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Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
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Mr. Chamberlain and the Land Nationalizers.
(S376ac: 1885)

Editor Charles H. Smith’s Note: A letter to the Editor printed on page 2 of the 9 February 1885 issue of the Pall Mall Gazette. To link directly to this page connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S376AC.htm

To the Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette.

     Sir,--Will you allow me to state briefly why I consider that both Mr. Chamberlain and Mrs. Fenwick Miller are in error on the question of how best to promote the cultivation of the land? Like Mrs. Miller, I entirely object to purchasing land with borrowed capital in order to let it out to peasant cultivators, for, besides the objections stated in Mrs. Miller’s article, it would involve cumbrous and expensive machinery, lawyers, agents, and commissioners would be needed, and if entire estates were bought, it might be years before they were wholly let to suitable tenants, and the loss thus incurred, together with the working expenses of the commission, would be in all probability fatal to the success of the scheme. But why buy at all in order to let to peasants? Surely it is far simpler to give labourers and others who want land the power to have it at a fair rent and on a permanent tenure direct from the landlords. Then no money need be raised and no land need lie idle, and no lawyers or commissioners need be employed. This applies more especially to small plots of from one to four or five acres, on which labourers, mechanics, and others can employ their surplus time now wasted. Ample experience in many parts of the country shows that such plots of land are in the highest degree beneficial, and are always made to produce larger crops than when in the hands of large farmers. The experience of Mr. Henley and the Rev. C. Stubbs in Buckinghamshire, of Lord Tollemache in Cheshire, of Sir Thomas Dyke Acland in Cornwall, and of many others, demonstrates this; but the most important point is that it is only from the more thrifty and skilful of this class of labourers that a body of successful peasant farmers can be produced. The labourer, who by means of his two or three acres to his plot of land, and when in the course of years he has saved enough to stock a small farm of, say, ten to twenty acres, he should be enabled to get it; and there is no doubt whatever that such a man would succeed, since there are at this moment in many parts of the country examples of working peasant-farmers who are successful in spite of agricultural depression. There are many ways in which farms might be supplied to such men in various parts of the country. All Crown lands and all land held by corporations and charities might be devoted to this purpose, a farm being divided into two or several portions so soon as a sufficient number of peasants made application for them; while local authorities might be empowered to take farms for the same purpose, collecting the rents from the tenants and paying the proceeds, less cost of collection, to the landlords. In order to avoid all excuse for interference, and to give the tenants all the real benefits of ownership, rents must be fixed and moderate, and occupancy secure so long as the rents are paid; while all improvements on the land must be purchased by the tenant, either by a payment down, or, as in the case of the Irish Church lands, by a terminable rental.

     Under such conditions as these I maintain that there is "a reasonable prospect of this class making a profitable business of their farming," since under reasonably fair conditions they do now succeed. In order to make the success permanent it is essential that the farmer shall not be harassed by debt and that mortgaging the farms shall be forbidden; and this is a crowning reason why we should prefer peasant occupiers on a permanent tenure to peasant proprietors. --I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

Alfred R. Wallace.
February 7.

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