Quick Links
-Search Website
-Have A Question?
-Wallace News
-About This Site

Misinformation Alert!
Wallace Bio & Accomplishments
Wallace Chronology
Frequently Asked Questions
Wallace Quotes
Wallace Archives
Miscellaneous Facts

Bibliography / Texts
Wallace Writings Bibliography
Texts of Wallace Writings
Texts of Wallace Interviews
Wallace Writings: Names Index
Wallace Writings: Subject Index
Writings on Wallace
Wallace Obituaries
Wallace's Most Cited Works

Taxonomic / Systematic Works
Wallace on Conservation
Smith on Wallace
Research Threads
Wallace Images
Just for Fun
Frequently Cited Colleagues
Wallace-Related Maps & Figures

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

Our Villages (S439ae: 1891)

Editor Charles H. Smith’s Note: A letter to the Editor printed on page 6 of the 25 August 1891 issue of The Daily News (London). To link directly to this page connect with: http://www.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S439AE.htm

     Sir,--Will you allow me to make a few remarks and suggestions on this subject? Your correspondent "W. H. Hall," who appears to be a landowner in Cambridgeshire, tells us that he has offered small holdings for twelve years, and has only found about as many applicants. Now, the essential things to know are, firstly, whether there was any considerable choice of land offered, so that a man might have the quality and the quantity of land he required; secondly, whether it was offered at rents either the same or very little higher than those paid by farmers for similar land; thirdly, and most important of all, whether intending tenants were made clearly to understand that they would be legally secured in their holdings so long as they paid the rent--have, in fact, a practically perpetual lease with full power of transfer--that there would be no restriction of their use of the land (subject only to the law of nuisance), and that their rent could never be raised, thus giving them full security for their improvements. Without these essential conditions of the tenure it is absurd to expect that men will labour and struggle to make a home on another man’s land; with these conditions I shall be very much surprised to hear that there are not applicants for all the land offered. To test this, allow me to suggest that your Special Commissioner, who is giving us so much interesting information on "Life in our Villages," should make it a point to ask every agricultural labourer he talks with whether, if he had land on the terms above indicated, making it clear to him that he would be as absolutely free and secure in its possession as if he were a freeholder, subject only to the payment of a fair rent--whether under these conditions he could make a good living for himself and family. He might also ask whether, if every young man could have land on these conditions in the vicinity of his home, it would not to a great extent stop the exodus from the villages. Allotments will never do this, because they offer none of the advantages and none of the security of a permanent holding. John Stuart Mill was of opinion that allotments were similar in their effects to the old bad system of parish allowance enabling labourers to work for lower wages. He says: "This, too, is a contrivance to compensate the labourer for the insufficiency of his wages, by giving him something else as a supplement to them; but instead of having them made up from the poor rate he is enabled to make them up for himself by renting a small piece of ground, which he cultivates like a garden by spade labour." And, after showing that allotments have decided advantages over the system of money allowances, he adds, "But in their effect on wages and population, I see no reason why the two plans should essentially differ." (Political Economy, People’s Ed., pp. 222-3.) This is, no doubt, the reason why farmers often favour allotments, but object strenuously to small holdings. The former keep down wages and leave men dependent; the latter make the men independent, because self-supporting, and therefore raise wages. In my opinion, therefore, all discussion as to allotments is time wasted, as is also all idea of permanently raising agricultural wages and improving the condition of the labourers, except by the simple, direct, and natural method of enabling all workers who desire it to support themselves, either wholly or partially, by the cultivation of the soil under the most favourable conditions possible, these being such a secure and permanent tenure as I have above indicated.--Yours faithfully,

Alfred R. Wallace,
President Land Nationalisation Society.

*                 *                 *                 *                 *

Return to Home