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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 82



In consequence of the prolonged illness of the Treasurer, Mr. A. C. Swinton, who till lately also discharged the duties of Hon. Sec., and the serious shortcomings and recent dismissal of the salaried officer who should have continued the work of the Society, the accession of new members during the year has not been so large as we could have wished, while the same unfortunate circumstances have rendered it impossible for us to prepare a formal balance-sheet in time for this meeting. But, notwithstanding the loss of time necessarily involved in these untoward events, we have reason to be satisfied with the result of what has been done, and with the marked progress which the Society's principles are steadily making in the public mind.

While we cordially acknowledge the influence of Mr. Henry George in giving a most important impetus to the question of Land Nationalisation throughout these islands, we do not lose sight of the fact that his remedial method has in some measure distracted attention from the distinctive features of this Society's programme. The mass of the people who have suffered, and are suffering, such severe ills through the existence of landlordism are at present, perhaps, too much incensed to carefully consider the question of the equitable treatment of those who—unconsciously in the main—have done them such grievous wrong. Nevertheless, we have such unbounded faith in the inherent fairness of the English people as to feel confident that, when the time comes to settle this momentous question, they will cordially assent to temper justice with mercy. Then, we venture to think, the ethical and practical value of this Society's principles will be manifest.


This section of the Society's operations has been carried on with vigour and over a wider area than heretofore.

Seventeen lectures have been delivered under our auspices since the last page 17 annual meeting, less than eleven months since. Miss Helen Taylor has again rendered most important assistance by lecturing at Earlestown, Hackney, Liverpool, Norwich, and Peckham. Prof. F. W. Newman lectured at Street in Somersetshire; Mr. W. Jameson at Croydon and Walworth; and Mr. Halstead at Harrogate twice. Lectures have also been delivered at Oldham, Sheffield, Wigan, Camberwell, Rotherhithe, and Poplar, and the doctrines of the Society have been promulgated at numerous meetings besides.


As the result of Miss Helen Taylor's lecture at Liverpool (delivered under the auspices of the City Reform Club), a branch has been opened there which is now in fair working order. An equally gratifying result has attended Miss Taylor's lectures at Peckham and Homerton. A branch has also been established at Wigan, while the Sheffield and Oldham Radical Associations, and the Norwich Democratic Association have affiliated with us. We have reason to believe that branches will shortly be formed at Manchester, Wrexham, and Poplar. The importance of multiplying these centres of propagandism cannot be over-estimated, and we especially plead for our members' aid thereto.


The circulation of the Society's literature has been largely increased. Advantage has been taken of numerous political indoor and outdoor meetings to disseminate our publications, notably in the cases of the Reform Demonstration in Hyde Park, the Mass Meeting at the Royal Exchange, and the great gathering of agricultural labourers at Ham Hill in Somersetshire, on Easter Monday last.

We have added to our literature a reprint of a sermon delivered at Adelaide (South Australia) by the Rev. W. R. Fletcher, entitled "The Gospel of Land Nationalisation"; a reprint (from the Daily News) of an important article by Prof. J. Thorold Rogers, M.P., on "The Agricultural Question," and a large poster, giving facts, in the form of a manifesto, and intended for circulation among political clubs and working men's societies. A circular has also been addressed to the clergy, urging upon them the necessity of Land Nationalisation as a primary means to promote and secure the moral and physical health of the people. Every available opportunity has been used to disseminate our principles by the diffusion of our literature, as we believe that to be the most effective mode of educating public opinion.

Parliamentary and Public Action.

With reference to Smith's Trust Estate Bill in relation to the Seilly Islands, which Bill came before the House of Commons on the 24th June, 1884, the Members of Parliament who spoke for and against the measure were written to respecting it. Correspondence has taken place on the subject of extensive enclosures of common lands at Hayes and Keston in Kent between Mr. Swinton, the Commons Preservation Society, and Mr. J. Bryce, M.P., but no action could be taken.

The intolerable oppression of the Skye Crofters has enlisted our warmest sympathy and a resolution expressing it was passed, and transmitted through Mr. Stuart Glennie.

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At the Industrial Remuneration Conference, held in January last, under the Presidency of Sir Chas. Dilke, M.P., two papers were presented and read on behalf of the Society, one by Prof. F. W. Newman, dealing with our general principles; the other by our President, showing how that part of our programme which would give facility and protection to peasant holders might have immediate application. The determination with which Land Nationalisation was advocated at the Conference by the Delegates of the various Industrial interests there represented was both significant and cheering, as demonstrating the deep interest taken in our great movement by the Democracy.

On the other hand, it would seem by the recent formation of the "National Land Co., Limited," by so many persons with titles to their names, that our movement has elicited some concession from the Oligarchy, with the object, however ludicrously futile, of checking Land Nationalisation.

Press Correspondence.

An organised system of correspondence with the Press was undertaken in the early part of the year. Letters of an explanatory or controversial character have been written by the President, Professor F. W. Newman, the officers of the Society, and by several members of the Executive, and these have appeared in various Metropolitan and Provincial journals. Indeed, we record with much satisfaction the general fairness with which the Press has opened its columns, not to the Society alone, but to the numerous other voluntary writers who are actively engaged as missionaries in our cause. We would call especial attention to this section of work, and emphasise the necessity for its greater development. Many who have no other opportunity of promoting the cause might materially aid our efforts by an occasional letter to the press. This would provoke discussion and thereby manifest the truth.

Land Nationalisation Abroad.

At our last annual meeting it was stated that Land Nationalisation had been strenuously advocated in New Zealand. We have now the pleasure of stating that the movement has extended also to New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, and Queensland, where societies have been formed, and seem to be flourishing. In Queensland a Land Bill was actually passed last October, founded on the great principle of leasing, instead of alienating, the Crown lands, with measures for the reduction of great estates and the prevention of their future aggregation; and also for the encouragement of small farmers throughout the colony. In South Australia the movement appears to be even more thorough, though it has not yet resulted in legislation. The South Australian Land Nationalisation Society has for its objects—1. To stop the further sale of all Crown lands; 2. To restore to the State by purchase the ownership of land already sold; 3. To provide for the leasing of all lands on such terms as shall ensure to the State a fair rental, and to the tenant full security for his improvements and for the results of his industry. The Society referred to has issued a manifesto, of which 15,000 copies have been circulated, containing a full and admirable exposition of the true principles of Land Nationalisation, with proposals very similar to our own. Surely there cannot be a better justification of the soundness of our principles than the fact that they have been adopted in almost all the Australian colonies as affording the only remedy for the intolerable evils which have arisen page 19 there through permitting the people's land to become the private possession of the wealthy.

Our Programme.

Referring to this Society's programme, the Executive hopes ere long to submit a simplified application of its principles in a suggested Land Nationalisation Bill. Such a Bill has been drawn and printed by Mr. F. A. Binney, a solicitor, of Manchester, well known as the author of several admirable publications on Social Reform, and we hope to be able to concur sufficiently with a modified reprint of the proposed Bill for the Society to issue it. As there seems good reason to believe that some of our members may enter Parliament at the next General Election, the value of such a Bill is obvious, as it is most desirable that Land Nationalisation should be brought within the range of practical politics during the very first session of the new Parliament, if not by Bill, by resolution of the House on the main principle.

In conclusion, we would add that everything tends to a far more rapid acknowledgment of our principles than could have been anticipated when the Society was formed. The intolerable social condition of great masses of our fellow-creatures—as exemplified by the recent Report on the Housing of the Poor—is a subject pressing more and more heavily on the minds of all right-thinking men and women. Day by day the conviction is growing in the public mind that Land Monopoly is the main cause of this state of things; and as that conviction must spread and strengthen, the recent extension of the Franchise will soon give the necessary power to Nationalise the Land. Remembering this, and that support could not be given to a better cause, we most earnestly invite all who agree with us in principle to join in our mission of justice. We do not expect agreement with the details of our tentative programme. We simply ask effective concurrence with the object of this Society : "To equitably restore to the Nation its Land, so that all may have equal facilities to use and enjoy the Land, and equally benefit by the revenue derived from it."

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Crown 800, pp. xiv.—244, Original Edition, Cloth, price 5s. Cheap Edition, paper cover, 8d., by post 11d.; limp cloth, Is, 6d., by post 1s. 9d.

Land Nationalisation;

Its Necessity and its Aims.

Being a comparison of the System of Landlord and Tenant with that of Occupying Ownership in their Influence on the Well-being of the People.


Alfred Russel Wallace, LL.D.

Author of "The Malay Archipelago," "Island Life," &c., &c.