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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30

Land Nationalisation Society. — Protest to our Fellow-Citizens

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Land Nationalisation Society.

Protest to our Fellow-Citizens

Much as is necessary to be said on foreign, on Indian, on Irish, and on Colonial affairs, on perpetual annexations of territory, perpetual wars and expensive establishments thence resulting, with grave dangers accumulating from foreign sentiment against us; yet we now confine our protest to English home affairs.

We lament to find in this highly intelligent and industrious community:—
1.An ever increasing contrast of Wealth and Poverty, with numbers of people willing to work, but often forced into unwilling idleness.
2.A mass of degraded population.
3.Danger from the power of vast wealth, which is able to use such a population as tools of riot.
4.A huge National Debt not sensibly diminished in long years of fiscal prosperity.
5.A baneful encouragement given to Municipal mortgaging of the taxes.
6.Bankruptcy an inveterate disease, caused by the system of universal indebtedness.
7.Increase of huge towns by rural misery draining into them, and turning them into sinks.
8.Dangerous dependence on the foreigner for food which our own fields ought to supply, while the capital which would cultivate them is largely sent abroad.

All these phenomena are marks of a community moving towards ruin or revolution, especially when complicated by a centralised system, in which Parliament and the Executive are both enormously overworked.

We do not deny nor overlook the vices of a serious fraction of our people, and the prevalent imprudence of vast numbers; but these very weaknesses are a result made inveterate by their wrongful position. No other great nation has been driven to live by the million on the uncertainty of wages. Imprudence must be calculated on, when prudence cannot secure men's welfare; while they are dependent on foreign markets, on the sagacity of an employer, or on a farmer who is periodically sponged by his landlord. The Wages Fund of which many economists talk is emptied by foreign wars and exportation of capital.

Our poorer classes have been always under the despotism of law made by others. The rulers are as open to blame for the chronic vices of the ruled, as are parents for the mismanagement of children.

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We charge all these domestic evils on the landlord class, who have always been predominant in law-making, and for more than two centuries have decisively controlled public policy. The landlord power weighs not less heavily on the nation collectively than on the farmers individually. No relief will be effected until this power is totally removed. To hold the land is to hold command over the nation's life.

The recent land law for Ireland has confessed, what we all deeply know, that the landlord has no moral right to appropriate improvements made by a tenant's labour, to say nothing of his capital. Ireland has practically suffered more than England; but when like deeds are perpetrated in Great Britain, the Home Secretary does but lament that the landlord has used his extreme legal rights. * In all three kingdoms landlord legislation has made summum jus to be summa injuria. Hereby, as well as by so evading of just taxation as to have defrauded the nation of millions hard to calculate, the landlord class has lowered—we may say has forfeited—its moral status. We do not overlook the innocence of more recent purchasers of land, yet the class collectively, by reason of its scandalous history, ought not to be bought out of its wrongful powers by any calculations of the market. They ought to receive only reasonable allowance, as well in Great Britain as in Ireland.

To attain necessary justice for the future, we claim the six following points as essential:—
1.That all powers of the Landlord shall cease, and rents become due to the State.
2.That the rents be paid into Local Land Courts, which alone shall exercise (under solemn forms of justice) any of the present landlords' rights. Especially every Court shall be empowered, when desired by tenants, to divide farms, to lower unjust rents, and to limit the size of estates when the interests of a locality demand such limitation.
3.That, rents being duly paid, all power of interference with the cultivator shall be abolished.
4.There shall be no sub-letting, except for limited periods, and by special permission of the Courts.
5.In order to avoid the necessity of management, either by the central or local authorities, with its inevitable cost, favouritism, and jobbery, every future holder of land shall become owner of the improvements upon it (or tenant-right), either by immediate purchase, or by paying a terminable rental, while the land itself shall be held from the State at a fixed quit-rent.
6.That the evicted landlords shall receive consideration for equitable claims in the form of terminable annuities.

In the interval, before so great a measure can be made law, we claim further:—

That the State shall never lessen, but always seek to increase the National Domain.

That, as one means of increase, the Legacy Tax on landed property shall be paid in land, which the Executive cannot squander.

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That the existing Crown lands shall be administered by Local Land Courts under rules of justice, no longer by the favouritism and jobbery of the Executive.

That peasant cultivators paying a quit-rent be fostered.

In this statement an important topic has been omitted, to which the nation must turn close attention—that of Town Land.

The above Protest, originally drawn up by Professor F. W. Newman, is issued by the Society in the hope of its being extensively signed, preparatory to further action. The Protest, signed as fully as possible, should be returned to the Treasurer, A. C. Swinton, Maybank, The Avenue, Upper Norwood, London, S.E., from whom further copies may be had.

I approve the above Protest.


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* [Note.—For details of intolerable injustice in this century see Wallace's Land Nationalisation."]