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LANDHOLDING IN IRELAND.
FELLOW OF THE ROYAL HISTORICAL SOCIETY,
Author of "The History of Landholding in England,”
THIS work is an expansion of a paper read at the meeting of the Royal Historical Society in May, 1876. It is published separately to bring it within the reach of those who are not members of that Society, and do not receive the annual volume of its transactions.
The author has been compelled to omit much which he thought pertinent to the subject in order to bring the work within the prescribed limits.
LANDHOLDING IN IRELAND.
IN the paper which I read last year upon the History of Landholding in England, I described the principles which underlie the distribution of land among the aboriginal inhabitants, the primal occupiers of the soil. It is not necessary that I should now dwell at much length upon that portion of the subject. I would, however, refer to two authorities which have weight in relation to the allotment of lands.
Sir William Blackstone says, vol. ii., p. 3,
"By the law of nature and reason he who first began to use the land, acquired therein a kind of transient possession, that lasted as long as he was using it and no longer; or to speak with greater precision, the right of possession continued for the same time as the act of possession lasted. But there is no foundation in nature or natural law why a set of words upon parchment should convey the dominion of land; why a son should have a right to exclude his fellow-creatures from a determinate spot of ground because his father had done so before him.”
A more recent writer, Kenelm E. Digby ("History of the Law of Real Property," p. 3), says,—
"However its origin is to be accounted for, this idea as to property in land is nearly universal in primitive communities. The land is regarded as the property of the community at large, and individuals as a general rule have only temporary rights of possession or enjoyment upon the lands of the community. The land is public land-ager publicus,—folc-land, or land of the people. Dealing with folc-land is the most important of the functions of the chief of the community in time of peace. In dealing with it he always acts, not as supreme landowner, but as the head of the community, in conjunction with the leaders of the second rank."
My inquiries-I can hardly call them studies—led me some years ago to attempt a sketch of the changes in the system of landholding in the various countries of Europe; since then abler minds have worked in the same field. As I pursued my inquiries I thought the systems fell into groups, and that the similarity was mainly owing to race; identical institutions are traceable among kindred races. The necessities of humanity were similarly expressed. Land is the sustainer of life. In the language of the “Senchus Mor" it is "perpetual man." Hence arose the need of appropriating a portion to every man, who would otherwise owe his life to him who possessed the land and supplied him with food.
Time is a solvent; the increase of population, the division of labour, the growth of exchange of products, led to some changes. The necessities of conquest set aside primeval ideas. The stronger lived upon the labour of the weaker. Invaders carried their customs with them, and aboriginal systems were submerged in the deluge. The same usage will sometimes be found in two or more countries, but if the matter is followed up it will be found to proceed from the same cause. The metayer system of parts of France and Italy is clearly traceable to the inroads of the Burgundians; they formed two armies, one of which settled in France, the other in Italy, and under the name of Hospitalities, or payments from the farming occupants of the conquered lands, exacted a stated annual portion of the produce of the land; hence the word metayer, to measure.
My inquiries led me to group the land systems; there are the Celtic, the Gothic, (some prefer using the term Teutonic, but the Teutons were not one of the ancient races), the Scandinavian, the Sclavonian, the Mongolian or Scythic, and those of the peninsulas, Turkey, Spain, and Italy, which have been more frequently overrun than the northern parts of Europe, and to whose inhabitants older historians apply the term Scythic, but the residents on the shores of the Mediterranean should not be confounded with the Scythians of Northern Asia.
The diffusion of men consequent upon the confusion of
tongues led the sons of Japheth to settle in Europe, while those of Shem and Ham took Asia and Africa. The seven sons of Japheth were Gomer, from whom the Celts are descended; Magog, the Mongols or Scythians; Madai, the Sclavs; Tubal, the Goths; Tiras, the Scandinavians; Javan and Meshech, the inhabitants of the isles of Greece, Turkey, Italy, and Spain,† who were called Scythians, but must not be confounded with the Mongols, or Magode, who are traced by Josephus to Magog.
Some recent writers overlook the most ancient and trustworthy of histories, and prefer the writings of Herodotus or Strabo to those of Moses. The latter are, in my opinion, more authentic, they tell us that the descendants of Noah peopled the whole earth. The new theory of development, which is pushed very far, not only with regard to the origin of the human race, but to the origin of institutions,
* Gen. x. 2—5: "The sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras. And the sons of Gomer; Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah. And the sons of Javan; Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations."
† The Israelites and the Jews continued to apply to the races inhabiting the shores of the Mediterranean the names of their ancestors. Thus Isaiah, chap. xxiii., in predicting the fall of Tyre, says, "Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in from the land of Chittim." And again, chap. lxvi. 19, “I will send those that escape unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off." This was written about 1,700 years after the deluge, but it shows that the Jews of that day preserved the nomenclature of a bygone age, and attributed the settlement of the Mediterranean to the sons of Japheth, three of whom are stated by name in the latter passage. Ezekiel, speaking of Tyre (chap. xxvii.), writes, “ Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kinds of riches; with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they traded in thy fairs. Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, they were thy merchants: they traded the persons of men and vessels of brass in thy market. They of the house of Togarmah traded in thy fairs with horses and horsemen and mules. The men of Dedan [Dodanim] were thy merchants; many isles were the merchandise of thine hand."