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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 56

Land Law Reform. — Leaflet No. XL

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Land Law Reform.

Leaflet No. XL

Cobden Club Motto
Kensington Park Gardens, W., July 6.

Dear Mr. Bright,

The time is ripe for promoting practical measures of land law reform and for urging such measures upon the attention of those who will have to elect the next House of Commons.

For the interested consideration of such proposals the present circumstances of agriculture are extremely favourable.

With the intention of renewing such efforts as I have made in that direction, I wish to ask your opinion of the following programme. I believe it would establish that policy of "free land" of which you were one of the earliest advocates.

1.Abolition of the law of primogeniture.
2.Abolition of copyhold and customary tenure.
3.Prohibition of settlement of land upon unborn persons, and of the general power of creating life estates in land.
4.Conveyance by registration of title. All interests in the property registered to be recorded.
5.Provision for the sale of encumbered settled property.

Our present laws encourage separation of ownership from occupation of land. That tendency is not in harmony with the general interests of the people.

The position of the occupier demands fuller security; such, at least, as Sir James Caird suggested by way of amendment of the Agricultural Holdings Act, in order to secure the sitting tenant against liability to lose his share of increased letting value consequent upon his improvements, by a rise of rent or by exaction of an unfair rent, to which he can offer no resistance except by notice to quit, involving serious depreciation of his stock in trade.

The extension in principle and under proper safeguards of the purchase clauses of Irish Land Acts to Great Britain and the enfranchisement of leaseholds are practical matters which should be admitted into full and fair consideration.

More than 2,000,000 acres of the best land are held by corporations in mortmain. This tenure involves serious evils, including absentee ownership in perpetuity and a most unjust exemption from taxation.

I have met with no exposition of this policy more concise and page break acceptable than is contained in your own words:—" We would so change our laws as to give to every present generation an absolute control over the soil, free from the paralysing influences which afflict it now, from the ignorance, the folly, the obstinacy, or the pride of generations which have passed away."

Yours very sincerely,

Arthur Arnold.

The Right. Hon.

John Bright, M.P.

132, Piccadilly, W.,

Dear Mr. Arnold,

I have received with much pleasure your letter of the 6th inst, and have read with much interest your suggestions on the reform of our land laws, the great question which will demand, and I hope receive, the attention of the Parliament which will be elected in November next.

I look back with intense satisfaction on the reform of our tariff, begun by Sir Robert Peel in the year 1842, carried forward by him to the year 1846, when the odious Corn Law was condemned and abolished, and completed in after years by the great measures carried through Parliament by Mr. Gladstone. In connection with the changes in our commercial policy, the names of Sir Robert Peel and Mr. Gladstone will for ever stand foremost and highest in the list of the Ministers and statesmen of our country. They have lifted to a higher scale of independence and comfort the industrious millions of our people.

My lamented friend Mr. Cobden, who did not underrate the result of the struggle in which he had taken so eminent a part, on more than one occasion expressed the belief that the men or the Minister who should hereafter free the land of the United Kingdom from the fetters which have hitherto bound it, would confer as great a blessing on our people as that bestowed upon them by the freedom of the produce of the soil.

The time has now come when this new great land question must be discussed and settled. It is well that some plans just to the nation and not less just to the possessors of the land should be brought before the attention of our people. In the suggestions which you have submitted to me you offer such a plan, and I cannot but hope that it will receive, as I believe it will deserve, a very large measure of support throughout the country.

There have been wild schemes brought before some portions of our people, schemes not based on any just principle; your suggestions seem to me just and calculated to do good to landowner, to tenant farmer, to the industrious labourer on the soil, and to the millions whose families subsist upon its produce.

I cannot enter into anything like a great movement in connection with this question, but I hope we may soon see a movement in the constituencies and in Parliament, and that another great measure of reform may soon be added to those by which our time and our generation are already distinguished.

Believe me, very sincerely yours,

John Bright.

Arthur Arnold, Esq., M.P., 45, Kensington Park Gardens.

Messrs. Cassell is Company, Limited, La Belle Sauvage, London, E.C., supply this Leaflet in packets of 100, price 1s.