The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14
The Land Question
The Land Question.
Landholders of the United Kingdom.
In the House of Lords-n the 19th February, 1872, during the first Administition of Mr. Gladstone, the Earl of Derby wished to now whether Government intended to take any seps for ascertaining accurately the number of proprietors of land and houses in the United Kingdom, observing, in reference to statements made by the late Mr. J. S. Mill and Mr. John Bright (but without naming those gentlemen), that, out of doors, and from time to time, there was a great outcry about what was called the "monopoly of page 125 land," the wildest and most reckless exaggerations and mis-statements being made as to the number of persons who were the actual owners of the soil, who were estimated at not more than 30,000, whilst his own impression and belief was that there were at least ten times as many. The suggestion met with the approval of Government; a Return, including rentals and other particulars not mentioned by his lordship, was ordered; and the result appeared in the shape of two huge Blue Books, relating to England and Wales, and two others, of minor dimensions, devoted to Scotland and Ireland. As to Rentals, it is officially stated in the Preface that they were taken from the Valuation Lists of the localities, as arranged by Boards of Guardians and Assessment Committees or their clerks; and anything differing more widely from the system on which the original "Domesday Book" was compiled can scarcely be imagined, for that was done by sworn Government assessors, fully empowered to ascertain, on oath, the extent and value of each man's holding, whilst in its supposed successor we have no better assurance than the vague estimates of local functionaries and their clerks.
General Summary of Holdings and Rentals.
|Holders of less than 1 acre each.||Of between 1 and 100 acres.||Of between 100 and 1,000 acres.||Of 1,000 acres and upwards.|
|No.||Extent of Lands.||Rental.||No.||Extent of Lands.||Rental.||No.||Extent of Lands.||Rental.||No.||Extent of Lands.||Rental.|
|No Acreage stated.||No Rentals Stated.||Grand Totals.|
|No.||Rental.||Extent of Lands.||Holders.||Extent of Lands.||Rental or Valuation.||Commons and Waste Lands.||Population in||Inhabited Houses in|
Hence it would seem that instead of the 30,000 persons or less who were proprietors of the soil of the United Kingdom, as estimated by Mr. John Stuart Mill and Mr. Bright, and instead of the "ten times as many" guessed at by the Earl of Derby, on whose suggestion the Land Returns were ordered, chiefly, if not entirely, to settle the point in dispute, we have no fewer than 1,173,724 "owners of land" in the Three Kingdoms, holding 72,119,961 acres, and having a gross estimated rental of £131,470,360, exclusive of such parts of the counties of Kent, Middlesex, and Surrey as are included in the "Metropolis," an exclusion which very much resembles that of "Hamlet" from the play, and is the more anomalous, seeing that, whilst we have no information as to the holdings and rentals of Dukes, Earls, Viscounts, and other magnates, who have become virtually the owners of a great part of the "Metropolis," such diligence has been shown in raking together the holders of minute portions of land in all other parts of the Three Kingdoms. For how is the list made up? Leaseholders are reckoned as owners, if their leases are reputed to be for 99 years, which (as Mr. Kay, Q.C., remarked) was very like calling hired horses the same as owned horses. Ecclesiastical Commissioners, Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, who and which hold land in almost every county, are counted as so many single owners; "Crown Property " also swells the list; War Office and other Departments figure for many separate counties; each Railway Company (the sums set opposite to which represent not "rental " but rated traffic) is counted according to the number of counties through which its lines may pass; and hosts of Almshouse, Asylum, Charity, Poor, and other Trustees, Churchwardens, parish and police officers, &c., none of whom come under the description of "owners of land" as officially defined.
The extent of Commons and Waste Lands is so untruthfully stated in the Return as of itself to form an impeachment of the whole of the figures (see next page but one). Also the vast area of woods, plantations, wastes, and unenclosed commons over which Manorial rights extend, is not added to the estates of the great owners, or at all noticed in the Return.
|Acres.||Rental.||Represented in the Domesday-book as|
|£||i.e. in so many counties.|
|Ecclesiastical Commissioners||149,857||311,187||49 holders.|
|Crown Lands||101,224||156,153||49 holders.||Governors of Charterhouse||16,049||20,551||5 holders.|
|Winchester, Eton King's (2), and Stonyhurst Colleges = 5||21,924||39,659||28 holders.||University of Durham, Queen Anne's Bounty Commissioners, Corporation of Sons of Clergy, and 6 others = 9||35,225||59,018||59 holders.|
|The Church Lands of various Sees, &c = 60||96,882||173,019||147 holders.|
|War Department, Naval Knights of Windsor, and Commissioners of Woods and Forests = 3||23,307||68,146||19 holders.|
|19 Hospitals and Charities||73,350||107,289||46 holders.|
|11 out of the 12 Great Livery Companies of the City of London||9,960||18,718||36 holders.|
|33 Railway Companies||110,531||6,990,037||175 holders.|
|13 Canal Companies||15,517||237,000||26 holders.|
|Lords of the Admiralty||30,611||111,087||16 holders.|
Results still more extraordinary than the multiplication of "owners" may be extracted from the foregoing General Summary. For example, of the reputed 1,173,724 "owners of land" (including, by the way, 6,459 who have no acres, and 124 who have no rental) 852,438 have less than an acre each, and only 188,413 acres in the aggregate; but their "gross rental" is estimated at £36,294,173, which is £14,936,517 more than 252,725 persons with 4,910,723 acres receive; £10,198,891 more than 51,090 with 15,133,057 acres page 126 receive; and only £8,586,880 less than 10,888 holders of 51,885,118 acres receive. Of course the explanation as to the enormous sum set down for the fractional acre people must be that it is not rental, but the rated value of factories, workshops, houses, and other buildings which have little or no land beyond that on which they stand. Of the 6,459 "owners of land" who are not credited with any land, but who are said to have a "gross rental" of £2,842,191, there are 59 in Lancashire, whose "gross estimated rental" amounts to £214,878. On the other hand there are great numbers of persons who must be very clever managers indeed, seeing that they contrive to extract very large rentals from very small fractions of land. In the Financial Reformer for May, 1876, we published a list of 222 of them in Lancashire, holding altogether 534 acres, and credited with "gross rental" of £283,130-an average of about 2¼ acres, and "rental" of £1,050 for each, which would be an average of £466 13s. 4d. per acre!
A question of great importance, which has attracted but little attention, if any at all worth mentioning, is the necessity for a re-valuation of the landed and other real property of the country, conducted on a system widely different from that on which this modern "Domesday Book" was concocted; and again, in reference to assessments to the House Duty. The list of holders of 5,000 acres and upwards, in one or more lots, having been enlarged by the late Mr. Macqueen so as to show, in each instance, extent and rental separately, the vast disparity between them suggested to him the probability that fraud on the revenue might thus have been perpetrated, and wrong inflicted on millions of the landless people. Accordingly, with great labour, he set about a thorough analysis of the list, including the whole United Kingdom, and the result is here presented.
|Class 1. Lands apparently let under 5s. an acre||12,989,685||1,390,528||0||2||1½ per acre.|
|Class 2. Lands apparently between 5s. and 10s. an acre||7,385,902||2,688,240||0||7||0 per acre.|
|Class 3. Lands apparently between 10s. and 20s. an acre||8,324,678||6,343,173||0||15||1½ per acre.|
|Class 4. Lands apparently between 20s. and 50s. an acre||9,295,711||12,377,023||1||6||7½ per acre.|
|Class 5. Lands apparently between 50s. and £5 an acre||537,097||1,506,095||2||16||0¾ per acre.|
|Class 6. Lands apparently at £5 and upwards an acre||142,904||1,507,016||10||10||10¾ per acre.|
|38,675,977||£25,172,075||0||13||3½ Gen. average|
The totals do not exactly correspond with those in the other summary, but they come sufficiently near for the purpose. To arrive at this classification every holding, large and small, was taken out separately, and calculated, according to the rate of letting, to produce the rental specified. Of the items constituting Class 1, 1,534,377 acres thus appear to be let for less than sixpence an acre, the average being only twopence and about the thousandth part of a farthing per acre; 1,534,880 acres more to be between sixpence and a shilling, average 10¼d.; 3,087,474 acres more at between one and two shillings per acre, average 1s. 5¾d.; 3,407,108 acres, average 2s. 4¼d.; 1,901,690 acres, average 3s. 4¾d.; and 1,524,156 acres with average of 4s. 7½d. per acre,—the whole making up the totals stated in the first line of the above classification. Making every allowance for mountain, flood, forest, and bog and waste land of every kind, it is quite impossible to believe that more than a third part of the 38,675,977 acres at the foot of the first column is let at rates under five shillings, and more than half under ten shillings an acre. The fact that it appears to be so suffices to show the necessity for such a thorough revision of the "Domesday Book" as is above recommended.
Nevertheless these "Domesday" returns, although of "no authority," and "a mere compilation from the ratebooks" (as Mr. Sclater-Booth, President of the Local Government Board, under whose auspices they were compiled, told the House of Commons), serve to demonstrate two very striking, if not startling, facts,— 1st. That landed and other real property must be most grossly under valued in the ratebooks, especially in the case of great and rich owners in the country districts, who have persons anxious to please them on the assessment boards.* 2ndly, that 2s. in the pound on the income attributed to 955 individuals, who hold over 10,000 acres each, would produce £1,789,933, which is £727,000 more than the yield of the Land Tax of four shillings in the pound on what is still called in the statute-book "the full annual rack-rent value" of the whole land of the kingdom, in the financial year 1883-4. This, too, "exclusive of the metropolis," from large possessions in which the Dukes of Bedford, Norfolk, and Westminster; the Marquises of Camden, Northampton, and Salisbury; Earls Cadogan, Craven, Dartmouth, and Somers; Lords Kensington and Portman, many commoners, the City Corporation, and the City Companies, derive princely revenues. Nevertheless, the landed nobility and gentry, who, according to Richard Cobden and according to fact, have "robbed and bamboozled the people for ages," still complain of being heavily and unfairly burdened in the matter of taxation; and, having succeeded in throwing many charges to which they themselves were properly liable on the public generally, i.e., on the Imperial Exchequer, are now clamouring to do the like with other and heavier items.
It is to be hoped that exposure may serve to check this leech-like disposition of theirs, or, at all events, to prevent its further gratification; to call public attention efficiently to the need there is for a reform of laws relating to land, eminently calculated, as they were obviously intended, to make and perpetuate its possession a monopoly in the hands of as few individuals as possible; and also to the necessity of a thorough revision of the Land Tax.
* The Financial Reform Association are preparing a list of such cases (of the undervaluation of great mansions, castles, and country houses), and invite information upon the point from readers of the Almanack who hear of or can suggest any instances in their own neighbourhoods.
Holders of 5,000 Acres and upwards.
In our issue of 1883, an Alphabetical List of these is printed, giving the total acreage of each, total rental of each, and average rental per acre.
In our issue of 1882, a list appeared, giving particulars same as above, but with each county specified in detail, and without the calculated average rentals. Back numbers for either of these years may be had on application to the Financial Reform Association.
Ancient Land Tenures.
The Land system of England in Anglo-Saxon times was complicated, inasmuch as there was not one and the same law for every plot of land. But it is important to note that private ownership, such as now exists page 127 amongst us, was entirely unknown. Of the four leading divisions of Landed property before the Conquest*—
Folk Land was that belonging to no person or community, but to the nation as a whole. It is surmised to have been land remaining over after the invaders (or first settlement) had allotted sufficient plots to each of their freeman comrades. In shires exposed to invasion the Sovereign power occasionally granted such land to secure the aid of the holder, or to reward the military services of some other person.
|1.||No Alienation, but only inheritance.|
|2.||Alienation within the family, but with consent of the community and of possible heirs.|
|3.||Consent of the community reduced to a mere form.|
|4.||In times of warfare and distress the wealthiest and strongest member of the community acquiring commanding influence, the others falling into dependence.|
|5.||Grants of public jurisdiction, &c., from the Bang to one so pre-eminent.|
|6.||The Lord of the Manor acquiring the powers of the community, and exacting dues and fines for consent to alienation.|
|7.||The Common Land coming to be looked on as the Lord's Land, and the public courts as the Lord's courts, long before the Conquest of 1066.|
Bocland (or Book-land) was that of later origin than the other two, and granted by a written instrument or book, as it was then called. At first such grants were only made to religious houses, or by the King, with consent of the Witan or Parliament; but it is clear they must have come from the stock of either Folk Land or Common Land, and the balance of evidence strongly tends to the former supposition.
With the advent of William the Norman came the change to military feudalism. Folk Land became the King's Land, and, along with such other soil as came by confiscations and forfeitures, was registered in the Domesday Book as Terra Regis. And with the disappearance of Folk Land there went Bocland, which had been made out of it. The religious houses, it is true, were not dispossessed by William, but their instruments of grant became void, and under the feudal regulations they received tenures of "Frankalmoigne" instead, that is to say, "free alms," or of "Divine Service," that is to say, "free masses for the grantor and his heirs." (See Section on "The State Church.")
* We say four leading divisions, because there were indubitably other and more involved forms of tenure, most of which, for instance, laid the foundations for what later became known as Copyholds. These are in rapid process of extinction under an Act of 1841 and its later extensions, giving power to commute manorial rights and enfranchise properties. In 43 years ending 31st December, 1884, no less than 15,174 such enfranchisements had been effected through the Copyhold Commission, which is now called the English Land Commission.
The Feudal System
was simply a territorial organization for military purposes. Prior to its establishment, and from time immemorial, the tenure of Land had involved the obligation to pay for defensive warfare. Feudalism made its tenants not only pay, but in person fight: this was "the essence and condition of the landholders' titles." They could not alienate their lands or dispose of them by will, or even inherit them by descent as a matter of right (see description of the military tenures pp. 186-7); but the custom of Primogeniture, previously established in Continental feudalism, rapidly asserted a foothold, and from the feudal estates spread even to socage land (or that portion of the soil which was independent of military tenure).
Appropriation of Common Lands.
Why prosecute the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common,
But leave the greater felon loose
Who steals the common from the goose?
The abuse of Manorial Lordships indicated in a foregoing paragraph rapidly thinned down the area of commons and commonable lands. The term "Common Lands" generally indicates lands that are in a state of nature in waste, the severalty of which is not in any individuals. Commonable lands are those portions which during a certain time each year are in severalty, viz., "Lammas Lands" (which from seedtime to 12th August are divided among occupiers that each till their own portion); commonable bay-fields (which are thrown open after hay harvest); &c. The village greens are most probably remnants of old unappropriated common field lands. From returns made to Parliament in 1873 the following would appear to be the
Total Estimated Acreage of the Commons and Common Field Lands in each County in England and Wales.
|Area of Commons.|
|County.||Total Area.||Apparently capable of Cultivation.||Apparently Mountain, or otherwise unsuitable for Cultivation.||Area of Common Field Lauds.|
|York, City and Ainsty||52,479||601||—||559|
|York, East Riding||742,701||10.599||440||11,405|
|York, West Riding||1,727,176||60,642||165,181||10,849|
|York, North Riding||1,336,268||53,721||200,051||787|
|Area of Commons.|
|County.||Total Area.||Apparently capable of Cultivation.||Apparently Mountain, or otherwise unsuitable for Cultivation.||Area of Common Field Lauds.|
|Total subject to Common Rights 2,632,772 acres.|
And this was not a complete return, being based upon the tithe documents. As evidence of their imperfection, a Parliamentary report states that on an investigation of some 917 enclosures, it was found that 104 had taken place in parishes where the tithe documents made mention of no common lands at all. A return of 1843 (including only land upon which commutations of tithe had taken effect) specified 1,800,000 acres of common and waste out of 8,600,000 so far commuted. Proportioning this to the whole area of England and Wales, the Tithe Commissioners estimated that there would be altogether 8,000,000 acres of common and waste. This included wastes not subject to common (a very large item), but did not include Lammas lands (a considerable one).
Between the two authorities it seems fair to assume that probably four million acres (or over a tenth of the entire acreage) of England and Wales are still subject to common rights. Prior to 1800 some 1,600 or 1,700 Enclosure Acts had been passed, and from 1800 to 1845, 2,000 more were enacted—altogether 3,600 or 3,700 separate measures for the robbery of the poor by the landed rich. Sir James Caird (who understates the number of enclosures as 2,500) reckons the amount of land thus enclosed as 2,142,000 acres, but adds significantly that "besides this, a very large extent of country has been reclaimed without the intervention of Parliament." We might suggest to Sir James the more Shaksperian word "conveyed," which would be far more expressive and appropriate altogether.
In 1845 the reformed Parliament found time to pass an Act dealing with these private enclosures and with the cognate subject of the reclamation of wastes. On the evidence of a committee almost entirely composed of great landowners, and presided over by Lord Worsley, it was decided to encourage and cheapen enclosures in the interest of the great landlords, who, it appears, had to pay about £1,500 legal charges in getting their filching bills through. The specious plea that these lands were comparatively unproductive was used to blind the public into assent to an Act that validated and perpetuated the ancient frauds upon the people. True that clauses 30 and 31 allowed a proportional quantity of the lands to be appropriated according to population for purposes of recreation and amusement, and of a certain portion for allotments to the labouring poor, moreover clause 15 protected such of the village greens as were left; but the main object of the Whig and Tory magnates in this 1845 Act was made transparent, for it laid no hand upon offenders who had notoriously encroached, and by clause 50 it gave perpetual and unchallenged right of ownership in every case of 20 years' possession.
"24. The general question of the action of the Inclosure Commission has necessarily come before your Committee in the course of their inquiries. Since the passing of the Act of 1845, the large increase in the population of the country, the increased value of land, the acknowledged need for maintaining public rights of way, the still greater necessity for providing recreation grounds and garden allotments for the labouring poor, taken with the large decrease of waste lands, have evidently very much increased the responsibility of this Commission. Your Committee believe that the alterations in the law which are suggested in this Report would affect beneficially the action of the Commission. At the same time they are of opinion that the constant attention of Parliament will be required on the annual introduction of the Inclosure Bill."
|For exercise and recreation||1,758|
|For field gardens||2,195|
|For public quarries and gravel pits||823|
|For schools and churches||622|
|For burial grounds||106|
|For other miscellaneous purposes||85|
|For public roads (2,000 miles in extent, independent of occupation roads) covering||7,350|
|The value of this, at £20 an acre, being all out of the best of the laud||282,140|
|Cash expended on the construction of public roads and other public works connected with enclosures||473,500|
- One-fifteenth of the wastes, 414,000 acres, 27,600 acres, divided among 620 Lords, at an average of 44½ acres to each.
- 526,890 acres divided among 21,810 common-right owners, at an average of 24 acres to each.
- 34,450 acres to 3,500 purchasers, at an average of 10 acres to each.
Number of Separate Estates thus created out of Commons; by which it will be seen that an appreciable addition has been made to the number of small Landholders.
|Lords of manors||620|
Of whom 4,836 were farmers, 3,456 tradesmen, 3,168 working-men, 2,624 esquires, 2,016 widows, 1,984 gentlemen, 1,280 clergymen. 1,067 artisans, 800 spinsters, 704 trustees of charities, 576 peers and baronets, 512 professional men, &c., &c.
|Total Acreage Inclosed, and Estimated Value.||Acres.|
|Acreage of lands dealt with, of which were||590,000|
|Commonable lands, not subject to public allotments||176,000|
|Wastes of manor, subject to public allotments||414,000|
|Lands in high country: 214,000 at £10 per acre||2,140,000|
|Lauds in low country: 200,000 at £20 per acre||4,000,000|
In 1871 a further Select Committee reported that the veto invested in Lords of the Manors was being employed to impose terms not consistent with the spirit or sometimes even with the letter of the Inclosure Acts, and that the officials representing the Crown Manors had frequently stipulated that the nomination of valuers should be left absolutely to their discretion, in spite of the provisions of Section S3. The Committee demanded refusal of assent to such conditions and the prevention of a mis-use of the Lords of Manors' veto. Moreover, they recommended the appointment of a Special Committee for the consideration of each annual Inclosnres bill, and laid down emphatically the dictum that "It rests with those who ask the assistance of Parliament and seek its authority, in order to procure for themselves advantages which, without that, they could not obtain, to make out a clear case of public advantage."
Since the Commons Act of 1876, 89 applications for Regulation and Enclosure of Commons have been made to the Land Commission, embracing together some 113,774 acres in all. Of these
|Parliament has sanctioned the regulation of||22.529 acres|
|And the enclosure of||22,430 acres|
|Whilst there are under consideration||10,173 acres|
All the remaining cases have been refused or withdrawn.
* Much of this is, no doubt, capable of improvement for pasture.
Free Trade in Land. Why it is Needed.*
- 12 persons own 1,038,883 acres.
- 66 persons own 1,917,076 acres.
- 100 persons own 3,917,641 acres.
- 280 persons own 5,425,764 acres. (or about one-sixth of the enclosed land).
- 523 persons own one-fifth of all England and Wales.
- 710 persons own one-fourth of all England and Wales.
- 874 persons own 9,267,031 acres.
- 10,207 persons own two-thirds of the whole of England and Wales.
In Northumberland County, which contains 1,220,000 acres, some 26 persons own half the county.
|One man owns over||186,397 acres in England.|
|Another owns over||102,785 acres in England.|
|A body of 4,500 men own||17,498,200 acres or more than half England and Wales.|
|One man owns||1,826,000 acres, and has besides|
|32,095 acres, in England.|
|Another has||431,000 acres.|
|Another has||424,000 acres.|
|Another has||306,000 acres.|
|12 owners have||4,339,722 acres, about a quarter of Scotland, and more than the whole area of Wales. Equal to 8 entire English counties: Beds, Berks, Bucks, Cambridge, Cheshire, Derby, Cornwall and Cumberland.|
|20 owners have hold more than||120,000 acres each.|
|24 owners have hold more than||4,931,888 acres (a fourth of Scotland).|
|70 owners hold about||9,400,000 acres (a half of Scotland).|
|171 owners hold about||11.029,228 acres|
|330 owners hold about||two-thirds of all Scotland.|
|1,700 owners hold about||nine-tenths of all Scotland.|
|1 person owns||170,119 acres.|
|12 persons own||1,297,888 acres.|
|3 persons own over||100,000 acres each.|
|14 persons own over||50,000 acres each.|
|90 persons own over||20,000 acres each.|
|135 persons own over||10,000 acres each.|
|452 persons own over||5,000 acres each.|
|292 persons own||6,458,100 acres (nearly [unclear: ?] of the island).|
|744 persons own||9,612,728 acres (nearly ½ of the island).|
|1,942 persons own||two-thirds of the whole island.|
In the United Kingdom there are altogether 77,799,793 acres of Land, and out of 72,119,961 acres included in the returns it appears there were 12 great owners who possessed 4,440,467 acres. Well may the late Mr. Kay, Q.C., in his excellent letters on the Land Question [Kegan Paul & Co.] exclaim: "We have been cutting away the bate of our social pyramid, while nearly all other civilized countries have been pursuing an exactly opposite policy!" In France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Holland, Belgium, and Italy feudalism has been suppressed, and in all these countries small estates long since began to multiply. Here, not only are they decreasing, but the very class of yeomen is all but extinguished. What were the laws by the abolition of which on the Continent the people broke up the Landed Monopolies? They were the same laws which now in this country allow Owners to make deeds and wills that for many years prevent the land from being sold, or the estate from being divided, no matter how expedient it may be that it should be sold, or no matter how foolish or extravagant the owner may be.† They were the same laws which now in this country (if a landowner leaves no deed or will) give all his land without diminution or charge in one undivided estate to his next heir. The same laws page 130 which here allow leases of 99 to 999 years, subjecting land to all kinds of antiquated covenants that go on affecting society for generations after the death of the grantor, and after all the circumstances have been changed. The consequence of such laws, leases, deeds of settlement, and wills are manifold, being every way unjust.
|1.||They prevent the sale of estates which would otherwise come into the market.|
|2.||They lessen due parental control.|
|3.||They induce careless Landowners to be tenfold more careless than they otherwise would be about the education of their sons.|
|4.||They maintain in influential positions men unworthy of those positions.|
|5.||They deprive many Landowners of the means of properly managing their estates.|
|6.||They tend very greatly to retard the progress of agricultural improvements.|
|7.||They render it necessary to make deeds and wills very long and expensive.|
|8.||They render it often very difficult and costly for a purchaser to ascertain the state of title to a plot of land he may wish to purchase.|
|9.||They often leave actual titles to large plots of land uncertain, in spite of all the labour and expense bestowed on their careful investigation.|
|10.||They deprive the small farmers, the shopkeepers, and the peasantry of almost all chance of buying land.|
|11.||They aggravate all these evils in Ireland by the additional curses of Absenteeism and Agent-management.|
|12.||They create and perpetuate a class of Land Monopolists so strong and united as to be able to control both Houses of the Legislature, the result being that all our laws are tinctured with some concession or other to them—be the concession just or unjust.|
|13.||They drive out and decimate the rural populations, forcing these to emigrate to foreign soil or take refuge in already overcrowded towns, congesting the labour markets, aggravating social evils, and lowering the moral and physical stamina of the masses generally.|
|14.||They are a main cause of the oppressive taxation of the trading and operative classes, for, by means of the Parliamentary power secured by ages of undisturbed monopoly, the Landholders have shaken off their own liabilities to the Crown, and devolved nearly every fiscal burden upon those beneath them in social position.|
|15.||They give a short, easy, and summary right of seizure to Landlords, to the unjust deprivation of other classes of creditors, who have to be content with what the Landlord chooses to leave of a debtor's estate, and in most cases have legal charges to pay which he has escaped the necessity for.|
|16.||They confiscate the property of tenants by giving fixtures to the Landlord. Even trade fixtures were for centuries appropriated in this way. Agricultural improvements were only admitted to consideration a year or two ago, and then in very partial fashion.|
|17.||They lead to the Game Laws, which sacrifice the productive powers of the soil, rob the agriculturist of results rightfully earned by the sweat of his brow, and drive into crime thousands of men and boys that in any other country would rise to honourable careers. Moreover, the judicial power in such cases is retained for the game-preserving class of county magistrates, the most prejudiced and incompetent administrators of justice in the country.|
|18.||They encourage an ingrained selfishness of views as to the rights and duties of landed property which leads to the curtailment of public rights of way and of common, to the immuring of nature generally, and thereby grievous loss to the national taste and appreciation of many pure and exalting pleasures.|
|19.||They create a class of men fabulously rich, the effect of which stimulates a striving to be at rich in the next classes, and so on until it has come to be the case that in England, where the necessaries of life are cheapest, the cost of living is unduly increased. It is much more expensive to educate children, to start them in careers, to provide them with a home—than in any country where such land laws as ours do not exist.|
|Between 200 and 400 acres||=||15,048|
|Between 20 and 2000 acres||=||389,823|
|Between 3½ and 200 acres||=||609,828|
|and under 3½ acres each||=||1,087,081|
These figures do not include residential sites or house-gardens.
In Belgium there were in 1846 only 758,512 landowners. In 1865 these had increased to 1,069,326, under the operation of a land system only partially free.
In the Channel Islands, under a free system and peasant proprietary, the average rent of middling land has risen to £4 and £6 per acre. The same figure in Switzerland. Whereas in England 30s. an acre would be thought a fair and rather a high rent.
In France, according to M. Lavergne's "Economic Rurale,"
- 50,000 proprietors hold an average of 750 acres each.
- 500,000 proprietors hold an average of 75 acres each.
- 5,000,000 proprietors hold an average of 7½ acres each.
* Summarized from the argument of Mr. Kay, but with considerable additions.
† The operation of Lord Cairn's Settled Land Act of 1882 has only provided a slow and very partial remedy for the main evils here alluded to. We give a full description of this Act on the next page.
The Settled Land Act of 1882.
This measure of the late Earl Cairns makes no change in the law of settlement, and under its provisions a testator has all his old liberty of tying up his landed property. The difference introduced briefly amounts to this,—that after his death his successor may, under certain conditions, convert the land into money or securities, if content that the limitations should still apply. This is to lock up property in consols and debentures, or in freshly-acquired land, and it is but a tinkering reform after all. The scope given by this measure for the discharge or redemption of incumbrances affecting the inheritance of settled land has not been largely availed of, but some 183 applications have been made in the first two years under its improvement clauses.