The London companies which have estates in the county Derry claimed to be entitled to all the surplus revenue after the cost of management was deducted. This was the question raised by the celebrated ‘Skinners’ case,’ ultimately decided by the House of Lords. The effect of the decision was, that the society was a trustee, not for the companies but for the public objects defined in the charter and the ‘articles of agreement.’ Lord Langdale’s language on the subject is perfectly clear and explicit. He declared that the Irish Society have not, ‘collectively or individually,’ any beneficial interest in the estates. In a sense they are trustees. They have important duties to perform; but their powers and duties have all reference to the Plantation, whose object was purely public and political.
Adverting to this judgment, it is not Derry alone that is interested in the abolition of the Irish Society. Its objects ’affected the general welfare of Ireland and the whole realm.’ The city of London, in its corporate capacity, had no beneficial interest in the estates. ’The money which it had advanced was early repaid, and the power which remained, or which was considered to remain, was, like that of the society, an entrusted power for the benefit of the plantation and those interested in it. The Irish Society seems to have been little, if anything, more than the representative or instrument of the city for the purposes of the Plantation.’
I subjoin the text of the concluding part of the judgment in the Skinners’ Case, the report of which fills a very bulky volume:—
Lord Langdale said: ’The mistaken views which the society may have subsequently taken of its own situation and duties (and I think that such mistaken views have several times been taken) do not vary the conclusion to be deduced from the charter and the circumstances contemporary with the grant of the first charter. I am of opinion that the powers granted to the society and the trusts reposed in them were in part of a general and public nature, independent of the private benefit of the companies of London, and were intended by the crown to benefit Ireland and the city of London, by connecting the city of Londonderry and the town of Coleraine and a considerable Irish district with the city of London, and to promote the general purposes of the Plantation, not only by securing the performance of the conditions imposed on ordinary undertakers, but also by the exercise of powers and the performance of trusts not within the scope of those conditions. The charter of Charles II. expressly recites that the property not actually divided was retained for the general operation of the Plantation.’
TENANT-RIGHT IN DOWN.