Front Page Titles (by Subject) Subsection III. —: Entails in England and Ireland.—Necessity of abolishing them in the latter country. - Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, vol. 2
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Subsection III. —: Entails in England and Ireland.—Necessity of abolishing them in the latter country. - Gustave de Beaumont, Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, vol. 2 
Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, ed. W.C. Taylor (London: Richard Bentley, 1839). Vol. 2.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Entails in England and Ireland.—Necessity of abolishing them in the latter country.
The most striking feature in English entails is, that they are left by the legislature to the caprice of individual will; they are weapons placed in the hands of proprietors for the protection of their estates, which they may use or not at their discretion.
There are in England no perpetual entails; that is to say, none, by the mere force of law, annexed to the inheritance, so as to fix its descent by invariable principles which cannot be set aside.
The longest entail terminates at the second degree; that is to say, if the child of the person for whose profit the entail was made, does not renew it, the entail is at an end; he may dispose of the estate, which becomes essentially alienable. Besides, by the present regulations of English jurisprudence, the proprietor of an entailed estate may always, by the aid of certain judicial forms, dock the entail, and acquire a full right of selling the land.
Are we then to conclude, that the aristocratic principle of entail has disappeared from English institutions? It would be a great mistake. The lands of the rich are not, it is true, necessary unalienable, but it depends on his pleasure that they should become and remain such. Does he wish to secure his property by an entail? He has only to speak, and it is done. Does he deem it less advantageous to keep his estates than to sell them? The law, again, comes to his aid, and renders that alienable which a moment before was not so.
A law, leaving so much in the power of an individual, would be ill suited to a pure monarchy. There, the entails which preserve large properties in certain noble families are established for the benefit of the throne, of which these families are the support. It is not inquired whether it suits the nobility to keep their lands or not; the monarch sees that it is his interest, and that is sufficient. It is different in an aristocracy where the lords of the soil are rich and powerful of themselves.
It would, therefore, be an error to suppose, that the law of entail in England and Ireland has lost its efficacy, because we see it yield to the pleasure of the lords of the soil: its modifications are for their profit. In Ireland, the system, instead of protecting aristocratic fortunes, would have proved their greatest enemy, if the country had not possessed the secret of making entails yield to the will of the proprietors.
We can easily understand the assistance which a wise and enlightened aristocracy might derive from a system of absolute and inflexible entails. Accustomed to regularity, it would be protected in occasional extravagance, by a system which declared its estates inalienable; it would be always sufficiently rich to keep its credit, and if by chance it incurred debts, it would be saved from selling its property to pay them.
But, in place of this enlightened and powerful aristocracy, imagine an aristocracy destitute of prudence, talent, and conduct, degraded in public opinion, impoverished as much by its vices as its errors. In a word, put the Irish aristocracy in place of the English aristocracy; then the law framed to perpetuate its wealth will only accelerate its ruin.
Sinking under the weight of its debts, and destitute of all credit,1 the aristocracy of Ireland can only raise money on mortgage; but who will lend money on an entailed estate? The embarrassment of the landed proprietor is very great, and he often curses the law which was instituted for his protection. He has then recourse to legal proceedings. I need not explain the process of “common recovery;” I need only mention that it is attended with greater facilities in Ireland than in England.
What obstacle is there, then, to the abolition of entails in Ireland? The landlords, it is true, would lose the advantage of being able to render their estates inalienable; but, in their present state of distress, would not the advantage be more than compensated by the credit which would result from the right of sale?
We are not here inquiring into the means of strengthening or enriching an aristocracy, the ruin of which is proved to be necessary; but ought not every process which would annihilate the body without individually injuring its members be the best that could be selected? Now, if entails were abolished, every Irish proprietor would be more completely master of his land; more rich, because he would have more credit. The land, delivered from these fetters, would become free; it would be the first step towards the division of the soil,
[1.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]