Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)
Sir,--Will you allow me to reply to the question Mr. Herbert has asked me in your issue of Tuesday last? He wishes to know if I will submit my house, furniture, books, &c., to be taken or rented, at a valuation, by anybody who wishes to do so. I reply that I would certainly not propose legislation for this to be done either to myself or other people, and I will remind Mr. Herbert that I have never proposed that land, personally occupied by the owner, should be taken from anybody, even though it be a thousand acres of park occupied by a duke. My house, furniture, and books are manufactured goods, the labour to produce which was paid for, and others of like nature can be produced and can be obtained whenever demanded. But land was not manufactured, was never originally paid for, but always either stolen or otherwise appropriated. Land is the source of all existence and all wealth; without it neither houses, furniture, nor books can be produced; but these things are not absolute necessities of existence or essential sources of wealth, and they are not limited in quantity as land is.
Mr. Herbert's whole argument (so far as he adduces any argument) is that land is, and ought to be, absolute private property, like any other articles. It is, in his view, a right and good thing for one man to hold a hundred thousand acres, and limit its use as he pleases. It is right that a man should have the power to turn thousands of people out of their homes at his pleasure. The two million acres of deer forests in Scotland must, on this theory, not only be let alone, but allowed to grow to four millions, if English and American millionaires bid higher for them than those who have been born on the land, and whose ancestors defended it with their blood. It was right and proper that the inhabitants of the village mentioned by Mr. Froude, whose forefathers had lived in it since the Conquest, should have been all cleared away at the whim of a duke or a duke's agents. It is right that the tenants' improvements both in Ireland and England should be confiscated by the landlord, and that nobody should live in his native land except by permission of a limited body who hold the soil, and on any terms they may choose to dictate. Every word of Mr. Herbert's arguments would apply with equal force to defend the territorial rights of the French nobles which brought on the Revolution--which was evidently a wicked attempt to plunder other people's property and to prevent landowners from doing what they liked with their own, unhappily too successful! Nay, more, every argument will equally apply in favour of slavery; the Abolitionists wanted "to take away other people's property," and to prevent people from doing what they liked with that which they had legally bought and paid for.
Mr. Herbert may be assured that such arguments and ridicule as his will help the supporters of Mr. George as much as the action of the American, Mr. Winans; and that the people of England will not much longer consent to hold their very lives at the pleasure of a body of men whose only claim to the power they possess is that it has come down to them by inheritance or purchase from those who once took it by force and have misused it ever since. Let our distressed agriculture, our depopulated fields, our overcrowded towns, and our pauperized labourers bear witness.--I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
Alfred R. Wallace