IRISH LAND ACTS
BUTCHER, Samuel Henry (1850–1910), classical scholar & politician. Two ALS to ‘Sir Robert’, on headed 8vo paper, 6 Tavistock Squere, W.C., the first 4 sides of a bifolium, 6th August 1907, and the second 3 sides of a bifolium, 10th August 1907. In the first letter Butcher refers to Sir Robert’s views concerning proposed Irish land reforms saying his only criticisms are that:
“1. Any terms for compulsory purchase that one could conceive of as being embodied in precise legislative enactment (This House of Commons would be ruinous) unfair to landlords. I honestly think that bad as it is to be placed at the mercy of the estates Commissioners, this Parliament would be still more inequitable.
2. Would all round compulsion be in any case a feasible policy just now - whatever the terms, good or bad - looking to the financial situation & the enormous arrears to be made up in issuing of applications wh. have been sent in. Ahead of the willingness help to sell has immensely outrun the power of providing funds.
........ the moment is, I fear, too late to consider any alternative methods of dealing with the Bill in the H. of L. Certain amendments have been decided on after Considerable Consultation; only after, if I rightly understand, but on these few the lords intend to take a firm stand. The two main ones are the right of Appeal & the protection of the 'planters'. If I were to venture on a forecast it wd be that the Govt. may give way on the Appeal question, but that their pledges to the nationalists make it impossible for them to yield on the other point.”
In the second letter Butcher thanks Sir Robert for his explanatory remarks on his earlier letter which “go far to meet my difficulties, & I much regret that The Times did not see fit to give publicity to the suggestion”, and on the subject of “The next general Election” comments “Truly, as you say, everything wd depend upon the result of that. I own I view it with deep misgivings. The Govt., I imagine, intend to appeal to the Country next year, probably in the late autumn. There are as yet no signs of any effective Conservative reaction, for we can't take comfort from Socialist victories. But even if we were to win 100 seats - which is a stretch of imagination - the Govt. (or Govt. + Labour + Irish, all equally hostile to the Irish Unionists) wd still have a majority of some 160, which wd give them ample power for evil.”
Samuel Henry Butcher was born in Dublin in 1850, the son of Samuel Butcher (1811–1876), professor of ecclesiastical history at Trinity College, and later bishop of Meath. Butcher studied classics at Trinity College, Cambridge, becoming a lecturer for a short period before moving to Oxford University, after which he obtained the chair of Greek at Edinburgh University where he became drawn into politics. He resigned from Edinburgh in 1903, moved to London and in 1906 became Conservative MP for Cambridge University. As an MP, Butcher expended much effort on educational and Irish questions.
The Conservatives had brought in a land purchase act in 1903 to help Irish tenants purchase land (the so called Wyndham Land Purchase Act), but there remained the need to address the question of the compulsory purchase of tenanted land which had to await the passing of the Land Purchase (Ireland) Act 1909, carried by Augustine Birrell under the Liberal government of H.H. Asquith.