Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)
LANDLORDISM AND ITS RESULTS IN SCOTLAND.
CHIEFS AND CLANSMEN IN THE HIGHLANDS--HIGHLAND CHIEFS CHANGED INTO LANDLORDS--CHARACTER OF THE HIGHLAND TENANTRY EIGHTY YEARS AGO--THE CHANGE EFFECTED BY LANDLORDS AND AGENTS--THE STORY OF THE SUTHERLAND EVICTIONS--OTHER EXAMPLES OF HIGHLAND CLEARANCES--WIDE EXTENT AND LONG CONTINUANCE OF THESE CLEARANCES--THEY WERE EXPOSED AND PROTESTED AGAINST IN VAIN--CONTINUANCE OF HIGHLAND CLEARANCES AND CONFISCATIONS DOWN TO THIS DAY--THESE EVILS INHERENT IN LANDLORDISM: AN ILLUSTRATIVE CASE--THE GENERAL RESULTS OF LANDLORDISM IN THE HIGHLANDS--FURTHER CLEARANCES AND DEVASTATION FOR THE SAKE OF SPORT--THE GROSS ABUSE OF POWER BY HIGHLAND LANDLORDS REQUIRES A RADICAL AND IMMEDIATE REMEDY--LANDLORDISM IN THE LOWLANDS OF SCOTLAND: CONDITION OF THE LABOURERS--THE CAUSE OF THIS STATE OF THINGS IS THE LANDLORD SYSTEM--SOME RECENT IMPROVEMENTS IN THE CONDITION OF SCOTCH LABOURERS--GENERAL RESULTS OF SCOTCH LANDLORDISM.
In a large part of Scotland landlordism presents peculiar features, and has produced its normal evil results on a larger scale and in a more striking manner than in any other part of the kingdom. This has been mainly due to the continued existence of the old Celtic Clans, with their hereditary Chieftains possessing many of the powers and privileges of a barbarous age, down to so recent a period as the middle of the last century, and the comparatively sudden transformation of these chiefs into landlords, who soon claimed and exercised all those absolute and despotic powers which the law of England bestowed upon them.
[[p. 52]] Chiefs and Clansmen in the Highlands.--Under the old system the Highland Chief was a petty sovereign, who retained civil and criminal jurisdiction over his clansmen and the power of making war on other chiefs and clans. But these clansmen were never either serfs or vassals, but free men; and the clan was really a great family, all the members of which were supposed to be, and often actually were, of one blood. It was a true patriarchal system, totally distinct from the feudal system of Europe; and though every clansman owed fealty and military service, as well as certain dues or payments, to his chief, these were given through love and duty rather than through fear, and every petty clansman held his land and his rights to pasture and wood and turf, and to hunt and fish over the mountains and lakes, by the same title as the chieftain held his more extensive lands and privileges. As well expressed by an able writer in the Westminster Review--"No error could be grosser than that of viewing the chiefs as unlimited proprietors, not only of the arable land, but of the whole territory of the mountain, lake, river, and seashore, held and won during hundreds of years by the broadswords of the clansmen. Could any MacLean admit, even in a dream, that his chief could clear Mull of all the MacLeans and replace them with Campbells; or the MacIntosh people his lands with MacDonalds, and drive away his own race, any more than Louis Napoleon could evict all the population of France and supply their place with English and German colonists?" Yet this very power and right the English Government, in its aristocratic selfishness, bestowed upon the chiefs, when, after the great rebellion of 1745, it took away their privileges of war and criminal jurisdiction, and endeavoured to assimilate them to the nobles and great landowners of England. The rights of the clansmen were entirely left out of consideration.
Highland Chiefs Changed into Landlords.--For some time the change was not materially felt. Tracts of land were [[p. 53]] assigned to the more important members of the clan on payment of an annual rent, and these often sublet the land to the poorer Highlanders. The English system of entail soon became common in Scotland, and by marriage, inheritance, and purchase, the great estates became still greater and passed into fewer hands, while the feeling of clanship became weaker and the rights of the clansmen less clearly recognised. When, shortly afterwards, England became engaged in the great American and Continental wars, the Highland noblemen raised recruits from among their clansmen and formed the famous Highland regiments; and, as this added to their dignity and importance, they favoured the increase of small farmers whose hardy sons would swell the ranks of the army. The larger of these tenants were called "tacksmen," the smaller "crofters," and thus most of the Highland valleys were filled with a peaceful, hardy, industrious, and contented population.
Character of Highland Tenantry Eighty Years Ago.--The testimony on this subject is of a very uniform nature. The tacksmen, or small gentlemen farmers, lived in rude houses but with much comfort, and were almost always men of good education and refined manners; while their hospitality was unbounded, and they freely supported among them the poor of the district. Dr. Norman MacLeod tells us, as a proof of the sterling qualities and high character of this class of Highlanders, that, since the beginning of the last wars of the French Revolution, the island of Skye alone sent forth from her wild shores 21 lieutenant and major-generals, 48 lieutenant-colonels, 600 commissioned officers, 10,000 soldiers, 4 governors of colonies, 1 governor-general, 1 adjutant-general, 1 chief baron of England, and 1 judge of the Supreme Court of Scotland. Besides such men as these, the same class supplied the whole of the clergy, doctors and lawyers of the North of Scotland, as well as many to other parts of the empire. Now, through the [[p. 54]] changes brought about by the despotism of the landlords, this class of men has almost entirely ceased to exist, and few soldiers or officers are supplied by the Highlands.1
In Sir John McNeill's "Report on the Western Highlands and Islands," he describes the crofter as often a permanent or even hereditary tenant, at a rent fixed for long periods, occupying a few acres of arable land, with right of peat and pasture on the mountain, and of fishing, if near the sea or a loch. His rude house was often built by himself, the byre for the cows and the barn for his crop being under the same roof. He usually possessed some cattle, sheep, and a pony or two, a boat, nets, and fishing gear, and a good supply of needful implements and household furniture. His croft supplied him with food and a great part of his clothing, his annual sale of cattle paid his rent, he had abundance of dried fish or salt herrings for winter use, and he thus lived in a rude abundance, with little labour, and knew nothing of the unremitting daily toil by which labourers in other parts of the country gain their livelihood. And what was the character of these men? Dr. McLeod says: "The real Highland peasantry are, I hesitate not to affirm, by far the most intelligent in the world. I say this advisedly, after having compared them with those of many countries. Their good breeding must strike every one who is familiar with them." The Highlander is said to be lazy, but when removed to another clime he exhibits a perseverance and industry which makes him rise very rapidly. Hugh Miller says that, in the golden age of the Highlands, between the rebellion of 1745 and the commencement of the clearance system, the Highland peasantry were contented and comfortable, and continuously supplied those Highland regiments which were composed of at once the best men and the best soldiers in the service; and he declares that, when he has seen them labouring to extract a miserable crop from a barren soil of [[p. 55]] quartz rock and peat, his chief wonder has been at their great industry.
The Change Effected by Landlords and Agents.--The happy and contented lot of the Highlanders, both of the "tacksman" and the "crofter" class, might doubtless, under a wise and liberal system of permanent tenure and free use of the land of their native country, have been extended and perpetuated with the most beneficial results; but in the hands of landlords and agents this could hardly be expected. In order to obtain the highest rents the agents and some of the tacksmen favoured the subdivision of the crofts till they would hardly support a family, and the crofters were then forced to add to their means either by the wages of labour, by the manufacture of kelp, or other expedients. Poverty and distress increased; and the landlords, tempted by offers of large rents from Lowland sheep-farmers, began to seek means of getting rid of the burdensome population of small farmers--whose rents were difficult to collect and often in arrear--in order to let out their vast territories as sheep farms. The great landlords argued, and perhaps persuaded themselves, that the land could not support more small farmers, but might be more profitably employed in feeding sheep, thus producing wool and mutton for the whole community, and, therefore, that the proposed change was for the public benefit. Accordingly, the full rights of possession given by the English law were now insisted on. The pasture of the hill-tops, the game on the moors, the wood and the peat of the forests, the salmon in the rivers, and even the very shell-fish and sea-weed on the wild sea-shore were declared the sole and exclusive property of the landlords. Then began the clearances and evictions dignified by the name of "improvements." By hundreds and thousands at a time the occupiers of the soil were driven from their homes, and were many of them forced to leave the country which they had so bravely defended on many a hard-won battle-field.
[[p. 56]] One of the most celebrated of these wholesale clearances was made on the great estate of the lords of Sutherland, then in the possession of an English nobleman, the Marquis of Stafford, who had acquired it by marriage. This estate consisted of more than 700,000 acres, or the larger half of the entire county, and was inhabited by a population of 15,000 herdsmen or small farmers, occupying the numerous valleys and secluded glens which penetrate among its bleak and barren mountains. In the course of a few years these were almost all forcibly removed, some to the sea-coast, where small plots of land were allotted to them, others to Canada; and this large population was replaced by thirty-nine sheep farmers and their few shepherds. As there is a general belief among educated people (who alone have heard that any such events took place) that these clearances were conducted with gentleness and humanity, and that they were really beneficial to the inhabitants--as they were no doubt intended to be by the Marquis and Marchioness of Stafford--it becomes necessary to give a few authentic statements of what actually took place under their general orders. Our authority is a series of letters by Donald M'Leod, one of the tenants on the Sutherland Estate an eye-witness of much that he relates, and a personal sufferer. These letters first appeared in the Edinburgh Weekly Chronicle, and were republished at Greenock, in 1856, in a pamphlet form, by four gentlemen of that town, who append their names to an introductory address in which they state that "Deeds have been done of a character so base and heartless on these unoffending Highlanders that it almost exceeds belief," and that as a consequence of the clearances, the land under tillage in Scotland decreased, between 1831 and 1855, by no less than one million five hundred and thirteen thousand three hundred and eighty-two acres.
The Story of the Sutherland Evictions.--The Sutherland clearances commenced in 1807 by the ejection of 90 families, who were provided with smaller lots near the coast, and allowed [[p. 57]] to remove the timber of their houses, wherewith to build new ones. During the removal their crops suffered greatly; they and their families had to sleep out of doors; some died through fatigue and exposure, while others contracted diseases which shortened their lives. At a later period the evictions were carried out with much greater severity; the lots given to the people were often patches of moor and bog quite unfit for cultivation, the houses were often burned down, crops and furniture destroyed, and general misery spread among the people. The following is Donald M'Leod's account of some of these proceedings:--"In former removals the tenants had been allowed to carry away the timber of their old dwellings to erect houses on their new allotments, but now a more summary mode was adopted--by setting fire to them. The able-bodied men were by this time away after their cattle or otherwise engaged at a distance, so that the immediate sufferers by the general house-burning that now commenced were the aged and infirm, the women and children. . . . The devastators proceeded with the greatest celerity, demolishing all before them, and when they had overthrown all the houses in a large tract of country, they set fire to the wreck. Timber, furniture, and every other article that could not be instantly removed was consumed by fire or otherwise utterly destroyed. The proceedings were carried on with the greatest rapidity and the most reckless cruelty. The cries of the victims, the confusion, the despair and horror painted on the countenances of the one party, and the exulting ferocity of the other, beggar all description. . . . Many deaths ensued from alarm, from fatigue, and cold, the people having been instantly deprived of shelter, and left to the mercies of the elements. Some old men took to the woods and to the rocks, wandering about in a state approaching to, or of absolute insanity; and several of them in this situation lived only a few days. Pregnant women were taken in premature labour, and several children did not long [[p. 58]] survive their sufferings. To these scenes I was an eye-witness, and am ready to substantiate the truth of my statements, not only by my own testimony, but by that of many others who were present at the time. In such a scene of devastation it is almost useless to particularise the cases of individuals; the suffering was great and universal. I shall, however, notice a very few of the extreme cases of which I was myself an eye-witness. John Mackay's wife, Ravigill, in attempting to pull down her house, in the absence of her husband, to preserve the timber, fell through the roof. She was in consequence taken in premature labour, and in that state was exposed to the open air and to the view of all the bystanders. Donald Munro, Garvott, lying in a fever, was turned out of his house and exposed to the elements. Donald Macbeath, an infirm and bedridden old man, had the house unroofed over him, and was in that state exposed to the wind and rain until death put a period to his sufferings. I was present at the pulling down and burning of the house of William Chisholme, Badinloskin, in which was lying his wife's mother, an old bedridden woman of nearly 100 years of age none of the family being present. . . . Fire was set to the house, and the blankets in which she was carried out were in flames before she could be got out. She was placed in a little shed, and it was with great difficulty they were prevented from firing it also. Within five days she was a corpse."
In 1819 the parish of Kildonan, and parts of three others, were cleared by parties with faggots, who burnt down 300 houses. The following is M'Leod's account of what took place:--"The consternation and confusion were extreme; little or no time was given for the removal of persons or property; the people striving to remove the sick and the helpless before the fire should reach them, and struggling to save the most valuable of their effects. The cries of the women and children, the roaring of the affrighted cattle, hunted [[p. 59]] at the same time by the yelling dogs of the shepherds amid the smoke and fire, altogether presented a scene that completely baffles description--it required to be seen to be believed. A dense cloud of smoke enveloped the whole country by day, and even extended far out to sea; at night an awfully grand, but terrific, scene presented itself--all the houses in an extensive district in flames at once. I myself ascended a height about eleven o'clock in the evening, and counted 250 blazing houses, many of the owners of which were my relations, and all of whom I personally knew, but whose present condition--whether in or out of the flames--I could not tell. The conflagration lasted six days, till the whole of the dwellings were reduced to ashes or smoking ruins. During one of these days a boat actually lost her way in the dense smoke as she approached the shore, but at night was enabled to reach a landing-place by the lurid light of the flames."
The "allotments" to which the expelled and burnt-out inhabitants were removed are thus described by M'Leod:--
"These allotments were generally situated on the sea-coast, the intention being to force those who could not, or would not leave the country, to draw their subsistence from the sea by fishing; and in order to deprive them of any other means the lots were not only made small (varying from one to three acres), but their nature and situation rendered them unfit for any useful purpose . . . To the sea-coasts, then, which surround the greatest part of the county, where the whole mass of the inhabitants, to the amount of several thousand families, driven by their unrelenting tyrants in the manner I have described, to subsist as they could on the sea or the air; for the spots allowed them could not be called land, being composed of narrow strips, promontories, cliffs and precipices, rocks and deep crevices, interspersed with bogs and morasses. The whole quite useless to the superiors, and evidently never designed by [[p. 60]] nature for the habitation of man or beast. . . . The patches fit for cultivation were so small that few of them would afford room for more than a few handfuls of seed, and in harvest if there happened to be any crop, it was in continual danger of being blown into the sea, in that bleak, inclement region, where neither tree nor shrub could exist to arrest its progress."
No less disastrous were the immediate results of forcibly removing an inland agricultural population to one of the wildest and stormiest of the sea-coasts of our islands, and forcing them to attempt to eke out a scanty subsistence by fishing. Some in time, became expert fishermen, but many lost their lives in the attempt. The following are a few cases given by Donald M'Leod:--
"William M'Kay, a respectable man, shortly after settling on his allotment on the coast, went one day to explore his new possession, and in venturing to examine more nearly the ware growing within the flood-mark was suddenly swept away by a splash of the sea, and lost his life before the eyes of his miserable wife and three helpless children, who were left to deplore his fate. James Campbell, a man also with a family, on attempting to catch a peculiar kind of small fish among the rocks, was carried away by the sea and never seen afterwards. Bell M'Kay, a married woman, and mother of a family, while in the act of taking up salt water to make salt of was carried away in a similar manner, and nothing more seen of her. Robert M'Kay, who, with his family, were suffering extreme want, in endeavouring to procure some sea-fowls' eggs among the rocks, lost his hold, and, falling from a prodigious height, was dashed to pieces, leaving a wife and five destitute children behind him. John M'Donald, while fishing, was swept off the rocks, and never seen more."
Scenes like these went on for fourteen years, unknown to the English people, unnoticed by the English Government. Hugh Miller, speaking of them, says:--"The clearing of [[p. 61]] Sutherland was a process of ruin so thoroughly disastrous that it might be deemed scarcely possible to render it more complete. Between the years 1811 and 1820, 15,000 inhabitants of this northern district were ejected from their snug inland farms by means for which we would in vain seek a precedent, except, perhaps, in the history of the Irish massacre. A singularly well-conditioned and wholesome district of country has been converted into one wide ulcer of wretchedness and woe."
Other Examples of Highland Clearances.--Other great landlords soon followed the example thus set them, but in many cases with even more disastrous results, driving away their tenants without troubling themselves about their means of support or what became of them. An example of two of these later evictions must be quoted from a pamphlet recently published by Alex. Mackenzie, F.S.A., Scot., editor of the Celtic Magazine, and author of several works on the Highlands:--
"The Glengarry property at one time covered an area of nearly 200 square miles, and to-day, while many of their expatriated vassals are landed proprietors and in affluent circumstances in Canada, not an inch of the old possessions of the ancient and powerful family of Glengarry remains to the descendants of those who caused the banishment of a people who, on many a well-fought field, shed their blood for their chief and country. In 1853 every inch of the ancient heritage was possessed by the stranger except Knoydart, in the west, and this has long ago become the property of one of the Bairds. In the year named young Glengarry was a minor, his mother, the widow of the late chief, being one of his trustees. She does not appear to have learned any lesson of wisdom from the past misfortunes of her house. Indeed, considering her limited power and possessions, she was comparatively the worst of them all. The tenants of Knoydart, like all other [[p. 62]] Highlanders, had suffered severely during and after the potato famine in 1846 and 1847, and some of them got into arrear with a year's and some with two years' rent, but they were fast clearing it off. Mrs. Macdonell and her factor determined to evict every crofter on her property, to make room for sheep. In the spring of 1853 they were all served with summonses of removal, accompanied by a message that Sir John Macneil, Chairman of the Board of Supervision, had agreed to convey them to Australia. Their feelings were not considered worthy of the slightest consideration. They were not even asked whether they would prefer to follow their countrymen to America and Canada. They were to be treated as if they were nothing better than Africans, and the laws of their country on a level with those which regulated South American slavery. The people, however, had no alternative but to accept any offer made to them. They could not get an inch of land on any of the neighbouring estates, and any one who would give them a night's shelter was threatened with eviction themselves. It was afterwards found not convenient to transport them to Australia, and it was then intimated to the poor creatures, as if they were nothing but common slaves to be disposed of at will, that they would be taken to North America, and that a ship would be at Isle Ornsay, in the Island of Skye, in a few days to receive them, and that they must go on board. The Sillery soon arrived, and Mrs. Macdonell and her factor came all the way from Edinburgh to see the people hounded across in boats, and put on board this ship, whether they would or not. An eye-witness who described the proceeding at the time, in a now rare pamphlet, and whom I met last year in Nova Scotia, characterises the scene as indescribable and heart-rending. 'The wail of the poor women and children as they were torn away from their homes would have melted a heart of stone.' Some few families, principally cottars, refused to go, in spite of every influence brought to bear upon them; and the treatment [[p. 63]] they afterwards received was cruel beyond belief. The houses, not only of those who went, but of those who remained, were burnt and levelled to the ground. The Strath was dotted all over with black spots, showing where yesterday stood the habitations of men. The scarred, half-burnt wood--couples, rafters, and bars--were strewn about in every direction. Stooks of corn and plots of unlifted potatoes could be seen on all sides, but man was gone. No voice could be heard. Those who refused to go aboard the Sillery were in hiding among the rocks and the caves, while their friends were packed off like so many African slaves to the Cuban market.
"No mercy was shown to those who refused to emigrate; their few articles of furniture were thrown out of their houses after them--beds, chairs, tables, pots, stoneware, clothing, in many cases rolling down the hill. What took years to erect and collect was destroyed and scattered in a few minutes. From house to house, from hut to hut, and from barn to barn, the factor and his menials proceeded carrying on the work of demolition, until there was scarcely a human habitation left standing in the district. Able-bodied men, who, if the matter should rest with a mere trial of physical force, would have bound the factor and his party hand and foot and sent them out of the district, stood aside as dumb spectators. Women wrung their hands and cried aloud, children ran to and fro dreadfully frightened; and while all this work of demolition and destruction was going on, no opposition was offered by the inhabitants, no hand was lifted, no stone cast, no angry word was spoken."
Mr. Mackenzie proceeds to give a large number of detailed cases of these evictions, of which the following two may be taken as average samples:--
"Archibald Macisaac, crofter, aged 66; wife 54, with a family of ten children. Archibald's house, byre, barn, and stable were levelled to the ground. The furniture of the house was thrown down the hill, and a general destruction then [[p. 64]] commenced. The roof, fixtures, and wood work were smashed to pieces, the walls razed to the very foundation, and all that was left for poor Archibald to look upon was a black, dismal wreck. Ten human beings were thus deprived of their homes in less than half an hour. It was grossly illegal to have destroyed the barn, for, according even to the law of Scotland, the outgoing or removing tenant is entitled to the use of the barn until his crops are disposed of. But, of course, in a remote district, and among simple and primitive people like the inhabitants of Knoydart, the laws that concern them and define their rights are unknown to them."
"John Mackinnon, a cottar, aged 44, with a wife and six children, had his house pulled down, and had no place to put his head in, consequently he and his family, for the first night or two, had to burrow among the rocks near the shore! When he thought that the factor and his party had left the district, he emerged from the rocks, surveyed the ruins of his former dwelling, saw his furniture and other effects exposed to the elements, and now scarcely worth the lifting. The demolition was so complete that he considered it utterly impossible to make any use of the ruins of the old house. The ruins of an old chapel, however, were near at hand, and parts of the walls were still standing, and thither Mackinnon proceeded with his family, and having swept away some rubbish, and removed some grass and nettles, they placed some cabars up to one of the walls, spread some sails and blankets across, brought in some meadow hay, and laid it in a corner for a bed, stuck a piece of iron into the wall in another corner, on which they placed a crook, then kindled a fire, washed some potatoes, and put a pot on the fire and boiled them, and when these and a few fish roasted on the embers were ready, Mackinnon and his family had one good diet, being the first regular food they tasted since the destruction of their house!
"Mackinnon is a tall man, but poor and unhealthy-looking. [[p. 65]] His wife is a poor weak woman, evidently struggling with a diseased constitution and dreadful trials. The boys, Ronald and Archibald, were lying in 'bed'--(may I call a 'pickle' hay on the bare ground a bed?)--suffering from rheumatism and cholic. The other children are apparently healthy enough as yet, but very ragged. There is no door to their wretched abode, consequently every breeze and gust that blow have free ingress to the inmates. A savage from Terra-del-Fuego, or a Red Indian from beyond the Rocky Mountains, would not exchange huts with these victims, nor humanity with their persecutors. Mackinnon's wife was pregnant when she was turned out of her house among the rocks. In about four days thereafter she had a premature birth; and this and the exposure to the elements, and the want of proper shelter and a nutritious diet, has brought on consumption, from which there is no chance whatever of her recovery.
"There was something very solemn indeed in this scene. Here, amid the ruins of the old sanctuary, where the swallows fluttered, where the ivy tried to screen the grey moss-covered stones, where nettles and grass grew up luxuriantly, where the floor was damp, the walls sombre and uninviting, where there were no doors nor windows nor roof, and where the owl, the bat, and the fox used to take refuge, a Christian family was necessitated to take shelter! One would think that as Mackinnon took refuge amid the ruins of this most singular place he would be let alone, that he would not any longer be molested by man. But, alas! he was molested. The manager of Knoydart and his minions appeared, and invaded this helpless family, even within the walls of the sanctuary. They pulled down the sticks and sails he set up within its ruins--put his wife and children out on the cold shore--threw his tables, stools, chairs, &c., over the walls--burnt up the hay on which they slept--put out the fire--and then left the district. Four times have these officers broken in upon poor Mackinnon [[p. 66]] in this way, destroying his place of shelter, and sending him and his family adrift on the cold coast of Knoydart. Had Mackinnon been in arrears of rent, which he was not, even this would not justify the harsh, cruel, and inhuman conduct pursued towards himself and his family. No language of mine can describe the condition of this poor family, exaggeration is impossible. The ruins of an old chapel is the last place in the world to which a poor Highlander would resort with his wife and children unless he was driven to it by dire necessity."
Particulars are also given of similar clearances in Strathglass, Kintail, Glenelg, and several islands of the Hebrides. These people were generally shipped off to Canada without any provision whatever for them on their arrival there. We have only room here for the following statement, made by the passengers of one of the vessels which conveyed them there:--
"We, the undersigned passengers per Admiral, from Stornoway, in the Highlands of Scotland, do solemnly depose to the following facts:--That Colonel Gordon is proprietor of estates in South Uist and Barra; that among many hundred tenants and cottars whom he has sent this season from his estates to Canada, he gave directions to his factor, Mr. Fleming, of Cluny Castle, Aberdeenshire, to ship on board of the above-named vessel a number of nearly 450 of said tenants and cottars, from the estate in Barra; that accordingly, a great majority of these people, among whom were the undersigned, proceeded voluntarily to embark on board the Admiral, at Loch Boisdale, on or about 11th Aug., 1851; but that several of the people who were intended to be shipped for this port, Quebec, refused to proceed on board, and, in fact, absconded from their homes to avoid the embarkation. Whereupon Mr. Fleming gave orders to a policeman, who was accompanied by the ground officer of the estate in Barra, and some constables, to pursue the people who had run away among the mountains; which they did, and succeeded in capturing about twenty from the mountains and [[p. 67]] islands in the neighbourhood; but only came with the officers on an attempt being made to handcuff them; and that some who ran away were not brought back, in consequence of which four families at least have been divided, some having come in the ships to Quebec, while other members of the same families are left in the Highlands.
"The undersigned further declare that those voluntarily embarked did so under promises to the effect that Colonel Gordon would defray their passage to Quebec; that the Government Emigration Agent there would send the whole party free to upper Canada, where, on arrival, the Government agents would give them work, and furthermore, grant them land on certain conditions.
"The undersigned finally declare that they are now landed in Quebec so destitute that, if immediate relief be not afforded them, and continued until they are settled in employment, the whole will be liable to perish with want."
(Signed) HECTOR LAMONT, and 70 others.
The Quebec Times, which prints this statement, adds:--"This is a beautiful picture! Had the scene been laid in Russia or Turkey, the barbarity of the proceeding would have shocked the nerves of the reader; but when it happens in Britain, emphatically the land of liberty, where every man's house, even the hut of the poorest, is said to be his castle, the expulsion of these unfortunate creatures from their homes--the man-hunt with policemen and bailiffs--the violent separation of families--the parent torn from the child, the mother from her daughter--the infamous trickery practised on those who did embark--the abandonment of the aged, the infirm, women, and tender children, in a foreign land--forms a tableau which cannot be dwelt on for an instant without horror. Words cannot depict the atrocity of the deed. For cruelty less savage the dealers of the South have been held up to the execration of the world."
[[p. 68]] Wide Extent and Long Continuance of these Clearances: They are Exposed and Protested against in Vain.--The reader will perhaps exclaim "These accounts must be exaggerated, or they would have been protested against at the time, and Parliament would have interfered." Protests, however, were made. General Stewart of Garth protested immediately after the Sutherland clearances; while Hugh Miller's paper, The Witness, again and again called attention to them; but in vain. In a series of articles which appeared in 1849 the wide extent and cruel severity of these clearances were forcibly exhibited, as the following extracts will show:--
"Men talk of the Sutherland clearings as if they stood alone amidst the atrocities of the system; but those who know fully the facts of the case can speak with as much truth of the Ross-shire clearings, the Inverness-shire clearings, the Perthshire clearings, and, to some extent, the Argyleshire clearings. The earliest was the great clearing on the Glengarry estate about the end of the last century. . . . Crossing to the south of the great glen, we may begin with Glencoe. How much of its romantic interest does the glen owe to its desolation? Let us remember, however, that the desolation, in a large part of it, is the result of the extrusion of its inhabitants. Travel eastward, and the footprints of the destroyer cannot be lost sight of. Large tracts along the Spean and its tributaries are a wide waste. The southern bank of Loch Lochy is almost without inhabitants, though the symptoms of former occupancy are frequent. When we enter the country of the Frasers, the same spectacle presents itself--a desolate land. Across the hills in Stratherrick, the property of Lord Lovat, with the exception of a few large sheep farmers and a very few tenants, is one wide waste. To the north of Loch Ness, the territory of the Grants, both Glenmorison and the Earl of Seafield, presents a pleasing feature amidst the sea of desolation. But beyond this, again, [[p. 69]] let us trace the large rivers of the east coast to their sources. Trace the Beauly through all its upper reaches, and how many thousands upon thousands of acres, once peopled, are, as respects human beings, a wild wilderness! The lands of the Chisholm have been stripped of their population down to a mere fragment; the possessors of those of Lovat have not been behind with their share of the same sad doings. Let us cross to the Conon and its branches, and we will find that the chieftains of the Mackenzies have not been less active in extermination. Breadalbane and Rannoch, in Perthshire, have a similar tale to tell, vast masses of the population having been forcibly expelled. The upper portions of Athole have also suffered, while many of the valleys along the Spey and its tributaries are without an inhabitant, if we except a few shepherds. Sutherland, with all its atrocities, affords but a fraction of the atrocities that have been perpetrated in following out the ejectment system of the Highlands. In truth, of the habitable portion of the whole country, but a small part is now really inhabited. We are unwilling to weary our readers by carrying them along the west coast, from the Linnhe Loch northwards; but if they inquire, they will find that the same system has been, in the case of most of the estates, relentlessly pursued. These are facts of which, we believe, the British public know little, but they are facts on which the changes should be rung until they have listened to them and seriously considered them. May it not be that part of the guilt is theirs, who might, yet did not, step forward to stop such cruel and unwise proceedings?
"Let us leave the past, however (he continues), and considers the present. And it is a melancholy reflection that the year 1849 has added its long list to the roll of Highland ejectments. While the law is banishing its tens for terms of seven or fourteen years, as the penalty of deep-dyed crimes, irresponsible and infatuated power is banishing its thousands [[p. 70]] for life for no crime whatever. This year brings forward, as leader in the work of expatriation, the Duke of Argyll. Is it possible that his vast possessions are over-densely populated? And the Highland Destitution Committee co-operate. We had understood that the large sums of money at their disposal had been given them for the purpose of relieving, and not of banishing, the destitute. Next we have Mr. Bailie of Glenelg, professedly at their own request, sending five hundred souls off to America. Their native glen must have been made not a little uncomfortable for these poor people, ere they could have petitioned for so sore a favour. Then we have Colonel Gordon expelling upwards of eighteen hundred souls from South Uist; Lord Macdonald follows with a sentence of banishment against six or seven hundred of the people of North Uist, with a threat, as we learn, that three thousand are to be driven from Skye next season; and Mr. Lillingston of Lochalsh, Maclean of Ardgour, and Lochiel, bring up the rear of the black catalogue, a large body of people having left the estates of the two latter, who, after a heartrending scene of parting with their native land, are now on the wide sea on their way to Australia. Thus, within the last three or four months, considerably upwards of three thousand of the most moral and loyal of our people--people who, even in the most trying circumstances, never required a soldier, seldom a policeman, among them to maintain the peace--are driven forcibly away to seek subsistence on a foreign soil."
Professor Leoni Levi, who has made a special study of the condition of the Highlands, in an article in the Journal of the London Statistical Society, Vol. XXVIII, makes the following statement:--"Again and again these clearances have been continued, down even to the present time; and it is impossible to read the accounts of such transactions without feeling sympathy for those large bands of men, women, and children, who, with their scanty household furniture, and all their lares [[p. 71]] and penates with them, were driven out from their own soil to find shelter where best they could."
Later on, Mrs. Hugh Miller bears similar testimony:--"At this date, 1862, the depopulation of the Highlands is still rapidly going on. Not half a mile from the spot where we write, in the North-West Highlands, many families were ejected from their holdings but a few months ago. The factor--that dreaded middleman of the people--came with the underlings of the law, with spade and pickaxe, and left literally not one stone upon another of their poor cottages standing. I can see a miserable hovel into which several families have crowded who had before separate holdings of their own. Such scenes ought not to be allowed to disgrace a Christian country. But even where the inhabitants are allowed to remain in their miserable and insufficient crofts, the able-bodied--that is, the choicest of the population--are rapidly emigrating. 'There is not a lad worth anything,' said a person the other day who had just left a very large strath at some twenty miles distance--'there is not a lad worth anything who is not going away to New Zealand or some other place.' The people are indeed oppressed with a sense of utter poverty, and a total inability to rise above it. In many places their circumstances are made as wretched as possible on purpose to starve them out. There are a few proprietors--such as Sir Kenneth M'Kenzie, of Gairloch--who respect the feelings of those who have been for generations located on their properties; but these are very few. . . . Nothing can ever make the Highlander what he was but that interest in the soil which he has lost. Every Highlander formerly was possessed of all those feelings which constitute much that is valuable in the birthright of true gentlemen--a long-descended lineage, a sense of status and property, and an intense attachment to home and country."
Speaking of the general results of these clearings, a well-informed writer in the Westminster Review in 1868 says:--
"The Gaels, rooted from the dawn of history on the slopes [[p. 72]] of the northern mountains, have been thinned out and thrown away like young turnips too thickly planted. Noble gentlemen and noble ladies have shown a flintiness of heart and a meanness of detail in carrying out their clearings upon which it is revolting to dwell; and, after all, are the evils of over-population cured? Does not the disease still spring up under the very torture of the knife? Are not the crofts slowly and silently taken at every opportunity out of the hands of the peasantry? Where a Highlander has to leave his hut there is now no resting-place for him save the cellars or attics of the closes of Glasgow, or some other large centre of employment; and it has been noticed that the poor Gael is even more liable than the Irishman to sink under the debasement in which he is then immersed."2
Continuance of Highland Clearances and Confiscations Down to this Day.--Lest our readers should think that these cruel wrongs are things of the past, and that the exposure of them by so many eminent writers has led the proprietors of Highland estates to adopt a different system of management, or has [[p. 73]] caused the Government to interfere, it is necessary to call attention to a remarkable pamphlet by Dr. D. G. F. Macdonald, consisting of letters published recently in the Echo newspaper and some correspondence arising out of them. These show us that almost all the evils so prevalent in Ireland exist as fully and to as disastrous an extent in Scotland at the present day. There, also, rents are systematically raised on the improvements made by the tenant--there, too, is found the same general absence of leases, and the same monstrous powers of oppression and eviction in the hands of factors and agents, owing to a prevalence of absenteeism--there, too, the holdings are insufficiently small, and the destitution caused by this very insufficiency is made the excuse for wholesale eviction and the creation of large grazing farms. The following extracts will indicate what Dr. Macdonald has to say on these matters, as to which--being an agriculturist and estate-manager by profession, having written many works of repute on these subjects, having been largely employed on Highland estates, and being himself a native of the Highlands--he must be considered one [[p. 74]] of the very highest authorities. As to insecurity of tenure, he says:--
"I know that many crofters are never safe in improving their land, for as soon as they begin to reap the benefit the landlord or factor steps in and raises their rents, or gives notice to quit, thus robbing the poor people of their just rights as much as if he dipped his hands into their pockets and walked away with their cash."
Again:--"Amongst the crying evils of the Highland crofters is the ball-room size of his holding, and the want of security of occupation. Crofters often complain--and complain very justly--of a want of sympathy on the part of the owners, and of being extruded from their holdings at the caprice of the landlord or factor, without a farthing of compensation for their improvements. . . . Such breaches of good faith are indeed atrocious, oppressive, and a violation of rights."
As to absenteeism and eviction he bears testimony as follows:--"The curse of Scotland is that so many of the proprietors are non-resident. . . . Because agents, forsooth! find that they can with less trouble collect rents from a few large tenants than from a number of small ones they recommend wholesale evictions. Neither understanding nor respecting the real manhood and sterling qualities of the Highland character, they heartlessly wage a war of extermination against the helpless crofters and small farmers; and this is in nine cases out of ten the result of absenteeism."
As to the nature and extent of this extermination Dr. Macdonald writes in the strongest manner. He says:--
"The extermination of the Highlanders has been carried on for many years as systematically and relentlessly as of the North American Indians. . . . Who can withhold sympathy as whole families have turned to take a last look at the heavens red with their burning houses? The poor people shed no tears, for there was in their hearts that which stifled [[p. 75]] such signs of emotion; they were absorbed in despair. They were forced away from that which was near and dear to their hearts, and their patriotism was treated with contemptuous mockery."
Again:--"I know a glen, now inhabited by two shepherds and two gamekeepers, which at one time sent out its thousand fighting men. And this is but one out of many that might be cited to show how the Highlands have been depopulated. Loyal, peaceable, and high-spirited peasantry have been driven from their native land--as the Jews were expelled from Spain, or the Huguenots from France--to make room for grouse, sheep, and deer. A portly volume would be needed to contain the records of oppression and cruelty perpetrated by many landlords, who are a scourge to their unfortunate tenants, blighting their lives, poisoning their happiness, and robbing them of their improvements, filling their wretched homes with sorrow, and breaking their hearts with the weight of despair."
These statements, strong though they are, are fully supported by the testimony of other witnesses. Mr. John Somerville, of Lochgilphead, writes:--"The watchword of all is exterminate, exterminate the native race. Through this monomania of landlords the cottier population is all but extinct; and the substantial yeoman is undergoing the same process of dissolution." The following examples are then given:--"About nine miles of country on the west side of Loch Awe, in Argyleshire, that formerly maintained 45 families, are now rented by one person as a sheep-farm; and in the island of Luing, same county, which formerly contained about 50 substantial farmers, beside cottiers, this number is now reduced to about six. The work of eviction commenced by giving, in many cases, to the ejected population, facilities and pecuniary aid for emigration; but now the people are turned adrift, penniless and shelterless, to seek a precarious subsistence on [[p. 76]] the seaboard, the nearest hamlet or village, and in the cities, many of whom sink down helpless paupers on our poor-roll, and others, festering in our villages, form a formidable Arab population, who drink our money contributed as parochial relief. This wholesale depopulation is perpetrated, too, in a spirit of invidiousness, harshness, cruelty, and injustice, and must eventuate in permanent injury to the moral, political, and social interests of the kingdom."
Again:--"The immediate effects of this new system are the dissociation of the people from the land, who are virtually denied the right to labour on God's creation. In L___, for instance, garden ground and small allotments of land are in great demand by families, and especially by the aged, whose labouring days are done, for the purpose of keeping cows, and by which they might be able to earn an honest independent maintenance for their families, and whereby their children might be brought up to labour, instead of growing up vagabonds and thieves. But such, even in our centres of population, cannot be got; the whole is let in large farms and turned into grazing. The few patches of bare pasture, formed by the delta of rivers, the detritus of rocks, and tidal deposits are let for grazing cows, at the exorbitant rent of £3 10s. each for a small Highland cow; and the small space to be had for garden ground is equally extravagant. The consequence of these exorbitant rents and the want of agricultural facilities is a depressed, degraded, and pauperised population."
Similar facts were proved before the last Game Law Committee. It was shown that in Ross-shire and Inverness about 200,000 acres had been laid waste in order to make room for the deer. On one estate in Ross-shire from sixty to eighty thousand acres had been cleared of inhabitants, and the arable land turned into waste in order to form deer forests, while the few crofters in that county were confined to a few patches by the loch sides, for which they paid exorbitant rents of from thirty to forty shillings an acre.
[[p. 77]] These Evils Inherent in Landlordism--An Illustrative Case.--The facts stated in this chapter will possess, I feel sure, for many Englishmen, an almost startling novelty; the tale of oppression and cruelty they reveal reads like one of those hideous stories of violence peculiar to the dark ages rather than a simple record of events happening upon our own land and within the memory of the present generation. For a parallel to this monstrous power of the landowner, under which life and property are entirely at his mercy, we must go back to mediæval times, or to the days when, serfdom not having been abolished, the Russian noble was armed with despotic authority; while the more pitiful results of this landlord tyranny, the wide devastation of cultivated lands, the heartless burning of houses, the reckless creation of pauperism and misery out of well-being and contentment, could only be expected under the rule of Turkish Sultans or greedy and cruel Pashas. Yet these cruel deeds have been perpetrated in one of the most beautiful portions of our native land. They are not the work of uncultured barbarians or of fanatic Moslems, but of so-called civilised and Christian men, and--worst feature of all--they are not due to any high-handed exercise of power beyond the law, but are all strictly legal, are in many cases the act of members of the Legislature itself, and, notwithstanding that they have been repeatedly made known for at least sixty years past, no steps have been taken, or are even proposed to be taken, by the Legislature to prevent them for the future! Surely it is time that the people of England should declare that such things shall no longer exist--that the rich shall no longer have such legal power to oppress the poor--that the land shall be free for all who are willing to pay a fair value for its use--and, as this is not possible under landlordism, that landlordism shall be abolished.
Dr. Macdonald, to whose writings we are so much indebted, like most other writers on the subject, does not seem to contemplate any such radical change, but thinks that protection to [[p. 78]] the tenants might be given by special legislation. But a little consideration will, I think, show that any such legislation, to be an adequate remedy for the various phases and evils of landlordism, must necessarily be complex and therefore difficult of application, must involve legal procedure of some sort, and must therefore be totally illusive--a mere mockery and delusion--when one party to every case brought before the courts would be the wealthy landlord, the other the poverty-stricken or ruined tenant. So long as the relation of landlord and tenant exists, the law can only, at the best, provide a legal--and therefore an uncertain and costly--remedy, for evils already caused and wrongs already committed. I maintain that it would be infinitely better to prevent the wrong and evil from ever coming into existence, which, as will be shown in succeeding chapters, can be done with ease and certainty when once we abolish landlordism and substitute for it occupying ownership.
To show how inherent are evil results in the very nature of landlordism (always supposing that no universal and miraculous change occurs in the nature of landlords) it will be instructive to give a sketch of the correspondence as to the island of Lewis, the property of Sir James Matheson, Bart. This gentleman is declared by Dr. Macdonald, who has long known him personally, to be "one of the most benevolent and popular men of the age," and one "who lives almost constantly among his people, dispensing bounty with a liberal hand, and diffusing much good by example." Yet, it is admitted that under so good a landlord as this, a body of tenants were subjected for years to such cruel injustice by the factor that they at last broke into a mild form of rebellion, and then only did the landlord know anything about the matter, and of course dismissed the offending factor. Estates in Scotland seem to be like some great empires, in this respect, that the subordinate rulers are able to oppress their dependents for years, [[p. 79]] only being found out when they goad their unhappy subjects into rebellion. Even Mr. Hugh Matheson, who styles himself "Commissioner for Sir J. Matheson," does not appear to know much of what really goes on. For, in a letter to the Glasgow Weekly Mail, of the 7th April, 1877, he states as follows:--"I can say, without fear of contradiction, that he (Sir James Matheson) has never in his life evicted a tenant in order to make room for deer, or to turn small farms into large ones." Yet the following week a correspondent signing himself "A Native" gives case after case in detail, in which these very things have been done by Sir James Matheson's factors, while another correspondent compares the excellent roads and the great skill and taste manifested in the Castle and its demesne with the hovels of the tenants, which he says "are simply a scandal and an outrage on the civilisation of this century;" and the reason for this is stated to be that "the people are refused a lease of their holdings, and in cases where improvements have been made, the treatment the holders have been subjected to is not encouraging to those whose means are limited." Yet another correspondent, Mr. D. Mackinlay, gives details of the case of the eviction of one of the Coll crofters by the factor, Mr. Mackay. It appears that this man had paid his rent punctually, had drained and trenched the land, and had built himself a house on it; yet he was evicted by the factor because (as it was alleged) he did not abide by the "rules of the estate" (which the crofter denied), his sick wife and himself were turned out by force on a bitterly cold day, he was sent to a hut unfit for human habitation, and given a piece of poor, neglected land on which hardly anything will grow. His former house is valued by the factor at £1 10s. and by himself at £10; and he assured Mr. Mackinlay that he was "a bruised, down-trodden creature, now weary of this world."
Now, as Dr. Macdonald, who is a great admirer of Sir James [[p. 80]] Matheson, publishes these several statements in July, 1878 and gives no further explanation of them, we may probably assume that they are fairly accurate; and we must then ask--What are we to think of the system which renders such things possible on the estate of a resident landlord, who is "one of the most benevolent and popular men of the age?"3 And further, What kind of treatment may the crofters expect when the landlord is not resident, and neither benevolent nor popular, but leaves all to his factor, and looks upon his estate as a rent-producing property and nothing more? It is clear that the system is one of almost unchecked despotism on one side and hardly mitigated serfdom on the other. The arguments for and against landlordism are very much the same as those for and against slavery. Both are essentially wrong, and must produce evil results, though the evil may be greatly mitigated in the case of wise and benevolent men. To allow the average citizen to possess and exercise such monstrous powers over fellow citizens, and still more, to allow these powers to be exercised by deputy with the one object of producing a [[p. 81]] revenue, is surely the greatest and most deplorable of political errors. The law which arms the landowner with this pernicious power is incompatible with every principle of equality of rights, protection of property, and liberty of enjoyment, and more than any other demands immediate and radical reform.
The General Results of Landlordism in the Highlands.--The general results of the system of modern landlordism in Scotland are not less painful than the hardship and misery brought upon individual sufferers. The earlier improvers, who drove the peasants from their sheltered valleys to the exposed sea-coast, in order to make room for sheep and sheep farmers, pleaded, however erroneously, the public benefit as the justification of their conduct. They maintained that more food and clothing would be produced by the new system, and that the people themselves would have the advantage of the produce of the sea as well as that of the land for their support. The result, however, proved them to be mistaken, for thenceforth the perennial cry of Highland destitution began to be heard, culminating at intervals into actual famines, like that of 1836-37 when £70,000 were distributed to keep the Highlanders from death by starvation. The evidence taken before the Select Committee on Emigration, Scotland, showed much the same state of chronic poverty as prevails in Ireland--and from the very same causes--great landlords, few of whom were resident, and a cottier population of tenants-at-will, with plots of land too small to occupy the labour of a family and to support them on its produce. And the only remedy our wise landlord Legislature could find for this state of things was emigration! Just as in Ireland, there was abundance of land capable of cultivation, but the people were driven to the coast and to the towns, to make way for sheep, and cattle, and lowland farmers; and when the barren and inhospitable tracts allotted to them [[p. 82]] became overcrowded, they were told to emigrate.4 As the Rev. J. Macleod says:--"By the clearances one part is depopulated and the other overpopulated; the people are gathered into villages where there is no steady employment for them, where idleness has its baneful influence and lands them in penury and want."
The actual effect of this system of eviction and emigration--of banishing the native of the soil and giving it to the stranger--is shown in the steady increase of poverty indicated by the amount spent for the relief of the poor having increased from less than £300,000 in 1846 to more than £900,000 now; while in the same period the population has only increased from 2,770,000 to 3,627,000, so that pauperism has grown about nine times faster than population!5 This shows plainly that the system has failed, as [[p. 83]] every unjust system does fail in one way or another. But even had it succeeded in this respect--had more of the poor Highlanders been banished, and had the new comers succeeded in abolishing, or at least in not increasing, pauperism, and in producing general content, even then the system would be equally cruel and equally opposed to every principle of justice and good government. The fact that a whole population could be driven from their homes like cattle at the will of a landlord, and that the Government which taxed them, and for whom they freely shed their blood on the battle-field, neither would nor could protect them from this cruel interference with their personal liberty, is surely the most convincing and most absolute demonstration of the incompatibility of landlordism with the elementary rights of a free people.
Further Clearances and Devastation for the Sake of Sport.--As if, however, to prove this still more clearly, and to show how absolutely incompatible with the well-being of the community is modern landlordism, the great lords of the soil in Scotland have for the last twenty years or more been systematically laying waste enormous areas of land for purposes of sport, just as the Norman Conqueror laid waste the area of the New Forest for similar purposes. At the present time more than two millions of acres of Scottish soil are devoted to the preservation of deer alone--an area larger than the entire counties of Kent and Surrey combined. Glen Tilt Forest includes 100,000 acres; the [[p. 84]] Black Mount is sixty miles in circumference; and Ben Aulder Forest is fifteen miles long by seven broad. On many of these forests there is the finest pasture in Scotland, while the valleys would support a considerable population of small farmers. Yet all this land is devoted to the sport of the wealthy, farms being destroyed, houses pulled down, and men, sheep and cattle all banished to create a wilderness for the deer-stalkers! At the same time the whole people of England are shut out from many of the grandest and most interesting scenes of their native land, gamekeepers and watchers forbidding the tourist or naturalist to trespass on some of the wildest Scotch mountains.6
The Gross Abuse of Power by Highland Landlords Requires an Immediate Remedy.--Now, when we remember that the right to a property in these unenclosed mountain lands was most unjustly given to the representatives of the Highland chiefs little more than a century ago, and that they and their successors have grossly abused their power ever since, it is surely time to assert those fundamental maxims of jurisprudence [[p. 85]] which state that--"No man can have a vested right in the misfortunes and woes of his country," and that--"The sovereign ought not to allow either communities or private individuals to acquire large tracts of land in order to leave it uncultivated." If the oft-repeated maxim that "property has its duties as well as its rights" is not altogether a mockery, then we maintain that in this case the total neglect of all the duties devolving on the owners of these vast tracts of land affords ample reason why the State should take possession of them for the public benefit. A landlord Government will, of course, never do this till the people declare unmistakably that it must be done. To such a Government the rights of property are sacred, while those of their fellow citizens are of comparatively little moment; but we feel sure that when the people of England fully know and understand the doings of the landlords of Scotland, the reckless destruction of homesteads, and the silent sufferings of the brave Highlanders, they will make their will known, and, when they do so, that will must soon be embodied in law. We will conclude this brief sketch of what by Highland landlords is termed "improvement" with a quotation from the work of a respected Scotch pastor, the Rev. John Kennedy, a lifelong resident among the scenes which he describes. He tells us that it was at a time when the people of the Highlands became distinguished as the most peaceable and virtuous peasantry in Britain that they began to be driven off by their landlord oppressors, to clear their native soil for strangers, red-deer, and sheep. He then describes the action of the landlords in these forcible words:--"With few exceptions the owners of the soil began to act as if they were also the owners of the people, and, disposed to regard them as the vilest part of their estate, they treated them without respect to the requirements of righteousness or the dictates of mercy. Without the inducement of gain, in the very recklessness of cruelty, families by hundreds were driven across the sea, or [[p. 86]] were gathered as the sweepings of the hill-sides into wretched hamlets on the shore. By wholesale evictions wastes were formed for the red deer, that the gentry of the nineteenth century might indulge in the sports of the savages of three centuries before."7
Landlordism in the Lowlands of Scotland: Condition of the Labourers.--Now let us turn from this picture of what unrestricted landlordism has effected in the Highlands to that part of the country which is its pride and glory--the Lowlands. For here are the highest agricultural rents and the best farming in Great Britain. Here the landlords are wealthy and the farmers are thriving. Here everything is neat, thrifty, and elegant; the rude husbandry of the Highlands has been left more than a thousand years behind; the furrows are straight as an arrow, the fences closely dressed, the farm-houses commodious, and the gentlemen's seats bear all the evidences of taste, luxury, and refinement. Such being the case, we should naturally expect that some portion of this prosperity would have descended to the labourers, and we should look for neat and roomy cottages, with ample gardens, so essential to the well-being of the poor. Let us first see what was their condition thirty years ago, as described by Hugh Miller in his striking Essays.
He tells us how he once lodged in a labourer's cottage in a district where land averaged above five pounds an acre, within three hours' journey of Edinburgh, and within a hundred yards of the beautiful shrubberies and pleasure-grounds of a gentleman's estate; and he thus describes it:--"But the cottage was an exceedingly humble one. It was one of a line on the way-side inhabited chiefly by common labourers and farm servants--a cold, uncomfortable hovel, by many degrees less a dwelling to our mind, and certainly less warm and snug, [[p. 87]] than the cottage of the west coast Highlander. The tenant (our landlord) was an old farm servant, who had been found guilty of declining health and vigour about a twelvemonth before, and had been discharged in consequence. He was permitted to retain his dwelling, on the express understanding that the proprietor was not to be burdened with repairs; and the thatch, which had given way in several places, he had painfully laboured to patch against the weather by mud and turf gathered from the wayside. But he wanted both the art and the materials of Red Murouch.8 With every heavy shower the rain found its way through, and the curtains of his two beds, otherwise so neatly kept, were stained by dark-coloured blotches. The earthen floor was damp and uneven; the walls of undressed stone had never been hard-cast; but by dint of repeated white-washing, the interstices had gradually filled up. . . . The old man's wife, still a neat and tidy woman, though turned of sixty, was a martyr to rheumatism; and her one damp and gousty room, with its mere apron breadth of partition between it and the chinky outer door, was not at all the place for her declining years. She did her best, however, to keep things in order, and to attend to the comforts of her husband and her two lodgers; but the bad roof and the single apartment were disqualifying circumstances, and they pressed upon her very severely. . . . And this was all that civilisation, in the midst of a well-nigh perfect agriculture, had done for the dwelling of the poor hind. . . . But we are building, perhaps, on a solitary instance. Would that it were so! Our description is far above the average, however exaggerated it may seem. The following account of a group of Border hovels, deemed quite good enough by the proprietary of the county for their own and their tenants' hinds, is by the Rev. Dr. W. S. Gilly, of Norham.
[[p. 88]] "Now for a more detailed description of that species of hut or hovel which prevails in this district. I have a group of five such before my mind's eye. They belong to the same property, and have all changed inhabitants within eighteen months. The property, I may add, is tenanted by one of the best and most enterprising farmers in all England. They are built of rubble loosely cemented, and from age and the badness of the materials, the walls look as if they would scarcely hold together. The chinks gap open in many places, and so widely that they freely admit every wind that blows. The chimneys have lost half their original height, and lean on the roof with fearful gravitation. The rafters are evidently rotten and displaced; and the thatch, yawning in some parts to admit the wet, and in all parts utterly unfit for its original purpose of giving protection from the weather, looks more like the top of a dunghill than a cottage. Such is the exterior; and when the hind comes to take possession he finds it no better than a shed. The wet, if it happens to rain, is making a puddle on the earth-floor. It is not only cold and wet, but contains the aggregate filth of years from the time of its being first used. The refuse and droppings of meals, decayed animal and vegetable matter of all kinds, these all mix together and exude from it. Window frame there is none. There is neither oven, nor copper, nor shelf, nor fixture of any kind. All these things the hind has to bring with him, besides his ordinary articles of furniture. Imagine the trouble, the inconvenience, and the expense which the poor fellow and his wife have to encounter before they can put this shell of a hut into anything like a habitable form. This year I saw a family of eight--husband, wife, two sons, and four daughters--who were in utter discomfort, and in despair of putting themselves into a decent condition, three or four weeks after they had come into one of these hovels. In vain did they try to stop up the crannies, and to fill up the holes in the floor, and to arrange their furniture in tolerably decent [[p. 89]] order, and to keep out the weather. Alas! what will they not suffer in winter? There will be no fireside enjoyment for them. They may huddle together for warmth, and heap coals on the fire; but they will have chilly beds and a damp hearthstone; and a cold wind will sweep through their dismal apartment; and the icicles will hang by the wall, and the snow will drift through the roof, and window, and crazy door-place, in spite of all their endeavours to exclude it."
Great as they might seem, however, these are merely physical evils; and they are light and trivial compared with the horrors which follow. These miserable cabins consist, in by much the greater number of instances, as in the cottage of the poor old hind, of but a single room. We again quote:--"And into this apartment are crowded eight, ten, and even twelve persons. How they lie down to rest, how they sleep, how unutterable horrors are avoided, is beyond all conception. The case is aggravated when there is a young woman to be lodged in this confined space who is not a member of the family, but is hired to do the field-work, for which every hind is bound to provide a female. It shocks every feeling of propriety to think that in a room within such a space as I have been describing, civilised beings should be herding together without a decent separation of age and sex!"
Down to 1861, at all events, equally wretched cottages were found in many parts of Scotland. Mr. James Robb (general editor of The Scottish Farmer) thus describes those common in Aberdeenshire:--"Such cottages as are provided for ploughmen are, for the most part, of a very comfortless kind. They are simply four walls--often put together in the cheapest and roughest possible fashion, sometimes without lime or other cement even--with a vent at each gable end, two small windows, and a roof of thatch. The occupants have to depend upon their wooden box-beds or presses for making such separation between the two sexes as decency may suggest." In East [[p. 90]] Lothian, the same writer tells us:--"The cottages generally are not good, being small, old, and ill-lighted. Many of them have but one usable room and a pantry; the garrets, where there are such, being unceiled, and, therefore, either too cold in winter or too hot in summer for sleeping purposes." And again:--"Directing our course north-east, we find in our passage to North Berwick not a few disgraceful hovels, some straw-thatched, but most with red-tiled rooms, lighted and aired (save the mark!) by a solitary and immovable pane of glass, and with a general aspect of unsanitariness and discomfort unbefitting one of the richest agricultural counties in Scotland in the nineteenth century. Inside we find the double box-bed taking up so great a portion of the space that three or four chairs, a rickety table, a dresser, and a washing-tub crowd the remainder. As occupants of the box-beds in one of these houses there were two grown-up men, two girls approaching womanhood, an elderly woman, who appeared to be their mother, and three or four children."
A considerable acquaintance with savage life in both hemispheres enables the present writer to assert that the people we term uncivilised rarely tolerate such a state of things as that above described. The young unmarried men are always separated, often in distinct sleeping-houses, from the rest of the family or the tribe; while the dwellings are always suited to the climate and surrounding conditions. It was reserved for the wealthiest nation under the sun, and the one which prides itself on being the most religious and the most civilised, to have its peasants housed in the extreme of physical misery and social degradation. And be it noted that this state of things occurred, not only in towns and cities where the value of land and the cost of building might possibly be alleged as some excuse but over the open country, among fields and woods and mountains, where there is ample space and abundant materials ready to hand, and where such objections, therefore, could not possibly apply.
[[p. 91]] Some Recent Improvement in the Condition of Scotch Labourers.--Since the pictures here given of the labourers' cottages in Scotland were written, much has been done to improve them. In "A Report on the Past and Present Agriculture of the Counties of Forfar and Kincardine," by Mr. Thomas Lawson, dated 1881 (for which I am indebted to the author), it is stated that, in consequence of the exposure of the state of the bothies in 1850, an Association was formed at Edinburgh to improve them, and many model cottages and bothies were built. Wages, too, have risen considerably, in consequence of the scarcity of labour produced by the increase of factories in many districts. Mr. James W. Barclay, M.P. for Forfarshire, also informs me that wages have greatly risen in the last ten years, being about 50 per cent. higher in Scotland than in Norfolk. This he thinks is due to the fact that the men readily move from place to place and from country to town, so that the rate of wages for town work and country work is quickly equalised. Mr. Lawson speaks of "the present tidy cottages of one story, with three apartments, one room and bed-closet being floored with wood, the other room with either pavement or cement; and partitions of brick, the inside finished off with lath and plaster or cement. There is also a garret for lumber, and a small garden and pigstye." But these cottages are, he says, "not near so common as they ought to be," as many proprietors and tenant farmers do not see their way to building them, since they are not remunerative. He also says that "there is not so much payment in kind as there used to be. This applies especially to the keeping of cows, which is not nearly so common now--in fact, it is very exceptional. Some farmers even prohibit the keeping of pigs." These statements seem to show that, though wages are higher, and many cottages are fairly good, yet many remain as they were in Hugh Miller's time, and when Mr. Robb wrote his reports twenty years ago; while the movement of labourers from place to place, [[p. 92]] the "small garden" they "sometimes" have, and the occasional restriction from even keeping a pig, all seem to show that there has not been much advance towards enabling the labourer to have a permanent home, and to have land on which to employ his spare hours, which alone can truly raise his condition. The bothy-system, though it has almost disappeared from the southern counties, still prevails in Perth, Forfar, and Kincardine, where there seems to have been little change for the last twenty years.9 The bothies are still comfortless abodes, leading to habits of uncleanliness and disorder, and giving a taste for a wandering life; and this is supposed to be one cause of the untidiness and want of comfort which prevails in the labourers' cottages of Scotland. It is remarked by Mr. Robb that the best female servants were obtained from the class of small farmers, a testimony to the beneficial influence on character of permanent occupancy of land and the household duties it necessitates, which is now almost wholly denied to the Scotch agricultural labourer. Mr. Lawson refers with dissatisfaction to the large sums spent in drink by the young men; but this is almost a necessary result of high wages when there are no home comforts or occupations, and no one great and important object, such as the acquisition of land and a permanent home, for which to accumulate savings. The result is that pauperism, though not so prevalent as in the depopulated Highlands, still abounds even in the fertile and highly-farmed Lowlands, where about one in forty of the population are returned as paupers or dependents. In all Scotland the proportion is about one in thirty-five, while in England and Wales, where the population is four times as dense, the proportion is one in twenty-five.
In Scotland the labourer is altogether dependent upon his [[p. 93]] employer for his dwelling, and is obliged to leave it whenever he changes his master. He is a mere appanage of the farm, without any of that permanence and security of tenure possessed by the villein or serf of feudal times. It is thus impossible that he can ever have a home, in the best sense of the word, and this will go far to explain the untidiness and want of thrift which all writers on the condition of the Scottish labourers so much deplore. The only way to cure the evils of the bothy-system, the inadequate housing of labourers, and all the evil consequences that arise from them, is to encourage and render possible the growth of a fixed rural population, having rights in the soil and all the interests that attach to a permanent home. If every labourer had the right to claim an acre or two of land for his dwelling-house and garden, paying only the same rent as the farmer pays for similar land, and having absolute permanence of tenure so long as he paid this fixed rent, most of the evils so forcibly depicted by the writers we have quoted would soon disappear.10
As will be shown in a subsequent chapter, wherever such occupying ownership of land prevails, there is comparative comfort and plenty, and the house accommodation is always [[p. 94]] fully equal to the standard demanded by the state of civilisation and social advancement of the community--not miserably below it, as it always is when the labourer is divorced from the soil. This right to share in the use of land on equal terms with his fellow citizens should be declared the indefeasible birthright of every Englishman, and in order that this right may be obtained the land must revert to the State, which ought never to have given up possession of it to individuals. These remarks somewhat anticipate the fuller discussion with which the scheme of nationalisation of the land we propose for adoption will be introduced, but it was thought necessary here to lay down clearly the points at issue, and prevent our readers from supposing that we believe that any change in the character or conduct of landlords or farmers (even if so radical a change in human nature were possible) would be an adequate remedy for the disease. So long as the labourer is absolutely dependent on his employer for subsistence, is without a permanent home of his own, and has no land on which he may profitably employ himself when his regular work temporarily fails--just so long will he be in a state of chronic poverty or intermittent pauperism, often dwelling in houses which it is no one's business or interest to make healthy or comfortable, living a life of physical and social degradation, and usually [[p. 95]] filling a pauper's grave. That such is the inevitable tendency and necessary result of the present system is clearly shown by the fact that, however well the system works for the landlord and capitalist, their advancement does little to better the condition of the labourer. A century ago the poet Burns remarked that the more highly cultivated he found a district, the more ignorant and degraded he almost always found the people, man deteriorating at least as much as the corn and cattle improved. Down to thirty years ago we have the testimony of Hugh Miller that the same state of things prevailed; and though the exposure of the evil by a number of energetic clergymen and other philanthropists, together with the increase of wages owing to the spread of manufacturing industry, have combined to ameliorate some of its worst features, there still remains the great fact of a wandering, unthrifty, and pauperised body of labourers in a region of wealthy landlords and the most advanced agriculture.
General Results of Scotch Landlordism.--It appears, then, that both in the barren Highlands and the fertile Lowlands, among the peaceable and contented Celts as well as among the more restless and energetic Saxons, we find the same increase in the wealth and luxury of the landlord and the capitalist, accompanied by the misery, discontent, and chronic pauperism of the labouring classes. In both districts landlordism has had its own way, and has flourished; in both it carries in its train the physical, social, and moral degradation of those by whom its wealth is created. It is not that landlords are worse than other men; perhaps it may justly be said that they are somewhat better than the average; but no amount of good intentions or good administration will suffice when the system which is administered is fundamentally wrong. No system ever had a fairer trial than pure landlordism has had in Scotland during the present century. It has had the freest liberty of action under various conditions, a peaceful, honest [[p. 96]] and contented body of labourers, a constantly increasing growth of wealth, and all the means and appliances of modern science at its command. Yet here, as always and everywhere, it has lamentably failed to produce either prosperity or contentment. It must, then, be either the conduct of the landlords or the nature of landlordism that has caused this miserable failure. We maintain that the failure has been too constant and too unvarying to be due to the acts of educated and religious men, many of whom have honestly tried to do good; that, consequently, the system alone is to blame; and that landlordism itself stands irrevocably condemned.
1. "Reminiscences of a Highland Parish," p. 185. [[on p. 54]]
2. Most modern writers consider the croft-system a failure, and this is supposed to imply the failure of small holdings under any conditions. But there is a mass of testimony to show that the crofter of Scotland, like the cottier of Ireland, is wretched and poverty-stricken simply because he can only get poor land at exorbitant rents, and usually not enough land to live upon. Thus, in Mr. James Robb's "Enquiry into the Condition of the Agricultural Labourers of Scotland," we find the following statements, quoted with approval and confirmed by his personal observation:--"The general quality of the soil upon which crofts are now granted is vastly inferior to what it was of old. The rent is, from the increased demand and more limited supply, proportionally greater . . . Dispassionately viewed, small crofts, as generally let, form merely the alembic through which is distilled into the pocket of the owner the savings of the sweat of the brow of the occupant. By holding such a croft he is literally incapacitated for performing a good day's work for a good day's wage, as, to scrape together a rent to ensure a home for a series of years, the agricultural labourer must work double hours and draw unfairly upon his stock of strength, which infallibly leads to a premature old age." Could there be a more severe condemnation of the landlord system in Scotland than this statement made by the late Secretary to the Royal Northern Agricultural [[p. 73]] Society, and endorsed by the Editor of The Scottish Farmer? This refers to Aberdeenshire. In Forfarshire, Mr. Robb describes the condition of some small holders on the estate of Lord Dalhousie, taking one "as a specimen of the whole." The dwelling is described as a wretched, tumble-down turf hovel, consisting of one room about ten feet square, and a division for the cow. "The occupier (an old woman) had lived all her days in the place. She had now only 2 1/2 acres of land; formerly she had some pasture land, but that had been taken from her. She had, therefore, to dispense with all her cows but one, and the consequence was that she had now a deficiency of manure for what little oats and potatoes she wished to raise." Mr. Robb declares that such houses are unworthy to shelter any class of humanity; and Lord Kinnaird (in the preface to Mr. Robb's book) maintains that "the description given by the reports of the actual state of these crofters in different districts, corresponding with their state at the beginning of the century, proves how very undesirable a return to such a system would be." But neither of these writers seems to have the least perception that the facts stated are the condemnation, not of the croft system, but of the landlord system itself, which forces the poor crofter into a condition in which a reasonable amount of well-being is impossible, work as hard as he may. [[on pp. 72-73]]
3. It appears from an article on "Highland Destitution" in the Quarterly Review, December 1881, that Sir James Matheson bought the island of Lews or Lewis in 1844, that he at once commenced making "improvements on a great scale, with the view of giving employment to the inhabitants," spending in six years (1845-1850) more than a hundred thousand pounds, besides gratuities for purposes of education and charity. Yet the writer refers to this "princely liberality" as having been "met by the most disheartening ingratitude," and "ending in total failure." The facts given above will perhaps serve to explain both the one and the other. What the people of Lewis, as of other parts of the Highland, wanted, was sufficient land at a fixed rent, not higher than it was really worth, with perfect freedom of action, and a permanent tenure; so that all they made by their labour should be their own. This they have never had; while they have had given them what they did not want--wages for unproductive labour on the landlord's pleasure grounds and buildings. The people have been actually taken away, by the inducement of good wages and work for their landlord, from productive labour on the soil to unproductive labour on carriage roads, bridges, shooting lodges, game preserves, and a magnificent castle and grounds, and the result has naturally been demoralisation and destitution! This is the result of benevolent landlordism. [[on p. 80]]
4. "There was a locality pointed out to us, in a barren quartz-rock district, in which the indestructible stone, that never resolves into soil, was covered by a stratum of dark peat, where the proprietors had experimented on the capabilities of the native Highlanders, by measuring out to them, amid the moor, at a low rent, several small farms, of ten or twelve acres apiece. But in a moor composed of peat and quartz-rock no rent can be low. No farmer thrives on a barren soil, let his rent be what it may; and so the speculation here had turned out a bad one. The quartz-rock and the peat proved pauper-making deposits. 'How,' we have frequently enquired of the poor people 'are you spending your strength on patches so miserably unproductive as these? You are said to be lazy. For our own part what we chiefly wonder at is your great industry.' The usual reply used to be--'Ah! there is good land in the country, but they will not give it to us.' And certainly we did see in the Highlands many tracts of kindly-looking soil. Green margins, along the sides of long-withdrawing valleys, which still bore the marks of the plough, but now under natural grass, seemed much better fitted to be, as of old, scenes of human industry than the cold ungenial mosses or the barren moors. But in at least nineteen cases out of every twenty we found the green patches bound by lease to some extensive sheep-farmer, and as unavailable for the purposes of the present emergency, even to the proprietor, as if they lay in the United States or the Canadas." (Hugh Miller's Essays, p. 214.) [[on p. 82]]
5. This was the case not only in those districts where the evicted peasantry had been driven into over-populated towns and villages, but even in the very places where the population had decreased by forced deportation. Dr. Norman Macleod tells us that the "Highland Parish," which he has so well described, "which once had a population of 2,200 souls, [[p. 83]] and received only £11 per annum from public (church) funds for the support of the poor, expends now under the Poor Law upwards of £600 annually, with a population diminished by one-half, but with poverty increased in a greater ratio." Hugh Miller also tells us that "the poor-rates were heaviest in the districts from which the greatest number had emigrated." Yet in the face of these damning facts, there are still to be found men who support these "clearances" as beneficial to the community! [[on pp. 82-83]]
6. Even these deer-forest clearances find their defenders, to whom Professor Leoni Levi thus replies:--"A comparison has been made between deer-forests and public parks. Both, it is true, comprise land kept out of cultivation for purposes of enjoyment. But while public parks greatly promote the health and enjoyment of the masses of the people, deer-forests are reserved for the sport of a few individuals. Parks are public property, purposely devoted to a great economic object--the improvement of the people. Deer-forests are private property, shut out from public use, and in many cases diverted from a fruitful to a fruitless occupation. Again, it has been represented that deer-forests employ as many persons as foresters as sheep-walks employ shepherds. But are foresters producers? The same quantity of land that will maintain 2,000 sheep will not give 300 deer. Of deer, a large number run away, many die, and very few are killed. In truth, deer-forests are exclusively intended for sport and luxury, and production enters in no manner into their economics" ("Journal of the Land Statistical Society," vol. xxviii, p. 381). It is calculated that the loss in food by the deer-forests is equal to 200,000 sheep, besides which deer bear no wool. Deer-forests do not repay the outlay expended on them in the shape of keepers, &c., and, as far as the rest of the nation is concerned, they might as well be submerged under the ocean. [[on p. 84]]
7. "Days of the Fathers in Ross-shire," 1861, p. 15. [[on p. 86]]
8. A Highlander, whose wretched-looking, yet really warm and comfortable, dwelling had been previously described. [[on p. 87]]
9. Communication from Mr. William Wallace, of Kinnear, Fife, through J. Boyd Kinnear, Esq. [[on p. 92]]
10. Lord Kinnaird, in his preface to the little volume of Mr. Robb's essays, says:--"A cry has been raised by those who do not understand the question for the erection of a greater number of cottages, regardless of the fact that field-labour, which cannot from its nature be constant, will not support a family." And again:--"It is a great mistake to encourage the location of families, who have no other means of support than the chance of occasional out-door work." Nothing can show more strikingly than these remarks the evil results to the entire rural population, as well as to agriculture, of that landlord system which can and does determine how and where people shall live, quite independent of their own wishes, desires, and needs, and thus brings about an unnatural division of the inhabitants of a district into capitalist farmers and a nomad population of labourers. The more natural and healthy system would be, to allow every man to have as much land as he wished either for farm or garden, with a permanent tenure, and at a just rent. Each agricultural district would then support a body of [[p. 94]] independent labourers permanently attached to the soil, and with a substantial stake in the country. The cottage which was a man's own, and which he intended to occupy for his life, would soon be improved and even beautified. His garden or field would be cultivated with all that untiring industry which the secure possession of land always creates; poultry, pigs, or cows would furnish employment for the family, and a constant source of profit; while from the two classes of labourers and crofters, a supply of labour would be forthcoming at all seasons adequate to meet the demand. Bothies would no longer be needed, because the young men would live with their parents, or lodge with those who had small families or ample accommodation; a love of home and home-duties would be created, and with so intelligent a people as the Scotch many home industries would spring up to profitably occupy the long winter evenings, and thus tend to diminish if not to abolish pauperism. [[on pp. 93-94]]
THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL EFFECTS OF ENGLISH LANDLORDISM.
LANDLORDISM IN ENGLAND IS SEEN AT ITS BEST--DESPOTIC POWER OF LANDLORDS--LANDLORDS' INTERFERENCE WITH RELIGIOUS FREEDOM--LANDLORDS' INTERFERENCE WITH POLITICAL FREEDOM--LANDLORDS' INTERFERENCE WITH A TENANT'S AMUSEMENTS--EVICTION OF THE INHABITANTS OF AN ENTIRE VILLAGE--INJURIOUS POWER OF LANDLORDS OVER FARMERS AND OVER AGRICULTURE--LIMITATION OF THE BENEFICIAL INFLUENCE OF LANDLORDS--IT WOULD BE GREATLY INCREASED UNDER OCCUPYING OWNERSHIP--SUPPOSED IMPORTANCE OF THE LARGE FARMS WHICH LANDLORDISM FAVOURS--THE EFFECTS OF LANDLORDISM ON THE WELL-BEING OF THE LABOURING CLASSES--DETERIORATION OF THE AGRICULTURAL LABOURER DURING THE PRESENT CENTURY--THE SOCIAL DEGRADATION OF THE AGRICULTURAL LABOURER AT THE PRESENT DAY--THIS STATE OF THINGS IS DUE TO THE SYSTEM OF LANDLORDISM, NOT TO THE BAD CONDUCT OF LANDLORDS--THE ENCLOSURE ACT AND ITS RESULTS--UNIFORM EVIDENCE AS TO THE BENEFICIAL EFFECTS OF ALLOTMENTS AND COTTAGE GARDENS--BENEFICIAL EFFECTS OF SMALL COTTAGE FARMS--THE LOGICAL BEARING OF THIS EVIDENCE--VARIOUS POWERS EXERCISED BY LANDLORDS TO THE DETRIMENT OF THE PUBLIC--FREE CHOICE OF A HOME ESSENTIAL TO SOCIAL WELL-BEING--CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD SYSTEM OF LAND TENURE--ENCLOSURE OF COMMONS AND MOUNTAIN WASTES AS AFFECTING THE PUBLIC--THE DESTRUCTION OF ANCIENT MONUMENTS--PUBLIC IMPROVEMENTS CHECKED BY LANDLORDISM--PERMANENT DETERIORATION OF THE COUNTRY BY THE EXPORT OF MINERALS--CONCLUDING REMARKS ON ENGLISH LANDLORDISM.
In England pure landlordism is seen at its best. Its characteristics have been determined by the great and popular class of country squires and by numerous wealthy peers owning large ancestral estates, who have usually lived among their tenants, have been accustomed to treat them liberally, and have had sympathy with their pursuits and a desire for their prosperity. The tenant-farmers, too, are usually men of some capital, of good education, and of independent spirit, who are able to understand their position and maintain their rights, and [[p. 98]] whose occupancy of the land is the result of a more or less free contract with the owner. It is impossible to imagine more favourable conditions for the trial of our actual land-system; and we may safely assume that whatever evils we find to result from it here ought not to be imputed to the misconduct of individuals, but to the essential features of the system itself. There are, no doubt, certain remediable evils due to the laws of inheritance and the power of entail. These will probably soon be cured; but their removal will have little influence on those wider and more deeply-seated effects of the system to which I shall here call attention.
Despotic Power of Landlords.--The Hon. George C. Brodrick, in his valuable and impartial work, "English Land and English Landlords," speaks of the large resident landowner of a parish or district as being "invested with an authority over its inhabitants which neither the Saxon chief nor the Norman lord, in the fulness of his power, ever had the right of exercising." The clergyman is usually his nominee, and often his kinsman. The farmers, who are almost the only employers of labour besides himself, are his tenants-at-will, and, possibly, his debtors. The tradespeople of the village rent under him, and, even if they do not, could be ruined by his disfavour. The labourers live in his cottages, and are absolutely at his mercy for the privilege of hiring allotments, generally of inadequate size, and at an exorbitant rent as compared with the same land occupied by farmers1; and they are also dependent upon him for work in winter. He is usually a magistrate, and thus has the power of the law in his hands to carry out his orders and enhance his authority. Except by [[p. 99]] his permission, merely to live upon his estate is impossible; while most of the inhabitants may have their lives rendered miserable, or may be actually ruined by his displeasure. As Mr. Brodrick says: "We are wont to look back on Saxon times as barbarous, and on the feudal system as oppressive; but the simple truth is that nine-tenths of the population in an English country parish have at this moment less share in local government than belonged to all classes of freemen for centuries before and for centuries after the Norman Conquest. Again: they have not only less share in local government than belongs to French peasants in the present day, but less than belonged to French peasants under the eighteenth century monarchy." It may be said that this could be remedied, and that local self-government could be given to our people. But this is not so. No people can be free who are dependent on others for the very right to live in their native place or wherever they have become settled. So long as a man can be evicted and banished from a local community at the will of the landlord, there can be no independence, and no possible freedom or self-government worthy of the name. It is because the French peasants are landowners, and because the Norman villeins were in the position of copy-holders, and could not be ejected by the lord of the soil, that they were really free-men, while the tenants-at-will of an English landlord to-day are really serfs. Mr. Brodrick refers to the exclusion of manufacturing industries from sites naturally adapted for them, and their excessive concentration on sites artificially limited, with the consequent evils of overcrowding in towns and depopulation in some country districts, as being due to the opposition of rural landowners who thought their interests were involved; while all who remember the early days of railway-making can call to mind instances in which landowners exercised the power of compelling a railway to be diverted from the more direct and less expensive course, to the permanent injury of the whole [[p. 100]] community. Such cases show the power to check the free development of commerce and communication given to an individual by the possession of large areas of land--a power absolutely unique of its kind, since, not only can it be exercised by subjects in no other way, but is such as no civilised government exerts except upon weighty grounds of public policy.
Landlords' Interference with Religious Freedom.--But even more important than these cases are those in which a great landowner exercises despotic power over individuals, such as we are accustomed to look upon with horror when occurring in the Turkish or Russian Empires. One or two illustrative examples only can be here given, but a little research through the columns of the daily press would enable any one to fill a volume with similar cases. Let us first choose an example of interference with religious freedom--a matter on which we more especially pride ourselves. In April 1879 there appeared in the Daily News a correspondence between Samuel McAulay, a Wesleyan Minister, and Langhorne Burton, a Lincolnshire landowner. The former asked that religious services which had been conducted for thirty years in the village of Bag-Enderby, and which the said landlord had interdicted, might be resumed, the writer urging his case forcibly, but in very respectful terms. The answer was as follows:--
"Somersby, Horncastle, 20th March. Sir,--I have to acknowledge the receipt of yours of the 17th instant, applying for permission to resume your Wesleyan services which have been for some time held in one of my cottages at Bag-Enderby, and which permission, you say at the close of your letter, you shall take for granted if you hear nothing to the contrary. Now, sir, I consider this rather an offhand way of settling the matter, and I request that you will on no account act as you propose, at any rate until you [[p. 101]] hear further from me. The result of such a step on your part would probably be the removal from Bag-Enderby of all the members of your body, who are of little value to me as tenants. I wish to have as tenants none (these italics are his own) but thorough Church people, and consider myself quite at liberty to choose such as I like, without being dictated to by anybody. Reasons apart from this for my interdict of your meetings in Bag-Enderby I do not feel called upon to enter into with you. I also forbear to remark upon your seeming disposition to dictate to me my duty as a landlord. Your letters I have placed in my rector's hands, and beg to state in conclusion that I will write to you again should occasion require it.--I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
"Rev. S. McAulay."
Here we note the confirmation of the interdict, and the threat of "removal of the members of your body" from the village, of which many were probably natives; as well as the claim "to have as tenants none but thorough Church people," a claim to be carried into effect only by the eviction of all Dissenters from the landlord's property. The law of England permits the free practice of their religion by any sect whatever, but it is powerless to protect the Wesleyans of Bag-Enderby from what might be to many of them a very cruel punishment if they venture to exercise their right. Mr. Burton is probably not the only landowner who acts in this manner, though few would so openly proclaim their intention of doing so; but every landowner possesses the same power, and since it is plainly inconsistent with religious liberty, it ought no longer to exist. Yet this power is inherent in landlordism as established by law, and the inevitable corollary is that landlordism itself is incompatible with the freedom of British subjects, and must therefore be abolished.
Landlords' Interference with Political Freedom.--Instances of [[p. 102]] tenant-farmers of the highest respectability being ejected from their farms for voting in opposition to their landlords' will and pleasure must be known to every reader. A few years ago the eviction of the late Mr. George Hope, of Fenton Barns, an agriculturist of world-wide reputation, startled all England. The facts, as stated in the account of his life written by his daughter, are as follows. The Hopes had had the farm (of 640 acres) for three generations, and had changed it from "a moorish waste covered with furze-bushes" to a rich and highly cultivated farm. The rent had always been regularly paid, the land kept in the highest state of cultivation, and many improvements made, so that Mr. Hope was really a model tenant, besides being, as an agriculturist, celebrated throughout Europe. He was turned out by his landlord, because he held different political opinions and took an active part in politics and in public affairs. Up to 1852 neither Mr. Hope, his father, nor his grandfather had made any profit out of the farm; since then his energy and talent had made it very profitable, but at the same time it had been vastly improved for the benefit of the landlord--Mr. Nisbet Hamilton.
Another tenant on the same estate--Mr. Saddler, of Ferrygate--was also got rid of (for political reasons it was believed), and his improvements were confiscated without the least compensation. Mr. James Howard, M.P., states that these two gentlemen were, without exception, the most enterprising farmers of his acquaintance; and he maintains that the system under which men of capital and position may, on six short months' notice, be called upon to quit their farms and to break up house and home is one worthy only of a barbarous age.2
Landlords' Interference with a Tenant's Sport.--The following is a more recent case of ejection of a well-to-do hereditary [[p. 103]] occupant of a farm, who had offended his landlord by daring to secure some sporting privileges for his private enjoyment, without first asking permission to do so.
Mr. W. R. Todd, who with his father had occupied the same Yorkshire farm for forty years, took a few fields which were let by tender, together with the right of shooting, in order to enjoy some sport, which the landlord of his farm forbade on his lands. On doing so, his landlord sent for him, and told him he must either give up the shooting or the farm, as his tenants were not allowed to shoot, even on land which they had taken for the express purpose. Accordingly, Mr. Todd had to quit, and stated his case in the Daily News of October last year. The landlord's agent thereupon wrote to explain, admitting that the facts were stated correctly by Mr. Todd, but adding that there were circumstances of aggravation, the tenant having "placed turnips to attract the hares, and shot them in the dusk when the snow was on the ground." Considering that so much damage is done by hares that the Legislature have since been obliged to give tenants the power to destroy them, whether their landlords will or no, Mr. Todd's conduct seems very natural, and was certainly neither legally nor morally wrong. Neither can we say that the landlord was wrong in using the power he possessed to preserve the hares for his own sport; but the circumstance, none the less, shows that a tenant-farmer of England lives under a hard despotism, and is liable to be expelled from the home of his childhood for the slightest interference with his landlord's fancies or privileges.
Eviction of the Inhabitants of an Entire Village.--In the following case, given on the authority of Mr. Froude,3 no offence whatever appears to have been alleged against the unfortunate tenants. He says:--"Not a mile from the place where I am [[p. 104]] now writing an estate on the coast of Devonshire came into the hands of an English Duke. There was a primitive village upon it, occupied by sailors, pilots, and fishermen, which is described in Domesday Book, and was inhabited at the Conquest by the actual forefathers of the late tenants, whose names may be read there. The houses were out of repair. The Duke's predecessors had laid out nothing upon them for a century, and had been contented with exacting the rents. When the present owner entered into possession it was represented to him that if the village was to continue it must be rebuilt, but that to rebuild it would be a needless expense, for the people, living as they did on their wages as fishermen and seamen, would not cultivate his land, and were useless to him. The houses were therefore simply torn down, and nearly half the population was driven out into the world to find new homes. A few more such instances of tyranny might provoke a dangerous crisis." Here, then, for no offence whatever, a considerable village population--who, if long-continued ancestral occupancy goes for anything, had the full moral and equitable right to live on this particular portion of their native soil--were rudely driven out to what must have been to them a cruel banishment. Some grave political crime, some gross offence against law or morality, would hardly have justified such a punishment, in which old and young, women and children, were alike involved. Who can tell the mental anguish, the physical suffering involved in such an eviction; the burning sense of injury, the rending of social ties, the pain and loss of having to seek a fresh home and begin a new life at the will of an unknown and unseen despot? And the powerful Government of our free England, with its high-sounding declarations--that every man's house is his castle; that rich and poor are alike in the eye of its laws; and that there is no wrong without a remedy--was absolutely powerless to give these poor villagers any protection whatever! [[p. 105]] By recognising private property in land, the State has set up in its midst a number of petty lords more powerful than any Government; and whose decrees, whatever injustice they may do, or whatever misery bring to British subjects, no court of law or equity is able to reverse. Well may Mr. Brodrick say that neither Saxon chief nor Norman lord ever had the right of exercising such power as this; for they at all events had a superior lord over them who could, if he so willed, remedy such injustice, while our existing Government can not do so.
On the broad ground, then, that the possession of land (for other purposes than personal occupation) gives the owner powers which are inconsistent with the liberties of their fellow-subjects, we again claim the abolition of landlordism.
Injurious Power of Landlords over Farmers and over Agriculture.--One of the strongest points of the landlord system is supposed to be the beneficial influence of an educated and enlightened class, whose duty as well as their interest is to manage their estates on the best principles, to introduce improved methods of agriculture, and generally to set a good example in both agricultural and social economy. Admitting that the best types of landlords actually do produce these good effects, we are bound to ask what proportion these bear to the whole body, and whether in the majority of cases, a great landowner is not rather a clog upon progressive agriculture, by the antiquated regulations which he enforces on his tenants, while by inordinate game-preserving he actually destroys large quantities of the produce of the soil.
Mr. Brodrick tells us that the most profitable form of agricultural occupation is that which most resembles ownership; that "the best agriculture is found on farms whose owners are protected by leases; the next best on farms whose tenants are protected by the Lincolnshire or other customs; the worst of all on farms whose tenants are not protected at all, but rely on [[p. 106]] the honour of their landlords." Now during the present century the custom of granting leases has diminished, partly owing to the desire of landlords to secure political power by influencing their tenants' votes, and partly from the importance they attach to rights of sporting, which often induces them to accept low rents from non-improving tenants, who can be turned out at short notice if they meddle with the game; and Mr. Brodrick concludes that, "by the operation of these and other causes, it is tolerably certain that yearly tenancy has become the rule, and leasehold tenancy the exception, in most English counties;" while Mr. C. S. Read, M.P., stated, at a recent meeting of the Farmers' Club, that three-fourths of the land of England is held subject to a six months' notice to quit. Whence it follows that a system of tenure which produces "the worst agriculture of all" is that which prevails over the larger part of our country; and this result is due directly to the will and pleasure of English landlords.
But even under its best conditions--that of holding by a lease--tenant farming is essentially wasteful and imperfect. The tenant is almost always subject to covenants which restrict his freedom and keep him in a certain routine of operations, even under circumstances when a change would be advantageous to all parties. He is bound to make up a fixed amount of rent annually, and is therefore unable to carry out any operations which would diminish his profits for one or two years, to increase them largely in the future. Whatever improvements he may make at the commencement of his lease must be so calculated that he can obtain their full value before its termination; and there is great waste of capital involved in the tendency of every such tenant to exhaust the soil as much as possible towards the expiration of a lease, which has to be restored to its normal fertility in the early years of the next term.
Limitation of the Beneficial Influence of Landlords.--Again, [[p. 107]] whatever benefits may be due to the presence of resident landlords, these extend over comparatively a small portion of the country, owing to the number of absentees even in England. From an examination of the official New Domesday Book, Mr. Arthur Arnold has ascertained that the 525 members of the peerage own 1,593 separate estates, comprising an area of more than 15,000,000 acres; or, allowing for roads, rivers, towns, and other public property, about one-third the whole land of the United Kingdom. The Duke of Buccleugh owns 14 separate estates, and four other peers 11 each, while the whole body of peers average 3 each, often widely separated in different counties. It is evident that in all these cases the estates must be wholly managed by agents; and, although the owner may occasionally visit each of them, the supposed beneficial influence of residency must be at a minimum. The list of landowners possessing more than 5,000 acres shows that great numbers of private gentlemen also possess estates in from two to seven distinct counties; and as most of these live a considerable part of the year in London, and another part abroad, they can hardly have much time to reside even on the particular estate which they make their home. On the whole, then, it is evident that the majority of the estates of great landlords do not possess the benefit, whatever that may be, of the permanent residence of the owner among the farmers, labourers, and other people who, as we have seen, are so largely dependent on his will and pleasure.
Whatever Beneficial Influence Landlords Exert would be Increased Under Occupying Ownership.--It will be as well to notice here a strange misconception which pervades the ideas and arguments of those who uphold landlordism as a beneficial system. They assume that, if the nobility and educated gentry were no longer the possessors of great landed estates, beyond what they desired to occupy and maintain for their own pleasure or profit, they would not live in the country at [[p. 108]] all. But we may ask, Where, then, would they live? Is all the English love of country life a delusion? Would our wealthy classes live always in London, if they derived their income from other sources than the rents of land which they rarely or never behold? These questions really require no answer, and they serve to show the futility of the whole objection. If, as we here maintain, land ought to be owned only for personal occupation, it is as certain as anything can be that the number of wealthy resident landowners would greatly increase. The numerous fine parks and demesnes now kept up merely as show places, or let out to yearly tenants, would be each and all in the hands of a separate occupying owner. Each would be a home; and, as such, would be the object of that loving personal care and attention which, as one of half-a-dozen country houses, they never receive. For one resident landowner with education, wealth, and refinement, there would then be a dozen or a score; for each great estate would become the property of many owners, some owning several hundreds or even thousands of acres, others small farms; and as every one of these would be influenced by the double motive of adding to the permanent value of his own property and increasing the beauty and enjoyability of his only country home, their influence for good on each other and on the labouring classes would be certainly many times greater than that of any one half-resident landlord, even if all these were as good, and useful, and enlightened members of society as some of them really are.
Supposed Importance of the Large Farms which Landlordism Favours.--Another of the allegations in support of landlordism is that great landlords favour large farms, and that large farms worked by farmers of sufficient capital are more economical and produce larger profits than small ones. Admitting, for the sake of argument only, that this may possibly be sometimes true, and even that scientific farming on [[p. 109]] large farms produces larger wheat crops per acre than small ones, this only proves that such farms are better for the landlord and perhaps for the tenant, but not necessarily for the nation at large. For, since our supply of corn and cattle now comes mainly from abroad, the chief effect of a larger amount of such produce being obtained by a given amount of labour is that the landlord gets a higher rent and the farmer a larger profit, while the whole population of the country round may be positively injured. It is a well-known fact that in a district of large farms the inhabitants of the adjacent towns and villages suffer many inconveniences, especially in the difficulty of procuring new milk, fresh butter, eggs, or poultry, all of which, if produced, are sent away to London or other large cities. Families living quite in the country are thus often obliged to use Swiss milk, to eat foreign butter, or even an artificial compound of fat misnamed butter, and French eggs; while labourers and mechanics often bring up their families without the use of so wholesome and natural a food as milk.
But the question of the comparative productiveness of large and small farms is most unfairly decided by a comparison of tenant-farmers of these two classes in England. The large farmer is usually better educated and has a larger capital than the small one, and more frequently has a lease which enables him to work his land at a considerable advantage. But, as we shall show in our next chapter, when occupying owners are concerned there is no such superiority. Mr. Brodrick tells us that M. de Lavergne, writing on the Rural Economy of England, declared that no similar area of English land is cultivated so well as the Département du Nord, which is essentially a district of small farms; adding--"there is overwhelming evidence to prove that scientific English agriculturists have yet many lessons to learn from the small farms in Belgium, Switzerland, the Channel Islands, and Germany."
The great and essential point, however, is always overlooked [[p. 110]] by the apologists of landlord-and-tenant farming. This is, not which system leads to the greatest production of wealth, but, which supports the largest agricultural and rural population in comfort, decency, and reasonable well-being; which tends most to render the lowest class of workers thrifty, sober, and industrious; which will most surely abolish pauperism and diminish crime. The government of a civilised community is bound to consider the well-being of every class of its subjects, not that of capitalists only; and the experience of the last 50 years abundantly proves--as we have already shown--that the most astounding increase in the aggregate wealth of the community has no necessary tendency to diminish poverty or abolish pauperism.4 Let us, then, proceed to inquire what are the effects of landlordism on that large mass of workers to whom the entire wealth of the country is primarily due; and whose physical, social, and moral condition is the true and final test of the success of any government or any social polity.
The Effects of Landlordism on the Well-Being of the Labouring Classes.--In mediæval times the villein or serf, corresponding to our agricultural labourer of to-day, could not be ejected from his land except by the judgment of a manor-court, in which the freeholders sat as jurymen.5 However hardly he might be treated by his lord, he still had a home and a plot of land on which he could work with all the intense interest of an owner. Later on, when the villeins had become freemen, it was attempted to fix the rate of wages of labourers, who, by the continued enclosures of woods and wastes had become more dependent on daily labour for sustenance. In order to mitigate the evil results of this limitation of wages, the first Poor Law was established, and about the same time a statute [[p. 111]] of Elizabeth required four acres of land to be attached to each new cottage. If this just and far-seeing law had been strictly enforced to the present day, and the land so granted declared to be inalienable, it is probable that much of the great mass of pauperism which now exists would have been prevented. Down to a century ago, however, the position of the agricultural labourer was decidedly better than it is now. Matthews estimated that, in 1720, the wages of a labourer commanded more than at any previous or subsequent time; while a Parliamentary Report in 1868 thus forcibly sums up the advantages of his position:--"Previous to 1775 the agricultural labourer was in a most prosperous condition. His wages gave him a great command over the necessaries of life, his rent was lower, his wearing apparel cheaper, his shoes cheaper, his living cheaper, than formerly; and he had on the commons and wastes liberty of cutting furze for fuel, with the chance of getting a little land, and in time a small farm."6 It is true that his social and moral condition was very low, but so was that of many of his superiors; and it is very doubtful whether the improvement which has taken place in this last respect is not to a great extent neutralised by the deterioration of his physical condition.
Deterioration of the Condition of the Agricultural Labourer during the present Century.--From that time till within the last few years the wealth of the landlords, and, in a less degree, the profits of the farmers, have been steadily increasing. The rent of even agricultural land has nearly doubled, and the price of much agricultural produce has doubled also. In the latter part of the last century meat was 4d. a pound, cheese 3 1/2d., butter 6 1/2d., and skim-milk could be had for a halfpenny a quart, or was often given away, while wages were then about 8s. a [[p. 112]] week. In 1850 all these articles of food were much dearer, while in some parts of England wages were actually lower; and whereas during the last twenty years the above articles have been usually more than double the price, wages have been less than half as high again. But the labourer has now to pay much higher house-rent, he has generally no garden, and, being usually a weekly tenant, is so dependent on his landlord that he cannot make the most of what he has; the commons and roadside wastes from which he formerly obtained fuel for winter, with food and litter for a cow, a donkey, geese or poultry, have almost all been enclosed; and the result is that he has few means of adding to his scanty wages, and is reduced to live mainly on bread and weak tea, with a little cheese or bacon and cheap artificial butter, while his children are brought up almost without knowing the taste of milk. His sole relaxation is to be found at the wayside tavern, his only prospect to end his days in the workhouse.
The Social Degradation of the Agricultural Labourer at the Present Day.--In a remarkable letter to the Daily News in 1869, Sir George Grey gave a striking picture of the social and physical degradation of the English agricultural labourer. He quotes the reports of their medical officers to the Privy Council, which tell us that--"Whether he shall find house-room on the land which he contributes to till, whether the house-room which he gets shall be human or swinish, whether he shall have the little space of garden that so vastly lessens the pressure of his poverty--all this does not depend on his willingness and ability to pay reasonable rent for the decent accommodation he requires, but depends on the use which others may see fit to make of their 'right to do as they will with their own.'" Owing to the pecuniary interest which each parish formerly had in reducing the number of its resident labourers, thus diminishing its liability to rates, the landowners had but to resolve that there should be no labourers' dwellings on their [[p. 113]] estates, and they would thenceforth be virtually free from half their responsibilities for the poor. The lord of the soil may treat its actual cultivators as aliens whom he may expel from his territory; and when it is his interest or his pleasure he often does so. The same report states:--"Besides the extreme cases where houses of a parish were pulled down in the teeth of an increasing population, there were also innumerable parishes where the demolition of houses was going on more rapidly than any diminution of the population could explain. When the process of depopulation is completed, the result is a show village, where the cottages have been reduced to a few, and where none but persons who are needful as shepherds, gardeners, or gamekeepers are allowed to live. But the land requires cultivation, and it will be found that the labourers employed upon it are not the tenants of the owner, but that they come from a neighbouring open village, perhaps three miles off, where a numerous small proprietary had received them when their cottages were destroyed in the close villages around." To the hard toil of the labourer there will then have to be added the daily need of walking six miles or more for the power of earning his daily bread. "But he suffers a still greater evil in the kind of dwelling he is obliged to inhabit. In the open village cottage speculators buy scraps of land, which they throng as densely as they can with the cheapest of all possible hovels, and into these wretched habitations (which, even if they adjoin the open country, have some of the worst features of the worst town residences) crowd the agricultural labourers of England." The habitual overcrowding of these wretched hovels leads to scenes and conditions of life too painful to dwell upon, and we need only quote the concluding statement. "To be subject to such influences is a degradation which must become deeper and deeper for those on whom it continues to work. To children who are born under its curse it must be a very baptism into infamy."
[[p. 114]] It may be supposed that these cases are the exceptions, but the report assures us they are not so. After doing justice to the honourable instances in which landowners, even at a loss to themselves, provide decent accommodation for their labourers, it adds:--"From these brighter but exceptional scenes it is requisite, in the interests of justice, that attention should again be drawn to the overwhelming preponderance of facts, which are a reproach to the civilisation of England. Lamentable indeed must be the case when, notwithstanding all that is evident with regard to the quality of the present accommodation, it is the common conclusion of competent observers that even the general badness of dwellings is an evil infinitely less urgent than their numerical insufficiency."7
Corroborative evidence, if any be needed, is furnished by many independent authorities. Professor Fawcett, in the work already referred to, says of the British agricultural labourers--"Theirs is a life of incessant toil for wages too scanty to give them a sufficient supply of the first necessities of [[p. 115]] life. No hope cheers their monotonous career: a life of constant labour brings them no other prospect than that when their strength is exhausted, they must crave as suppliant mendicants a pittance from parish relief "; while the Bishop of Manchester states that out of 300 parishes which he visited in Norfolk, Essex, Sussex, and Gloucestershire, only two had good cottage accommodation. . . . "The majority of the cottages that exist in rural parishes are deficient in almost every requisite that should constitute a home for a Christian family in a civilised community." Details are then given of parishes and estates of 2,000 acres with one or two cottages only and sometimes none at all; and as a result ten or eleven persons sleeping in a single bedroom.8 And the only remedy suggested for this state of things is--not to give labourers a right to have land, the one and only possible and real remedy, but "to call upon those who own the soil to see to it that their estates are adequately provided with decent residences for those by whom they are tilled." What a weak and impotent conclusion! Call upon the landlords to build comfortable, roomy, and decent cottages at a certain loss! Truly you may call and call, but you will get no satisfactory response; and in the meantime more Commissions will inquire, more misery and horror will come to light, and no general improvement will be effected.
This State of Things is Due to the System of Landlordism, not to the Bad Conduct of Landlords.--Now, the great point to be noticed here is, that, except by the action of the benevolent or charitable, the labourer is, as a rule, disgracefully housed, wretchedly fed, and, however honest and industrious he may be, has rarely any other prospect than to die a pauper. The law of supply and demand has failed to give him a decent cottage. The enormous increase in the wealth of the landlord, [[p. 116]] giving him the disposal of so much larger a fund out of which to employ labourers, has in no way benefitted the tiller of the soil. And, while every one remarks that the standard of living of the tenant-farmers has been greatly raised, the foregoing evidence, no less than the glaring facts of persistent pauperism, shows that the social condition of the labourer has certainly been stationary, if it has not actually deteriorated. It is not necessary to go far to seek the cause of this apparently inexplicable state of things. Those who do not wilfully shut their eyes must see that the monopoly of the land by landlords sufficiently explains it. The land is a fixed quantity, while the population is ever increasing. The tenant-farmer with capital is in a position to make such a bargain with the landlord as will give him fair interest on his capital and adequate remuneration for his skill in superintending his farm. Between them they absorb all the profit that they extract from the soil, while the wages of the labourer are kept down by the forced competition of those who have no other means of living to that irreducible minimum which is barely sufficient to support life and health while he can work, and, as soon as his strength fails, leaves him to charity or the poorhouse.9 [[p. 117]] It is not that the landlord or the farmer are individually to blame. Both try to make the most of the property which the law allows them to possess, and we cannot expect them to do more than pay the current rate of wages. Were all landlords without exception to devote a considerable percentage of their incomes to providing good cottages for their labourers rent-free, one of the great blots on our agricultural system would doubtless be removed. But this would be charity pure and simple; and to say that there is no way of raising the status of the labouring population except by the universal charity of the landlords is to confess that landlordism itself is an evil of the first magnitude. The labourer does not want charity, but simply justice. He wants some share in that common land which his ancestors possessed, but from which, by landlord-made law, he is now totally divorced. He claims the right to labour for his own benefit on some portion of his native soil, not doled out to him in allotments at three or four times the rent paid by the farmer, and even then considered a favour, but in plots attached to his cottage home, to which he shall have an inalienable title under a fixed quit-rent, to which he can devote those hours or days of enforced idleness now cruelly wasted, and in the cultivation of which his children may acquire habits of industry and thrift, and the simpler arts of cultivation. In our next chapter we shall show, by abundant evidence, that by conceding such a right we should soon change a pauperised into a self-supporting population and should at the same time render our country far more healthy and enjoyable to every one of its inhabitants.
The Enclosure Act and its Results.--Although we freely absolve landlords from blame in the matter of the wages of labourers, we cannot do the same in regard to their collective action in the enclosures of commons. By means of various Enclosure Acts, it is estimated that about seven millions of acres of land were enclosed between 1710 and 1843. The [[p. 118]] progress of enclosure has been most rapid since the time of George II, and Sir George Nicholls states that two and a half millions of acres were enclosed in thirty years between 1769 and 1799. The Royal Commissioners on the Employment of Women and Children in Agriculture remark that these enclosures were often made without any compensation to the smaller commoners, and that they have deprived agricultural labourers of ancient rights over the waste, and have disabled the occupants of new cottages from acquiring such rights. In 1845 a general Enclosure Act was passed for still further facilitating the enclosure and improvement of commons, and it empowered the Commissioners to grant portions of the land for recreation and for allotments to the labouring poor, according to population. It did not, however, allow allotments of more than a quarter of an acre to each labourer, and no house was in any case allowed to be erected on them. While all other persons having rights of common had allotments made to them of land in absolute property, the labourers, to whom the common rights had in many cases been of more real use and value than to most of the surrounding landowners, had nothing whatever given to them but a miserable pittance of allotment ground, for which they had to pay a high rent! The Commissioners, however, appear to have made little use even of these scanty powers, since, out of 7,000,000 acres enclosed since 1760, it was found in 1868 that only 2,l19 acres had been reserved for allotments.10 As examples of the more recent action of the Enclosure Commissioners, we find it stated in the report of the Commons Preservation Society that in 1869 they recommended the enclosure of 6,916 acres, of which they reserved three acres for recreation and six for field gardens! Owing to the attention drawn to these figures in Parliament and by the press, they have latterly given rather [[p. 119]] more for these purposes; yet in 1875, out of 18,600 acres enclosed only 132 acres were reserved for garden allotments.
Uniform Evidence as to the Beneficial Effects of Allotments and Cottage Gardens.--If we think it strange that a body of highly educated, wealthy, moral, and benevolent men saw nothing wrong in thus appropriating to themselves land which had been the birthright of the English labourers from time immemorial, we are still more astonished at the impolicy of such a course of action, in view of the evidence they possessed of the important uses this land might have been put to for the diminution of the persistent evils of pauperism and crime. So long ago as 1795, it was shown before a Select Committee of the House of Commons "that, in 1770, the lord of a manor near Tewkesbury, remarking the exceptionally good character of families holding plots of reclaimed land, set apart some twenty-five acres for cottagers' allotments, and had the satisfaction of seeing the poor-rates reduced in two years to 4d. in the pound, while they stood at 2s. 6d. in the surrounding parishes." And another Select Committee in 1843 reported that "the tenancy of land under the garden allotment system is a powerful means of bettering the condition of those classes who depend for their livelihood on manual labour, and the benefits are obtained without corresponding disadvantages." From evidence given before the "Women's and Children's Employment Commission" in 1868, it was proved that cottagers obtained a return from such allotments of £16 an acre above the ordinary farm rent, and it was estimated that, if all agricultural labourers above 20 years of age possessed half-acre or quarter-acre allotments, the annual value of the produce would be between three and four millions of pounds. If these statements are even approximately correct, it is clear that the refusal of land to labourers results in a great loss to the nation of actual food, quite independently of the enormous saving that would accrue to it by the diminution of pauperism.
[[p. 120]] The allotments that do exist (and they are far from sufficient to supply the wants of the agricultural labourers) are, however, no test whatever of the good that might accrue from a more generous system. They are almost always held from year to year, and the labourers usually pay for them double or treble the rent paid for the same land by the farmer. They are also let in far too small patches; and, what is worst of all, they are often situated a considerable distance from the dwellings of the majority of the labourers. All these conditions are adverse to their being made the most of. A garden is especially valuable because it enables a man and his family to utilise odd moments, while its progress, being constantly under his eye, gives him a new interest in his home. After a long day's labour, and a walk of perhaps two or three miles from his work, to have to walk another mile, perhaps, to his allotment must often prevent him from going there at all, except when the days are longest. But perhaps even more important is the loss which his garden sustains in not receiving the whole refuse and sewage of the house, which could be so easily applied to a cottage garden, but which involves a heavy cost in time and labour if they are to be carried to a distant allotment. Again, the temporary occupation of a field-allotment affords no scope for growing fruit, in which our country is so deficient, or in keeping poultry for the supply of eggs, which might as easily be produced by our cottagers as by those of France. It is a mere mockery to point to allotments as affording any adequate notion of the material and social benefits which our labourers directly, and the whole country indirectly, would derive from throwing open the land freely to the permanent occupation or ownership of our labouring classes.
Beneficial Effects of Small Cottage Farms.--As one example of the good effects produced by even an approximation to such a system is the following statement of what has been done on the Annandale estate in Dumfriesshire. "Leases of [[p. 121]] twenty-one years were offered at ordinary farm rents to deserving labourers, carefully selected for their character, who built their own cottages, at a cost to themselves varying from £21 to £40, exclusive of labour, while the landlord supplied timber, stone, &c., at a cost of about £22. These houses were not grouped in villages, but chiefly situated along roads, with plots of from two to six acres attached to each, or the addition of grass for a cow. All the work for these little farms was done at by-hours and by members of the family, the cottager buying roots from the farmer, and producing in return milk, butter, and pork, besides rearing calves. Among such peasant farmers pauperism soon ceased to exist, and many of them soon bettered themselves in life. It was also particularly observed that habits of marketing and the constant demands on thrift and forethought brought out new virtues and powers in the wives. In fact, the moral effects of the system in fostering industry, sobriety, and contentment were described as no less satisfactory than its economical success."11
Again, the same writer tells us that in several estates in Cheshire it is the practice to let plots of land ranging from two and a-half to three and a-half acres with each cottage at an ordinary farm rent. This practice, which is but the revival of a custom once almost universal amongst the peasantry of England, is found to be fraught with manifold advantages. The most obvious of these is an abundant supply of milk for the farm labourers' children, who in many districts grow up without tasting the natural diet of childhood. But the habits of thrift and forethought encouraged by cow-keeping and dairying, on however small a scale, constitute a moral advantage of great importance. On Lord Tollemache's estate in Cheshire, where the system has been long established [[p. 122]] and carefully managed, its results have been eminently beneficial, and attended by none of the drawbacks so often magnified into insuperable difficulties by the opponents of cottage farming. Not less satisfactory has been the experience of other landlords who have given the system a fair trial, and the Second Report of the Women and Children's Employment Commission is full of evidence in its favour. "Yet," adds Mr. Brodrick, "such is the conservatism of agriculture that it continues to be a rare feature of English rural economy, and it is quite possible that generations will elapse before it is widely extended."12
The Logical Bearing of this Evidence.--Now, when we have, on one side, a system which inevitably pauperises a large section of the labouring classes; which degrades them socially and morally; and which, through them, permanently injures the whole community--and, on the other side, one which tends immediately to abolish pauperism and diminish crime; to elevate this same class socially and morally; and, while doing this, to aid materially in the supply of some of the most important necessaries of life, every Englishman has a right to object to leaving this great question in the hands of any body of men, much less of those who for so long a time have shown themselves utterly incompetent to form a correct judgment upon it. We object, too, most strongly to the indefinite continuance of a system which enables any of our fellow-citizens either to withhold at their pleasure or to grant as a favour that which we maintain is the birthright of every Englishman--the freedom to enjoy and utilise some portion of his native soil, on terms to be settled by the State, in the interest of all.
Various Powers Exercised by Landlords to the Detriment of the Public at Large.--Having thus shown how much despotic [[p. 123]] power landlords possess over their various classes of tenants, and how much injury these tenants often suffer directly, and the community indirectly, by the exercise of these powers, we have now to consider the numerous ways in which the entire population, individually and collectively, suffer injury, by allowing the soil of the country to be monopolised by private owners and to be dealt with as mere merchandise for profit or speculation; as the means of obtaining undue political and social power; or as an exclusive possession in which the people at large have no interests and can claim no rights.
We will begin with the question of House and Home, as one which affects the interests and the happiness of a larger number of persons than any other question whatever.
The Free Choice of a Home Essential to Well-Being.--People have so long been accustomed to look upon land as necessarily belonging to some individual who has the right to do what he pleases with it, that to most persons the idea never occurs that, as free citizens of a free State, they ought to be able to live wherever they choose to live, so long as they do not infringe any other person's equal right to do so. As a fact, they can only live where some landlord chooses to allow them; and though hundreds and thousands who have the means would like to choose a spot for themselves on which to reside, paying, of course, its fair value to the actual owner, they are very frequently restricted to some building-estate, where competition and speculation have raised the price of building land to such a degree that the crowding and other inconveniences of towns are extended far into the country. Every one who has written on the subject condemns the system of building-leases, as fraught with innumerable evils, and one which ought not to be permitted. It leads to bad speculative building, in which solidity and comfort are sacrificed to ornament and show. It leads to overcrowding in the vicinity of towns, and the comparative desertion of the more remote [[p. 124]] country places. And by the large profits it gives to existing landowners, with the prospect of a still larger profit to their descendants, it leads to the crowding of houses on narrow strips of land at ground-rents altogether disproportionate to its extreme agricultural value. These leases have usually been for 99 years, but some landlords now restrict them to 80 and even to 60 years; and for the latter half of the term it is evident that the home feeling and affection which leads a man continually to improve the dwelling which he trusts will be inhabited by some portion of his family after him, and which has an important moral influence on his character, must be continually weakened and at last wholly cease. Yet, so long as absolute private property in land continues, and it is held to be a fit subject for free barter and contract, it will be practically impossible to abolish the system.
Characteristics of a Good System of Land Tenure.--Now, we consider it to be an indisputable axiom that that system of land-tenure is best which leads at once to the freest enjoyment of the land by the whole population, and at the same time tends to its increased cultivation and productiveness. Of all modes of enjoyment that which depends upon the House and its surroundings--the healthiness, beauty, convenience, and productiveness of the Home--is the most important, since it affects directly the bulk of the whole population, and affects them during the largest portion of their daily lives. The utmost possible freedom in the choice of a home, with the greatest possible facilities for procuring the necessary land at a cheap rate, would constitute perhaps the chief of all the blessings which a sound and rational system of "Nationalisation of the Land" would confer upon every individual. Under the present system the very reverse obtains, since we have the least possible freedom of choice, and in most cases have to pay an extravagant monopoly price for whatever we are permitted to occupy.
[[p. 125]] It will be shown further on that it is quite possible to obtain the land for the nation without confiscating the property of any existing landowner or any expectant heir; and, that being done, it will be as easy as it will be expedient to secure the right of every one to obtain land for a "house and home," in almost any spot he may choose, and at a cost only slightly exceeding its value for agricultural purposes. The quantity of land thus taken from agriculture would, it is true, be somewhat larger than at present; but, as much of this would be highly cultivated as garden ground, and would offer facilities for the rearing of poultry and pigs as well as for growing fruit and vegetables, it is probable or even certain that the general productiveness of the land would be increased rather than diminished. At all events, every one must feel that the most perfect liberty in the choice of a dwelling-place, with a sufficiency of land for garden and pleasure-grounds at a cheap rate, would be so beneficial to the health and contentment of the entire community, that a system of land-tenure which renders it possible and even easy has already much in its favour. The exact mode in which this may be effected will be explained when the scheme of Nationalisation here advocated is discussed in detail.
We may, however, at once point out that the free appropriation of land for dwellings as now proposed offers, perhaps, the only possible check to the undue growth of large towns. In all the more beautiful and healthful parts of the country land would be taken for dwellings, and these would become new centres of rural populations, forming in time country villages and small towns. All land and building speculation being abolished, the growth of towns, now mainly caused by such speculations, would be checked, and hundreds who now take houses from speculative builders merely because they have no real freedom of choice will then choose for themselves, will occupy much more land, and will thus spread [[p. 126]] themselves more generally over the country. Other checks might be applied by local authorities, which would tend greatly to the healthiness and enjoyability of our larger towns, such as the interposition of belts of park and garden at certain intervals around dense centres of population--a class of improvement which the ruinous competition prices of land held by private owners now renders impossible.13
Enclosure of Commons and Mountain Wastes as Affecting the Public.--Next in importance to the power of securing pleasant and healthy houses, the general public have most interest in the right to free passage about the country--to roam over the commons, heaths, and woods; to search out the grand and beautiful scenes afforded by our rivers, moors, and mountains; to have preserved for them the ruins which are landmarks of our written history, as well as those more ancient monuments which tell us of pre-historic ages. In each and all [[p. 127]] of these directions they suffer injury from the powers claimed and exercised by landlords. As we have already seen, enormous areas of common land have been enclosed and appropriated by the surrounding owners, often without provision even of foot-paths by which the public may enjoy any of the land they once freely roamed over. Owing to inordinate game-preservation, the woods and copses are almost always rigidly shut up, and thus the public are deprived of one of the greatest enjoyments of country life--the power to wander freely under the shade of trees, in places where the choicest wild flowers blossom, and where the living denizens of the woods may be seen in their native haunts. Were it not for the ancient foot-paths crossing the country from village to village, many parts of our land would be almost shut out from the great body of its inhabitants. Fortunately these are tolerably numerous. But however great may be the need of fresh centres of population, we rarely hear of new paths being formed, while old ones are occasionally shut up or diverted, or so enclosed by fences that all their picturesque beauty and rural enjoyability is destroyed.
Another injury to the public and deprivation of their rights is the frequent and constantly increasing enclosure of those roadside strips of green sward which add so much to the charm of rural walks. Everywhere we find roads and lanes now bounded between parallel hedges or fences at a regular distance apart, while a few yards inside the fields on either side an old bank or an irregular row of trees show the distance to which the road formerly extended. We are assured by the Commons Preservation Society "that all such absorptions are illegal, the general rule of law being that the public have a right of way over the whole space between the hedges."14 And in a later report they repeat that such encroachments "are [[p. 128]] almost invariably illegal, and may be abated by the ordinary remedies provided in the case of the obstruction of a highway." It appears, therefore, that all over the country the public have for many years past been systematically robbed by means of these encroachments; and few more striking proofs can be given of the great evil of landlordism and the injurious power and influence of landlords than that such systematic robbery, though contrary to law, should have been almost always effected with impunity.
Equally, or perhaps even more, injurious to the interests of the public is the extensive appropriation by individual landlords of enormous areas of wild mountain country in Wales, Ireland, and especially in Scotland, whereby Englishmen are forbidden in many cases to visit and enjoy some of the most beautiful and picturesque scenery of their native land--spots where nature exhibits her full grandeur, and where alone the choicest and rarest examples of our native flora and fauna are to be met with. The right to these enormous tracts of land as private property appears to be of very recent and very doubtful origin. The Highland chiefs had certainly no such right to the land in fee, with the concomitant power to evict all the rest of the clan and sell or let the land to the highest bidder. Yet this is what the successors to those chiefs claim, and what they have in some cases actually done; and the law, ever on the side of the landlords and against the people, appears to have endorsed their claim, and has thus given to them complete and despotic power over the lives and liberties of the native inhabitants of the district. The result has been that terrible depopulation and pauperisation of the country which has been described in the last chapter, and the replacement of men and human habitations by sheep, cattle, and deer, for a parallel to which we must go back to the days of the Norman conquerors of England in the height of their despotic power. Some of the wildest and grandest mountain scenery of Scotland [[p. 129]] is now as rigidly shut up as if it were in a private pleasure ground. Hundreds of square miles of glen and rock and mountain-side are given up to deer and grouse for the pleasure and profit of a few individuals, while the public are thereby deprived of a means of enjoyment and healthful relaxation which hardly any country in Europe denies them but their own.
The Destruction of Ancient Monuments.--One of the most palpable illustrations of the evil consequences of allowing land to be the absolute property of individuals is, that it has led to the destruction of a vast number of most interesting ancient monuments, while the attempt of Sir John Lubbock and others to preserve those that still remain has been for some years strenuously opposed, on the ground that it interferes with the rights of landlords. Let us cull from Sir John Lubbock's essay15 a few examples of that destruction which several Members of Parliament have had the hardihood to deny.
One of the most remarkable and interesting of our very ancient monuments is Abury, or Avebury, in Wiltshire, which an old antiquarian declared "did as much exceed Stonehenge as a cathedral doth an ordinary parish church." The entire series of these remains presented such a colossal enigma as it would be difficult to parallel even at Karnac; but this wonderful relic of the past has been for many years undergoing destruction, the great stones of which it is composed being broken up to build cottages, to make gate-posts, and even to mend the roads. "Still, even now," says Sir John Lubbock, "there is perhaps no more remarkable monument of the kind in this country, or even in Europe." In the year 1875, the owner of the land on which this grand monument stands sold it unreservedly to a Building Society, by which it was lotted out in sites for cottages, and actually sold in small plots for this purpose. Fortunately, [[p. 130]] Sir John Lubbock was informed of this just in time, and succeeded in purchasing the land himself, and in persuading the villagers for a small consideration to exchange their allotments for others in an adjoining field which was just as well suited to them. Abury, the wonder of antiquarians and the enigma of the learned, was thus barely saved from complete destruction by the intervention of a private gentleman living in a remote county!
As another example, the Roman camp on Hod Hill, Dorsetshire, was an unique relic of Roman military skill. Mr. Warne, a local antiquary, says:--"Nothing could be finer than its condition about ten years ago; until then it might be seen as in its pristine state, and, making due allowance for the lapse of ages, as perfect as when excavated by the Roman cohorts. . . . It was indeed so perfect as to render it a model of Roman castramentation." Yet since that time, this magnificent camp has been almost entirely destroyed.
Sir John Lubbock mentions scores of similar cases, which have occurred and are occurring all over the country. No less than forty of the Irish round towers have perished during the present century; and quite recently, when Mr. Payne went to see the Long Stone, a remarkable monolithic monument described in the "History of Gloucestershire," he found that it had just been blown up with gunpowder by the farmer "because it cumbered the ground." It may be said that the landowners erred through ignorance of the value and interest of these monuments, but that cannot be said now; for after repeated discussions in Parliament, and after an overwhelming body of facts of the character of those here presented has been laid before them, the great landlords still refuse to give up their right to "do what they like with their own." and have strenuously opposed, and hitherto prevented from passing, the very moderate measure of Sir John Lubbock for the purchase and preservation of the most important of these ancient monuments which still remain to us.
[[p. 131]] Public Improvements Checked by Landlordism.--Another mode in which private property in land operates to the serious injury of the public at large is the power which landlords possess, and very often use, of demanding enormous sums for the land required for public improvements. Whether it is the formation of new streets in the Metropolis, or the construction of railways or docks, or the securing of land for public recreation, the claims of landlords invariably stand in the way, sometimes preventing the desired improvements from being carried into effect, sometimes burthening them with a heavy load of debt and so diminishing their usefulness. Instances of this will occur to every one who takes note of passing events. I will only here quote the following statement of Mr. Brodrick:--"The landed interest of England is estimated to have received a sum exceeding the national revenue from railway companies alone over and above the market price of the land thus sold." The italics are mine, to call attention to the fact that this sum of 70 or 80 millions paid to the landlords is a permanent injury to the community, by increasing to that extent the unproductive capital expenditure of the railway companies of the kingdom; while no class has received so much benefit from railways as the landlords, in the enormous increase given thereby to the value of their estates, so that if they had freely given the land required to construct the lines, they would still have been gainers. As another example:--"One nobleman is known to have received three quarters of a million sterling for the mere sites of docks constructed by the enterprise of others." Here again no doubt his other land in the neighbourhood would be greatly increased in value by these very docks, and, equitably, all this increase of value should go to those whose expenditure caused it, or at least to the community at large. But the public and the Government are alike powerless, and must submit to pay whatever landlords choose to demand for permission to make public improvements; [[p. 132]] and this state of things will continue so long as private property in land is allowed.
Permanent Deterioration of the Country by the Export of Minerals.--I have already given an example of a landlord denying the free exercise of their religion to his tenants, and cases in which sites for chapels have been refused are not uncommon; but I shall pass on to an example of the power of landlords which appears to me to go far beyond what should be allowed to any citizens of a densely populated country. I allude to the possession as private property of the minerals beneath its surface, and the power to work, sell, export, and totally exhaust them for their individual benefit.
It has not been sufficiently considered that the minerals of a country are in a totally different category from its agricultural products or even the agricultural land, inasmuch as man can neither produce them nor hasten their production by nature, while in the process of use they are completely destroyed. They are, besides, a portion of the very land itself; and their export to such an extent as to render the remainder more difficult of access, and therefore more costly, is a permanent and irretrievable deterioration of the country, rendering it less valuable to its future inhabitants. The power of doing this injury to the community should never have been permitted to individuals (any more than the right to sell their estates to a foreign Government), but it has become so great a source of wealth and is so firmly established as one of the "sacred rights of property" that only by the complete nationalisation of the land does it seem possible to abolish it.
It must be remembered that almost every extensive country in the world possesses coal and iron, besides many other minerals, and there is therefore no adequate reason for permanently impoverishing our country by sending its minerals all over the world and thus robbing future generations; and this, not for the benefit of the whole community, but for [[p. 133]] that of the few individuals who have been allowed to monopolise the land.
It may be said that the price of coal and iron has not yet been raised by the exhaustion of our supplies; but this is very doubtful. It is an admitted fact that the enormous consumption of coal, both for export and in the manufacture of exported iron, has led to coal being now worked at much greater depths than formerly, and this necessarily implies greater cost of working, and consequently a higher price than would be necessary at less depths; and this extra cost must go on increasing as more and more of the coal at moderate depths is worked out. But there is another way in which the community suffers by this excessive export of minerals. The areas devoted to mining and smelting are thereby increased far beyond what is necessary for supplying our own wants, and this leads directly to the sterilising of large tracts of land, and besides renders whole districts hideous and unfit for any enjoyable human habitation. Many thousands of acres of good land are covered up with the "waste" from mines and the "slag" from furnaces, and are thus rendered permanently barren; while the extent of black country over which all natural beauty is destroyed must be reckoned by hundreds or even by thousands of square miles. Whatever part of this destruction and disfigurement is absolutely needed to supply our own wants we must submit to; but that more extensive portion which owes its origin to the excessive export of the very vitals of our land for the aggrandisement of landlords and speculators is a serious loss which should be checked, and a public nuisance which should be abated.
Concluding Remarks on English Landlordism.--I have now shown by a series of brief but illustrative cases that landlordism as it exists in England--that is, under perhaps the most favourable conditions possible to it--has produced, and is daily producing, evil results to every class of the community [[p. 134]] of the most alarming magnitude. It has also been made clear that these evil results do not in any way depend upon the absence of free trade in land, but that they depend essentially on the relation of landlord and tenant--a relation which gives a power to one citizen over the liberty and well-being of others which is incompatible with freedom, while it denies the right of Englishmen to occupy any portion of their native land except at the will and pleasure of its comparatively few owners. Further, it has been shown that the divorce of the working classes from the soil is the prolific parent of pauperism, vice, and crime; and that, as a mere question of national policy, it is essential that some means should be adopted to give every labourer, as well as every Englishman, a right to a portion of land at a fixed rent, for cultivation and home occupation. This can only be done by the abolition of private property in land and its complete nationalisation--undoubtedly a measure of a radical if not of a revolutionary character, but the evils to be cured are so gigantic and so deeply rooted that any less searching remedy would be powerless to effect a cure of the disease.
1. A labourer on the estate of the Duke of Bedford, writing to the Bedford Record, states that he can only get an allotment of 20 poles of the worst land in the parish, at double the rent paid by the farmers. In other parishes fair land is let at three times the agricultural rate; and I am informed that in some parts of the New Forest allotments are paid for at rates up to as high as £16 an acre. [[on p. 98]]
2. "The Tenant-Farmer" (1879). [[on p. 102]]
3. Nineteenth Century, September, 1880. [[on p. 103]]
4. See p. 4, Footnote. [[on p. 110]]
5. Prof. Thorold Rogers in Contemporary Review, April, 1880. [[on p. 110]]
6. First Report of the Women's and Children's Employment Commission (1868), Par. 251. [[on p. 111]]
7. This depopulation of estates and parishes has been going on for more than a century. Arthur Young described the operation of the old Poor Law in his time as causing universally "an open war against cottages." Gentlemen bought them up whenever they had an opportunity, and immediately levelled them with the ground, lest they should become "a nest of beggars' brats." The removal of a cottage often drove the industrious labourer from a parish where he could earn 15s. a week to one where he could earn but 10s. Thus, as among the Scotch labourers of the present day, marriage was discouraged; the peasantry were cleared off the land, and increasing immorality was the necessary consequence. The effect of this system was actually to depopulate many parishes. The author of a pamphlet on the subject, Mr. Alcock, stated that the gentlemen were led by this system to adopt all sorts of expedients to hinder the poor from marrying, to discharge servants in their last quarter, to evict small-tenants, and pull down cottages. The duties of an overseer under the old Poor Law system in England are described by Dr. Burn to be--"Not to let anyone have a farm of £10 a year. . . . To bind out poor children apprentices, no matter to whom or to what trade; but to take special care that the master live in another parish. . . . To pull down cottages; to drive out as many inhabitants and admit as few as they possibly can: that is to depopulate the parish, in order to lessen the poor rate." (Godkin's "Land War in Ireland," p. 241.) [[on p. 114]
8. Appendix to First Report of the Commission appointed to inquire into the condition of women and children employed in agriculture. [[on p. 115]]
9. That this is a necessary consequence of private property in land has been demonstrated with great force in Mr. George's remarkable work, "Progress and Poverty," of which some account is given in a later chapter. It has also been seen by some of our recent political economists, especially by Professor Cairnes, who writes as follows:--"A given exertion of labour and capital will now produce in a great many directions five, ten, or twenty times--in some instances, perhaps, a hundred times--the result which an equal exertion would have produced a hundred years ago; yet the rate of wages . . . has certainly not advanced in anything like a corresponding degree, whilst it may be doubted if the rate of profit has advanced at all. . . . We should be inclined to say it had even positively fallen. . . . Someone, no doubt, has benefited by the enlarged power of man over material nature; the world is, without question, the richer for it. . . . The large addition to the wealth of the country has gone neither to profits nor to wages, nor yet to the public at large, but to swell a fund ever growing, even while its proprietors sleep--the rent-roll of the owners of the soil." ("Some Leading Questions of Political Economy Newly Expounded," pp. 328-333). [[on p. 116]]
10. Brodrick, "English Land and English Landlords," p. 234. [[on p. 118]]
11. "English Land and English Landlords," p. 237. [[on p. 121]]
12. "English Land and English Landlords," p. 420. [[on p. 122]]
13. That the evils of landlord-made law are still rampant among us is well shown by the manner in which the late Government dealt with the owners of house-property by means of their "Artisans' Dwellings Act." Professor Fawcett, speaking at Hackney on December 14th, 1880, said of this Act "that a more unfortunate measure, or one based on more radically unsound principles, has seldom been brought forward in Parliament. Under its provisions the owners of houses unfit for human habitation, instead of being punished for their neglect, have been compensated at such an extravagant rate that on six of the sites which have been already cleared the loss to the metropolitan ratepayers has been £643,000, and if the Act is permitted to remain in operation in its present form the loss will soon be more than £2,000,000. Many sites which have been cleared under this Act remain unoccupied because houses cannot be built under the conditions imposed by the Act. The people who have been driven out must find refuge somewhere, and districts which were before overcrowded become more overcrowded still. Difficult as it has been for the poor of London to provide themselves with suitable homes, the money which the carrying out of this Act has caused to be lost will have to be supplied by increased rates, and each addition to the rates makes the payment of rent more difficult for those of humble means." This is a fine example of the difficulty of curing evils arising from the radically unsound principles that now prevail. With the land of the country in the possession of the State, and with free choice of sites at a cheap rate, as here proposed, no such overcrowding could ever have arisen; and even now, if true principles were adopted, the evil would soon cure itself. [[on p. 126]]
14. Report of Proceedings, 1870-1876--p. 27. [[on p. 127]]
15. Nineteenth Century, March, 1877. [[on p. 129]]