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exceptions, opposed to progress and reform, while the very delay makes reform, especially in the first of these subjects, more and more dangerous for their own interests as a class. Forty years ago the agricultural labourers had no leaders, no papers, no education, and very little intelligence. Now they have leaders and papers and a growing though illdirected intelligence. Their journals are spread far and wide among them-are read in the village beerhouses-are discussed everywhere. And what journals! They are

filled with the most ignorant and injurious socialism. They openly argue that each peasant should have a share granted to him of his rich landlord's estate, and that every peasant should have a plot of land of his own, not one earned by labour, self-denial, and economy, but one granted to him by the State! They abuse the present system, not because it is the exaggerated result of unfair laws, but merely because the land is not divided among the peasants! They ignore all laws of political economy-all the experience of agesall that is being done in other countries. They simply cry out for an impossible social revolution. And to this they have been brought by generations of neglect and ignorance, by being utterly divorced from the soil on which they live, by finding it yearly more and more difficult to obtain decent cottages, by a want of any future except the workhouse, and by knowing that they are refused all share in the representation of the country, and all means of improving their position. Is it wonderful that the landowning class should dread the evil of their own creation?

And even now they are, with brilliant exceptions here and there, opposing the advance of any really satisfactory system of education. Round where I live, in an agricultural district, I know of no School Board but one, and that one was forced upon a rich but unwilling parish by the landowner, who is, shame be it said, not an English, but a foreign lady! The Act of 1875 is, as far as I can learn, a dead letter; and in my own parish, although there is a very good school supported by charity, for children who choose

to go, how little can be done, compared with what ought to be accomplished, unless the children can be detained until a later and a maturer age!

"Where there is a will, there is a way," but where there is no will, what then?

I met three or four years ago a titled man, a landed proprietor in one of the richest agricultural counties of England. He is a good man, a liberal landlord, kind to the poor, careful about the small material wants of his labourers, and he is very rich. I knew something of his neighbourhood, and I asked him if he had a school in a village I will call X. He said, "Oh yes." I said, "Have you a certificated teacher?" He said, "No; we have a respectable woman, who teaches the children." I said, "Has she not been trained to teach?" He said, "No; we cannot afford to pay for a trained teacher. Our teacher is quite sufficient for our school. I object to increase the burdens of my farmers to pay for expensive teachers." The idea that he, who owned the whole village and all the land around, ought to pay, never crossed his mind. He disliked the idea of the peasants having really efficient instruction, and you may imagine how little developed is the intelligence of his peasantry. You will not wonder that the peasantry of that part of the country are under the influence of the peasant demagogues, and are possessed with wild ideas of their rights; and yet this titled landowner is a very able and enlightened man, and far superior to the majority of his class.


Let me say one word on this consequence of our Land Laws. By them we have created a class of men who are far richer than any corresponding class in any other civilised country. There are, no doubt, very rich proprietors in other countries. But they are only exceptional cases as compared to our class of landowners, numbering as it does among its ranks men with incomes that seem fabulous

to mention, arising from their vast estates. But what is the effect of all this? In all classes below them it stimulates a striving to be as rich as the next classes above. This effect is seen far down in the middle classes. Extravagance and luxury are unduly encouraged. The supposed necessary cost of life is increased. The expenses of the home life are swelled. The simple life of most of the middle classes, where such laws do not exist, would be despised and thought mean in England. The life and duties of the mistress of a middle-class family in Germany, Switzerland, and the country districts of the United States, would be thought degrading. There is no country in the world where the life of a middle-class family is so expensive as in England, and surely neither the happiness of the family nor its moral tone is improved by all this. It is much more expensive to educate the children, much more difficult to start them in a career, much more expensive to provide them with a home here than in the countries where such Land Laws as ours do not exist.

I have now completed this branch of my subject. I shall try in my future letters to explain, shortly, how strangely different a state of things exists in the Republics of Switzerland and France, in the Empire of Germany, and in the Kingdoms of Belgium, Holland, and Italy.



May 1878.

THE language sometimes used about registration shows that what registration is, is not understood. Registration, no matter in what country, is nothing more than a plan of keeping a public record of any transfer or agreement affecting land, when such transfer or agreement has been completed.

The way in which it is opened for a given district. each separate estate has its page. of a field named Whiteacre, and goes to the office, examines the register, and sees what agreements, mortgages, &c., &c., are in force affecting Whiteacre. He then goes and makes his bargain with A. A short agreement of sale is drawn up by their lawyers. It is taken to the Registration Office, and if, in the meantime, no other agreement has been entered on the pages of the register, it is signed, and an abstract or copy of it is entered in the registry book. The law compels this to be done, by declaring that the agreement which is first entered shall be in force prior to any other subsequently entered. So that if B. finds no mention of any other agreement of transfer mentioned in the book, he knows that he may with perfect safety pass over the purchase money and sign the

worked is this: 1 an office is Books are kept there, in which Say that A. is the owner that B. wants to buy. B.

1 For an account of the system of registration in Belgium see Letter XIII. p. 156.

agreement. The transfer of the land is thus effected by the paper or parchment agreement.

The entry in the public register is only to preserve public evidence for any future purchaser or mortgagee of the exact state of the documents which affect the property at any given moment. As soon as the terms of the transfer are agreed on between buyer and seller, the buyer is only too eager to register, lest any other transfer or agreement should get precedence of, or prior effect to, his own; and in some countries the law renders the transfer or agreement invalid until it has been registered.

Thus in Scotland, where they appear to have a very efficient and cheap system of land registration, the law requires all writings affecting land to be registered under the penalty of invalidity.

The reason why all schemes for a system of registration in England and Wales have hitherto failed, is that the various Acts on the subject have not made registration compulsory, either by rendering a deed or document affecting land invalid, if not registered, or if not registered before some other subsequent deed or document is registered.

The most radical measure of registration that has ever been proposed by any man, whether layman or lawyer, in this country, was the scheme of compulsory registration, prepared and brought in by Lord Selborne, the Liberal Lord Chancellor, but it was defeated, like all other really genuine attempts in the same direction, by the great landowners and their solicitors.

But it must be borne in mind that, while a system of registration would somewhat lessen the expense of the search for titles, its effects would be very slow, so long as the settlements and wills were allowed to have such effect on the land as at present.1 Conveyances and wills would continue just as lengthy as at present. Many years would elapse before even the expense caused by the examination of titles would be lessened, and the utmost which could

1 See also Letter XIII. p. 156.

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