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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 71

Chapter XXVII. — It is the Fitting Sequel to the Abolition of the Corn Laws in England

Chapter XXVII.

It is the Fitting Sequel to the Abolition of the Corn Laws in England.

The duties on corn brought into England from abroad had two principal results. They increased the price of corn to the consumer, and they enabled the landlord to get a higher ground rent. The favourite cry which was raised against the agitation of the Anti-Corn Law League was that it would ruin the farmer. But it was asserted by the reformers, and the result proved them to have stated the truth, that rents would fall with the reduced power of the farmers to pay it. This fact is now a well-established one—that whatever advantage comes to the tenant increases the competition for land, and causes rent to rise. The gain, therefore, as fast as existing bargains will allow of a readjustment taking place, goes to the land-owning class.

The abolition of the corn laws was the first great step towards checking the monopoly which the possession of a preponderating legislative power gave to landowners in England. But it only paralysed one of the strong limbs of the land system, and did not touch the root. It affected a detail, and did not alter the evil principle.

Half a century of cheap bread, and of a vast growth of manufacturing industry, have led to an enormous addition to the national wealth and to the average of comfort. But the old evil has co-existed page 60 with these improvements, and the result has been that those who have owned the land have reaped the largest part of the increased benefit. Those who have left the old country have brought with them the knowledge that the owners of land there were the best off, and they have consequently taken care in the new countries that they would be landowners. Very few of them saw through the economic bearings of the question, and only a minority do so even, now, but the knowledge is spreading.

The agitation of the Single Taxers is directed to the completion of the work commenced by the abolition of the corn laws. Their efforts are not, however, aimed at lopping off branches, or at mitigating the evil, or at making a compromise with it. They go direct to the root of the matter, and show that the private monopolisation of ground rent is inequitable, and must, therefore, be brought to an end.