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Landlords and Tenants in Mid-Victorian Ireland$

W. E. Vaughan

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198203568

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198203568.001.0001

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(p.262) (p.263) Appendix 13 Alternative Methods of Increasing Rents, 1850–1886

(p.262) (p.263) Appendix 13 Alternative Methods of Increasing Rents, 1850–1886

Source:
Landlords and Tenants in Mid-Victorian Ireland
Publisher:
Oxford University Press

The table in this appendix is based on the assumption that landlords or a special commission established by parliament attempted to adjust rents annually according to clearly defined principles, using market prices and the figures produced annually in the agricultural statistics. The figures below refer to the whole country, which is treated as one large farm; in practice, of course, any system of adjusting rents would have had to be based on small areas such as poor law unions, baronies, or even parishes.

The TCD rents are the average of the methods in Appendix 12 above. The ‘profit’ rents are more speculative and assume that landlords and tenants divided the balance of agricultural output (what was left after the cost of labour and the cost of potato deficiencies had been deducted), with 55 per cent going to the tenants and 45 per cent to the landlords. Rents based on output assume that £8.8 million (the tenement valuation of land (£9.1 million), reduced by 3 per cent), was a fair starting point in 1850 and that rents then fluctuated annually with the value of agricultural output.

The main problem with linking rents to agricultural output, however, is to find a base in the early 1850s for comparisons with subsequent years. The three years, 1850–2., were low; then in 1853 there was an enormous increase, followed by two very prosperous years coinciding with the Crimean war; then there was a relatively stable period, but with prices much higher than those in the early 1850s. Where were the ‘normal’ years? Several solutions are possible.1 One thing is clear: the war years 1854–5 are not a good basis for comparison; nor is 1853, because that was in practice a year of war, because prices began to rise in the autumn and winter as the Russians advanced into the Danubian principalities.2

(p.264) The years 1850 and 1851 were not good years: most prices were lower than in 1840;3 bank balances remained steady in 1851, having increased in 1850;4 in a report on the state of Ireland for the lord-lieutenant it was noted that ‘there is little or no improvement whatever arising from the operation of the crop of 1850, and all that can be said is that there is a dawn of better things just perceptible, by reason of diminished expenditure.’5 On the other hand rents were fairly well paid in 1850 and 1851;6 the report just referred to noted that rents were being paid, although abatements were general; in County Cork, Benn-Walsh noted the improved conditions on his estate in 1851.7 The year 1852 was puzzling, at first sight: output seemed to remain at its 1850–1 level; but bank balances increased sharply;8 Benn-Walsh was even more pleased with 1852 than he was with 1851;9 rent receipts on the Ashtown estate suggest prosperity.10 The output figures for 1852 may need revision, because Griffith’s valuation prices, based on the years 1849–51, are used for the main commodities.11 Calculations using different prices suggest that output actually rose in 1852 to about £35 million, a figure that makes the increase of 1853 seem less dramatic and suggests some improvement a year before the threat of war caused prices to increase. In these three years, therefore, most rents were being paid; but there were signs of strain: abatements were common; some rents were not being paid; although evictions were falling rapidly, they were still high.12 The total rental of about £10 million was probably too high, certainly in 1850 and 1851; if output had remained at these levels, it is doubtful if nominal rents due could have been maintained at £10 million. How much should rents be reduced to provided a ‘fair’ starting-point for rents linked to agricultural output? The tenement valuation of land, excluding buildings, was £9.1 million, which might seem fair enough for 1850 and 1851; a rental of £10 million linked to output of £35 million, which is the revised figure for 1852, is probably not unreasonable; but to be on the safe side, £8.8 million (the starting rent in the TCD calculations), was used.13

The alternative methods of increasing rents are benign: the starting-point for rents is lower than Griffith’s valuation; the return given to the tenants is the sort of return that Griffith gave them. (For the effects of rather less benign, but not extortionate, methods, see W. E. Vaughan, ‘An Assessment of the Economic (p.265) Performance of Irish landlords, 1851–81’, in F. S. L. Lyons and R. A.J. Hawkins (eds.), Ireland under the Union: Varieties of Tension, Essays in Honour of T. W. Moody (Oxford, 1980), 184.) The alternative methods’ disadvantage for the tenants was that they paid high rents in good years; the advantage was that they got automatic relief in bad years. The difficulty for both parties was that it was very difficult to devise any method for coping with agricultural disasters, such as those of the early 1860s, or the late 1870s, because of their complexity and erratic incidence. The TCD system, for example, while it gave substantial relief in 1877 and 1878 would not have been very popular with tenants in 1879. The different methods used here gave the following total rentals for 1850–79. (The figures are £ million and the figures in square brackets give the percentages by which the alternative rents exceeded actual rents; if rents had remained unchanged at their early 1850s level, the total rental for 1850–79 would have been £309 million):

actual rents

341.3

 

output rents

373.7

[9]

‘profit’ rents

400.1

[17]

TCD rents

408.2

[20]

Landlords might have argued that the starting rent in the output method was too low because tenants were able to pay over £10 million in the early 1850s before prices began to increase; if £10 million had been adopted, over £30 million would have been added to the total in thirty years. They might also have argued that 45 per cent of the balance of agricultural output was too small; under this method their land, which was much more valuable than the tenants’ capital, was now subject to the same risks; that both parties were equally entrepreneurs; that land should get much more than 45 per cent. (They might also have argued later that the increase in livestock production entitled them to a larger share of the balance.) Under the TCD system landlords might have argued, not only for a higher starting rent, but for heavier weights to be given to butter, beef, and mutton, and lower weights to wheat and oats.

It is worth noting that the alternative methods of adjusting rents would have given substantial reductions between 1876 and 1886: the output and TCD methods would have given 36 per cent and the ‘profit’ method 51 per cent. (No allowances have been made in the actual rents for abatements in the early 1860s or late 1870s and early 1880s; the figures in square brackets give the percentages by which the alternative rents exceeded actual rents.)

Alternative rents, 1850–1886

Year

Actual rents

Output rents

‘Profit’ rents

TCD rents

1850

10.3

8.8

9.1

10.0

1851

10.3

9.3

9.7

10.0

1852

10.2

93

9.7

10.7

1853

10.2

13.3

15.8

13.7

1854

10.2

14.2

17.1

14.3

1855

10.3

15.2

18.2

14.2

1856

10.5

12.5

13.9

13.7

1857

10.6

12.1

13.1

13.5

1858

10.7

11.9

12.5

12.7

1859

11.0

12.3

13.1

13.4

1850–9

104.3

118.9

132.2

126.2

 

 

[14%]

[27%]

[21%]

1860

11.3

11.8

12.2

13.9

1861

11.3

10.4

9.8

13.2

1862

11.4

9.4

8.7

12.5

1863

11.4

10.7

11.0

11.6

1864

11.5

11.8

12.6

12.5

1865

11.6

13.1

14.5

14.1

1866

11.8

13.4

14.8

14.7

1867

11.8

11.6

11.9

14.8

1868

11.8

13.6

15.4

14.9

1869

11.8

12.9

13.8

14.0

1860–9

115.7

118.9

124.7

136.2

 

 

[3%]

[8%]

[18%]

1870

12.0

13.5

14.4

14.0

1871

12.1

13.0

13.4

14.3

1872

12.1

12.9

12.7

14.7

1873

12.1

13.2

14.2

16.5

1874

12.1

15.0

17.1

15.7

1875

12.1

15.2

17.1

14.5

1876

12.2

15.6

17.6

15.3

1877

12.2

13.2

12.9

14.5

1878

12.2

12.9

13.5

12.9

1879

12.2

11.4

10.3

13.4

1870–9

121.3

135.9

143.2

145.8

 

 

[12%]

[18%]

[20%]

1880

12.1

12.8

13.4

12.8

1881

12.1

12.6

13.1

12.8

1882

12.0

12.7

12.6

13.9

1883

11.9

13.0

13.6

13.6

1884

11.9

12.0

12.1

12.7

1885

11.8

11.2

10.8

10.4

1886

11.8

99

8.6

9.8

1880–6

83.6

84.2

84.2

86.0

 

 

[1%]

[1%]

[3%]

Notes:

(1) See Vaughan, ‘Agricultural Output, Rents and Wages in Ireland, 1850–1880’, in L. M. Cullen and F. Furet (eds.), Ireland and France, 17th-20th centuries: Towards a Comparative Study of Rural History (Paris, 1980), 97, where average prices for 1852–4 and 1872–4 were used; see also below, p. 265, where a low estimate of rent was used as a starting-point for the early 1850s.

(2) Cf. Cormac Ó Gráda, ‘Agricultural Head Rents, Pre-Famine and Post-Famine’, Economic and Social Review, 5: 3 (Apr. 1974), 390, where it is argued that the landlords’ ‘share of total agricultural value added was greater in the early 1870s than in the early 1850s’; the basis of this calculation was that agricultural output of £51.1 million in 185–24 paid a rent of £8.5 million. The rent may have been appropriate in 1850 and 1851, although it seems low, but it was hardly appropriate to put it alongside high output figures based on war prices. Any calculations of agricultural output that are highly influenced by the years of the Crimean war will make even prosperous years in the 1860s and 1870s look dull; historians’ work would have been easier if Britain had gone to war with Russia in 1877. See also Ó Gráda, ‘Irish Agricultural Output before and after the Famine’, Journal of European Economic History, 13: 1 (Spring 1984), 149–65, where 1854 is used for comparisons of agriculture before and after the famine.

(3) Thomas Harrington, ‘A Review of Irish Agriculture Prices’, Jn. Stat. Soc. Ire. pt. 101 [1925–7], 251.

(4) William Neilson Hancock, Report on the Supposed Progressive Decline of Irish Prosperity (Dublin, 1863), 50–1.

(5) Larcom papers (NLI, MS 7562).

(6) See above, App. 8.

(7) James S. Donnelly, ‘The Journals of Sir John Benn-Walsh Relating to the Management of his Irish Estates, 1823–64’, Cork Hist. Soc. Jn. 79: 230 (July–Dec. 1974), 117; see also id., ‘Production, Prices, and Exports, 1846–51’, in W. E. Vaughan (ed.), A New History of Ireland, v. Ireland under the Union, 1. 1801–70 (Oxford, 1989), 293, where 1851 is taken as the end of the post-famine depression (‘the worst was nearly over by the end of 1851’).

(8) Hancock, Report, 48, 50–1; balances increased by £2.5 million; on the other hand government stock fell by £1.9 million; see Philip Ollerenshaw, Banking in Nineteenth -Century Ireland: The Belfast Banks, 1825–1914 (Manchester, 1987), 115–20, on the shortcomings of bank deposits as a guide to agricultural prosperity.

(9) Donnelly, ‘The Journals of Sir John Benn-Walsh…’ 119, 121.

(10) See above, App. 8.

(11) Cowper Comm., Minutes of Evidence, 961.

(12) See above, App. 1.

(13) See above, App. 12.