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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 71

Epilogue — (Spoken by "the Crows"). — The "Cause" of all the Trouble


(Spoken by "the Crows").

The "Cause" of all the Trouble.

Once upon a time there was a man who owned a piece of land in the centre of a large town. This land was not built upon nor put to any use; for, said the man to himself, "the town is growing bigger every day, and the land is getting worth more and more each day, and though I can't use it myself I won't sell it to anyone else yet; I'll wait a bit." But people wanted to put the land to use, and kept asking him to sell it or lease it, and the man began to be bothered with their asking him. One day, when sitting in his country house, he saw a crow flying along, and enjoying the freedom from care the bird seemed to possess, he said, "How I wish I were a crow." To his surprise he found himself taken at his word, and that he really had been changed into a crow. He was, of course, very much puzzled, but could not change matters, and so he thought he would just make the best of it. Finding the sun was very warm, and seeing a wood a little way off, he flew towards it to shelter on the branch of a tree. But when he got near the tree another crow flew out and told him to go away; he must not come there, for that tree belonged to him. "How's that," said our friend, "the tree, was not made for you only; how can you say it belongs to you?" The other crow laughed. "Ask me something harder than that," he said; "why, I bought it, of course." "But how could anyone have the right to sell you, for your own use, a tree that was created for the use of page 82 everyone?' "Oh," said the second crow, "you don't understand, the crow J bought it from belonged to a very old family; his ancestors came over with Jim Crow, and the tree has been in possession of the family ever since that time." Tree after tree was tried by our friend, but all in vain: each tree was the private property of someone or other, and though there were enough to give shelter to all the crows in creation, he could not get as much as a branch to rest on.

Tired out with hunting for lodgings, he began to feel hungry. Close at hand there was a field in which men had been reaping, and so he flew down to pick up a few grains of corn; but here again he was stopped: a few crows owned the field, and though food was lying around in plenty, these other crows would not let him pick up a grain of wheat, or even a worm, to keep himself from starving. Away he flew wearily over field after field, seeing food all around him, but yet not allowed to help himself. At last he came to a tree where a lot of miserable looking crows were, and he asked them what they were doing there. They told him they were "out on strike." When he said he did not know what that meant, they said that they had been working for some crows, but the wages they got were so small that they could hardly live, and so they were on strike for a rise. "Will you get it?" he said. "Well, they didn't know, for they had only a little food left, just enough to last them a few days, and then they would have to give in or starve." "But," said he, "there's enough and more than enough for all of you in these fields here, why don't you gather it?" "Oh, that land," said they, "does not belong to us, it belongs to So-and-so." "Did he make it," said our friend, "or did the crows he got it from make it?" "No," said the others, "of course not." "Then what right has he to it?"—but here a lot of other crows, some with their feathers painted blue, and others painted red, came flying down, and if our friend had not flown off, he would have been put in prison, or perhaps been killed, as "an agitator," "a socialistic crow," etc.

After a bit, when he was nearly fainting with hunger and fatigue, he came to some more crows, and asked them what he was to do in order to get food. "Why," they said, "you must find some crow who will give you work to do and pay you wages for it." After a lot of trouble he got work, and his work was gathering worms for another crow from early morning till late at night, and his wages were three small worms a day, and a bit of a tree to rest in. How many thousands are there in this country of ours who toil all day long making wealth for other people, and who get as their share three poor meals a day, and a miserable room to shelter them. It is the "private monopolisation of ground rent" that is the cause of all the trouble, and the programme of the Anti-Poverty Society will go a long way to put these matters right.