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In Memoriam A. C. Swinton (S620: 1905)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: An obituary printed in the Land and Labour issue of April 1905. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S620.htm

    [[p. 33]] I first met Mr. Swinton in an omnibus in February 1870, when he introduced himself to me. How he knew me I forget, but he had probably seen me at some meeting of spiritualists, as he asked me if I had read the Alpha, and learning that I had never heard of it, he promised to send me a copy. A few days later, I received it, with a letter, which I think is worth preserving, and which is as follows:--

     Dear Sir,--Your fellow passenger in an omnibus the other day to Charing Cross has now the pleasure of presenting you with a copy of the Alpha as promised.
     You may remember that I informed you that I desired to get a very fine portrait of the author placed in the National Portrait Gallery, but am unacquainted with any members of its committee.
     My main and higher wish is to see established a system of life based on the spiritualisms for which the Alpha so eloquently pleads, and by God's grace it will be achieved ere long.

     Yours ever,
     A. C. Swinton

     At that time and for some years afterwards I was deeply engaged in my natural history studies and writings, and only met Mr. Swinton at rare intervals. He knew that I, like himself, held Herbert Spencer's doctrine of the fundamental wrong of private property in land, but this was only one of many subjects on which we soon found that we were in complete harmony. During the discussions on the Irish Land question in 1879-80, the idea occurred to me, that if the inherent value of the land alone were made public property, while all the improvements (equivalent to the Irish "tenant right") remained the property of the occupier, all the usual objections and difficulties in the way of Land Nationalisation would disappear. I therefore carefully thought out the whole subject, and wrote the article on How to Nationalise the Land: A Radical Solution of the Irish Land Problem, which appeared in the Contemporary Review in November 1880.

     Mr. Swinton read this article, and on discussing it with some friends thought that it afforded a practical basis for concerted action with a view to the education of the public and future legislation. He accordingly invited me to visit him and discuss the subject at his residence in Upper Norwood, where I met Dr. G. B. Clark, Mr. Roland Estcourt, and a few other gentlemen; and it was decided to form a Land Nationalisation Society. All the subsequent discussions as to our programme and other details took place at Mr. Swinton's, whose hospitality was unbounded; and though he took no prominent part in the discussions, which were sometimes rather warm owing to diversity of opinions as to details, yet his influence was always for harmony, and for the sinking of minor differences in order to get the Society actually started.

     For the next few years it was his influence, and his liberal support, that enabled us to tide over our early difficulties, and I have always looked upon him, not only as the originator, but as the mainstay of our movement. For many years his whole thoughts and energies, and his whole time, were devoted to the progress of our cause. Nominally, he was only its treasurer, and as he rarely spoke at our public meetings few who did not know him personally (and many who did) had any conception of the amount of work he did for us. He was really our indefatigable secretary and advertising agent. He worked to make converts and to obtain supporters, not only among all his friends and acquaintances, but among public men and those with whom he had business relations. He spent hours every day and often whole days, in writing letters and distributing literature on our behalf. I was a frequent visitor at his house, often staying the night, as we lived far apart, and we soon became dear friends, and on most subjects were in the most complete sympathy. In his house I always felt at home, and whenever I was there, the welfare of our Society was his chief business. He would write letters before breakfast, and again at night for hours after I had gone to bed. Owing to his liberal views in early life, his father--a considerable Scotch laird--disinherited him, as he thought him too revolutionary to be trusted with his estates, leaving him only a very limited income. He then went abroad, to South Africa and Australia, where he became explorer and gold digger, and with his intimates was full of interesting recollections of these countries where he thoroughly enjoyed the wild and unconventional life, and always spoke with enthusiasm of the glorious climate of South Africa.

     Throughout his life he was a supporter of every movement in favour of peace, justice, and the advancement of society, while at the same time he was always ready to assist individuals who had been brought to undeserved poverty. He was, in fact, one [[p. 34]] of the most unselfish and truly benevolent men I ever knew, and if he had a fault it was that he thought more of humanity than of himself and family. Of him it may be truly said that he spent himself for his fellows, since his unremitting labours, together with insufficient relaxation and outdoor exercise, no doubt shortened his life.

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