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Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

Land Nationalisation Society. Conference This Day.
(S347: 1882)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A news story printed on page three of the Echo (London) issue of 16 January 1882 including a short description of Wallace's remarks as Chairman of the meeting. To link directly to this page connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S347.htm

     A conference of the Land Nationalisation Society was held at the Westminster Palace Hotel, this afternoon, under the presidency of Mr. A. R. Wallace, F.R.G.S. The "Propositions of this Society are--(1.) Unrestricted private property in land is inherently wrong, and leads to grievous and wide-spread evils. (2.) In order that the land of the country may be free for the enjoyment of all its citizens to the fullest extent compatible with the well-being of the community, the following principles should be embodied in law:--The land alone in its inherent value, as dependent on natural conditions, means of communication, nearness to markets, &c., is to become the property of the State; the houses, buildings, private roads, improvements, &c., the property of the owner, and constitute his tenant-right. All land whatever must be held direct from the State, and solely for the personal use and enjoyment of the occupier; complete freedom in the choice of a home, and ample space whereon to build a dwelling-house, would be the greatest boon to the community, and are essential to the wealth and happiness of its individual members. (3.) In order that the community may reap the full benefit of the proposed system of land tenure as soon as possible, it is essential that the entire interest in the land of the country (as distinguished from tenant-right) should pass to the State by means of a general law, securing to all existing landowners and their heirs revenues equal to the annual value of the land apart from the tenant right."

     Letters were read from Professor F. Newman and Mr. Henry George, who advocated a radical change in the land laws of this country, and expressed sympathy with the objects of the Conference.

     The Chairman, in opening the proceedings, said they were met together to inaugurate the Land Nationalisation Society. Their prime object was to educate public opinion as to the true principles of Land Reform, and its ultimate object would be to secure the nationalisation of the land as the only effectual cure for the evils of the present system. Those evils had long been recognised, and they were, in truth, many and great. English landowners constituted a body of despots in the midst of a free country; they held in their hands the liberty and often the lives of a great many of the people of this country. They could not get sufficient land around their dwellings because of the monopoly of the land, while the commons and wastes had been simply stolen from the people. They claimed for Englishmen the right to occupy sufficient land for healthy recreation and profitable employment. (Hear, hear.) The people had grown up under landlordism, and they were ignorant that to landlordism was due the greatest evils under which they laboured. Their food was dear and bad that landlords might grow richer and richer. Under the scheme which they proposed no man would suffer in any degree, but they refused to recognise the rights of unborn individuals to be supported in idleness out of the soil. No doubt under the Irish Land Act many landlords would suffer--(A Voice: They have had a good innings)--but under their proposals no living heir of any landlord would suffer.

     Mr. Volckman proposed "That private property in land is the monopoly by a few of an element essential to human existence; that it had its origin, to a large extent, in force or fraud, or economic ignorance, and is a danger to the stability of the community": and expressed the opinion that the generation of to-day should hold the land, but only as a trustee of the generation of to-morrow.

     Mr. Flaws (Bedford) seconded the resolution, and spoke of the policy of the Duke of Bedford as a policy of obstruction in London and destruction in the country. The time might come when the Duke of Bedford might be brought up as a grand recruit to this cause.

     The resolution was carried unanimously.

     Mr. William Saunders moved, "That private property in land under the present system, by reason of the divided and often conflicting interests it creates in the soil, leads to bad cultivation, greatly diminishes production, and checks permanent improvement; while, by depriving the labourer of any rights in the soil, it is one of the chief causes of pauperism, demoralisation, and crime." He urged that every man should be taxed upon his land at the value he puts upon it. (Hear, hear.) That proposition should be enforced, and would be a nice beginning for the thin edge of the wedge for the nationalisation of land. Land did not pay a single part of the taxation of this country. Industry was taxed but land was not. Landlords in London received about £10,000,000 annually in ground rents, and not a farthing of that did they pay to the Metropolitan rate. (Shame.) He hoped the Society would first endeavour to see that a reasonable and fair amount of taxation was put upon land. (Hear, hear.)

     Mr. W. Wren seconded the resolution, and had no doubt that the public would take up the movement, and that it would rapidly spread throughout the country. He looked for the greatest possible benefit from the consideration of this most important question.

     After some discussion, the resolution was adopted in the following form:--"That the present system of private property in land in this country, by reason of the divided and often conflicting interests it creates in the soil leads to bad cultivation, greatly diminishes production, and checks permanent improvement, while by depriving the labourer and the public of their rights in the soil it is one of the chief causes of pauperism, demoralisation, and crime."

     Miss Helen Taylor moved "That private property in land, by favouring monopoly and building speculation, has produced, and still produces, crowded and unhealthy dwellings, in which the mass of our people are forced to live and pay exorbitant rents."

     Mr. Burrows seconded the motion, and it was agreed to.

     (Left sitting.)

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