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is, in such a position that he can, if he will, sell or give the land to any one he chooses, though such a case is an exceptional one; inasmuch as, before such a state of circumstances occurs as to give him this power, another deed is generally made which takes away from the owner all powers of selling for many, many years again.

"Free Land" is another expression sometimes used even by earnest and accomplished reformers, which is open to great objection. Sir Henry James, Q.C., M.P., one of our ablest lawyers, said at Taunton that he did not in the least understand what was meant by the term. And if an able lawyer like Sir Henry is puzzled by the term, what must be its effect on minds ignorant of all laws, and especially of this really difficult subject of the Land Laws. It is surely well that earnest men, who desire to promote reform on this subject, should avoid making use of terms which are capable of the most obnoxious and injurious interpretations, and which are certain to strengthen the doubts and opposition of enemies, and even of hesitating friends. "Free land may mean land freed from all law whatever; or that land should belong to those who are strong enough to seize and hold; or that all land should belong to the State, who should divide, or let, or lend it as it wills; or that it should be freed from all claims and titles at present affecting it; or, as the agricultural labourers' journals are now seriously, but alas! how ignorantly or wickedly, arguing, that every peasant should have a plot of land granted to him out of the great estates; or, in fact, many other equally obnoxious significations.


What I am most anxious to urge upon all land-law reformers is this-we have enough opposition without increasing it by using vague and alarming terms, which only serve to create opponents, without even teaching or enlightening friends. Land-law reformers are already sufficiently misunderstood, and the difficulties of the subject are already sufficiently great, without our increasing them by language which is only calculated to alarm, without being capable of

instructing. At any rate I cannot say too often or too strongly, that I am not to be numbered among those who desire "free land," in any sense which can be reasonably attached to the term. I wonder, as was suggested to me a few days ago by a thoughtful and intelligent friend, where the free-trade question would be even now if its advocates had gone about discussing vaguely "free corn."

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To pass on to another of these strange expressions. It is a totally unfounded fallacy to say, as Sir Stafford Northcote did in his speech at Bournemouth on December 4th, 1877, that any of the intelligent leaders of public opinion among the Liberal party want a free system of the distribution of land." I do not know what Sir Stafford exactly meant by these words, or indeed if they meant anything at all; but, if they did, it is sufficient to say that no intelligent Liberal wishes for any system "of the distribution of the land." All that they desire is that the law should not interfere to prevent the sale and breaking up of the great estates, when change of circumstances, or poverty, or misfortune, or bad management, or immorality, would otherwise bring them into the market.

Neither is it true, in any sense, that really thoughtful men wish to compel the subdivision of estates.1 They only desire that the law should not oppose such subdivision if circumstances would otherwise render it certain to happen. Neither do they desire, as is constantly alleged, that all the land should be divided into little estates. That is not the case in France, or in any other civilised country in the world. Even in France, whose Land Laws we do not wish

1 I have been asked why I am opposed to the proposal to limit the amount of land which a man might hold, and also why a landowner should not be forced to sell all his estate, except a limited portion, on receiving proper notices from purchasers intending to buy? I answer, that if gentlemen who make these suggestions really think they are practicable, or reasonable, or desirable, nothing I could say or do would convince them to the contrary. They propose schemes which I have neither the time nor the inclination to fight. Life is too short for some sorts of controversies.

to copy, the land is-spite of the law, which seeks to compel subdivision-divided into great estates, medium-sized estates, small estates, and gardens, owned by their possessors. But the vast difference between France and Great Britain is, that if a great landowner in France mismanages his estate, or gets ruinously into debt, or does not care to keep it, or feels that he could employ his capital to some better purpose in some other way, he is never prevented by deed or by will from selling, nor is his land ever protected by law from being sold.

An extraordinary doctrine is that which is advocated. by Mr. Francis W. Newman, in "Fraser's Magazine" for December 1877, viz., "to limit by law the magnitude of estates ;" and he suggests, "for discussion, a thousand acres as the ideal maximum for rural land, and two acres for town land." Now, I hope it is not necessary to say that all the thoughtful leaders of the Liberal party, and, as I believe, nearly all their followers, would oppose any such proposition as much as the Conservatives. If such a scheme were possible, it would be highly inexpedient, for many obvious reasons. And even if it were expedient, it is utterly impossible. Such schemes frighten many of even the Liberal party from any calm consideration of the reform of the Land Laws. Indeed, when one sees such a proposition appearing in "Fraser," where only a few months since Mr. Froude's partisan and vehement article against all change in the Land Laws appeared, one is tempted to exclaim that surely "an enemy hath done this." These are but a sample of the strange statements that one hears from day to day in public and in private whenever the subject of the Land Laws is discussed. I have heard educated, liberal men asserting in good faith that they cannot believe that it would be wise to divide all the land of Great Britain and Ireland among peasant proprietors, as if such a thing were possible, or ever contemplated, or as if such a thing had ever been accomplished or attempted in any civilised country.

Another fallacy is one put forward by Mr. Froude, who says: "People complain of the law of entail (meaning thereby the Land Laws) as if it interfered with the subdivision of landed property. It rather sustains such small estates as remain. Abolish entail if you please, but accumulation will only proceed the more rapidly."


But if this is true, if the accumulation of the great estates will go on not only as rapidly as it does now, but " rapidly" still, "devouring the small estates adjoining," what earthly reason can there be for retaining these laws? It seems strange to retain obnoxious laws, which invite cavil and opposition, when the very objects for which they were framed might be attained still more effectually without them. It is useless to tell Mr. Froude, or men who, like him, will not even regard what can be said on the other side, that England is alone now in her support of these laws that all other civilised countries have either greatly modified them, or have entirely got rid of them, or are getting rid of them; and that, in every country in which these laws have been abolished, the great estates, instead of going on increasing in size, as Mr. Froude prophesies, have divided into smaller estates of all sizes.

"But," says Mr. Froude, "unless the area of Great Britain could be made larger than it is, or until the British people change their nature, a peasant proprietary is a dream."

But he forgets, or pushes out of sight, the fact that the getting rid of similar laws in Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, and the richest and more populous provinces of Germany and France, caused the rapid creation of estates of all sizes, and of classes of yeomen and peasant proprietors.

He says further, "France is now divided into between five and six million freeholds. At the death of a proprietor his land is shared among his children, and the partition is only arrested at the point at which the family of the culti vator can be fed."

But does he not know, or does he again push out of

sight the obnoxious fact, that throughout France there are many large estates, each producing thousands of pounds a year, and estates of all sizes, as well as the small estates, of which he writes so incorrectly?

But he tells us that we are in our maturity, or past it, and that we cannot afford to act as other countries do-that we are to hold fast to our institutions. This is the old, old cry which has been always raised when any great reform has been advocated, and which is always raised to defend abuses when all else has failed. And then he tells us that if we do not respect our past, i.e., our old institutions, we shall have no future to respect.

The same powerful and well-worn argument was applied in opposition to the Reform Bill, the Municipal Corporations Bill, the Free Trade measure, the Repeal of the Navigation Laws, and all the other vast measures of reform which have been passed during the last 45 years, and which have served to strengthen the foundations of our English Constitution, spite of all the storms which during the same period have raged around it.

But putting aside these strange fallacies, many of which have been insisted upon in order to raise a prejudice against those who wish to reform the Land Laws, it cannot be too earnestly insisted on, that no matter how these great estates were originally formed, the main causes which at the present day keep them together, and prevent many of them coming into the market, are the laws which allow the owners to make deeds and wills which for many years, and often long after the owners' deaths, prevent the land from being sold, or the estate from being divided, no matter how expedient it may be that it should be sold, or no matter how foolish or extravagant the owner may be. Let me give an instance of what I mean. I was the trustee of a large and valuable estate in the South of England. This estate, 50 or 60 years ago, came into the possession of a young titled man, who was just 21 years old, and whom I will call Lord A. He became the absolute owner of it, unfettered by

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