The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 28
The Land and Landlordism
The Land and Landlordism.
How is it that the possession of Land is so coveted by gentlemen? Almost every other kind of property gives a better interest. Consols give as good a security with infinitely less trouble; still the ambition of a wealthy tradesman is to buy an estate only yielding, perhaps, three per cent, and costing enormously in the shape of an attorney's bill.
How does this happen?
Because the rags of Feudalism still cling to us. When William the Conqueror took possession of these islands his first thought was to secure his conquests, and so, with little ceremony, he parcelled out the country into large estates over which he placed his chief officers. He did not give these estates in fee simple. The land, (as in Asia now,) belonged to the Crown, that is, to the people as represented by the Crown, and these Dukes, Counts and Barons were page 2 made tenants of the Crown. And what was the rent they paid? They paid all the military expenses, which, in these days, amount to twenty-seven millions, and are paid by the landless people—in other words they were bound to serve the King in time of war and to bring into the field a certain number of their tenants according to the extent of their possessions.
Thus we see that the principle of absolute private possession in land had not yet made its appearance, and the axiom "that property has its duties as well as its privileges," (the utterance of which by the late Mr. Drummond brought such opprobrium on his head) was then in active force.
The country in those ancient days was neither more nor less than an organized armed camp, these great nobles being the officers, their duties clear and defined as their rank, which was military. The Sovereign in those days did not bestow titles on mere money bags.
In order to stereotype this military class and to keep a great number of landlords in this position as military officers ready to be called out in time of war, primogeniture and entail were established so that the eldest son stepped into the place of the fallen sire inheriting his duties and his pay. If there were no sons, but daughters only, the King had always a favourite officer on whom to bestow the hand of the heiress.
In the middle ages when force was uppermost, this social and political system of feudalism was perhaps as good a scheme as a nation of warriors could invent. Like all other systems it was the product neither of one page 3 philosopher's brain nor of an academy of sages: it grew and crystallized by slow degrees, probably in spite of many who opposed its progress.
The great men of those days had unquestionably great talents. A sharp boy in a good modern school could doubtless have taught the greatest of those statesmen more of political economy than the King's Council had ever dreamed of, and a clever subaltern of our army could have given William the Conqueror valuable lessons in strategy, simply because, unlike the lower animals, mankind has a collective store of knowledge which is added to from age to age. Still there were great men in those days, men of powerful brains as well as muscular bodies, and these powerful men were usually found in the ranks of the nobles, recruited as they were incessantly by men of energy and talent.
As to the morals of the age, we know that the standard was not high. Force and fraud gained the day, as they do now in Afghanistan and other countries which seem to be in what may be termed the age of iron. If one of these nobles died while his heir was a child, the chances were ten to one against the child ever coming to its majority. If the child was a daughter, her's was probably a sad fate. Murders were rarely punished by law if the murderer was a man of rank; poison too was not unknown, while analysis was unheard of. We must then confess that many of the founders of our great families, the men whose Norman names are so coveted that some are weak enough to adopt them in these days, were unprincipled ruffians who gained their honours through foul dishonour, and I page 4 need not add that some of their descendants are excellent men, some as bad as the law will permit them to be, and most neither very good nor very bad—in short like the bulk of us.
The feudal system did not generally prevail until long after it had been established in England.
In Ireland, Scotland and Wales titles and rank were what may be loosely termed hereditary. The land was tribal property, the chief was the representative of the tribe and was largely paid in sheep, corn, oxen and the like, in order that he might be profusely hospitable, and exercise the functions of Commissary-General in time of war as well as those of Commander-in-Chief; but if he was greedy or tyrannical, the people fell away from him and sought other allegiance, and there was always some brother, uncle or nephew, or failing these, some bold adventurer to supplant or murder him.
The hereditary system has been always more or less clung to, and yet always swept away when necessary. The son or brother had the preference in these rude ages, but when he was incompetent to lead men, he was pushed aside in one way or another; but the more civilization advances, and with it, a greater security for life and property, this principle is apt to fall into contempt, for an incapable now placed in the position of leader cannot be brushed aside—he has all the force of an organized society to uphold him; hence he is apt to exhibit himself conspicuously as unfit for his post. Thus it is that our hereditary nobility is becoming contemptible in spite of occasional great men found in, or received into, its ranks.page 5
In course of time the feudal system crept on and invaded Wales, Scotland and Ireland, and here we see the origin of those enormous estates in Scotland. The "properties," which almost cover counties, were tribal grounds occupied by members of one tribe, happy hunting grounds for the red-headed Celts who loved their Chief as their Father or Patriarch. The civilized courts in Edinburgh and London gradually attracted these Chiefs to the capitals—they were made nobles, and then their tribal hunting grounds were granted as feudal holdings, and the next step made them absolute private proprietors.
In the reign of Charles II., of infamous memory, the last great robbery was completed.
And now when Charles II. was in exile a number of these noble lords thought they would get him back again and "make a good thing of it," so they conspired together to induce him to aid them in getting rid of their feudal burdens (precisely as if a number of rogues farming an estate were to conspire to repudiate paying the rent), and on condition of Charles granting this aid, they would help him in recovering the throne which the first Charles had so deservedly forfeited. Accordingly in 1645 they enacted the 12th Charles II., cap. 24, intituled "An Act for taking away the Court of Wards and Liveries and Tenures in Capite, and by knight service and purveyance, and for settling a revenue on His Majesty in lieu thereof." This Act passed in a House of Commons composed almost entirely of landlords, and confirmed in a House of Lords then, as now, a trades' union of landlords. It abolished the feudal dues which had been levied since the Conquest, and which were rents paid for the estates they held and thereby made over the estates in fee-simple to the rogues who held them. There was still a revenue to be raised, and how was this to be met? How were the military expenses of the nation to be paid, now that the nation was robbed of its rents? The Houses of Parliament imposed a tax of one shilling and threepence a barrel on all beer sold in the kingdom. As the lords and gentry made their own beer they thus escaped also this tax.page 7
Let us take another page out of history. "By the 4th William and Mary, cap. i, intituled, 'An Act for granting to their Majesties an aid of 4s. in the pound for carrying on a vigorous war with France,' it was enacted that a land tax of 4s. in the pound on the true yearly rent, and a tax of 24s. in the £100 on personal property, should be raised for the public service. The interest on money was then 6 per cent., and personal property being supposed to yield 6 per cent, also, the two assessments were at the same rate. This form of tax was adhered to for nine years, but in 1697 Laud committed another great fraud. By 9 William and Mary, cap. 10, no poundage was granted, but a definite sum of £1,484,015 to be raised in the following singular manner : 'Personal property to pay 3s. in the pound, and real property to be charged with as much equality and indifferency as possible by a pound rate towards the sum by this Act imposed;' so that by this ingenious contrivance, personal property is to pay 15 per cent, of its income, and real property is to make up the deficit of the tax imposed. The different counties, boroughs, and towns are thus assessed at a certain sum; the tax is renewed yearly at the same sum not at the same rale, so that the increased real property arising from discovery of mines, collieries, and the extension of agriculture does not bear the tax. By this admirable plan, some places pay a penny and others a farthing in the pound at the present time. The land tax was subsequently raised to 2,307,627, and is by 38 George III., cap. 60, converted into a perpetual tax instead of an annual one, but subject to redemption."*
A little reflection will show that, had the land-tax continued in its original force, there would have been no national debt. The money accruing from the lands robbed from the people, has been devoted to the support of a large class of idlers living in the height of luxury and extravagance. Let any one deny this simple fact if he can.
After all, let us reflect that these aristocrats are no worse and no better than the rest of us. They found themselves in possession of power, and behaved as all classes ever have done when thus situated. If we were to send a Parliament of brewers to govern us, no doubt all foreign beer would be heavily taxed, and other laws would be framed to favour brewers; if grocers were to be sent in a great majority to Parliament, we should have an end put to co-operative stores, and be obliged to drink British wines; if none but tenant farmers, we should have Corn Laws re-established, no Foreign Cattle Importation, and a Tenant-right Bill, that would leave the landlord little to enjoy. None should be trusted with exclusive and unchecked power, it is good for no individual, and, least of all, for any class or trade. A large class has no conscience. The units composing such keep each other in countenance. The landlords have behaved so unscrupulously simply because the nation entrusted, and still entrusts them with too much power. Hitherto the tenant farmer, unprotected by the Ballot, was bound to vote at his landlord's dictation; now he can vote as he chooses. Let him remember that we have enough, and more than enough, of some interests, the chief of which are lawyers and landlords in the House of Commons, and a page 9 House of Lords composed of none others except the priests of one of our numerous religious sects.
Proudhon horrified all Europe some thirty years ago, by declaring that "property was robbery." Without in the least adopting this monstrous theory, we may safely say that the origin of the largest estates in Great Britain was pure robbery. Should we then try to get them back again? God forbid, at least, not in the way my readers would understand the question; but there is a safe and simple mode of breaking up enormous estates in process of time, and this is by doing our utmost to get rid of the mischievous laws and customs of entail and primogeniture. The natural simple process in every country (unblest by an aristocracy) is for land to be divided amongst children at the death of the parent, not necessarily in absolutely equal divisions, but divided. From time to time some man buys up the portions of his brothers, and perhaps others beside, but at his death again there is a division, and so it comes to pass that, after all, the main part of the land belongs to the people, to the cultivator, that is, to those who best know how to use it. In France the division at the death of the owner is compulsory; a man cannot there "make an eldest son," though he may leave a double portion to a favourite child. This French fashion is spoken of with horror by our gentry, who always seem to be afraid that the division will go on ad infinitum until a man will be obliged to cultivate a portion of soil that will not keep him, but let us look rather to practical experience than to what might happen. As a matter of fact the land never is to any extent too minutely subdivided; and as a page 10 matter of fact no French Government, since the great revolution when this system was established, monarchial, republican, nor imperial has ever made an attempt to change the present French system; it is found to answer too well. There are Land and Labour Leagues, and a Land Tenure Reform Association in England, but no such things in France. They are satisfied with their system, which is a natural and wholesome one.
To see how this feudal land system has worked in a purely agricultural country we must turn to Ireland, and I cannot do better than quote a touching example given by Sir George Grey in a letter to the Daily News :—"In 1576, Queen Elizabeth granted to the Earl of Essex the territory of Ferney, in the County of Monaghan—68,000 acres in extent. The country was then only partially subdued, and its inhabitants must have been numerous, for even in times of the best peace and security, no Lord-Deputy did ever venture himself into those parts without an army of 800 or 1,000 men. The inhabitants of this tract of country had, prior to the grant of it by Elizabeth, been ruled by their own nobles, and were with them conjoint owners of the soil. Such was the district which in 1576 was granted to the Earl of Essex. Not the smallest portion of land was reserved, either for the chiefs or people who occupied it, not even for those guiltless of any offence, for childhood and infancy must have been innocent. No provision was made for the future wants of the people, no voice nor influence was left to them in making the laws to which they were to be subjected, or in the imposition or distribution of the taxes which they were to pay, or in devising page 11 measures for the welfare of themselves or their descendants. Ireland being also an island, inhabited in all parts, these unhappy people had no large districts of unoccupied fertile land to which they could remove. The MacMahon's were the original chiefs of this country, and in 1606 the whole estate, with all its profits, was leased to Ever MacMahon for a yearly rent of £250, payable in Dublin probably, because it was impossible to collect the rent on the property. In 1633 the yearly rent had risen to £2,022, and the number of tenants was 38, but it must be remembered that these tenants, whatever was their number, were middle men, or intermediate tenants between the English landlord and the occupiers of the soil.
"In 1646, on the death of the third Earl of Essex, he was succeeded by his two sisters and the property came into their joint possession, and in 1692, when the division of the property was actually made between the respective heirs male of each of these sisters, the eastern moiety allotted to Thomas Thynne, ancester of the present Marquis of Bath, was worth £1,300 a year, and the value of the western moiety allotted to Robert Shirley, Earl Ferrers, was about the same. Each half of the property then continued to descend, in accordance with existing law and the existing custom of entail, in unbroken bulk to the next heir male."
"The next date at which I take the Ferney property up is the year 1843. For 267 years a succession of one or of two persons at a time of one family, had then been in possession of the property. They had not originally the smallest natural claim or right to the soil, they had never during page 12 their possession of it laboured in its cultivation, they hardly ever visited it. The people on it were strangers to them, these people were the creatures, the Celt in his purity. Yet for so many years these foreign landlords had, year by year, drawn large revenues from it, which they had expended in another country upon their own caprices and pleasures. But during the same period of time, a vast population, the descendants of the original proprietors of the land (few or none of whom were ever displaced by the aristocratic owners of the soil) had been at work upon it; they had fenced and enclosed and ultimately brought under cultivation the waste and wild lands; they had so raised the value of the property from what we have seen it, that the valuation of the property, including church land, in 1843 was about £46,395 per annum, and their own numbers had increased to 44,107 souls. Yet during all that number of years, whilst these toiling thousands were creating wealth, almost fabulous in amount for a foreign landlord, and were ever and ever adding to the value of his capital in land, the barest subsistence only was left to them who were without the power of legislation or means of removing the evils of their condition. During all that time, although numerous statutes had been passed to enforce the rights of the landlord, not one had been passed in favour of the tenant. Their state had been for nearly three centuries, and then was, most pitiable. Upon these multitudes of thousands, succeeding each other in successive generations of many thousands each, no ray of hope ever dawned from their cradles to their graves. In all those multitudes no fathers were born that could press their children to their hearts with a know- page 13 ledge that they could leave to them even the very humblest heritage, earned for them by their toil. All they or their children could hope for was to obtain, after the keenest competition, the temporary use of a spot of land on which to exercise their industry. The tenants' very improvements went to swell the accumulations of the heirs of an absentee, not of his own. Of all the produce of his industry he could retain barely sufficient to feed himself, his wife and children on the meanest fare, and to clothe them in rags. He could save nothing to meet times of dearth or want if such came, from having been denied all power of legislation, and of considering and providing for his necessities as a citizen; he had lost the faculty of so doing and was as it were, paralyzed. In such evil days of want people succumbed to their fate almost without a struggle. They died in their mountain glens; they died along the sea coast; they died on the roads; and they died in the fields; they wandered into the towns, and died in the streets; they closed their cabin doors, and lay down upon their beds, and died of actual starvation in their houses."
I am tempted to go on quoting from this most eloquent letter of Sir George Grey. Never to my mind has the case been more clearly put; primogeniture and entail in all their naked reality. Aristocracy in its true colours, stripped of its tinsel and rouge. And the end and aim of all this? For what was this vast human sacrifice? What was the great national benefit to accrue from the tears, the toil, the life-long misery of so many thousands of God's creatures? To produce a modern nobleman, a man who is usually precisely like any other well-fed human being, too often one page 14 as ignoble as a boor, and often miserable himself because idle. There are certain Indian tribes who fatten alligators and nourish sacred monkeys, and if these bloated animals devour or injure themselves or offspring, they worship them all the more. We laugh at these abject superstitions, and yet, in what does our conduct differ from their? They worship the animals; if one of our nobles leads an ignoble animal life, he is still worshipped by virtue of his wealth and title. Now had there been no primogeniture and entail this estate would have descended to sons and daughters equally, to grandsons and granddaughters until, in the multitude of descendants, the wrong of the original robbery would have been forgotten and its results innocuous. Nature if left to herself has a sweet healing property. This system of aristocracy is a system of human bungling that interferes with nature's laws, producing thereby indefinite human misery. It is nothing less than an attempt to render a family immortal and unchangeable. Let us suppose if we can that a nobleman drank the fabulous potion that ensured immortality. After a certain number of years what a nuisance he would become, what gigantic accumulations of wealth he would acquire, what evil power he would have, how selfish and antiquated would be his notions! Hence we should realize that death is a perfectly wise ordinance of God in seeing such an exception, and so it is with this mischievous system which thus gives a sort of immortality to families based on wealth, irrespective of virtue, wisdom, or goodness.
And this is the system that nine-tenths of the established clergy support. A clergy established to preach the gospel page 15 of Christ, who distinctly advocated the distribution of wealth, who denounced luxury, ostentation, and human vanity, and who passed through life pleading the cause of the poor and needy.
Some people have asserted that Absenteeism is the great evil of Ireland. Assuming that society, where the many are doomed to toil for one drone, is a healthy condition of the social system, assuming that the rich juices of the body ought to go to nourish a wen, then it would appear as if the drone had better stay and drop a few of his sovereigns round about him, but I deny that such is a healthy social state, and I further say that the presence of the landlord is often a great evil. A man cultivating a farm in Wales, and paying his rent to, let us say, an old lady in London, is often in a far better position than one close to the Hall. He is not overrun with game, he is not spied on and bullied by the game keeper, he is not plagued about going or not going to church, for strange to say the man who receives the rent has sometimes the impertinence to interfere with the tenant's conscience. In short the tenant who is away from his landlord is not "looked after," and therefore leads a more independent and manlier existence. As for the money the landlord spends on the spot it is not worth consideration. If the whole of the landlords of England were to live permanently in London, they would still require country produce, the same money would be given for it.
But let us reflect on the position of this favoured being on his own estate. He is, as we all know, a little prince in power and influence. A man of very exceptional virtues has an immense scope for doing good, but how page 16 many men of such sort are there! You may have a man of the noblest character, of the very best intentions, of lavish charity, and he may do actually more harm in such a position than a miser or a sot. The good man may have some mischievous crotchet, he may have an ideal view of "the good old times," and may join with some high church parson to bring back the middle ages, or what they take to be the middle ages, and he may demoralize a whole parish by almsgiving and trying to be the patriarch. But the ordinary country squire, whether or not he has a handle to his name (and this after all is the difference between a squire and a noble), is just like any other man brought up in a bad school, and with unusual powers. He is a magistrate as a mattter of course, and we all know that there are lads not long ago whipped at school who take their seats on the bench to try poachers and others, a sight that in any other country would be scandalous, and which has brought Justice's justice into proverbial contempt. He and his squire neighbours have all the county administration in their hands, the farmers and the labourers who, after all, are the makers of the wealth, have not a voice in the choice of the magistrates who administer the main public expenditure. Then the social power of the landlord and his class is absolute. The parson defers to him, the lawyer truckles to him, the doctor dare not offend him, the tradesmen may as well shut up shop as contradict him in anything, the farmers (with a six month's notice to quit hanging over their heads) can hardly call their souls their own. Indeed this is a literal fact, for the clergyman claims their souls as belonging to the church.page 17
But let us inquire for a moment whether this state of things is good for cultivation. Surely we all have an interest in this question. Arthur Young says :—"Give a man the secure possession of a bleak rock, and he will turn it into a garden; give him a nine years' lease of a garden, and he will convert it into a desert." Now to whom does an English entailed estate belong? Not to the so-called owner, for he has only what is called a "life interest" in it. It may be said that no one can have more than a life interest in any property, but a life interest in an entailed estate is a very different thing from a life ownership. The squire coming into an entailed estate finds probably all sorts of charges upon it, dowagers and pensioners have to be provided for out of it. He cannot sell a portion of it as it belongs in part to a child in the cradle or even unborn. Perhaps a town is growing out towards some of his estate, a neighbouring manufacturer would give £1,000 an acre for some of his land, whereon he might erect large works, give employment to hundreds, and open a capital market for farm produce, but no, the land is locked up, nothing can be done, and even if the squire or lord could sell a portion, he does not like to have his game preserves disturbed, and so he wont. Perhaps a congregation of Baptists or Methodists wants a place of worship, and offers the landlord a fair sum for a plot of ground. How can he encourage dissenters? Why can they not go to the parish church, where perhaps last year evangelicalism was preached, but now it is adorned with flowers and pictures, and a sort of mass is performed. The bailiff suggests sundry improvements, the cost of which he estimates at £3,000 or £4,000. But if page 18 the squire spends all that money out of his own pocket, he makes a present of that sum to his eldest son, who is to have all, and so robs his younger children—consequently the projected improvements are cancelled. In short, the estate does not belong to the so-called owner, there is not the sense of property in it that makes the rock a garden. Well then, is there this sense of property on the part of the farmers? How can a farmer throw his soul into farming, as well as skill and capital, when he may any day receive a six months* notice to quit? He may be denounced by the gamekeeper, he may quarrel with his landlord, or his landlord's flunkeys, and then away goes the fruit of his skill, industry, and providence, and his home is broken up. Surely it is evident that there is no sense of property under this system, and therefore no encouragement to cultivation.
Have the labourers then any sense of property? I declare that I have travelled all over Europe, and in many parts of Asia and Africa—I never saw any cultivators of the soil in such an abject state of degradation as are the peasantry of England, excepting perhaps the fellahs of Egypt. If any one wishes to defend the aristocratic system his opponent need not trouble himself with any elaborate arguments to refute anything he may say, he has only to point to the peasantry of Great Britain as a practical illustration of the system.
Has any one of my readers ever wished to purchase a piece of land? I know of no healthier or more wholesome ambition in the breast of an industrious man than the desire to possess a piece of laud of his own, which he might page 19 spend his days in cultivating, and there is nothing that a Government ought to encourage more.
But just try to buy a bit of land. Step into an auction room and bid for a small plot, say three or four hundred pounds' worth. From the moment it is knocked down to you, for weeks or months to come your life will be a burden to you. Attorneys will infest you with their parchments and horrible jargon, the meaning of which you can scarcely guess at, the only thing clear about it being that you are going to be legally and respectably garrotted and fleeced. I have heard of a hard-working poor man who, after a lifetime of industry, ventured to bid for his cottage and garden which, with the rest of a large property, was for sale. It was knocked down to him for £100, and, "now," thought he, "I will make that bit of ground a model garden." He began at once to dig and trench, to drain, to manure, to plant, he was a happy man, he was working not only for this year, but for the next, and the year after that he would raise the value of it considerably, and when he died, the sale thereof would go far to keep his widow in comfort for the remainder of her days. His bit of money was all ready, £100 and a few pounds besides for incidental expenses. He supposed the lawyer would have a bill, be had heard those sort of gentry were dangerous customers, but surely a £5 note at the outside would satisfy him for the bits of papers necessary for a cottage and garden.
A good time elapsed before he heard from the lawyer, meantime the poor man was living, in what is termed, a fool's paradise. At length about a barrow full of parchments came, which were to make the purchase secure. The page 20 lawyer's bill was over £150. He had had to go through the title deeds of a large estate. I need not add the poor man was utterly ruined.
This, of course, is an extreme instance, but it is a true one, and by no means an improbable one. But I defy any one to contradict the assertion, that if you buy one hundred pounds' worth of land, you will have from twenty to thirty pounds to pay in legal expenses. This is monstrous. If you buy a hundred-guinea horse have you to pay twenty pounds to some one for passing it over? If you buy a hundred pounds' worth of hay have you to pay thirty pounds (not for hauling or stacking), but simply for taking possession? Supposing you had a ship load of wool to send to Prance, you would, of course, have a considerable sum to pay for the conveyance, and you would not grumble, but if you wished only to send a sample, and so despatch two pounds of wool, what would be your feelings if you had to pay as much for the conveyance of your small parcel as for the ship-load? And supposing this were the rule, why, of course, no small parcels would be conveyed, neither are small parcels of land conveyed from seller to buyer in England, except amongst rich men, on account of the monstrous charges. The cause of all this mischievous complication is the supposed necessity for an aristocracy.
Now, let me ask what an aristocrat is? We need not go far into the definition of the word. It is composed of two Greek words, signifying the rule of the best. In this country a rich man is assumed to be the best man. As a matter of fact, any one who buys an estate and entails it, is an aristocrat.page 21
And what, after all, is the usual origin of the modern aristocrat? In the iron age, war was the road to fortune; in the present golden age, commerce and money-making—per fas et nefas. I do not say that the modern road to rank is less worthy than the ancient, but it is not more noble. The stock-broker, the projector of bubble companies, and in Wales especially, the unscrupulous attorneys and moneylenders share with those whose fortunes are built up by a life of commercial enterprise, combined with blameless integrity, the honours of landed proprietorship. No one would envy these men their fortunes, but is there anything so transcendentally noble in the art of money-making that the lucky ones should be formed into a privileged class, and that our laws and constitution should be vitiated to do them honour!
No sooner has a man made his fortune than he wants to be a sort of feudal chief amongst his tenantry. He has children, and he begins by disinheriting all but one, the eldest son, after the manner of the warriors of Normandy!
One might suppose that when a father gathers around him his chubby bairns by the fire-side he would love them equally, that Johnny the eldest would not be loved more than the bright-eyed Tommy, and the mild-eyed little Mary, but this wretched sham of a modem feudalism bids the man whose breast is swollen with a mean ambition, to ape his wealthier neighbours, to sacrifice his younger sons and daughters, to allow the latter, if they don't marry, to wear out their lives in some mean lodgings in a mean provincial town. I have known "eldest sons" made on page 22 £2,000, and even £1,000 a year, and when feudal rank had to be kept on such sums, what must have been the miserable pittances of the poor unmarried daughters?
But perhaps our sharp attorney may have accumulated £5,000, or even £10,000 a year, and thus become a territorial aristocrat. Of course, in one of those books, written by a sort of literary pander for the unwholesome passions of these rich upstarts, there appears a long and stately pedigree of Mr Brown, whose father probably drove pigs to market before he put his son into Cheatem's office as errand boy. There are but faint traditions of old grand-father Brown, a day labourer possibly, but all the common names of England and Wales are to be found in the peerage, and the arms of the Earl of Derby, or some other magnate, are forthwith assumed on the strength of the family names.
Perhaps Brown's ambition soars higher and he longs for a title, something hereditary, to transmit with his estate. Now let us reflect for a moment on the monstrous absurdity of an hereditary mark of honour. A man may do some great deed, he may codify our laws, or defeat our enemies, and the country will delight to honour him by a title, but what has his son done for us? He may be a respectable and worthy man, or he may be a rogue, still he is to bear a title of honour and in many cases even to govern us.
Our friend the supposed lawyer or tradesman is ambitious of a title. He has spent his life in collecting the coin of the realm and has dirtied his fingers considerably in the process, he has never been proved or even suspected of one generous or noble action. The dispositions to do page 23 such seldom belong to successful money-collectors. How then can he acquire a title, the reward of distinguished service to the State! He offers himself to some corrupt and beery constituency as a Candidate for Parliament and spends a few thousands in corrupting the poor. How we sneer at the influence of the "almighty dollar" in America and yet how we honour it here. Let the greatest philosopher appear in the lists against the man with £5,000 to spend and philosophy goes to the wall; beer is in the ascendant (Smith spent more than £5,000). Our friend of course obtains a seat in Parliament, and he either votes persistently with the Minister of the day, or he adroitly changes his creed at some critical moment when parties are evenly balanced, and so he becomes a baronet or a lord, and not only he but his son succeeds him as such.
But it is of more interest to us to enquire about him as a landlord. Now what is a landlord? He is simply a man who has invested his money in land or inherits money so invested. He owns the land, and a certain number of farmers pay him a yearly sum for the privilege of cultivating it, the proceeds being of course the profit, out of which the rent is paid. Everything produced on the land belongs by law to the farmer, including of course the game which feeds on the crops. Usually but not always, the landlord makes an agreement with the tenant to give up the game to him (the landlord), and this may fairly be done, but not unfrequently a shabby fraud is perpetrated by the latter, who, taking advantage of the vagueness of the agreement, and of the dependant position of the tenant, keeps a far greater amount of game than the page 24 tenant ever anticipated, whereby much profit ensues by the sale of this game at the poulterers. The fine old sport of shooting has miserably degenerated of late years. Many of us delight in roving the woods and fields after wild animals, calling to our aid the marvellous instinct and sagacity of the dog, so beautifully trained and so delighting in the pursuit himself, and no farmer that ever I heard of objected to the presence of a moderate amount of game. The number of these animals that the land will bear depends of course upon the state of cultivation, but I have seen high farming carried on by men who did not object even to a few hares, and I can scarcely conceive of farmers who would mind a few covies of partridges, especially if they were to share in the sport, which ought always to be the case. But sport in the old sense of the word is extinct, and the so-called sportsman of the present day thinks of nothing but killing. The best part of the sport used to be the finding the game—that in at an end, the game is as easily found as the chickens in a farm-yard and almost as tame. A well-preserved estate is guarded all the year round by an army of keepers. The rural police is called to their aid, all the eggs and milk in the neighbourhood are bought up to feed the young pheasants, and people wishing to have a day's holiday in the country, nutting or blackberry gathering, are warned off; the beauties of the country are not for them.
If the fanners complain that their turnips are destroyed by animals that nibble and spoil ten roots for one they eat, they run a very good chance of losing their farms, and this I maintain is downright robbery. When a man, who page 25 has put money, skill and labour into the land for years, is turned out at six months' or a year's notice without due compensation, that man is as distinctly robbed by his landlord as if he had picked his pocket. That this is done not unfrequently we all know; that the fear of it hangs like a nightmare over thousands of farmers' heads is unquestionable; and that we must have a Tenant-right Bill for England, Scotland and Wales is as clear as noonday.
A writer in the Field newspaper, an organ of the landlords, preaches a long sermon to the unreasonable farmers. He seems to think it monstrous that the landlord cannot have an enormous shooting rent as well as a farming rent,—the game which brings the former being fed of course at the expense of the tenants.
"Beware then in time," he says, "and listen to a tale that is strictly true. Some twenty years ago a friend of mine, who had a good estate let very low—no leases—a good many hares, of which he was most liberal to his tenants, allowing them, too, always to course on proper application, received a 'round robin' from his farmers complaining of the hares. He was in London; so summoning them to be on a certain day at the steward's office he met them there, and, holding out their letter, asked if that was their production. Of course they answered that it was. 'Then, gentlemen, I give you all notice to quit your farms; gentlemen, good morning.' And he returned to town that night. Shortly afterwards he received another letter, begging to recall their first, and asking him to come down again to meet them. Accordingly my friend went. 'You wish to recall your letter I hear?' 'Certainly,' was the page 26 unanimous answer. 'Now then, gentlemen, that being the case, I shall have all your farms valued by a fair and competent man, and you shall have the option of retaining them or not at such valuation. Gentlemen, I wish you good morning.' Accordingly the valuation took place, and, with the exception of one farm, the rent was raised 25 per cent., at which advance the farmers were very glad to retake them; and my friend never heard any more about hares. He had looked well into the matter, and had made all his arrangements to take all his farms into his own hands. There are many perfectly prepared, if it is to be forced on them, to adopt the same course."
The writer seems to believe that a body of British farmers are to go on from generation to generation suffering this sort of thing, but I venture to think that he is much mistaken.
In other matters besides game the landlord often seems to have outrageous ideas. After all his proper functions are little more than those of a money-lender with a mortgage on the farm. He is a capitalist and he invests his money in the productive soil, and, in England, in farm building, gates, and sundry other matters. We often hear of a good landlord, one who spends his money on the improvement of his estate, and he is usually held up to our admiration as something a little lower than the angels. In what other trade, profession, or business would a man be held up for our admiration who invested his money in plant, machinery, and the like, looking of course for a proportionate profit, and yet a landlord who does this is lauded to the skies!page 27
But there are landlords, and I have known such, who never lose an opportunity of defrauding their tenants in such matters as the repair of out-buildings, &c., and who are not ashamed to raise their rents the moment the farm as become more valuable by the labour of the tenant. Now the very essence of property is the product of a man's labour, and the landlord who is ever ready to raise the rent on the slightest pretext is morally, if not legally, a thief. I need hardly say that human laws are very imperfect, and that their are many thieves at large who deserve to be on the treadmill.
A man occupying a farm, and doing his duty by it, acquires a certain property in the land beyond that of the mere money-lender who has bought it, and the state of things is imperfect where a landowner can suddenly turn out of their homes fourteen or fifteen tenants to make room for a man with more money, when many of these hard-working men had taken these farms from the hands of their fathers and great-grandfathers, and increased the value considerably by their skill and labour, and yet I have known this done.
We may imagine almost any freak on the part of the capitalist. He might own a province and clear away all the natives to introduce Chinese or some other strange people, or he might lay waste a great part of it to devote it to game. The latter is the more extravagant freak of the two, and yet, strange to say, it has been done, not in Timbuctoo, but in Great Britain. Thousands of families, good, honest, God-fearing Christians, the men who furnished some of our best soldiers and sailors, have been, during the page 28 last century, cleared off the country to make room for red deer in order to afford sport for the rich! This is landlordism, and is surely proof sufficient that there is still room for improvement in our laws; that the soil, the earth, the source of our very bodies, belongs more or less to every one who has a right to live, and that there should be no absolute private property in land, that the holding of land should be more subject to the requirements of the community, that no year-to-year-tenantry, slaves to the caprices of one man should be allowed, but that contracts between landlord and tenant should be subservient to the good of the community, and to the productiveness of the soil.
Does it not stand to reason that if a man is safe from capricious eviction he will farm better, and if he farms better it is equally obvious that his labours (with those of his kind) tend to cheapen food—and legislation leading to this the community has a right to demand.
But of all the monstrous claims that the landlord has put forward, that of coercing his tenant's votes is about the most flagitious, and yet, before the ballot, the landlords of England and Scotland usually, and of Wales almost universally looked upon the votes of their tenants as absolutely their own, and were guilty of great cruelty in punishing their tenants, and of abominable dishonesty in possessing themselves of the unexhausted improvements of their discharged tenants, and of great meanness in trying to deny their deeds.
Since the people of England are divorced from their soil in order to keep up an aristocracy, a privileged class of page 29 beings, we may enquire how far the system benefits us or the reverse. It is often said that it is the source of England's greatness, that all our great deeds are performed by younger sons who, by their poverty, are stimulated to exertion and so distinguish themselves. If poverty be such a benefit to the younger sons why deprive the elder ones of the boon? Thus we come to the socialist doctrine that would forbid the inheritance of any wealth. Then again it is said that the system secures a leisured class which can devote itself to the cultivation of the graces and of science. Now this is a very pretty theory, but as a matter of fact it does not hold water. Doubtless there are amongst our landlords a fair proportion of men who cultivate literature, art, and I was going to say science, but really I do not know more than, perhaps, two scientific names amongst our aristocracy; as a class they do not cultivate such things, but instead thereof, dogs, horses and game, very good things in their way but which can scarcely justify the existence of an aristocracy. Literature mainly flourishes amongst quite another class, and countries which have discarded the system, such as France, are foremost in art, science and literature. Wealth with the ease, luxury, and social distractions it entails is positively adverse to the higher pursuits of life. You will of course see the names and titles of magnates presiding over learned societies, but this is pure flunkeyism which has eaten into our social system. The names of Faraday, Huxley, Tyndal, Buckle, Lecky, Mill, Darwin, &c., are not those of landlords.
It is said again that this system secures a centre of page 30 light and cultivation in every district or parish which might otherwise be left to ignorant boors. This too I deny. Our estates are becoming larger and larger, and are swallowing up not only the few yeomen left but even the smaller squires. During the greater part of the year the Hall is shut up and the domain handed over to gamekeepers. After the London season the Hall is re-occupied and the lord brings his own society with him, and after a carnival of pheasant slaughtering the place is again empty. I fail to see the light which is said to shine from such a scource. On the contrary it appears to me to be darkness visible. If our land system were done away with and land made free we might then expect many gentlemen of moderate means, graduates of Universities, and the like, to try their hands at farming, for after all many such yearn for the tranquil and natural enjoyments of the country, and such an element as this would assuredly bring light into dark places. Instead of wallowing in mere slaughter they would unravel the mysteries of nature and give an impetus to agriculture.
The fact is the system is a sham, a miserable copy of what was once a real military organization. It has crept on us by degrees as a baleful growth, and has corrupted the minds and manners of our population in proportion to its growth. Thus it is that wealth, mere wealth independent of talent, (unless money-making may be dignified by the term, financial talent), of virtue, of public service, is idolized and can command anything. A mere banker, or pawnbroker, whose god is in his cash-box, whose manners are those of a boor, can nevertheless page 31 command not only a title but the right to govern us, and not only he but his posterity, quite independent of their capacities.
There used to be an old superstition concerning blood and race which, I believe, even yet lingers in the brains of love-sick milliners who read third-rate novels. It was supposed that the members of the House of Lords were of a finer breed than the rest of men. I do not deny for a moment that an aristocracy might be produced by careful selection of the finest specimens of the human race to breed from, but our aristocracy, the oldest families I mean, have married all sorts of women, sometimes for their beauty, sometimes for their free and easy virtue, but oftenest for their money, quite irrespective of their birth. I need not remind my farming friends that if they were to mix their stock anyhow, or turn out their racing stallions and mares amongst their cart stock, they would have some queer progeny. In the course of a few years, when the prize animals had died off, how could they boast of the queer crosses that remained? And thus it is with our aristocracy. They are no worse than any other class, but assuredly they are no better than any other set of people equally well fed. That we have a genuine aristocracy in England is most certain, and it is one that God made, not man. It belongs to no class, but scions of it spring from the cottage and from the hall. When shall we leave our base idols of clay and recognize sterling metal when we see it? Occasionally but rarely, a genuine man like Lawrence, or Clyde, is admitted into the House of Lords, but he must be rich or page 32 he must be childless, and in the former case he must consent to be cruel and unjust to his younger children. But for one such man as those named there are twenty others who are "enabled" as it is called simply for their money bags. The Israelites were punished for once worshipping the golden calf; we have built a temple for the same worship and the bishops of our church are the high priests thereof.
But even a genuine nobleman, a man who has really served his country, does not necessarily reproduce his kind, his eldest son may possibly resemble his father, but in all probability he is very unlike him. Solomon was a wise man and a good king, but Rehoboam was a fool and a bad king. Nothing can be more irrational than to reward the eldest sons of the posterity of a man who has done a great and good service to the nation; it would be quite as just or unjust to put the eldest sons of the Russell family on the treadmill, because their ancestor in Henry the VIII.'s reign plundered church property.
How monstrous is it to invent a system to protect and keep wealthy the supposed best of the earth. They can only prove themselves to be the best by surpassing their fellow creatures in an equal race during life. Do you give the favourite horse in a race any advantages?
But no human system ever did produce an aristocracy. Several of what are called our "noblest" families are the adulterous fruit of lecherous kings and loose women, and in the present day it would, in fashionable life, be esteemed an honour to be allied to these ennobled (!) families. Thus the system of Brummagem tinsel-nobility is apt to debase page 33 even public opinion and demoralise society. Surely in this nineteenth century we should outgrow such puerilities and regard a man for what he is and for what he has done, not for what some possible ancestor is supposed to have done, least of all when his supposed ancestors have only their vices to boast of.
"A King may mak' a belted Knight
A Marquis, Duke, or a' that,
But an honest man's a boon his might
A man's a man for a' that."
Thus sang Burns, one of God's noblemen, who could hardly breathe in the foetid air of modern flunkeyism.
But by far the most sad and serious feature in our land system is the condition of our agricultural labourers. In 1863 the Privy Council appointed Mr. Simon, the distinguished officer of health, to conduct an enquiry into the condition of the agricultural population. The revelations were awful—families, not belonging to the pauper or criminal classes, but families of hard working English agriculturalists, brought up under the squire and parson, and taught "to learn and labour truly," to be "true and just in all their dealings," and "to order themselves lowly and reverently to all their betters," such families I say, were found lying crowded in small rooms, wallowing in beastiality. Fathers, mothers, adult sons, and daughters, and lodgers in circumstances impossible for decency, impossible for virtue, while within a stone's throw the squire's horses and dogs were lodged sumptuously and fed luxuriously. Mr. Simon found and recorded the fact, that large bodies of these wealth-producing people were existing on less food than scientific men during the Lancashire famine page 34 had decided as the lowest diet necessary for health. How could it be otherwise when the wages in some parts of the country were as low as 7s. a week? In some counties, as Lincolnshire, the landed proprietors have cleared thousands of acres of all human habitations, thereby driving the poor into the crowded slums of towns, and the land was then worked by agricultural gangs of youths and girls, whose morals had fallen lower than those of animals, whose mouths were full of ribald and obscene language, poor girls who might have lived to be happy decent mothers, now driven about from place to place, sleeping in sheds promiscuously with youths, lost to all sense of sweet maidenly chastity, and this is the result of our gentry "doing what they like with their own." The noble men and women who, before God, are responsible for all this, crowd the churches weekly, where, amidst creeds, dogmas, and the great organized system that has usurped the name of Christianity, their consciences are killed outright. These are facts, shameful, awful facts, which ought to burn into the consciences of each and all of us. What is our church doing, what are the ministers of religion about?
Is it not a solemn mockery to teach the poor contentment with their lot when their lot is more wretched than the condition of animals, and when religion and morality are impossible in the miserable styes into which they are driven?
I appeal to Conservatives, to those who tremble, or profess to tremble at the revolutionary tendencies of the age, and who are calling on Mrs. Partington to bring her mop and stay the advance of the Atlantic ocean. I ask page 35 these gentlemen if that is a safe condition of any social system where there is such a mass of poverty and misery at its base. One half of England is owned by one hundred and fifty, and nineteen and a half millions of acres in Scotland are owned by twelve persons. Men are living in such luxury as to rival the worst days of Imperial Rome, and millions can scarce buy bread. No society can call itself stable on such a foundation. Then we have the vast democracy of the towns who now have votes, and the labourers of the country who are determined to have them.
Now would it not be as well to let these men have a fair chance of having a stake in the country in the shape of some land of their own, which the most provident or industrious of them would soon acquire if they had a fair chance. True they might disturb your game, but beware lest you lose more than your game. We do not call on you to part with one penny of your property, nay, every acre you have would increase in value with the increased fertility of the country, when small landowners and peasant proprietors had begun to turn waste land into gardens, but we ask you to relax your stupid Conservatism, based as it is on the most short-sighted, purse-proud selfishness, we ask you to give up the mean ambition of continuing your ignoble names as associated with the property your father bought, or your grandfather acquired honestly or dishonestly.
Be just to your own flesh and blood and refuse to stifle the natural affections of your hearts in favour of this unworthy system. Break through the trammels of a vile superstition requiring such human sacrifices. Set free the page 36 land and restore Old England to something like its former condition when, as in Henry VI.'s time, peasants were en-joined not to eat meat more than once a day and not to wear belts with silver ornaments. And I tell you farmers and employers of agricultural labour, that while you have wrongs to endure those below you have ten times worse to suffer. I tell you that it is downright bad economy to underpay your labourers and then look to the rates to keep them alive, Help us then to make the land free, to unlose the shackles of industry and to make it possible for a provident man to invest in the soil. *
* Is he to be told that he is but a madman to buy a piece of land, because the net return to the rich man is but 2 ½ per cent., while he himself is investing his savings at 2 ¾, or at best at 3."—Wren Hoskins.
for it does no harm to the community and requires not the sacrifice of the natural affections.
"Pride in a life that slander's tongue defied
In fact a noble passion, mis-named pride,"
There are sentimentalists who may mournfully ask what is to become of our old nobility if the land monopoly is destroyed? It is indeed a sad fact in natural history that some races are inevitably doomed to be improved off the face of the earth or to be absorbed into civilized peoples with the ruthless march of civilization. The noble savage with his war paint, his feathers, his dignity and scorn of base mechanical labour, and his passion for the chase cannot hold his own any more than the noble Peer with his stars and garters, and titles, and dignity, and scorn of base labour, and love of field sports. The fact is that our form of civilization cannot co -exist with such people's, they require too much of the earth's surface for their support, either they will destroy civilization as they have done in some parts of Scotland, and as the Bedouins have done in parts of Syria, clearing away large tracts of cultivated ground and villages, or else the civilized beings must make short work of them. That the tribes of page 38 Peers have hitherto co-existed with civilization merely proves that the latter has been hitherto very imperfect.
In a report of the growth of the Northern Pacific Railway it is said "the exploring parties have in some instances been compelled to fight their way through opposing and hostile Indians, but despite all this have carried their survey successfully to the Yellowstone." For Indians read landowners, and precisely the same story may be old of British Railways. On some lines the surveyors had to work by stealth on dark stormy nights and armed against the gamekeepers and labourers of the Peer, but here the analogy ends, our "Indians" mulcted the nation of more millions than we spent in the great Russian war, and having so despoiled us on the ground of damage to property, they are fabulously enriched by these very roads they opposed. One, and one only, I believe, the late Lord Taunton, returned £20,000 compensation money to the Great Western, which his conscience would not allow him to keep. Such consciences are rare indeed.
The people of the cities little know how much they suffer from the utter want of small cultivators.
In 1869, the year before the great war, France—a country of small proprietors—sent us three millions sterling worth of eggs, butter, poultry and fruit. Precisely the produce of families cultivating their two or three acres, or less. We all know the difficulty there is in England in procuring these necessities in any country place. Our agricultural labourers have to rear their families without milk, their ancestors had abundance, but commons have been gradually, and in many page 39 places most dishonestly taken from the poor, and the possibility of the most provident and industrious obtaining a bit of land is put out of the question. I have travelled much in countries where the land is mainly owned by the cultivators, and have been struck by the careful cultivation, and the evident well-being of the people, and most of all by the absence of that appalling mass of abject slum-population met with in every town in England—large and small—where misery, vice, and disease are nourished as in hot-houses. I remember staying some weeks in the little town of Point à Mousson in France during the war, when it was occupied by the Prussians. When the market day came round, I naturally supposed the market place would be almost deserted; on the contrary, it was crowded with the country women offering a marvellous amount of small produce, such as peas, beans, potatoes, fruit, butter, eggs, and poultry, and all very cheap compared with English prices, but then nearly every country labourer there has his bit of land, his cow, his goats, pigs, &c. Switzerland, too, is a nation of peasant proprietors, and the well-being and industry of that marvellous country are incredible. Switzerland has a soil about the worst in Europe, it has no navigable rivers, no sea board, no mines, and yet it is perhaps the most prosperous country in Europe.
The Engadine is the most elevated, the coldest and least fertile portion of Switzerland, and what says "Inglis," one of our most trusted travellers. "There is not a foot of waste land in the Engadine, the lowest part of which is not much lower than the top of Snowdon. Wherever grass will grow, there it is; where-ever a rock will bear a blade, verdure is seen upon it; wherever rye will succeed there it is cultivated. Barley and page 40 oats have also their appropriate spots; and wherever it is possible to ripen a little patch of wheat, the cultivation of it is attempted." From personal observation I can comfirm every word of this description.
Howitt says, speaking of the Canton of Zurich, "In England, with its great quantity of grass lands and its large farms, so soon as the grain is in, and the fields are shut up for hay grass, the country seems in a comparative state of rest and quiet. But here they are everywhere and forever hoeing and mowing, planting, and cutting, weeding and gathering. They have a succession of crops like a market gardener. They have their carrots, poppies, hemp, flax, sainfoin, lucerne, rape, colewort, cabbage, rutabaga, black turnips, Swedish and white turnips, teazels, Jerusalem artichokes, mangel wurzel, parsnips, kidney beans, vetches, Indian corn, buckwheat, madder, potatoes, their great crop of tobacco, millet—all, or the greater part, under family management in their own family allotments. They have had these things first to sow, many of them to transplant; to hoe, to weed, to clear off insects, to top, many of them to mow and gather in successive crops. They have their water-meadows, of which kind almost all their meadows are, to flood, to mow, and to reflood, water courses to re-open and to make anew; their early fruits to gather, to bring to market with their green crops of vegetables, their cattle, sheep, calves, fowls, and poultry to look after, their vines as they shoot rampantly in the summer heat, to prune and thin out the leaves where they are too thick; and any one may imagine what a scene of incessant labour it is." And I may add, of productive labour. Any English traveller will bear me witness that these peasantry, of the social rank of our own, have stores of linen, page 41 little hoards of coin, and are in a general way as far above our own as are our tenant farmers above our labourers.
|1.||We must have compulsory registration of title and mortgages; and these cheap and simple.|
|2.||No settlement upon unborn persons, nor upon more than two persons in succession.|
|3.||Permission to all life tenants of settled estates to sell any portion of the estate, except the mansion-house and grounds, for the improvement of the remainder, or for investment in the funds for trustees for the benefit of those to which the sold land was subject.|
|4.||A Tenant-right similar to that of Ireland.|
|5.||Equalization of succession duty on real and personal property.|
|6.||An extension of compulsory powers of buying land for the benefit of the community. Whereas a company can now, by special Act of Parliament, purchase property for a railway, I would extend the practice, and allow towns to purchase themselves by compulsory enactment, also to purchase sites for schools, lecture-rooms, and places of worship.|
This idea will, of course, be deemed one of confiscation and robbery. There are several landowners in England who have opposed railways and every single attempt at improvement made by the towns in which their property was situated. In spite of themselves, however, in many cases, and in all cases, without the slightest exertion or sacrifice, or investment on their parts, but solely by the industry and providence of others, page 42 these men have been enormously enriched, in other words, they have lawfully taken possession of the earnings of other men. Some people might suggest that this looked like legal robbery. I would meet it by legally empowering the town or city to pay the landowners the full value of their property, and making it communal. I fail to see as much robbery in this plan as in the present state of affairs.
7.—It is necessary to separate political power from landowning. The county rate should be levied and administered by an elective assembly, not by the county magistracy. These latter should be replaced by stipendiaries.
8.—The equal succession to real property, in case of intestacy, is scarcely worth mentioning. This trifling tribute to common justice is about to pass the legislature, let us hope, in a few months. That it has so long been resisted is a striking proof of the prejudices of Parliaments of Landlords. And here I would remark that at last the Scotch farmers are opening their eyes to Landlordism in Parliament, and if the electors of England and Wales follow suit, we may hope to have the House of Commons at least, less of a trade's union, whose partial legislation has been shown in the unjust and one-sided law of Hypothec, and who quite recently condemned the large and important city of Birmingham to disease and filth, rather than incommode slightly Sir Robert Peel and Sir Charles Adderly by the compulsory purchase of a piece of land for the sewage works. Thousands of poor citizens are to suffer discomfort, disease, and death rather than that the rich man should be annoyed.
The House of Lords, too, must be remodelled. At present it is an institution adapted to check every national aspiration page 43 towards a higher life. A Chamber, containing as every chance-medley collection of Englishmen inevitably contains, a few able and eloquent men, but the mass of whose members is simply composed of wealthy mediocrities—this house, too, rests mainly on entail and primogeniture, and no patriotic Englishmen, not blinded by class prejudice, can fail to see that the country cannot possibly progress satisfactorily under the blighting influence of a hereditary house, which is simply a trades' union of landed proprietors. I defy any one to read the History of England for even a short period, say the last forty years, without being disgusted at the alternate obstructive obstinacy and contemptible weakness shown by what ought to be our highest and best deliberative assembly.
I am well aware that there is much open to criticism in the foregoing pages, but they are a humble contribution to the political offerings of the day. They are addressed mainly to the agriculturalists of England, who, after all, have more power than perhaps they are aware of. They have only faithfully to record their votes for those candidates who are averse to privilege and monopoly, and we shall see, even in our own day, a healthier system of land tenure in England, and in time the land may even come to belong mainly to the cultivators, large and small, which is the healthiest and most natural condition of any country.
Kerby & Endean, Printers, 190, Oxford Street, London.