improved security of tenure, and introduced a machinery for deciding what was a fair rent. After 1885 the Conservatives moved towards facilitating land purchases, turning tenants into independent farmers. By that time a number of landlords were only too glad to sell up and be expropriated. Palmerston's comment—‘tenant right is landlord's wrong’—was the other side of the coin.

J. A. Cannon

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