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Land nationalisation, i|s,,,n?,9S,?|i1|](;| .S^n 


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Ye friends to truth, ye statesmen who survey 
The rich man's joys increase, the poor's decay — 
'Tis yours to judge how wide the limits stand 
Between a splendid and a happy land. 












TRUBNER & CO., 57 and 59 Ludgate Hill, E.G. 
1882. \ 

(All Rights Reserved.) 








"Land is not, and cannot be property in the sense that moveable things 
are property. Every human being born into this planet must live upon 
the land if he lives at all. The land in any country is really the property 
of the nation which occupies it ; and the tenure of it by individuals is 
ordered differently in different places, according to the habits of the 
people and the general convenience." — Fkoude. 

" The land of Ireland, the Jand of every country, belongs to the people 
of that country."— John Stuart Mill. 

" As land is necessary to the exertion of labour in the production of 
wealth, to command the land which is necessary to labour is to command 
all the fruits of labour save enough to enable the labourer to exist. " — 
Henry George. 

" To make away into mercenary hands, as an article of trade, the whole 
solid area on which a nation lives, is astonishing as an idea of statesman- 
ship." — Prof. F. W. Newman. 

" It may by-and-by be perceived that equity utters dictates to which we 
have not yet listened ; and men may then learn that to deprive others of 
their rights to the use of the earth is to commit a crime inferior only in 
wickedness to the crime of taking away their lives or personal liberties." — 
Herbert Spencer. 

" In my opinion, if it is known to be for the welfare of the community 
at large, the Legislature is perfectly entitled to buy out the landed pro- 
prietors Those persons who possess large portions. 

of the earth's space are not altogether in the same position as the possessors 
of mere personalty. Personalty does not impose limitations on the action 
and the industry of man and the well-being of the community as possession 
of land does, and therefore, I freely own that compulsory expropriation is 
admissible, and even sound in principle. " — W. E. Gladstone. (Speech 
at West Calder.) 


The present work has been written with two main 
objects. In the first place, it is intended to demonstrate 
by a sufficient, though condensed, body of evidence, .the 
widespread and crying evils — political and social,, material 
and moral — which are not only the actual, but the neces- 
sary^ results .of-the system of Landlordism, while at 'the 
same time itshowS-, by a complementary.series of .facts, 
that a properly guarded system of Occupying Ownership 
under the' S'tlate would afford a complete remedy for .the 
evils thus caused. In the second place, it demonstrates 
that the proposed solution is a practicable one, by ..ejcr 
plaining in detail how the change may be effected with 
no real injury to existing landowners, and also ;how the 
scheme will: actually work without producing any one of 
the evil results generally thought to be inseparable from 
a system of lamd^nationalisation. 

It will be seen from this outline that the subjiects here 
treated are of vast and momentous importance.. So 
abtiridant are the available materials that it .would "have 
been easy to- compile a work of several bulky, volumes 
without exhausting the theme. To have done so might 

viii Preface. 

have added to the author's literary reputation, but would 
not have produced the effect which he desires to produce. 
It is the people at large — the middle and lower classes 
especially — who suffer by the present land-system, and 
it is by their mandate to their representatives in Parlia- 
ment that the needed reform must be effected. Existing 
legislators can and will do nothing beyond removing the 
shackles which now prevent land from being freely bought 
and sold j but so limited a reform will only benefit land- 
owners and capitalists, while the people will still suffer 
from all the evils which the monoply of land by a class 
and the increase of land-speculation inevitably bring upon 
them. To reach the landless classes — to teach them what 
are their rights and how to gain these rights — is the object 
of this work ; and it was therefor enecessary that it should 
be at once clear and forcible, moderate in bulk, and issued 
at a low price. In effecting the required degree of con- 
densation the historical part of the subject has been 
sketched in the briefest outline, because it appeared to the 
author much more important to demonstrate the evil 
results of our land-system than to prove, that it had its 
origin in force or fraud in long past ages. It also happens, 
that the history of the origin of landed property in general, 
as well as of our existing systems of land-tenure, are the 
portions of the subject which have been most fully treated, 
and which are best known to general readers. 

Preface. ix 

Although so much has been written on the land-ques- 
tion, I am not aware of any single work which summarises 
theevidenceand discusses the results of our system of land- 
tenure as compared with that of other civilised countries, 
in its bearing, not upon landlords and tenants alone but 
on all classes of the community ; and I therefore venture 
to think that everyone who has at heart the advancement 
of the social condition of our people, and who feels the 
disgrace of our position as at once the wealthiest and 
the most pauperised country in the world, will find much 
to interest, and perhaps to instruct, in this small volume. 

Godahning, March, 1882. 


Chapter I.— On the Causes of Poverty m tlte Midst of Wealth : — 
Increase of the Value of Land during the Present Century^ 
Great Increase of our Wealth — Pauperism does not diminish in 
Proportion to our Increasing Wealth — Failure of our Social 
Organisation — Increase of Labour-saving Machinery and the 
Utilisation of Natural Forces — The Anticipated Effect of Man's 
increased power over Nature — The Actual Effect — How to 
discover the Cause of our Social Failure — Why Gr^at Wealth is 
often injurious — Accumulated Wealth may be Beneficial or the 
Reverse — How Great Accumulations of Capital Affect the 
Labourer — The Nature of the Remedy Suggested — Scope of the 
Present Inquiry i — 20 

Chapter II. — The Origin and Present State of British Land- 
Tenure : — Antiquity of our Present System causes it to appear a 
Natural One — Antiquity of a System no proof of its Value — 
Origin of British Land-Tenure — Characteristics of the Feudal 
System — Growth of Modern Landlordism — The Legal Powers 
Exercised by Landlords — Our Land-system is a Modified 
Feudalism, in which the Landlords have thrown their Burdens 
on the People, whose Rights in the Land they have absorbed. 20 — 30 

Chapter III. — A Few illustrations of Iris7i Landlordism : — Ireland 
affords Examples of all the Evils that arise from Private Property 
in Land — Origin of Irish Landlordism — Tenant-right Confisca- 
tion by Landlords — Condition of the Irish Cottier — Facts in 
Possession of the Legislature for Thirty Years — The Devon 
Commission, 1847 — The Government neglects its First Duty — 
Evictions after the Famine — Suggested Remedies for Irish 
Distress — Continued Blindness and Incompetence of the Legisla- 
ture — Tremendous Power of Agents over the Tenants — The 
Condition of the People under Irish Landlordism 30 — 51 

xii Contents. 

Chapter IV. — Landlordism, and its Besulls in Scotland : — Chiefs 
and Clansmen in the Highlands— Highland Chiefs changed into 
Landlords— Character of the Highland Tenantry Eighty Years 
ago— The Change e6fected by Landlords and Agents— The 
Story of the Sutherland Evictions— Other Examples of Highland 
Clearances — Wide Extent and Long Continuance of these 
Clearances^— They were exposed and protested against in vain — 
Continuance of Highland Clearances and Confiscation down to 
this Day— These Evils inherent in Landlordism— An Illustrative 
Case— The General Results of Landlordism in the Highlands- 
Further Clearances and Devastation for the Sake of Sport — The 
Gross Abuse of Power by Highland Landlords requires an 
Immediate Remedy— Landlordism in the Lowlands of Scotland : 
Condition of the Labourers— The Cause of this State of Things is 
the Landlord System— General Results of Scotch Landlordism. 



Chapter v.— r/j8 Economical and Social Effects of English Land- 
lordism : — Landlordism in England is seen at its best — Despotic 
Power of Landlords — Landlords' Interference with Religious 
Freedom — Landlords' Interference with Political Freedom — 
Landlords' Interference with a Tenant's Amusements — Eviction 
of the Inhabitants of an Entire Village — Injurious Power of 
Landlords over Farmers and over Agriculture — Limitation of 
the Beneficial Influence of Landlords — Whatever Beneficial 
Influence Landlords exert would be Increased under Occupying 
Ownership — Supposed Importance of the Large Farms which 
Landlordism favours — The Effects of Landlordism on the Weil- 
Being of the Labouring Classes— Deterioration of the Condi- 
tion of the Agricultural Labourer during the Present Century — 
The Social Degradation of the Agricultural Labourer at the 
Present Day — This State of Things is due to the System of 
Landlordism, not to the Bad Conduct of Landlords — The Enclo- 
sure Act and its Results — Uniform Evidence as to the Beneficial . 
Effects of Allotments and Cottage Gardens — Beneficial Effects 
of Small Cottage Farms — The Logical Bearing of this Evidence 
— Various Powers exercised by Landlords to the Detriment of 
the Public — Free Choice of a Home essential to Social Well- 
Being — Characteristics of a good System of Land-Tenure — 
Enclosure of Commons and Mountain Wastes as affecting the 

Contents. xiii 


Public — The Destruction of Ancient Monuments — Public Im- 
provements checked by Landlordism — Permanent Deterioration 
of the Country by the export of Minerals — Concluding Remarks 
on English Landlordism 97 — 134. 

Chapter VI. — The Eesults of Occupying Ownership as Opposed to 
those of Landlordism : — Summary of the Evils of the Landlord 
System — Occupying Ownership defined — The Advantages of 
Occupying Ownership — Results of Occupying Ownership in 
Switzerland — Co-operation of Occupying Owners in Norway 
—Occupying Ownership in Germany — Admirable Cultivation 
under Occupying Ownership — Improvement of the Soil under 
Occupying Ownership in Belgium — Effects of Occupying Owner- 
ship in France — The Labourers of France under Occupying 
Ownership — Results of Occupying Ownership in the Channel 
Islands — General Results of Occupying Ownership and those of 
Landlordism Compared — Results of Landlordism in Italy — 
Results of Landlordism in Spain and Sardinia — The Occupying 
Owner under Extremely unfavourable Conditions — Large 
Farms versus small not the Question at Issue — Various Objec- 
tions to Peasant Proprietorship answered by Facts — The Final 
Argument in Favour of Landlordism shown to be unsound — 
Beneficial Influence of Ownership on Agriculture — The Con- 
clusion from the Evidence 135 — 164 

Chapter VlX.^Low Wages aiid Pauperism the Direct Consequence 
of Private Property in Land : — Progress' and Poverty— Labour, 
not Capital, the First Mover in Production — Industry not 
Limited by Capital but by restricted Access to the Land — In- 
terest determined by Land Monopoly and Rent — Capital and 
Labour not antagonistic — Progress of Society causes a Rise of 
Rents — Private Property in Land produces an Inequitable 
Division of Wealth — Speculative Increase in Land-values — Mr. 
George's Work supplements and enforces the Results arrived 
at in the Present Volume 165 — 174 

Chapter VIII. — Nationalisation of the Land Affordstlie Only Mode 
of Effecting a Complete Solution of the Land Question — Summary 
of the preceding Chapters : — The Contrast of our Wealth 
and our Poverty amazes all Foreigners^Our Poverty and 
Pauperism persists notwithstanding the most favourable Con- 
ditions — The Irish Landlords follow the Teachings of Political 

XIV Contents. 

Economy— Effects of Landlordism in the Highlands and in the 
Lowlands of Scotland — The Despotic Powers of English Land- 
lords — The complete and overwhelming Mass of Evidence in 
Favour of Occupying Ownership^The Remedies proposed — Free 
Trade in Land shown to be comparatively Useless — Mr. Kay's 
Arguments in support of Free Trade in Land — Small 
Landed Estates are constantly absorbed by Great Ones — Free 
Trade in Land would not help either the Tenant or the 
I-abourer — ^Nationalisation of the Land the only Effective 
Remedy — Occupancy and virtual Ownership must go together — 
To Secure this the State must be the real Owner or Ground- 
Landlord — The State must become Owner of the Land apart 
from the Improvements added to it — Mode of Determining the 
Value of the Quit-rent and of the tenant-liigU — How Existing 
Landowners may be compensated — Alleged unfairness of Com- 
pensation by means of Terminable Annuities — How Tenants 
may become Occupying Owners — Subletting must be absolutely 
prohibited — Evils of Subletting in Towns — Mortgaging should 
be strictly limited^Whether any Limits should be placed to the 
Quantity of Land personally occupied — Supposed Objections to 
Land Nationalisation — Mr. Fowler's Objections — Mr. Arthur 
Arnold's Objections — Mr. G. Shaw Lefevre's Objections — The 
Hon. George C. Brodrick's Objections — Mr. J. Boyd Kinnear's 
Objections — How Nationalisation will affect Towns — Free- 
Selection of Residential Plots by Labourers and Others — Objec- 
tions to the Right of Free-Selection — ^Why Free-Selection 
should be restricted to Once in a Man's Life — Free-Selection 
would check the growth of Towns, and add to the Beauty and 
Enjoyability of Rural Districts — How Commons may be pre- 
served and Utilised — How Minerals should be worked under 
State Ownership— Progressive Reduction of Taxation— Aboli- 
tion of Customs and Excise — Summary of the Advantages of 
Nationalisation— Summary of the Evil Results of Landlordism 
— Conclusion I^c 233 





Among the characteristics of the present century, none is, 
perhaps, more striking than the enormous increase of the 
national wealth, which, during the last fifty years especially, 
has progressed with a rapidity altogether unprecedented 
During this period the land of Great Britain has more than 
doubled in value, while in the great centres of industry it has 
often increased a hundred or even a thousandfold, and this 
increase has been mainly due, not to any expenditure made 
by the owners or occupiers of the land, but almost wholly to 
the "rowth of population and of wealth, and to the great 


2 Land Nationalisation. 

advance in all the arts and industries which minister to our 
modern civilisation. The total annual value of this landed 
property is enormous. The estates which exceed 3..000 acres 
in extent or ;^3,ooo in annual value, amounting in all to 
twenty-one and a-half million acres, are valued at ;£^3S, 000,000, 
while those of less area or less annual value amount to more 
than thirty-two million acres ; and as these latter will consist 
to a great extent of highly-cultivated suburban lands, small 
residential estates, and building lots, while the former include 
all the poorest and least valuable mountain and moor-land of 
Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, their value can hardly be less 
than 65 millions, making a total of _;^ioo,ooo,ooo.* This 
large sum is, however, only an indication of the wealth of the 
country; for a considerable proportion of the 320,000 -land- 
owners who possess more than an acre derive large incomes from 
manufacturing industries and mercantile or financial pursuits, 
or have invested capital in the British or Foreign Funds, in rail- 
ways, or in other securities, so that the amount of accumulated 
property and the number of persons who are supported on this 
property without personal exertion, are both probably larger in 
proportion to the whole population than at any other period of 
our history, or than in any other country in the world. The in- 
crease of our wealth, as well as its great amount, is sufficiently 
indicated by the fact, that the " Property and Profits " assessed 
to Income Tax have more than doubled in the 30 years from 

* The total annual value and rental of the landed property of the King- 
dom given in the new Dooinsday Book, is ;£'l3l,470,36o, but this appears 
to include the rental of all the buildings, factories, houses, &c. on the land, 
while it excludes the whole of London where land is of fabulous value. 
The above estimate, therefore, is probably below the mark as the rental 
value of the land itself of the United Kingdom. That the increase in the 
value of land during the present century is not overstated in the first 
paragraph, appears from a recent Return of the Board of Inland Revenue, 
which gives the gross value of Land, Tenements, and Tithes assessed to 
Income Tax in Great Britain, as ;^S8,7SI,479 in 1814-15, and 
;^i72,i36,i83 in 1879-80, being an increase of almost threefold in sixty- 
five years. 

Otir Poverty and Our Wealth. 3 

1848 to 1878, being in the former year (for Great Britain) 
^^256,413,354, and in the latter ;^542,4i 1,545 ; and there 
can be no doubt that these amounts are, on the whole, greatly 

Pauperism does not Diminish with our Increasing Wealth. — 
This enormous increase in the wealth of the country — and that 
far greater proportionate increase of its mannfactures and 
commerce of which our legislators are so proud that rarely do 
they speak in public without calling attention to it— have not, how- 
ever, been attended by any proportionate increase in the general 
well-being of the people. Nothing tests this well-being so 
surely as the number of paupers, since, if the condition of the 
people were generally raised to any considerable extent, this 
number must largely diminish. We find, however, that though 
the number fluctuates much from year to year, and figures can 
be picked to show a decrease, yet, taking a large early and 
late average, there is no decrease, the numbers of paupers 
in England and Wales fluctuating around an average of about 
six-sevenths of a million. This, however, is only the number 
in receipt of relief on the first day of each year. The total 
number relieved during the year is, according to Mr. Dudley 
Baxter, three and a-half times as much, or an average 
of upwards of three millions. Allowing for the same 
individuals being relieved more than once, we shall be 
quite within the mark if we take the mean of the two 
numbers, or a little less than two millions, as the actual 
average number of paupers ; but it must be remembered 
that this does not include either the vagrants, or the 
casual poor, or the criminals in our jails, or that large body 
who are permanently dependent on private charity, which 
altogether must bring up the number to at least three 
millions. Let us consider for a moment what this implies. 
The three million paupers in any year are all persons who 
are actually unable to obtain a sufficiency of the coarsest food 

4 Land Nationalisation. 

and clothing to support life ; and they form, as it were, the failures 
from among a much larger body, who constantly live from hand 
to mouch on the scanty wages of their daily labour. If we take 
this class of the population who are ever trembling on the 
verge of pauperism at only half the number of the actual 
paupers, we arrive at a total of 4,500,000 — more than one- 
sixth of the whole population— who live constantly in a state 
of squalid penury, unable to obtain many of the necessaries of 
a healthy existence, and one-half of them continually falling 
into absolute destitution, and becoming dependent on public 
or private charity.* 

* The average number of paupers in England and Wales on the 1st of 
January for the twelve years 1849-1860 was 863,338, and for the twelve 
years 1869-1880 it was 864,398. The numbers were lowest in 1876-78 and 
in 1853, while they continued at a maximum during the period from 1863 
to 1873, when it averaged over a million ; and it is very curious that this 
was the very period when our commerce was increasing so rapidly as to ex- 
cite the admiration and pride of our legislators, reaching the highest point 
it has ever attained in the last-named year. Our population has of course 
been increasing all this time, and therefore the percentage of official pauper- 
ism has decreased, sometimes rapidly, sometimes very slowly. But it must 
be remembered that there are many causes which have been increasingly in 
operation during the period we are considering, all of which have a tendency 
to diminish the official number of paupers, even though the actual percentage 
of pauperism has increased. First, and perhaps most important, is the in- 
creasing perception among all poor-law officials of the evils of outdoor relief, 
which at once encourages improvidence and affords opportunities for 
deception. Year by year the poor-law has been worked with increased 
stringency in this respect, and this alone must have largely reduced the 
official record of paupers relieved. The establishment of casual wards for 
the relief of vagrants is another comparatively recent movement which has 
tended to diminish the list of official paupers. At the same time there has 
been a continually increasing movement among philanthropists for the relief 
hy private charity of true cases of distress. Such associations as the Charity 
Organisation Society, the Mendicity Society, the Metropolitan Visiting and 
Relict Association, and many others, indicate the amount of systematic 
efforts in relief of poverty and prevention of pauperism, while year by year 
we find new institutions formed to succour all those who fall into unmerited 
poverty. If the increasing effects of all these causes and agencies could be 
fully estimated, it would probably be found that they are more than suffi- 
cient to account for the nominal decrease in the percentage of pauperism, 
while their mere enumeration is sufficient to indicate that a reference 
to the official statistics of pauperism, however accurate these may be, does 
iwl prove that pauperism is diminishing, or even demonstrate that it is not 
actually increasing. 

Our Poverty and Our Wealth. 5 

Failure of our Social Organisation. — This is, surely, a most 
anomalous and altogether deplorable state of things. On the 
one side, wealth and luxury and all the refinements of life to 
an unprecedented extent — on the other, a vast, seething 
mass of poverty and crime, millions living with their barest 
physical wants unsatisfied, in dwellings where common decency 
is impossible, and, so far as any development of the higher 
faculties is concerned, in a condition actually inferior to that 
of many savages. And these poverty-stricken millions consist 
largely of the tillers of that very soil which has of late years so 
vastly increased in value, and thus added so much to the wealth 
and luxury of its possessors. The political economist points 
with pride to the vast increase of our wealth ; but he ignores 
the fact that the distribution of that wealth is more unequal 
than ever, and that for every single addition to the exception- 
ally rich there are scores or hundreds added to the exceptionally 
poor. But the legislator should look at the question from a 
different point of view. Every government which is not a 
despotism is bound to make the well-being of the whole 
community its object ; and mere wealth is no indication 
whatever of this general well-being. So long as poverty and 
degradation are the characteristics of large classes of the 
community, society and government are alike proved to be 
failures ; and the rapid increase of wealth, with the great 
advances of science, art, and literature, only render this failure 
the more glaring, and prove more clearly that there is some- 
thing radically wrong in the social organisation that is incom- 
petent to remedy such gross and crying evils. 

For some generations, at all events, there has been no lack 
of will on the part of our legislators and philanthropists. Many 
serious evils have been remedied ; much cruelty and injustice 
have been abolished ; and, as we have seen, vast wealth has 
been created ; but no one who knows the condition and mode 
of life of the large class of agricultural labourers, and the 

6 Land Nationalisation. 

horrible degradation of great masses of the inhabitants of ali 
our chief cities, with the periodical distress, and even famine, 
in the manufacturing districts and in Ireland, can doubt the 
utter failure of all their attempts. 

Increase of Labour-saving Machinery and Utilisation of 
Natural Forces. — But there is another circumstance which adds 
immensely to our conception of the vastness and horror of this 
failure. During the present century there has been a continual 
and ever-increasing growth in the use of steam-power and 
labour-saving machinery, which has been equivalent to the 
possession by us of a body of industrious slaves, ever labouring, 
patiently and without complaint, and exceeding in effective 
power probably ten-fold that of our whole working popula- 
tion. In addition to each actual workman there are, therefore, 
ten of these willing slaves constantly labouring for us, and 
every day of our lives we derive the benefit of their labour.* 
Yet all this has only made the rich richer, the poor remaining 
as numerous, and, in many respects, even worse off than before 
we acquired this vast addition to our productive power. 

Other sources of wealth have also been afforded us during 
the lives of the present generation altogether unique in the 

* There seems to be no means of getting at the exact amount of the steam- 
power now employed in Great Britain. A writer in the JBadical newspaper 
states it at two million horse power. Mr. Thomas Briggs in Tli& Peace- 
maker states that "in 1851 we had steam machinery which represented 
500 million pair of hands," which would be about 50 million horse power. 
This is probably overestimated, for, in a periodical called i)m(/»i ancZ Worl: 
(Vol. X. 1881), it is stated that England now employs 9 million horse- 
power. Taking this last estimate (which has been found for me by Mr. 
Anderson, one of the intelligent attendants in the British Museum Reading 
Room) as approximately correct, we have a power equal to 90 million men. 
One half our population (15 millions) consists of children and persons wholly 
dependent on the labours of others, and from the remainder we may deduct 
all the professional, literary, and independent classes, the army and navy, 
financiers and speculators, government officials, and most tradesmen and 
shopkeepers — none of whom are producers of wealth Taking these, together 
with criminals, paupers, and tramps, at 6 millions, we have left 9 millions 
who do all the productive physical labour of the country, while the steam 
power at work for us is at least ten times as much. 

Our Poverty and Our Wealth. 7 

history of the world. In two hemispheres gold has been dis- 
covered in such quantities as to lead to a wonderful develop- 
ment of our commerce, while at the same time it has drawn 
off large numbers of our surplus population. Almost coin- 
cident with these great discoveries was the rise and rapid 
development of the railway systems of the world ; and it was 
we English who, for a long time, had almost a monopoly of the 
construction of these railways. The demand for iron and coal 
for this purpose was enormous, and of this, too, we had the 
largest immediately available supply; and so eagerly did we 
make use of our opportunities that in one generation we have 
exhausted these stored-up treasures of our soil to an extent 
which would have supplied our home wants for centuries, and 
have thereby actually deteriorated our land for our descendants 
in order greedily to enrich ourselves. 

The increase of the mere stt^xa. power employed does not, how- 
ever, at all adequately represent the advantage we have over our 
immediate predecessors, for along with this increase of power 
has gone on an increased efficiency in our mode of applying 
that power to human uses, so that it is not improbable that each 
horse or man-power now employed in the production of all the 
countless forms of wealth which we enjoy, is five or ten times as 
efficient as it was a century ago. This will be clear if we think of 
the economy of the railway train as compared with the coach and 
waggon, and of the amount of clothing produced in a modern 
cotton-mill as compared with what was produced by the same 
actual power employed on the clumsy old machines of the 
hand- spinner and hand- weaver. Steam and electricity, and the 
thousand applications of modern science to the arts and indus- 
tries, have economised time quite as much as they have 
economised mere labour. These various economies give us 
such an advantage over our ancestors that, although the aver- 
age duration of life has been but little increased, yet, such is 
the intensity of modern existence that we may be said to live 
twice or thrice as long as they did. 

8 Land Nationalisation. 

What might have been Anticipated as the Result of Man's 
Increasing Power over Nature. — Let anyone ask himself what 
ought to have been the consequence of such a vast increase of 
man's power over nature ? To quote the words of an eloquent 
and thoughtful modern writer : — " Could a man of the last 
century — a Franklin or a Priestly — have seen, in a vision of 
the future, the steamship taking the place of the sailing-vessel, 
the railroad-train of the waggon, the reaping-machine of the 
scythe, the thrashing-machine of the flail; could he have 
heard the throb of the engines that, in obedience to human will, 
and for the satisfaction of human desire, exert a power greater 
than that of all the men and all the beasts of burden of the earth 
combined ; could he have seen the forest tree transformed into 
finished timber — into doors, sashes, blinds, boxes, or barrels, with 
hardly the touch of a human hand ; the great workshops where 
boots and shoes are turned out by the case with less labour than 
the old-fashioned cobbler could have put on a sole ; the factories 
where, under the eye of a girl, cotton becomes cloth faster than 
hundreds of stalwart weavers could have turned it out with their 
hand-looms ; could he have seen steam-hammers shaping mam- 
moth shafts, and delicate machinery making tiny watches ; the 
diamond-drill cutting through the heart of the rocks, and coal- 
oil sparing the whale ; could he have realised the enormous 
saving of labour resulting from improved facilities of exchange 
and communication — sheep killed in Australia eaten fresh in 
England, and the order given by the London banker in the 
afternoon executed in St. Francisco in the morning of the 
same day ; could he have conceived of the hundred thousand 
improvements which these only suggest, what would he have 
inferred as to the social condition of mankind ? 

" It would not have seemed like an inference. Further than 
the vision went, it would have seemed as though he saw ; and 
his heart would have leaped and his nerves would have thrilled, 
as one who from a height beholds just ahead of the thirst- 

Oitr Poverty and Our Wealth. 9 

stricken caravan the living gleam of rustling woods and the 
glint of laughing waters. Plainly in the sight of the imagination 
he would have beheld these new forces elevating society from 
its very foundations, lifting the very poorest above the possi- 
bility of want, exempting the very lowest from anxiety for the 
material needs of life ; he would have seen these slaves of the 
lamp of knowledge taking on themselves the traditional curse, 
these muscles of iron and sinews of steel making the poorest 
labourer's life a holiday, in which every high quality and noble 
impulse could have scope to grow."* 

The Actual Effect. — This the anticipation, but what the reality? 
The great cities have all become greater, and all contain within 
their bounds dense masses of people living in cellars and hovels 
and airless, filthy courts, again and again condemned as unfit 
for human habitation. Many fair valleys and once fertile plains 
have become blasted by the smoke of our engine fires and the 
noxious gases from our furnaces, while almost all our once bright 
and limpid streams have become fetid sewers. Everywhere the 
workers work harder than before ; they live in unsightly and 
unwholesome houses, packed together in rows like pens for 
cattle ; they have no field or garden ground for profitable occu- 
pation or healthy enjoyment ; their young children can get no 
wholesome milk, and often no playground but the alley and 
the kennel Paupers and tramps abound everywhere. Men and 
women beg for work in all our streets, and many, failing to get 
it, die of want. Famine even attacks us as of old ; and in the 
very same districts from which food or clothing is largely 
exported, the producers have now and again to be saved from 
starvation by public charity. 

This is the outcome of our boasted civilisation. This is the 
final result of our unexampled increase in national wealth, of 

* " Progress and Poverty,'' by Henry George (p. I, 2), a work which 
only became known to the present writer after the greater part of the MSS. 
of this volume was completed. 

lo Land Nationalisation. 

our improved laws, of our increased knowledge, of our vast 
strides in science. Our labourers not only do not participate 
in the comfort, refinement and relaxation which a fair share in 
our increased wealth would give them, but, so wretched is their 
condition that a great traveller in many barbarous lands solemnly 
declares that never among any savage tribe had he seen such utter 
wretchedness and degrading poverty as was to be found in 
Ireland at the present day. Nor is evidence wanting that the 
condition of some parts of England is hardly better. Professor 
Fawcett, in his work on " The British Labourer," asserts that 
" A large proportion of our working population are in a state 
of miserable poverty. Many of them live in dwellings that do not 
deserve the name of human habitations." In the same work 
he thus strongly supports the main allegations we have made 
in the present chapter : — 

"The advance in the material prosperity of Liverpool, of 
Glasgow, and other centres of commerce is unprecedented, yet 
in close contiguity to this growing wealth there are still the same 
miserable homes of the poor, the same pestilential alleys, where 
fevers and other diseases decimate the infantile population with 
unerring certainty. . . . How is it that this vast production 
of wealth does not lead to a happier distribution ? How is it 
that the rich seem to be constantly growing richer, while the 
poverty of the poor is not perceptibly diminished ? " * 

* "The British Labourer," p. 7, 1865. In order to show that 
these statements of Professor Fawcett are as true now as when he wrote, 
I will quote a few passages from a speech of Mr. Jesse CoUings, 
M.P., at Ipswich, in October last year. He says: — "I have spent some 
time during the last two months in going down to the South of England 
to see what the increase of the labourers' wages has been. I visited 
districts in Worcestershire, in Hampshire, in Warwickshire, and in 
Wiltshire, and I found the labourer getting los. a week, and in one large 
district the men are at this moment receiving 9s. a week, out of which they 
have to pay is. 6d. a week rent, and as I sat by the hedge-side with them 
they would make their dinner off bread and an onion. I felt serious then ; 
and at night when I went into their cottages, as I have done scores of 
times, and found the everlasting bread again for their children and them- 
selves, with no comfort in the present, no pleasant retrospect of the past, 

Our Poverty and Our Wealth. 1 1 

Neither in the work here quoted nor elsewhere can I find 
that Professor Fawcett has given, or even attempted to give, a 
complete answer to this momentous question — What is the 
cause, or what are the causes, of this complete, this utter, this 
awful failure? A failure under circumstances so extremely 
favourable that, to anyone having these circumstances set 
forth beforehand, failure of this kind would have seemed 
impossible. A failure, be it remembered, not confined to our 
country alone, but one which is also manifested, though usually 
with less intensity, in every civilised community. The cause 
must be a fundamental one. It cannot depend on anything 
in which one civilised community differs from another civilised 
community — on race or on religion, on government or on 
climate — for all suffer, though in very different degrees, and 
these differences of degree will perhaps afford an important clue 
to the true cause as well as to the true remedy. 

JIow to Discover the Cause of our Social Failure. — The 
fundamental error shown to exist in our Social System may 
perhaps be detected by noting the leading idea which has 
governed all social and industrial legislation for the last fifty 
years, a period on the whole of enlightened and progressive 
government That ruling idea seems to have been that what- 
ever favours and assists the production of wealth, of whatever 
kind, and the accumulation of capital by individuals, necessarily 
advances the well-being of the whole community. This idea 

no apparent hope for the future — one might well be a serious politician. I 
went into one lovely village, for the villages are lovely in England, and one 
regrets to see men driven from them ; and there again the mother was in 
mourning for her child who had died of disease. I came away and called 
it starvation. " And when doubt was thrown on his statements Mr. CoUings 
in reply said: — " I have spent considerable time to satisfy myself; my 
utterance has not been mere hearsay. Go through Wiltshire, Hampshire, 
Worcestershire, Devonshire, and Somersetshire. There, I say, outside the 
influence of the towns, there are at this moment men and women with 
families living on los. a week, with no art, no science, no literature, to en- 
lighten their lives ; nothing but the everlasting grind of human toil for 

12 Land Nationalisation. 

is seen in the constant references by public writers and public 
speakers to our increased trade and manufactures, to our enor- 
mous exports and imports, to the high price of our public funds, 
to the vast extent of our shipping, to the increased amount of 
Income Tax, and such like indications of growing wealth and 
accumulated capital. And it has' found expression in most of 
the reforms in our fiscal and industrial legislation during the 
last half century — reforms which have been advocated on these 
grounds, and have been adopted by the Legislature with this 
avowed object. Of such a character are — the repeal of the coal 
duties, leading to the use of coal as ballast and an enormously 
increased export • the extensive enclosures of commons, and 
their division among the surrounding great landowners ; the 
encouragement of railways, even when quite unprofitable ; the 
opening of distant lands to our commerce, even at the expense 
of costly wars ; the Limited Liability Act to favour the exten- 
sion of Joint Stock Companies; the continued enlargement of our 
eastern possessions, and the acquisition of fresh additions to our 
already too extensive Colonial system. These, with many less 
important measures, all tending in the same direction and 
advocated for a similar purpose, have been successful even 
beyond expectation in adding to the total wealth of the country, 
and more especially to that of our hereditary landowners, great 
merchants, great capitalists, and astute speculators. The 
greatly increased wealth of these classes has added largely to 
the emoluments of the more successful professional men — 
lawyers and doctors — as well as to the profits of the more enter- 
prising traders, and thus an upper middle class has arisen far 
exceeding in wealth and luxurious living anything before known 
in England or to be met with in any other European country. 
But none of these legislative acts, or the movements and ten- 
dencies of which they are the expression, have had any effect 
towards the diffusion or equalisation of wealth, or to the dirai. 
nution of that large class ever hovering on the verge of 

Otir Poverty and Our Wealth. 13 

pauperism ; and (so far as I know) hardly any of our recognised 
teachers of political economy has pointed out that the increase 
in the number of very wealthy people or of great capitalists 
(which is what all our legislation favours), so far from being 
beneficial, is, in every respect, antagonistic to the well-being of 
the community rt large. 

The Injuric us Ejects of Excessive Wealth-Accumulation. — This 
question is far too large to be adequately discussed here, but a 
few words of explanation will serve to indicate the idea sought 
to be conveyed, and may offer materials for deep consideration. 
The wealth of a country is produced solely by the working 
population of that country, including in that term all who pro- 
duce anything that tends to human enjoyment or well-being. 
The laws of supply and demand, with freedom of exchange, will 
regulate the distribution of the products of labour, and, if all 
were producers and all had free access to those natural powers 
and agencies which furnish the raw material for human labour, 
the well-being of all would be ensured, since the exchangeable 
wealth each man could produce would far exceed what is 
necessary to supply the ordinary wants of existence. That this 
is so IS proved by the fact that even the poorest countries — 
the poorest parts of Ireland, for example — always produce a 
large surplus over and above what is required for the sub- 
sistence of the inhabitants, the amount of this surplus 
being measured by the sum total of rent, taxes and savings. 
Accumulated wealth, however, introduces a disturbing 
agency. Just in proportion as it becomes great and can 
be made to produce a permanent income by investment in 
land or in the public funds, it leads to the existence of a large 
and ever-increasing class of non-producers, who necessarily live 
on the labour of the rest, since there is no other source from 
which they can live. This will be clear if we consider that the 
owners of the invested wealth purchase goods and pay for 
labour with money which the workers first supply them with in 


Land Nationalisation. 

the shape of rents for the use of land, and taxes to pay the 
interest on the public funds. It is clear, therefore, that all the 
wealth represented by these two sources is not real wealth, but, 
however it originated, is now merely taxation for the purpose 
of supporting a portion of the community without work. 

This, however, is not the worst feature of such nominal 
wealth, for it has a tendency and a power to divert labour from 
the production of articles of use and beauty — beneficial wealth 
— to the production of such as minister only to luxury and 
amusement, often of a more or less wasteful and even degrad- 
ing nature — injurious wealth. If we could reckon up the 
amount of human labour, physical and mental, expended on 
jewellery and fancy goods, on costly toys or elaborate displays of 
clothing and equipages, on horse-racing and yachting, on luxu- 
rious dinners and fashio:iable entertainments, we should arrive 
at an enormous sum total of wasted labour, energy and talent, 
all of which is positively injurious to the productive workers, 
since it is they who really have to support, by their ill-paid 
labour, not only the rich individually, but also that vast array 
of servants, artisans, and labourers, who in so many varied ways 
minister to their luxuries, their pleasures, or their vices. This 
argument is not intended to show that all accumulation of 
wealth is bad, for it is only by the accumulation of wealth in 
the form of reproductive capital that civilisation progresses; 
but merely thai excessive wealth in the form of landed or 
funded property, which is perpetually transmitted from one 
generation to the next, is a perpetual and heavy tax on the pro- 
ducers of beneficial wealth. 

Accumulated Wealth may be Beneficial or the Reverse. — 
Political economists, however, have glorified " capital " as the 
benefactor of mankind in general, and of the working-classes in 
particular ; but they have not sufficiently distinguished between 
true productive capital — as expressed in roads and railways, 
mines, harbours, ships and buildings, machinery and tools, with 

Our Poverty and Our Wealth. 15 

a sufficient store of food, clothing and all other necessities of 
life — and the " capital " of the great fundholder or the great 
landholder, which, in both cases, is merely a power to appro- 
priate the labour of others without any exertion on their part, 
a power not only to be supported themselves by the labour of 
the community, but to direct a large portion of that labour into 
wasteful, and even injurious, channels at their own will and 
pleasure. It is this latter form of capital that our recent 
increase in wealth has multiplied to a great and injurious 
extent — an extent to be measured by the immense number of 
persons of " independent means," the hosts who live in the 
" City " by the mere manipulation of money, and the general 
increase of luxury in dress and living among the wealthy 

We are here introduced to another great question, the 
justice or morality of permitting permanent burdens on the 
community to be created for temporary purposes. Such are 
the wars of one Government or generation, which remain as 
a burden on succeeding generations ; but the principle is 
equally applicable to all expenditure which does not produce a 
permanent equivalent. Thus, in our railroads the only really 
permanent result of the capital expenditure is the earthwork ; 
all the rest is temporary, requiring constant annual repairs 
and complete renewals at greater or less intervals. Yet the 
■cost of a large proportion of these temporary works remains as 
a burden on the public long after they have been worn out, in 
the form of interest on capital and debenture stock, so that 
the present generation really pays twice over for much of what 
it enjoys. Honesty no less than sound policy would dictate 
that every expenditure not producing a permanent result should 
be repaid out of profits, by a sinking fund calculated at some- 
what less than its probable duration. The result of not doing 
■so is that the enormous capital of our railways and of many 
other great industrial enterprises to a considerable extent 

1 6 Land Nationalisatton. 

represents no actual existing wealth, and the interest paid on 
it is, therefore, a tax on the travelling community and on the 
shareholders, for which they receive no return whatever. 

How Great Accumulations of Capital Affect the Labourer. — 
This, however, is a digression. Let us now come back to the 
primary question we were discussing, of the fundamental error 
of our legislators in favouring the accumulation of wealth rather 
than its wider distribution ; and let us endeavour to see exactly 
how this affects the labourer, and how it leads to his poverty 
and pauperism amidst ever-increasing national wealth. 

One of the most obvious causes which leads to this sad 
result is the almost complete dependence of the mass of 
labourers in this country (as in most civilised countries) on 
capitalists and landowners for the means of earning a livelihood. 
The absence of work for daily wages means for them starvation, 
since they have no other resource whatever. They are, there- 
fore, not in a condition to refuse work, at whatever wages may 
be offered them, and the severe competition among capitalists 
and manufacturers for the means of employing their capital and 
adding to their wealth obliges them to force down the wages 
of unskilled labour to the lowest point at which the labourer 
can live. The labourers, as a class, are thus absolutely depen- 
dent on the comparatively few capitalists — depeadent on their 
prudence, their capacity, their honesty, and their judgment — 
wholly dependent on the judicious application of capital, -iVith- 
out having any voice or any direct or immediate interest in 
that application. They go blindly to any labour offered them j 
and when, owing to reckless competition, dishonest adulter- 
ation, foreign wars, and other causes, a time of depression 
arrives, they are helpless. They have no means of productive 
home industry, they have not even a home from which they 
cannot be ejected at any moment on failure to pay the weekly 
rent; they have no land, garden, or domestic animals, the 
produce of which might support them till fresh work could be 

Our Poverty and Our Wealth. 17 

obtained. If they have any savings these are soon spent, and 
they then inevitably fall into pauperism. 

The Nature of the Remedy Suggested. — The remedy for 
these evils is sufficiently obvious, though how the remedy is 
to be generally applied is not so clear. The first great evil, of 
dependence on capitalists, would be remedied by small asso- 
ciated communities of workmen, by home manufactures, or 
co-operative workshops. The second evil, that the labourer 
has no independence, no fixed home, nothing to fall back on 
in time of depression, nothing on which to employ his spare 
time and that of his family, can only be cured by giving to 
every labourer freedom to enjoy and cultivate a portion of his 
native soil. It is by this latter reform alone that the first will 
be rendered possible. By it the great and important class of 
agricultural labourers may be at once raised from chronic 
pauperism to comparative affluence, comfort, and independence. 
By it the mechanic or artisan may find a refuge from distress 
when his industrial occupation temporarily fails him ; while the 
enormously increased production of food, caused by every 
labourer and peasant possessing land, would at once renovate 
the home commerce and internal resources of the country so 
as to render prosperous many domestic industries now languish- 
ing. It will be shown in the present volume, by the unvarying 
experience of all civilised nations, that the most important of 
all classes of labourers for the permanent prosperity of a 
country are those who occupy and cultivate their own land. 
Just in proportion as this class is extensive and varied — com- 
prising the wealthy farmer on the one hand and the agricul- 
tural labourer with an acre or two of ground on the other— so 
is the country free from poverty and the people prosperous and 
contented ; and it is because this class is so rare with us, and 
especially because our labourers have for generations past been 
more and more divorced from the soil, that we are in the 
disgraceful position of being at once the wealthiest and most 


1 8 Land Nationalisation. 

pauperised, country in Europe — that, while boasting of our 
religion and our philanthropy, a large proportion of our 
labourers live in cottages and hovels that, by the most com- 
petent authorities, have been again and again declared unfit 
for human habitation, necessarily leading to disease and vice, 
and altogether unparalleled in the civilised world for every bad 
quality a dwelling can possess. The facts are so uniform in 
character and so clearly point to one conclusion, that nothing 
but the circumstance of our legislators having a vested interest 
in the existing state of things could have so long delayed the 
clear perception of the causes of the evil For not only does 
the same system of land-tenure always coincide with the same 
social phenomena, but when the system has been changed 
the social condition has undergone a corresponding change. 
This has notably been the case with France before and since 
the Revolution; — with Prussia before and since the reform 
effected by Stein and Hardenberg — and with Denmark before 
and since the somewhat similar change of land tenure which 
has been effected during the present century ; though it must 
be noted that in none of these countries had the evils of land- 
lordism ever attained the same proportions as with us. Neither 
our reform of Parliament, our Free Trade policy, our vast 
emigration, our enormous manufacturing system, our wide- 
spread colonial empire, our maritime supremacy, nor our 
unprecedented accumulations of capital, have had any apparent 
effect in elevating our labouring classes or securing them even 
that measure of well-being and contentment which they attain 
in every country where the land is widely held and cultivated 
by them. We are, therefore, warranted in concluding that, in 
order to effect a real and vital improvement in the condition of 
the great mass of the English nation, not only as regards 
physical well-being, but also socially, intellectually, and morally, 
we must radically change our system of land-tenure. It is 
when the cultivator of the soil is its virtual owner, and all the 

Our Poverty and Our Wealth. 19 

products of his labour as well as the increased value he can 
confer upon the land are his own, that the maximum of human 
food is produced by it, the maximum of human enjoyment is 
•derived from its cultivation, while the cultivator is, as a rule, 
healthy, moral and contented. In order that the largest 
■possible number of the people may be thus benefited, and 
that the evils necessarily resulting from the opposite system of 
landlordism may be totally abolished, it is essential that the 
■ownership of land, merely as a source of income from its rent 
•or for commercial speculation, shall cease, and a system be 
substituted for it which shall make every farmer and every 
occupier, large or small, the virtual (but for reasons to be after- 
wards explained, not the absolute or unrestricted) owner of the 
land he cultivates or dwells upon. If the facts which lead us 
to this conclusion are as above stated — and an overwhelming 
mass of evidence will be adduced that they are so — it follows 
that the present system of land-tenure in this country is incom- 
patible with the national well-being, and that every enlightened 
legislator, every lover of truth and justice, and every true 
philanthropist is bound to seek the means of changing it 

Scope of the Present Inquiry. — In. the present volume I 
propose, as briefly as is consistent with a clear presentation of 
the question, to lay before my readers a sketch of the con- 
■dition of the different parts of our own country and of other 
civilised lands as regards land-tenure, and of the corresponding 
■effects I shall then point out the conclusions to which 
the facts invariably lead us, and shall show how the evils under 
which we suffer may be most effectually and justly remedied. 
My proposals will be founded entirely on the facts recorded 
by the best and most impartial authorities, and I claim for my 
work a purely inductive character. But there is another and a 
most important mode of discussing the same question as a 
strictly scientific problem, deducing results from the admitted 
principles and data of political economy. This has been^ done 

c 2 

20 Land Nationalisation. 

with" great force of logic and wealth of illustration in Mr. 
George's work already alluded to. His conclusions support 
and his mode of argument supplements my own, and I shall, 
therefore, give a short summary of the essential part of his book 
before explaining in detail my practical scheme of Land 




The present tenure of land in this country is of such 
antiquity, it has so grown with the progress of society, and has 
become so interwoven with all the elements of rural, social, and 
political life, that to many persons the very conception of any 
other system is difficult, if not impossible. That land should 
be private property ; that it should be bought and sold for 
pleasure or profit ; that any man should be allowed to possess 
all that he inherits or is able to purchase ; that it should be 
rented out to those who cultivate it ; and that the owner should 
let it subject to whatever restrictions or stipulations he thinks 
proper — seem, to most people, not only natural but right ; and 
«ven those who suffer by this state of things — the farmer who 
is injuriously restricted in his cultivation, or is turned out of 
his farm because he lias voted against his landlord or o^iier- 
wise offended him ; and the labourer who sees the bit of green 

British Land Tenure. 21 

enclosed on which his father's donkey and geese used to run, 
who is liable to be turned out of his home at a week's notice, 
and who is obliged to walk three miles to his daily labour 
because there are no spare cottages in his employer's parish — 
rarely trace these evils to the general system of land-tenure, but 
rather to some deficiency in the character or conduct of their 
immediate landlords. 

Antiquity of a System no Proof of its Value. — It is 
generally supposed that, when any system or institution has grown 
up with the growth of society, has persisted notwithstanding 
vast social and political changes, and has become interwoven 
with the very texture of a nation's life, it must necessarily be 
good in itself and adapted to the conditions under which it 
flourishes. But this is by no means universally, or even 
generally, the case ; and it often happens that the worst evils 
inherent in a system may be so disguised by the good qualities 
of those who administer it that it is borne with long after its 
ill consequences are, in many cases, admitted. Sooner or later, 
however, the eyes of the people - are opened to its faults ; 
remedies of various kinds are proposed ; and when all these 
remedies are resisted by those who benefit by the institution, a 
revolution sweeps away the whole, and a new system is intro- 
duced which is often far less beneficial or perfect than a 
carefully considered constitutional reform. Thus, despotic 
governments, notwithstanding their respectable antiquity, have 
in time to be modified by representative institutions, or are 
entirely destroyed in the throes of rebellion or revolution. 
Thus, too, slavery — the most ancient of all institutions, and 
one which has formed part of the essential character and social 
life of many communities — everywhere has to be abolished 
with advancing civilisation, if not voluntarily and peacefully, 
then by violence or civil war. So feudalism, with its accom- 
panying remnant of serfdom, has been gradually modified in 
all civilised countries, while with us some of its essential 

23 Land Nationalisation. 

features persist in the vast landed estates held by private indi- 
viduals, and in the almost despotic power which the owners are 
able to exercise (and sometimes do actually exercise) over the 
population — a power so- great that the supreme authority of 
the State is often unable to protect individuals in the occu- 
pation of their ancestral homes, in the right to live among 
the scenes of their childhood, or even in the possession of 
property created by their own industry. 

Let us, then, see if there is anything in the history of modem 
landlordism which entitles it to continue to exist for ever, 
even though it may be shown to be incompatible with freedom^ 
and adverse to the best interests of the people. 

Origin of British Land-Tenure. — ^The actual system of land- 
tenure and all existing rights of property in land of this 
country may be said to have originated at the Norman Con- 
quest, when the whole land of the kingdom became vested in 
the Crown. All the great landed estates were then granted as 
fiefs by the sovereign, and their holders were obliged to render 
military and other service proportionate to the extent and 
population of their lands. These estates were also subject to 
various fines, on marriage or on transmission to an heir ; they 
were not allowed to be sold or alienated without the permission, 
of the Sovereign ; and on the death of the owner without heirs, 
the whole reverted to the Crown. Any breach of fealty, or the 
commission of any act of felony, also entailed the loss of the 
estate. The great vassals were usually endowed with civil 
and criminal jurisdiction over the inhabitants of their estates, 
and were altogether more in the position of subordinate rulers 
than mere landlords in the modern sense of the term. 

These immediate vassals of the Crown again granted lands 
in fief, on various payments or services, and in process of time 
these fiefs were allowed to be divided or sold, and the pay- 
ment or service to be commuted for fixed sums of money. 
Military service, too, gradually ceased, and was changed into 

British Land Tenure. 23 

annual payments, which are now only represented by the small, 
fixed, land-tax ; so that the greater part of the land of the 
kingdom became "freehold" — implying that it was "held" 
from the Crown "free "from all military service, dues and fines, 
and subject only to a fixed annual payment. 

Characteristics of the Feudal System. — The system which was 
thus established was evidently very different from that of land- 
lord and tenant at the present day. The great landlords were 
actual vassals of the Crown and subordinate rulers. They 
held their estates subject to military service ; and this implied 
that the population on the land was the first essential, since 
this was the measure of its power in providing capable men- 
at-arms. Their tenants, the villeins or cultivators, held their 
farms subject to certain services, military or otherwise, and to 
the payment of certain dues ; and these farms were held for 
life, and descended from father to son or other relation on pay- 
ment of certain fines to the lord, whence, it is believed, arose 
the copyhold tenures by which so many small estates are held 
to this day. In those times the land was of less value than the 
men who lived on it, and the animal or vegetable produce of 
the land of less importance than the population of hardy 
villeins, who enhanced the lord's dignity, increased his revenues, 
and kept up the supply of his armed followers. The land- 
owner then lived upon his estate, and his own power and 
influence in the country depended chiefly on the number and the 
well-being of his tenants. Together they formed a little quasi- 
independent community, bound to each other by mutual inter- 
ests and ancestral ties; and if the tenants were sometimes op- 
pressed by their lords, they were as often guarded from robbery 
and plunder by wandering marauders, or saved from com- 
plete destruction during baronial feuds or civil wars. 

Growth of Modern Landlordism. — During this rude period 
of our history, when the Central Government was lax and the 
means of communication imperfect, the feudal system possessed 

24 Land Nationalisation. 

many advantages, and was, in some form or other, almost the 
only one possible. The " lords of the soil " were the chiefs 
and protectors of the community which lived on their estates, 
while every individual, down to the villein and serf, possessed 
definite rights and privileges in connection with the land, 
which, though they might be infringed by force or rapine, were 
fully recognised by custom and law. 

But as time rolled on this system became modified in a 
variety of ways, though always for the benefit of the lord and to 
the injury of the inferior landholder. As the King obtained 
more power and the attractions of court life became greater, 
the nobles and great landowners came to look upon their 
estates chiefly as sources of revenue to be spent in the capital or 
in foreign lands. The employment of foreign mercenaries and 
the rise of standing armies enabled the King to dispense'with the 
military service of his vassals, and by self-made laws this and 
other burdens on the land were gradually thrown off, and were 
replaced to a great extent by taxes on the mercantile and land- 
less classes. The ingenuity of lawyers and direct landlord 
legislation steadily increased the powers of great landowners 
and encroached upon the rights of the people, till at length the 
monstrous doctrine arose that a landless Englishman has no 
right whatever to the enjoyment even of the unenclosed com- 
mons and heaths and the mountain and forest wastes of his 
native country, but is everywhere, in the eye of the law, a 
trespasser whenever he ventures off a public road or pathway. 
The Lord of the Manor is said to be the " owner of the soil," 
and the surrounding freeholders and copyholders have certain 
rights of pasture, fern or turf cutting; but the dwellers in the adja- 
cent towns and villages, and all who are mere Englishmen, have 
no rights whatever, so that if the two former classes agree, the 
common can be (as hundreds of commons have been) enclosed, 
and divided among them. It has thus come to pass that at 
the present day the owners of land, whether acquired by inheri- 

British Land Tenure. 25 

tance or purchase, treat it solely as so roMoh property, to be 
made the most of, quite irrespective of any rights in the people 
who live upon it. They now claim a power which no govern- 
ment, however despotic, has ever openly claimed — that of treat- 
ing the land exclusively as a source of personal wealth, to which 
they have an indefeasible right, even at the sacrifice of all that 
the people who live upon the land hold most dear ; and having 
rendered the exercise of this power legal by means of self-made 
laws and customs, they have at length come to look upon acts 
of oppression and cruelty of the most glaring kind as not only 
right, but such as are not incompatible with the condition and 
feelings of a people who pride themselves upon their freedom. 

We find, then, neither in the origin of our land-system nor in 
the causes which have led to its present development, anything 
to render it sacred or immutable ; but, on the contrary, very 
much to show that a radical change is needed to bring it into 
harmony with modern ideas, and to render possible the full use 
and enjoyment of the land of our country by the people who 
must necessarily inhabit it. Absolute private property in land 
logically carried out, denies the right of non-landholding Eng- 
lishmen to live upon their native soil, except by sufferance and 
under conditions imposed by the will or caprice of the land- 
lords. This power is, on the whole, moderately used, or the 
institution would have been long ago abolished in the throes of 
revolution. But it is not unfrequently exercised, and even 
abused, to the injury of individuals and of the community ; and, 
as the sufferers have no legal redress, the institution itself stands 
thereby condemned. 

The Legal Powers Claimed and Exercised by Modern Land- 
lords. — Before proceeding (in the three following chapters) to 
exhibit in some detail the influence of landlordism on individuals 
and on the community at large, a few general observations and 
illustrative examples may here be given ; but before doing so I 
wish to state, emphatically, that I have no desire to excite any 

26 Land Nationalisation. 

ill-feeling against landowners as a body, or to make any accu- 
sation against them personally ; still less is it my intention to 
propose any measure of confiscation as against existing land- 
lords. The law places them in an anomalous position. It 
tells them that their rights over their land are absolute. They 
could, if it so pleased them, turn it into a waste given up 
wholly to wild animals, or might even destroy its surface-soil 
and convert it into a desert uninhabitable by man or beast. In 
doing this they might expatriate hundreds of families, and even 
cause many to die of exposure, want, or grief ; and all this time 
the Government and the Law would stand by with no power to 
interfere. They would be acting within their legal rights. 
Public opinion would, no doubt, in such extreme cases con- 
demn them, yet there are many who exercise similar rights to a 
partial extent ; and so deadening is the influence of long custom 
and legal sanction that, whenever it can be shown that the 
result is profitable commercially, apologists are to be found who 
uphold the action as beneficial. 

Mr. James Godkin well remarks : •' According to this theory 
of proprietorship, the only one recognised by law. Lord Lans- 
downe may legally spread desolation over a large part of Kerry; 
Lord Fitzwilliam may send the ploughshare of ruin through the 
hearths of half the county Wicklow ; Lord Digby, in the King's 
County, may restore to the bog of Allen vast tracts reclaimed 
during many generations by the labour of his tenants ; and 
Lord Hertford may turn into a wilderness the district which 
the English settlers have converted into the garden of Ulster. 
If any or all of these noblemen took a fancy, like Colonel 
Bernard, of Kinnilty, and Mr. Allen, of Pollok, to become 
graziers and cattle-jobbers on a gigantic scale, the Government 
would be compelled to place the military power of the State 
at their^disposal, to evict the whole population in the Queen's 
name, to drive all the families away from their homes, to de- 
molish their dwellings, and turn them adrift on the highway, 

British Land Tenure. 27 

without one shilling compensation. Villages, schools, churches 
would all disappear from the landscape ; and when the grouse 
season arrived, the noble owner might bring over a party of 
English friends to see his improvements ! The right of con- 
quest so cruelly exercised by the Cromwellians, is in this year 
of grace a legal right ; and its exercise is a mere question of 
expediency and discretion. It is not law or justice, it is not 
British power that prevents the enactment of Cromwellian 
scenes of desolation in every county of that unfortunate island. 
It is self-interest, with humanity in the hearts of good men, 
and the dread of assassination in the hearts of bad men, that 
prevent at the present moment the immolation of the Irish 
people to the Moloch of territorial despotism. It is the effort 
to render impossible those human sacrifices, those holocausts 
of Christian households, that the priests of feudal landlordism 
denounce so 'frantically with loud cries of '■confiscation." 
(" The Land War in Ireland," p. 210.)* 

It may be thought that such cases as are here supposed are 
altogether imaginary, but it is not so. The Daily News special 
commissioner, a writer by no means unfavourable to the cause 
of the landlords, says, writing from Mayo (Oct 30th, 1880) : — 
" Tradesmen, farmers, and all the less wealthy part of the com- 
munity still speak sorely of the evictions of thirty and forty 
years ago, and point out the graveyards which alone mark the 
sites of thickly-populated hamlets abolished by the crowbar. All 
over this part of the country people complain bitterly of the 
loneliness. According to their view, their friends have been 
swept away and the country reduced to a desert in order that it 
might be let in blocks of several square miles each to English- 
men and Scotchmen, who employ the land for grazing purposes 
only, and perhaps a score or two of people where once a 

* This power still remains to the landlord in England and Scotland 
though the recent Land Act has abolished it in Ireland. 

23 Land Nationalisation. 

thousand lived — after a fashion." The writer then goes on to 
explain that this was done in order that the landlords might 
get their rents more securely and more easily, even though the 
rents were somewhat less than those paid by the former occu- 
pants ; and he seems to think that they acted very reasonably 
and that no one had any right to complain ! Mr. Jonathan 
Pirn, in his "Condition and Prospects of Ireland" (1848) says : 
— " Sometimes ejectments have been effected on a large 
scale. The inhabitants of whole villages have been turned 
adrift at once, without a home to go to, without the prospect of 
employment, or any certain means of subsistence." And one 
of the witnesses before the Devon Commission thus describes 
the condition of many of these poor people and the general 
results of that " consolidation of farms" which landlords and 
agents are said to approve so highly : — "It would be impossible 
for language to convey an idea of the state of distress to which 
the ejected tenantry have been reduced, or of the disease, 
misery, ' and even vice, which they have propagated in the 
towns wherein they have settled ; so that not only they who 
have been ejected have been rendered miserable, but they have 
carried with them and propagated that misery. They have 
increased the stock of labour, they have rendered the habita- 
tions of those who received them more crowded, they have 
given occasion to the dissemination of disease, they have been 
obliged to resort to theft and all manner of vice and iniquity 
to procure subsistence ; but, what is perhaps the most painful 
of all, a vast number of them have perished of want" * 

Nor are these cruel evils confined to Ireland. A little more 
than half a century ago, the estate of the Marquis of Stafford 
in Sutherland, comprising 800,000 acres, or about two-thirds 
of the whole county, was forcibly cleared of a population of 
15,000 herdsmen and farmers, in order to turn it into enor- 

* Pari. Rep. 1845, vol. xix, page ig. 

British Land Tenure. 29 

nious sheep farms with a shepherd per square mile. Other 
landlords have since followed this example, till about 2,000,000 
of acres, once crowded with farms and cottages in all the 
valleys, are now reduced to a vast desert wholly given up to 
sheep-runs and deer-forests. The amount of misery and 
destitution, and the various physical and social evils produced 
by this depopulation of the Highlands will be sketched in 
another chapter. We here adduce it only as an example of 
that terrible power over their fellow creatures which absolute 
property in land gives to individuals who possess large estates ; 
and that this power is actually used with the most unsparing 
rigour, sometimes to obtain an increased or a more certain 
rental, sometimes in pursuance of views supposed to be in 
accordance with the teachings of political economy, sometimes 
merely to provide an extensive hunting-ground. 

Our Land System is a modified Feudalism, in which the Land- 
lords have Thrown their Burdens on the People whose Rights in 
the Land they have Absorbed. — I have now shown, by a few strik- 
ing examples, that the land system under which we actually live 
is an abnormal development of feudalism, in which almost all 
the customary rights and privileges of the serfs, villeins, or 
tenants have been encroached upon and finally destroyed, 
while the great landowners under the Crown have, by means 
of self-made laws and customs, gradually absorbed the rights 
of the people, till they have become true land-lords, not only 
claiming, but actually exercising, such absolute rights of pro- 
perty in the soil that their fellow subjects can only live upon it 
at all by their gracious permission. And these terrible rights ar 
not only theoretically permitted, but are actually enforced h 
all the executive power of the State whenever the landlord sc 
wills ! It only needs to state these facts to show, that thj 
system which permits so vast and injurious a despotism in the 
midst of free institutions is radically wrong and cannot much 
longer be upheld ; and if in exposing the evils of the system 

30 Land Nationalisation. 

we are obliged to refer to the general or special results of 
landlordism, it is simply because the exposure can be made in 
no other way. The institution itself is necessarily evil — in the 
present state of society — just as slavery is necessarily evil ; and 
this quite independently of the goodness or badness of indi- 
vidual landlords or slave-owners. But just as the evils of 
slavery would never have been generally acknowledged in our 
time if it had not beeii for the horrors resulting from the 
unrestrained passions of bad or careless or wealth-seeking slave- 
owners, so the evils of unrestricted private property in land can 
be best brought before the public by showing the effects it 
is calculated to produce, and does actually produce, in the 
hands of wealth-seeking capitalists and despotic landlords. 



)■ . . 

No part of the British Isles offers such striking examples of every 
kind of evil that results from unrestricted private property in 
land as Ireland. In that unfortunate country we find some of 
the largest estates j the greatest number of absentee landlords ; 
the most complex settlements, perpetual leases, and other 
incumbrances ; middlemen and sub-tenants in every variety ; the 
greatest uncertainty of tenure ; the most reckless competition 

Irish Landlordism. 31 

for land ; the most extravagant rack-rents ; and the most merci- 
less appropriation by the landlords of the improvements and 
actual property of the tenants. Nowhere else in our country 
do we find the land so generally treated as mere rent-producing 
property ; nowhere else do a considerable proportion of the 
landowners exhibit an almost complete disregard for the welfare, 
or even the existence, of the native agricultural population. 

Origin of Irish Landlordism. — The history of this island as 
regards the ownership of its land is a most distressing one, the 
greater portion of the country having been confiscated since the 
Teign of Henry VIII. Extensive grants of land were made to 
court favourites or to successful soldiers, reign after reign ; and 
every fresh rebellion of the oppressed people led to fresh con- 
fiscations and other transfers of land. Many of the new owners, 
not wishing to reside in the country, leased the land in 
perpetuity or for a very long term, at a low rent The first 
leaseholder often again leased or subdivided the land, and this 
was sometimes repeated several times before coming to the 
actual cultivator. As an example, a townland in the county 
of Roscommon containing about 600 acres is owned by an 
English nobleman, but is leased in perpetuity for J[^%o rent. 
This first leaseholder has again leased it in perpetuity at;^2oo 
per annum. This third landlord has divided it, one man 
paying;^ 1 50 a year rent for about one-third of the whole; and 
this fourth holder has divided a portion of his part among 
sixteen families, who are the actual cultivators of the soil. The 
superior landlords and leaseholders of course care nothing 
about the tenants, and have no interest in their welfare or in the 
condition of the estate, since their rents are amply secured and 
can never be increased ; while the last middleman, who is land- 
lord to the actual tenants, has a high rent to pay himself, and 
is obliged to let his land to the highest bidders in order to 
secure a profit This is an actual case brought before the 
Relief Committee of the Society of Friends at the time of the 

32 Land Nationalisation. 

great famine, and it is stated that the same condition of things, 
variously modified, is to be met with in all parts of the country.*" 
Still more prejudicial is the fact that most of the large estates 
are under strict settlement, so that the actual owners have only 
a life interest in them ; and as the estates are often laden with 
mortgages and family charges, it is impossible for the landlord, 
even if so disposed, to improve the land or to be lenient to his. 
tenants. To add to the evil, most estates are managed by agents 
in the absence of the proprietors ; and as their reputation and 
continued employment depends upon their success in collecting 
rents and punctuality in sending remittances, they are com- 
pelled to use all the powers the law gives them against default- 
ing tenants. 

Tenant-Right. — ^The most fertile source of agrarian distur- 
bances in Ireland has been the general practice of leaving the 
occupier of the land to do everything that is done in the way 
of improvement — everything that is required to render the 
land capable of cultivation at all. The landlord usually does 
nothing but take rent. The whole process of changing the 
land from stony mountain slopes or boggy pastures into 
cultivated fields has been done by successive tenants. The 
tenants have made the fences, the roads, and the gates, they 
have dug the ditches and drains, and have even erected the 
farmhouses and buildings. Of course they could not do this 
at all without some security or belief that they should enjoy it 
for a time, and thus arose a general custom, to consider the 
occupier as a co-partner with the landlord, -.vho not only had a 
moral claim to the continued occupation of the land which he 
had reclaimed or improved, but who could also sell his share 
to a succeeding tenant or transmit it to his heiri There have 
always, however, been some landowners who, either on account 
of their necessities or their greed, have refused to recognise 

* Pirn's Condition and Prospects of Ireland, 1848, p. 44. 

Irish Landlordism. 33 

this just claim, and have, at every opportunity, raised the rent 
to the full value of the tenants' improvements. Instances of 
this were common at the beginning of the century and appear 
to have increased rather than diminished to the present 
day ; and they have naturally led to a feeling of utter insecurity 
in the smaller class of occupiers, who would rather remain idle 
than labour at any improvements which would only lead to an 
increase of their rent. Let us give a few examples of this 
legalised oppression and robbery from Mr. Tuke's moderate 
and trustworthy pamphlet, " Irish Distress and its Remedies " 

Confiscation by Landlords. — At Glenties, in Donegal, a man 
took a piece of bog at a rent of ^^2 a year. This he fenced, 
drained, and cultivated, turning a wilderness into a tidy little 
farm, and was thereupon made to pay nearly four times the 
original rent for it. In another case, in Ulster, a man built a 
corn mill on land belonging to one of the London Companies. 
When the lease expired the rent was somewhat raised, but of 
this he did not complain, and again added to the value of the 
property by building a flax-mill. The rent was again raised ; 
and then the Company sold the land. The new purchaser 
still further raised the rent This was too much to bear, so 
the occupier determined to sell his tenant-right ; but the agent 
of the new owner declared at the sale that the rent would be 
still further raised to the purchaser, and this caused the tenant- 
right to bring far less than it would otherwise have done. This 
old man, .thus robbed of what on every moral and equitable 
principle was his own property, then emigrated to America 
with his family, carrying with him the bitterest animosity 
against his oppressors and against the Government which 
alloYied the oppression. 

None cry out so loudly as landowners against any law which 
may possibly diminish the selling value of their property, 
however beneficial such law may be to the whole country. 


34 Land Nationalisation. 

They exclaim against it as " confiscation." Yet they have 
allowed (as legislators) such cruel confiscation as this, which 
brings endless evils in its train. For these are not excep- 
tional cases; indeed, a Member of Parliament recently stated with 
truth that there are " tens of thousands of instances where 
tenants paying five shillings an acre were evicted by their land- 
lords that the landlords might let their occupations at a pound 
an acre, the increased value being entirely due to the labour 
expended upon the land by the evicted tenants." And then 
we wonder at the misery, and idleness, and deceit of the Irish 
peasantry ! Why, it is forced upon them. They dare not 
become prosperous or look prosperous for fear of increased 
rent. Thus, they often live in filth. They come to the rent- 
audit in their worst clothes. They pay the rent in shillings 
and sixpences, to give the appearance of having collected it 
with the greatest difficulty. And they will be idle half the 
winter rather than improve their hovels, or mend their fences, 
or make any permanent improvement in their holdings. It is 
true that there are many good landlords who never commit 
such robbery ; but good landlords do not live for ever, and 
are sometimes obliged to sell their property, and then the 
tenant's security is gone. It is just as it was in the days of 
American slavery. The good master did not voluntarily sell 
his slaves or part husband and wife, parent and child ; but 
there was no security that at any moment they might not be 
transferred to a new owner who would do both. 

Condition of the Irish Cottier. — ^The modern Irish cottier 
really lives in a state of hopeless and helpless degradation, 
comparable to that of the least fortunate serfs of the Middle 
Ages, who were not only subject to the payment of hard dues 
to their lord, but upon any appiiarance of wealth or even com- 
fort were subject to extortion by the lord's followers or plunder 
by armed marauders. They were obliged to be poor and 
miserable t-o escape robbery. Ireland is a nation of small 

Irish Landlordism. 35 

cultivators. There are 400,000 holdings under 30 acres, and 
30,000 under 15 acres, while there are 156,000 mud cabins of 
only one room occupied by 228,000 families!* Probably 
nowhere in the whole world is there a people living in such a 
state of degradation and barbarism under a civilised or even a 
■semi-civilised government ; and this is the direct result of pure 
landlordism, making its own laws, and carrying them out in its 
own way. It is a universal law that security to enjoy the 
produce of a man's labour is the only incentive to industry, and 
that incentive has been systematically denied to the Irish 
-peasant The injustice, the cruelty, the shortsightedness of 
this system had been urged again and again on our legislators, 
but wholly without effect, till the terrible calamity of the potato 
disease in 1846 and 1847, and the horrible events that ensued, 
forced them into action. But even then, so blind were they to 
the real cause of the evil, so convinced that landlordism was 
itself a perfect dispensation, that, instead of giving the occupier 
security for his labour, they established the Encumbered Estates 
Court as their great remedy, which, as is now universally 
admitted, only increased the evil, and gave the authority of an 
Act of Parliament to further confiscations of tenants' property. 
Mr. Tuke says : "It is notorious that the rights of the tenants 
were disregarded, and that this disregard was the occasion of 
grievous wrong in numerous instances, sometimes when the 
tenants were evicted without compensation to make room for 
new comers, and sometimes when the rents were raised by the 
new purchasers, with entire disregard to the peculiar position of 
the Irish tenant. It has often been noticed that the rack-rented 
■estates are generally not the estates of the old Irish proprietors, 
in which the rents are for the most part moderate in amount, 
but estates purchased under the Act by speculators, who have 
resold them, after increasing the rental enormously." Can 

* Speech of Mr. Cowen, M.P., at Newcastle, 

D 2 

36 Land Nationalisation. 

there be a more striking proof of the blindness and ignorance 
of those legislators who, against all evidence and repeated 
warnings, left the Irish peasantry to the tender mercies of new 
landlords armed with all the powers of the law, and were unable- 
to see that the land of a country with the population dependent 
on it ought not to be subject to unrestricted sale and purchase, 
. or to be allowed to minister to the reckless greed of capitalists- 
and speculators. 

TheDevon Commission, 1847. — The Legislature which passed 
the Encumbered Estates Act as a sufficient remedy for all the 
evils of the Irish land-system had before it the elaborate 
Report and Digest of Evidence of the Commission on the 
Occupation of Land in Ireland. This report, dated 1847, saysr 
"It is admitted on all hands that, according to the general 
practice in Ireland, the landlord builds neither dwelling-house 
nor farm-offices, nor puts fences, gates, &c., into good order,, 
before he lets the land to a tenant. The cases in which the 
landlord does any of these things are the exception." And 
with regard to the custom of tenant-right in Ulster, where the 
improvements made by the occupier are allowed to be sold by 
him to the incoming tenant, the same Report says : "Anoma- 
lous as this custom is, if considered with reference to all the 
ordinary notions of property, it must be admitted that the 
district in which it prevails has thriven and improved, in com- 
parison with other parts of the country." 

In the Digest of Evidence taken before the same Commission 
we find this weighty and important statement : — 

" If a substantial security were offered to the occupying 
tenant for his judicious permanent improvements, a rapid 
change for the better would take place — a change calculated to 
increase the strength of the Empire and the tranquiUty of this 
country ; to improve the food, raiment, and house-accommoda- 
tion of the population ; to remove that paralysis of industry 
which the sworn evidence of nearly every tenant, and of 

Irish Landlordism. 37 

numerous landlords, examined on the subject, has proved to 
exist ; to call into operation the active exertions of every occu- 
pier of land upon his farm ; to add about five months in each 
year to the reproductive occupation of farmers and labourers, 
which are now passed in idly consuming produce, accumulating 
■debts, or, for want of better employment, perhaps, in fomenting 

It is the want of this security that is the sole cause of those 
agrarian disturbances which for more than a century have been 
perennial in Ireland. This is authoritatively stated in the same 
Digest of Evidence, which tells us that "the great majority of 
outrages appear to have arisen from the endeavours of the 
peasantry to convert the possession of land into an indefeasible 
title," and that "in the northern counties, the general recogni- 
tion of the tenant-right has prevented the frequent recurrence 
of these crimes." And again, the Report emphatically states : 
"The tenant's equitable right to a remuneration for his judi- 
ciously-invested labour and capital is not likely to be disputed 
in the abstract. This property is, undoubtedly, his own." And 
it adds: 

"The. importance and absolute necessity of securing io the 
occupying tenant in Ireland some distinct mode of remunera- 
tion for the judicious permanent improvements that he may 
effect upon his farm is sustained by a greater weight of con- 
current evidence than any other subject which has been 
brought under the investigation of the Commissioners /' and 
■"The want of some measure of remuneration for tenants' 
improvements has been variously stated as productive, directly 
■or indirectly, of most of the social evils of the country." And 
. again we have this important statement : " It has been shown 
that the master evil — poverty — proceeds from the fact of 
occupiers of land withholding the investment of labour and 
■capital from the ample and profitable field for it which lies 
■^vithin their reach on the farms they occupy ; that this hesita- 

38 Land Nationalisation. 

tion is attributable to the reasonable disinclination to invest 
labour or capital on the property of others without a security 
that adequate remuneration shall be derived from the 

The Report goes on to show that "the barbarous and 
unprofitable mode of tillage " is all due to this uncertainty that 
the tenants shall be allowed to reap the fruits of their labour ; 
that many lucrative agricultural improvements may be made 
" without the investment of money capital, but merely by the 
judicious application of time and labour of his family, which 
are now wasted, whilst he is complaining that employment 
cannot be had ;" that the larger farmers have the same ample- 
opportunity of employing labourers on similar works, with a 
certainty of the most profitable results ; but this is rarely done,, 
" because they have no certainty of being permitted to reap 
the benefit of their expenditure," while, if tenants-at-will,, 
" they may be immediately removed from the improved lands,, 
after having invested their labour and capital, without receiving 
any compensation, or their rent may be raised to the full value- 
of the improvements thus effected." 

Yet with all these striking facts and authoritative statements- 
before them — facts and statements, be it remembered, not of 
philanthropists or political economists, but of a Parliamentary- 
Commission composed exclusively of landlords, who, with 
great labour, had collected this evidence for the express 
information of the Legislature — no provision whatever was made- 
to secure the tenants right to the property created, by himself, 
but his position was in many cases rendered far worse than 
before by the sale of thousands of estates to the highest 
bidders, who thereby obtained full legal power to seize and con- 
fiscate for their own use the wealth created by the life-long 
labours of Irish tenants I Is it possible to imagine a more 
cruel mockery than this? Can there be a more complete 
condemnation of government by landlords, and, as this is. 

Irish Landlordism. 39 

almost a necessary result of their existence, of landlordism 

Government Neglects its First Duty, — We see, then, from 
the authoritative evidence of a Parliamentary Commission, 
that the chronic poverty of the Irish peasantry and farmers, 
their barbarous mode of tillage, their idleness for many months 
in the year, and their consequent inabiUty to bear up against 
any distress caused by bad seasons or epidemic disease, were all 
cleai-ly and directly traceable to the absence of any security for 
the improvements due to their labour on the land they occupied. 
The first duty of a civilised Government — the protection of 
property — was m their case systematically ignored, and the 
absence of protection for the fruits of human labour involved, 
in its results, the absence of protection to life, as surely as if 
bands of armed robbers and murderers had been allowed to 
range undisturbed over the country. Ignorance that such conse- 
quences might ensue could not be pleaded, since on many pre- 
vious occasions famines of the most distressing kind, and due to 
the same causes, had occurred, notably in 1817 and 1822 ; yet 
still nothing was done to remove the causes of this perennial 
misery, which inevitably led to famine. When, therefore, in 
1847 and 1848 the potato disease destroyed a large part of the 
food of the country, and — the extreme poverty of the people 
leaving them absolutely without resources — millions died of 
starvation, we cannot avoid seeing in this terrible calamity 
the direct results of ignorant and prejudiced government by a 
body of alien legislators. 

Evictions after the Famine. — But what followed was still more 
dreadful, and, one would think, should have opened the eyes 
of the most bigoted to their fatal error. During the four years 
succeeding the famine, the miserable remnant of the agri- 
cultural population were in many districts subject to whole- 
sale eviction from their homes, often resulting in loss of 
life Mr. T. P. O'Connor tells us that in the four years 

40 Land Nationalisation. 

1849 — 1852 there 'were 221,845 evictions; whole townlands 
being depopulated, and their human inhabitants driven 
out to make room for cattle and sheep, as being more 
profitable to the landlords.* These poor people were often 
forced away from their homes, even though all rent due had 
been fully paid. The houses, which had been built by their 
own labour (or purchased from those who had built them), were 
pulled down ; and when the houseless families, having nowhere 
to go, lighted fires in the ditches to cook some food, the fires 
were extinguished in order to drive them off the land. A 
Report to the Poor Law Commissioners states that many 
occupiers were forced out of their homes at night in winter, 
even sick women and children not being allowed to stay in the 
houses till morning ! 

And the power to do all this, be it remembered, is a neces- 
sary consequence of unrestricted private property in land. That 
such horrors do not occur more frequently is due to the good 
feeling and humanity of landlords, and to the absence of suffi- 
cient motive ; but that they should have been ever possible, 
that they should have actually occurred in hundreds of cases, 
and that a Government which claims to rule over a free, pros- 
perous, civilised, and Christian people was not only utterly 
powerless to prevent them, but was actually obliged to aid in 
carrying them into effect — for all was strictly legal, and the 
landlord was only enforcing his admitted rights — must, surely, 
make every one who is unfettered by prejudice see that the 
possession of land for any other purpose ths^n. personal occuJ>a- 

• These figures are appros-imate, but they are generally supported by 
those given in a Parliamentary Report issued in April 1881. This gives 
3S,o6i families, consisting of 194,603 persons, evicted in tviro years (1849-50). 
And the same Report shovifs that again in 1880, during the height of the 
last famine, there were 2, no evictions of 10,457 persons. It is to be noted 
that these are only the evictions that have come to the knowledge of the 
constabulary, and are doubtless considerably below the actual number, 
since many are carried into effect by persons employed by the agent. 

Irish Landlordism. 41 

Uon is incompatible with liberty, and therefore necessarily leads 
to evil results. 

That fearful period of famine, and the emigration which suc- 
ceeded it, reduced the population of Ireland from eight to five 
millions, and at the same time established in America a body 
of Irishmen imbued with the bitterest feelings of enmity against 
the British Government — an enmity whose natural fruit was 
that Fenian conspiracy which has been more really injurious 
to England than a great and unsuccessful war. For a time, 
however, all was thought to be going well Many landlords 
had changed their once thickly-populated land into great graz- 
ing farms, supporting cattle and sheep instead of peasants, but 
returning a more secure if not a higher rent. The general 
prosperity caused by the gold discoveries and the great epoch 
of railway-making was felt by the diminished population of 
Ireland, and the landlords were for a time satisfied that their 
two great panaceas, emigration and large farms, would cure all 
the alleged evils. But the increased wealth of landowners in 
general, as well as of merchants and speculators, led to a more 
expensive style of living, and this could only be met by higher 
rents wherever they could be obtained. In Ireland, where to 
large numbers of the people a piece of land offers the sole 
means of subsistence, there is so much competition for land 
that rents may be raised to any amount the landlord or the 
agent chooses to demand ; and, as a matter of fact, rents have 
been continually raised over a large part of the country so as to 
leave the tenants the barest possible subsistence. 

Suggested Remedies for Irish Distress. — Before the great 
famine of 1847, European politiciai'ss and economists who 
visited Ireland were amazed at the spectacle of a country one- 
third of whose population lived perpetually on the very verge 
of starvation. The causes and the remedy for this disgraceful 
state of things were clear to them, and were pointed out in the 
plainest language by one of our greatest authorities on Political 

4? Land Nationalisation. 

Economy— John Stuart Mill— in 1856. He demonstrated 
that a system of cottier tenure such as prevailed in Ireland, in 
which a large agricultural population without capital, and with 
a low standard of living, have their rents determined by com- 
petition, must inevitably lead to all those social and physical 
evils which perennially exist there. He says :— " The rents 
which they promise they are almost invariably incapable of 
paying; and consequently they become indebted to those 
under whom they hold, almost as soon as they take possession. 
They give up in the shape of rent the whole produce of the 
land, with the exception of a sufficiency of potatoes for a sub- 
sistence ; but as this is rarely equal to the promised rent, they 
constantly have against them an increasing balance. . . . . 
Should the produce of the holding in any year be more than 
usually abundant, or should the peasant by any accident become 
possessed of any property, his comforts cannot be increased ; 
he cannot indulge in better food nor in a greater quantity of 
it His furniture cannot be increased, neither can his wife or 
children be better clothed. The acqui,sition must go to the 
person under whom he holds." And he goes on to show that 
such tenants have nothing to gain by industry and prudence, 
nothing to lose by any recklessness. If they doubled the 
produce of their farms by extra exertion, the only gainer would 
be their landlord. " Almost alone among mankind the Irish 
cottier is in this condition, that he can scarcely be any better or 
worse off by any act of his own. If he were industrious or 
prudent, nobody but his landlord would gain ; if he is lazy or 
intemperate, it is at his landlord's expense. A situation more 
devoid of motives to either labour or self-command imagina- 
tion itself cannot conceive. The inducements of free human 
beings are taken away, and those of a slave not substituted. 
He has nothing to hope, and nothing to fear, except being 
dispossessed of his holding, and against this he protects himself 
by the ultima ratio of a defensive civil war."* 

* Political Economy, Book II, Chap. ix. 

Irish Landlordism. 43 

In the succeeding discussion on the " Means of Abolishing 
a Cottier Tenancy," Mill goes to the root of the question in 
the following passages : — " Rent paid by a capitalist, who farms 
for profit and not for bread, may safely be abandoned to com- 
petition ; rent paid by labourers cannot, unless the labourers 
were in a state of civilisation and improvement which labourers 
have nowhere yet reached, and cannot easily reach, under such 
a tenure. Peasant rents ought never to be arbitrary — never 
at the discretion of the landlord ; either by custom or law it 
is imperatively necessary that they should be fixed ; and where 
no mutually advantageous ciistom has established itself, reason 
and experience recommend that they should be fixed by 
authority, thus changing the rent into a quit-rent, and the 
fanner into a peasant proprietor. For carrying this change 
into effect on a sufficiently large scale to accomplish the 
complet-e abolition of cottier tenancy, the mode which most 
obviously suggests itself is the direct one of doing the thing 
outright by Act of Parliament; making the whole land of 
Ireland the property of the tenants, subject to the rents now 
really paid (not the nominal rents) as a fixed rent-charge. 
This, under the name of ' fixity of tenure,' was one of the 
demands of the Repeal Association during the most successful 
period of their agitation, and was better expressed by Mr. 
Connor, its earliest, most enthusiastic, and most indefatigable 

apostle, by the words, ' A valuation and a perpetuity.' 

To enlightened foreigners writing on Ireland, Von 
Raumer and Gustave de Beaumont, a remedy of this sort 
seemed so exactly and obviously what the disease required 
that they had some difficulty in comprehending how it was 
that the thing was not yet done." 

As a milder and less radical, but still very efficacious, 
measure, if carried out to the fullest extent of which it is 
capable. Mill suggested an enactment " that whoever reclaims 
■waste land becomes the owner of it, at a fixed quit-rent equal 

44 Land Nationalisation. 

to a moderate interest on its mere value as waste ;" and the 
proof that this measure would be successful is afforded by 
evidence given before Lord Devon's Commission, in 1847, by 
Colonel Robinson, the manager of the Waste Land Improve- 
ment Society. He states that " two hundred and forty-five 
tenants and their families have, by spade husbandry, reclaimed 
and brought under cultivation 1,032 plantation acres of land, 
previously unproductive mountain waste, upon which they 
grew last year crops valued at ;^3,896 ;' and their live stock, 
consisting of cattle, horses, sheep, and pigs, now actually 
upon the estates, is valued at ;^4,i62; and by the statistical 
tables and returns obtained annually by the Society, it is 
proved that the tenants, in general, improve their little farms, 
and increase their cultivation and crops, in nearly direct 
proportion to the number of available working persons of 
whom their family consist." 

Continued Blindness and Incompetence of the Legislature.— 
Yet with all this mass of consentaneous evidence as to the law- 
made misery of the Irish people and its only effectual remedy, 
for another twenty-four long years the Legislature did nothing 
to give them that ownership of the soil which, wherever it exists, 
is the cause of untiring industry, thrift, peace, and contentment, 
till in the year 1880 famine again appeared, and again charity 
alone has saved thousands from death by starvation. To the 
landlord Government which has shut its ears to every word of 
truth and warning, even when coming from a Commission 
appointed by itself, the burning condemnation of Carlyle, 
written forty years ago, is surely applicable: — "Was change 
and reformation needed in Ireland? Has Ireland been governed 
in a wise and loving manner? A Government and guidance of 
white European men which has issued in perennial hunger of 
potatoes to the third man extant ought to drop a veil over its 
face, and walk out of Court under conduct of proper officers ; 

Irish Landlordism. 45 

saying no word ; expecting now of a surety sentence either to 
change or die."* 

In 1870, it is true, a Land Act was passed, which it was 
thought would settle the question ; but it really settled nothing, 
because it did not go the root of the matter. As the late Mr. 
Charles Buxton, M.P., said in 1869 : " It is security of tenure 
the Irish people want ; and it is security of tenure the Irish 
people must and will have. It is no sort of good to put them 
off with talk about mere compensation for improvements, or 
other schemes for giving them what they do not ask for and do 
not want, instead of that which they do ask for, and do want." 
John Stuart Mill had said exactly the same thing a year before 
in his striking pamphlet, " England and Ireland," and all the 
evidence that had been collected for the previous twenty-five 
years demonstrated the same fact ; yet our landlord Legislature, 
in its usual peddling and patchwork spirit, passed a most 
elaborate Act to secure compensation for a tenant's improve- 
ments in case he was ejected for any other cause than 
non-payment of rent, but guarded and modified by all kinds of 
stipulations and reservations, involving the employment of 
valuers and lawyers, and an indefinite amount of trouble and 
expense, but not securing the tenant either against arbitrary 
increase of rent or eviction at the will of his landlord, the two 
most important things the Irish tenants asked for, and without 
which the proposed compensation was a delusion and a snare. 
For, instead of evicting, the landlord simply raised the rent on 
a tenant who had made improvements, and thus confiscated 
these improvements in spite of the Act! And thus even the 
Ulster tenant-right has been made valueless by the very Act 

* Mr. Tuke in his "Irish Distress and its Remedies," gives 72,864 as the 
number of persons who received relief in the County of Donegal, the whole 
population of which, in 1871, was 218,000. This was one of the ten dis- 
tressed counties, and if taken as an average one, here, too, every third man 
had been living in "perennial hunger of potatoes." 

46 Land Nationalisation. 

which was intended to extend some of its benefits over a wider 

Tenant-Right Often Confiscated Even in Ulster. — Even before 
this Act, however, tenant-right was only a custom, not a law, 
and was not unfrequently disregarded. Mr. Charles Wilson, 
writing in The Statesman (Feb., 1881), gives the following 
example : — " See the position of the tenants on a small estate 
in Ulster, which was bought some twenty years since, and the 
rents were doubled on the tenants. One had to pay ;^64 
instead of jQz^, another ;^S 7 instead of ;j^2 9 ; another lost 
his lease by accident, and though the landlord had the 
counterpart, instead of producing it, he raised the rent 50 per 
cent. Another, who holds in perpetuity, was charged ;^is 
per annum for some years as a drainage rate ; but, suspecting 
wrong, he applied to the Board of Works, and found that the 
landlord was paying only ^t, 19s., and pocketing the differ- 
ence. The tenant got this put right and recovered the 

One of the tenants of Sir Richard Wallace stated at a recent 
meeting that the farm he now held at 25 s. per acre was held 
by his grandfather at 2s. 6d. per acre, and that all the improve- 
ments which had so largely increased the rental value were 
made at the cost of the tenants. At another meeting of the 
tenants of the same estate resolutions were passed stating that, 
owing to the system which had been adopted by the late 
Marquis of Hertford, many reductions of rent had been 
purchased by the payment of a sum down, and that, owing to 
this system of " fining down leases," any reference to present 
rents as being low was fallacious ; that tenants' improvements 
and agricultural property have been made a basis for continual 
rises of rent ; that tenants' improvements are included in the 

*See numerous examples of this in Mr. Charles Russell's " New Views 
of Ireland," as well as in the daily press. 

Irish Landlordism. 47 

Government valuation ; and that, therefore, this forms no true 
basis for estimating the landlord's rent ; that several vexatious 
" office rules," unknown formerly, have lately been instituted ; 
that the tenants are charged five per cent on the amount of 
the rent under the name of receiver's fees ; that the ground 
Tent of public roads and rivers is charged on the tenant ; and 
many other complaints of a like nature. 

Tremendous Power of Agents over the Tenants. — Against 
these and similar exactions of agents the tenants are 
powerless. As Mr. Godkin well puts it, "Armed with the 
' rules of the estate,' and with a notice to quit, the agent may 
have almost anything he demands, short of possession of the 
farm and home of the tenant. The notice to quit is like a 
death warrant to the family. It makes every member of it 
tremble and agonise, from the grey-headed grandfather and 
grandmother to the bright little children, who read the advent 
•of some impending calamity in the gloomy countenances and 
bitter words of their parents. The passion for the possession 
of land is the chord on which the agent plays, and at his touch 
it vibrates with the * deepest notes of woe.' "* 

Eviction is what the Irish peasant dreads as a sentence of 

*It will hardly be credited what kind of " rules'' prevail on some estates. 
"Mr. Thomas Crosbie, of Cork, an agent himself, published in 1858 an 
account of "The Lansdowne Estates." He declares that the "rules of 
the estate," which were rigidly enforced, forbid tenants to build houses for 
their labourers ; forbid marriage without the agent's permission, so that a 
young couple having transgressed the rule were chased away to America, 
and the two fathers-in-law were punished for harbouring their son and 
daughter by a fine of a gale of rent. Another rule was that no stranger be 
lodged or harboured in any house on the estate, lest he should become sick 
•or idle, or in some way chargeable on the poor-rates. A tenant, who 
sheltered his sister-in-law while her husband was seeking work, was so 
afraid of the agent that, at the woman's approaching confinement, he 
removed her to a shed on a relative's land, where her child was born. 
'This man was fined a gale of rent, and was made to pull down the shed. 
Then the poor sick woman went to a cavern in the mountain, and for this 
two other fines were levied from the tenants who jointly grazed the land. 
A still worse case is given ; but these are sufficient to show that Irish 
tenants live under a system of penal laws, unknown to the Legislature, and 
are punished by fines enforced by the dread of eviction. (Godkin's " Land 
War in Ireland," p. 412.) 

48 Land Nationalisation. 

misery or death, and it is well that my readers should realise what 
an Irish eviction really is. The following account of an eye- 
witness is taken from a published Pastoral Letter of the 
Roman Catholic Bishop of Meath : — 

" It was a cruel, an inhuman eviction, which even still makes 
our hearts bleed as often as we allow ourselves to think of it. 
Seven hundred human beings were driven from their homes in 
one day, and sent adrift upon the world to gratify the caprice 
of one who, before God and man, probably deserved less 
consideration than the last and least of them. And we 
remember well that there was not a single shilling of rent due 
on the estate at the time except by one man ; and the character 
and acts of that man made it perfectly clear that the agent 
and himself quite understood each other. The crowbar 
brigade, employed on the occasion to extinguish the hearths 
and demolish the homes of 'honest, industrious men, worked 
away with a will at their awful calling until evening. At 
length an incident occurred that varied the monotony of the 
grim, ghastly ruin which they were spreading all around. They 
stopped suddenly, and recoiled, panic-stricken with terror, from 
two dwellings which they were directed to destroy with the 
rest. They had just heard that a frightful typhus fever held 
those houses in its grasp, and had already brought pestilence 
and death to their inmates. They therefore supplicated the 
agent to spare these houses a little longer ; but the agent was 
inexorable, and insisted that the houses should come down. 
He ordered a large winnowing sheet to be secured over the 
beds in which the fever victims lay — fortunately they happened 
to be perfectly delirious at the time — and then directed the 
houses to be uprooted cautiously and slowly, because, he said, 
'He very much disliked the bother and discomfort of a 
coroner's inquest.' I administered the last sacrament of the 
Church to four of these fever victims next day ; and, save the 
above-mentioned winnowing sheet, there was not then a roof 
nearer to me than the canopy of heaven. 

Irish Landlordism. 49 

" The horrid scenes that I then witnessed I must remember 
all my life long. The wailing of women ; the screams, the 
terror, the consternation of children ; the speechless agony of 
honest, industrious men, wrung tears of grief from all who saw 
them. / saw the officers and men of a large police force, who 
were obliged to attend on the occasion, cry like children at 
beholding the cruel sufferings of the very people whom they 
would be obliged to butcher, had they offered the least resis- 
tance. The heavy rains that usually attend the autumnal 
equinoxes descended in cold, copious torrents throughout the 
night, and at once revealed to those houseless sufferers the 
awful realities of their condition. I visited them next morning, 
and rode from place to place administering to them all the 
comfort and consolation I could. The appearance of men, 
women and children, as they emerged from the ruins of their 
former homes — saturated with rain, blackened and besmeared 
with soot, shivering in every member from cold and misery — 
presented positively the most appalling spectacle I ever looked 
at. The landed proprietors in a circle all round — and for many 
miles in every direction — warned their tenantry, with threats of 
direct vengeance, against the humanity of extending to any of 
them the hospitality of a single night's shelter. Many of these 
poor people were unable to emigrate with their families ; while 
at home the hand of every man was thus raised against them. 
They were driven from the land on which Providence had 
placed them ; and, in the state of society surrounding them, 
every other walk, of life was rigidly closed against them. What 
was the result? After battling in vain with privation and 
pestilence, they at last graduated from the workhouse to the 
tomhyandtn little more than three years- nearly a fourth of them 
lay quietly in their graves."* 

* Quoted from Mr. T. Walter's pamphlet—" Irish Wrongs and How to 
IMend Them— 1881," p. 39. 


5o Land Nationalisation. 

The Condition of the People under Irish Landlordism. — 
When we remember that a plot of land is the sole means of 
subsistence to the mass of the rural population of Ireland, that 
there are "at least 500,000 families, amounting to about 
3,000,000 persons, competing for the land as the sole stay 
between themselves and starvation," how absurd is it to talk of 
" freedom of contract," or to wonder that the Irish peasants 
submit to any rent and any conditions that the landlords or 
their agents choose to impose, rather than suffer the barbarous 
punishment of eviction. 

The natural, the inevitable result of such a state of things is 
thus described by recent observers. Mr. Charles Russell says : — 
"In a country whose fruitfulness would suffice to feed and 
maintain a greatly increased population in decent condition, 
there exists at this moment in a population which famine and 
emigration have reduced from eight millions to about five 
millions, a more intense degree of wretchedness and poverty, 
and that more general, than in any known country in the world." 
And Mr. De Courcy Atkins, in his " Case of Ireland Stated," 
after describing what he saw in Cork and Kerry, concludes 
thus : — " There have been many countries, both ancient and 
modern, in which slavery was part of the acknowledged law, 
but I submit to all men who have studied the question of 
slavery, whether in any such country the producing slave has 
been so limited in the enjoyment of the produce as the 
nominally free Irish labourer or cottier tenant is in Ireland." 

It may perhaps be said, " All this is now at an end. The 
Government has done justice to Ireland by the new Land Act. 
Why tell old tales?" But no law, even if far more efficient and 
more beneficial than the recent Act, can recall the past, or 
undo the misery and degradation brought upon the bulk of the 
Irish people by the action of landlordism and landlord-made 
law, such as still exists in England and Scotland. Some of 
their worst effects have no doubt now been locally rem -idied. 

Landlordism in Scotland. 51 

but the root of the evil still remains ; and it is important to 
show the natural and inevitable results of a system which 
requires to be held in check by exceptional legislation in order 
to prevent horrors and catastrophes like those it has produced 
in Ireland. 



In a large part of Scotland landlordism presents peculiar 
features, and has produced its normal evil results on a larger 
scale and in a more striking manner than in any other part of 
the kingdom. This • has been mainly due to the continued 
existence of the old Celtic Clans, with their hereditary Chief- 
tains possessing many of the powers and privileges of a bar- 
barous age, down to so recent a period as the middle of the 
last century, and the comparatively sudden transformation 
■of these chiefs into landlords, who soon claimed and exercised 
all those absolute and despotic powers which the law of England 
toestowed upon them. 

52 Lmtd Nationalisation. 

Chiefs and Clansmen in the Highlands. — Under the old 
system the Highland Chief was a petty sovereign, who retained 
civil and criminal jurisdiction over his clansmen and the power 
of making war on other chiefs and clans. But these clansmen 
were never either serfs or vassals, but free men ; and the clan 
was really a great family, all the members of which were sup- 
posed to be, and often actually were, of one blood. It was a 
true patriarchal system, totally distinct from the feudal 
system of Europe ; and though every clansman owed fealty 
and military service, as well as certain dues or payments, to his 
chief, these were given through love and duty rather than 
through fear, and every petty clansman held his land and his 
rights to pasture and wood and turf, and to hunt and fish over 
the mountains and lakes, by the same title as the chieftain held 
his more extensive lands and privileges. As well expressed by 
an able writer in the Westminster Review — " No error could 
be grosser than that of viewing the chiefs as unlimited pro- 
prietors, not only of the arable land, but of the whole territory 
of the mountain, lake, river, and seashore, held and won during 
hundreds of years by the broadswords of the clansmen. 
Could any MacLean admit, even in a dream, that his chief 
could clear Mull of all the MacLeans and replace them with 
Campbells ; or the Macintosh people his lands with 
MacDonalds, and drive away his own race, any more than 
Louis Napoleon could evict all the population of France and 
supply their place with English and German colonists ?" Yet 
this very power and right the English Government, in its 
aristocratic selfishness, bestowed upon the chiefs, when, after 
the great rebellion of 1745, it took away their privileges of war 
and criminal jurisdiction, and endeavoured to assimilate them 
to the nobles and great landowners of England. The rights of 
the clansmen were entirely left out of consideration. 

Highland Chiefs Changed into Landlords. — For some time 
the change was not materially felt. Tracts of land were 

Landlordism in Scotland. 53 

assigned to the more important members of the clan on pay- 
ment of an annual rent, and these often sublet the land to the 
poorer Highlanders. The English system of entail soon 
became common in Scotland, and by marriage, inheritance, 
and purchase, the great estates became still greater and passed 
into fewer hands, while the feeling of clanship became weaker 
and the rights of the clansmen less clearly recognised. When, 
shortly afterwards, England became engaged in the great 
American and Continental wars, the Highland noblemen 
raised recruits from among their clansmen and formed the 
famous Highland regiments ; and, as this added to their 
dignity and importance, they favoured the increase of small 
farmers whose hardy sons would swell the ranks of the army. 
The larger of these tenants were called "tacksmen," the 
smaller " crofters," and thus most of the Highland valleys were 
filled with a peaceful, hardy, industrious, and contented 

Character of Highland Tenantry Eighty Years Ago. — The 
testimony on this subject is of a very uniform nature. The 
tacksmen, or small gentlemen farmers, lived in rude houses 
but with much comfort, and were almost always men of good 
education and refined manners; while their hospitality was 
unbounded, and they freely supported among them the poor 
of the district. Dr. Norman MacLeod tells us, as a proof of 
the sterling qualities and high character of this class of High- 
landers, that, since the beginning of the last wars of the French 
Revolution, the island of Skye alone sent forth from her wild 
shores 21 lieutenant and major-generals, 48 lieutenant-colonels, 
600 commissioned officers, 10,000 soldiers, 4 governors of 
colonies, i governor-general, 1 adjutant-general, i chief baron 
■of England, and i judge of the Supreme Court of Scotland. 
Besides such men as these, the same class supplied the whole of 
the clergy, doctors ai;d lawyers of the North of Scotland, as well 
as many to other parts of the empire. Now, tlirough the 

54 Land Nationalisation. 

changes brought about by the despotism of the landlords, this 
class of men has almost entirely ceased to exist, and few 
soldiers or officers are supplied by the Highlands.* 

In Sir John McNeill's " Report on the Western Highlawds 
and Islands," he describes the crofter as often a permanent or 
even hereditary tenant, at a rent fixed for long periods, occu- 
pying a few acres of arable land, with right of peat and pasture 
on the mountain, and of fishing, if near the sea or a loch. His 
rude house was oflen built by himself, the byre for the cows 
and the barn for his crop being under the same roof. He 
usually possessed some cattle, sheep, and a pony or two, a boat, 
nets, and fishing gear, and a good supply of needful implements 
and household furniture. His croft supplied him with food 
and a great part of his clothing, his annual sale of cattle paid 
his rent, he had abundance of dried fish or salt herrings for 
winter use, and he thus lived in a rude abundance, with little 
labour, and knew nothing of the unremitting daily toil by 
which labourers in other parts of the country gain their liveli- 
hood. And what was the character of these men ? Dr. 
McLeod says : " The real Highland peasantry are, I hesitate 
not to affirm, by far the most intelligent in the world. I say 
this advisedly, after having compared them with those of many 
countries. Their good breeding must strike every one who is 
familiar with them." The Highlander is said to be lazy, but 
when removed to another clime he exhibits a perseverance and 
industry which makes him rise very rapidly. Hugh Miller 
says that, in tlie golden age of the Highlands, between the 
rebellion of 1745 and the commencement of the clearance 
system, the Highland peasantry were contented and comfort- 
able, and continuously supplied those Highland regiments which 
were composed of at once the best men and the best soldiers 
in the service ; and he declares that, when he has seen them 
labouring to extract a miserable crop from a barren soil of 

"Reminiscences of a Highland Parish," p. 185. 

Landlordism in Scotland. 55 

quartz rock and peat, his chief wonder has been at their great 

The Change Effected by Landlords and Agents. — The happy 
and contented lot of the Highlanders, both of the " tacksman " 
and the " crofter " class, might doubdcss, under a wise and 
liberal system of permanent tenure and free use of the land of 
their native country, have been extended and perpetuated with 
the most beneficial results ; but in the hands of landlords and 
agents this could hardly be expected. In order to obtain 
the highest rents the agents and some of the tacksmen 
favoured the subdivision of the crofts till they would 
hardly support a family, and the crofters were then forced to 
add to their means either by the wages of labour, by the 
manufacture of kelp, or other expedients. Poverty and 
distress increased; and the landlords, tempted by offers of 
large rents from Lowland sheep-farmers, began to seek means 
of getting rid of the burdensome population of small farmers — 
whose rents were difficult to collect and often in arrear — in 
order to let out their vast territories as sheep farms. The great 
landlords argued, and perhaps persuaded themselves, that the 
land could not support more small farmers, but might be more 
profitably employed in feeding sheep, thus producing wool 
and mutton for the whole community, and, therefore, that the 
proposed change was for the public benefit. Accordingly, the 
full rights of possession given by the English law were now 
insisted on. The pasture of the hill-tops, the game on the 
moors, the wood and the peat of the forests, the salmon in the 
rivers, and even the very shell-fish and sea-weed on the wild 
sea-shore were declared the sole and exclusive property of the 
landlords. Then began the clearances and evictions dignified 
by the name of " improvements." By hundreds and thousands 
at a time the occupiers of the soil were driven from their homes, 
and were many of them forced to leave the country which they 
had so bravely defended on many a hard-won battle-field. 

$6 Land Nationalisation. 

One of the most celebrated of these wholesale clearances 
was made on the great estate of the lords of Sutherland, then 
in the possession of an English nobleman, the Marquis of 
Stafford, who had acquired it by marriage. This estate con- 
sisted of more than 700,000 acres, or the larger half of the 
entire county, and was inhabited by a population of 15,000 
herdsmen or small farmers, occupying the numerous valleys and 
secluded glens which penetrate among its bleak and barren 
mountains. In the course of a few years these were almost all 
forcibly removed, some to the sea-coast, where small plots 
of land were allotted to them, others to Canada ; and 
this large population was replaced by thirty-nine sheep 
farmers and their few shepherds. As there is a general belief 
among educated people (who alone have heard that any such 
events took place) that these clearances were conducted with 
gentleness and humanity, and that they were really beneficial 
to the inhabitants — as they were no doubt intended to be by 
the Marquis and Marchioness of Stafford — it becomes necessary 
to give a few authentic statements of what actually took place 
under their general orders ; and this we are enabled to do 
with the assistance of a pamphlet recently published by Mr. 
Alexander Mackenzie, F.S.A. Sctl., editor of the Celtic Maga- 
zine, and author of many works on the Highlands. 

The Story of the Sutherland Evictions. — The Sutherland 
clearances commenced in 1807 by the ejection of 90 families, 
who were provided with smaller lots near the coast, and allowed 
to remove the timber of their houses wherewith to build new 
ones. During the removal their crops suffered greatly ; they 
and their families had to sleep out of doors ; some died 
through fatigue and exposure, while others contracted diseases 
which shortened their lives. From 1809 to 18 14 the evictipns 
were carried out with much greater severity \ the lots given 
to the people were often patches of moor and bog quite unfit 
for cultivation, the houses were often burned down, crops and 

Landlordism in Scotland. 57 

furniture destroyed, and general misery spread among the 
people. The notorious Mr. Sellar was at this time sub-factor, 
and it may be well to give a few examples of how he interpreted 
the benevolent wishes of his noble employers. The following 
is the testimony of an eye-witness quoted by Mr. Mackenzie : — 
" In former removals the tenants had been allowed to carry 
away the timber of their old dwellings to erect houses on their 
new allotments, but now a more summary mode was adopted 
— by setting fire to them. The able-bodied men were by this 
time away after their cattle or otherwise engaged at a distance, 
so that the immediate sufferers by the general house-burning 
that now commenced were the aged and infirm, the women 
and children. As the lands were now in the hands of the 
factor himself, and were to be occupied as sheep farms, and as 
the people made no resistance, they expected at least some 
indulgence in the way of permission to occupy their houses and 
other buildings till they could gradually remove, and mean- 
while look after their growing crops. Their consternation was 
therefore great when, immediately after the May term-day, 
a commencement was made to pull down and set fire to the 
houses over their heads. The old people, women and others, 
then began to preserve the timber, which was their own ; but 
the devastators proceeded with the greatest celerity, demolish- 
ing all before them, and when they had overthrown all the 
houses in a large tract of country, they set fire to the wreck. 
Timber, furniture, and every other article that could not be 
instantly removed was consumed by fire or otherwise utterly 
destroyed. The proceedings were carried on with the greatest 
rapidity and the most reckless cruelty. The cries of the 
victims, the confusion, the despair and horror painted on the 
countenances of the one party, and the exulting ferocity of the 
other, beggar all description. In these scenes Mr. Sellar was 
present, and apparently, as sworn by several witnesses at his 
subsequent trial, ordering and directing the whole. Many 

$8 Land Nationalisation. 

deaths ensued from alarm, from fatigue, and cold, the people 
having been instantly deprived of shelter, and left to the 
mercies of the elements. Some old men took to the woods and 
to the rocks, wandering about in a state approaching to, or of 
absolute insanity ; and several of them in this situation lived 
only a few days. Pregnant women were taken in premature 
labour, and several children did not long survive their suffer- 
ings. ' To these scenes,' says Donald Macleod, ' I was an 
eye-witness, and am ready to substantiate the truth of my 
statements, not only by my own testimony, but by that of many 
others who were present at the time. In such a scene of 
devastation, it is almost useless to particularise the cases of 
individuals ; the suffering was great and universal. I shall, 
however, notice a very few of the extreme cases of which I was 
myself an eye-witness. John Mackay's wife, Ravigill, in 
attempting to pull down her house, in the absence of her hus- 
band, to preserve the timber, fell through the roof. She was 
in consequence taken in premature labour, and in that state 
was exposed to the open air and to the view of all the by- 
standers. Donald Munro, Garvott, lying in a fever, was 
turned out of his house and exposed to the elements. Donald 
Macbeath, an infirm and bed-ridden old man, had the house 
unroofed over him, and was in that state exposed to the wind 
and rain until death put a period to his sufferings. I was 
present at the pulling down and burning of the house of 
William Chisholme, Badinloskin, in which was lying his wife's 
mother, an old bed-ridden woman of nearly loo years of age, 
none of the family being present. I informed the persons 
about to set fire to the house of this circumstance, and pre- 
vailed on them to wait until Mr. Sellar came. On his arrival, I 
told him of the poor old woman being in a condition unfit for 
removal, when he replied, " Damn her, the old witch, she has 
lived too long — let her burn." Fire was immediately set to 
the house, and the blankets in which she was carried out 

Landlordism in Scotland. 59 

were in flames before she could be got out. She was placed 
in a little shed, and it was with great difficulty they were pre- 
vented from firing it also. Within five days she was a 
corpse.' " 

In i8i6 Sellar was charged at Inverness before the Court 
of Justiciary with culpable homicide and fire-raising ; but the 
landlord influence was too strong, and he was acquitted. He 
was, however, dismissed from his post, as was also his superior, 
Mr. Young, and the management of the clearances thenceforth 
devolved on Mr. Loch, who has written an account of these 
" Sutherland Improvements " from his own point of view. 
The people were at first delighted with the dismissal of Sellar, 
but soon found that under the new factor matters were little 
better. Under his orders the parish of Kildoran, and parts 
of three others, were cleared by parties with faggots, who 
burnt down 300 houses. The following is Macleod's account 
of what took place : — " The consternation and confusion 
were extreme; little or no time was given for the removal 
of persons or property ; the people striving to remove the sick 
and the helpless before the fire should reach them, and 
struggling to save the most valuable of their effects. The 
cries of the women and children, the roaring of the affrighted 
cattle, hunted at the same time by the yelling dogs of the 
shepherds amid the smoke and fire, altogether presented a scene 
that completely baffles description — it required to be seen to 
be believed. A dense cloud of smoke enveloped the whole 
country by day, and even extended far out to sea ; at night 
an awfully grand, but terrific, scene presented itself — all the 
houses in an extensive district in flames at once. I myself 
ascended a height about eleven o'clock in the evening, and 
counted 250 blazing houses, many of the owners of which 
were my relations, and all of whom I personally knew, but 
whose present condition — whether in or out of the flames — I 
could not tell. The conflagration lasted six days, till the 

6q Land Nationalisation. 

whole of tne dwellings were reduced to ashes or smoking 
ruins. During one of these days a boat actually lost her way 
in the dense smoke as she approached the shore, but at night 
was enabled to reach a landing-place by the lurid light of 
the flames." 

Mr. Mackenzie adds : — " The whole of the inhabitants of 
Kildoyan, numbering nearly 2,000 souls, except three families, 
were utterly rooted and burnt out, and the whole parish 
converted into a solitary wilderness. The suffering was 
intense. Some lost their reason. Over a hundred souls 
took passage to Caithness in a small sloop, the master 
humanely agreeing to take them in the hold, from which he 
had just unloaded a cargo of quick lime. A head storm came 
on, and they were nine days at sea in the most miserable 
condition — men, women, and helpless children huddled up 
together, with barely any provisions. . Several died in con- 
sequence, and others became invalids, for the rest of their 
days. One man, Donald Mackay, whose family was suffering 
from a severe fever, carried two of his children a distance of 
twenty-five miles to this vessel. Another old man took shelter 
in a meal mill, where he was kept from starvation by licking 
the meal refuse scattered among the dust on the floor, and 
protected from the rats and other vermin by his faithful collie. 
George Munro, the miller at Farr, who had six of his family 
down with fever, had to remove them in that state to a damp 
kiln, while his home was given to the flames. And all this 
was done in the name of proprietors who could not be 
considered tyrants in the ordinary sense of the term." 

Scenes like these went on for fourteen years, unknown to 
the English people, unnoticed by the English Government. 
Hugh Miller, speaking of them, says : — " The clearing of 
Sutherland was a process of ruin so thoroughly disastrous that 
it might be deemed scarcely possible to render it more 
complete. Between the years 181 r and. iS?o, 15,000 

Landlordism in Scotland. 6i 

inhabitants of this northern district were ejected from their 
snug inland farms by means for which we Would in vain 
seek a precedent, except, perhaps, in the history of the Irish 
massacre. A singularly well-conditioned and wholesome 
district of country has been converted into one wide ulcer 
of wretchedness and woe."* 

Ot/ier Examples of Highland Clearances. — Other great land- 
lords soon followed the example thus set them, but in many 
cases with even more disastrous results, driving away their 
tenants without troubling themselves about their means of 
support or what became of them. An example or two of these 
later evictions must be quoted from Mr. Mackenzie's 
pamphlet : — 

" The Glengarry property at one time covered an area of 
nearly 200 square miles, and to-day, while many of their 
expatriated vassals are landed proprietors and in affluent 
circumstances in Canada, not an inch of the old possessions of 
the ancient and powerful family of Glengarry remains to the 
descendants of those who caused the banishment of a people 
who, on many a well-fought field, shed their blood for their 
chief and country. In 1853 every inch of the ancient heritage 
was possessed by the stranger except Knoydart, in the west, 
and this has long ago become the property of one of the 
Bairds. In the year named young Glengarry was a minor, his 
mother, the widow of the late chief, being one of his trustees. 
She does not appear to have learned any lesson of wisdom 
from the past misfortunes of her house. Indeed, considering 
her limited power and possessions, she was comparatively the 
worst of them all. The tenants of Knoydart, like all other 

* Others who knew the facts spoke equally strongly. In a rare 
pamphlet entitled " Our Deer Forests," Mr. Alexander Robertson, Presi- 
dent of the Highland Economic Society, speaks of " the inhuman conduct 
of the noble family of Sutherland," and adds : "It is scarcely possible to 
credit the accounU iif the enormities perpetrated by the factor, Sellar, and 
other base mimoi... of despotism and tyranny." 

62 Land Nationalisation. 

Highlanders, had suffered severely during and after the potato 
famine in 1846 and 1847, and some of them got into arrear 
with a year's and some with two years' rent, but they were fast 
clearing it off. Mrs. Macdonell and her factor determined to 
evict every crofter on her property, to make room for sheep. 
In the spring of 1853 they were all served with summonses of 
removal, accompanied by a message that Sir John Macneil, 
Chairman of the Board of Supervision, had agreed to convey 
them to Australia. Their feelings were not considered worthy 
of the slightest consideration. They were not even asked 
whether they would prefer to follow their countrymen to 
America and Canada. They were to be treated as if they were 
nothing better than Africans, and the laws of their country on 
a level with those which regulated South American slavery. 
The people, however, had no alternative but to accept any 
offer made to them. They could not get an inch of land on 
any of the neighbouring estates, and any one who would give 
them a night's shelter was threatened with eviction themselves. 
^t was afterwards found not convenient to transport them 
to Australia, and it was then intimated to the poor creatures, 
as if they were nothing but common slaves to be disposed of 
at will, that they would be taken to North America, and that a 
ship would be at Isle Ornsay, in the Island of Skye, in a few 
days to receive them, and that they must go on board. The 
Sillery soon arrived, and Mrs. Macdonell and her factor came 
all the way from Edinburgh to see the people hounded across 
in boats, and put on board this ship, whether they would or not. 
An eye-witness who described the proceeding at the time, in a 
now rare pamphlet, and whom I met last year in Nova Scotia, 
characterises the scene as indescribable and heart-rending. 
' The wail of the poor women and children as they were torn 
away from their homes would have melted a heart of stone.' 
Some few families, principally cottars, refused to go, in spite of 
every influence brought to bear upon them ; and the treatment 

Landlordism in Scotland. 63 

they afterwards received was cruel beyond belief. The houses, 
not only of those who went, but of those who remained, were 
burnt and levelled to the ground. The Strath was dotted all 
over with black spots, showing where yesterday stood the 
habitations of men. The scarred, half-burnt wood — couples, 
rafters, and bars — ^were strewn about in every direction. Stooks 
of corn and plots of unlifted potatoes could be seen on all 
sides, but man was gone. No voice could be heard. Those 
who refused to go aboard the Sillery were in hiding among the 
rocks and the caves, while their friends were packed off like so 
many African slaves to the Cuban market. 

" No mercy was shown to those who refused to emigrate; their 
few articles of furniture were thrown out of their houses after 
them — beds, chairs, tables, pots, stoneware, clothing, in many 
cases rolling down the hill. What took years to erect and collect 
was destroyed and scattered in a few minutes. From house 
to house, from hut to hut, and from barn to barn, the factor 
and his menials proceeded carrying on the work of demolition, 
until there was scarcely a human habitation left standing in the 
district Able-bodied men, who, if the matter should rest with 
a mere trial of physical force, would have bound the factor and 
his party hand and foot and sent them out of the district, 
stood aside as dumb spectators. Women wrung their hands 
and cried aloud, children ran to and fro dreadfully frightened ; 
and while all this work of demolition and destruction was going 
on, no opposition was offered by the inhabitants, no hand was 
lifted, no stone cast, no angry word was spoken." 

Mr. Mackenzie proceeds to give a large number of detailed 
cases of these evictions, of which the following two may be 
taken as average samples : — 

"Archibald Macisaac, crofter, aged 66; wife 54, with a 
family of ten children. Archibald's house, byre, barn, and 
stable were levelled to the ground. The furniture of the 
house was thrown down the hill, and a general destruction then 

64' Land N^ationalisation. 

commenced. The roof, fixtures, and wood work were smashed 
to pieces, the walls razed to the very foundation, and all that 
was left for poor Archibald to look upon was a black, dismal 
wreck. Ten human beings were thus deprived of their homes 
in less than half an hour. It was grossly illegal to have 
destroyed the barn, for, according even to the law of Scotland, 
the outgoing or removing tenant is entitled to the use of the 
barn until his crops are disposed of. But, of course, m a 
remote district, and among simple and primitive people like 
the inhabitants of Knoydart, the laws that concern them and 
define their rights are unknown to them." 

" John Mackinnon, a cottar, aged 44, with a wife and six 
children, had his house pulled down, and had no place to put 
his head in, consequently he and his family, for the first night 
or two, had to burrow among the rocks near the shore ! When 
he thought that the factor and his party had left the district, he 
emerged from the rocks, surveyed the ruins of his former 
dwelling, saw his furniture and other effects exposed to the 
elements, and now scarcely worth the lifting. The demolition 
was so complete that he considered it utterly impossible to 
make any use of the ruins of the old house. The ruins of an 
old chapel, however, were near at hand, and parts of the walls 
were still standing, and thither Mackinnon proceeded with his 
family, and having swept away some rubbish, and removed 
some grass and nettles, they placed some cabirs up to one of 
the walls, spread some sails and blankets across, brought in 
some meadow hay, and laid it in a corner for a bed,, stuck a 
piece of iron into the wall in another corner, on which they 
placed a crook, then kindled a fire, was.hed some potatoes, and 
put a pot on the fire and boiled them, and when these and a 
few fish roasted on the embers were ready, Mackinnon and his 
family had one good diet, being the fi.rst regular food they 
tasted since the destruction of their house ! 

" Mackinnon is a tall man, but poor and unhealthy-looking 

Landlordism in Scotland. 6$ 

His wife is a poor weak woman, evidently struggling with a 
diseased constitution and dreadful trials. The boys, Ronald 
and Archibald, were lying in ' bed ' — (may I call a ' pickle ' 
hay on the bare ground a bed ?) — suffering from rheumatism and 
cholic. The other children are apparently healthy enough as 
yet, but very ragged. There is no door to their wretched 
abode, consequently every breeze and gust that blow have free 
ingress to the inmates. A savage from Terra-del-Fuego, or a 
Red Indian from beyond the Rocky Mountains, would not 
exchange huts with these victims, nor humanity with their 
persecutors. Mackinnon's wife was pregnant when she was 
turned out of her house among the rocks. In about four days 
thereafter she had a premature birth ; and this and the exposure 
to the elements, and the want of proper shelter and a nutritious 
diet, has brought on consumption, from which there is no 
chance whatever of her recovery. 

"There was something very solemn indeed in this scene. 
Here, amid the ruins of the old sanctuary, where the swallows 
fluttered, where the ivy tried to screen the grey moss-covered 
stones, where nettles and grass grew up luxuriantly, where the 
floor was damp, the walls sombre and uninviting, where there 
were no doors nor windows nor roof, and where the owl, the bat, 
and the fox used to take refuge, a Christian family was 
necessitated to take shelter! One would think that as 
Mackinnon took refuge amid the ruins of this most singular 
place he would be let alone, that he would not any longer 
be molested by nan. But, alas ! he was molested. The 
manager of Knoydart and his minions appeared, and invaded 
this helpless family, even within the walls of the sanctuary. 
They pulled down the sticks and sails he set up within its ruins 
— put his wife and children out on the cold shore — threw his 
tables, stools, chairs, &c., over the walls — burnt up the hay on 
which they slept — ^put out the fire — and then left the district. 
Four times have these officers broken in upon poor Mackinnon 


66 Land Nationalisation. 

in this way, destroying his place of shelter, and sending him 
and his family adrift on the cold coast of Knoydart. Had 
Mackinnon been in arrears of rent, which he was not, even this 
would not justify the harsh, cruel, and inhuman conduct 
pursued towards himself and his family. No language of mine 
can describe the condition of this poor family, exaggeration is 
impossible. The ruins of an old chapel is the last place in the 
world to which a poor Highlander would resort with his wife 
and children unless he was driven to it by dire necessity." 

Particulars are also given of similar clearances in Strathglass, 
Kintail, Glenelg, and several islands of the Hebrides. These 
people were generally shipped off to Canada without any pro- 
vision whatever for them on their arrival there. We have only 
room here for the following statement, made by the passengers 
of one of the vessels which conveyed them there : — 

" We, the undersigned passengers per Admiral, from Storno- 
way, in the Highlands of Scotland, do solemnly depose to the 
following facts : — ^That Colonel Gordon is proprietor of estates 
in South Uist and Barra ; that among many hundred tenants 
and cottars whom he has sent this season from his estates to 
Canada, he gave directions to his factor, Mr. Fleming, of Cluny 
Castle, Aberdeenshire, to ship on board of the above-named 
vessel a number of nearly 450 of said tenants and cottars, from 
the estate in Barra ; that accordingly, a great majority of these 
people, among whom were the undersigned, proceeded volun- 
tarily to embark on board the Admiral, at Loch Boisdale, on 
or about nth Aug., 185 1 ; but that several of the people who 
were intended to be shipped for this port, Quebec, refused to 
proceed on board, and, in fact, absconded from their homes to 
avoid the embarkation. Whereupon Mr. Fleming gave orders 
to a policeman, who was accompanied by the ground officer of 
the estate in Barra, and some constables, to pursue the people 
who had run away among the mountains ; which they did, and 
succeeded in capturing about twenty from tbe mountains and 

Landlordism in Scotland. 67 

islands in the neighbourhood ; but only came with the officers 
on an attempt being made to handcuff them ; and that some 
who ran away were not brought back, in consequence of which 
four families at least have been divided, some having come in 
the ships to Quebec, while other members of the same families 
are left in the Highlands. 

"The undersigned further declare that those voluntarily 
embarked did so under promises to the effect that Colonel 
Gordon would defray their passage to Quebec; that the 
Government Emigration Agent there would send the whole 
party free to upper Canada, where, on arrival, the Government 
agents would give them work, and furthermore, grant them 
land on certain conditions. 

" The undersigned finally declare that they are now landed 
in Quebec so destitute that, if immediate relief be not afforded 
them, and continued until they are settled in employment, the 
whole will be liable to perish vvith want'' 

(Signed) Hector Lamont, 
and 70 others. 

The Quebec Times, which prints this statement, adds : — 
" This is a beautiful picture ! Had the scene been laid in 
Russia or Turkey, the barbarity of the proceeding would have 
shocked the nerves of the reader ; but when it happens in 
Britain, emphatically the land of liberty, where every man's 
house, even the hut of the poorest, is said to be his castle, the 
expulsion of these unfortunate creatures from their home s — 
the man-hunt with policemen and bailiffs — the violent separa- 
tion of families — the parent torn from the child, the mother 
from her daughter — the infamous trickery practised on those 
who did embark — the abandonment of the aged, the infirm, 
women, and tender children, in a foreign land — forms a tableau 
which cannot be dwelt on for an instant without horror. 
Words cannot depict the atrocity of the deed. For cruelty 
less savage the dealers of the South have been held up to the 
execration of the world." f 2 

"68 Land Nationalisation. 

Wide Extent and Long Continuance of these Clearances : 
They are Exposed and Protested against in Vain. — The reader 
will perhaps exclaim " These accounts must be exaggerated, 
or they would have been protested against at the time, and 
Parliament would have interfered." Protests, however, were 
made. General Stewart of Garth protested immediately after 
the Sutherland clearances; while Hugh Miller's paper, The 
Witness, again and again called attention to them; but in 
vain. In a series of articles which appeared in 1849 the wide 
extent and cruel severity of these clearances were forcibly 
exhibited, as the following extracts will show : — 

" Men talk of the Sutherland clearings as if they stood 
alone amidst the atrocities of the system ; but those who know 
fully the facts of the case can speak with as much truth 
of the Ross-shire clearings, the Inverness-shire clearings, the 
Perthshire clearings, and, to some extent, the Argyleshire 
clearings. The earliest was the great clearing on the Glengarry 
estate about the end of the last century. . . . Crossing to 
the south of the great glen, we may begin with Glencoe. 
How much of its romantic interest does the glen owe to its 
desolation ? Let us remember, however, that the desolation, 
in a large part of it, is the result of the extrusion of its 
inhabitants. Travel eastward, and the footprints of the 
destroyer cannot be lost sight of. Large tracts along the 
Spean and its tributaries are a wide waste. The southern bank 
of Loch Lochy is almost without inhabitants, though the 
symptoms of former occupancy are frequent. When we enter 
the country of the Frasers, the same spectacle presents itself— 
a desolate land. Across the hills in Stratherrick, the property 
of Lord Lovat, with the exception of a few large sheep 
farmers and a very few tenants, is one wide waste. To the 
north of Loch Ness, the territory of the Grants, both 
Glenmorison and the Earl of Seafield, presents a pleasing 
feature amidst the sea of desolation. But beyond this, again. 

Landlordism in Scotland. 69 

let us trace the large rivers of the east coast to their sources. 
Trace the Beauly through all its upper reaches, and how 
many thousands upon thousands of acres, once peopled, are, 
as respects human beings, a wild wilderness ! The lands of 
the Chisholm have been stripped of their population down to 
a mere fragment ; the possessors of those of Lovat have not 
been behind with their share of the same sad doings. Let 
us cross to the Conon and its branches, and we will find that 
the chieftains of the Mackenzies have not been less active in 
extermination. Breadalbane and Rannoch, in Perthshire, 
have a similar tale to tell, vast masses of the population 
having been forcibly expelled. The upper portions of Athole 
have also suffered, while many of the valleys along the Spey 
and its tributaries are without an inhabitant, if we except a few 
shepherds. Sutherland, with all its atrocities, affords but a 
fraction of the atrocities that have been perpetrated in 
following out the ejectment system of the Highlands. In 
truth, of the habitable portion of the whole country, but a 
small part is now really inhabited. We are unwilling to 
weary our readers by carrying them along the west coast, 
from the Linnhe Loch northwards ; but if they inquire, they 
will find that the same system has been, in the case of most 
of the estates, relentlessly pursued. These are facts of which, 
we believe, the British public know little, but they are facts 
on which the changes should be rung until they have listened 
to them and seriously considered them. May it not be that 
part of the guilt is theirs, who might, yet did not, step forward 
to stop such cruel and unwise proceedings ? 

" Let us leave the past, however (he continues), and 
consider the present. And it is a melancholy reflection that 
the year 1849 has added its long list to the roll of Highland 
ejectments. While the law is banishing its tens for terms of 
seven or fourteen years, as the penalty of deep-dyed crimes, 
irresponsible and infatuated power is banishing its thousands 

70 Land Nationalisation. 

for life for no crime whatever. This year brings forward, as 
leader in the work of expatriation, the Duke of Argyll. Is 
it possible that his vast possessions are over-densely 
populated? And the Highland Destitution Committee co- 
operate. We had understood that the large sums of money 
at their disposal had been given them for the purpose of 
relieving, and not of banishing, the destitute. Next we have 
Mr. Baillie of Glenelg, professedly at their own request, 
sending five hundred souls off to America. Their native 
glen must have been made not a little uncomfortable for these 
poor people, ere they could have petitioned for so sore a 
favour. Then we have Colonel Gordon expelling upwards 
of eighteen hundred souls from South Uist ; Lord Macdonald 
follows with a sentence of banishment against six or seven 
hundred of the people of North Uist, with a threat, as we 
learn, that three thousand are to be driven from Skye next 
season ; and Mr. Lillingston of Lochalsh, Maclean of Ardgour, 
and Lochiel, bring up the rear of the black catalogue, a large 
body of people having left the estates of the two latter, who, 
after a heartrending scene of parting with their native land, 
are now on the wide sea on their way to Australia. Thus, 
within the last three or four months, considerably upwards of 
three thousand of the most moral and loyal of our people — 
people who, even in the most trying circumstances, never 
required a soldier, seldom a policeman, among them to 
maintain the peace — are driven forcibly away to seek 
subsistence on a foreign soil." 

Professor Leoni Levi, who has made a special study of the 
condition of the Highlands, in an article in the Journal of the 
London Statistical Society, Vol. XXVIII, makes the following 
statement: — "Again and again these clearances have been 
continued, down even to the present time ; and it is impossible 
to read the accounts of such transactions without feeling 
sympathy for those large bands of men, women, and children, 
who, with their scanty household furniture, and all their lares 

Landlordism in Scotland. 71 

scad. Senates with them, were driven out from their own soil to 
find shelter where best they could." 

Later on, Mrs. Hugh Miller bears similar testimony : — "At this 
date, 1862, the depopulation of the Highlands is still rapidlygoing 
oa Not half a mile from the spot where we write, in the 
North-West Highlands, many families were ejected from their 
holdings but a few months ago. The factor — that dreaded 
middleman of the people — came with the underlings of the law, 
with spade and pickaxe, and left literally not one stone upon 
another of their poor cottages standing. I can see a miserable 
hovel into which several families have crowded who had 
before separate holdings of their own. Such scenes ought 
not to be allowed to disgrace a Christian country. But even 
where the inhabitants are allowed to remain in their miserable 
and insufficient crofts, the able-bodied — that is, the choicest of 
the population — are rapidly emigrating. 'There is not a lad 
worth anything,' said a person the other day who had just 
left a very large strath at some twenty miles distance — ' there 
is not a lad worth anything who is not going away to New 
Zealand or some other place.' The people are indeed 
oppressed with a sense of utter poverty, and a total inability to 
rise above it. In many places their circumstances are made 
as wretched as possible on purpose to starve them out. There 
are a few proprietors — such as Sir Kenneth M'Kenzie, of 
Gairloch — who respect the feelings of those who have been for 
generations located on their properties ; but these are very 
few. . . . Nothing can ever make the Highlander what 
he was but that interest in the soil which he has lost. Every 
Highlander formerly was possessed of all those feelings which 
constitute much that is valuable in the birthright of true 
gentlemen — a long-descended lineage, a sense of status and 
property, and an intense attachment to home and country." 

Speaking of the general results of these clearings, a well- 
informed writer in the Westminster Review in 1868 says : — 

" The Gaels, rooted from the dawn of history on the slopes 

72 Land Nationalisation. 

of the northern mountains, have been thinned out and thrown 
away like young turnips too thickly planted. Noble gentle- 
men and noble ladies have shown a flintiness of heart and 
a meanness of detail in carrying out their clearings upon 
which it is revolting to dwell ; and, after all, are the evils of 
over-population cured ? Does not the disease still spring up 
under the very torture of the knife? Are not the crofts 
slowly and silently taken at every opportunity out of the 
hands of the peasantry ? Where a Highlander has to leave 
his hut there is now no resting-place for him save the cellars 
or attics of the closes of Glasgow, or some other large centre 
of employment ; and it has been noticed that the poor Gael 
is even more liable than the Irishman to sink under the 
debasement in which he is then immersed."* 

Continuance of Highland Clearances and Confiscations Down 
to this Day. — Lest our readers should think that these cruel 
wrongs are things of the past, and that the exposure of them 
by so many eminent writers has led the proprietors of High- 
land estates to adopt a different system of management, or has 

* Most modern writers consider the croft-system a failure, and this is 
supposed to imply the failure of small holdings under any conditions. But 
there is a mass of testimony to show that the crofter of Scotland, like the 
cottier of Ireland, is wretched and poverty-stricken simply because he can 
only get poor land at exorbitant rents, and usually not enough land to live 
upon. Thus, in Mr. James Robb's " Enquiry iiito the Condition of the 
/^ricultural Labourers of Scotland," we find the following statements, 
quoted with approval and confirmed by his personal observation: — "The 
general quality of the soil upon which crofts are now granted is vastly 
inferior to what it was of old. The rent is, from the increased demand and 
more limited supply, proportionally greater .... Dispassionately 
viewed, small crofts, as generally let, form merely the alembic through 
which is distilled into the pocket of the owner the savings of the sweat of 
the brow of the occupant. By holding such a croft he is literally incapaci- 
tated for performing a good day's work for a gocd day's wage, as, to scrape 
together a rent to ensure a home for a series of years, the agricultural 
labourer must work double hours and draw unfairly upon his stock of 
strength, which infallibly leads to a premature old age." Could there be a 
more severe condemnation of the landlord system in Scotland than this 
statement made by the late Secretary to the Royal Northern Agricultural 

Landlordism in Scotland. 73 

caused the Government to interfere, it is necessary to call 
attention to a remarkable pamphlet by Dr. D. G. F. Macdonald, 
consisting of letters published recently in the Echo newspaper 
and some correspondence arising out of them. These show us 
that almost all the evils so prevalent in Ireland exist as fully 
and to as disastrous an extent in Scotland at the present day. 
There, also, rents are systematically raised on the improve- 
ments made by the tenant — there, too, is found the same 
general absence of leases, and' the same monstrous powers of 
oppression and eviction in the hands of factors and agents, 
owing to a prevalence of absenteeism — there, too, the holdings 
are insufficiently small, and the destitution caused by this very 
insufficiency is made the excuse for wholesale eviction and the 
creation of large grazing farms. The following extracts will 
indicate what Dr. Macdonald has to say on these matters, as 
to which — being an agriculturist and estate-manager by pro- 
fession, having written many works of repute on these subjects, 
having been largely employed on Highland estates, and being 
himself a native of the Highlands — he must be considered one 

Society, and endorsed by the Editor of TTie, Scottish Farmer ? This refers 
to Aberdeenshire. In Forfarshire, Mr. Robb describes the condition of 
some small holders on the estate of Lord Dalhousie, taking one "as a 
specimen of the whole." The dwelling is described as a wretched, tumble- 
down turf hovel, consisting of one room about ten feet square, and a division 
for the cow. " The occupier (an old woman) had lived all her days in the 
place. She had now only 2 j^ acres of land ; formerly she had some pasture 
land, btU that had been taken from Tier, She had, therefore, to dispense 
with all her cows but one, and the consequence was that she had now a 
deficiency of manure for what little oats and potatoes she wished to raise. " 
Mr. Robb declares that such houses are unworthy to shelter any class of 
humanity ; and Lord Kinnaird (in the preface to Mr. Robb's book) maintains 
that "the description given by the reports of the actual state of these 
crofters in ditferent districts, corresponding with their state at the beginning 
of the century, proves how very undesirable a return to such a system would 
be." But neither of these writers seems to have the least perception that 
the facts stated are the condemnation, not of the croft system, but of the 
landlord system itself, which forces the poor crofter into a Condition in which 
a reasonable amount of well-being is impossible, work as hard as he 

74 Land Nationalisation. 

of the very highest authorities. As to insecurity of tenure, he 
says : — 

" I know that many crofters are never safe in improving 
their land, for as soon as they begin to reap the benefit the 
landlord or factor steps in and raises their rents, or gives 
notice to quit, thus robbing the poor people of their just rights 
as much as if he dipped his hands into their pockets and 
walked away with their cash.'' 

Again : — " Amongst the crying evils of the Highland crofters 
is the ball-room size of his holding, and the want of security 
of occupation. Crofters often complain — and complain very 
justly — of a want of sympathy on the part of the owners, and 
of being extruded from their holdings at the caprice of the 
landlord or factor, without a farthing of compensation for 
their improvements. . . . Such breaches of good faith 
are indeed atrocious, oppressive, and a violation of rights." 

As to absenteeism and eviction he bears testimony as 
follows : — " The curse of Scotland is that so many of the pro- 
prietors are non-resident. . . . Because agents, forsooth ! 
find that they can with less trouble collect rents from a few 
large tenants than from a number of small ones they recom- 
mend wholesale evictions. Neither understanding nor respect- 
ing the real manhood and sterling qualities of the Highland 
character, they heartlessly wage a war of extermination against 
the helpless crofters and small farmers ; and this is in nine 
cases out of ten the result of absenteeism." 

As to the nature and extent of this extermination Dr. 
Macdonald writes in the strongest manner. He says : — 

" The extermination of the Highlanders has been carried on 
for many years as systematically and relentlessly as of the 
North American Indians. . . . Who can withhold sym- 
pathy as whole families have turned to take a last look at the 
heavens red with their burning houses ? The poor people 
shed no tears, for there was in their hearts that which stifled 

Landlordism in Scotland. 75 

such signs of emotion ; they were absorbed in despair. They 
were forced away from that which was near and dear to their 
hearts, and their patriotism was treated with contemptuous 

Again : — " I know a glen, now inhabited by two shepherds 
and two gamekeepers, which at one time sent out its thousand 
fighting men. And this is but one out of many that might be 
cited to show how the Highlands have been depopulated. 
Loyal, peaceable, and high-spirited peasantry have been 
driven from their native land — as the Jews were expelled from 
Spain, or the Huguenots from France — to make room for grouse, 
sheep, and deer. A portly volume would be needed to con- 
tain the records of oppression and cruelty perpetrated by many 
landlords, who are a scourge to their unfortunate tenants, 
blighting their lives, poisoning their happiness, and robbing 
them of their improvements, fiUing their wretched homes 
with sorrow, and breaking their hearts with the weight of 

These statements, strong though they are, are fully sup- 
ported by the testimony of other witnesses. Mr. John 
Somerville, of Lochgilphead, writes : — " The watchword of all 
is exterminate, exterminate the native race. Through this 
monomania of landlords the cottier population is all but extinct ; 
and the substantial yeoman is undergoing the same process 
of dissolution." The following examples are then given : — 
" About nine miles of country on the west side of Loch Awe, 
in Argyleshire, that formerly maintained 45 faniilies, are now 
rented by one person as a sheep-farm ; and in the island of 
Luing, same county, which formerly contained about 50 
substantial farmers, beside cottiers, this number is now reduced 
to about six. The work of eviction commenced by giving, in 
many cases, to the ejected population, facilities and pecuniary 
aid for emigration ; but now the people are turned adrift, 
penniless and shelterless, to seek a precarious subsistence on 

76 Land Nationalisation. 

the seaboard, the nearest hamlet or village, and in the cities, 
many of whom sink down helpless paupers on our poor-roll, 
and others, festering in our villages, form a formidable Arab 
population, who drink our money contributed as parochial 
relief. This wholesale depopulation is perpetrated, too, in a 
spirit of invidiousness, harshness, cruelty, and injustice, and must 
eventuate in permanent injury to the moral, political, and social 
interests of the kingdom." 

Again : — " The immediate effects of this new system are the 
dissociation of the people from the land, who are virtually 

denied the right to labour on God's creation. In L , for 

instance, garden ground and small allotments of land are in 
great demand by families, and especially by the aged, whose 
labouring days are done, for the purpose of keeping cows, and 
by which they might be able to earn an honest independent 
maintenance for their families, and whereby their children 
might be brought up to labour, instead of growing up 
vagabonds and thieves. But such, even in our centres of 
population, cannot be got ; the whole is let in large farms and 
turned into grazing. The few patches of bare pasture, formed 
by the delta of rivers, the detritus of rocks, and tidal deposits 
are let for grazing cows, at the exorbitant rent of ;^3 los. 
each for a small Highland cow ; and the small space to be had 
for garden ground is equally extravagant. The consequence 
of these exorbitant rents and the want of agricultural facilities 
is a depressed, degraded, and pauperised population." 

Similar facts were proved before the last Game Law Com- 
mittee. It was shown that in Ross-shire and Inverness about 
200,000 acres had been laid waste in order to make room for 
the deer. On one estate in Ross-shire from sixty to eighty 
thousand acres had been cleared of inhabitants, and the arable 
land turned into waste in order to form deer forests, while the 
few crofters in that county were confined to a few patches by the 
loch sides, for which they paid exorbitant rents of from thirty 
to forty shillings an acre. 

Landlordism in Scotland. yy 

These Evils Inherent in Landlordism — An Illustrative 
Case. — The facts stated in this chapter will possess, I feel 
sure, for many Englishmen, an almost startling novelty ; the 
tale of oppression and cruelty they reveal reads like one of 
those hideous stories of violence peculiar to the dark ages 
rather than a simple record of events happening upon our own 
land and within the memory of the present generation. For 
a parallel to this monstrous power of the landowner, under 
which life and property are entirely at his mercy, we must 
go back to mediaeval times, or to the days when, serfdom not 
having been abolished, the Russian noble was armed with 
despotic authority; while the more pitiful results of this landlord 
tyranny, the wide devastation of cultivated lands, the heartless 
burning of houses, the reckless creation of pauperism and misery 
out of well-being and contentment, could only be expected under 
the rule of Turkish Sultans or greedy and cruel Pashas. Yet 
these cruel deeds have been perpetrated in one of the most 
beautiful portions of our native land. They are not the work 
of uncultured barbarians or of fanatic Moslems, but of so-called 
civilised and Christian men ; and — worst feature of all — they 
are not due to any high-handed exercise of power beyond the 
law, but are all strictly legal, are in many cases the act of mem- 
bers of the Legislature itself, and, notwithstanding that they 
have been repeatedly made known for at least sixty years 
past, no steps have been taken, or are even proposed to be 
taken, by the Legislature to prevent them for the future ! 
Surely it is time that the jteople of England should declare that 
such things shall no longer exist — that the rich shall no longer 
have such legal power to oppress the poor — that the land shall 
be free for all who are willing to pay a fair value for its use — 
and, as this is not possible under landlordism, that landlordism 
; shall be abolished. 

Dr. Macdonald, to whose writings we are so much indebted, 
like most other writers on the subject, does not seem to con- 
template any such radical change, but thinks that protection to 

78 Land Nationalisation. 

the tenants might be given by special legislation. But a little 
consideration will, I think, show that any such legislation, to be 
an adequate remedy for the various phases and evils of land- 
lordism, must necessarily be complex and therefore difficult of 
application, must involve legal procedure of some sort, and 
must therefore be totally illusive — a mere mockery and 
delusion — when one party to every case brought before the 
courts would be the wealthy landlord, the other the poverty- 
stricken or ruined tenant So long as the relation of land- 
lord and tenant exists, the law can only, at the best, provide 
a legal — and therefore an uncertain and costly — remedy, for 
evils already caused and wrongs already committed. I maintain 
that it would be infinitely better to prevent the wrong and evil 
from ever coming into existence, which, as will be shown in 
succeeding chapters, can be done with ease and certainty when 
once we abolish landlordism and substitute for it occupying 

To show how inherent are evil results in the very nature of 
landlordism (always supposing that no universal and miraculous 
change occurs in the nature of landlords) it will be instructive to 
give a sketch of the correspondence as to the island of Lewis, 
the property of Sir James Matheson, Bart This gentleman is 
declared by Dr. Macdonald, who has long known him per- 
sonally, to be " one of the most benevolent and popular men 
of the age," and one " who lives almost constantly among his 
people, dispensing bounty with a liberal hand, and diffusing 
much good by example." Yet, it is admitted that under so 
good a landlord as this, a body of tenants were subjected for 
years to such cruel injustice by the factor that they at last 
broke into a mild form of rebellion, and then only did the land- 
lord know anything about the matter^ and of course dismissed 
the offending factor. Estates in Scotland seem to be 
like some great empires, in this respect, that the subordinate 
rulers are able to oppress their dependents for years, 

Landlordism in Scotland. 79 

only being found out when they goad their unhappy subjects 
into rebellion. Even Mr. Hugh Matheson, who styles 
himself " Commissioner for Sir. J. Matheson," does not 
appear to know much of what really goes on. For, in a 
letter to the Glasgow Weekly Mail, of the 7th April, 1877, he 
states as follows : — " I can say, without fear of contradiction, 
that he (Sir James Matheson) has never in his life evicted a 
tenant in order to make room for deer, or to turn small farms 
into large ones.'' Yet the following week a correspondent 
signing himself " A Native " gives case after case in detail, in 
■which these very things have been done by Sir James 
Matheson's factors, while another correspondent compares the 
excellent roads and the great skill and taste manifested in the 
Castle and its demesne with the hovels of the tenants, which 
he says "are simply a scandal and an outrage on the civiliia- 
tion of this century ; " and the reason for this is stated to be 
that " the people are refused a lease of their holdings, and in 
cases where improvements have been made, the treatment the 
holders have been subjected to is not encouraging to those 
whose means are limited." Yet another correspondent, Mr. 
D. Mackinlay, gives details of the case of the eviction of one 
of the Coll crofters by the factor, Mr. Mackay. It appears 
that this man had paid his rent punctually, had drained and 
trenched the land, and had built himself a house on it ; yet he 
was evicted by the factor because (as it was alleged) he did not 
abide by the "rules of the estate " (which the crofter denied), 
his sick wife and himself were turned out by force on a bitterly 
cold day, he was sent to a hut unfit for human habitation, and 
^iven a piece of poor, neglected land on which hardly anything 
will grow. His former house is valued by the factor at £,^ los. 
and by himself zX. £,10; and he assured Mr. Mackinlay that 
he was " a bruised, down-trodden creature, now weary of this 

Now, as Dr. Macdonald, who is a great admirer of Sir James 

8o Land Nationalisation. 

Matheson, publishes these several statements in July, 1878, 
and gives no further explanation of them, we may probably 
assume that they are fairly accurate ; and we must then ask — 
What are we to think of the system which renders such things 
possible on the estate of a resident landlord, who is " one of the 
most benevolent and popular men of the age? "* And further, 
What kind of treatment may the crofters expect when the land- 
lord is not resident, and neither benevolent nor popular, but 
leaves all to his factor, and looks upon his estate as a rent- 
producing property and nothing more ? It is clear that the 
system is one of almost unchecked despotism on one side and 
hardly mitigated serfdom on the other. The arguments for 
and against landlordism are very much the same as those for 
and against slavery. Both are essentially wrong, and must 
produce evil results, though the evil may be greatly mitigated 
in the case of wise and benevolent men. To allow the average 
citizen to possess and exercise such monstrous powers over 
fellow citizens, and still more, to allow these powers to be 
exercised by deputy with the one object of producing a 

* It appears from an article on " Highland Destitution " in the Quarterhj 
Review, December 1 881, that Sir James Matheson bought the island of 
Lews or Lewis in 1844, that he at once commenced making " improvements 
on a great scale, with the view of giving employment to the inhabitants," 
spending in six years (1845-1850) more than a hundred thousand pounds, 
besides gratuities for purposes of education and charity. Yet the writer 
refers to this "princely liberality" as having been "met by the most 
disheartening ingratitude," and " ending in total failure." The facts given 
above will perhaps serve to explain both the one and the other. What the 
people of Lewis, as of other parts of the Highland, wanted, was sufficient 
land at a fixed rent, not higher than it was really worth, with perfect 
freedom of action, and a permanent tenure ; so that all they made by their 
labour should be their own. This they have never had ; while they have 
had given them what they did not want — wages for unproductive labour 
on the landlord's pleasure grounds and buildings. The people have been 
actually taken away, by the inducement of good wages and work for their 
landlord, from productive labour on the soil to unproductive labour on 
carriage roads, bridges, shooting lodges, game preserves, and a magnificent 
castle and grounds, and the result has naturally been demoralisation and 
destitution 1 This is the result of benevolent landlordism. 

Landlordism in Scotland. 8 1 

revenue, is surely the greatest and most deplorable of political 
errors. The law which arms the landowner with this pernicious 
power is incompatible with every principle of equality of 
rights, protection of property, and liberty of enjoyment, and 
more than any other demands immediate and radical 

The General Results of Landlordism in the Highlands. — ^The 
general results of the system of modern landlordism in Scot- 
land are not less painful than the hardship and misery brought 
upon individual sufferers. The earlier improvers, who 
drove the peasants from their sheltered valleys to the exposed 
sea-coast, in order to make room for sheep and sheep farmers, 
pleaded, however erroneously, the public benefit as the justifica- 
tion of their conduct. They maintained that more food and 
clothing would be produced by the new system, and that the 
people themselves would have the advantage of the produce of 
the sea as well as that of the land for their support. The 
result, however, proved them to be mistaken, for thenceforth 
the perennial cry of Highland destitution began to be heard, 
culminating at intervals into actual famines, like that of 1836-37 
when _;^7o,ooo were distributed to keep the Highlanders from 
death by starvation. The evidence taken before the Select 
Committee on Emigration, Scotland, showed much the same 
state of chronic poverty as prevails in Ireland — and from the 
very same causes — great landlords, few of whom were resident, 
and a cottier population of tenants-at-will, with plots of land 
too small to occupy the labour of a family and to support them 
on its produce. And the only remedy our wise landlord 
Legislature could find for this state of things was emigration ! 
Just as in Ireland, there was abundance of land capable of 
cultivation, but the people were driven to the coast and to the 
towns, to make way for sheep, and cattle, and lowland farmers; 
and when the barren and inhospitable tracts allotted to them 


82 Land Nationalisation. 

became overcrowded, they were told to emigrate.* As the 
Rev. J. Macleod says : — " By the clearances one part is 
depopulated and the other overpopulated ; the people are 
gathered into villages where there is no steady employment for 
them, where idleness has its baneful influence and lands them 
in penury and want" 

The actual effect of this system of eviction and emigra- 
tion — of banishing the native of the soil and giving it to 
the stranger — is shown in the steady increase of poverty 
indicated by the amount spent for the relief of the poor 
having increased from less than ^^300,000 in 1846 to more 
than ;^9oo,ooo now ; while in the same period the population 
has only increased from 2,770,000 to 3,627,000, so that 
pauperism has grown about nine times faster than popula- 
tion ! t This shows plainly that the system has failed, as 

* "There was a locality pointed out to us, in n. barren quartz-rock 
district, in which the indestructible stone, that never resolves into soil, was 
covered by a stratum of dark peat, where the proprietors had experimented 
on the capabilities of the native Highlanders, by measuring out to them, 
amid the moor, at a low rent, several small farms, of ten or twelve acres 
svpiece. But in a moor composed of peat and quartz-rock no rent can be 
low. No farmer thrives on a barren soil, let his rent be what it miy ; and 
so the .speculation here had turned out a bad one. The quartz-rock and 
the peat proved pauper-making deposits. ' How,' we have frequently 
enquired of the poor people ' are you spending your strength on patches so 
miserably unproductive as these ? You are said to be lazy. For our own 
part what we chiefly wonder at is your great industry.' The usual reply 
used to be — ' Ah ! there is good land in the country, but they will not 
give it to us.' And certainly we did see in the Highlands many tracts of 
kindly-looking soil. Green margins, along the sides of long-withdrawing 
valleys, which still bore the marks of the plough, but now under natural 
grass, seemed much better fitted to be, as of old, sdv^nes of human industry 
than the cold ungenial mosses or the barren moors. \ But in at least nineteen 
cases out of every twenty we found the green patches bound by lease to 
souie extensive sheep-farmer, and as unavailable for the purposes of the 
present emergency, even to the proprietor, as if they lay in the United 
States or the Canadas." (Hugh Miller's Essays, p. 214.) 

t This was the case not only in those districts where the evicted 
peasantry had been driven into over-populated towns and villages, but even 
in the very places where the population had decreased by forced deporta- 
tion. Dr. Norman Macleod tells us that the " Highland Parish," which 
he has so well described, "which once had a population of 2,200 souls. 

Landlordism in Scotland. 83 

«very unjust system does fail in one way or another. But 
even had it succeeded in this respect — had more of the poor 
Highlanders been banished, and had the new comers 
succeeded in abolishing, or at least in not increasing, 
pauperism, and in producing general content, even then the 
system would be equally cruel and equally opposed to every 
principle of justice and 'good government. The fact that a 
whole population could be driven from their homes like cattle 
at the will of a landlord, and that the Government which 
taxed them, and for whom they freely shed their blood on the 
battle-field, neither would nor could protect them from this 
cruel interference with their personal liberty, is surely the 
most convincing and most absolute demonstration of the 
incompatibility of landlordism with the elementary rights of 
a free people. 

Further Clearances and Devastation for the Sake of Sport. — 
As if, however, to prove this still more clearly, and to show 
how absolutely incompatible with the well-being of the 
community is modern landlo»dism, the great lords of the 
soil in Scotland have for the last twenty years or more been 
systematically laying waste enormous areas of land for 
purposes of sport, just as the Norman Conqueror laid 
waste the area of the New Forest for similar purposes. 
At the present time more than two millions of acres of 
Scottish soil are devoted to the preservation of deer alone — 
an area larger than the entire counties of Kent and Surrey 
•combined. Glen Tilt Forest includes 100,000 acres ; the 

and received only j^ll per annum from public (church) funds for the 
support of the poor, expends now under the Poor Law upwards of ;<^5oo 
annually, with a population diminished by one-half, but with poverty 
increased in a greater ratio." Hugh Miller also tells us that "the poor- 
rates were heaviest in the districts from which the greatest number had 
emigrated." Yet in the face of these damning facts, there are still to be 
found men who support these "clearances" as beneficial to the 
community ! 

G 2 

§4 Land Nationalisation. 

Black Mount is sixty miles in circumference; and Ben 
Aulder Forest is fifteen miles long by seven broad. On many 
of these forests there is the finest pasture in Scotland, while the 
valleys would support a considerable population of small 
farmers. Yet all this land is devoted to the sport of the 
wealthy, farms being destroyed, houses pulled down, and men, 
sheep and cattle all banished to create a wilderness for the 
deer-stalkers ! At the same time the whole people of England 
are shut out from many of the grandest and most interesting 
scenes of their native land, gamekeepers and watchers for- 
bidding the tourist or naturalist to trespass on some of the 
wildest Scotch mountains.* 

The Gross Abuse of Power by Highland Landlords Requires 
an Immediate Remedy. — Now, when we remember that the right 
to a property in these unenclosed mountain lands was most 
unjustly given to the representatives of the Highland chiefs 
little more than a century ago, and that they and their 
successors have grossly abused their power ever since, it is 
surely time to assert those fundamental maxims of jurisprudence 

* Even these deer-forest clearances find their defenders, to whom 
Professor Leoni Levi thus replies : — ' ' A comparison has been made 
between deer-forests and public parks. Both, it is true, comprise land 
kept out of cultivation for purposes of enjoyment. But while pubHc 
parks greatly promote the heajth and enjoyment of the masses of the 
people, deer-forests are reserved for the sport of a few individuals. Parks 
are public property, purposely devoted to a great economic object — the 
improvement of the people. Deer-forests are private property, shut out 
from public use, and in many cases diverted from a fruitful to a fruitless 
occupation. Again, it has been represented that deer-forests employ as- 
many persons as foresters as sheep-walks employ shepherds. But are 
foresters producers ? The same quantity of land that will maintain 2,000 
sheep will not give 300 deer. Of deer, a large number run away, many 
die, and very few are killed. In truth, deer-forests are exclusively 
intended for sport and luxury, and production enters in no manner into- 
their economics " ("Journal of the Land Statistical Society," vol. xxviii, 
p. 381)1 "A is calculated that the loss' in food by the deer-forests is equal 
to 200,000 sheep, besides which deer bear no wool. Deer-forests do not 
repay the outlay expended on them in the shape of keepers, &c., and, as 
far as the rest of the nation is concerned, they might as well be submerged 
under the ocean. 

Landlordism in Scotland. 85 

■which state that — "No man can have a vested. right in the 
misfortunes and woes of his country," and that — " The 
sovereign ought not to allow either communities or private 
individuals to acquire large tracts of land in order to leave it 
uncultivated." If the oft-repeated maxim that " property has 
its duties as well as its rights " is not altogether a mockery, 
then we maintain that in this case the total neglect of all the 
duties devolving on the owners of these vast tracts of land 
affords ample reason why the State should take possession of 
them for the public benefit. A landlord Government will, of 
course, never do this till the people declare unmistakably that 
it must be done. To such a Government the rights of property 
are sacred, while those of their fellow citizens are of compara- 
tively little moment ; but we feel sure that when the people of 
England fully know and understand the doings of the landlords 
of Scotland, the reckless destruction of homesteads, and the 
silent sufferings of the brave Highlanders, they will make their 
will known, and, when they do so, that will must soon be 
embodied in law. We will conclude this brief sketch of what 
by Highland landlords is termed " improvement " v/ith a 
quotation from the work of a respected Scotch pastor, the Rev. 
John Kennedy, a lifelong resident among the scenes which he 
describes. He tells us that it was at a time when the people 
of the Highlands became distinguished as the most peaceable 
and virtuous peasantry in Britain that they began to be driven 
off by their landlord oppressors, to clear their native soil for 
strangers, red-deer, and sheep. He then describes the action 
of the landlords in these forcible words :^" With few excep- 
tions the owners of the soil began to act as if they were also 
the owners of the people, and, disposed to regard them as the 
vilest part of their estate, they treated them without respect to 
the requirements of righteousness or the dictates of mercy. 
Without the inducement of gain, in the very recklessness of 
cruelty, lamilies by hundreds were driven across the sea, or 

85 Land Nationalisation. 

were gathered as the sweepings of the hill-sides into wretched 
hamlets on the shore. By wholesale evictions wastes were 
formed for the red deer, that the gentry of the nineteenth 
century might indulge in the sports of the savages of three 
centuries before."* 

Landlordism in the Lowlands of Scotland : Condition of the 
Labourers. — Now let us turn from this picture of what unre- 
stricted landlordism has effected in the Highlands to that part 
of the country which is its pride and glory — the Lowlands. For 
here are the highest agricultural rents and the best farming in 
Great Britain. Here the landlords are wealthy and the farmers 
are thriving. Here everything is neat, thrifty, and elegant; 
the rude husbandry of the Highlands has been left more than 
a thousand years behind ; the furrows are straight as an arrow, 
the fences closely dressed, the farm-houses commodious, and 
the gentlemen's seats bear all the evidences of taste, luxury, 
and refinement. Such being the case, we should naturally 
expect that some portion of this prosperity would have 
descended to the labourers, and we should look for neat and 
roomy cottages, with ample gardens, so essential to the well- 
being of the poor. Let us first see what was their condition 
thirty years ago, as described by Hugh Miller in his striking 

He tells us how he once lodged in a labourer's cottage in a. 
district where land averaged above five pounds an acre, 
within three hours' journey of Edinburgh, and within a hundred 
yards of the beautiful shrubberies and pleasure-grounds of a 
gentleman's estate ; and he thus describes it : — " But the 
cottage was an exceedingly humble one. It was one of a line 
on the way-side inhabited chiefly by common labourers and. 
farm servants — a cold, uncomfortable hovel, by many degrees 
less a dwelling to our mind, and certainly less warm and snug,, 

• "Days of the Fathers in Ross-shire," 1861, p. 15. 

Landlordism in Scotland, 87 

than the cottage of the west coast Highlander. The tenant 
(our landlord) was an old farm servant, who had been found 
guilty of declining health and vigour about a twelvemonth 
before, and had been discharged in consequence. He was 
permitted to retain his dwelling, on the express understanding 
that the proprietor was not to be burdened with repairs ; and 
the thatch, which had given way in several places, he had 
painfully laboured to patch against the weather by mud and 
turf gathered from the wayside. But he wanted both the art 
and the materials of Red Murouch.* With every heavy 
shower the rain found its way through, and the curtains of his 
two beds, otherwise so neatly kept, were stained by dark- 
coloured blotches. The earthen floor was damp and uneven ; 
the walls of undressed stone had never been hard-cast ; but 
by dint of repeated white-washing, the interstices had gradually 
filled up. . . . The old man's wife, still a neat and tidy 
woman, though turned of sixty, was a martyr to rheumatism ; 
and her one damp and gousty room, with its mere apron 
breadth of partition between it and the chinky outer door, was 
not at all the place for her declining years. She did her best, 
however, to keep things in order, and to attend to the comforts 
of her husband and her two lodgers; but the bad roof and the 
single apartment were disqualifying circumstances, and they 
pressed upon her very severely. . . . And this was all 
that civilisation, in the midst of a well-nigh perfect agriculture, 
had done for the dwelling of the poor hind. . . . But we 
are building, perhaps, on a solitary instance. Would that it 
were so ! Oar description is far above the average, however 
exaggerated it may seem. The following account of a group 
of Border hovels, deemed quite good enough by the proprietary 
of the county for their own and their tenants' hinds, is by the 
Rev. Dr. W. S. Gilly, of Norham. 

* A Highlander, whose wretched-looking, yet really warm and comfort- 
able, dwelling had been previously described. 

83 Land Nationalisation. 

" Now for a more detailed description of that species of hut 
or hovel which prevails in this district. I have a group of five 
such before my mind's eye. They belong to the same property, 
and have all changed inhabitants within eighteen months. The 
property, I may add, is tenanted by one of the best and most 
enterprising farmers in all England. They are built of rubble 
loosely cemented, and from age and the badness of the 
materials, the walls look as if they would scarcely hold together. 
The chinks gap open in many places, and so widely that they 
freely admit every wind that blows. The chimneys have lost 
half their original height, and lean on the roof with fearful 
gravitation. The rafters are evidently rotten and displaced ; 
and the thatch, yawning in some parts to admit the wet, and 
in all parts utterly unfit for its original purpose of giving protec- 
tion from the weather, looks more like the top of a dunghill than 
a cottage. Such is the exterior ; and when the hind comes to 
take possession he finds it no better than a shed. The wet, if 
it happens to rain, is making a puddle on the earth-floor. It 
is not only cold and wet, but contains the aggregate filth of 
years from the time of its being first used. The refuse and 
droppings of meals, decayed animal and vegetable matter of all 
kinds, these all mix together and exude from it. Window-frame 
there is none. There is neither oven, nor copper, nor shelf, nor 
fixture of any kind. All these things the hind has to bring 
with him, besides his ordinary articles of furniture. Imagine 
the trouble, the inconvenience, and the expense which the 
poor fellow and his wife have to encounter before they can 
put this shell of a hut into anything like a habitable form. 
This year I saw a family of eight — husband, wife, two sons, and 
four daughters — who were in utter discomfort, and in despair 
of putting themselves into a decent condition, three or four 
weeks after they had come into one of these hovels. In vain 
did they try to stop up the crannies, and to fill up the holes in 
the floor, and to arrange their furniture in tolerably decent 

Landlordism in Scotland. 89 

order, and to keep out the weather. Alas ! what will they 
not suffer in winter ? There will be no fireside enjoyment for 
them. They may huddle together for warmth, and heap coals 
on the fire ; but they will have chilly beds and a damp hearth- 
stone ; and a cold wind will sweep through their dismal 
apartment; and the icicles will hang by the wall, and 
the snow will drift through the roof, and window, and crazy 
door-place, in spite of all their endeavours to exclude it." 

Great as they might seem, however, these are merely 
ph ysical evils ; and they are light and trivial compared with 
the horrors which follow. These miserable cabins consist, in 
by much the greater number of instances, as in the cottage of 
the poor old hind, of but a single room. We again quote : — 
"And into this apartment are crowded eight, ten, and even 
twelve persons. How they lie down to rest, how they sleep, 
how unutterable horrors are avoided, is beyond all conception. 
The case is aggravated when there is a young woman to be 
lodged in this confined space who is not a member of the 
family, but is hired to do the field-work, for which every hind 
is bound to provide a female. It shocks every feeling of 
propriety to think that in a room within such a space as I have 
been describing, civilised beings should be herding together 
without a decent separation of age and sex !" 

Down to 1861, atall events, equally wretched cottages were 
found in many parts of Scotland. Mr. James Robb (general 
editor of The Scottish Farmer) thus describes those common in 
Aberdeenshire :— " Such cottages as are provided for ploughmen 
are, for the most part, of a very comfortless kind They are 
simply four walls — often put together in the cheapest and 
roughest possible fashion, sometimes without lime or other 
cement even — with a vent at each gable end, two small windows, 
and a roof of thatch. The occupants have to depend upon 
their wooden box-beds or presses for making such separation 
between the two sexes as decency may suggest." In East 

QO Land Nationalisation. 

Lothian, the same writer tells us : — " Thecottages generally are 
not good, being small, old, and ill-lighted. Many of them have 
but one usable room and a pantry ; the garrets, where there 
are such, being unceiled, and, therefore, either too cold in 
winter or too hot in summer for sleeping purposes." And 
again : — "Directing our course north-east, we find in our passage 
to North Berwick not a few disgraceful hovels, some straw- 
thatched, but most with red-tiled rooms, lighted and aired 
(save the mark !) by a solitary and immovable pane of glass, 
and with a general aspect of unsanitariness and discomfort 
unbefitting one of the richest agricultural counties in Scotland 
in the nineteenth century. Inside we find the double boxrbed 
taking up so great a portion of the space that three or four chairs, 
a rickety table, a dresser, and a washing-tub crowd the re- 
mainder. As occupants of the box-beds in one of these houses 
there were two grown-up men, two girls approaching woman- 
hood, an elderly woman, who appeared to be their mother, and 
three or four children." 

A considerable acquaintance with savage life in both hemi- 
spheres enables the present writer to assert that the people we 
term ««civilised rarely tolerate such a state of things as that 
above described. The young unmarried men are always 
separated, often in distinct sleeping-houses, from the rest of 
the family or the tribe ; while the dwellings are always suited 
to the climate and surrounding conditions. It was reserved 
for the wealthiest nation under the sun, and the one which 
prides itself on being the most religious and the most civilised, 
to have its peasants housed in the extreme of physical misery 
and social degradation. And be it noted that this state of things 
occurred, not only in towns and cities where the value of land 
and the cost of building might possibly be alleged as some 
excuse, but over the open country, among fields and woods 
and mountains, where there is ample space and abundant 
materials ready to hand, and where such objections, therefore, 
could not possibly apply. 

Lmidlordism in Scotland. 91 

Some Recent Improvement in the Condition of Scotch 
Labourers. — Since the pictures here given of the labourers' 
cottages in Scotland were written, much has been done to 
improve therri. In "A Report on the Past and Present Agri- 
culture of the Counties of Forfar and Kincardine," by Mr. 
Thomas Lawson, dated 1881 (for which I am indebted to the 
author), it is stated that, in consequence of the exposure of the 
state of the bothies in 1850, an Association was formed at 
Edinburgh to improve them, and many model cottages and 
bothies were built. Wages, too, have risen considerably, in 
consequence of the scarcity of labour produced by the increase 
of factories in many districts. Mr. James W. Barclay, M. P. for 
Forfarshire, also informs me that wages have greatly risen in 
the last ten years, being about 50 per cent, higher in Scotland 
than in Norfolk This he thinks is due to the fact that the 
men readily move from place to place and from country to 
town, so that the rate of wages for town work and country 
work is quickly equalised. Mr. Lawson speaks of "the 
present tidy cottages of one story, with three apartments, 
one room and bed-closet being floored with wood, the 
other room with either pavement or cement ; and partitions 
of brick, the inside finished off with lath and plaster or cement. 
There is also a garret for lumber, and a small garden and 
pigstye." But these cottages are, he says, "not near so 
common as they ought to be," as many proprietors and 
tenant farmers do not see their way to building them, since 
they are not remunerative. He also says that " there is not 
so much payment in kind as there used to be. This applies 
especially to the keeping of cows, which is not nearly so 
common now — in fact, it is very exceptional. Some farmers 
even prohibit the keeping of pigs." These statements seem 
to show that, though wages are higher, and many cottages are 
fairly good, yet many remain as they were in Hugh Miller's 
time, and when Mr. Robb wrote his reports twenty years 
ago ; while the movement of labourers from place to place, 

92 Land Nationalisation. 

the " small garden " they " sometimes " have, and the occa- 
sional restriction from even keeping a pig, all seem to show 
that there has not been much advance towards enabling the 
labourer to have a permanent home, and to have land on 
■which to employ his spare hours, which alone can truly raise 
liis condition. The bothy-system, though it has almost 
disappeared from the southern counties, still prevails in Perth, 
Forfar, and Kincardine, where there seems to have been little 
change for the last twenty years.* The bothies are still 
comfortless abodes, leading to habits of uncleanliness and 
disorder, and giving a taste for a wandering life ; and this is 
supposed to be one cause of the untidiness and want of 
comfort which prevails in the labourers' cottages of Scotland. 
It is remarked by Mr. Robb that the best female servants were 
obtained from the class of small farmers, a testimony to the bene- 
ficial influence on character of permanent occupancy of land 
and the household duties it necessitates, which is now 
almost wholly denied to the Scotch agricultural labourer. 
Mr. Lawson refers with dissatisfaction to the large sums spent 
in drink by the young men ; but this is almost a necessary 
result of high wages when there are no home comforts or 
occupations, and no one great and important object, such as 
the acquisition of land and a permanent home, for which to 
accumulate savings. The result is that pauperism, though 
not so prevalent as in the depopulated Highlands, still abounds 
even in the fertile and highly-farmed Lowlands, where about 
one in forty of the population are returned as paupers or 
dependents. In all Scotland the proportion is about one in 
thirty-five, while in England and Wales, where the popula- 
tion is four times as dense, the proportion is one in twenty- 

In Scotland the labourer is altogether dependent upon his 

* Communication from Mr. William Wallace, of Kinnear, Fife, through 
J. Boyd Kinnear, .Esq. 

Landlordism in Scotland. 93 

.employer for his dwelling, and is obliged to leave it whenever 
he changes his master. He is a mere appanage of the farm, 
without any of that permanence and security of tenure 
possessed by the villein or serf of feudal times. It is thus 
impossible that he can ever have a home, in the best sense of 
the word, and this will go far to explain the untidiness and 
want of thrift which all writers on the condition of the Scottish 
labourers so much deplore. The only way to cure the evils 
of the bothy-system, the inadequate housing of labourers, 
and all the evil consequences that arise from them, is to 
encourage and render possible the growth of a fixed rural 
population, having rights in the soil and all the interests that 
attach to a permanent home. If every labourer had the 
right to claim an acre or two of land for his dwelling-house and 
garden, paying only the same rent as the farmer pays for 
similar land, and having absolute permanence of tenure 
so long as he paid this fixed rent, most of the 
evils so forcibly depicted by the writers we have quoted 
would soon disappear.* 

As will be shown in a subsequent chapter, wherever such 
occupying ownership of land prevails, there is comparative 
comfort and plenty, and the house accommodation is always 

* Lord Kinnaird, in his preface to the little volume of Mr. Robb's essays, 
says: — "A cry has been raised by those who do not understand the 
question for the erection of a greater number of cottages, regardless of the 
fact' that field-labour, which cannot from its nature be constant, will not 
support a family." And again : — "It is a great mistake to encourage the 
location of families, who have no other means of support than the chance of 
occasional out-door work." Nothing can show more strikingly than these 
remarks the evil results to the entire rural population, as well as to agricul- 
ture, of that landlord system which can and does determine how and where 
people shall live, quite independent of their own wishes, desires, and needs, 
and thus brings about an unnatural division of the inhabitants of a district 
into capitalist farmers and a nomad population of labourers. The more 
natural and healthy system would be, to allow every man to have as much 
land as he wished either for farm or garden, with a permanent tenure, and 
at a just rent. Each agricultural district would then support a body of 

94 Land Nationalisation. 

fully equal to the standard demanded by the state of civili- 
sation and social advancement of the community — not miserably 
below it, as it always is when the labourer is divorced from the 
soil. This right to share in the use of land on equal terras 
with his fellow citizens should be declared the indefeasible 
birthright of every Englishman, and in order that this right 
may be obtained the land must revert to the State, which 
ought never to have given up possession of it to individuals. 
These remarks somewhat anticipate the fuller discussion with 
which the scheme of nationalisation of the land we propose 
for adoption will be introduced, but it was thought necessary 
here to lay down clearly the points at issue, and prevent our 
readers from supposing that we believe that any change in the 
character or conduct of landlords or farmers (even if so radical 
a change in human nature were possible) would be an adequate 
remedy for the disease. So long as the labourer is absolutely 
dependent on his employer for subsistence, is without a per- 
manent home of his own, and has no land, on which he may 
profitably employ himself when his regular work temporarily 
fails — just so long will he be in a state of chronic poverty or 
intermittent pauperism, often dwelling in houses which it is no 
one's business or interest to make healthy or comfortable, 
living a life of physical and social degradation, and usually 

independent labourers permanently attached to the soil, and with a substan- 
tial stake in the country. The cottage which was a man's own, and which 
he intended to occupy for his life, would soon be improved and even 
beautified. His garden or field would be cultivated with all that untiring 
industry which the secure possession of land always creates ; poultry, pigs, 
or cows would furnish employment for the family, and a constant source of 
profit ; while from the two classes of labourers and crofters, a supply of 
labour would be forthcoming at all seasons adequate to meet the demand. 
Bothies would no longer be needed, because the young men would live with 
their parents, or lodge with those who had small families or ample accom- 
modation ; a love of home and home-duties would be created, and vi'ith so 
intelligent a people as the Scotch many home industries would spring up to 
profitably occupy the long winter evenings, and- thus tend to diminish if not 
to abolish pauperism. 

Landlordism in Scotland. 95 

filling a pauper's grave. That such is the inevitable tendency 
and necessary result of the present system is clearly shown by 
the fact that, however well the system works for the landlord and 
capitalist, their advancement does little to better the condition 
•of the labourer. A century ago the poet Burns remarked 
that the more highly cultivated he found a district, the more 
ignorant and degraded he almost always found the people, 
man deteriorating at least as much as the corn and cattle 
improved. Down to thirty years ago we have the testimony of 
Hugh Miller that the same state of things prevailed ; and 
though the exposure of the evil by a number of energetic 
•clergymen and other philanthropists, together with the increase 
■of wages owing to the spread of manufacturing industry, have 
■combined to ameliorate some of its worst features, there still 
remains the great fact of a wandering, unthrifty, and pauperised 
body of labourers in a region of wealthy landlords and the most 
advanced agriculture. 

General Results of Scotch Landlordism. — It appears, then, 
that both in the barren Highlands and the fertile Lowlands, 
among the peaceable and contented Celts as well as among 
the more restless and energetic Saxons, we find the same 
increase in the wealth and luxury of the landlord and the 
capitalist, accompanied by the misery, discontent, and chronic 
pauperism of the labouring classes. In both districts land- 
lordism has had its own way, and has flourished ; in both it 
•carries in its train the physical, social, and moral degradation 
•of those by whom its wealth is created. It is. not that land- 
lords are worse than other men ; perhaps it may justly be said 
that they are somewhat better than the average ; but no amount 
•of good intentions or good administration will suffice when the 
.system which is administered is fundamentally wrong. No 
system ever had a fairer trial than pure landlordism has had 
in Scotland during the present century. It has had the freest 
liberty of action under various conditions, a peaceful, honest 

9^ Land Nationalisation. 

and contented body of labourers, a constantly increasing growth 
of wealth, and all the means and appliances of modern science 
at its command. Yet here, as always and everywhere, it has 
lamentably failed to produce either prosperity or contentment. 
It must, then, be either the conduct of the landlords or the 
nature of landlordism that has caused this miserable failure. 
We maintain that the failure has been too constant and too 
unvarying to be due to the acts of educated and religious men, 
many of whom have honestly tried to do good ; that, conse- 
quently, the system alone is to blame ; and that landlordism 
itself stands irrevocably condemned. 

English Landlordism. g? 




In England pure landlordism is seen at its best Its 
characteristics have been determined by the great and popular 
class of country squires and by numerous wealthy peers owning 
large ancestral estates, who have usually lived among their 
tenants, have been accustomed to treat them liberally, and 
have had sympathy with their pursuits and a desire for their 
prosperity . The tenant-farmers, too, are usually men of some 
capital, of good education, and of independent spirit, who are 
able to understand their position and maintain their rights, and 


98 Land Nationalisation. 

whose occupancy of the land is the result of a more or less 
free contract with the owner. It is impossible to imagine 
more favourable conditions for the trial of our actual land- 
system ; and we may safely assume that whatever evils we find 
to result from it here ought not to be imputed to the miscon- 
duct of individuals, but to the essential features of the system 
itself. There are, no doubt, certain remediable evils due to 
the laws of inheritance and the pow^r of entail. These will 
probably soon be cured ; but their removal will have little 
influence on those wider and more deeply-seated effects of the 
system to which I shall here call attention. 

Despotic Power of Landlords. — The Hon. George C. 
Brodrick, in his valuable and impartial work, " English Land 
and English Landlords," speaks of the large resident land- 
owner of a parish or district as being " invested with an 
authority over its inhabitants which neither the Saxon chief 
nor the Norman lord, in the fulness of his power, ever had 
the right of exercising." The clergyman is usually his nominee, 
and often his kinsman. The farmers, who are almost the only 
employers of labour besides himself, are his tenants-at-will, and, 
possibly, his debtors. The tradespeople of the village rent 
under him, and, even if they do not, could be ruined by his 
disfavour. The labourers live in his cottages, and are abso- 
lutely at his mercy for the privilege of hiring allotments, 
generally of inadequate size, and at an exorbitant rent as 
compared with the same land occupied by farmers* ; and they 
are also dependent upon him for work in winter. He is usually 
a magistrate, and thus has the power of the law in his hands to 
carry out his orders and enhance his authority. Except by 

* A labourer on the estate of the Duke of Bedford, writing to the 
, Bedford Record, states that he can only get an allotment of 20 poles of 
the worst land in the parish, at double the rent paid by the farmers. In 
other parishes fair land is let at three times the agricultural rate ; and I am 
informed that in some parts of the New Forest allotments are paid for at 
rates up to as high as £\() an acre. 

English Landlordism. 99 

his permission, merely to live upon his estate is impossible ; while 
most of the inhabitants may have their lives rendered miserable, 
or may be actually ruined by his displeasure. As Mr. 
Brodrick says : " We are wont to look back on Saxon times 
as barbarous, and on the feudal system as oppressive ; but the 
simple truth is that nine-tenths of the population in an English 
country parish have at this moment less share in local govern- 
ment than belonged to all classes of freemen for centuries 
before and for centuries after the Norman Conquest. Again : 
they have not only less share in local government than belongs 
to French peasants in the present day, but less than belonged 
to French peasants under the eighteenth century monarchy." 
It may be said that this could be remedied, and that local 
self-government could be given to our people. But this is not 
so. No people can be free who are dependent on others for 
the very right to live in their native place or wherever they 
have become settled. So long as a man can be evicted and 
banished from a local community at the will of the landlord, 
there can be no independence, and no possible freedom or 
self-government worthy of the name. It is because the French 
peasants are landowners, and because the Norman villeins were 
in the position of copy-holders, and could not be ejected by the 
lord of the soil, that they were really free-men, while the 
tenants-at-will of an English landlord to-day are really serfs. 
Mr. Brodrick refers to the exclusion of manufacturing indus- 
tries from sites naturally adapted for them, and their excessive 
•concentration on sites artificially limited, with the consequent 
evils of overcrowding in towns and depopulation in some 
■country districts, as being due to the opposition of rural land- 
owners who thought their interests were involved ; while all 
who remember the early days of railway-making can call to 
mind instances in which landowners exercised the power of 
compelling a railway to be diverted from the more direct and 
less expensive course, to the permanent injury of the whole 

H 2 

100 Land Nationalisation. 

community. Such cases show the power to check the free 
development of commerce and communication given to an 
individual by the possession of large areas of land — a power 
absolutely unique of its kind, since, not only can it be exercised 
by subjects in no other way, but is such as no civilised 
government exerts except upon weighty grounds of public 

Landlords^ Interference with Heltgtoiis Freedo7n. — But even 
more important than these cases are those in which a great 
landowner exercises despotic power over individuals, such as 
we are accustomed to look upon with horror when occurring 
in the Turkish or Russian Empires. One or two illustrative 
examples only can be here given, but a little research through 
the columns of the daily press would enable any one to fill a 
volume with similar cases. Let us first choose an example of 
interference with religious freedom — a matter on which we 
more especially pride ourselves. In April 1879 there appeared 
in the Daily News a correspondence between Samuel 
McAulay, a Wesleyan Minister, and Langhorne Burton, a 
Lincolnshire landowner. The former asked that religious 
services which had been conducted for thirty years in the 
village of Bag-Enderby, and which the said landlord had inter- 
dicted, might be resumed, the writer urging his case forcibly, 
-but in very respectful terms. The answer was as follows : — 

" Somersby, Horncastle, 20th March. 

"Sir, — I have to acknowledge the receipt of yours of the 
17th instant, applying for permission to resume your 
Wesleyan services which .have been for some time held in one 
of my cottages at Bag-Enderby, and which permission, you say 
at the close of your letter, you shall take for granted if you 
hear nothing to the contrary. Now, sir, I consider this rather 
an offhand way of settling the matter, and I request that you 
will on no account act as you propose, at any rate until you 

EnglisJt. Landlordism. lOr 

hear further from me. The result of such a step on your part 
would probably be the removal from Bag-Enderby of all the 
members of your body, who are of little value to me as tenants. 
I wish to have as tenants none (these italics are his own) but 
thorough Church people, and consider myself quite at liberty 
to choose such as I like, without being dictated to by anybody. 
Reasons apart from this for my interdict of your meetings in 
Bag-Enderby I do not feel called upon to enter into with you. 
I also forbear to remark upon your seeming disposition to 
dictate to me my duty as a landlord. Your letters I have 
placed in my rector's hands, and beg to state in conclusion 
that I will write to you again should occasion require it. — I am, 
Sir, your obedient servant, 

"Langhorne Burton. 
" Rev. S. McAulay." 

Here we note the confirmation of the interdict, and the 
threat of " removal of the member? of your body " from the 
village, of which many were probably natives ; as well as the 
claim " to have as tenants none but thorough Church people," 
a claim to be carried into effect only by the eviction of all 
Dissenters from the landlord's property. The law of England 
permits the free practice of their religion by any sect whatever, 
but it is powerless to protect the Wesleyans of Bag-Enderby 
from what might be to many of them a very cruel punishment 
if they venture to exercise their right. Mr. Burton is probably 
not the only landowner who acts in this manner, though few 
would so openly proclaim their intention of doing so ; but 
every landowner possesses the same power, and since it is 
plainly inconsistent with religious liberty, it ought no longer to 
exist Yet this power is inherent in landlordism as established 
by law, and the inevitable corollary is that landlordism itself is 
incompatible with the freedom of British subjects, and must 
therefore be abolished. 

Landlords^ Interference with Political Freedom. — Instances of 

102 Land Nationalisation. 

tenant-farmers of the highest respectability being ejected from 
their farms for voting in opposition to their landlords' will and 
pleasure must be known to every reader. A few years ago the 
eviction of the late Mr. George Hope, of Fenton Barns, an 
agriculturist of world-wide reputation, startled all England. 
The facts, as stated in the account of his life written by his 
daughter, are as follows. The Hopes had had the farm (of 
640 acres) for three generations, and had changed it from " a 
moorish waste covered with furze-bushes " to a rich and highly 
cultivated farm. The rent had always been regularly paid, the 
land kept in the highest state of cultivation, and many improve- 
ments made, so that Mr. Hope was really a model tenant, 
besides being, as an agriculturist, celebrated throughout Europe. 
He was turned out by his landlord, because he held different 
political opinions and took an active part in politics and in 
public affairs. Up to 1852 neither Mr. Hope, his father, nor 
his grandfather had made any profit out of the farm ; since 
then his energy and talent had made it very profitable, but at 
the same time it had been vastly improved for the benefit of 
the landlord — Mr. Nisbet Hamilton. 

Another tenant on the same estate — Mr. Saddler, of Ferrj'- 
gate — was also got rid of (for political reasons it was believed), 
and his improvements were confiscated without the least 
compensation. Mr. James Howard, M.P., states that these 
two gentlemen were, without exception, the most enterprising 
farmers of his acquaintance ; and he maintains that the system 
under which men of capital and position may, on six short 
months' notice, be called upon to quit their farms and to 
break up house and home is one worthy only of a barbarous 

Landlord^ Interference with a Tenant's Sport. — The follow- 
ing is a more recent case of ejection of a well-to-do hereditary 

* "The Tenant-Farmer" (1879). 

English Landlordism. 103 

occupant of a farm, who had offended his landlord by daring 
to secure some sporting privileges for his private enjoyment, 
without first asking permission to do so. 

Mr, W. R. Todd, who with his father had occupied the 
same Yorkshire farm for forty years, took a few fields which 
were let by tender, together with the right of shooting, in 
order to enjoy some sport, which the landlord of his farm 
forbade on his lands. On doing so, his landlord sent for him, 
and told him he must either give up the shooting or the farm, 
as his tenants were not allowed to shoot, even on land which 
they had taken for the express purpose. Accordingly, Mr. 
Todd had to quit, and stated his case in the Daily Neivs of 
October last year. The landlord's agent thereupon wrote to 
explain, admitting that the facts were stated correctly by Mr. 
Todd, but adding that there were circumstances of aggrava- 
tion, the tenant having "placed turnips to attract the hares, 
and shot them in the dusk when the snow was on the 
ground." Considering -that so much damage is done by hares 
that the Legislature have since been obliged to give tenants 
the power to destroy them, whether their landlords will or no, 
Mr. Todd's conduct seems very natural, and was certainly 
neither legally nor morally wrong. Neither can we say that the 
landlord was wrong in using the power he possessed to 
preserve the hares for his own sport ; but the circumstance, 
none the less, shows that a tenant-farmer of England lives 
under a hard despotism, and is liable to be expelled from the 
hoine of his childhood for the slightest interference with his 
landlord's fancies or privileges. 

Eviction of the Inhabitants of an Entire Village. — In the 
following case, given on the authority of Mr. Froude,* no offence 
whatever appears to have been alleged against the unfortunate 
tenants. He says : — " Not a mile from the place where I am 

* Nineteenth Century, September, 1880. 

104 Land Nationalisation. 

now writing an estate on the coast of Devonshire came into the 
hands of an English Duke. There was a primitive village 
upon it, occupied by sailors, pilots, and fishermen, which is 
described in Domesday Book, and was inhabited at the 
Conquest by the actual forefathers of the late tenants, whose 
names may be read there. The houses were out of repair. 
The Duke's predecessors had laid out nothing upon them for 
a century, and had been contented with exacting the rents. 
When the present owner entered into possession it was 
represented to him that if the village was to continue it must 
be rebuilt, but that to rebuild it would be a needless expense, 
for the people, living as they did on their wages as fishermen 
and seamen, would not cultivate his land, and were useless to 
him. The houses were therefore simply torn down, and 
nearly half the population was driven out into the world to 
find new homes. A few more such instances of tyranny 
might provoke a dangerous crisis.'' Here, then, for no offence 
whatever, a considerable village population — who, if long- 
continued ancestral occupancy goes for anything, had the full 
moral and equitable right to live on this particular portion of 
their native soil — were rudely driven out to what must have 
been to them a cruel banishment. Some grave political 
crime, some gross offence against law or morality, would 
hardly have justified such a punishment, in which old and 
young, women and children, were alike involved. Who can 
tell the mental anguish, the physical suffering involved in such 
an eviction ; the burning sense of injury, the rending of social 
ties, the pain and loss of having to seek a fresh home and 
begin a new life at the will of an unknown and unseen despot ? 
And the powerful Government of our free England, with its 
high-sounding declarations — that every man's house is his 
castle ; that rich and poor are alike in the eye of its laws ; 
and that there is no wrong without a remedy — was absolutely 
powerless to give these poor villagers any protection whatever ! 

English Landlordism. 105 

By recognising private property in land, the State has set up 
in its midst a number of petty lords more powerful than any 
Government ; and v/hose decrees, whatever injustice they may 
do, or whatever misery bring to British subjects, no court of 
law or equity is able to reverse. Well may Mr. Brodrick say 
that neither Saxon chief nor Norman lord ever had the right 
of exercising such power as this ; for they at all events had 
a superior lord over them who could, if he so willed, remedy 
such injustice, while our existing Government can not do so. 

On the broad ground, then, that the possession of land 
(for other purposes than personal occupation) gives the 
owner powers which are inconsistent with the liberties of 
their fellow-subjects, we again claim the abolition of 

Injurious Power of Landlords over Farmers and over 
Agriculture. — One of the strongest points of the landlord 
system is supposed to be the beneficial influence of an 
educated and enlightened class, whose duty as well as their 
interest is to manage their estates on the best principles, to 
introduce improved methods of agriculture, and generally to 
set a good example in both agricultural and social economy. 
Admitting that the best types of landlords actually do produce 
these good effects, we are bound to ask what proportion these 
bear to the whole body, and whether in the majority of cases, 
a great landowner is not rather a clog upon progressive 
agriculture, by the antiquated regulations which he enforces on 
his tenants, while by inordinate game-preserving he actually 
destroys large quantities of the produce of the soil. 

Mr. Brodrick tells us that the most profitable form of 
agricultural occupation is that which most resembles ownership ; 
that " the best agriculture is found on farms whose owners are 
protected by leases ; the next best on farms whose tenants are 
protected by the Lincolnshire or other customs ; the worst of 
all on farms whose tenants are not protected at all, but rely on 

io6 Land Nationalisation. 

the honour of their landlords." Now during the present 
century the custom of granting leases has diminished, partly 
owing to the desire of landlords to secure political power by 
influencing their tenants' votes, and partly from the importance 
they attach to rights of sporting, which often induces them to 
accept low rents from non-improving tenants, who can be 
turned out at short notice if they meddle with the game ; and 
Mr. Brodrick concludes that, " by the operation of these and 
other causes, it is tolerably certain that yearly tenancy has 
become the rule, and leasehold tenancy the exception, in most 
English counties ;" while Mr. C. S. Read, M. P., stated, at a 
recent meeting of the Farmers' Club, that three-fourths of the 
land of England is held subject to a six months' notice to quit. 
Whence it follows that a system of tenure which produces 
" the worst agriculture of all " is that which prevails over the 
larger part of our country ; and this result is due directly to 
the will and pleasure of English landlords. 

But even under its best conditions — that of holding by a 
lease — tenant farming is essentially wasteful and imperfect. 
The tenant is almost always subject to covenants which restrict 
his freedom and keep him in a certain routine of operations, 
even under circumstances when a change would be advan- 
tageous to all parties. He is bound to make up a fixed amount 
of rent annually, and is therefore unable to carry out any 
operations which would diminish his profits for one or two 
years, to increase them largely in the future. Whatever im- 
provements he may make at the commencement of his lease 
must be so calculated that he can obtain their full value before 
its termination ; and there is great waste of capital involved in 
the tendency of every such tenant to exhaust the soil as much 
as possible towards the expiration of a lease, which has to be 
restored to its normal fertility in the early years of the next 

Limitation of the .Beneficial Influence of Landlords. — Again, 

English Landlordism. 107 

whatever benefits may be due to the presence of resident 
landlords, these extend over comparatively a small portion of 
the country, owing to the number of absentees even in England. 
From an examination of the official New Domesday Book, 
Mr. Arthur Arnold has ascertained that the 525 members of 
the peerage own 1,593 separate estates, comprising an area of 
more than 15,000,000 acres; or, allowing for roads, rivers, 
towns, and other public property, about one-third the whole 
land of the United Kingdom. The Duke of Buccleugh owns 
14 separate estates, and four other peers 11 each, while the 
whole body of peers average 3 each, often widely separated in 
different counties. It is evident that in all these cases the estates 
must be wholly managed by agents ; and, although the owner 
may occasionally visit each of them, the supposed beneficial 
influence of residency must be at a minimum. The list of 
landowners possessing more than 5,000 acres shows that 
great numbers of private gentlemen also possess estates in from 
two to seven distinct counties ; and as most of these live a 
considerable part of the year in London, and another part 
abroad, they can hardly have much time to reside even on the 
particular estate which they make their home. On the whole, 
then, it is evident that the majority of the estates of great 
landlords do not possess the benefit, whatever that may be, of 
the permanent residence of the owner among the farmers, 
labourers, and other people who, as we have seen, are so largely 
dependent on his will and pleasure. 

Whatever Beneficial Influence Landlords Exert would be 
Increased Under Occupying Ownership. — It will be as well to 
notice here a strange misconception which pervades the ideas 
and arguments of those who uphold landlordism as a beneficial 
system. They assume that, if the nobility and educated 
gentry were no longer the possessors of great landed estates, 
beyond what they desired to occupy and maintain for their 
own pleasure or profit, they would not live in the country at 

io8 Land Nationalisation. 

all. But we may ask, Where, then, would they live ? Is all the 
English love of country life a delusion ? Would our wealthy 
classes live always in London, if they derived their income 
from other sources than the rents of land which they rarely 
or never behold ? These questions really require no answer, 
and they serve to show the futility of the whole objection. 
If, as we here maintain, land ought to be owned only for 
personal occupation, it is as certain as anything can be that the 
number of wealthy resident landowners would greatly increase. 
The numerous fine parks and demesnes now kept up merely 
as show places, or let out to yearly tenants, would be each and 
all in the hands of a separate occupying owner. Each would 
be a home ; and, as such, would be the object of that loving 
personal care and attention which, as one of half-a-dozen 
country houses, they never receive. For one resident land- 
owner with education, wealth, and refinement, there would 
then be a dozen or a score ; for each great estate would become 
the property of many owners, some owning several hundreds 
or even thousands of acres, others small farms ; and as every 
one of these would be influenced by the double motive of 
adding to the permanent value of his own property and 
increasing the beauty and enjoyability of his only country 
home, their influence for good on each other and on the 
labouring classes would be certainly many times greater than 
that of any one half-resident landlord, even if all these were as 
good, and useful, and enlightened members of society as some 
of them really are. 

Supposed Importance of the Large Farms which Land- 
lordism, Favours. — Another of the allegations in support of 
landlordism is that great landlords favour large farms, and 
that large farms worked by farmers of sufficient capital are 
more economical and produce larger profits than small ones. 
Admitting, for the sake of argument only, that this may 
possibly be sometimes true, and even that scientific farming on 

Etiglish Landlordism. 109 

large farms produces larger wheat crops per acre than small 
ones, this only proves that such farms are better for the land- 
lord and perhaps for the tenant, but not necessarily for the 
nation at large. For, since our supply of corn and cattle now 
comes mainly from abroad, the chief effect of a larger amount 
of such produce being obtained by a given amount of labour is 
that the landlord gets a higher rent and the farmer a larger 
profit, while the whole population of the country round may 
be positively injured. It is a well-known fact that in a dis- 
trict of large farms the inhabitants of the adjacent towns and 
villages suffer many inconveniences, especially in the difficulty 
of procuring new milk, fresh butter, eggs, or poultry, all of 
which, if produced, are sent away to London or other large 
cities. Families living quite in the country are thus often 
obliged to use Swiss milk, to eat foreign butter, or even an 
artificial compound of fat misnamed butter, and French eggs ; 
while labourers and mechanics often bring up their families 
v,'ithout the use of so wholesome and natural a food as milk. 

But the question of the comparative productiveness of large 
and small farms is most unfairly decided by a comparison of 
tenant-farmers of these two classes in England. The large 
farmer is usually better educated and has a larger capital than 
the small one, and more frequently has a lease which enables 
him to work his land at a considerable advantage. But, as we 
shall show in our next chapter, when occupying owners are 
concerned there is no such superiority. Mr. Brodrick tells 
us that M. de Lavergne, writing on the Rural Economy of 
England, declared that no similar area of English land is culti- 
vated so well as the Ddpartement du Nord, which is essentially 
a district of small farms ; adding — " there is overwhelming 
. evidence to prove that scientific English agriculturists have yet 
many lessons to learn from the small farms in Belgium, 
Switzerland, the Channel Islands, and Germany." 

The great and essential point, however, is always overlooked 

no Land Nationalisation. 

by the apologists of landlord-and-tenant farming. This is, not 
which system leads to the greatest production of wealth, but, 
which supports the largest agricultural and rural population in 
comfort, decency, and reasonable well-being ; which tends 
most to render the lowest class of workers thrifty, sober, and 
industrious; which will most surely abolish pauperism and 
diminish crime. The government of a civilised community is 
bound to consider the well-being of every class of its subjects, 
not that of capitalists only ; and the experience of the last 50 
5'ears abundantly proves — as we have already shown — that the 
most astounding increase in the aggregate wealth of the com- 
munity has no necessary tendency to diminish poverty or 
abolish pauperism.* Let us, then, proceed to inquire what are 
the effects of landlordism on that large mass of workers to 
whom the entire wealth of the country is primarily due ; and 
■whose physical, social, and moral condition is the true and 
final test of the success of any government or any social 

The Ejffeds of Landlordism on the Well-Beingof the Labouring 
Classes. — In medieval times the villein or serf, corresponding 
to our agricultural labourer of to-day, could not be ejected 
from his land except by the judgment of a manor-court, in 
which the freeholders sat as jurymen, t However hardly he 
might be treated by his lord, he still had a home and a plot 
of land on which he could work with all the intense interest of 
an owner. Later on, when the villeins had become freemen, 
it was attempted to fix the rate of wages of labourers, who, by 
the continued enclosures of woods and wastes had become 
more dependent on daily labour for sustenance. In order to 
mitigate the evil results of this limitation of wages, the first 
Poor Law was established, and about the same time a statute 

* See p. 4, Footnote. 
t Prot Thorold Rogers m Coniemporary Hevieiv, April, 1880. 

English Landlordism. 


of Elizabeth required four acres of land to be attached to each 
new cottage. If this just and far-seeing law had been strictly 
enforced to the present day, and the land so granted declared 
to be inalienable, it is probable that much of the great mass of 
pauperism which now exists would have been prevented. Down 
to a century ago, however, the position of the agricultural 
labourer was decidedly better than it is now. Matthews 
estimated that, in 1720, the wages of a labourer commanded 
more than at any previous or subsequent time ; while a Parlia- 
mentary Report in 1868 thus forcibly sums up the advantages 
■of his position : — " Previous to 1775 the agricultural labourer 
■ft'as in a most prosperous condition. His wages gave him a 
great command over the necessaries of life, his rent was lower, 
his wearing apparel cheaper, his shoes cheaper, his living 
cheaper, than formerly; and he had on the commons and 
wastes liberty of cutting furze for fuel, with the chance of 
getting a little land, and in time a small farm."* It is true 
that his social and moral condition was very low, but so was 
that of many of his superiors ; and it is very doubtful whether 
the improvement which has taken place in this last respect is 
not to a great extent neutralised by the deterioration of his 
physical condition. 

Deterioration of the Condition of the Agricultural Labourer 
during the present Century. — From that time till within the last 
few years the wealth of the landlords, and, in a less degree, the 
■ profits of the farmers, have been steadily increasing. The rent 
of even agricultural land has nearly doubled, and the price of 
much agricultural produce has doubled also. In the latter part 
■of the last century meat was 4d. a pound, cheese 3^d., butter 
6|d., and skim-milk could be had for a halfpenny a quart, 
or was often given away, while wages were then about 8s. a 

* First Report of the Women's and Children's Employment Commission 
<i868), Par. 251. 

113 Land Nationalisation. 

week. In 1850 all these articles of food were much dearer, while 
in some parts of England wages were actually lower; and whereas 
during the last twenty years the above articles have been 
usually more than double the price, wages have been less than 
half as high again. But the labourer has now to pay much 
higher house-rent, he has generally no garden, and, being 
usually a weekly tenant, is so dependent on his landlord that 
he cannot make the most of what he has ; the commons and 
roadside wastes from which he formerly obtained fuel for winter, 
with food and litter for a cow, a donkey, geese or poultry, have 
almost all been enclosed ; and the result is that he has few 
means of adding to his scanty wages, and is reduced to live 
mainly on bread and weak tea, with a little cheese or bacon and 
cheap artificial butter, while his children are brou-ght up almost 
without knowing the taste of milk. His sole relaxation is to 
be found at the wayside tavern, his only prospect to end his 
days in the workhouse. 

The Social Degradation of the Agrictdtural Labourer at 
the Present Day. — In a remarkable letter to the Daily News 
in 1869, Sir George Grey gave a striking picture of the social 
and physical degradation of the English agricultural labourer. 
He quotes the reports of their medical officers to the Privy 
Council, which tell us that — " Whether he shall find house-room 
on the land which he contributes to till, whether the house-room 
which he gets shall be human or swinish, whether he shall have 
the little space of garden that so vastly lessens the pressure of his 
poverty — all this does not depend on his willingness and 
ability to pay reasonable rent for the decent accommodation he 
requires, but depends on the use which others may see fit to 
make of their ' right to do as they will with their own.' " 
Owing to the pecuniary interest which each parish formerly 
had in reducing the number of its resident labourers, thus 
diminishing its liability to rates, the landowners had but to 
resolve that there should be no labourers' dwellings on their 

English Landlordism. 113 

estates, and they would thenceforth be virtually free from half 
their responsibilities for the poor. The lord of the soil may 
treat its actual cultivators as aliens whom he may expel from his 
territory ; and when it is his interest or his pleasure he often 
does so. The same report states : — " Besides the extreme cases 
where houses of a parish were pulled down in the teeth of an 
increasing population, there were also innumerable parishes 
where the demolition of houses was going on more rapidly than 
any diminution of the population could explain. When the pro- 
cess of depopulation is completed, the result is a show village, 
where the cottages have been reduced to a few, and where none 
but persons who are needful as shepherds, gardeners, or game- 
keepers are allowed to live. But the land requires cultivation, 
and it will be found that the labourers employed upon it are 
not the tenants of the owner, but that they come from a neigh- 
bouring open village, perhaps three miles off, where a numerous 
small proprietary had received them when their cottages were 
destroyed in the close villages around." To the hard toil of 
the labourer there will then have to be added the daily need 
of walking six miles or more for the power of earning his daily 
bread. "But he suffers a still greater evil in the kind of 
dwelling he is obliged to inhabit. In the open village cottage 
speculators buy scraps of land, which they throng as densely as 
they can with the cheapest of all possible hovels, and into 
these wretched habitations (which, even if they adjoin the open 
country, have some of the worst features of the worst town 
residences) crowd the agricultural labourers of England." The 
habitual overcrowding of these wretched hovels leads to scenes 
and conditions of life too painful to dwell upon, and we need 
only quote the concluding statement. " To be subject to such 
influences is a degradation which must become deeper and 
deeper for those on whom it continues to work. To children 
who are born under its curse it must be a very baptism into 


114 Land Nationalisation. 

It may be supposed that these cases are the exceptions, but 
the report assures us they are not so. After doing justice to the 
honourable instances in which landowners, even at a loss to 
themselves, provide decent accommodation for their labourers, 
it adds : — "From these brighter but exceptional scenes it is 
requisite, in the interests of justice, that attention should again 
be drawn to the overwhelming preponderance of facts, which 
are a reproach to the civilisation of England. Lamentable 
indeed must be the case when, notwithstanding all that is 
evident with regard to the quality of the present accommoda- 
tion, it is the common conclusion of competent observers that 
even the general badness of dwellings is an evil infinitely less 
urgent than their numerical insufficiency."* 

Corroborative evidence, if any be needed, is furnished by 
many independent authorities. Professor Fawcett, in the 
work already referred to, says of the British agricultural 
labourers — "Theirs is a life of incessant toil for wages too 
scanty to give them a sufficient supply of the first necessities of 

* This depopulation of estates and parishes has been going on for more 
than a century. Arthur Young described the operation of the old Poor 
Law in his time as causing universally "an open war against cottages." 
Gentlemen bought them up whenever they had an opportunity, and 
immediately levelled them with the ground, lest they should become "a 
nest of beggars' brats." The removal of a cottage often drove the indus- 
trious labourer from a parish where he could earn 15s. a week to one where 
he could earn but los. Thus, as among the Scotch labourers of the pre- 
sent day, marriage was discouraged ; the peasantry were cleared off the 
land, and increasing immorality was the necessary consequence. The 
effect of this system was actually to depopulate many parishes. The 
author of a pamphlet on the subject, Mr. Alcock, stated that the gentle- 
men were led by this system to adopt all sorts of expedients to hinder the 
poor from marrying, to discharge servants in their last quarter, to evict 
small tenants, and pull dow>n cottages. The duties of an overseer under 
the old Poor Law system in England are described by Dr. Burn to be — 
" Not to let anyone have a farm of j^\o a year, . . , To bind out 
poor children apprentices, no matter to whom or to what trade ; but to 
take special care that the master live in another parish. ... To pull 
down cottages ; to drive out as many inhabitants and admit as few as they 
possibly can : that is to depopulate the parish, in order to lessen the poor 
ratc«" (Godkin's "Land War in Ireland," p. 241,) 

English Landlordism. 115 

life. No hope cheers their monotonous career : a life of con- 
stant labour brings them no other prospect than that when 
their strength is exhausted, they must crave as suppliant 
mendicants a pittance from parish relief " ; while the Bishop 
of Manchester states that out of 300 parishes which he visited 
in Norfolk, Essex, Sussex, and Gloucestershire, only two had 
good cottage accommodation. ..." The majority of 
the cottages that exist in rural parishes are deficient in almost 
■every requisite that should constitute a home for a Christian 
family in a civilised community.'' Details are then given of 
parishes and estates of 2,000 acres with one or two cottages 
only and sometimes none at all ; and as a result ten or eleven 
persons sleeping in a single bedroom.* And the only remedy 
suggested for this state of things is — not to give labourers a 
right to have land, the one and only possible and real 
remedy, but " to call upon those who own the soil to see to it 
that their estates are adequately provided with decent resi- 
dences for those by whom they are tilled." What a weak and 
impotent conclusion ! Call upon the landlords to build com- 
fortable, roomy, and decent cottages at a certain loss ! Truly 
you may call and call, but you will get no satisfactory response; 
and in the meantime more Commissions will inquire, more 
misery and horror will come to light, and no general improve- 
ment will be effected. 

This State of Things is Due to the System of Landlordism, 
not to the Bad Conduct of Landlords. — Now, the great point 
to be noticed here is, that, except by the action of the benevo- 
lent or charitable, the labourer is, as a rule, disgracefully 
housed, wretchedly fed, and, however honest and industrious he 
may be, has rarely any other prospect than to die a pauper. 
The law of supply and demand has failed to give him a decent 
cottage. The enormous increase in the wealth of the landlord, 

* Appendix to First Report of the Commission appointed to inquire into 
the condition of women and children employed in agriculture. 

ii6 Land Nationalisation. 

giving him the disposal of so much larger a fund out of which 
to employ labourers, has in no way benefitted the tiller of the 
soil. And, while every one remarks that the standard of living 
of the tenant-farmers has been greatly raised, the foregoing 
evidence, no less than the glaring facts of persistent 
pauperism, shows that the social condition of the labourer 
has certainly been stationary, if it has not actually deteriorated. 
It is not necessary to go far to seek the cause of this apparently 
inexplicable state of things. Those who do not wilfully shut 
their eyes must see that the monopoly of the land by landlords 
sufficiently explains it. The land is a fixed quantity, while 
the population is ever increasing. The tenant-farmer with 
capital is in a position to make such a bargain with the land- 
lord as will give him fair interest on his capital and adequate 
remuneration for his skill in superintending his farm. Between 
them they absorb all the profit that they extract from the soil, 
while the wages of the labourer are kept down by the forced 
competition of those who have no other means of living to that 
irreducible minimum which is barely sufficient to support 
life and health while he can work, and, as soon as his 
strength fails, leaves him to charity or the poorhouse.* 

* That this is a necessary consequence of private property in land has 
been demonstrated with great force in Mr. George's remarkable 
work, " Progress and Poverty," of which some account is given in a later 
chapter. It has also been seen by some of our recent political economists, 
especially by Professor Caimes, who writes as follows: — "A given 
exertion of labour and capital will now produce in a great many directions 
five, ten, or twenty times — in some instances, perhaps, a hundred times — 
the result which an equal exertion would have produced -a. hundred years 
ago ; yet the rate of wages .... has certainly not advanced in any- 
thing like a corresponding degree, whilst it may be doubted if the rate of 
profit has advanced at all. , . . We should be inclined to say it had 
even positively fallen. . . . Someone, no doubt, has benefited by the 
enlarged power of man over material nature ; the world is, without 
question, the richer for it. . . . The large addition to the wealth of 
the country has gone neither to profits nor to wages, nor yet to the public 
at large, but to swell a fund ever growing, even while its proprietors sleep 
— the rent-roll of the owners of the soil." ("Some Leading Questions of 
-Political Economy Newly Expounded," pp. 328-333). 

English Landlordism. iij 

Ii is not that the landlord or the farmer are individually 
to blame. Both try to make the most of the property 
v.hich the law allows them to possess, and we cannot ex- 
pect them to do more than pay the current rate of wages. 
AVere all landlords without exception to devote a considerable 
percentage of their incomes to providing good cottages for their 
labourers rent-free, one of the great blots on our agricultural 
.■system would doubtless be removed. But this would be charity 
pure and simple ; and to say that there is no way of raising the 
.status of the labouring population except by the universal 
■charity of the landlords is to confess that landlordism itself is an 
■evil of the first magnitude. The labourer does not want charity, 
but simply justice. He wants some share in that common 
land which his ancestors possessed, but from which, by 
landlord-made law, he is now totally divorced. He claims the 
right to labour for his own benefit on some portion of his native 
soil, not doled out to him in allotments at three or four times 
the rent paid by the farmer, and even then considered a favour, 
but in plots attached to his cottage home, to which he shall 
liave an inalienable title under a fixed quit-rent, to which he 
can devote those hours or days of enforced idleness now 
cruelly wasted, and in the cultivation of which his children 
may acquire habits of industry and thrift, and the simpler arts 
•of cultivation. In our next chapter we shall show, by 
abundant evidence, that by conceding such a right we should 
soon change a pauperised into a self-supporting population, 
-and should at the same time render our country far more 
healthy and enjoyable to every one of its inhabitants. 

The Enclosure Act and its Results. — Although we freely 
.absolve landlords from blame in the matter of the wages of 
labourers, we cannot do the same in regard to their collective 
.action in the enclosures of commons. By means of various 
Enclosure Acts, it is estimated that about seven millions of 
■acres of land were enclosed between 1710 and 1843. The 

1 1 3 Land Nationalisation. 

progress of enclosure has been most rapid since the time of 
George II, and Sir George Nicholls states that two and a half 
millions of acres were enclosed in thirty years between 1769 
and 1799. The Royal Commissioners on the Employment 
of Women and Children in Agriculture remark that these- 
enclosures were often made without any compensation to the 
smaller commoners, and that they have deprived agricultural 
labourers of ancient rights over the waste, and have disabled 
the occupants of new cottages from acquiring such rights. In 
1845 ^ general Enclosure Act was passed for still further 
facilitating the enclosure and improvement of commons, and it 
empowered the Commissioners to . grant portions of the land 
for recreation and for allotments to the labouring poor, 
according to population. It did not, however, allow allotments 
of more than a quarter of an acre to each labourer, and no 
house was in any case allowed to be erected on them. While- 
all other persons having rights of common had allotments 
made to them of land in absolute property, the labourers, toi 
whom the common rights had in many cases been of more real 
use and value than to most of the surrounding landowners, had 
nothing whatever given to them but a miserable pittance of 
allotment ground, for which they had to pay a high rent 1 The 
Commissioners, however, appear to have made little use even of 
these scanty powers, since, out of 7,000,000 acres enclosed 
since 1760, it was found in 1868 that only 2,119 acres had' 
been reserved for allotments.* As examples of the more 
recent action of the Enclosure Commissioners, we find it stated 
in the report of the Commons Preservation Society that in 
1869 they recommended the enclosure of 6,916 acres, of which 
they reserved three acres for recreation and six for field 
gardens ! Owing to the attention drawn to these figures in. 
Parliament and by the press, they have latterly given rather- 

* Brodrick, " English Land and English Landlords,'' p. 234, 

English Landlordism. 119 

more for these purposes; yet in 1875, out of 18,600 acres 
enclosed only 132 acres were reserved for garden allotments. 

Uniform Evidence as to the Beneficial Effects of Allotments and 
Cottage Gardens. — If we think it strange that a body of highly 
educated, wealthy, moral, and benevolent men saw nothing 
wrong in thus appropriating to themselves land which had been 
the birthright of the English labourers from time immemorial, 
we are still more astonished at the impolicy of such a course 
of action, in view of the evidence they possessed of the im- 
portant uses this land might have been put to for the diminu- 
tion of the persistent evils of pauperism and crime. So long 
ago as 1795, it was shown before a Select Committee of the 
House of Commons "that, in 1770, the lord of a manor near 
Tewkesbury, remarking the exceptionally good character of 
families holding plots of reclaimed land, set apart some twenty- 
five acres for cottagers' allotments, and had the satisfaction of 
seeing the poor-rates reduced in two years to 4d. in the pound, 
while they stood at 2s. 6d. in the surrounding parishes." And 
another Select Committee in 1843 reported that "the tenancy 
of land under the garden allotment system is a powerful 
means of bettering the condition of those classes who depend 
for their livelihood on manual labour, and the benefits are 
obtained without corresponding disadvantages." From evidence 
given before the "Women's and Children's Employment 
Commission" in 1868, it was proved that cottagers obtained 
a return from such allotments of £16 an acre above the 
ordinary farm rent, and it was estimated that, if all agricultural 
labourers above 20 years of age possessed half-acre or quarter- 
acre allotments, the annual value of the produce would be 
between three and four millions of pounds. If these state- 
ments are even approximately correct, it is clear that the 
refusal of land to labourers results in a great loss to the nation 
of actual food, quite independently of the enormous saving 
that would accrue to it by the diminution of pauperism. 

120 Land Nationalisation. 

The allotments that do exist (and they are far from suffi- 
cient to supply the wants of the agricultural labourers) are, 
however, no test whatever of the good that might accrue from 
a more generous system. They are almost always held from 
year to year, and the labourers usually pay for them double or 
treble the rent paid for the same land by the farmer. They 
are also let in far too small patches ; and, what is worst of all, 
they are often situated a considerable distance from the 
dwellings of the majority of the labourers. All these conditions 
are adverse to their being made the most of. A garden is 
especially valuable because it enables a man and his family to 
utilise odd moments, while its progress, being constantly under 
his eye, gives him a new interest in his home. After a long 
day's labour, and a walk of perhaps two or three miles from 
his work, to have to walk another mile, perhaps, to his allot- 
ment must often prevent him from going there at all, except 
when the days are longest. But perhaps even more important 
is the loss which his garden sustains in not receiving the whole 
refuse and sewage of the house, which could be so easily 
applied to a cottage garden, but which involves a heavy cost in 
time and labour if they are to be carried to a distant allotment. 
Again, the temporary occupation of a field-allotment affords no 
scope for growing fruit, in which our country is so deficient, 
or in keeping poultry for the supply of eggs, which might as 
easily be produced by our cottagers as by those of France. It 
is a mere mockery to point to allotments as affording any 
adequate notion of the material and social benefits which our 
labourers directly, and the whole country indirectly, would 
derive from throwing open the land freely to the permanent 
occupation or ownership of our labouring classes. 

Beneficial Effects of Small Cottage Farms. — As one example 
of the good effects produced by even an approximation to 
such a system is the following statement of what has been 
done on the Annandale estate in Dumfriesshire. " Leases of 

English Landlordism. 121 

twenty-one years were offered at ordinary farm rents to 
■deserving labourers, carefully selected for their character, who 
built their own cottages, at a cost to themselves varying fram 
;^2 1 to £,i,o, exclusive of labour, while the landlord supplied 
timber, stone, &c., at a cost of about £^22. These houses 
were not grouped in villages, but chiefly situated along roads, 
with plots of from two to six acres attached to each, or the 
addition of grass for a cow. All the work for these little 
farms was done at by-hours and by members of the family, 
the cottager buying roots from the farmer, and producing in 
return milk, butter, and pork, besides rearing calves. Among 
such peasant farmers pauperism soon ceased to exist, and 
many of them soon bettered themselves in life. It was also 
particularly observed that habits of marketing and the constant 
demands on thrift and forethought brought out new virtues 
and powers in the wives. In fact, the moral effects of the 
system in fostering industry, sobriety, and contentment 
were described as no less satisfactory than its economical 

Again, the same writer tells us that in several estates in 
Cheshire it is the practice to let plots of land ranging from 
two and a-half to three and a-half acres with each cottage at 
an ordinary farm rent. This practice, which is but the 
revival of a custom once almost universal amongst the 
peasantry of England, is found to be fraught with manifold 
advantages. The most obvious of these is an abundant 
supply of milk for the farm labourers' children, who in many 
districts grow up without tasting the natural diet of childhood. 
But the habits of thrift and forethought encouraged by cow- 
keeping and dairying, on however small a scale, constitute 
a moral advantage of great importance. On Lord ToUemache's 
estate in Cheshire, where the system has been long established 

• " English Land and English Landlords," p. 237. 

122 Land Nationalisation. 

and carefuly managed, its results have been eminently bene- 
ficial, and attended by none of the drawbacks so often 
magnified into insuperable difficulties by the opponents of 
cottage farming. Not less satisfactory has been the experience 
of other landlords who have given the system a fair trial, and 
the Second Report of the Women and Children's Employ- 
ment Commission is full of evidence in its favour. " Yet," 
adds Mr. Brodrick, " such is the conservatism of agriculture 
that it continues to be a rare feature of English rural economy, 
and it is quite possible that generations will elapse before it 
is widely extended."* 

The Logical Bearing of this Evidence. — Now, when we 
have, on one side, a system which inevitably pauperises a 
large section of the labouring classes ; which degrades them 
socially and morally ; and which, through them, permanently 
injures the whole community — and, on the other side, one 
which tends immediately to abolish pauperism and diminish 
crime ; to elevate this same class socially and morally ; and, 
while doing this, to aid materially in the supply of some of 
the most important necessaries of life, every Englishman has 
a right to object to leaving this great question in the 
hands of any body of men, much less of those who for so 
long a time have shown themselves utterly incompetent to 
form a correct judgment upon it. We object, too, most 
strongly to the indefinite continuance of a system which 
enables any of our fellow-citizens either to withhold at their 
pleasure or to grant as a favour that which we maintain is the 
birthright of every Englishman — the freedom to enjoy and 
utilise some portion of his native soil, on terms to be settled 
by the State, in the interest of all. 

Various Powers Exercised by Landlords to the Detriment of 
the Pitllic at Large. — Having thus shown how much despotic 

* "English Land and English Landlords,'' p. 429. 

English Landlordism. 125 

power landlords possess over their various classes of tenants, 
and how much injury these tenants often suffer directly, and 
the community indirectly, by the exercise of these powers, we 
have now to consider the numerous ways in which the entire 
population, individually and collectively, suffer injury, by 
allowing the soil of the country to be monopolised by private 
owners and to be dealt with as mere merchandise for profit or 
speculation ; as the means of obtaining undue political and 
social power ; or as an exclusive possession in which the 
people at large have no interests and can claim no rights. 

We will begin with the question of House and Home, as 
one which affects the interests and the happiness of a larger 
number of persons than any other question whatever. 

The Free Choice of a Home Essential to Well-Being, — 
People have so long been accustomed to look upon land as 
necessarily belonging to some individual who has the right to do 
■what he pleases with it, that to most persons the idea never 
occurs that, as free citizens of a free State, they ought to be 
able to live wherever they choose to live, so long as they do 
not infringe any other person's equal right to do so. As a 
fact, they can only live where some landlord chooses to allow 
them; and though hundreds and thousands who have the 
means would like to choose a spot for themselves on which to 
reside, paying, of course, its fair value to the actual owner, they 
are very frequently restricted to some building-estate, where 
competition and speculation have raised the price of building 
land to such a degree that the crowding and other incon- 
veniences of towns are extended far into the country. Every 
one who has written on the subject condemns the system of 
building-leases, as fraught with innumerable evils, and one 
which ought not to be permitted. It leads to bad speculative 
building, in which solidity and comfort are sacrificed to 
ornament and show. It leads to overcrowding in the vicinity 
of towns, and the comparative desertion of the more remote 

124 Land Nationalisation. 

country places. And by the large profits it gives to existing 
landowners, with the prospect of a still larger profit to their 
descendants, it leads to the crowding of houses on narrow 
strips of land at ground-rents altogether disproportionate to its 
extreme agricultural value. These leases have usually been 
for 99 years, but some landlords now restrict them to 80 and 
even to 60 years; and for the latter half of the term it 
is evident that the home feeling and affection which leads a 
man continually to improve the dwelling which he trusts will 
be inhabited by some portion of his family after him, and 
which has an important moral influence on his character, 
must be continually weakened and at last wholly cease. 
Yet, so long as absolute private property in land continues, 
and it is held to be a fit subject for free barter and contract, 
it will be practically impossible to abolish the system. 

Characteristics of a Good System of Latid Tenure. — Now, 
we consider it to be an indisputable axiom that that system 
of land-tenure is best which leads at once to the freest enjoy- 
ment of the land by the whole population, and at the same 
time tends to its increased cultivation and productiveness. 
Of all modes of enjoyment that which depends upon the House 
and its surroundings — the healthiness, beauty, convenience, 
and productiveness of the Home — is the most important, 
since it affects directly the bulk of the whole population, and 
affects them during the largest portion of their daily lives. 
The utmost possible freedom in the choice of a home, with 
the greatest possible facilities for procuring the necessary land 
at a cheap rate, would constitute perhaps the chief of all the 
blessings which a sound and rational system of " Nationalisa- 
tion of the Land " would confer upon every individual. Under 
the present system the very reverse obtains, since we have the 
least possible freedom of choice, and in most cases have to 
pay un extravagant monopoly price for whatever we are 
permitted to occupy. 

English Landlordism. 125 

It will be bhown further on that it is quite possible to 
obtain the land for the nation without confiscating the 
property of any existing landowner or any expectant heir; and, 
that being done, it will be as easy as it will be expedient to 
secure the right of every one to obtain land for a " house and 
home," in almost any spot he may choose, and at a cost 
only slightly exceeding its value for agricultural purposes. 
The quantity of land thus taken from agriculture would, it is 
true, be somewhat larger than at present; but, as much of 
this would be highly cultivated as garden ground, and would 
offer facilities for the rearing of poultry and pigs as well as for 
growing fruit and vegetables, it is probable or even certain that 
the general productiveness of the land would be increased 
rather than diminished. At all events, every one must feel 
that the most perfect liberty in the choice of a dwelling- 
place, with a sufficiency of land for garden and pleasure- 
grounds at a cheap rate, would be so beneficial to the health 
and contentment of the entire community, that a system of 
land-tenure which renders it possible and even easy has 
already much in its favour. The exact mode in which this 
may be effected will be explained when the scheme of Nation- 
alisation here advocated is discussed in detail. 

We may, however, at once point out that the free appropria- 
tion of land for dwellings as now proposed offers, perhaps, the 
only possible check to the undue growth of large towns. In 
all the more beautiful and healthful parts of the country 
land would be taken for dwellings, and these would become 
new centres of rural populations, forming in time country 
villages and small towns. All land and building speculation 
being abolished, the growth of towns, now mainly caused by 
such speculations, would be checked, and hundreds who now 
take houses from speculative builders merely because they 
have no real freedom of choice will then choose for them- 
selva. will occupy much more land, and will thus spread 

126 Land Nationalisation. 

themselves more generally over the country. Other checks 
might be applied by local authorities, which would tend greatly 
to the healthiness and enjoyability of our larger towns, such 
as the interposition of belts of park and garden at certain 
intervals around dense centres of population — a class of 
improvement which the ruinous competition prices of land 
held by private owners now renders impossible."* 

Enclosure of Commons and Mountain Wastes as Affecting 
the Public. — Next in importance to the power of securing 
pleasant and healthy houses, the general public have most 
interest in the right to free passage about the country — to roam 
over the commons, heaths, and woods ; to search out the 
grand and beautiful scenes afforded by our rivers, moors, and 
mountains ; to have preserved for them the ruins which are 
landmarks of our written history, as well as those more ancient 
monuments which tell us of pre-historic ages. In each and all 

* That the evils of landlord-made law are still rampant among us is 
well shown by the manner in which the late Government dealt with the 
owners of house-property by means of their " Artisans' Dwellings Act." 
Professor Fawcett, speaking at Hackney on December 14th, 1880, said 
of this Act "that a more unfortunate measure,, or one based on more 
radically unsound principles, has seldom been brought forward in Parlia- 
ment. Under its provisions the owners of houses unfit for human habitation, 
instead of being punished for their neglect, have been compensated at such 
an extravagant rate that on six of the sites which have been already cleared 
the loss to the metropolitan ratepayers has been ;^643,ooo, and if the 
Act is permitted to remain in operation in its present form the loss will 
soon be more than ;f 2,000,000. Many sites which have been cleared 
imder this Act remain unoccupied because houses cannot be built, under 
the conditions imposed by the Act. The people who have been driven out 
must find refuge somewhere, and districts which were before overcrowded 
become more overcrowded still. Difficult as it has been for the poor of 
London to provide themselves with suitable homes, the money which the 
carrying out of this Act has caused to be lost will have to be supplied by 
increased rates, and each addition to the rates makes the payment of rent 
more difficult for those of humble means. " This is a fine example of the 
difficulty of curing evils arising from the radically unsound principles that 
now prevail. With the land of the country in the possession of the State, 
and with free choice of sites at a cheap rate, as here proposed, no such 
overcrowding could ever have arisen ; and even now, if true principles 
were adopted, the evil would soon cure itself. 

English Landlordism. 1 27 

■of these directions they suffer injury from the powers claimed 
and exercised by landlords. As we have already seen, 
•enormous areas of common land have been enclosed and 
appropriated by the surrounding owners, often without 
provision even of foot-paths by which the public may enjoy 
any of the land they once freely roamed over. Owing to 
inordinate game-preservation, the woods and copses are almost 
always rigidly shut up, and thus the public are deprived of 
one of the greatest enjoyments of country life — the power to 
wander freely under the shade of trees, in places where the 
choicest wild flowers blossom, and where the living denizens 
of the woods may be seen in their native haunts. Were it 
not for the ancient foot-paths crossing the country from village 
to village, many parts of our land would be almost shut out 
from the great body of its inhabitants. Fortunately these are 
tolerably numerous. But however great may be the need of 
fresh centres of population, we rarely hear of new paths being 
formed, whjle old ones are occasionally shut up or diverted, or 
so enclosed by fences that all their picturesque beauty and 
Tural.enjoyability is destroyed. 

Another injury to the public and deprivation of their rights 
is the frequent and constantly increasing enclosure of those 
joadside strips of green sward which add so much to the 
•charm of rural walks. Everywhere we find roads and lanes 
now bounded between parallel hedges or fences at a regular 
•distance apart, while a few yards inside the fields on either 
.■side an old bank or an irregular row of trees show the distance 
to which the road formerly extended. We are assured by the 
•Commons Preservation Society " that all such absorptions are 
illegal, the general rule of law being that the public have a 
Tight of way over the whole space between the hedges."* And 
in a later report they repeat that such encroachments " are 

* Report of Proceedings, 1870-1876 — p. 27. 

128 Land Nationalisation. 

almost invariably illegal, and may be abated by the ordinary- 
remedies provided in the case of the obstruction of a highway."" 
It appears, therefore, that all over the country the public have 
for many years past been systematically robbed by means of 
these encroachments; and few more striking proofs can be 
given of the great evil of landlordism and the injurious power 
and influence of landlords than that such systematic robbery, 
though contrary to law, should have been almost always 
effected with impunity. 

Equally, or perhaps even more, injurious to the interests of 
the public is the extensive appropriation by individual land- 
lords of enormous areas of wild mountain country in Wales, 
Ireland, and especially in Scotland, whereby Englishmen are 
forbidden in many cases to visit and enjoy some of the most 
beautiful and picturesque scenery of their native land — spots, 
where nature exhibits her full grandeur, and where alone the 
choicest and rarest examples of our native flora and fauna are- 
to be met with. The right to these enormous tracts of land, 
as private property appears to be of very recent and very 
doubtful origin. The Highland chiefs had certainly no such 
right to the land in fee, with the concomitant power to evict 
all the rest of the clan and sell or let the land to the highest 
bidder. Yet this is what the successors to those chiefs claim, 
and what they have in some cases actually done ; and the law, 
ever on the side of the landlords and against the people, 
appears to have endorsed their claim, and has thus given to 
them complete and despotic power over the lives and liberties of 
the native inhabitants of the district. The result has been that 
terrible depopulation and pauperisation of the country which 
has been described in the last chapter, and the replacement 
of men and human habitations by sheep, cattle, and deer, for 
a parallel to which we must go back to the days of the Norman 
conquerors of England in the height of their despotic power. 
Some of the wildest and grandest mountain scenery of Scotland 

English Landlordism. 129 

is now as rigidly shut up as if it were in a private pleasure 
ground. Hundreds of square miles of glen and rock and 
mountain-side are given up to deer and grouse for the pleasure 
and profit of a few individuals, while the public are thereby 
deprived of a means of enjoyment and healthful relaxation 
which hardly any country in Europe denies them but their 

The Destruction of Ancient Monuments. — One of the most 
palpable illustrations of the evil consequences of allowing land to 
be the absolute property of individuals is, that it has led to the 
destruction of a vast number of most interesting ancient monu- 
ments, while the attempt of Sir John Lubbock and others to 
preserve those that still remain has been for some years 
strenuously opposed, on the ground that it interferes with the 
rights of landlords. Let us cull from Sir John Lubbock's 
essay* a few examples of that destruction which several 
Members of Parliament have had the hardihood to deny. 

One of the most remarkable and interesting of our very 
ancient monuments is Abury, or Avebury, in Wiltshire, which 
an old antiquarian declared " did as much exceed Stonehenge as 
a cathedral doth an ordinary parish church." The entire series 
of these remains presented such a colossal enigma as it would be 
difficult to parallel even at Karnac ; but this wonderful relic 
of the past has been for many years undergoing destruction, 
the great stones of which it is composed being broken up to 
build cottages, to make gate-posts, and even to mend the roads. 
" Still, even now," says Sir John Lubbock, " there is perhaps no 
more remarkable monument of the kind in this country, or 
even in Europe." In the year 1875, the owner of the land on 
which this grand monument stands sold it unreservedly to a 
Building Society, by which it was lotted out in sites for cottages, 
and actually sold in small plots for this purpose. Fortunately, 

* Mnefeenth Century, March, 1877. 

130 Land Nationalisation. 

Sir John Lubbock was informed of this just in time, and 
succeeded in purchasing the land himself, and in persuading 
the villagers for a small consideration to exchange their allot- 
ments for others in an adjoining field which was just as well 
suited to them. Abury, the wonder of antiquarians and the 
enigma of the learned, was thus barely saved from complete 
destruction by the intervention of a private gentleman living 
in a remote county ! 

As another example, the Roman camp on Hod Hill, Dorset- 
shire, was an unique relic of Roman military skill. Mr. 
Warne, a local antiquary, says :— "Nothing could be finer than its 
condition about ten years ago ; until then it might be seen as in 
its pristine state, and, making due allowance for the lapse of 
ages, as perfect as when excavated by the Roman cohorts. 
. . . . It was indeed so perfect as to render it a model of 
Roman castramentation." Yet since that time, this magnifi- 
cent camp has been almost entirely destroyed. 

Sir John Lubbock mentions scores of similar cases, which 
have occurred and are occurring all over the country. No less 
than forty of the Irish round towers have perished during the 
present century ; and quite recently, when Mr. Payne went to 
see the Long Stone, a remarkable monolithic monument 
described in the " History of Gloucestershire," he found that it 
had just been blown up with gunpowder by the farmer "because 
it cumbered the ground." It may be said that the landowners 
erred through ignorance of the value and interest of these 
monuments, but that cannot be said now ; for after repeated 
discussions in Parliament, and after an overwhelming body of 
facts of the character of those here presented has been 
laid before them, the great landlords still refuse to give up their 
right to "do what they like with their own," ^and have 
Strenuously opposed, and hitherto prevented from passing, the 
very moderate measure of Sir John Lubbock for the purchase 
and preservation of the most important of these ancient monu- 
ments which still remain to us. 

English Landlordism. 131 

Public Improvements Checked by Landlordism. — Another 
mode in which private property in land operates to the serious 
injury of the public at large is the power which landlords 
possess, and very often use, of demanding enormous sums for 
the land required for public improvements. Whether it is the 
formation of new streets in the Metropolis, or the construction 
of railways or docks, or the securing of land for public recrea- 
tion, the claims of landlords invariably stand in the way, 
sometimes preventing the desired improvements from being 
carried into effect, sometimes burthening them with a heavy 
load of debt and so diminishing their usefulness. Instances of 
this will occur to every one who takes note of passing events. 
I will only here quote the following statement of Mr. Brodrick : 
— "The landed interest of England is estimated to have 
received a sum exceeding the national revenue from railway 
companies alone over and above the market price of the land thus 
sold." The italics are mine, to call attention to the fact that 
this sum of 70 or 80 millions paid to the landlords is a 
permanent injury to the community, by increasing to that 
extent the unproductive capital expenditure of the railway 
■companies of the kingdom ; while no class has received so 
much benefit from railways as the landlords, in the enormous 
increase given thereby to the value of their estates, so that if 
they had freely given the land required to construct the lines, 
they would still have been gainers. As another example : — 
"One nobleman is known to have received three quarters of 
a million sterling for the mere sites of docks constructed by 
the enterprise of others." Here again no doubt his other 
land in the neighbourhood would be greatly increased in value 
by these very docks, and, equitably, all this increase of value 
should go to those whose expenditure caused it, or at least to the 
community at large. But the public and the Government are 
alike powerless, and must submit to pay whatever landlords 
choose to demand for permission to make public improvements ; 

K 2 

1.32 Land Nationalisation. 

and this state of things will continue so long as private property 
in land is allowed. 

Permanent Diierioration of the Country hy the Export of 
Minerals. — I have already given an example of a landlord 
denying the free exercise of their religion to his tenants, and 
cases in which sites for chapels have been refused are not 
uncommon ; but I shall pass on to an example of the power of 
landlords which appears to me to go far beyond what should be 
allowed to any citizens of a densely populated country. I 
allude to the possession as private property of the minerals 
beneath its surface, and the power to work, sell, export, and 
totally exhaust them for their individual benefit. 

It has not been suiSciently considered that the minerals of 
a country are in a totally different category from its agricultural 
products or even the agricultural land, inasmuch as man can 
neither produce them nor hasten their production by nature, 
while in the process of use they are completely destroyed. 
They are, besides, a portion of the very land itself ; and their 
export to such an extent as to render the remainder more 
difficult of access, and therefore more costly, is a permanent ani 
irretrievable deterioration of the country, rendering it less 
valuable to its future inhabitants. The power of doing this 
injury to the community should never have been permitted to 
individuals (any more than the right to sell their estates to a 
foreign Government), but it has become so great a source of 
wealth and is so firmly established as one of the " sacred rights 
of property " that only by the complete nationalisation of the 
land does it seem possible to abolish it. 

It must be remembered that almost every extensive country 
in the world possesses coal and iron, besides many oth^r 
minerals, and there is therefore no adequate reason for 
permanently impoverishing our country by sending its minerals 
all over the world and thus robbing future generations ; and 
this, not for the benefit of the whole community, but for 

English Landlordism. 133 

that of the few individuals who have been allowed to 
monopolise the land. 

It may be said that the price of coal and iron has not yet 
been raised by the exhaustion of our supplies ; but this is very 
■doubtful. It is an admitted fact that the enormous consump- 
tion of coal, both for export and in the manufacture of exported 
iron, has led to coal being now worked at much greater depths 
than formerly, and this necessarily implies greater cost of 
working, and consequently a higher price than would be 
necessary at less depths ; and this extra cost must go on 
increasing as more and more of the coal at moderate depths is 
worked out. But there is another way in which the com- 
munity suffers by this excessive export of minerals. The areas 
■devoted to mining and smelting are thereby increased far 
beyond what is necessary for supplying our own wants, and 
this leads directly to the sterilising of large tracts of land, and 
besides renders whole districts hideous and unfit for any 
enjoyable human habitation. Many thousands of acres of good 
land are covered up with the " waste " from mines and the 
" slag " from furnaces, and are thus rendered permanently 
barren ; while the extent of black country over which all 
natural beauty is destroyed must be reckoned by hundreds or 
€ven by thousands of square miles. Whatever part of this 
■destruction and disfigurement is absolutely needed to supply 
our own wants we must submit to ; but that more extensive 
portion which owes its origin to the excessive export of the very 
vitals of our land for the aggrandisement of landlords and 
speculators is a serious loss which should be checked, and a 
public nuisance which should be abated. 

Concluding Remarks on English Landlordism. — I have now 
shown by a series of brief but illustrative cases that landlordism 
as it exists in England — that is, under perhaps the most 
favourable conditions possible to it — has produced, and is 
^aily producing, evil results to every class of the community 

1 34 Land Nationalisation. 

of the most alarming magnitude. It has also been made 
clear that these evil results do not in any way depend upon 
the absence of free trade in land, but that they depend 
essentially on the relation of landlord and tenant — a relation 
which gives a power to one citizen over the liberty and well- 
being of others which is incompatible with freedom, while it 
denies the right of Englishmen to occupy any portion of their 
native land except at the will and pleasure of its comparatively 
i&n owners. Further, it has been shown that the divorce of 
the working classes from the soil is the prolific parent of 
pauperism, vice, and crime ; and that, as a mere question of 
national policy, it is essential that some means should be 
adopted to give every labourer, as well as every Englishman, a 
right to a portion of land at a fixed rent, for cultivation and 
home occupation. This can only be done by the abolition 
of private property in land and its complete nationalisation — 
undoubtedly a measure of a radical if not of a revolutionary- 
character, but the evils to be cured are so gigantic and so 
deeply rooted that any less searching remedy would be power- 
less to effect a cure of the disease. 

Occupying Ownership. 135 




In the preceding chapters the many, and serious, and 
widespread evils resulting from the divided interest in land of 
landlord and tenant have been illustrated by some typical 
cases ; and these evils have been shown to result, not from any 
special ignorance or ill-conduct of individuals, but to be 
inherent in the system itself. The great landlord is necessarily 
a monopolist and a despot The land is his own to be dealt 
with as he pleases ; and the greater the income he can derive 
from it, the greater share he can secure to himself of the 
produce of others' labour upon it, the more respect and 
admiration he usually receives. In every step he takes to 
secure this end he is supported by the power and majesty of 
the law. His tenants have no rights on the soil but such as 

136 Land Nationalisation. 

he allows them. Whatever added value their labour has given 
to the land, in the absence of special agreement becomes his 
and not theirs. If they offend him in any way, if they refuse to 
act against their political convictions, if they are too demon- 
strative in their claims for religious equality, he may — and not 
unfrequently does — eject them from the house in which they 
and their fathers were born, and from the land which they 
have industriously tilled for generations — more for his benefit 
than for their own. 

To the entire system may be applied the severe judgment 
which Mr. Charles Russell passed upon it as regards Ireland: — 
" It may as a whole be truly said that it seems to have been 
contrived, as if by a malevolent genius, to develope the worst 
qualities in the national character, and to repress the best — 
contrived to encourage idleness, thriftlessness, insincerity, and 
untruthfulness. To me the wonder is, not that the faults of 
the Irish (English) people exist as they are, but that they have 
managed to retain so much that is estimable, so much that is 
kindly in their nature, so much befitting the natural dignity 
of men." 

Occupying Ownership Defined. — Let us now turn from this 
radically vicious and unjust system to its opposite and correla- 
tive — occupying ownership.* It is often alleged that if you 
abolish landlords you must revert to one dead level of peasant- 
proprietorship ; but this is not the case. The essential evils 
of landlordism do not in any way arise from large farms as 
opposed to small ones — from cultivators possessed of large' 
capital as opposed to those who have little or none ; but they 
arise solely fiom the relation of landlord and tenant — from one 
man letting land in order to get the largest income he can 

*The term "occupying proprietorship'' appears to have been first used 
by Mr. Charles Russell in his "New Views on Ireland," but he did not 
advocate as I do the necessary connection of "occupation" with the 
"ownership " of land, which is the essential and vital point of my system. 

Occupying Ownership. 137 

from it, and another hiring it temporarily to extract what he 
can from it before the time comes when he may be called to 
give it up. The evil is of the same nature, and often of the 
same degree, whether the landlord owns ten thousand acres or 
only a hundred, whether he lets it out in farms of five hundred 
acres each or in allotments of an acre or less. The true 
opposite of landlord and tenant — two persons with conflicting 
interests — is owner and occupier combined in the same person, 
or " occupying ownership." This ownership may be of the 
nature of freehold or of copyhold ; but, in order that all the 
evils of landlordism be avoided, it must be secure and perma- 
nent ; it must be transmissible to a man's children or heirs ; 
and it must be freely saleable or otherwise transferable. The 
•one thing to be aimed at is, that the occupier and cultivator of 
the land be also the virtual owner ; that all the fruits of his 
labour shall be secure to him ; that the increased value of the 
land given by permanent improvements shall be all his own. 
To ensure this, subletting under any form or disguise must be 
prevented, or it is evident that many of the evils of landlordism 
will again spring up. Mortgages or other encumbrances on 
the land (except to a limited proportion of its value and 
repayable by instalments in a moderate term of years) must 
also be forbidden, because a farmer whose land is heavily 
encumbered, and who, on failure to pay interest in a bad year, 
may have his land taken from him,- has little more power or 
inducement to make permanent improvements or cultivate in 
the best manner than the mere tenant-at-will under a landlord. 
These conditions are, as yet, not fulfilled in their entirety 
anywhere ; but there is a large body of evidence to show what 
good effects are produced by that portion of them involved in 
ordinary occupying ownership ; and these effects are so striking 
and so instructive, and form so remarkable a contrast to the 
evil results of the opposite system, that they need to be care- 
fully considered. Having done so, we shall be in a position to 

138 Land Nationalisation. 

explain the mode by which our existing system of landlordism 
may be best abolished, and a sound and well-guarded system 
of occupying ownership be established in its place. 

The Advantages of Occupying Ownership. — The advantages 
of peasant proprietorship (or the occupying ownership of small 
farms) are of two kinds, economical and moral. These have 
been dwelt upon by many writers, both English and foreign, 
and have been the subject of several important works. It will 
be here only necessary to give a few of tlie illustrations and 
conclusions of these writers, many of which are admirably 
summarised in " Mill's Political Economy," Book II, Chap. VI; 
and from this work, and the more recent volume of Mr. 
Brodrick, many of our facts and quotations will be taken. 

Of all countries in Europe Switzerland aflfords, perhaps, the 
best example of a good land-system, in which almost every 
farmer owns the land he cultivates; and the result is well shown 
in the following extract from Sismondi's " Studies in Political 

Results of Occupying Ownership in Switzerland. — "It is from 
Switzerland we learn that agriculture practised by the very 
persons who enjoy its fruits suffices to procure great comfort 
for a very numerous population; a great independence of 
character, arising from independence of position ; a great com- 
merce of consumption, the result of the easy circumstances of 
all the inhabitants, even in a country whose climate is rude, 
whose soil is but moderately fertile, and where late frosts and 
inconstancy of seasons often blight the hopes of the cultivator. 
It is impossible to see without admiration those timber houses 
of the poorest peasant, so vast, so well closed in, so covered 
with carvings. In the interior spacious corridors separate the 
different chambers of the numerous family ; each chamber has 
but one bed, which is abundantly furnished with curtains, bed- 
clothes, and the whitest linen ; carefully kept furniture 
surrounds it ; the wardrobes are filled with linen : 

Occupying Ownership. 139 

the dairy is vast, well aired, and of exquisite cleanness; 
under the same roof is a great provision of corn, salt 
meat, cheese, and wood; in the cow-houses are the finest 
and most carefully tended cattle in Europe; the garden is 
planted with flowers ; both men and women are 
cleanly and warmly clad ; all carry in their faces the impress 
of health and strength. Let other nations boast of their 
opulence. Switzerland may always point with pride to her 

In case we may think that this delightful picture is 
exaggerated by national pride, let us compare with it the 
following account by an observant English traveller — Mr. 
Inglis : — 

" In walking anywhere in the neighbourhood of Zurich one 
is struck with the extraordinary industry of the inhabitants in 
the cultivation of their land. When I used to open my case- 
ment between four and five in the morning to look out upon 
the lake and the distant Alps, I saw the labourer in the fields ; 
and when I returned from an evening walk, long after sunset, 
as late perhaps as half-past eight, there was the labourer 
mowing his grass, or tying up his vines. . . . It is impos- 
sible to look at a' field, a garden, a hedging, scarcely even a tree, 
a flower, or a vegetable, without perceiving proofs of the extreme 
care and industry that are bestowed upon the cultivation of 
the soil." And again, describing a district now well known to 
English tourists, he says : — " In the whole of the Engadine the 
land belongs to the peasantry, who, like the inhabitants of every 
other place where this state of things exists, vary greatly in the 

extent of their possessions Generally speaking, 

an Engadine peasant lives entirely upon the produce of his 
land, with the exception of the few articles of foreign growth 
required in his family, such as cofiee, sugar, and wine. ' Flax 
is grown, prepared, spun, and woven without ever leaving the 
house. He has also his own wool, which is converted into ai 

140 Land Nationalisation. 

blue coat without passing through the hands of either the 
■dyer or the tailor. The country is incapable of greater culti- 
vation than it has received. All has been done for it that 
industry and an extreme love of gain can devise. There is not 
a foot of waste land in the Engadine, the lowest part of which is 
mot much lower than the top of Snowdon. Wherever grass 
will grow there it is ; wherever an ear of rye will ripen there it 
is to be found. Barley and oats have also their appropriate 
spots, and wherever it is possible to ripen a little patch of 
wheat the cultivation of it is attempted. In no country in 
Europe will be found so few poor as in the Engadine. In the 
village of Suss, which contains about 600 inhabitants, there is 
not a single individual who is indebted to others for what he 
eats." It is true that in other parts of Switzerland there is 
abundance of pauperism, but the fact remains that wherever 
the land is occupied by peasant proprietors, there industry, 
ease, and comfort prevail. 

Co-operation of Occupying Owners in Norway. — Equally 
conclusive is the testimony of Mr. Laing as to the occupying 
owners of Norway. He says : — " If small proprietors are 
not good farmers, it is not from the same cause here which we 
are told makes them so in Scotland^ndolehce and want of 
exertion. The extent to which irrigation is carried on in these 
glens and valleys shows a spirit of exertion and co-operation to 
which the latter can show nothing similar." And after giving 
details of the miles of wooden troughs to carry water to the 
small fields on the mountain-side, he adds :— "Those may \)t 
bad farmers who do such things ; but they are not indolent, or 
ignorant of the principle of working in concert and keeping 
up establishments for common benefit. They are, undoubtedly, 
in these respects, far in advance of any community of cottars 
in our Highland glens. They feel as proprietors, who receive 
the advantage of their own exertions. The excellent state of 
the roads and bridges is another proof that the country is 

Occupying Ownership. 141 

inhabited by people who have a common interest to keep them 
in repair. There are no tolls." 

Occupying Ownership in Germany. — We will now turn to 
Germany, and here we have the testimony of another well-known 
English writer and traveller, the late William Howitt. Speaking 
of the Rhenish peasantry, in his " Rural and Domestic Life of 
Germany," he says :— " The peasants are the great and ever- 
present objects of country life. They are the great population 
of the country because they are themselves the possessors. 
. . . . The peasants are not as with us, for the most part, 
totally cut off from property in the soil they cultivate — they are 
themselves the proprietors. It is, perhaps, from this cause 
that they are probably the most industrious peasantry in the 
world. They labour early and late, because they feel that 

they are labouring for themselves The German 

peasants work hard, but they have no actual want. Every man 
has his house, his orchard, his roadside trees^, commonly so 
heavy with fruit that he is obliged to prop and secure them all 
ways, or they would be torn in pieces. He has his com plot, 
his plots for mangel wurzel, for hemp, and so on. He is his 
own master ; and he and every member of his family have the 
strongest motives to labour. You see the effect of this in that 
unremitting diligence which is beyond that of the whole world 
besides, and his economy, which is still greater. .... 
The English peasant is so cut off from the idea of property 
that he comes habitually to look upon it as a thing from 
which he is warned by the laws of the large proprietors, and 

becomes in consequence spiritless and purposeless 

The German bauer, on the contrary, looks on the country as 
made for him and his fellow men. He feels himself a man ; 
he has a stake in the country as good as that of the bulk of his 
neighbours; no man can threaten him with ejection or the 
workhouse so long as he is active and economical. He walks, 
therefore, with a bold step ; he looks you in the face with the 
air of a free man, but a respectful air." 

142 Land Nationalisation. 

Admirable Cultivation Under Occupying Ownership. — Now- 
let us call another witness to the condition of another part of 
Germany. Mr. Kay, well known for his long study, from 
personal observation, of the condition of the various populations 
of Europe, says of Saxony : — " It is a notorious fact that during 
the last 30 years, and since the peasants became the proprietors 
of the land, there has been a rapid and continual improvement 
in the condition of the houses, in the manner of living, in the 
dress of the peasants, and particularly in the culture of the 
land. I have walked twice through that part of Saxony called 
Saxon Switzerland, in company with a German guide, on 
purpose to see the state of the villages and of the farming, and 
I can safely challenge contradiction when I affirm that there is 
no farming in all Europe superior to the laboriously careful cul- 
tivation of the valleys of that part of Saxony." And after giving 
a picture of the perfect condition of the crops, the total absence 
of weeds, the excessive care of manure, and other details, he 
goes on :— " The peasants endeavour to outstrip one another in 
the quantity and quality of the produce, in the preparation of 
the ground, and in the general cultivation of their respective 
portions. All the little proprietors are eager to find out how 
to farm so as to produce the greatest results ; they diligently 
seek after improvements ; they send their children to agricul- 
tural schools in order to fit them to assist their fathers ; and 
each proprietor soon adopts a new improvement introduced by 
any of his neighbours." And the general result of Mr. Kay's 
observations is thus summed up : — " The present farming of 
Prussia, Saxony, Holland, and Switzerland is the most perfect 
and economical farming I have ever witnessed in any country." 

Improvement of the Soil Under Occupying Ownership in 
Belgium.— 'Q€i%vixa. is another striking example of what can be 
done, under the most adverse circumstances, under the 
influence of property in the soil. Much of the country consists 
of loose white sand just like the sands of a sea-shore. This 

Occupying Ownership. 143 

sand has been so greatly improved by laborious cultivation and 
manure that it cannot be distinguished from soil naturally of good 
•quality. The most highly cultivated part of this country con- 
sists of peasant properties managed by the proprietors either 
wholly or partly by spade industry ; and Mr. M'CuUoch says 
that — " The cultivation of a poor light soil, or a moderate soil, 
is generally superior in Flanders to that of the most improved 
farms in Britain. ... In the minute attention to the quali- 
ties of the soil, in the management and application of manures 
■of different kinds, in the judicious succession of crops, and 
especially in the economy of land, so that every part of it 
shall be in a constant state of production, we have still some- 
thing to learn from the Flemings." And he shows by minute 
calculations and estimates how it is that a man and his family 
can live and thrive on the produce of six acres of land. 

Effects of Occupying Ownership in France. — France is often 
referred to as an example of the ill-success of small farms, even 
when owned by the farmers themselves, owing to the extreme 
subdivision of property enforced by the French laws. Mr. 
M'CuUoch, writing in 1823, predicted that within fifty years 
France would become "the greatest pauper warren in the 
Tvorld," and share with Ireland the honour of furnishing hewers 
of wood and drawers of water to other countries. Yet almost 
•exactly at the end of the fifty years France suffered devastation 
by war and had to pay a war-indemnity of unparalleled magni- 
tude. And it was the savings of her peasant-proprietors that 
enabled her to do this with marvellous ease, and to recover 
from a state of collapse with a celerity and completeness which 
-astonished Europe. The celebrated Arthur Young, a strong 
•advocate of large farms, who travelled in France in 1787-89, 
whenever he finds remarkable excellence of cultivation, never 
hesitates to ascribe it to peasant property. Speaking of a district 
near Dunkirk, he says : — " Between the town and Rosendal 
is a great number of neat little houses, built each with its 

144 Land Nationalisation. 

garden, and one or two fields enclosed of most wretched 
blowing dune sands, naturally as white as snow, but improved 
by industry. The magic of property turns sand to gold.'" And 
again : — " Going out of Gange, I was surprised to find by far 
the greatest exertion in irrigation which I had yet seen in 
France. . . . An activity has been here that has swept 
away all difficulties before it, and has clothed the very rocks 
with verdure. It would be a disgrace to common sense to ask 
the cause ; the enjoyment of property must have done it 
Give a man the secure possession of a bleak rock, and he will 
turn it into a garden ; give him a nine years lease of a garden., 
and he will convert it into a desert." 

Again, take his description of the country at the foot of the 
Western Pyrenees : — " A succession of many well-built, 
comfortable farming cottages, built of stone and covered with 
tiles; each having its little' garden, enclosed by dipt thorn 
hedges, with plenty of peach and other fruit trees, some fine 
oaks scattered in the hedges, and young trees nursed up with 
so much care that nothing but the fostering attention of the 
owner could effect anything like it. To every house belongs a 
farm, perfectly well enclosed, with grass borders mown and 
neatly kept round the corn-fields, with gates to pass from one 
enclosure to another. There are some parts of England 
(where small yeomen still remain) that resemble this country of 
B&rn ; but we have very little that is equal to what I have 
seen in this ride of twelve miles from Pau to Moneng. It is. 
all in the hands of little proprietors, without the farms being, 
so small as to occasion a vicious and miserable population. 
An air of neatness, warmth, and comfort breathes over the 
whole. It is visible in their new-built houses and stables ; in 
their little gardens ; in their hedges ; in the courts before their- 
doors ; even in the coops for their poultry and the sties for 
their hogs. A peasant does not think of making his pig 
comfortable if his own happiness hangs by the thread of a nine 
years' lease." 

Ccciipyi7ig Ownership. 145 

This same author is often quoted on the other side, as an 
opponent of small farms, even when in the hands of peasant- 
proprietors ; though what he really says is, that the farming in 
many of these small farms in France is exceedingly bad. But 
this is owing to ignorance only, which may be easily amended, 
not to want of industry ; and we must remember that the time 
he speaks of was just before the French Revolution, when the 
people were subject to the most oppressive taxes, restrictions, 
and exactions, and were kept in profound ignorance.* Yet, 
note what he says of the farms he is supposed to be condemning : 
— " It is necessary to impress on the reader's mind that 
though the husbandry I met with, in a great variety of instances 
on little properties, was as bad as can be well conceived, yet 
the industry of the possessors was so conspicuous and so 
meritorious that no commendations would be too great for it. 
It was sufficient to prove that property in land is, of all others, 
the most active instigator to severe and incessant labour. 
And this truth is of such force and extent that I know of no 
way so sure of carrying tillage to a mountain top as by permit- 
ting the adjoining villagers to acquire it in property ; in fact, 
we see that in the mountains of Languedoc, &c., they have 
conveyed earth in baskets, on their backs, to form a soil where 
nature had denied it." These extracts are surely sufficient to 
prove that the celebrated Arthur Young, like the other writers 

*The French peasants were heavily taxed on the profits of their farms, 
which profits were assessed by the collectors at their pleasure ; and as the 
taxes were farmed out, the condition of the peasant was exactly analogous 
to that of the subjects of Turkey at the present day, and in both cases it 
was necessary to conceal all signs of wealth or even of comfort. There 
were also edicts against weeding and hoeing, lest the young partridges 
should be disturbed, and the very best of all manures was prohibited lest 
it should give a flavour to the game which fed upon the peasants' com ! 
The peasants were also subjected to forced labour both for the Government 
and for the lords of the manor ; and because, under these conditions, the 
peasant proprietors of France were not prosperous, peasant-proprietorship 
itself was alleged to be a failure ! (See Thornton's " Plea for Peasant 
Proprietors," p. 114.) 

146 La7td Nationalisation. 

whose opinions and observations have been adduced, gives 
his testimony in the most forcible manner in favour oi ownership 
as against tenancy, on every ground of economical, social, and 
moral superiority. 

The Labourers of France under Occupying Ownership. — 
That the labourer no less than the farmer is elevated and 
improved by the possession of land is shown by a more recent 
writer. Dr. Ireland, in his " Studies of- a Wandering 
Observer" tells us, that — "At Die, a town of 4,000 inhabitants, 
there are about 500 proprietors of land, the properties being of 
all sizes, from two-and-a-half acres upwards, but generally small. 
The peasant-labourers have been generally improving since the 
Revolution in wealth, comfort, and intelligence. They ate 
black bread, and now they eat brown ; they wore rags, and 
now everybody is decently clad. Their wages have doubled, 
while the price of corn has only risen one-fifth. The peasant 
proprietors are gradually becoming richer. A frugal and sober 
family in fifteen or twenty years generally manages to put by 

Result of Occupying Ownership in fhe Channel Islands. — 
One more example we must give, and one especially valuable 
because it is nearer to our shores, and actually under our own 
arovernment — that of the Channel Islands. Mr. William 

* Corroborative evidence in the same direction is afforded by the 
following statements given in Mr. Thornton's " Plea for Pmsant 
Proprietors : — ■ 

" Mr. Henry Bulwer remarks that by far the greatest number of indi- 
gent is to be found in the northern departments, where land is less 
divided than elsewhere and cultivated with larger capitals" (p. 132). 

" Mr. Birkbeck (in his tour in France) noticing that on the road from 
St. Pierre to Moulins the lower class appeared less comfortable, found on 
inquiry that few of the peasantry thereabouts were proprietors" vp. 133). 

" Mr. LeQuesne, who, when asking the causes of the smiling produc- 
tiveness of Anjou and Touraine, received for answer that the land was 
divided into small parcels, rioticed that the houses of the country people 
there were remarkable for their neatness, and indicative of the ease and 
comfort of their possessors" (p. 133). 

Occupying Ozvnership. 147 

Thornton, in his " Plea for Peasant Proprietors," speaks thus 
of the island of Guernsey : " Not even in England is nearly so 
large a quantity of produce sent to market from a tract of such 
limited extent This of itself might prove that the cultivators 
must be far removed above poverty, for being absolute owners 
of all the produce raised by them, they, of course, sell only 
what they do not themselves require. But the satisfactoriness 
of their condition is apparent to every observer. ' The 
happiest community,' says Mr. Hill, ' which it has ever been 
my lot to fall in with is to be found in this little island of 
Guernsey.' ' No matter,' says Sir George Head, ' to what point 
the traveller may choose to wend his way, comfort everywhere 

prevails ' In the whole island, with the exception 

of a few fishermen's huts, there is not one house so mean as to 
be likened to the ordinary habitation of an English farm 

labourer. .... Beggars are utterly unknown 

Pauperism, able-bodied pauperism at least, is nearly as rare as 

Mr. Brodrick, writing on the subject only last year, with all 
the latest information at his command, shows how economically 
successful is the agriculture. He says :— " If we judge of 
success in cultivation by the produce, we find that a much 
larger quantity of human food is raised in Jersey than is raised 
on an equal area, by the same number of cultivators, in any 
part of the United Kingdom. Not only does it support its 
own crowded population in much greater comfort than is 
enjoyed by the mass of Englishmen, bat it supplies the London 
market, out of its surplus production, with shiploads of vege- 
tables, fruit, butter, and cattle for breeding. Even wheat, for 
the growth of which the climate is not very suitable, is so 
cultivated that it yields much heavier crops per acre than in 
England ; and the number of live-stock kept on a given area 
astonishes travellers accustomed only to English farming. Nor 
ure these onlv the results of spade-husbandry, for machinery is 

I48 Land Nationalisation. 

largely employed by the yeomen and peasant-proprietors of the 
Channel Islands, who have no difficulty in arranging among 
themselves to hire it by turns." Mr. Brodrick, like every one 
else, traces this wonderful success and prosperity to the land^ 
system of the country. The soil is naturally rather poor and 
the climate is no better than on our own southern coasts, yet, 
he tells us, the land "yields an amount and variety of produce 
which seems fabulous to persons conversant only with tenant- 
farming on the grand scale, not merely because it is more 
liberally manured, but also because it is studded with orchards, 
vineries, and other profitable hors d'ceuvres of agriculture, 
which nothing but the magic of property will call into existence. 
The same lesson is taught by the abundance of markets, the 
substantial character of the dwellings, even down to the 
humblest cottages, the magnitude of the public works, the 
dress and diet of the labouring classes, the- comparative rarity 
of pauperism, and other signs which betoken a happy and 
thriving community.'' 

General Results of Occupying Ownership and those of Land- 
lordism Compared. — Now, when we consider and weigh carefully 
this unvarying mass of testimony as to the happiness and well- 
being that everywhere prevail among peasant-proprietors or 
occupy ing-owners, and compare it with the facts already 
adduced as to the condition of our own agricultural labourers, 
and our wide-spread pauperism ; with the chronic starvation of 
Ireland, and the landlord-made deserts of the Highlands ; with 
our wretched building-lease houses ; with the scarcity of milk, 
butter, fruit, and vegetables in all our country towns and 
villages ; and add to this the difficulty that any Englishman of 
moderate tneans finds in getting a small plot of land for his. 
personal occupation and enjoyment, — the only conclusion 
any rational and unbiassed thinker can arrive at is, that 
modern landlordism is the greatest curse that any country can 
^roan under ; that it is utterly incompatible with freedom ; 

Occupying Ownership, 149 

that it takes away the chief incentives to industry and thrift ; 
that it creates poverty, pauperism, and crime, and checks all 
real progress in civilisation or in national prosperity. 

Will it be said that Englishmen alone are not fitted for a 
system which succeeds alike in Norway, in Belgium, in 
German)', and in France ? The equal success of the yeomen 
of Cumberland and Devonshire, and of Englishmen, Scotch- 
men, and Irishmen alike, in every colony where they can 
obtain land, contradicts the absurd and libellous statement ; 
while the industry and thrift our labourers display whenever a 
little land is granted them, even as tenants at fair rents and 
very imperfect security, shows what they would do under the 
more favourable conditions of an absolutely secure and perma- 
nent tenure. Even the much abused Irish themselves, who 
are supposed to be lazy because they are Celts, at once become 
industrious when they see a fair prospect of being allowed to 
retain the produce of their labour. Mr. Jonathan Pim gives 
the following illustration on the personal testimony of a friend : — 
" Within a few miles of the town of Wexford is a range of 
rocky hills, called the Mountain of Forth. They are about 
seven hundred feet above the sea, are exceedingly rugged, 
bleak, and sterile, and are naturally almost destitute of soil or 
vegetation. It was probably for this reason that the district 
remained in a state of commonage until within the last thirty 
or forty years. It is now sprinkled with little patches of land, 
many of them on the highest part of the mountain, reclaimed 
and enclosed at a vast expense of labour by the peasant- 
proprietors, who have been induced to overcome extraordinary 
difficulties in the hope of at length making a little spot of land 
their own. The surface was thickly covered with large masses 
of rock of various sizes, and intersected by the gullies formed 
by winter torrents. These rocks have been broken, buried, 
rolled away or heaped into the form of fences. The land when 
ihus cleared has been carefully enriched with soil, manured, 

ISO Land Nationalisation. 

and tilled. These little holdings vary from half an acre to ten 
or fifteen acres. The occupiers hold by the right of posses- 
sion; they are generally poor; but they are peaceable, well- 
conducted, independent, and industrious ; and the district is 
absolutely free from agrarian outrage."* 

In another part of his work Mr. Pim says : " It is well 
known that much waste land has been brought under culture 
for several years past. This has been eifected chiefly by 
allowing cottiers to take in a portion of the mountain side ; 
and when they had tilled it for a few years, and partially 
reclaimed it, calling on them either to give it up to the land- 
lord, or to pay a rent. In some cases they probably retained 
it, and became permanent tenants ; but in others, they gave 
it up, and commenced anew, not unfrequently ending near 
the top of the mountain, at the bottom of which they 
commenced many years before. Thus cultivation crept up 
the mountain sides, or encroached on the secluded valleys 
heretofore untilled. This mode of reclamation required no 
capital on the part of the landlord. The cottier or tenant was 
the sole agent. He obtained a bare subsistence by very severe 
labour, and rarely effected any improvement in his own 

Here are facts, coldly stated as if they were of the most 
ordinary nature, which are yet sufficient to make one's blood 
boil, in vievv of the actual condition of Ireland and the reck- 
less accusations against its people. Is it not truly pitiable 
to think of these poor people, working all their lives at the 
endless task of reclaiming mountain land, with no other 
prospect than to have the fruits of their labour taken from 
them the moment it becomes worth the taking ? What would not 
these people effect, if they had that legal security for the products 
of their own labour to give which is held to be the first duty 

* " Condition and Prospects of Ireland " p. 280. 

Occupying Oivnership. 151 

of even the most rudimentary government, the first condition 
of any social or material progress ? Can we have any doubt 
that they would soon rise to that state of well-being, order, 
and contentment that everywhere else prevails when the tillers 
of the soil have full and complete security in its possession ?"* 
Results of Landlordism in Italy. — Lest, however, it be 
supposed that there is something specially favourable in the 
soil, or the climate, or the character of the people in the 
countries we have referred to as examples of the admirable 
results of occupying ownership, let us take a glance at the 
other side of the picture ; for it must not be supposed that 
over the whole Continent peasant-proprietorship prevails. 
Landlordism, as with us, is often predominant, and wherever 
it is so there is misery and discontent in the place of happiness 
and peace. Over large portions of Italy there are still, as in 
the times of the Romans, latifundia, or large estates farmed 
by middlemen and cultivated by labourers and tenants-at-will. 
In a recent work on Italy, by M. de Laveleye, he speaks of — 
" Naked and desolate fields, where the cultivator dies of famine 

• The example above referred to is especially valuable as showing that 
large areas of mountain land may be reclaimed by the simple process of 
allowing peasants to reclaim it ; and if they are secured in the wlwU 
increased value they give to it, it seems difficult to place limits to what 
may be done. The usual proposal is that land should be first reclaimed at 
the expense of the landlord or of Government, and that then peasants should 
be settled on it at rents proportioned to the money expended. But this is 
both unnecessary, wasteful, and unfair to the peasants themselves. The 
cost of reclamation by hired labour would be far greater than when it is 
effected by the occupying owner, who can do it bit by bit, at times when 
he would otherwise be idle, and therefore at a minimum of cost. More- 
over, he knows best exactly what and how much to do ; whereas large 
schemes of reclamation on the plans of engineers or agriculturists are sure 
to involve much work which is needless, and much that will be done in a 
needlessly expensive fashion — and for all this the poor peasant will be 
saddled with a needless amount of perpetual rent ! It is a most essential 
principle that all reclamation and improvement on land let to a peasant 
on a permanent tenure should be doije by himself, not for him by others. 
If he wants help, a small loan, at fair interest and repayable by instalments, 
would be the only proper mode of giving it. 

1 52 Land Nationalisation. 

ia the fairest climate and on the most fertile soil, such is the 
result of the latifundia. Economists who defend the system of 
huge properties, visit the interior of the Basilicata and Sicily if 
you want to see the degree of misery to which your huge proper- 
ties reduce the earth and :ts inhabitants." 

Their condition is further shown by the following extract 
from a petition of the peasants of Lombardy, in reply to a 
Ministerial circular warning them against the dangers of 
emigration : — 

" What do you mean by the nation, Signor Minister ? Is it 
the multitude of the miserable ? Then we, indeed, are the 
nation. Look at our pale and emaciated faces, at our bodies 
exhausted by excessive labour and insufficient food. We sow 
and reap the wheat, but never eat white bread. We cultivate 
the grape, but never drink its wine. We raise the cattle, but 
never taste meat. We are clad in rags. We dwell in dens of 
infection. We freeze in winter, and in summer we starve. 
Our only nourishment on Italian soil is a handful of maize, 
made costly by the tax. The burning fever devours us in the 
dry regions, and in the wet ones we are the prey of the fever 
of the marsh. Our end is a premature death in the hospital, 
or in our miserable cabins. And, in spite of all this, SignOr 
Minister, you recommend us not to expatriate ourselves ! But 
can the land, where even the hardest labour cannot earn food, 
be called a native country ?" 

That this is not exaggeration is proved by the prevalence of 
pellagra, a frightful form of leprosy brought on by unwhole- 
some food. M. de Laveleye says : — 

"Twelve and eleven per cent, of the Lombard and 
Venetian population are smitten, and those who are not actually 
struck by the plague are debilitated by the bad nourishment. 
The statistics of the conscription for the Army give horrifying 
results. In 1878 the report of General Torre shows that the 
number of conscripts excused for constitutional infirmity was 

Occupying Ownership. 153 

20 per cent in Lombardy and 18 per cent, in Venetia. . . . 
Thus, in the fairest country in the world a fifth of the popula- 
tion, in the flower of their life, are incapable of military service, 
in consequence of extreme poverty. . . . The Commission 
of Inquiry on the subject oi\h& pellagra says, ' The cause of this 
malady is extreme misery, so that under the medical question 
we find the social question.' " 

And in a recent report to the Italian Government by Dr. 
Ruseri (as quoted in the Daily News, April i6th, 1881) we 
have the following statement : — 

"Since 1856 the condition of the agricultural population, in 
spite of the improvement in other respects that has taken place, 
has remained much the same. In the neighbourhood of the 
thriving city of Milan are to be found the poorest labourers of 
Lombardy, for many of whom even polenta is a luxury. In 
Puglia the agricultural labourers live in small cottages of one 
room, and sleep in the clothes they have worn the whole day, 
for they never undress, on a bare mattress in a niche left in the 
wall They are put under an overseer, who funishes them 
daily, at the expense of the proprietor, with about two pounds 
of bad black bread each. They work from dawn to sunset, 
and have no other food, except during harvest, when about two 
. quarts of small wine is added to their fare, in order to enable 
them to undergo the extra fatigue. The condition of the 
peasants in the Basilicata is no better. There they collect at 
evening in the towns or villages, living in damp cellars or caves. 
Often a whole family possesses but one bed, upon which men, 
women, children, and old people sleep pell-mell." 

Yet wherever fixity of tenure, or peasant-properties exist, 
there, in Italy as elsewhere, the utmost prosperity prevails. M. 
de Laveleye says : — " I know of no more striking lesson in 
political economy than is taught at Capri. Whence come the 
perfection of cultivation and the comfort of the population ? 
Certainly not from the fertility of the soil, which is an arid 

1 54 Land Nationalisation. 

rock. , . . Before obtaining the crops, it was necessary, so 
to speak, to create the soil. It is the magic of ownership which 
has produced this prodigy." 

From the facts presented in different parts of Italy alone M. 
de Laveleye arrives at the very same conclusion as we have 
reached from examination of similar facts in the British Isles, 
that the prosperity of the country is a question of the establish- 
ment of a body of independent cultivators of their own land 
instead of a population of dependent, and therefore improvident 
and wretched, peasants, who have no security for the enjoyment 
of the fruits of their labour. 

Residts of Landlordism in Spain and Sardinia. — In Spain 
also the greater part of the land is held in large estates strictly 
entailed, so that the great mass of the people are deprived of 
all interest in the soil. These vast estates are generally 
managed by stewards, anxious only to remit money to their 
masters. The land is ill cultivated, and the peasantry are 
indolent and poor.* In Sardinia the same causes are followed 
by the same results. Arthur Young says : — " What keeps it in 
its present unimproved situation is chiefly the extent of estates, 
the absence of some very great proprietors, and the inattention 
of all. . . . The peasants are a miserable set, that live in 
poor cabins without other chimneys than a hole in the roof to 
let the smoke out." And at a much later peripd M'CuUoch 
still writes : " The division of the island into immense estates, 
most of which were acquired by Spanish grandees, the want 
of leases, and the restrictions on industry, have paralysed the 
industry of the inhabitants, and sunk them to the lowest point 
in the scale of civilisation." 

The Occupying Owner under Extremely Unfavourable Con- 
ditions. — The evidence, therefore, on this point appears to be 
absolutely conclusive : wherever we find large estates cultivated 
by tenants-at-will, there is bad farming, discontent, and 

* M'CuUoch's Geographical Dictionary, art. Spain. 

Occupying Ownership. 155 

pauperism ; Avherever we find the land cultivated by its owners 
or permanent occupiers, there we find industry, economy, great 
productiveness, content, and comfort. Climate, soil, civilisa- 
tion, government may vary, but the results of these two 
systems of land-tenure never vary in kind but only in degree. 
And we must remember that in no country are the conditions 
so favourable to the complete success of occupying ownership 
as they might easily be made. Bad fiscal regulations, com- 
pulsory division of inheritance, and oppressive taxation often 
interfere; while nowhere is the mortgaging of the land for- 
bidden ; and thus the cultivator of his own farm may often be 
hampered by want of capital, cramped by having to pay interest 
equal to a high rent, and be living under a sense of insecurity 
hardly inferior to that of a tenant-at-will. Yet with all these 
disadvantages, the difference of the two systems stands out in 
prominent relief — on the one hand insecurity, with idleness, 
poverty, and discontent ; on the other hand " the magic of 
property which turns sand into gold." 

It is true that even the peasant proprietor is often miserably 
poor, but when this is the case it is invariably due to the bad 
conditions and unnatural restrictions under which he labours. 
This is strikingly shown over a large part of North Germany, 
where the old common-field system of culture has led to each 
farm or holding consisting of a vast number of distinct plots or 
strips, which are scattered about over the whole parish and no two 
of them contiguous. Mr. Baring Gould, in his valuable work. 
"Germany Past and Present," states that sometimes a farm of 
about 50 acres will consist of 1,000 bits of land, distributed 
over the whole surface of the parish. This is an extreme case, 
but the strips are often only seven yards wide, sometimes only 
three or even one yard ! None of these are fenced, so that all 
domestic animals, even sheep, have to be stall fed, and then 
the sheep produce no wool and very poor mutton. These farms 
are transmitted from a father to his sons, and their frequent 

1 5^5 Land Nationalisation. 

division has led to the minute division of the separate 
plots, so that each heir may have a share of each quality of 
land. In addition to this the individual farms are too small, 
while they are often heavily mortgaged to Jews, who advance 
funds for the portions of some members of the family when the 
owner dies. Mr. Baring Gould thus describes these farms : — 
"In almost every parish are a large number of small 
proprietors, existing on the fragments of a parcelled farm. 
They have too little land to allow of their keeping a horse or 
oxen, consequently they have to dfepend on the great bauers 
for the tilling of their land and the carting of their harvests. 
These little holders have to pay dear for this hire, and they 
can often only obtain it too late in the season. They are 
behindhand with their ploughing, and their crops are not 
.carried till bad weather sets in. An English labourer lives in 
luxury compared to these small farmers, who drag on in 
squalor and misery, bowed under debt to the Jew who waits to 
sell them up." 

It is clear enough that this want of success is due to the 
utterly abominable conditions under which these poor, people 
live — conditions handed down to them from the past and fronj 
which they are unable to escape. Yet even here they have 
advantages which neither our agricultural labourers nor our 
factory-workers possess — that of independence and personal 
interest in their work, Mr. Baring Gould says : — 

" The artisan is restless and dissatisfied. He is mechanised. 
He finds no interest in his work, and his soul frets at the 
routine. He is miserable, and he knows not why. But the 
man who toils on his own plot of ground is morally and 
physically healthy. He is a freeman ; the sense he has of 
independence gives him his upright carriage, his fearless brow, 
and his joyous laugh." 

These cases in which occupying ownership is a comparative 
failure are therefore instructive, because we find that the 

Ocaipying Ownership. i^f 

failure depends wholly on adverse conditions of custom or 
law — conditions which no sane man would adopt in establish- 
ing a system of land tenure, but which would necessarily 
lead to adverse results under any system. This is pre- 
eminently a case in which the exception proves the rule. 
For it is an exception, the rule being that wherever the conditions 
are only in a very moderate degree favourable, we find those 
striking results of prosperity, contentment, order, and general 
well-being which we have already set forth on the unimpeach- 
able and consistent testimony of a large body of competent 

Large Farms versus Small Not the Question at Issue. — Tlje 
opponents of any alteration of our system of land-tenure in 
the direction indicated by the evidence here adduced usually 
evade the real point at issue by treating it as if it were solely a- 
question between small and large farms. They endeavour t& 
show that large farms can be cultivated more economically 
and produce larger returns than small ones, and that therefore 
" peasant-proprietorship " is wasteful, and should be dis- 
couraged. To this there are two valid replies. In the first 
place, the objection is not applicable to the proposals here 

* An article has recently appeared in the "Contemporary Review" 
on " Peasant Proprietors in France," in which a very discouraging account 
is given of the peasants in some parts of Savoy, more especially as regards- 
the discomfort and dirt of their dwellings. The adjacent Departments of 
France are also remarkable for the dirty habits of the people, but this 
depends more on custom than on want, and is often no indication what- 
ever of poverty. It must be remembered that Savoy has been till recently 
very isolated, being cut off by the Alps from Piedmont, to which it 
formerly belonged ; and the ignorance which even now widely prevails in 
Italy was perhaps there exaggerated, and may have checked the outflow of 
the surplus population and the influence of new ideas and habits. It 
is clear from the article itself that the properties are often too small, and 
also that they are in some cases let out to tenants on the metayer system ;. 
while there is a total absence of details as to the average size and character 
of the tenures and the political and social surroundings, present and past, 
which renders it impossible to form an accurate judgment as to the real 
conditinn of the population. 

158 Land Nationalisation. 

advocated, which are, to secure occupying ownership in farms 
of any and all sizes that there may be a demand for, not in 
small farms for peasants only ; and, in the next place, the 
allegation of the inferior productiveness of small farms under 
equally favourable conditions with large ones is not only not 
proved, but is directly opposed to all the evidence. The 
small farms of the Channel Islands, of Belgium, and of the 
Palatinate surpass in productiveness those of equal areas in the 
best examples of large English farms ; while the political, 
moral, and social superiority of peasant proprietors to mere agri- 
cultural labourers is so overwhelming, that even if the produce 
were in some cases smaller, there could be not a moment's 
hesitation in preferring the well-being of the whole rural 
population to the increased wealth of a few capitalist farmers 
and great landowners.* 

* The evidence on this point is conclusive. Mr. C. Wren Hoskyns, 
M.P., in his work on "The Land Laws of England, " says : " It is obvious, 
ahnost to a truism, that the occupation which most resembles ownership 
itself must, by the imperative laws equally of the soil and of human instinct, 
be the most profitable to both parties by the uninterrupted progress of 
improvement and addition to the land." Dr. Ireland, in his " Studies of a 
Wandering Observer," says : — " People find that a man who puts his own 
work into his land, or employs his whole attention in directing a few work- 
men, can make a great deal-more out of it than the scientific farmer, who 
has to struggle with the weary negligence of bands of day-labourers." M. 
Passy, in his "Systems of Cultivation in France and their Influence on 
Social Economy," gives the following as the result of his investigations : — 
" I. That in the present state of agricultural knowledge and practice it is 
the small farms, owned by the farmers, which, after deducting the cost of 
production, yield, from a given surface, and on equal conditions, the greatest 
net produce ; and, 2. That the same system of cultivation, by maintaining 
a larger rural population, not only thereby adds to the strength of a State, 
but aflfords a better market for those commodities the production and 
exchange of which stimulate the prosperity of the manufacturing districts." 
And of the character of the cultivation by peasant-proprietors, M. Passy 
says : ' ' They carry into the least details of their undertaking an attention 
and care which are productive of the most important advantages. There is 
not a corner of their land of which they do not know the special qualities 
and capabilities, and to which they do not know how to give the peculiar 
treatment and care it requires," and after comparing some of the best 
English agricultural counties with an extensive area of the north of France, 
he states that the net produce of the latter is the larger of the two. M. 

Occupying Ownership. 159 

Various Objections to Peasant-Proprietorship Answered by 
Facts. — Another objection sometimes made is that land cannot 

<le Laveleye, in his Essay on Systems of Land Tenure, shows that the 
small peasant-proprietors of Belgium and Flanders use an enormous quantity 
of manure, and obtain crops far surpassing those of the best large farms in 
any part of the world. In Switzerland, wherever the Government have sold 
to peasants the land which formerly belonged to the State, "very often a 
third or a. fourth part of the land which was before let out to farmers 
produces at present as much com, and supports as many head of cattle, as 
the whole estate formerly did when it was cultivated by leasehold tenants. " 
Mr. Thornton's "Plea for Peasant-Proprietors," and Mr. Kay's " Free 
Tiade in Land," are literally crowded with facts, of the same 
character as these and leading irresistibly to the same conclusion. 
Notwithstanding this mass of evidence, English writers still maintain that 
English ^[riculture is more advanced and more productive than that of 
France, grounding their conclusions solely on the average crop of wheat. 
To one such writer the following letter, which appeared in the Daily News 
(Dec. 28th, 1881), is a complete reply and full explanation : — "Mr. Caird 
and other writers have recently asserted that ' the average wheat crop in 
England yields 28, as opposed to 18 bushels to the acre in France ;' thus 
attempting to prove that the English system is the most productive in a 
national point of view. I submit that if we examine the effect of the 
English and French systems of land tenure on an entire province, consist- 
ing of good, indifferent, and waste soil, we shall arrive at a very different 
conclusion. In France the peasant proprietor (aided by his family, and 
thus commanding the cheapest possible labour) will successfully attack 
land of the very poorest description and bring it into cultivation. It may 
possibly produce but five bushels to the acre, but it repays the ' owner. ' 
In the French official returns of cultivated land the average is thus brought 
down to a very low figure. In England such poor soil is as a rule left 
waste, simply because it will not repay cultivation — i.e., it will not produce 
rent after maintaining the farmer and labourer, and, as the English 
proprietor cannot command either cheap labour or apply the stubborn 
energy and minute attention and thrifty habits of the French peasant 
proprietor, we see immense tracts in England left in a state of nature which 
in France would be gradually but surely reclaimed. The French peasant 
cannot afford hedgerows, waste land, and game preserves, but he is the 
owner of his own farm, and devotes all his energies to its improvement. 
He is consequently the backbone of France in more than one sense. — I am, 
Sir, yours truly, French Resident." A further demonstration of the 
superiority of the French to the English system of land-tenure is afforded 
by one whose facts at all events will not be disputed — Mr. Gladstone. In 
his speech at West Calder he makes the following important remarks : — 
" A peasant proprietary is an excellent thing to be had, if it can be had, 
in many points of view. It interests an enormous number of the people in 
the soil of the country and in the stability of its institutions and its laws. 
But now look on the effect it has on the progressive value of the land. 
What will you think when I tell you that the agricultural value of France — 
the taxable income derived from the land, and therefore the income to the 

i6o Land Nationalisation. 

be efficiently cultivated and permanently improved without 
capital, and that peasant-proprietors have usually no 
capital. Here again the facts are against the objectors. In 
several countries, notably in Norway, in Jersey, and in Switzer- 
land, co-operation has effected quite as much in these respects 
as the most lavish expenditure of capital in a country of large 
estates.* Moreover, occupying owners need not necessarily 
be without capital, and most certainly they will expend it with 
more judgment and more confidence, than either a landlord 
ignorant of practical agriculture or a tenant without any 
permanent interest in the soil. The scheme of land-tenure 
here advocated (as will be seen further on), owing to the 
prohibition of mortgages, renders the application of capital to 
the land far more easy and more likely to be general than 
under any existing system. 

It has also been objected that peasant-proprietorship leads: 
to too rapid increase of the population, and must thus soon 
produce over-crowding and pauperism. But here again the 
facts are all the other way. Nothing is such a powerful check- 
to early marriages as the need of first obtaining a farm sufficient 
to support a family; and in every country where peasant- 
properties largely prevail the age of marriage is higher than 
among our agricultural labourers. John Stuart Mill h^s. 
brought a mass of interesting evidence to bear upon this 
question, and the reader who desires to become acquainted 

proprietors of that land — has advanced during our life-time far more rapidly 
than that of England ? . . . While the agricultural income of France 
increased 40 per cent, in thirteen years [from 1851 to 1864], the agricul- 
tural income of England only increased 20 per cent, in thirty-four years 
[from 1842 to 1876]. . . , What I do wish very respectfully to- 
submit to you is this — this vast increase in the agricultural value of France 
is not upon the large properties, which, if anything, are inferior to the 
cultivation of the large properties in England, but it is upon these very 
peasant properties which some people are so ready to decry. " 

* See on this point the evidence adduced by Mill and Fawcett in their 
works on " Political Economy." 

Occupying Ownership. i6r 

■with it is referred to his " Political Economy," Chap. VII, or 
to Mr. Thornton's " Plea for Peasant Proprietors," Chap. II, 
where the subject is fully examined by the light of history and 

The Last Argument in Favour of Landlordism Shown to be 
Unsound. — Yet one more objection must be noted, and this 
is perhaps the weakest of all, though it is made much of by 
the advocates of landlordism. It is said that by abolishing 
landlords and transferring all the land to peasant-proprietors 
the great advantage will be lost of a wealthy and educated 
man in every, parish, whose interest it is to promote good 
feeling no less than good agriculture, and whose refinement and 
talents tend to elevate and improve the whole population. 
Now, waiving all objection to this as a true picture of the 
average landowner and country gentleman, we must first note 
that, according to the corrected returns given in Mr. Brodrick's 
work, there are only about 4,200 great landowners and squires 
in England and Wales (owning considerably more than half 
the total area of the country), while there are 10,000 parishes; 
so that, allowing for the number of non-resident landowners, 
and the still larger number of those who, being only occasion- 
ally resident, leave the management of their estates to their 
agents, it is evident that only one parish in four or five can 
now enjoy the supposed advantages of the resident influential 
landowner. In the next place, what reason have we to suppose 
that all (or the greater part of) these country gentlemen would 
quit their ancestral houses and lands if they no longer derived 
their income mainly from the rents of farms ? They could 
still have their own houses and grounds and home-farms, 
which, if they were really fond of agriculture and had no other 
estate to manage, they would probably make larger than at 

* In Prof. Fawcett's " Political Economy,'' the same view is strongly 


1 63 Land Nationalisation. 

present and cultivate with more care and personal attention. 
Would such a man be of less value in a district because he 
had lost the despotic power he formerly possessed over his 
tenants and labourers ? Would not his advice carry more 
weight and his example have more influence, as the best 
educated, the most gentlemanly, and the richest man in his 
parish, when his advice would be wholly disinterested and his 
neighbours would be influenced by genuine respect for his 
abilities and his character? Then again, if we look at the 
number of separate mansions now belonging to the same owner, 
and, except perhaps for a few weeks in the year, occupied only 
by servants, and remember that each of these would almost 
certainly be occupied by a resident gentleman owning and 
cultivating a greater or less extent of land, we should here 
have a decided increase of that beneficial influence in country 
life which our actual landlordism sometimes, but by no means 
always, exerts. 

Beneficial Influence of Ownership on Agriculture. — Yet 
more important is the consideration that the class of English 
farmers would itself be greatly improved, and would perhaps 
exert an influence quite as beneficial as that of the existing 
squire. For each of these would be the potential owner of the 
land ;he cultivated, and every improvement in its value or 
enjoyability would be his own. The same land would then, as 
a rule, be cultivated by the same family generation after gener- 
ation, and this would certainly lead to improvements such as 
none but a permanent occupying owner would ever think of 
making. The poorer land would be planted for timber, the 
more sheltered and otherwise suitable with fruit trees. The 
farm houses would be improved and beautified ; and the whole ' 
charactei of many parts of our country would thus be altered 
for the better. Farmers of this class, unhampered by any 
tenancy restrictions, with a good knowledge of agricultural 
chemistry, and often with the experience gained by visits to the 

Occupying OivnersJiip. 163 

United States, to European countries, or Australia, would 
introduce new modes of culture, would make experiments with 
new crops, and thus do more to develope the capabilities and 
increase the production of our land than has been or ever 
can be possible under the old system of landlord and tenant, 
with its conflicting interests, its divided responsibility, and its 
mutual jealousy, which throw obstacles in the way of all 
advances in cultivation and render many of the most important 
kinds of permanent improvement all but impossible. 

This is well shown in the contrast between the Eastern 
States of America and England. The former have felt the 
pressure of competition by the Western States almost as much 
as we have ; but wherever the farmer cultivates his own fand 
he has adapted himself to the circumstances by a more varied 
system of cultivation, leading to a considerable increase in the 
total value of farm produce. Mr. Brodrick tells us that, though 
only half as much barley was grown by Massachusetts farmers 
in 1875 as in 1865, and only one-third as much as in 1855, 
the yield per acre rose during this period from nineteen and a 
half bushels to twenty-five and a half bushels, and a similar 
increase was realised in wheat, oats, Indian corn, beet-root, 
and potatoes. In the meantime the production of milk was 
far more than trebled. The total value of the farm products of 
Massachusetts in 1875 exceeded their value in 1865 by 
8,000,000 dollars, notwithstanding the stress of western com- 
petition and the general reduction of prices. No such power 
of adapting our agriculture to new conditions has been 
exhibited in England, nor was it possible to tenant farmers 
hampered by restrictive covenants and with no permanent 
interest in the soil. 

That English farmers, however, are equally capable and 
energetic when they have the inducement and the means of 
being so, is shown by the example of Mr. John Prout, who, 
nearly twenty years ago, purchased a farm near Sawbridge- 

M 2 

164 Land Nationalisation. 

worth, in Hertfordshire, and has since cultivated it himself so 
as to compete successfully in wheat-growing with America, 
obtaining during the whole of that period fair interest on his 
capital and a good profit besides. This has been effected by 
a system of cultivation which no landlord would ever have per- 
mitted ; and though there is some difference of opinion as to 
whether this can be carried on indefinitely, the fact seems to be 
admitted that his later crops are even better than his earlier 
ones, and that the cleanliness and general character of the soil 
has been greatly improved. The great fact to be noted is, that 
while tenant farmers are being everywhere ruined and hundreds. 
of farms are going out of cultivation, an occupying owner has 
been able to pay the equivalent of rent in interest on capital, 
and to obtain a handsome average return for his agricultural 
skill and personal supervision.* 

The Conclusion from the Evidence. — We thus see, not only 
that an overwhelming mass of evidence, afforded by the chief 
civilised countries in the world, proves the vast superiority of 
occupying ownership to landlordism as it exists with us ; but, 
further, that every objection urged on behalf of landlordism 
only serves more clearly to bring out the numerous advantages 
— political, social, and moral, as well as merely economical — 
of occupying ownership, whether exhibited in small, in moderate, 
or in large farms. 

* " English Land and English Landlords,'' p. 296 ; Daily News, Feb. 
9th, 1 88 1, where an excellent account of Mr. Front's farm and its results 
is given. 

Cause of Loiv Wages and Pauperism. 165 




Since the greater part of this volume was in MSS., the 
writer has become acquainted with the remarkable work of Mr. 
Henry George — "Progress and Poverty" — in which, among 
other valuable matter, the statement at the head of this chapter 
is demonstrated by an irresistible appeal to logic and to facts. 
This demonstration, as a part of the science of poUtical 
economy, so well supplements and supports the conclusions 
here arrived at that a short account of Mr. George's treatment 
of the subject may be appropriately given. 

Mr. George first shows that political economists, from Adam 
Smith downwards, have adopted an erroneous starting-point, 
through making their observations in a state of society in which 
a capitalist generally rents land and hires labour. The capitalist 
therefore appears to be the first mover in production, and 
capital a necessity before labour can be employed. Our author 
points out that this is not the natural sequence of the three 
essentials to the production of weath. He says : — " There 
must be land before labour can be exerted, and labour must be 

1 66 Land Nationalisation. 

exeited before capital can be produced. Capital is a result of 
labour, and is used by labour to assist it in further production. 
Labour is the active and initial force, and labour is therefore 
the employer of capital. Labour can only be exerted upon 
land, and it is from land that the matter which it transmutes 
into wealth must be drp.wn. Land, therefore, is the condition 
precedent, the field and material of labour. The natural order 
is land, labour, capital ; and instead of starting from capital as 
our initial point, we should start from land. There is another 
thing to be observed. Capital is not a necessary factor in 
production. Labour can produce wealth without the aid of 
capital, and in the necessary genesis of things must so produce 
wealth before capital can exist." 

Capital, therefore, in the hands of a capitalist, is not 
necessary before labour can reap its reward, in other words, 
earn wages, for " where land is free, and labour is unassisted 
by capital, the whole produce will go to the labourer as wages." 
Thus the natural wages of labour is the whole of the produce 
of that labour. But, " where land is free and labour is assisted 
by capital, wages will consist of the whole produce, less that 
part necessary to induce the storing up of labour as capital." 
Here again there is no need for the labourer to be employed 
by the capitalist for wages, for the labourer will employ the 
capital himself, paying interest for it. It is only when land is. 
all monopolised and rent has to be paid for the use of it that 
the labourer, unable to obtain land to exert his labour upon, is 
forced to work for wages for the capitalist who hires the land ; 
and then " wages may be forced by the competition among 
labourers to the minimum at which labourers will consent to 

This important conclusion becomes clear if we consider that,, 
were the monopoly not complete, and any considerable quantity 
of land left open for labourers to work on for themselves, wages. 
would certainly rise, since no man would consent to work for 

Cause of Low Wages and Pauperism. 167 

another unless he could get considerably more than he could 
earn when working for himself. It is when all natural oppor- 
tunities are taken away from him, that he is compelled to labour 
for whatever wages he can obtain, and thus, when labourers are 
superabundant, wages are always kept down to the minimum 
at which life can be supported. 

An elaborate enquiry as to the true use and function of 
capital leads Mr. George to the conclusion that it does not 
limit industry, as is erroneously taught; the only limit to 
industry being the access to natural material. But capital may 
limit the form of industry and the productiveness of industry, 
by limiting the use of tools and the division of labour. As 
illustrative of this important conclusion, he observes : — 
" But whether the amount of capital ever does limit the produc- 
tiveness of industry, and fix a maximum which wages cannot 
exceed, it is evident that it is not from any scarcity of capital 
that the poverty of the masses in civilised countries proceeds. 
For, not only do wages nowhere reach the limit fixed by th.> 
productiveness of industry, but wages are relatively the lowest 
where capital is most abundant The tools and machinery of 
production are in all the most progressive countries evidently 
in excess of the use made of them, and any prospect of remu- 
nerative employment brings out more than the capital needed. 
The bucket is not only full ; it is overflowing. So evident is 
this that, not only among the ignorant, but by men of high 
economic reputation, is industrial depression attributed to the 
abundance of machinery and the accumulation of capital ; and 
war, which is the destruction of capital, is looked upon as 
the cause of brisk trade and high wages — an idea, strangely 
enough, so great is the confusion of thought on such matters, 
countenanced by many who hold that capital employs labour 
and pays wages." 

Exactly the same thing happens with interest. Its variations 
in different countries, and at different times, depend. 

i68 Land Nationalisation. 

primarily, on the average profits that can be made by labour, 
when applied to land or other natural opportunities which can 
be had free of rent. When, however, land is monopolised 
and rent has to be paid for the use of even the poorest land, 
then interest, like wages, is kept down to the lowest point 
which will tempt its investment; and this point becomes 
lower and lower, in proportion as rent, ever growing higher and 
higher, absorbs a larger proportion of the joint produce of 
labour and capital 

As Mr. George well puts it : — " Wages and interest do not 
depend upon the produce of labour and capital, but upon what 
is left after rent is taken out; or, upon the produce which 
they could obtain without paying rent — that is, from the poorest 
land in use. And hence, no matter what would be the 
increase in productive power, if the increase of rent keeps pace 
with it, neither wages nor interest can increase. The moment 
this simple relation is recognised, a flood of light streams in 
upon what was before inexplicable, and seemingly discordant 
facts range themselves under an obvious law. The increase of 
rent which goes on in progressive countries is at once seen to 
be the key which explains why wages and interest fail to 
increase with increase of productive power. For the wealth 
produced in every community is divided into two parts by what 
may be called the rent line, which is fixed by the margin of 
cultivation, or the return which labour and capital could obtain 
from such natural opportunities as are free to them without 
the payment of rent. From the part of the produce below 
this line wages and interest must be paid. All that is above 
goes to the owners of land. Thus, where the value of land is 
low, there may be a small production of wealth, and yet a high 
rate of wages and interest, as we see in new countries. And 
when the value of land is high, there may be a very large 
production of wealth, and yet a low rate of wages and interest, 
as we see in old countries. And when productive power 

Cause of Low Wages and Pauperism. 169 

increases, as it is increasing in all progressive countries, 
wages and interest will be affected, not by the increase, 
but by the manner in which rent is affected. If the value of 
land increases proportionally, the increased production will be 
swallowed up by rent, and wages and interest will remain as 
before. If the value of land increases in greater ratio than 
productive power, rents will swallow up even more than the 
increase ; and while the produce of labour and capital will be 
much larger, wages and interest will fall It is only when the 
value of land fails to increase as rapidly as productive power 
that wages and interest can increase with the increase of 
productive power." 

It follows that the old idea, so prevalent still among work- 
men, that capital and labour are antagonistic, is a mistake. 
Both alike suffer from the common enemy — the landlord ; and 
rent absorbs the profits which the steady increase of productive 
power in all civilised countries should give to labour and capital 
And the facts strictly agree with this conclusion. For, though 
neither wages nor interest anywhere increase as material 
progress goes on, yet the invariable accompaniment and mark 
of material progress is the increase of rent — the rise of land 
values. " It is the general fact, observable everywhere, that 
as the value of land increases, so does the contrast between 
wealth and want appear. It is the universal fact that, where 
the value of land is highest, civilisation exhibits the greatest 
luxury side by side with the most piteous destitution. To see 
human beings in the most abject, the most helpless and 
hopeless condition, you must go, not to the unfenccd prairies 
and the log cabins of new clearings in the backwoods, where 
man single-handed is commencing the struggle with Nature, and 
land is yet worth nothing, but to the great cities, where the 
ownership of a little patch of ground is a fortune." 

Mr. George then goes on to show that increase of population 
and improvements in the arts necessarily cause a steady 

170 Land Nationalisation. 

increase of the rent of land ; and that this is so is shown both 
by fact and by reasoning. It is a fact that Free Trade has 
enormously increased the wealth of England ; and this increase 
of wealth has not diminished pauperism, but has simply 
increased rent This, same result may be arrived at logically, 
by supposing that the labour-saving machinery which has had 
so large a share in increasing the wealth of all civilised 
countries arrives at such absolute perfection that the 
necessity for labour in the production of wealth is entirely 
done • away with, so that everything the earth can yield 
may be obtained without labour. " Wages then would be 
nothing, and interest would be nothing, while rent would take 
everything. For the owners of land being enabled without 
labour to obtain all the wealth that could be procured from 
nature, there would be no use for either labour or capital, and 
no possible way in which either could compel any share of the 
wealth produced. And no matter how small population might 
be, if anybody but the landowners continued to exist, it would 
be at the whim or by the mercy of the landowners — they 
would be maintained either for the amusement of the land- 
owners, or, as paupers, by their bounty." Now as labour- 
saving machinery is ever improving, and man's power over 
nature ever increasing, the tendency is towards this state of 
things, .that is, to the greater wealth and greater power of the 
landowners, to the more complete dependence or the more 
abject poverty of the rest of the community. 

One more quotation still further to elucidate this point : — 
" The recognition of individual proprietorship of land is the 
denial of the natural rights of other individuals — it is a wrong 
which must show itself in the inequitable division of wealth.. 
For, as labour cannot produce without the use of land, the 
denial of the equal right to the use of land is necessarily the 
denial of the right of labour to its own produca If one man 
can command the land upon which others must labour, he can 

Cause of Low Wages and Paiipei'ism. 171 

appropriate the produce of their labour as the price of his 
permission to labour. The fundamental law of nature, that her 
enjoyment by man shall be consequent upon his exertion, is 
thus violated. The one receives without producing ; the 
others produce without receiving. The one is unjustly 
enriched ; the others are robbed. To this fundamental wrong 
we have traced the unjust distribution of wealth which is 
separating modern society into the very rich and the very poor. 
It is the continuous increase of rent — the price that labour is 
compelled to pay for the use of land, which strips the many 
of the wealth they justly earn, to pile it up in the hands of the 
few who do nothing to earn it" 

The only political economist who, so far as I know, has 
independently arrived at these results is the late Professor 
Cairnes. He says : — 

" The soil is, over the greater portion of the inhabited globe, 
cultivated by very humble men, with very little disposable 
wealth, and whose career is practically marked out for them 
by irresistible circumstances as tillers of the ground. In a 
contest between vast bodies of people so circumstanced and 
the owners of the soil — between the purchasers without reserve, 
constantly increasing in numbers, of an indispensable com- 
modity, and the monopolist dealers in that commodity — the 
negotiation could have but one issue, that of transferring to the 
owners of the soil the whole produce, minus what was sufificient 
to maintain in the lowest state of existence the race of culti- 
vators. This is what has happened wherever the owners of 
the soil, discarding all considerations but those dictated by self- 
interest, have really availed themselves of the full strength of 
their position. It is what has happened under rapacious Govern- 
ments in Asia ; it is what has happened under rapacious land- 
lords in Ireland ; it is what now happens under the bourgeois 
proprietors of Flanders ; it is, in short, the inevitable result 
which cannot but happen in the great majority of all societies 

172 Land Nationalisation. 

now existing on earth where land is given up to be dealt with 
on commercial principles, unqualified by public opinion, cus- 
tom, or law" (J. E. Cairnes, Fortnightly Review, Jan., 1870). 

Again, in a later work, " Some Leading Principles of Political 
Economy Newly Expounded," published in 1874, he still 
further illustrates the same views, distinctly laying down the 
proposition that neither profits nor wages have advanced with 
the increasing wealth of the community due to advancing 
civilisation and increased power over the forces of nature : — 

" Not indeed that the introduction of improved processes 
into agriculture has been for nought : it has resulted in a large 
augmentation of the aggregate return obtained from the soil, 
but without permanently lowering its price, and, therefore, 
without permanent advantage to either capitalist or labourer, 
or to other consumers. The large addition to the wealth of 
the country has gone neither to profits nor to wages, nor yet to 
the public at large, but to swell a fund ever growing, even while 
its proprietors sleep — the rent-roll of the owners of the soil. 
Accordingly we find that, notwithstanding the vast progress of 
agricultural industry effected within a century, there is scarcely 
an important agricultural product that is not at least as dear 
now as it was a hundred years ago — as dear not merely in 
money price but in real cost. The aggregate return from the 
land has immensely increased ; but the cost of the costliest 
portion of the produce, which is that which determines the 
price of the whole, remains pretty nearly as it was. Profits, 
therefore, have not risen at all, and the real remuneration of 
the labourer, taking the whole field of labour, in but a slight 
degree — at all events in a degree very far from commensurate 
with the general progress of industry " (p. 333). 

In these passages from the works of an English writer of 
established reputation we have a very remarkable and quite 
independent accordance with the special views of Mr. George — 
an accordance which must add greatly to the vyeight of their 

Cause of Low Wages and Pauperisin. 175 

There is, however, another important consideration, which 
tends still further to intensify the monopoly of land and the 
consequent helplessness and poverty of the labourer. This is, 
the constant expectation of a further rise in land value, due to 
its steady increase with increase of population and advance of 
industrial development. This expectation leads to speculation 
in land; and it has all the effect of a combination among 
landowners to keep up the price. The result is, that land is 
constantly held for an advance in price, based, not upon 
present value, but upon the added valye that will come with 
the further growth of population. Hence it happens that — 
" Labour cannot reap the benefits which advancing civilisation 
brings, because they are intercepted. Land being necessary to 
labour, and being reduced to private ownership, every increase 
in the productive power of labour but increases rent — the price 
that labour must pay for the opportunity to realise its powers ; 
and thus all the advantages gained by the march of progress 
go to the owners of land, and wages do not increase. Wages 
cannot increase, for the greater the earnings of labour the 
greater the price that labour must pay out of its earnings for 
the opportunity to make any earnings at all. . . Begotten 
of the continuous advance of rent, arises a speculative 
tendency which discounts the effect of further improvements 
by a still further advance in rent, to drive wages down to the 
slave point — the point at which the labourer can just live." 

It is not necessary here to go further in this very imperfect 
exposition of Mr. George's views. It will be seen that they 
afford a most remarkable theoretical confirmation of the con- 
clusions here reached by an examination of the actual condition 
of the people under different kinds of land-tenure ; and if, as 
I maintain, these conclusions have now been demonstrated by 
induction from facts, that demonstration acquires the force 
of absolute proof when exactly the same conclusion is reached 
by a totally distinct line of deductive reasoning founded on 
the admitted principles of political economy and the general 

17'' Land Nationalisation. 

facts of social and industrial development. I will now only 
add the striking passage with which Mr. George concludes 
that part of his work which specially discusses " The Persis- 
tence of Poverty amid Advancing Wealth" : — " The ownership 
of land is the great fundamental fact which ultimately 
determines the social, the political, and consequently the 
intellectual and moral condition of a people. And it must be 
so ; for land is the habitation of man, the storehouse upon 
which he must draw for all he needs ; the material to which 
his labour must be applied for the supply of all his desires ; 
for even the products of the sea cannot be taken, the light of 
the sun enjoyed, or any of the forces of nature utilised without 
the use of land or its products. On the land we are born, 
from it we live, to it we return again — children of the soil as 
truly as is the blade of grass or the flower of the field. Take 
away from man all that belongs to land, and he is but a 
disembodied spirit Material progress cannot rid us of our 
dependence upon land ; it can but add to the power of produc- 
ing wealth from land ; and hence, when land is monopolised, 
it might go on to infinity without increasing wages or improving 
the condition of those who have but their labour. It can but 
add to the value of land and the power which its possession 
gives. Everywhere, in all times, among all peoples, the possession 
of land is the base of aristocracy, the source of power. As 
said the Brahmins ages ago : — To whomsoever the soil at any 
time belongs, to him belong the fruits of if. White parasols and 
elephants mad with pride are the flowers of a grant oflandj' 

We have now to consider the important question, how our 
present system can be best exchanged for a better one ; and 
also, how we can secure all the benefits which occupying 
ownership confers, how we can extend those benefits to the 
largest number and over the widest area, and how most 
effectually prevent the economical and moral evils of land- 
lordism from again asserting themselves. 

Tlie Solution of the Problem. 17 S 




ARTHUR Arnold's objections — mr. g. shaw lefevre's objections 


176 ■ Land Nationalisation. 

In the preceding chapters we have laid before the reader a 
body of facts sufficient to form a sound basis for a solution of 
the Land Problem. They comprise the more essential portions, 
of most of the chief works which have been written on the 
subject, and it is, perhaps, because these statements and facts 
in their whole extent, have never before been systematically 
collected and compared, that the remedies proposed have 
hitherto been so inadequate, and the arguments by which these 
remedies have been supported so illogical. Before proceeding 
to discuss these proposals, or to explain what appears to the 
present writer the only adequate remedy, it will be as well 
briefly to summarise the facts and conclusions already 

Summary of the Preceding Chapters. — In the first chapter we 
have called special attention to the astounding facts of the 
vast riches and the degrading poverty of our country, which, 
in their terrible combination and contrast, are unparalleled in 
the civilised world. Many writers have commented on this 
fact incidentally, but none (except the American author whose 
work we have sketched in the preceding chapter) have made 
it the foundation and key-note of a discussion, or have 
endeavoured to trace out its causes and its possible cure. To 
show tHat I have not overstated the facts of the case, I will 
here quote the words of the late Mr. Joseph Kay, Q.C., who 
says : — " The French, the Dutch, the Germans, and the Swiss 
look with wonder at the enormous fortunes and at the enor- 
mous mass of pauperism which accumulate in England side 
by side. They have little of either extreme." And again : — 
"The objects which strike foreigners with the greatest 
astonishment, on visiting our country, and of which they see 
nothing at all similar in their own countries, are : — (i) The 
enormous wealth of the highest classes of English society. (2) 
The intense and continued labour and toil of the middle and low- 
est classes. And (3) the frightful amount of absolute pauperism 

The Solution of . the Problem. 177 

among the lowest classes." And as to the condition of the agri- 
cultural labourers of England, Professor Fawcett (in his "Political 
Economy") states, that there are "few classes of workmen 
who, in many respects, are so thoroughly wretched as the 
English agricultural labourers. They are so miserably poor 
that, if they were converted into slaves to-morrow, it would be 
for the interest of their owners to feed them far better than 
they are fed at the present time •" v/hile in his " Essays " he 
says, speaking on the Authority of a Parliamentary Report, that 
the men, women, and children who compose the agricultural 
gangs which cultivate a wide tract of highly-farmed land "are 
living in such a condition that some of the worst horrors of 
slavery seem to be in existence among us in the nineteenth 

Now this state of things not only co-exists with an unexampled 
accumulation of wealth, but with a whole series of favourable 
conditions which few other countries have enjoyed. We had 
the start of all Europe in the development of the railway 
system ; we had endless stores of coal and iron, which all the 
world required and bought of us ; for a long time we supplied 
half the population of the globe with cotton and iron goods ; 
we have a greater colonial system than any other country, and 
a freer outlet for our people and our trade to lands where our 
own language is spoken ; our home-trade is little burdened by 
fiscal trammels, while we enjoy free imports from all the world ; 
and our capital, London, is, and long has been, the financial 
and commercial centre of the globe. Surely the amazing 
anomaly of the degrading poverty of our labourers co-existing 
with such favourable conditions deserves, not a mere passing 
notice, but a serious and continued study. It has, however, 
unhappily, become so familiar to us that most people pass it by 
as an insoluble problem, and content themselves with suggesting 
certain possible ameliorations or palliations. In my first 
chapter I have gone a little further than this, and have 

178 Land Nationalisation. 

endeavoured to define, with some precision, the cause of this 
frightful anomaly — a cause which the series of facts stated in 
the subsequent chapters forced me to adopt as the only 
adequate one, and which I have thus early enunciated as a 
postulate to be either affirmed or negatived by the evidence 
adduced subsequently. It is a cause which appears to me to 
afford the only clue to a general solution of the problem of 
how to secure the social well-being of the great mass of the 
community, and it leads irresistibly to the conclusion that the 
most vital of all the questions of modern civilisation is the 
proper utilisation of the land. 

In the second chapter I have briefly sketched the rise and 
development of the semi-feudal system of land-tenure now 
existing in this country, showing that neither its origin nor its 
history gives it any claim to our respect, or renders it at all 
likely to be suitable to the wants of a free and civilised 

In the third chapter I give some account of the effects of 
modern landlordism in Ireland. The law has hitherto given 
to the landlord complete power over the land he holds, to deal 
with it as he pleases. Millions of people who possess no land 
nor any other property are absolutely dependent, not for 
happiness only, but for the power to live, on having a portion 
of this land to cultivate. Under these circumstances the 
landlord is master of the situation. He can demand what he 
pleases for his land ; he can let it on what terms he pleases J 
and he can subject his tenants to any rules or regulations he or 
his agents think proper. The people must have land or starve ; 
so they offer any rent, agree to any terms, and are consequently 
always the virtual, if not the actual, slaves of the landlord. 
Hence the perennial misery and crime of Ireland.. Hence 
famines, and evictions, and the shooting of landlords or agents. 
Some people blame the landlords ; but why ? The law tells 
them that their land is their /w/*/-^. Political economy tells 

The Solution of tJie Problem. 179 

them to sell it, or the use of it, in the dearest market ; that 
supply and demand regulate the price of all commodities ; and 
that it is best for all that it should be so regulated. They 
■simply act on these principles, which have been drilled into 
them as the highest teaching of political science; yet the 
result is a nation in the most hopeless misery to be found any- 
where in the civilised world. The only logical conclusion 
from these facts is, that the law which makes land private 
property is wrong ; and this being so, we can understand why 
it is that the very same principles of free contract, buying 
cheap and selling dear, supply and demand as the regulator of 
price — principles which work good for mankind in every other 
case, work evil here. That this is the proper conclusion is 
clearly demonstrated by the necessity for exceptional legislation 
for the land of Ireland, whereby the greatest modern statesmen 
and legislators go back to the exploded nostrums of the 
middle ages, and attempt to regulate the price of this commodity. 
If land is and should be private property, why determine its 
fair price or fair rent by Act of Parliament any more than the 
price of bread or of cloth ? The fact that the only way found 
by Parliament to save a nation from chronic insurrection and 
a people from chronic misery and starvation is thus to interfere 
in the case of land, proves of itself that land should not be 
private property, but should be held by the State for the free 
use and general benefit of the community. The question of 
Iww the land became the property of its present owners is not 
important. There is, perhaps, hardly an acre of land in Europe 
but has been at one time or other forcibly taken from some 
previous holder, and it is not found that the possession of land 
(as property — not for personal occupation) leads to less evil 
results when it has been simply purchased or inherited from a 
purchaser, than when it has been obtained by forcible means in 
modern or ancient times. It is the act of ownership of land 
as a property, producing an income by its rents, that leaf^s to 

i8o. Land Nationalisation. 

all the trouble, not the mode in which the land was acquired 
by the present or preceding owners. The only logical people 
are those who, like Lord Sherbrooke and Professor Bonamy 
Price, maintain that land, being property, should be dealt 
with like all other property, by free contract between man and 
man, and that therefore all interference between a landlord and 
his tenants is contrary to the first principles of political economy 
— of those who, like Herbert Spencer, Professor F. W. New- 
man, and others, maintain that the land of a country ought 
not to be private property at all ; and the fact that the un- 
checked operation of supply and demand, with free contract 
between purchaser and seller, does produce, in the case of 
land, endless evils, proves conclusively that the latter position 
is the true one. 

The fourth chapter treats of the effects of landlordism in 
Scotland, and exhibits a series of facts which, though arising 
under a totally different set of conditions from those which 
have prevailed in Ireland, have produced equally lamentable 
results ; and these still further enforce the same doctrine, that 
land cannot safely be allowed to become private property, to be 
bought, and sold, and accumulated, and dealt with like other 
property. Some account is here given of the "clearances"" 
which have been going on in the Highlands for nearly a cen^ 
tury, and which are still in operation. The motive for these 
clearances is usually to obtain a larger or securer rental fof 
the land, either as sheep-farms or as deer-forests ; and for this 
purpose tens of thousands of British subjects have been driven 
from their homes — often to swell the mass of indigence and 
crime in the great cities, while the country is being denuded of 
a hardy, industrious, moral, and intelligent population, to 
which our army has been indebted for men and officers who, 
in India and elsewhere, have done the noblest deeds, and added 
to the nation's roll of fame. Such clearances are a deep 
injury to the State, and a positive crime against humanity, of 

The S obit ion of the Problem. iSr 

the same nature (though less in degree) as despotism or 
.slavery. Yet they are legal ; and no power exists which can 
prevent them, so long as the land — without which no man can 
live — is allowed to be monopolised by the rich. When the 
■attention of the Home Secretary was called, by Dr. Mac- 
donald, to the recent Leckmeln evictions in Ross-shire, he 
leplied that he could not interfere, because the proprietor had 
only exercised the suminum jus of property. That answer is 
a condemnation of private property in land, because it shows 
that the greatest of all the evils which arise from it — the 
power of one man to banish another from his home — cannot 
be cured so long as it exists. 

In the latter part of the same chapter attention is called to 
the fact that, in the Lowlands of Scotland, where the agricul- 
ture is admitted to be the best in the Kingdom, and where 
there is no lack of capital expended on the land, the condition 
of the labourer is often as bad as in the worst cultivated parts 
of England, while his higher wages are wholly due to the com- 
petition of the manufacturers for labour. This is a complete 
•disproof of the allegations of those who maintain that, were land 
freed from entail and settlements and could pass into the hands 
of men of capital, all the evils of the landlord system would dis- 
appear. The fact, however, is, that where the amount of capi- 
tal expended is greatest, there the evils, as regards the labourer, 
are at least as great as elsewhere. 

The fifth chapter deals with English Landlordism, and it is 
shown that here, too, the evil results are numerous and wide- 
spread. The land is badly cultivated ; the country is denuded of 
population while the towns are overcrowded; many of the greatest 
necessaries of life (which are also its greatest luxuries), such as 
milk, butter, eggs, poultry, fruit, and vegetables, are all made 
scarce, dear, and bad by the denial of land to labourers and 
the middle classes ; and these products have to be imported 
from almost every country in Europe, and even from America, 

i82 ' Land Nationalisation. 

when they could all be abundantly produced at home, and we 
could have them at our very doors better in quality and far 
cheaper than now. This is a positive injury to every one — 
an injury in no way compensated by Free Trade allowing these- 
things to be imported in a more or less stale and deteriorated 
condition duty free, since the hundreds of millions we pay 
for them annually to foreigners might be earned by our own 
rural labourers, keeping them from drink and pauperism, 
and us from the burthen of supporting paupers. 

In England, too, evictions occur as elsewhere, and no man 
who does not cultivate his own land can feel secure. He may- 
be banished from his home at his landlord's pleasure; and 
instances are given showing that men are thus banished on 
account of their politics, their religion, their independence, or 
their love of sport Every man not a landowner is, in fact, a 
serf. His lord may be a benevolent despot and he may not 
feel the chain, but it exists nevertheless ; and he cannot be 
really free when, for no crime or fault whatever, he may be 
compelled against his will to suffer the punishment of having, 
at any period of his life, to break up his home and seek a new 
one. Attention is also called to the enormous and wide-spread 
evils of over-crowded and ill-built dwellings, with insufficient 
space of ground for health and recreation, which directly arise 
from land being a monopoly in private hands. This again is 
an evil which does not affect a class only, but the entire 
community, and it is an evil which cannot be got rid of so long 
as land remains private property, but which may be made to. 
disappear the moment a wise system of nationalisation is. 

The sixth chapter deals with the question of Occupying, 
Ownership as opposed to Landlordism. A summary is givem 
of the evidence as to the condition of the landholders and 
labourers in various countries, and it is shown, by an over- 
whelming mass of evidence, that just in proportion as the 

The Solution of the Problem. 183 

cultivator of land has a permanent interest in it is he well-off, 
happy, and contented Climate, soil, latitude, government, 
race, may all differ, but the general law remains true, that the 
ownership of land by the very persons who cultivate it is bene- 
ficial to themselves and to the whole community ; that the 
cultivation of land which belongs to another, and in the 
improvement of which the cultivator has not a large or an 
exclusive interest, is injurious to the cultivator and to the whole 
community. This law is absolute, and has no exceptions. It 
is not a question of large or small farms ; it is a question solely 
of ownership or tenancy of land. It applies equally to the 
agricultural labourer with his acre of garden as to the yeoman 
farming 500 acres of his own land. We English maintain Free 
Trade, though all the world be against us, because the immutable 
laws of labour, production, and self-interest prove that the free 
exchange of the products of labour is for the mutual benefit of 
all. But in the case of the land, the benefits of occupying 
ownership are far greater ; for they are social and moral as 
well as material. Free Trade has not diminished drunkenness, 
Free Trade has not diminished pauperism. Free Trade has not 
given our labourers decent houses or raised them out of that 
state of misery which is a disgrace to our civilisation. But 
occupying ownership does do all this wherever it prevails. Just 
in proportion as it is wide-spread and untrammelled, so do 
pauperism, drunkenness, and crime disappear, and give place 
to plenty, peace, and content. If, then, we uphold Free Trade 
because it is theoretically right and true, and because it makes 
our riches increase and multiply, ought we not to adopt with 
equal eagerness that principle of occupying ownership of the 
soil which is recognised by all enquirers as producing such 
universally beneficial results, results which are clearly traceable 
to no less universal and indubitable facts of our mental and 
moral nature, In the whole field of political and social 
science there is no induction so complete and so universal as 

184 Land Nationalisation. 

that which connects landlordism and tenancy with a pauperised 
and degraded population, occupying ownership with a thriving 
and contented one. 

In the seventh chapter I have given a brief sketch of that 
part of Mr. George's work on " Progress and Poverty" which 
shows, by a totally distinct line of argument and proof, that 
private property in land is the direct cause of low wages and 
pauperism, thus confirming and enforcing the results we have 
arrived at in the preceding chapter. Having thus set forth a 
large body of facts, and having found that they point invariably 
to one conclusion, a conclusion arrived at independently by a 
Avriter who has investigated the question from another stand- 
point, let us proceed to examine the remedies proposed by 
those earnest and philanthropic writers to whom we are 
indebted for most of the facts we have made use of, and who 
all admit the failure of our present land-system and the serious 
nature of the evils which co-exist with it 

Free Trade in Land Shown to be Comparatively Useless. — 
The great school of English land-reformers, among whom we 
have the distinguished names of Mr. Bright, Professor Fawcett, 
Mr. Arthur Am old, Mr. Thornton, Mr. J. Boyd Kinnear, the 
Hon. George Brodrick, and the late Mr. Joseph Kay, while 
fully admitting most of the facts here adduced, and often 
dwelling upon them at greater length and more forcibly than I 
have been able to do, all agree in advocating the same 
universal panacea — the abolition or radical modification of the 
laws which restrict the transmission and possession of land by 
means of settlements and entails, so as to bring about a state 
of things which may be breifly summarised by the term " Free 
Trade in Land." They all show, with great force and irresistible 
logic, the evils incident to the system of limited ownership, pro- 
duced alike by settlements and entails, and by the costly and 
difficult transfer of land which these necessitate. They urge 
that the one thing needful is that every acre of land in the 

The Solution of the Problem. 185 

country should be in the possession of some one owner, with 
absolute power to sell or transfer it in any way he pleases to 
some other absolute owner. They maintain that by this 
means land would get into the hands of those who have 
capital to expend on its improvement, and whose interest it 
would be so to improve it. They maintain, in fact, that what 
is wanted is not to abolish landlordism, but to arrange matters 
so that the landlord shall have still greater power than he has 
now to deal with the land as he pleases. Some of them main- 
tainthat this would favour the creation of a class of yeomen or 
peasant proprietors, by throwing much more land into the 
market and rendering its sale in small lots inexpensive as well 
as profitable ; while others dwell chiefly on the fact that more 
capital will thus be diverted to the land. Not one of them 
seems to recognise anything evil in landlordism itself; not one 
of them appears to perceive the bearing of the whole mass of 
the evidence in every civilised country in the world— evidence 
which proclaims in the most unmistakable manner that 
the fruits of landlordism are always evil, those of occupying 
ownership always good. 

How is it, it may be asked, that among so many great men 
■who have paid special attention to this subject none have seen, 
or if they have seen have declared, the inherent evils of land- 
lordism 1 One such man, and a greater than any of those 
-whose names I have quoted — John Stuart Mill — did see it, 
and stated his opinion with sufficient plainness ; but he did not 
see any practical and just mode of aboHshing landlordism, and 
therefore contented himself with claiming for the State " the 
unearned increment of the soil." Other land-reformers are 
most likely deterred by the vast difficulties in the way of such 
reform; and, though satisfied that landlordism does always pro- 
duce evil results, do not see any possibility of changing so 
ancient and so powerful an institution. Before proceeding to 
show that the problem of radical land reform is not nearly so 

1 86 Land Nationalisation. 

difficult as has teen supposed, when once the source of the 
evil is detected and it is determined not merely to palliate but 
to abolish it, it will be well to point out the total insufficiency 
of the free-trade-in-land panacea to remedy the great and cry- 
ing evils of landlordism; and, in doing so, we shall refer chiefly 
to the most authoritative work on the question — Mr. Kdy's 
" Free Trade in Land." 

Mr. Kay's Arguments in Support of Free Trade in Land. 
— Mr. Kay's book is throughout an elaborate argument, 
founded on a copious and most valuable collection of facts ; 
but rarely do we find an argument set forth with such evident 
care, and yet so entirely illogical and unsound. It is essen- 
tially as follows : — Over a large portion of Europe we find 
peasants cultivating lands of which they are the owners, and they 
are invariably well-off and contented. In our own country we 
have mostly large estates cultivated by tenant farmers, and here 
the labourers are pauperised and discontented. Wherever the 
former condition prevails there is also a free trade in land. With 
us, and in some other countries where the people are equally 
wretched, entails and settlements and costly conveyancing pre- 
vail ; therefore " free trade in land " causes the difference ; give 
us " free trade in land " and our country will soon resemble 
Switzerland or Sweden or Prussia. This is positively the 
whole argument, and so blindly is it applied that the most 
vital differences between other countries and our own are 
slurred over or totally ignored. Thus, he speaks of the misery 
of the peasants of France before the Revolution, of the aboli- 
tion of feudal customs and laws, of the peasants having "become 
the owners of the farms on which they used to labour," and asserts 
that " the system of peasant proprietorship is literally a system 
of free trade in land ;" but he quite ignores the fact that even 
before the Revolution there were more than a million of 
peasant proprietors in France, and that afterwards the enormous 
Church property and many confiscated estates were sold at low 

The Solution of the Problem. 187 

prices to the peasants, who then had no competitors in the 
market, thus adding, according to Arthur Young, 1,220,000 
more to the already large body of French peasant-proprietors. 
In speaking of Prussia, he refers to the alteration of the 
" Land Laws " as the one essential thing which has produced 
the existing peasant-proprietors, ignoring again the fact that there 
were already in existence an enormous body of peasants culti- 
vating land held under various feudal tenures, often very 
oppressive, but still, to a great extent, permanent ; and that the 
reforms enabled the peasants to become freeholders on easy 
terms. And here, too, large ecclesiastical and Crown estates 
were also sold to' the peasants. In England, on the other 
hand, that beneficial feature of feudalism — the permanent con- 
nection of the peasant with the land he cultivates, has been 
long totally destroyed ; the Church lands were all given to 
feudal lords or court favourites three centuries ago, and have 
gone to swell great estates, instead of remaining, as in most 
European countries, to be divided among the people ; while the 
number of wealthy persons seeking to purchase land for specu- 
lation or for power is so great, that it is the wildest delusion to 
suppose that the agricultural labourers of England (rarely able 
to escape the workhouse in old age) will ever secure an acre of 

Small Landed Estates are Constantly Absorbed by Great Ones. 
— Mr. Kay himself adduces abundant evidence to this effect. 
He shows that " the great estates, vast as they already are, 
are continually devouring the few remaining small agricultural 
properties," and that " the class of peasant-proprietors formerly 
to be found in the rural districts is tending to disappear, " Mr. 
Shaw Lefevre, his relative and disciple, further states that — "In 
s jme counties, all the land which comes into the market is 
bought up by the trustees of wills directing the accumulation of 
land ; while in most parts of the country, if a small freehold 
of a few acres comes into the maik;t, it is almost certain to be 

1 88 Land Nationalisation. 

bought up by an adjoining owner, either for the purpose of 
rounding off a corner of his estate, or for extending political 
influence, or still more often by the advice of the family solicitor, 
-who is always in favour of increasing the family estates." 
Professor Fawcett also writes strongly on this " greed for land." 
He says : — " Two or three large proprietors continue increas- 
ing their estates until they come at length to think that the 
whole locality ought to be apportioned among them. If the 
symmetry of their estates should happen to be disturbed by 
anyone possessing a few acres of land, he is considered an 
intruder, and his little freehold is an eye-sore to the great pro- 
prietors. A. common affects them much in the same way ; and 
in order to achieve the grand object of being able to say that 
no one else in the neighbourhood possesses a single rood of 
land, they appeal to Parliament to aid them in destroying these 
commons over which the public exercise some proprietary 
rights. A Parliament so largely composed of those who are 
great landowners, or who wish to become great landowners, 
respond to such an appeal with cordial sympathy." (" Pauper- 
ism," p. 254.)* 

* In an article on the Land Question in the EdLinhurgh Beview of October, 
1 87 1, the same view is forcibly upheld. It is shown by the testimony of 
M. de Laveleye that even in Belgium peasant properties are diminishing, on 
account of facilities of sale and the general desire for land by capitalists. 
In the Eastern States of America also small farms are being bought up for 
investments or for residential purposes, and the writer continues : — " If you 
could divide England into lots ; if you could restore the imaginary times of 
village communities and joint ownership of the soil ; still, if, at the same 
time, you left the disposal of land free, the same result would recur. 
Landlordism would revive and grow again. After a jjeriod of transition 
capital would very certainly re-assume its ordinary predominance, and the 
land would be engrossed once more. Nothing could prevent this, except 
the enactment and enforcement of agrarian laws. This, and no other, 
is the price which we must pay for reducing our landed property to the 
condition of comparative level for which Mr. Mill wishes, and of absolute 
level which alone will content his more advanced disciples. Does it not 
st.ind to reason that if the sale and purchase of land were perfectly easy and 
free, those persons would buy most land and give the best price for it who 
had most money to buy it with ?" 

The Solution of the Problem. 189 

Free Trade in Land would not Help either the Tenant or the 
Labourer. — Now, with all these influences at work, and taking 
note of the enormous fortunes annually made by contractors, 
merchants, or speculators, as well as those brought home by 
successful colonists, all seeking investment in land or some 
form of landed property, what reason is there to suppose that 
the great bulk of the estates that come into the market will not 
be at once absorbed by the various investors of this type, 
and by speculative builders or by building companies, where the 
land is suitable for creating a residential district ? No facts 
have been adduced to show that the demand for land by the 
wealthy will cease or at all diminish, except the totally inapposite 
fact that much land sold by the Encumbered Estates Court iri 
Ireland was purchased by the occupying tenants, largely helped 
by their relations in America. The condition of Ireland, 
however, neither was nor is at all comparable with that of 
England. The absentee landlords of Ireland are not generally 
eager to mcrease their estates, and there is no constant influx of 
newly-created wealth ever on the look-out for land, as there is 
in England and Scotland. It is, therefore, as certain as any 
anticipated result can be, that " free trade in land " would in no 
appreciable degree add to the number of yeomen or of peasant- 
proprietors, or do anything to check their complete extinction. 
What it would do would be to transfer many estates to the 
hands of men of capital, and to consign some beautiful 
demesnes to the speculative builder. But this would in no 
way benefit either the labourer or the tenant-farmer, or the 
public at large. We have seen that on some of the best-farmed 
land in the country the condition of the labourers is a disgrace 
and a degradation ; while alike in Ireland, in the Highlands, 
and in every part of Europe, it is the new purchasers of land, 
whether in large or small estates, who are the hardest land- 
lords, who seek to obtain the greatest possible return for their 
outlay, who buy cheap and sell dear, as they aretaught to do 

190 Land Nationalisation. 

by the best-known maxims of political economy — maxims 
which, when applied to the products of human labour, are 
beneficial to all parties alike, but which, when applied to the 
land (which is limited in quantity, which no man can make, and 
which is as necessary to human existence as the air we breathe), 
■carry with them the inevitable curse of pauperism to the 
labourer, and the innumerable evils of a half-cultivated and 
poverty-stricken country to the whole community. For, why 
do we import eggs to the amount of two and a half millions 
.■sterling annually from France, poultry from France and Italy, 
butter, or some bad imitations of it, to the amount of more 
than ten millions sterling from various parts of the Continent, 
rabbits from Belgium, fruits and vegetables from France, Jersey, 
and America, while milk, which cannot be imported, is con- 
stantly adulterated, is only to be had even in the country at an 
■exorbitant price, and often only as a favour ? This all happens 
because our labourers of every kind are landless, and for no 
other reason whatever. Every English child who cannot get 
abundance of pure milk, every one who suffers from the want 
of cheap, fresh, and abundant fruit, vegetables, eggs, butter, and 
poultry, has the right to protest against this system. The 
wealthy landowners know nothing of these evils, for they grow 
all these products themselves ; but thirty million people cannot 
for ever live as if in a desert, or in a state of siege, in order that 
one million or less may be territorial lords and possess undue 
political and social power.* 

*As an authoritative exposition of the " free trade in land " arguments and 
views, we may refer to Mr. William Fowler, M.P., who, inthe"CobdenClub 
Essays" (Vol. II, p. I2l), argues justly against the scheme of the late J. S. 
Mill that it would render the charges against land uncertain and fluctuating, 
and would thereby diminish its value as a secure investment. He maintains 
throughout his essay that the great thing, and the only needful thing, is to 
cause capital to be expended on the land, and for this purpose he advocates 
the removal of all restrictions on its ownership and its transfer. This, he 
believes, will do all that is necessary for the labourer, by rendering it the 
interest of the landlord to house and feed him well, just as the farmer 

The Solution of the Problem. 19 r 

Nationalisation of the Land the only Effective Remedy. — 
Having now shown that the panacea of the " free trade in 
land " school would not sensibly diminish the various evils of 
landlordism which have been pointed out in the preceding 
chapters, but that it would, on the contrary, very probably 
intensify some of them, it remains to be shown that a remedy 
£an be found for the terrible disease under which the social 

houses and feeds his horses well. But this very same argument was used 
in the case of slavery. It was said that slaves could not be seriously ill- 
treated, or maimed, or murdered, because it was against the interest of 
their owners to deteriorate their own property. Yet no fact is more certain 
than that they were so ill-treated, or that in many cases they were systema- 
tically worked out, it being found cheaper to exhaust them and buy others 
than to keep them in old age. So, the fact is certain (and has been proved 
in the preceding chapters) that, however much capital is expended on the 
land, the labourer does iwt benefit. On the highly cultivated farms of the 
lowlands of Scotland, the cottages and bothies in which the hinds are 
lodged are often bad and insufficient, as bad at least as in the worst 
cultivated parts of England. It does not do, therefore, to look at this 
question solely from a landlord-and-tenant point of view, and treating the 
labourer solely as a part of the necessary " stock " of the farm. Yet this 
is what Mr. Fowler and the free-trade-in-land men do. We find it stated 
that, "a good cottage can only be considered self-supporting in the same 
sense that good stables and good cattle-sheds are self-supporting, and tlw 
■only hope thai, the labourer can have of heing properly housed is, that the 
landowners should accept ihe position that good cottages conveniently placed 
pay, in the same sense that good farm offices $0 placed pay." And it is 
assumed that the only reason why landlords do not act on this principle is, 
that they have only life-interests in the land. To support this view it should 
have been shown that wherever an estate is not encumbered by entails, the 
cottages are ample and convenient, but no attempt whatever has been made 
to do this, while the universality of bad, dear, and inconvenient cottages 
•over the whole country, and the absence of all adequate provision of garden 
ground attached to them, is a strong proof that this is not the only or the 
chief cause of the deficiency. On the other hand, it is a fact established by 
overwhelming evidence, that wherever the labourer possesses land from 
which he cannot be ejected at the will of his landlord or his employer, he 
invariably secures for himself decent house-accomodation, while he has also 
that feeling of independence and security which is the foundation of every 
social and political virtue. The labourer, therefore, has a right to refuse 
to be treated as a mere portion of the farming stock, to be housed well or 
ill as the landlord chooses ; and the placing him in this position is the 
condemnation of "free trade in land," as the panacea for all the evils 
connected with the land-system, put forward by the Cobden Club School 
of Reformers. 

192 Land Nationalisation. 

organism in our country is labouring, that this remedy may be 
applied without injury to anyone, and that its results will be irk 
the highest degree beneficial to every class of the community. 

Let us first state what are the necessary requirements of a. 
complete solution of the land problem as enunciated in these 
pages : — 

(i) In the first place, it is clear that landlordism must be- 
replaced by occupying ownership. No less radical reform will 
get rid of the widespread evils of our present system. 

(2) Arrangements must be made by which the tenure of 
the holder of land must be secure and permanent, and nothing, 
must be permitted to interfere with his free use of the land, or 
his certainty of reaping all the fruits of any labour or outlay he 
may bestow upon it. 

(3) Arrangements must be made by which every British 
subject may secure a portion of land for personal occupation at. 
its fair agricultural value. 

(4) All suitable tracts of unenclosed and waste lands must 
(under certain limitations) be open to cultivation by occupying 

(s) The freest sale and transfer of every holder's interest in 
his land must be secured. 

(6) In order that these conditions be rendered permanent, 
sub-letting must be absolutely prohibited, and mortgages strictly 

Occupancy and Virtual Ownership must go together. — The 
first of these propositions hardly needs further elucidation or 
discussion. The whole bearing of the facts adduced in this- 
volume is to show that landlordism per se is necessarily evil, 
while the occupation of land by its real or virtual owners is 
good just in proportion as the owner is in a position to receive 
the whole benefit, present and future, of his outlay on the land. 

To Secure this, the State must be the Real Owner or Ground- 
Landlord. — It is, however, equally clear that the nature of 

The Solution of the Problem. 193 

ownership of land must not be the same as that of other 
property, as, if so, occupying ownership (which alone is 
beneficial) would not be universally secured. A person must 
own land only so long as he occupies it personally ; t^iat is, he 
must be a perpetual holder of the land, not its absolut? owner ; 
and this implies some superior of whom he hold* it We 
thus come back to that feudal principle (which in theory still 
exists) that every one must hold his land from the State, 
subject to whatever general laws and regulations are made for 
all land so held. The State must in no way deal with 
individual landowners, except through the medium of special 
Courts which will have to apply the laws in individual cases. 
Thus no State management will be required, with its inevitable 
evils of patronage, waste, and favouritism, 

It is also essential that the State should be the actual owner 
of the land, in order that it may be untrammelled in making 
from time to time such general rules and regulations for its 
tenure as may be found needful for the public good. If 
absolute ownership— or what is now termed a freehold — be 
continued, every such absolute owner becomes an obstacle to 
needful reform, and the right to purchase land (under limita- 
tions to be hereafter mentioned) which every Englishman 
ought to possess would seem a harsh interference with the 
rights of property. The State alone, as universal landowner, 
will be able to provide means by which every man, from the 
labourer upwards, may procure suitable land for his personal 
occupation ; and, unless this is done, fully half the benefits of 
a good land-system will be lost. 

The State must become Owner of the Land apart from the 
Improvements added to it. — It being thus determined that the 
State must be the only landowner, but that the tenants of the 
State must be permanent, must be subject to no restrictions or 
interference in dealing with the land, and must be able to sell 
or transfer it with a minimum of trouble and expense, we 


194 Land -Nationalisdhon. 

proceed to show how this may be done in the simplest and 
most beneficial way,- and so as to interfere as little as possible 
with the rights and Interests of existing landowners. All 
previous writers on the possibility of nationalising the land 
have overlooked a very obvious fact, which is really the key to 
a practical solution of the problem. This fact is, that all 
enclosed or cultivated land has its value made up of two 
distinct portions, easily separable and affording a basis for an 
important division of ownership. These portions are— ^firstly, 
the inherent value, and, secondly,- the improvements or 
additions added to the inherent value by the labour or outlay 
of the owners or occupiers. The important difference of these 
two portions of value is, that the one can be maintained, 
increased, or destroyed by the energy or the neglect of the 
holder of the land ; the other— the inherent value — cannot 
(except in rare cases) be so destroyed or even deteriorated; for 
it depends on such natural conditions as geological formation, 
natural drainage, climate, aspect, surface, and subsoil— or on 
such general facts and conditions as density of population, 
vicinity of towns, ports, railroads, or public highways, none of 
which were created or are capable of being much altered by 
the individual action of the landholder. This portion of the 
value of the land, therefore, may conveniently become the 
property of the State, which iriay be remunerated for its use by 
payment of a perpetual quit-rent. The other portion, which is 
that created by the exertions of the landholder or his 
ipredecessors— consisting of buildings, fences, drains, gates, 
private roads, plantations, &c., &c. — should always be the 
property of the tenant and holder of the land, and it may 
conveniently be termed the tenant-right, because its possession 
will constitute him a tenant of the State, and because It is 
that portion of the value of landed property which must 
always belong to the tenant, while the land or soil itself 
remains fn the possession of the supreme lord of the soil, the 

The Solution of tlie Problem. 19S 

State. The term is familiar from its use in Ireland, as 
applied to that portion of the value of land which the tenant 
has created by his labour, and which, by custom, he has the 
right to sell or transfer. 

As the possibility of practically determining the comparative 
value of these two elements in landed property has been 
doubted by some critics — among others, by Professor F. W. 
Newman, who is favourable to my scheme if it can be worked 
— it will be well here to say a few words on this supposed 
difficulty. . 

Mode of Determining the Value of the Quit-Rent and the 
Tenant-Eight. — During the interval between the passing of the 
Act providing for Nationalisation and the date of its coming 
into operation — perhaps five, or even ten years — a complete 
valuation of the landed property of the whole kingdom will 
have to be made. This valuation must be of the annual or 
rental value of the land, and it must be of each field, enclosure, 
or other separable plot of land, however small — not on estates 
or holdings. This estimate of the annual value of each plot 
of land as it stands must then be divided into two parts, the 
one the value of the landlord's own portion — the future 
tenant-right ; the other the inherent value, including th^t 
given to it by the community as well as by the cultivation of 
preceding generations of tenants. The separation of these 
two values would be by no means a difficult task, as a few 
considerations will show. By the general custom of the 
locality it would be found what had usually been done by the 
landlord, what by the tenant. In most parts of England it 
would be the presumption that the buildings and gates had 
been provided by the landlord, and this presumption would be 
acted on by the valuers in the absence of evidence to the 
contrary. As to fences, the presumption would probably be 
the other way. Very old enclosures have almost certainly been 
made by successive occupiers, and where any considerable 

o 2 

196 Land Nationalisation. 

amount of new fencing had been done by the landlord within 
living memory, or even beyond it, personal or documentary 
evidence of the fact would be forthcoming. The expenditure, 
or rather the work done, by the landlord or his predecessors 
could thus be ascertained with considerable accuracy, and 
would form the basis for the valuatioa 

There are two extreme cases in which the separation of the 
two values would be easy — the one in which buildings are the 
main feature of the plot, the other in which nothing has been 
done to the land but mere enclosure and cultivation. In the 
former we have the case of house-rent and ground-rent, which 
any valuer could determine, especially as certain general prin- 
ciples would be laid down for his guidance — as, for instance, 
that the area of ground occupied by a farm-house, garden, 
farm-yard or buildings should be estimated at the average 
agricultural value of the whole farm ; while the buildings 
would be estimated at a fair interest on their approximate cost, 
less depreciation and repairs, if they were convenient and well 
suited to their purpose. If, on the other hand, they were badly 
arranged, badly built, or inconvenient, then a further deduction 
would have to be made to arrive at their value, which is often 
vfry different from the cost cf a thing. In the other extreme 
are old enclosures which have never been drained, and which, 
presumably, have had nothing whatever done to them by the 
landlord or his predecessors, except perhaps supplying gates ; 
and here the tenant-right would be a minimum — sometimes 
perhaps only a few shillings— while the fair rental value of the 
land, less this amount, would be the quit-rent In this valua- 
tion the landlord would receive the benefit of the increased 
value given to the land by the continued cultivation of succes- 
sive generations of tenants, as well as that due to the increase 
of population and civilisation in the community ; and in every 
case the sum of these two values — the tenant-right and the 
-quit-rent — would make up the fair rental value of the farm.' 

The Solution of the Problem. igy 

The annual value of the tenant-right, capitalised on a scale 
determined by the durability of these landlord's improvements, 
would be the sum to be paid him by the tenant who wished 
to hold the land under the State. 

We have thus shown how the two values which make up all 
landed property may be separated with comparative ease and 
•certainty, and with quite sufficient accuracy. While writing 
these pages the thing is being done in Ireland by the various 
Land Courts, so that impracticability can no longer be urged 
against it. It is, as we have shown, the very foundation of a 
practicable scheme of land-nationalisation, and even were it 
more difficult than it is, it would be worth any amount of 
time and trouble to do it 

There remains only now to consider how existing landlords 
may be compensated with the least permanent injury to the 
community for the quit-rents which will henceforth be payable 
to the State. 

How Existing Landowners may be Compensated. — In order 
that the State may become possessed of this portion of the value 
of all landed property in the kingdom, it must compensate 
existing landowners and their expectant heirs. This may be 
done either by its purchase for a fixed sum, or by securing 
them the full revenue they have hitherto derived from it For 
many reasons this last is by far the best way. It would involve 
no great financial operation, no elaborate determination of 
absolute value, in which the seller would almost certainly obtain 
more than his due, to the detriment of the public ; while it 
would at the same time serve to mark a great principle, that 
the soil itself is, and has always been, the property of the State ; 
and that the State merely resumes its own for the public good, 
but of course without diminishing the income which any living 
person does or may derive from it 

The period for which such annuities are to last is a matcer of 
detail, but it is clearly better that they should depend upon a 

198 Land Nationalisation. 

certain number of lives than be for a fixed term of years, 
because in the former case the recipient does not suffer the 
inconvenience and sense of loss caused by the cessation of an, 
important part of his income during his lifetime. That they 
should not be perpetual is also clear ; for that would be to 
acknowledge a perpetual right of individuals to the land and 
its produce; it would burthen the land with a permanent tax 
for the future benefit of persons who would have done nothing 
whatever to earn or deserve it ; and it would help to create and 
keep in existence a class of pensioned idlers, living upon the 
labours of others, without the smallest exertion of body or mind 
on their own part. That there should be some such persons in 
every highly complex society may in our present state of civili- 
sation be a necessity, but that any great extension of this class 
is a serious evil is so universally admitted that it would be 
little less than criminal for any legislature actually to provide 
for their perpetual existence, a constant burthen on the commu- 
nity, a hindrance to true social advancement. This perpetuation 
of a large body of persons living on the labours of others i'i 
one of the necessary evil results of landlordism. It has been 
hitherto palliated by the supposed duties which they exercise 
in the " management " of their estates, and their supposed 
beneficial influence over the districts in which they reside ; 
but the former have been shown to be injurious, and the latter 
illusory. Their continued existence for a time, as pensioners 
on the land, can only be defended on the ground that the 
property of living individuals should be strictly respected by the 
State as well as by their fellow citizens. Their accustomed 
enjoyments and reasonable expectations must not be interfered 
with. But no such rule applies to the unborn. They , have 
neither expectations nor proprietary rights, arid they may be 
justly disregarded when their supposed rights are opposed tO' 
the general well-being of the community. 

In accordance with these considerations, the principle that 

The Solution of the Problem. 199 

seems most consonant with justice is, to continue the annuity 
successively to any heir or heirs of the landowner who may be 
living at the passing of the Act, or who may be born at any 
time before the decease of the said owner. This would ensure 
to the owner himself and to all persons in whom he could 
possibly have any personal interest the same net income from 
the land which they enjoyed before the passing of the Act. It 
would take away from them only the right of sale, but as this 
is the very thing which the majority of English landowners 
themselves take away from their heirs, and the power to do 
which they account one of their greatest privileges, they can 
hardly object to the same thing being done by the State for a 
great public purpose. It must also be remembered that the 
annuitants will enjoy the State's guarantee of the income, and 
so be saved from the fluctuations of annual produce to which 
landed property is now pre-eminently liable ; and, further, that 
that portion of the value of the land which has been created by 
themselves or their predecessors — the tenant-right — will still be 
their own absolutely, either to retain themselves, or to sell to 
the highest bidder, the power of letting only being taken 
away as manifestly inconsistent with the public welfare. 

Alleged Unfairness x)f Compensation by Means of Terminable 
Annuities. — ^The objection to this mode of dealing with land- 
owners most frequently put forward is, to suppose two men 
with, say, ;^io,ooo each, one of whom invests his money in 
Consols, the other in land. The former, it is said, derives a 
perpetual income from hiG property ; the latter intends to do 
the same, but you change it into a terminable annuity and so 
rob him. The answer to this is, that the " perpetual income" is 
purely imaginary. > No man can enjoy an income longer than 
for his life, with the power of leaving it to his next heir. Here 
his actual enjoyment of it ceases absolutely, and all this enjoy- 
ment he retains under the new system. His heir may spend, 
or give away, or lose the ;:^io,ooo in Consols, and his wish or 

200 Land Nationalisation. 

expectation that the money will be increased and go to enrich 
unborn generations of his family is not a thing to be valued or 
compensated.* It is true that the selling value of the land, on 
the probability of the Act passing, or when it has passed, may 
be diminished; but, whenever such a diminution of value takes 
place in any other kind of property from a similar cause, 
confiscation is not admitted and compensation is not allowed. 
Many manufacturers have been ruined and many workmen 
reduced to beggary by the direct action of the State in remov- 
ing protective duties, on the faith of which they had invested 
their capital or their manual skill, and in no case have they 
been compensated for the loss, compensation being refused on 
the ground that the measure was for the benefit of the whole 
community, and that they participate in that benefit. In such 
cases both property and income were often destroyed at one 
blow, while here the income remains untouched, and even 
acquires increased stability ; and the general welfare will 
assuredly be advanced to a greater extent by occupying owner- 

* Not only is the supposed " perpetual income " derived from Consols or 
any other form of investment non-existent as regarjJs any living owner, but 
it may be shown to be altogether unjust in principle and impossible in fact. 
Let us see what the contrary assumption — that interest on capital paid in 
perpetuity is altogether right and expedient— rleads us to. The surplus 
capital of each generation will be invested to produce a " perpetual income " 
for all succeeding generations. But as each generation creates more surplus 
capital, its amount, and thaf of the " perpetual income " derived from it( 
will go on increasing ; and without approaching perpetuity we should very 
soon arrive at a state of things in which this interest would be of so vast an 
amount that the workers-r-the producers of all wealth — could not possibly 
pay it. This period would arrive sooner because, with the increase of the 
"perpetual incomes," those supported in idleness on these incomes would 
also increase continually ; and we come, at last, to the redvMa, ad eibsusr- 
dwm, that the "income" would be so ^reat that it would support everybody 
if there was only anybody else to pay it'! It is evident that before long the 
result must be, either a tevolution, in which all such incomes would be 
swallowed up, or a progressive decrease in the purchasing power of money, 
which, if the " income " were really perpetual, would inevitably end in its 
becoming worthless. As a matter of feet we see this tendency already in 
in action, in the constantly increasing cost of living with the constantly 
decreasii^ rate of secure interest The conception of " perpetual income '* 
is therefore a fallacy from two distinct points of view. 

TJie Solution of the Problem. 201 

ship of the land than it has been by the extension of Free 
Trade to articles of luxury, such as silk and jewellery. The 
general well-being is, of course, the sole justification for any 
such interference with any form of property, or with the 
established condition of society. It has been shown by an 
overwhelming mass of evidence that the great change here 
proposed is essential to the welfare of the whole community j 
and it is certain that no great reform was ever effected with so 
little interference with the property or the means of enjoyment 
of individuals as will be necessary here. 

It may, however, be doubted whether even the selling value 
of land would be at all diminished by the proposed legislation, 
and for the following reasons. Till quite recently there has 
always been much competition for farms, and there is always a 
great demand for small plots of land at anything like an agri- 
cultural value. But when this proposed Act has passed, every- 
one wishing to purchase land will have to purchase the tenant- 
right only, paying the annual quit-rent, as above defined, to the 
State. This will render the purchase of land very easy, and 
will certainly bring in more purchasers. The demand for land, 
either as residential estates, or in small lots for farms or 
gardens, will probably exceed the supply ; and thus the price 
will rise, perhaps, sufficiently to cover the margin between the 
value of an annuity for, say three lives, and that of one nomi- 
nally in perpetuity ; and, if it does so, then the landlord will 
suffer no loss whatever.* 

* In order to render any diminution even of the selling value of the land 
less probable, the annuity might be extended to three generations certain, 
in the direct line, that is, to the actual owner, his sons, and grandsons, as 
well as to any collateral or other heirs living at the time the Act came into 
operation. As it is practically certain that the power of entail, and, 
perhaps, that of transmitting any property to unborn heirs, will be abolished 
long before Nationalisation is effected, and as land could then be used only 
for personal occupation, the valiieof such an annuity would be very great 
to those who wished to secure a competency to their family during the two 
generations after them, because they could do this in no other way so easily 
and so securely. There will, therefore, in all probability, be a great demand 
for these annuities by trustees and others. 

203 Land Nationalisation. 

How Tenants may become Occupying Owners. — Having thus 
shown how the owner would be compensated for the land itself, 
we proceed to show how the tenant-right would be dealt with, 
and what would be the position of the purchasers of tenant- 

The land having been acquired by the State, every existing 
tenant, at the date the Act came into operation, would be 
entitled to continue in the occupation of his house, his farm, or 
his 'land of any description, as a holder under the State, oa 
payment of the fixed quit-rent ; but to constitute him such a 
State tenant, he must first purchase or otherwise acquire the 
tenant-right. He will be enabled to do this, either by purchas- 
ing it from the landlord under a private arrangement, or, if an 
agreement as to its value cannot be arrived at, then the official 
va:luer or a " land court," similar to those which administer the 
Irish Land Bill, may be called in to determine the fair value. 
As soon as this is paid by the tenant, he becomes the absolute 
owner of the tenant-right, and as such the holder of the land 
under the .State in perpetuity, so long as the quit-rent is paidi. 
The tenant-right, which thus carries with it the right to the land 
(subject to the quit-rent), -will be as freely saleable as any other 
property ; it will be capable of being sub-divided, and' sold, or 
bequeathed in portions, and thus the holder of land will, for all 
beneficial uses, be as much the real owner as if it were a freehold. 

As Nationalisation is proposed in order (among other things) 
to prevent any one being ejected from his house or farm 
against his will, and as some tenants would not be able to 
provide the sum necessary to purchase the tenant-right, provi- 
sion must be made (either by authorised Loan Societies or 
by municipal authorities) for the advance of the sum required, 
to be repaid by a terminable rental extending over periods of, 
say, from 14 to 40 years. 

Subletting must be Absolutely Prohibited. — Such a holder 
under the State would be absolutely free to use his land as he 

Tlie Solution of the Problem. ?03 

pleased, just as much as a freeholder is now, because he would 
be the owner of everything but the land itself, and if he chose 
to deteriorate his property, that would injure no one but him- 
self As a rule, he would immensely improve it, because it 
would be his own. There must, however, be one restriction 
on his use of the land, which is, that he must not sublet it 
This is absolutely essential to secure the full benefits of Nation- 
alisation, because, once admit subletting, and landlordism would 
again rise under another name, and the subtenants would be 
subject to all the injurious influences and conditions the aboli- 
tion of which is the very raison {Tetreoi the reform. The State, as 
owner of the land, can prohibit subletting, and the impprtance 
of doing so is admitted by all who have studied the subject 
It is well known that in Ireland the middlemen were often the 
hardest landlords, while none rack-rent their tenants more 
than those who have purchased land for the purpose of deriving 
an income from it Even where peasant proprietorship largely 
prevails, its benefits are often neutralised by the more success- 
ful owners purchasing farms to let to tenants, and it is the 
universal testimony that evil results ensue. Mr, Thornton 
states that : — " Peasants who let their land to be cultivated by 
others are, of all landlords, the most griping. Anything but 
satisfactory is the condition of the actually cultivating class, 
wherever, on the one hand, landed property is minutely sub- 
divided, and, on the other hand, is not occupied by its owners. 
Such is the case throughout Flanders generally, and quite 
saddening are some of the details . given by M. de Laveleye 
with respect to Flemish tenant-farmers." It is, therefore, quite 
clear that subletting must be prevented and personal occupa- 
tion be insisted, on, and this is a sufficient answer to those who 
advocate assisting tenants to purchase the., freehold oi i)\tit 
farms, instead of being holders under the State. For where- 
ever, in thickly populated countries, there are small freeholders, 
they are dying out, owing to the demand for land as an invest- 

204 Land Nationalisation 

ment This has been the case, not in England only, but, as ve 
have shown, in many parts of Europe and in America ; and it 
is probable that any such system of purchase would, as the 
Edinburgh Reviewer already quoted maintains, have to be all 
done over again after a few generations, while in the mean- 
time it would hardly touch the more important evils which have 
been shown to be inherent in landlordism.* 

Evils of Subletting in Towns. — Still greater evils arise from 
subletting in the vicinity of towns, a good illustration of which 
is furnished by the following statement of the Daily News 
special commissioner as to the present condition of the town of 
Killarney. He says : — " The great estates of the Lord 
Chamberlain have curiously enough been equally damaged by 
the care and carelessness of his ancestors. His great-grand- 
father was disgusted at the condition of the town of Killarney, 
and offered any tenant who would build a decent house with a 
slate roof a perpetual lease of the land it stood upon and the 
adjoining garden for the nominal rent of of four shillings and 
fourpence per annum, without other important conditions. The 
result has been that Killarney can boast of as filthy lanes as any 
in London or Liverpool. The ordinary process, the same as 
that which formed the hideous slums between Drury-lane and 
Great Wild-street, now happily demolished, has gone on in 
Killarney. Tenants under no restrictions gradually converted 
their gardens into lanes of hovels, and made money thereby, 
and the result is a concentration in Killarney of filth which 
would be better distributed on the side of a mountain, and 
which is under the nose of a landlord who is powerless to apply 
a remedy." 

Mortgaging should be Strictly Limited. — Next in importance 
to the evil of subletting is that of heavy mortgages on the land 
of the cultivator. Many writers point out this evil, but none 

* This would not prevent temporary subletting by permission of the 
Courts, to keep house or land for minors, and in other analogous cases. 

The Solution of the Problem. 205 

suggest any remedy. In Ireland the " Gombeen " men, or 
usurers, were the curse of the country, while in parts of Austria 
the small landowners are so deeply indebted to their mortgage 
creditors that a party has been formed who advocate the 
annulment of all mortgages on small estates. The State being 
owner of the land, and the ienant-righi being its security for 
the quit-rent, it may properly regulate the proportionate amount 
to which mortgages may be permitted on landed property, and 
may only allow them on condition that they are to be extin- 
guished by annual repayments within a definite period, and 
it might also very properly refuse to allow the same landowner 
to mortgage his land more than once, on the ground that he 
who cannot farm except under a perpetual mortgage should 
either reduce the amount of his land or give way to those who 
have sufficient capital. 

Whether any Limits should be Placed to the Quantity of Land 
Personally Occupied. — Before leaving this part of our subject 
there is one question that must be clearly answered. What 
limit, if any, should be placed on the quantity of land one 
person might hold under the State? The Land and Labour 
League have proposed "that the lands of the country be 
divided into cultivable quantities, according to quality, of from 
two to twenty-five acres," and they further wish all parks and 
similar large areas of land held for pleasure to be cut up into 
farms for cultivation. Mr. Fowler, in the " Cobden Club 
Essays," seems to think that Some such scheme of division is an 
essential part of all systems of nationalisation, and he thus argues 
against it : — " But forced sub-division is as objectionable as 
forced accumulation. The one and the other alike interfere 
with the natural distribution of the land among the people, and 
ought, therefore, to be alike opposed by those who advocate 
the principles of Richard Cobden. We have no right to decide 
that a holding of one size as such is better in itself than another. 
It is our place to leave people to find out for themselves what 

206 Land Nationalisation. 

suits them best, provided always that we leave them really 

All this is perfectly true, and it is, therefore, proposed to 
place no restriction whatever on the quantity of land one man 
may hold for personal occupation. Some men might wish to 
farm a thousand acres or more, while others would prefer. only 
ten or twenty. And as for parks, woods, and pleasure grounds, 
there is not the slightest reason, at present, for interfering 
with these. When the land is really free to all to be held and 
cultivated without restriction, there will be ample scope for 
increased production without interfering ' with these charming 
oases of sylvan scenery in the midst of often unpicturesque 
cultivated fields. But it may be said : — " Would you allow a 
duke or a millionaire to continue to hold ten or a dozen parks 
and houses in as many counties, as some of them do now ?" 
Even here I see no need for restrictive legislation so long as 
the duke retained them for his personal occupation. But, as 
he could, not sublet them, and as the estates attached to each 
of them would be no longer his, what possible reason could he 
have for retaining them ? Now, they are each the centre and 
visible indication of an estate, and it is a point of honour and 
dignity to retain them. When the estate was gone there would 
be no reason whatever for keeping the demesne and house, 
except in those cases where it, was a favourite dwelling. I -very 
much doubt whether, under the conditions here proposed, any 
proprietor in the kingdom would care about keeping up more 
than two country houses, and there is certainly no possible 
reason why he should not do this if he pleases. 

It is a strange thing, however, that such men as Mr. Fowler 
do not see that under mere free trade in land there could be 
no such freedom of cultivation as he strongly urges us to allow. 
The whole mass of evidence adduced in this volume shows a 
constantly increasing monopoly of land by the rich as the wealth 
of the pountry has increased, accompanied by a constantly 

The Solution of the' Problem. 207 

increasing limitation of freedom in the occupation and enjoy- 
ment of land. It is useless "leaving people to find out what 
suits them best," when land monopoly absolutely prevents them 
from obtaining what suits them best. 

Supposed. Objections to Land Nationalisatioti. — Before pro- 
ceeding to show how the labourers and the public in general 
are to be directly benefited, it may be well to reply to a few of 
the chief objections which have been made to all previous 
schemes for nationalising the land, and to show that none of 
them are in any degree applicable to that here advocated. We, 
will begin with Mr. Fowler, who, in the work already quoted, 
refers to schemes of this kind as being usually vague, adding : 
— " But the general thought of the proposers is clear enough, 
viz., that the management of land can safely be entrusted to a 
department of State, and that thus the interests of the people, 
as such, in the land can be extended, with the best results to the 
nation." He then goes on to argue that the State could not 
*' manage " land advantageously, any more than Corporations, 
which notoriously manage it very badly. "We know," he 
says, " what can be done by private ownership where the. law 
leaves it unfettered, but the experience we have of State 
management is not encouraging. .... In State manage- 
ment there is the minimum of private interest with the danger 
of a maximum of jobbery." 

All this is perfectly true if the State were to acquire ^twliole 
of a landed estate (including the tenant-right), and were to let 
it out and manage it as an existing landlord does ; but it is 
totally untrue as regards the present scheme, in which no 
" management " whatever is required or is possible, any more 
than the State " manages" house property because it collects a 
land-tax from each householdei:. 

■ Again, Mr. Arthur Arnold, in his " Free Trade in Land," 
says : — " The main object for which private property in land 
is sanctioned by the State, with the concurrence of all 

208 Land Nationalisation. 

rational people, is the belief that such ownership is most suc- 
cessful in promoting production. Production is at present 
very much neglected, but that is because private ownership is 
baulked by settlement, and by the " ungodly jumble " of our 
legal" processes. Production would undoubtedly be much 
greater if private property in land were more firmly and fully 
established. I cannot think it possible that a Government 
could promote production with anything like the power which 
may be obtained from private ownership." 

Here again we have the idea of " management," in "Govern- 
ment promoting production." But on our system Government 
would do nothing but leave production absolutely free under a 
system of universal " occupying ownership," which has been 
clearly demonstrated to be the form of ownership which most 
stimulates "production." Mr. G. Shaw Lefevre, M.P., 
although an advanced land-reformer, and fully aware of the 
advantages of any form of occupying ownership, is yet stag- 
gered by the practical difficulties in the way of its realisation. 
At a meeting of' the Statistical Society in November, 1880, he 
said, after referring to the differences between Ireland and 
England : — " In this country, where the farms were larger, it 
would require a very, large amount to be advanced by the 
State to enable a tenant to become the owner of his holding, 
and, apart from all other considerations, he believed the finan- 
cial difficulties would be insurmountable. But he hoped that 
wilh greater freedom in the sale and transfer of land, there, 
would be many instances in England in which ownership would 
be annexed to the cultivation of land, and the more this, 
condition of things spread, the greater would be the induce- 
ments to good agriculture." 

By the scheme here developed, however, no ^.dvance what- 
ever need be made by the State; while ownersjiip annexed to 
the cultivation of the land, which Mn Shaw Lefevre declares to. 
be so beneficial, would become universal 

Tlie Solution of the Problem. 209 

The Hon. George C. Brodrick, in his excellent work on 
"English Land and English Landlords," remarks:— "No 
doubt, it is a perfectly intelligible proposition that all the land 
in the Kingdom ought to be ' nationalised ' and placed under 
public management, because individual owners cannot be 
trusted with full dominion over that part of the earth's surface 
by which and upon which all the natives of England must live, 
unless they choose to emigrate. It is evident that, apart from 
all other objections, this doctrine is the very negation of the 
belief in peasant-proprietorship and ' the magic of property,' 
being, in fact, an essentially urban sentiment, and inevitably 
destructive to all independence of rural life. Nor can it be 
said that our experience of corporate administration, in the 
case of lands held by collegiate, ecclesiastical, and municipal 
bodies, as well as by trustees of charities, is such as to recom- 
mend the substitution of public for private ownership on a 
much grander scale." Here we have exactly the same idea of 
the necessity for " management " by the State as land-owner, 
and a complete misconception of the real nature of " natioiiali- 
sation " as here developed. 

Even Mr. J. Boyd Kinnear, who, in his valuable work, 
" Principles of Property in Land," has written so strongly on the 
evils of landlordism and the benefits of occupying ownership, 
sees the same supposed difficulties in nationalisation. He 
asks: — "But how is the State to perform the functions of 
landlord?" and he proceeds to show, at great length and 
with irresistible logic, the evils of any interference of the Stale 
in the cultivation or use of land. But this is all quite beside 
the question if the State owns the land only, not the improve- 
ments on the land, or " tenant-right" The late John Stuart 
Mill also was only withheld from proposing nationalisation of 
the land by the same difficulty. In his opening address to the 
Land Tenure Reform Association he said, speaking of nationali- 
sation : — " I do not know that it may not be reserved for us in 
the future ; but at present I decidedly do not think it expedient. 


210 Land Nationalisation. 

I have so poor an opinion of State management, or municipal 
management either, that I am afraid many years would elapse 
before the revenue realised for the State would be sufficient to 
pay the indemnity which would be justly claimed by the dis- 
possessed proprietors." 

This is really the sole objection of the slightest impor- 
tance that has been urged by most writers of eminence who 
have made a special study of the subject, and I have sought in 
vain for any more serious one. It follows that no valid 
objection has been yet urged which applies to the system of 
nationalisation here proposed. 

How Nationalisation will Affect Towns. — However disas- 
trous landlordism has been in the agricultural districts, its evils 
have been still more severely felt in towns and cities. Here 
the landlord has been complete master of the situation, and 
has been able to make his own terms, which the people have 
been bound to accept. These terms have amounted to the 
systematic confiscation of the property of others by the custom 
of building-leases and renewals ; and, together with the temp- 
tation of large profits to be made by speculation in building 
sites, have led to cheap and bad building, and frightful over- 
crowding of the poorer classes in courts, alleys, and cellars. 
These unsanitary conditions necessarily produce persistent 
disease as well as many social evils, while they greatly intensify 
if they do not originate most of the severe epidemics which 
still periodically attack us. These evils continue in full force 
to this very day, and under the present system of land-monopoly 
are quite incurable. As an example of confiscation — strictly 
legal, but none the less real — I give the following letter, which 
appeared in the Echo of October last year : — 

"to the editor of the echo. 

" Sir, — Through the medium of your valuable columns allow 
me space to explain my grievance. Two years ago I purchased 
-a house on the Portman Estate (eighteen years' lease) at 

The Solution of tJie Problem. 211 

;^io los. per annum. I spent more than ^^300 to put it into 
tenantable repair, thinking that I should get a renewal at a 
fair ground-rent. I applied, and the agent came to inspect 
the premises, and a few days after sent me the terms as follows : 
—Lease for 34 years— ground-rent to be ;^8o instead of ;^io ; 
fine ;!^i,ooo renewal, to be paid from the day of application, 
or s per cent, interest on the ^1,000 from that date, which 
would be principal and interest for eight years, ^£'1,400 ; im- 
provements to be done as stated in agreement, amounting to 
about £,t,oo, before a new lease is granted j all Viscount 
Porlman's solicitor's fees to be paid by me. For the simple 
drawing of this agreement I paid ^15. The last year of the 
34 years' lease the house to be re-decorated throughout ; the 
property to be insured by me in the Portman Fire Office. Upon 
remonstrating at the exorbitant terms, I received a letter from the 
agent that I could accept them or not, but in the event of my 
not accepting I should not have any further opportunity of 

" Now, Sir, what right can the landlord have to take away my 
house? He has never spent id. towards its improvement Of 
course the ground has increased in value, but that is through 
the tradespeople, and not through the landlord. The ground- 
rent is increased eight times ; then what right has the landlord 
to demand ^1,400 for a house that I bought, and what right 
has he to dictate improvements that I have to pay for, so that 
after the expiration of a few years he may get larger premises, 
and another larger premium, without him spending a fraction, 
not even to pay the solicitor for getting the money ? It seems 
incredible that people endure such extortion without seeking 
redress. I trust that others who are suffering the same wrong 
will come forward, so that effective action may be taken to alter 
the law, which beggars tradespeople to enrich the aristocracy. 
" Baker Street, Oct. 26. "Englishwoman." 

This is a typical case — though probably an extreme one — 

p 2 

212 Land Nationalisation. 

and it well shows how helpless the public are, and how, under 
the threat of eviction, they can be robbed by the form of free 
contract and under the protection of the law. We next give 
one example, equally typical but far more common, of the kind 
of dwelling landlordism provides for the poor. 

It is from a coroner's inquest on the body of a child which 
was killed simply by the foul air of the dwelling, as reported in 
^& Daily News, of November i6th, 1881 : — "Last evening 
Mr. Samuel F. Langham, deputy coroner for Westminster, held 
an inquest at St Martin's Vestry Hall, Strand, touching the 
death of William Howard, aged 1 1 months, lately living with 
his parents at No. 6, Hanover-court, Long-acre, who died on 
Friday, it was alleged from the unhealthy and unsanitary 
condition of the house. — Mrs. Emily Howard, wife of a labourer, 
and mother of the deceased, said that her child had been 
sickly from its birth. At about seven o'clock last Friday 
deceased was taken with a fit, and it rallied until ten o'clock, 
when it had another, and died in half an hour. She believed 
her child had died from the stench that came from the water- 
closet and yard, which were abominably unhealthy. She had 
occupied the first floor back for 18 months. She had not made 
any complaint to the landlord until after the death of the 
deceased. The cistern was right underneath the window and 
over the dusthole. — William Howard, the father, said that his 
window was just over the watercloset, and the stench was 
sometimes suffocating. He did not give notice because it was 
difficult to get another cheap place to live in. — Mr. Robert 
William Dunn, surgeon, 13, Surrey-street, Strand, deposed to 
having attended at the house and finding the child dead. 
Several people in the house complained of the unhealthy state 
of the place, one man saying he had never been well , since he 
had lived in the house. The place smelt of sewage. It made 
him sick when he entered. The deceased died from convul- 
sions. — ^The Foreman of the Jury : I myself am suffering from 

The Solution of the Problem. 213 

bad drainage in this neighbourhood, and several people in my 
house are suffering from the same cause, and the chances are 
that someone will become seriously ill, — The Doctor : I should 
not be surprised if typhoid fever were to break out in the house, 
especially seeing the position of the cistern and the water- 

In another inquest reported in the same day's paper in 
another part of London, the Divisional Surgeon of Police said — 
" that the parents and two children slept in one bed ; that the 
room was very unhealthy and quite unfit for human habitation." 
The coroner "had no doubt that, if the wretched, poverty- 
stricken people could go to clean and decent houses for a little 
money, such scandals as the Marylebone fever dens would 
cease to exist. The poor were compelled to herd and crowd 
and shift for themselves as best they could, and the fever and 
disease and death went on year by year, notwithstanding the 
march of science and medical sanitation." 

Now, these are the direct results of private property in land 
under the conditions which prevail in this country. The 
consolidation of farms, and the destruction of cottages, so much 
favoured by great landlords and their agents, have driven the 
labourers from the country into the towns ; and land-monopoly 
in its necessary action brings about the condition of their 
dwellings above indicated. That the labourers are thus forced 
to the towns has been shown in my earlier chapters. The fact 
is clearly proved by the returns of the last census, and public 
writers have been deploring it, without, apparently, seeing its 
cause and its only cure ; and if further evidence is wanted of the 
serious character of this movement and its danger to the 
country, it is to be found in Mr. John Bright's speech at Roch- 
dale, on his 70th birthday. He says: — "There is another 
question which workmen everywhere should learn and bear in 
mind — that the labour in the agricultural districts was becom- 
ing more and more costly, whilst it was worse in quality, because 

214 Land Nationalisation. 

the younger people, finding that they had no tie to the soil, 
that they can never become anything but labourers at very low 
wages, are leaving the rural parishes in which they have been 
born. They are emigrating to the great towns in the neighbour- 
hood, and not a few of them are emigrating to the countries 
across the ocean. The result is that our landed system, with, 
its great estates and farms, cuts off the labourer almost entirely 
from the possibility of becoming either a tenant or an owner oj 
the land, and as he has no object in remaining there, he goes 
away. The Education Act now being put in force throughout 
the rural districts will add greatly to this effect I had a letter 
riot long ago from a clergyman who had lived many years in 
the south, and he told me he had noticed the result continually, 
and he thought it was one which must be seen much more in 
the future than in the past, because as all young people got 
some sort of education in the school, although not a thorough 
education, they were so far educated that they could read the 
newspaper and see what was being done in other parts of the 
country and in other countries ; and they, looking with a hope- 
less feeling at their position, emigrate therefore to the large towns, 
in the hope of bettering their condition, or they emigrate to 
foreign countries, and the result is that only the poorest labour 
is left behind, whilst it also becomes costlier and becomes more 
and more an increasing burden upon the farmer." 

I have called attention, by italics, to a few passages in this 
weighty paragraph, because they show that up to this very day 
there is no tendency whatever to better the condition of the 
rural labourers; while they fully support my contention that the 
overcrowding of towns, with its inevitable accompaniments of 
misery, vice, and disease, is the direct product of " our landed 

The cure of the evils of building-lease confiscation and some 
of those of overcrowding will probably be effected earlier than 
complete nationalisation ; for already there is a movement on 

TJie Solution of the Problem. 2 1 5 

foot for obtaining " tenant-right " for London, and, certainly, 
the case is exactly analogous to that of the Irish tenant-farmer 
who has made all the improvements on the land. If justice 
requires that he should be protected from having his property 
confiscated, the same rule applies still more strongly in cases 
where the property on the land bears so large a proportion to 
the value of the land as it does in the case of the leasehold 
houses of London and other great cities. The true and only 
effectual cure for all these iniquities and horrors is, however, to 
draw back the population from the towns to the country by the 
natural and healthy process of offering that greatest of all 
attractions — a free choice to every one of cheap land ; and how 
this is to be done will be shown immediately. Till that takes 
place some arrangement will have to be made by which the 
occupiers of town houses may become their owners. With the 
better class of houses this will follow exactly the same lines as 
the transfer of the land. The owner of the freehold or of the 
improved ground-rent will be compensated by a State annuity, 
while the house itself will be purchased by the tenant at a fair 
valuation, and, if desired, by means of a terminable rental As 
regards the poorer class of houses and those large buildings let 
out as offices or in fiats, either the municipality or some other 
authorised associations might purchase them, and let them out 
to such tenants as do not require entire houses or permanent 

We now pass on to the mode by which labourers and the 
public might acquire land. 

Free-selection of Residential Plots by Labourers and others. — 
The large mass of evidence collected in this volume conclusively 
shows that innumerable evils arise owing to the impossibility, 
under the present system, of acquiring land in small plots at 
agricultural prices. Such an unnatural state of things has been 
brought about by land monopoly, and so complete is the divorce 
of the great body of Englishmen from any right of ownership- 

2i6 Land Nationalisation. 

in their native soil, that, when nationalisation permits it, special 
arrangements must be made to allow of a speedy return to a 
more healthy condition. 

There is no one privilege so beneficial to the members of a 
community as to have an ample space of land on which to live. 
Surround the poorest cottage with a spacious vegetable garden, 
with fruit and shade trees, with room for keeping pigs and 
poultry, and for storing the house-refuse and manure at some 
distance from the dwelling, and give the occupier a permanent 
tenure at a low quit-rent, and the result is absolutely invariable. 
Such conditions, or anything approaching to them, always 
produce untiring industry and thrift, always remove the 
occupiers above poverty and pauperism, always produce health 
and contentment, always diminish, if they do not abolish, 
drunkenness and crime. Under such conditions the poorest cot 
would soon be improved and made into a comfortable dwell- 
ing ; the surplus fruit, vegetables, eggs, bacon, and other 
produce would benefit all the dwellers in the neighbouring 
towns, while the increased well-being of the rural population 
would react on all other occupations and revivify our home 

Equally important is it to every tradesman to be able to have 
a country house (if he can afford one) in which to bring up a 
healthy family, and this blessing a free choice of land at its 
fair agricultural value would give to thousands to whom it is 
now an unattainable dream. When the land has been acquired 
by the. nation, every Englishman may claim an equal right to 
possess a portion of it for personal occupation at its fair value, 
subject only to the equal rights of others, and to some amount 
of restriction as to quantity and situation in order not to 
interfere unnecessarily with agriculture or to inconvnience 
those already in possession. 

The mode in which this great boon may be obtained is 
simple. Every Englishman should be allowed, once in his life., 

The Solution of the Problem. 217 

to select a plot of land for his personal occupation. His right 
of choice will, of course, be limited to agricultural or waste 
land ; it will also be limited to land bordered by public roads 
affording access to it ; it will further be limited to a quantity of 
not less than one acre or more than five acres, and will cease 
on any estate from which a fixed proportion, say ten per cent, 
of the whole, has been taken, while it should not apply at all to 
very small holdings ; and finally, it will be limited by proximity 
to the dwelling of the occupier of the land, so as to subject him 
to no unnecessary annoyance. These limrtations would be deter- 
mined in each case by a local Court of the same character as 
the Sub-Commissions under the Irish Land Act, who would 
visit the ground, hear the statements of both parties, and finally 
mark out the lot granted. The Court would also determine 
the proportion of the quit-rent to be taken over by the new 
occupier, and the amount to be paid the farmer for his tenant- 
right of the plot in question. 

The limit of quantity has been fixed by the consideration 
that it is not for the public benefit that a house shall occupy 
less than one acre of land. Any labourer may easily cultivate 
this quantity in his spare hours with the assistance of his 
family, or he may stock it with fruit trees and devote it to 
poultry runs; while it would afford sufficient space for keeping all 
disagreeable smells some distance from the house or road, 
thus avoiding any unhealthiness or public nuisance. The 
higher limit of five acres is intended for those who want land 
enough to keep a horse or cow, which thousands would do 
could they have land with their house at a moderate price ; 
and it need hardly be said how much this would add to the 
health and enjoyment of a country life. Many have recognised 
he advantages of such a right of purchase of land, but under 
no system but Nationalisation is it possible to realise it. Dr. 
Macdonald in a letter to the Echo newspaper well says :— ^ 

" There must be freedom of land and its equitable distribu- 

2i8 Land Nationalisation. 

tion. It is simply scandalous that a poor man cannot get an 
acre of land for his cottage and garden, while the rich have 
tens of thousands of acres for parks and sporting grounds. 
Every person has a natural right to a permanent home in his 
native land, and how can we expect patriotism if this cannot 
be obtained ? Moreover, the acquisition of a bit of land is the 
only thing that will raise a man from serfdom to comparative 
independence. . . ., A man with an acre of land of his 
own is virtually independent, as he has always something to 
fall back upon when work fails, and it encourages in him a 
spirit of enterprise and thrift which may enable him to acquire 
five acres or more in time. He could build himself a comfort- 
able cottage, instead of living in the wretched hovels we see in 
most of our villages. For an industrious man to grow food for 
himself and his family on his own land is the straight road to 
prosperity and happiness; and there is no occupation so 
healthful and natural, and none so calculated to bring out the. 
best qualities of man's nature as husbandry. Moreover, the 
prosperity of agriculture very greatly depends on the cultivator 
having a permanent holding on the land he cultivates. 
Excessive rents and evictions insure a ruined people and a 
ruined soil." But he suggests no method of bringing this about 
except by the purchase of land from existing landowners, and 
selling it again to labourers — of course, at present monopoly 
and speculative prices.* 

* The permanent possession of a plot of land would have the effect of secur- 
ing the labourer of all kinds from that absolute dependence on the 
capitalist which, as pointed out in my first chapter, is one great cause of 
poverty and pauperism. It would be the first and greatest step in bringing 
about the state of things which Professor Cairnes recognised as that which 
alone would elevate the labourer. He says : — " It appears to me that the 
condition of any substantial improvement of a permanent kind in the 
labourer's lot is, that the separation of the industrial classes into labourers 
and capitalists which now prevails shall not be maintained ; that the 
labourer shall cease to be a mere labourer " (p. 339, Cairnes, "Some Leading 
Principles," &c.) Now the possessor of land would be a capitalist as well 
as a labourer. He would b* in a position to bargain on equal terms with 
his employer. He would be, what he is not now, a free man. 

The Solutiotf. of the Problem. 219 

Objections to the Right of Free-selection. — The only objection 
that has been made, or that perhaps, can be made, to the 
exercise of this right of selection and purchase of a plot of 
land, is, that it will injuriously cut up farms and interfere with 
farming, and that the farmers will violently oppose it. But 
with the careful restrictions and limitations above indicated, it 
is absurd to place the small injury or inconvenience it might 
be to a few farmers against the vast benefit to the acquirers 
of the land and to the whole community. Do farmers now 
refuse to take farms when the landlord reserves the right of 
taking portions to let for building? Are they seriously 
injured when a railroad or other public work takes some of 
their land ? Yet in both these cases the injury is far greater 
than would ever be the case under free-selection. For there is 
in the former cases no limitation to quantity, shape, or 
position. A man's fields may be cut across diagonally by a 
railroad, or his best piece of pasture may be taken away to 
build on, and the farmers have never cried out against this 
cutting up of their lands, probably because they know it would 
be useless. It is almost certain that the quantity of land taken 
for occupation would in most districts be not very large, and 
might not in many years equal the quantity taken for railroads 
and the waste-heaps of mines and factories. In this case, too, 
the farmers would directly benefit by the operation. It would 
secure them a body of thrifty and industrious labourers, 
attached to the soil, and therefore always at hand to labou 
when wanted ; while, having resources of their own, they would 
never require to be set to unprofitable work merely to keep 
them on, nor would they swell the poor rates by being 
periodically in the receipt of parish relief. It would also 
secure a comparatively wealthy rural population, which would 
aid in keeping the labourers employed at odd jobs when farm- 
ing work was slack, and would furnish a market for some of 
the farmers' produce or stock. It must also be remembered 

320 Land Nationalisation. 

that for all land taken from his farm for this purpose the 
farmer would be fairly and fully compensated, while his. 
objections and wishes would be so far respected as to keep 
away all intrusion which could be any real injury or annoyance 
to him. He would, therefore, have no solid grounds for 
objection to a measure calculated to produce such v,'idely 
beneficial results, and would probably have the good sense to 
see that personal predilections must, in this case, as in every 
other, give way to the public benefit* 

* In the Contemporary Eeview of March 1882, the Rev. W. L. Blackley, 
(author of the admirable scheme of National Insurance now exciting so 
much attention) endeavours to demonstrate the absurdity of this proposal 
" by a very simple process of arithmetic." He shows clearly that if every 
man and woman over 20 years of age should claim his or her five acres, the 
whole agricultural land of the country would not suffice to supply them. It 
is surprising that a writer so acute and logical as Mr. Blackley usually is 
did not see the futility of such an objection. Its whole force depends on 
the supposition that such classes of people as domestic servants, City clerks, 
small tradesmen, and shopkeepers, and the whole body of unmarried men 
and women, should have the desire and the means of suddenly quitting 
their present mode of life and purchasing or renting five acres of land each 
for personal occupation I As well might a person reading for the first time 
of the ICO acre lots offered in Canada and Australia, almost for nothing, 
and knowing the high wages of mechanics and domestic servants in those 
countries, jump to the conclusion that these same classes will at once emi- 
grate en masse, and thus leave England entirely destitute of workers. Let 
us, however, see what are the actual probabilities of the case. 

The total number of families in Great Britain is about six millions, and 
it is with families we have to deal, since single men and women do not, as 
a rule, occupy separate houses, much less land. Of these about a million 
will be comprised in the categories of landowners, farmers, merchants, and 
the official and professional classes, whose wants as regards land for per- 
sonal occupation are already, for the most part, supplied. Of the remainder, 
about three millions are town dwellers, and probably only a small per- 
centage of these would be in a position to utilise land in the country. Per- 
haps 10 per cent, would be a sufficient estimate, but to give ample margin 
we will take 16 per cent., or about half a million in all, and most of these 
would not care to have more than an acre or two. There remains the 
poorer country dwelling families, mostly labourers, mechanics, and village 
tradesmen, and of these a larger proportion — perhaps half the whole num- 
ber — might take advantage of the right of pre-emption within the first ten 
years. This would make, together, one and a half million families ; and if 
we put the average amount of land taken by each at two acres, we arrive at 
a total of three millions of acres thus occupied, or rather less than 10 per 
cent, of the whole agricultural land of the country. Probably, however, a 
portion of this amount would be taken from the commons and waste lands. 

The Solution of the Problem. 22 1 

Why Free-selection should be restricted to Once in a Man's 
Life.-~l\. may, perhaps, be said, it this free-selection is so 
beneficial to the community, why restrict it to once in a man's 
life ? When he wants to settle in another part of the country 
why should he not select again ? The reason of this restriction 
is, however, obvious. It is granted once, because, in many 
■districts, all the land being already occupied, the landless 
Englishman has no means of acquiring land to live upon in the 
•quantities and situations most advantageous to him. He 
would have to bribe the actual holders with a high price, and 
even then would often be refused. It is to give him the 
opportunity of living where he pleases, when he is in a position 
to require a permanent home, but it is not intended to afford 
the means of speculation, or of making a profit by selecting 
choice spots, building houses on them, and then selling them. 
This restriction to one choice will make men very careful not 
to choose too early, and thus not to throw away their 
privilege ; while, as there will always be a certain number of 
persons in every part of the country who are obliged by 
circumstances to sell their lots, these, in addition to the houses 
always in the market, will enable those who require temporary 
houses as well as those who have been obliged to part with 
their selected lots, to find houses more or less suitable to them 
■with greater ease than at present These considerations show 
that there will be no great rush for lots, as some critics of the 

which could be had at a cheaper rate. The quantity thus taken would no 
■doubt go on slowly increasing, and possibly, in the course of centuries, the 
"bulk of the whole land of our country might come to be occupied in small 
farms or residential plots, the produce of which would, in most cases, be 
supplementary to the gains of some industrial occupation. But so far from 
there being anything to dread in this, if the illustrative facts adduced in 
this volume teach us one thing more clearly than another, it is that such a 
consummation would be an unmixed blessing — that it would give us a 
-healthy, happy, and contented population, in which want and pauperism 
would be unknown, while our land would be covered with a succession of 
gardens and of cottage farms as in the Channel Islands, producing far more 
both of human food and human happiness than it could produce in any 
■other way. 

222 Land Nationalisation. 

scheme have hastily imagined, but that, except near towns, 
farmers would be comparatively little troubled by the free- 
selectors. It must also be remembered that it is often the 
most worthless parts of an estate that are most desired for 
residential purposes — bits of healthy upland, or woody spots 
with a fine view, while the rich, open arable fields, the low 
meadows, or the open pastures would be comparatively 

Free-selection would Check the Growth of Towns, and Add to 
the Beauty and Enjoyability of Rural Districts. — ^There can be 
no doubt whatever that the power of obtaining land where and 
when required would lead to a steady flow of population from 
the towns to the country. Villages in all the more picturesque 
parts of the country which, at the will of great landowners, have 
remained for generations stationary, would steadily increase ih 
population ; but, as building speculation would be almost im- 
possible, they would grow in the most picturesque manner by thfe 
addition here and there of single houses, of every size and cost, 
but never crowded together, so that the rural beauty of the 
district would not be marred. We should never see then (as 
we may often see now) noble old trees ruthlessly cut down, 
because they interfere with building on the narrow strips into 
which the land-speculator cuts up his lots, while no further 
additions would be made to those unsightly rows of hideous 
cottages which the farmer, the manufacturer, or the local 
speculative builder now provides for the labouring population. 

The quantity of land, even in the smallest lots, would enable 
the occupier to dispose of all the house sewage, in the only 
natural and economical manner, by applying it to the fertilisa- 
tion of his own ground ; and this application should even be 
made compulsory, so that no further pollution of streams and 
no more gigantic drainage works would be necessary. It may, 
perhaps, be said that the owner of an acre lot would cut it up 
into three or four smaller lots to dispose of at a profit ; but it 

The Solution of tJie Problem. 223 

may safely be predicted that this would not be done. The 
working man is too anxious to obtain land, and is too keenly 
alive to the inestimable benefits it confers upon him, to take a 
smaller quantity than his acre when the amount to be paid for 
that acre would be merely its agricultural value. No 
compulsory enactment against the subdivision of lots would 
be needed, because their subdivision would rarely or never be 

How Commons may be Preserved and. Utilised. — Some 
reference has been made in the fifth chapter to the way in 
which so many of our commons have been enclosed, for the 
sole aggrandisement of landlords and to the injury of all other 
residents and of the whole community. In some parts of the 
country, however, extensive commons still remain unenclosed, 
but usually where there is a very scanty rural population to 
benefit by them. Such is the case on the borders of Surrey, 
■Sussex, and Hampshire, and there are enormous tracts in 
Wales, Ireland, and Scotland which, though claimed as private 
property, have never been enclosed, but remain in an absolute 
state of nature. On all such lands there can be no claim for 
tenant-right, and they would therefore become the property of 
the State on payment of annuities, in the one case to the 
Lords of the Manor, in the other to the present owners, of an 
amount equal to the average annual proceeds. 

When these commons are not very extensive they would, of 
course, be preserved as common pasture land for the surround- 
ing occupiers and cottagers, who might also have the customary 
rights of cutting fern or gorse, digging sand, gravel, or peat, 
under proper supervision of some local authority. All the 
more extensive of these wastes, however, would afford the 
opportunity for cultivation by labourers or small farmers, who 
might have choice of sites, on areas marked out as open to 
selection, on payment of a low quit-rent, which might be higher 
than the value of the land as unenclosed pasture, but much 

224 Land Nationalisation. 

lower than that of the surrounding enclosed fields. A limit 
should be placed to the quantity allowed to be taken by one 
person, and this need not be high, because the holder would 
have extensive rights of pasturage over the whole common in 
addition. Ten acres might be a proper first limit, but when 
this quantity was brought into good cultivation and a house 
built, another ten acres might be granted on the same terms. 
In this way the more fertile and sheltered portions of all the 
great commons, heaths, and mountain wastes of the country 
might be gradually covered with small farms and cheerful 
homesteads, while still retaining extensive tracts of unenclosed 
land as common pasture, and as recreation ground and health- 
resorts for our ever-growing population. The numerous cases 
of the reclamation of the worst mountain land in Ireland by 
tenants with only a temporary occupancy afford us some idea 
of the beneficial results to our pauperised and landless popula- 
tion of the right to improve and cultivate waste land for their 
own exclusive benefit, with no fear of the interference of lords of 
the land or of the manor. 

How Minerals should be Worked under State Ownership.— ^ 
In the fifth chapter I have briefly alluded to the evil conse- 
quences to the public at large of allowing our mineral wealth to 
be appropriated by individuals, and our country permanently 
deteriorated and impoverished for their benefit. I have not, 
ho^yever, yet referred to the unfair manner in which landlords 
often absorb all the profits of mines, leaving nothing whatever 
to those who have supplied the large capital required to work 
them. Minerals are usually worked by companies, on short 
leases, and the landowner is compensated by payment of a 
royalty on all the produce, not by a share of the profits. This 
was reasonable in the early days of mining, when no expensive 
machinery was required, and small parties of working miners, 
or " adventurers," often with little or no capital, extracted rich 
ores from near the surface. Then the produce was nearly all 

The Solution of tlte Problem. 225 

profit, and a royalty of one-tenth to one-twelfth of the actual 
value of the ore extracted was not found to be oppressive. Now 
the case is very different. Mineral lodes are worked at an 
enormous depth, and poor ores, neglected by the old miners, 
are extracted, and the metal obtained from them by complex 
and expensive operations. Enormous pumping and lifting 
engmes are required, tramroads have to be made, workshops to 
be built, and coal brought up to the mines at heavy cost. It is 
not uncommon for the mere working expenses of a mine to be 
a thousand or fifteen hundred pounds a month, and it is only 
after ore enough has been extracted to pay this amount that 
any profits are obtained to pay interest on the capital expended. 
■ It thus often happens that for years a mining company never 
obtains sufficient to pay a single penny of dividend, notwith- 
standing all possible skill and economy in working the mine. 
I The shareholders lose their whole capital ; but not only does the 
! landlord lose nothing, but he receives a large income the whole 
time from this mine which is really proved to be worthless. 
The chances oi great profits in mining cause numbers of such 
mines to be opened and worked every year, a!nd from all these 
the landlord alone gets a profit, while everyone else loses. It 
is a partnership in which one partner supplies a chance of some- 
thing valuable, the other partner a large capital to be spent in 
proving whether that something valuable exists or not Yet 
the partner who gives only the chance, and does not risk a penny, 
secures a certain gain, even when his chance is proved to be 
valueless, while the other partners, who advance all the money, 
risk losing it all, or, if they succeed, share all the gain with the 
partner who risks nothing. 

Under the present system of mining the only equitable mode 
of arranging the partnership between owner of the soil and those 
who find the capital to work a mine would be, that the former 
should receive a share of the profits — not of ^& produce; that 
is, that the land to be explored should be estimated at a certain 


226 Land Nationalisation. 

portion of the total capital, and the landowner should receive 
his dividends on that nominal capital pro rata with the other 
shareholders. The present system is simple confiscation, 
analogous to that of leasehold houses, but even more cruel, 
since, in many cases, the profit realised would give a fair 
interest on the capital expended were it not all absorbed in the 
prior claim of the landlord's " royalty." 

When the State owns the land, the more equitable system, of 
a small fixed quit-rent for the land occupied and a fixed pro- 
portion of the profits realised, would be adopted ; and it would 
greatly benefit the mineral industry of the country by rendering 
the working of many poor ores profita;ble. In the case of coal 
and iron, so essential to the well4)eing of a nation, and, owing 
to their bulk and weight, most disadvantageous to import from 
other countries, the State might properly place a heavy duty .on 
their export, which would have the effect of limiting the trade 
in them to those countries in which they do not exist, while it 
would stimulate the development of the mineral resources of 
countries which do possess them but have hitherto depended 
upon getting them from us at very cheap rates. 

As it would be almost impossible to estimate the average 
value of the produce of minerals in any plot of land, some 
other mode would have to be adopted in compensating land- 
lords for the minerals they have so unfortunately' been allowed 
to claim possession of. The fair way would probably be for 
Government to fix the percentage of the -whole pro^ Twhich 
should in future be paid for each class of mines by the workers 
of mineral property, and to allow each landowner to recdve 
this percentage from the companies or private persons who 
work the mines during his own life only. Afterwards the same 
percentage would be paid to the State, which would, however, 
repay half the amount to the next heir for his lifa AM new 
mines opened after the Act came into operation would, of 
course, wholly belong to the State. Considering the very 

The Solution of the Problem. 227 

exceptional character of the mineral wealth of a country, and 
the enormous fortunes landowners have derived from it without 
spending or risking a penny, this proposal is, perhaps, hardly 
fair to the public, and, when land nationalisation is effected, 
may require to be somewhat modified. ' 

Application of the Same General Principle to All Other 
Charges on the Land. — The principle here developed, by which 
the land itself becomes the property of the State on payment to 
the actual owners of an annuity for themselves and their 
living heirs, is applicable to all kinds of landed property and to 
all charges whatever upon the land. Tithes, for example, would 
in this way be extinguished so far as they belong to lay impro- 
priators, and the payments by the future tenants would form 
part of the State quit-rent Tithes payable to the clergy would 
be dealt with in the same way, but the annuities for which they 
were commuted would, of course, be continued so long as the 
endowment of the Church continues, and whenever that ceases 
-the revenues would merge into those of the State. In like 
manner every kind of ground-rent, whether original or improved, 
whether for terms of years or in reversion, would each be valued 
on actuarial principles, and commuted into annuities of the same 
nature and the same duration as those paid to owners of the 
fee«imple of land. The quit-rent payable by the holder of 
the land in question would be divided among the several 
holders of distinct interests in the land in proportions deter- 
mined by official actuaries, and each would receive the corres- 
ponding annuity. 

Progressive Reduction of Taxation ; Abolition of Customs and 
Excise.' — Among the advantages resulting from this scheme of 
land nationalisation, not the least important would be, the 
great alleviation of public burdens and reduction of public ex- 
X>enditure. In a very few years after it came into operation 
some properties would fall to the State, owing to the successive 
deaths of the two or three generations of heirs. This might 

Q 2 

22S . Land Nationalisation. 

happen in some few instances within a year or two, and a 
regular stream of such cases would certainly begin in ten or 
twenty years, and would thenceforth increase, till in about a 
century the whole of the quit-rents would be payable to the 
State. This would enable the Government to take off one by 
one all the more oppressive taxes, and to gradually abolish 
altogether the Customs and Excise duties. The effect of this- 
would be to release from unproductive labour the v?hole body of 
officials in these departments, whose salaries and office expenses, 
amounted in 1880 to ;^2, 784,316 ; and if we add to this a 
proportion of the cost of public buildings, we shall have a sav- 
ing of-;^3,ooo,ooo annually, besides a large capital sum derived 
from the sale of all the offices and warehouses connected with 
these departments and an income from the quit-rents of the land 
they occupied. As the net receipts from these two sources of 
revenues are about _;^45, 000,000, while the quit-rents derived 
from the whole land of the country will certainly be more than. 
;^ioo,ooo,ooo, the same generation which sees nationalisation 
established will derive the benefit of much of the reduction, 
while many persons now living may see these injurious taxes 
wholly abolished. Thereafter there will be a possibility of 
rapidly extinguishing our huge national debt, which, though 
capitalists and speculators may find it a convenience, is at once 
a clog upon industry and a danger to the State. 

The benefit to the trade and commerce of the country 
produced by the abolition of all customs and excise duties 
cannot be overrated. Mr. Bright has long advocated a " free 
breakfast table " as the extreme reform in this direction he can 
even hope for ; but nationalisation would afford us the power 
to obtain absolute freedom in our whole internal trade; and the 
more important part of this is, perhaps, not the release from 
money payments, but the freedom from all those vexatious 
interferences and restrictions which are the greatest clog on the 
■wheels of industry. 

The Solution of the Problem, 229' 

These advantages are so enormous, so totally beyond what 
any other reform can give or promise, that even if they stood 
alone they would afford a justification for Land Nationalisation. 
Yet they are really mere incidental effects of the scheme, which 
Jests its claim to support, primarily, on the improvement it 
would effect in the condition of labourers and producers of all 
kinds, an improvement which would be social and moral as well 
as merely physical, and would raise the status and add to the 
well-being of the whole community. 

Summary of the Advantages of Nationalisation. — Having 
now completed our necessarily imperfect survey of this great 
question, let us endeavour to summarise, in the form of a series 
of brief propositions, the conclusions we have arrived at, and 
which, it is maintained, have been demonstrated by an over- 
whelming body of evidence. 

It has been shown that unrestricted private property in 
land is inherently wro7ig, ' and leads to serioits and widespread 
<evils — for the following reasons : — 

J3ECAUSE — It gives to the class of landowners despotic power 
over the freedom, the property, the happiness, and even 
over the lives of their fellow citizens who are not land- 
owners. The wholesale evictions in the Highlands of 
Scotland and in Ireland, where houses and whole villages 
have been destroyed and the human inhabitants have been 
leplaced by cattle or deer, often for no crime or fault of 
theirs, but simply to carry into effect the will of the land- 
lord, are the most glaring examples of the truth of this 
proposition. Even in England similar cases occur, though 
less frequently ; but the tenant is often coerced in his 
political rights, is interfered with in the free exercise of his 
religion, and is generally subject to the will of his landlord 
in many other ways. In all these cases the State is 
avowedly powerless to protect the tenants, who are never- 

230 Land Nationalisation. 

theless told that they are free citizens of a free country, 
that the Englishman's house is his castle, and that there 
is no wrong without a legal remedy. 

Because — by possession of the land, which is absolutely 
essential to all productive labour, and even to life itself, it 
enables the landowners to absorb all the surplus profits of 
both labour and cajMtal, keeping down the wages of 
Unskilled labour (which regulates that of labour generally) 
to the lowest point at which life can be supported, the 
result being, that large masses of the working people are 
condemned to exist under unnatural and degrading condi- 
tions of poverty, and that pauperism is made chronic among 
us notwithstanding our ever-increasing wealth. For the 
same reason it keeps down the rate of interest, enabling 
large capitalists alone to thrive, while small capitalists can 
hardly live. In all civilised countries, and at various 
periods of history, the same phenomena have been ob- 
served — where land is cheap^ wages and interest are 
comparatively high; where land is dear, both are com- 
paratively low. 

Because — ^the divided and often conflicting interests it creates 
in the soil check permanent improvement, limit the 
variety of crops and of agricultural industry, and seriously 
diminish production. This evil is admitted to be great 
even where leases are granted, but is at its maximum under 
the system of yearly tenancies which are now the rule in 
this country. 

Because— it has to a large extent caused and now perpetuates 
pauperism, by depriving the labourer of any rights in the 
soil of his native land, and destroying to a large extent 'his 
home feelings and interests. This has been aggravated 
by the enclosure of so many of the commons, which were 
the labourers' heritage from the past, by the clearing estates 

The Sobttion of the Problem. 231 

of cottages to avoid the burthen of poor-rates or to make 
" show villages^" and by leaving the poor to the mercy of 
speculators for their dwellings, usually of the most wretched 
character, without land or gardens, and often far removed 
from the scene of their daily labours. 

Because — it interferes with the freedom which every citizen 
of a free country should have of obtaining a healthy 
dwelling (in proportion to his means) in any part of the 
country he may prefer, and with a sufficiency of land 
aroond it for health, recreation, and garden cultivation, at 
approximately the same cost as agricultural land. He is 
now forced to live only where landowners will allow him, 
in houses erected by speculative builders for show rather 
than for health, comfort, and permanence, on land costing 
from ten to a hundred times its agricultural value, or 
leased out for a term of years in order finally to be con- 
fiscated by the landlord for the aggrandisement of his 

Because — it has led and still leads to the enclosure or 
appropriation of all unenclosed lands for the exclusive 
benefit of landowners, thus depriving the entire popula- 
tion of the country of rights they have enjoyed from time 
immemorial ; to the stopping of footpaths, the destruction 
of roadside greens, and the exclusion of the people from 
much of the wild and beautiful scenery of their native 

Because — it gives to a limited class the power of permanently 
impoverishing the country for their private benefit by the 
excessive export of mineral^ which, being limited in 
quantity and not producible by man, should be jealously 
guarded for the use of the nation, with due regard to the 
needs of our successors. 

Because — it gives to individuals a large proportion of the 

232 Land Nationalisation. 

wealth created by the community at large. All land has 
doubled in value — much of it has increased a hundred- 
fold or even a thousand-fold in value during the present 
century,; and this increased value, due to the growth, 
industry, and enterprise of the people at large, has 
become the property of a body of men who, for the most 
part, have had the very smallest share in creating it. 

BECAUSE^t involves the continued existence of a large body 
of citizens living in idleness on revenues derived from the 
labour and skill of the working classes, and who constitute 
therefore, a permanent and injurious burden on the industry 
of the people. 

For these reasons it is essential to the well-being of the com- 
munity that unrestricted private property, in land be abolished. 

And further :-r-, 

Because — in every one of these, cases in which the present 
system of Landlordism, produces evil results, and carries 
with it the curse of pauperism and crime, a well-guarded 
system of Occupying Ownership under the State is cal- 
cujated to produce beneficial results— to diminish pauperism 
and crime, and to add to the general well-being of the 
whole community — it therefore becomes necessary that 
some such system of Land Nationalisation as that here 
sketched out be speedily established. 

I conclude with a quotation from Mr. J. Boyd Kinnear's 
important and instructive volume : — 

" Who does not see how much happier England will be when, 
instead of one great mansion surrounded by miles beyond 
miles of one huge property, farmed by the tenants-at-will 
of one landlord, tilled by the mere labourers, whose youth and 
manhood know no relaxation, from rough mechanical toil, 
whose old age sees no home but the chance of charity or the 

The Solution of the Problem. 233 

certainty of the workhouse, there shall be a thousand estates 
of varying size, where- each owner shall work for himself 
and his children, where the sense of independence shall 
lighten the burdens of daily toil, where education shall give 
resources, and the labour of youth shall suffice for the sup- 
port of age." 

Working men of England ! I have here shown you how 
this improved social condition may be brought about. It 
is for you to make your voices heard and insist that it be 
made the question of the day by your chosen representatives 
in the Legislature. 



Agents, powerof 47 

Allotments, beneficial effects of 191 
„ insufficiency of...98, 1 18 
„ very inferior to cot- 

tage gardens...... 120 

Ancient monuments, destruction 

of 129 

Arnold, Mr, Arthur, objec- 
tions to land nationalisa- 
tion 207 

Associated workmen 17 

Avebury, destruction of 129 

Barclay, Mr. J. W., M.P., on 

rise of wages in Scotland 91 
Belgium, occupying owners of 142 
Blackley, Rev. W. L., object- 

tions of to free selection — 220 
Eothysystem in Scotland ....... 92 

Bright, Mr. John, on effects of 

landlordism 213 

Erodrick, Hon. G. C, on des- 
potic power of land- 
lords 98 

„ on agricultural occu- 
pation 105 

„ on the value of cot- 
tage farms 120 

„ on land nationalisa- 
tion 209 

,, on productiveness of 

Jersey 147 

Building leases, evil effects of 123 
Burns, on Scotch agricultural 

labourers 95 

Buxton, C, on security of 
tenure 45 

Cairnes, Prof., on national 
wealth absorbed by 
landlords 116 


Cairnes, Prof., on rent and 

wages 171 

„ on labourers becom- 
ing capitalists 218- 

„ on constant rise of 

rents 172 

Capital and labour, relations 

of. 165, 169 

Capital not always beneficial... 14. 
Carlyle on government in 

Ireland 44 

Channel Islands, occupying 

ownership in 146- 

Civilisation, outcome of ^ 

Clearances in the Highlands 56, 61 

68, 72, 82, 83, 85 
Clearances in Ireland ... 27, 39, 41 
Collings (Jesse) on labourers' 

wages 10 

Commons, enclosure of ... 117, 126 

„ how, should be pre- 
served and utilised 223 
Compensation of landowners ... 1 97 
„ by terminable 

annuities 199 

Confiscation by landlords 33, 35, 46 

„ by town landlords 210 
Co-operation of peasant-pro- 
prietors 160 

„ of small fanners 140 

Co-operative workshops 17 

Cottage-gardens, beneficial 

effects of 119 

Cottage-farms, value of ... 120, 122 
Country districts, depopulation 

of 213; 

Country deteriorated by export 

of minerals 132 

Crofters, character of 54 

,, treatment of in Lewis 791 
Croft-system, modern writers on 




Croft-system, Dr. MacDonald 

on 73. 75 

Customs and excise, abolition of 227 

Deer forests in the Highlands 83 
Destruction of ancient monu- 
ments 129 

Devon Commission 36 

Economy of time and labour... 7 

Enclosure Acts, results of. 117 

Ejectments in Ireland 28, 39 

Eviction, dread of 47 

,, account of an 48 

Eviction of Mr. Hope, of Fen- 
ton Barns 102 

Eviction of an entire village ... 103 
Evils of landlordism 190 

Earms, scattering of in Germany .155 

Earms, large and small 157 

,, productiveness of small 158 
,, French and English 

compared 158 

Eawcett, Prof,, on agricultural 

labourers 177 

,, on Artisans' Dwell- 
ings Act 126 

„ on agricultural labour- 
ers 114 

,, on British labourer... 10 
,, on the greed for land 188 

Fences, ownership of ... 195 

Eeudal system 23 

France, occupying ownership in 143 
Free selection of land, objec- 
tions to 219 

Free selection would check 

growth of towns 222 

Free trade, why maintained by 

us 183 

„ in land, uselessness 

of 184 

French labourers with land ... 146 
Erench peasants before the Re- 
volution 145 

Fowler, Mr., objections to na- 
tionalisation 207 

J, on evils of forced sub- 
division 205 


Fowler, Mr., on free trade 

in land 190 

George, Mr, H., remarkable 

work of 165 

„ on progress and pov- 
erty 8, 184 

Germany, occupying owners in 141 
Gladstone, Mr., on progress of 

. small farms 519 

Godkin, J., on landed propri- 
etors 26 

„ on power of agents ... 47 
Gould, Mr. Baring, on small 

German farms 155 

Grey, Sir G., on English agri- 
cultural labourers 112 

Guernsey, productiveness of ... 147 

Highlands, landlordism in the 81 

,, famines in 81 

,, pauperism in 82 

Highland chiefs 52 

,, clearances 56, 61, 68, 72, 

,, crofters 54 

„ tenantry 53 

„ Q%i,ebe.c Times on ... 67 

Home, free choice of a 123 

Hope, Mr. Geo., eviction of ... 102 
Howitt, W., on the German 

peasantry 141 

Improvements, owners of 194 

,, Sutherland 53 

Industry, removal of clogs on... 22S 

Inglis on Swiss industry ...... 139 

Inherent value of land 194 

Interest, its relation to rent ... 168 
Ireland, Dr., on French 

labourers 146 

„ landlordism in 178 

Irish cottier, condition of 34 

,, numbers of 35 

Irish distress, remedies for 41 

„ industry '. 149 

,, landlordism, origin of ... 31 
,, landlordism, condition of 

people under 50 

„ tenants, improvements by 4.;. 

Italy, landlordism in 151 



Italy, peasant proprietors in ... 159 
„ wretched peasants of 152,153 

Jersey, productiveness of 147 

Kay, Mr., on wealth and pau- 
perism of England r76 

,, on free trade in land 186 

,, on absorption of small by 

great estates 187 

,, on results of occupying 

ownership 142 

Kennedy, Rev. John, on High- 
land clearances 85 

Killarney, condition of town 

of, through subletting .... 204 
Kinnaird, Lord, on erection of 

cottages 93 

. Kinnear, Mr. J. Boyd, on land 

nationalisation 209 

„ on beneficial effects 

of small estates... 232 
Labourers, social degradation 

of. 112, IIS 

condition of Scotch 

86, 93 

dependence of on 

capitalists 16 

deteriorated con- 
dition of ... no, III 
free selection of 

land by 216 

not benefited by 
free trade in 

land 189, 191 

should have land 

as a light 94 

want justice, not 

charity 117 

Laing on industry, of sm^ill 

proprietors 140 

Land Act of 1S70 45 

Land and Labour League, 

propositions of 205 

Land destroyed by excessive 

mining 133 

,, effects of ownership of 174 
,, evil results of private 

property in 179 

,', free selection of 215 


Land, how all charges on, may 
be compensated by State 

annuities 227 

,, how to reclaim 151 

,, increase of value of i 

,, labour, and capital 166 

,, occupied in large quan- 
tities 205 

„ reclaimed by Irish peas- 
ants 149 

,, speculative rise in price 

of ■. 173 

„ the birthright of every 

Englishman 122 

,, use of to workmen 17 

„ problem, a statement of 

the 192 

„ system, social effects of 18. 
Landlordism and slavery com- 
pared. ._ 34 

,, as affecting the 

labouring classes no 
,, checks public im- 

provements ... 131 
,, comparative use- 

lessness of. i6i 

,, effects of in Eng- 
land 181 

,, effects of in Ire- 
land 178 

,, English 97 

,, evils of 190 

,, inherent evils of 77 

,, in Ireland 31 

„ in Italy 151 

,, in Scotland 51 

,, in Spain and Sar- 
dinia 154 

„ in the Highlands 81 

,, results of 148 

,, results of in Scot- 
land 95 

,, rise of modern 23 

,, summary of evil 

results of- 229 

„ the system of bad 115 

Landlords absorb much of the 

national wealth ... . 116 
,, abuse of power by 84 
„ & agents in Scotland 55 




JLandlords and labourers' cot- 
tages IIS 

„ confiscation by 33, 35, 46 
„ despotic power of.... 98 
„ influence of, limited to6 
„ injurious power of 105 

„ interference with 

religious liberty... 100 
,, interference with 

political freedom loi 
,, interference with a 

tenant's sport 102 

Land-monopoly, evils of 123, 125 

Landowners, compensation of 197 


,, rights claimed by 24 

,, legal rights of 25, 29 

JLand-tenure, a good system of T24 

„ origin of British 20, 22 

Large farms compared with 

small 109 

,, - supposed bene- 
fits of :... 108 

Laveleye, on Italian misery... 152 
,, on peasant proprietors 

in Italy 153 

Lavergne, M. De., on large 

and small farms log 

Lawson, Mr. Thos., on Scotch 

cottages 91 

Leckmeln eviction. Home 

Secretary on the .... 181 
Lefevre, Mr. G. Shaw, objec- 
tions to Land National- 
isation 20S 

Legislation, tendencyof 12 

Levi, Prof. Leoni, on Highland 

clearances... 170 
„ on deer 

Forests 84 

Lewis, island of 78 

Limitation of quantity of land 

occupied if neceSsary. ....... 205 

London, unsanitary conditions 

in 212 

Lowlands, landlordism in the 86 
„ ' labourers' cottages 

in the 86, 93 

Lubbock, Sir J., on destruction 
of ancient monuments 129 


Macdonald, Dr., on freedom 

ofland , 21; 

Machinery, increase of 6 

MacKenzie on Highland clear- 
ances 56 

Macleod, Dr. Norman, on High- 
land pauperism 82 

Matheson, Sir James 78, 90 

M'Cullocb, erroneous predic- 
tion as to France 143 
„ on good farming 

in Flanders 143 

Milk, scarcity of, through large 

farms 109 

Mill, J. S., on Irish Cottiers 42, 45 
„ on Land Nationali- 
sation 209 

Miller, Hugh, on Highland 

clearances.. 68 
I, on Highland 

industry ... 82 
„ on labourers' 

cottages 86 

Minerals, how worked 224 

„ unfairness of the roy- 
alty systeni 225 

,, how should be 
worked under the 

State 226 

„ should belong to the 

State 132 

Mortgaging must be limited... 204 
Mountains, public shut out from 12S 

National Debt may be extin- 
guished under Nationalisa- 
tion 228 

Nationalisation the only effec- 
tive remedy 191 
„ objectionsto2Q7,209 

„ summary of ad- 

vantages of... 229 
Norway, occupying owners of 140 

Occupancy must be joined to 
ownership 192 

Occupation, best form of j^- 
cultural 105 

Occupying ownership 136 



•Occupying ownership, results 

of 148, 182 

„ results of, in, 

Switzerland 138 

„ admirable cultiva- 
tion by 142 

,, influence of 107 

„ uses of 19 

•Occupying-owners under bad 

conditions 154 

O'Connor, T. P., on Irish evic- 
tions 39 

■Ownership, effects of, on agri- 
culture 162 

Parks, how dealt with 206 

Pauperism 3, 4 

„ in the Highlands.... 82 

,, remedies for 17 

Peasant proprietors of W. 

Pyrenees . 144 
„ industry of.. 145 

,, and artisans 156 

„ and popu- 

lation..... 160 
„ co-operation 

of. 160 

Teasant proprietorship not per- 
manent 188 
„ objections 

to 159 

Perpetual income, fallacy of 199 

Pim, on ejectments in Ireland 28 

„ on Irish industry 148 

JPoor, dwellings of, in London 212 
Population as influenced by 

peasant-properties 160 

Portman estate, management of 210 
Prout, Mr., farming his own land 163 
Public right to unenclosed 

lands 126, 128 

■Quarterly Review on Sir J. 

Matheson 80 

'Quit-rents payable to the State 194 
,, valuation of 195 

Railways injured by landlords 131 
JRoad-side wastes 127 


Remedies for chronic poverty 17 

Rent, constant increase of. 169 

Rents raised in Ireland 41 

Robb, Mr. James, on Scotch 

cottages 89 

Roman camp destroyed r 30 

Royalties on minerals, unjust... 225 

" Rules of the estate " 47 

Russell, Sir C, on landlordism 136 

Sardinia, landlordism in 154 

Savoy, peasant-proprietors of 157 
Scotch labourer an appanage 

ofthefarm 93 

Scotch landlordism, results of 95 
Scotch mountains, appropria- 
tion of 128 

Scotland, dependence of 

labourers in 92 

Sewage difficulty overcome by 
free selection of resi- 
dential plots 222 

Sismondi on Swiss peasants ... 138 
Small proprietors of N.Germany 155 

Social failure, cause of. 11 

•Spain, landlordism in 154 

State management not required 193 
State ownership of land 

necessary 192 

Steam-power, increase of 6 

Subletting, why prohibited .... 202 

,, evils of in towns 203 

Sutherland evictions 56 

Taxation, great reduction of, 
consequent on Nationalisa- 
tion 227 

Tenant farming essentially 

wasteful 106 

Tenant-right for London 215 

„ in Ireland 32, 36, 39 

,, defined 194 

„ valuation of..... 195 
Tenants may become occupy- 
ing owners 202 

Thornton, Mr., on evils of 

subletting 203 

„ on productiveness 

of Guernsey 147 



Tithes, how to be treated 
under the system of Nat- 
ionalisation 227 

Towns, evils of subletting in 204 
„ how affected by land 

nationalisation 210 

„ how to check the 

growth of. 215, 222, 125 
Tuke, on Irish Distress 45 

Wages in relation to rent 168 

Waste lands, improvements of 44 

Wealth accumulation, effects of 13 

,, and capital 11 

„ - as affecting labourers 16 

,, increase of 2 

Westminster Review on High- 
land clearances 71 

Young, Arthur, on removal of 

cottages .... 114 
„ onpeasant-pro- 

perties in 
France .... 143 

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