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Letter from the President (S525: 1896)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: After the annual Land Nationalisation Society conference of 1895, Wallace no longer attended their yearly meetings. He did however remain President of the Society, and usually (always?--the proceedings of several of the annual conferences appear not to have survived) sent letters of encouragement that were read at them. This one was printed in the May 1896 issue of Land and Labour. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S525.htm

     [[p. 33]] The following interesting letter from our respected President was received with applause.

     Dear Mr. Hyder,

     I congratulate the Society upon the indications of progress and healthy growth given in the Report, of which you have sent me a copy--a progress due to the energy and judgment of all those who are engaged in the work of the Society.

     The advent of a Tory Government has already given us the opportunity of making a vigorous protest against the renewal of the old-time landlord method, of transferring public money to their own pockets under the plea of benefitting agriculture. I need hardly say that with the resolutions to be proposed on these and other matters affecting our principles I heartily agree.

     There is, however, one other question to which I wish to call the attention of the Society, and of all advanced reformers, before it is too late. I allude to the blind and most injurious introduction of land-monopoly and land-gambling into the vast [[p. 34]] regions we are now acquiring in Central and South Africa, notwithstanding that the evils of the system are so glaring and so generally admitted in the case of the Australian Colonies.

     In a paper on "The Geography and Resources of British Central Africa," in the last issue of The Geographical Journal, we find it stated, that "It was at first found difficult, in some instances, to instil into natives the idea of individual ownership of land." Poor, benighted natives! But on the very next page we find a discussion on the question of how to raise revenue for the expenses of government, a hut-tax being the expedient at present adopted; to be followed of course, later on--when the enormous and ever-growing increase in land values shall have been all absorbed by private individuals--by the old bad system of elaborate excise duties and licenses, property and personal taxation, with the creation of a heavy burthen of debt in order to obtain funds for those necessary public works for which the normal increase in land values with the growth of population would be amply sufficient.

     Surely it is of pressing importance that a strong and persistent voice should be raised in Parliament against the iniquity of recognising as valid the purchase of land, minerals, or other monopolies from native chiefs who have neither legal nor moral right to sell them; or, of empowering Chartered Companies or Colonial Governments to rob future generations both of natives and colonists, by selling the Land, the use of which is the inalienable birthright of all.

     I cannot help thinking that there must be many men on both sides of the House of Commons who will be prepared to admit that such a method of dealing with unsettled land as we advocate is both right in itself and ought to be tried before it is too late. It would be a grand test experiment as to the beneficial effects of a system of Land Nationalisation; and its discussion would afford an excellent and much needed opportunity of bringing our principles and methods prominently before the public.

     This proposal, as affecting our foreign dependencies, and also, for our own country, the vital question of the security and inviolability of the home, which I discussed in my Address last year, will, I trust, ere long, be made the subject of Annual Resolutions in the House of Commons by some of our supporters.

     With earnest wishes for the success of our cause,

I remain,
Yours very truly,
Alfred R. Wallace.

Parkstone, Dorset,
April 18th, 1896

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