The Founders of Canterbury
Lord Lyttelton. Reigate, 10th September, 1850
My Dear Lord,
—As you employed me to speak to Mr. Brittan, I write to express a hope that you will approve of his Second Thoughts, the result of which appears to me very satisfactory both for him and for the Association. He did it with a very good grace at last.
Mr. Sewell wishes me to write to you about selling town land by auction.
In the first place, I would observe that most of the objections to selling by auction as a general practice apply with much less force to town land; and some of them do not apply at all.
Secondly, though enough of them apply sufficiently to make me prefer throwing in the town land, as has hitherto been done in the Canterbury scheme, yet this is now forbidden by the Act of Parliament: and as you must dispose of the remainder of the town by sale, and at a price of not less than £24 per acre, it strikes me that the case has become quite exceptional—that is, out of the reach of the application of every general principle. Assuming that I look to the practical conveniences and inconveniences of different methods:—
If the land is to go at the fixed price of £24 per acre, who page 326is to get it? For some of it—for al] that is now worth more than the fixed price—there will be a scramble. Some means of determining who shall get it must be adopted. You might receive applications up to a fixed and published day; and then let the applicants draw lots for who should get the section which many had applied for: but inasmuch as many would also pay for one section, and indeed nearly all would apply and pay for the best, it would be necessary, in order to carry out this plan, to have fresh notices, a fresh set of applications, and a fresh ballot, for almost every section, one after another. All this would cause much delay, and, I fear, much discontent. I fancy that jobbing could hardly be excluded from it.
Therefore, in the peculiar circumstances of the case, I proposed that there should be periodical auctions, at which a certain number of town sections should be put up at £24 the acre and knocked down to the highest bidder. I dislike the plan, because it has a look of giving in to the general principle of selling by auction; but the look is unreal because the cases are widely different; and this case-—that of a remnant of town land, on which an, Act of Parliament compels you, against your will, to put an immense price—is so completely exceptional and sui generis as to be out of all rules.
But in order to reconcile one's general dislike to auction with the particular case, including the Act of Parliament, I have at last got to prefer a plan which has resulted from discussion between Mr. Sewell, my brother, and me. It is, that for the present, new buyers of rural land should have the privilege of taking town land in proportion to their purchases of rural—at the old rate of a half-acre of town for fifty acres of rural—on paying for the town land at the rate of £24 per acre, but not being compelled to pay for it immediately at any fixed time. That of it which was worth £24 the acre they would immediately pay for; and they, or their transferees, would pay for the rest as soon as it became worth the price which the Act of Parliament insists upon.
This plan would also maintain, though to a less extent, the page 327old inducement to buy rural land, by eontinuing to attach to every rural purchase, though not gratis, a certain proportion of town land.