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Agriculture and the Land Laws.
(S518ac: 1895)

Editor Charles H. Smith’s Note: A letter to the Editor and "resolution" by Wallace and other officers of the Land Nationalisation Society printed on page 2 of the 10 October 1895 issue of The Standard (London); also distributed to other papers. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S518AC.htm

To the Editor of The Standard.

     Sir,-- Perhaps the most pressing of present day questions is that which relates to the deplorable state of the great agricultural industry, involving, as it does, such widespread evils. Not least of these are the continued depopulation of rural England and the consequent further crowding of towns and cities, which have long suffered, in many ways, from a congestion that is as preventable as it is pernicious. Yet, while all agree that something must be done, there are great differences of opinion as to what that something should be.

     Most of the proposals put forward by the landlords and their friends only touch the fringe of the difficulty, and all are based upon the false assumption that private property in the country's natural resources is in no way responsible for it. That assumption is emphatically denied by Land Nationalisers; and we shall be glad if you will kindly publish the enclosed Resolution, which briefly expresses our opinion concerning agricultural depression and its real cause. Copies of it are being sent to the members of the Government, and also to the leading members of Parliament, irrespective of Party.

We are, Sir, your obedient servants,
Alfred R. Wallace, President.
A.C. Swinton, Chairman of Committee.
Joseph Hyder, General Secretary,
Land Nationalisation Society, 47, Victoria-street, Westminster, October 9.

(Copy of Resolution.)

     "The Executive Committee of the Land Nationalisation Society rejoice that the critical condition of British agriculture is at length attracting that widespread attention which is a necessary precedent to the improvement that all alike desire. They heartily endorse proposals for such reforms as the provision of technical instruction for working agriculturists, and the transmission of farm produce by the railways at low and uniform rates. But at the same time they desire to record their conviction that the root of the present trouble lies neither in foreign competition nor in indifference to, or ignorance of, new methods, nor yet in the heavy charges of monopolist Railway Companies, but rather in the landlord system itself. For that system of private property in land gives to one class an unjust power to levy tribute upon the industry of all other classes. It has ruined thousands of tenant farmers by rack rents, and thrown vast tracts of land out of cultivation; while the cultivators of the soil are generally denied that security of tenure and freedom of initiative without which the most productive cultivation is impossible. Moreover, access to the land is extensively denied to small farmers and labourers, the very classes which are specially adapted to supply the home market with such produce as dairy and fruit goods, now imported to the annual value of more than thirty millions sterling.

     "The Committee would, therefore, earnestly impress upon the Government that there is only one way to get rid of agricultural depression, and that is by the steady diminution and ultimate abolition of the present private monopoly of the nation’s land, with a view to establishing in its place a system of State ownership, with local control, under which the interests of the whole community may be effectually safeguarded and fostered."

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