Images de page





M. A.






[blocks in formation]


THE work here presented to the public is one, it must be admitted, of a rather unusual character; but the events which have called it forth have been anything but usual. England seems to be entering on a crisis in her history which bids fair to lead to very serious results unless some steps be taken to divert the drifting of her affairs from their present dangerous course into a more healthy channel. The foundations of her prosperity hitherto seem to get looser and looser every year. Her land is going more and more out of cultivation; and its owners and cultivators are getting every year more and more impoverished. As a natural consequence her trade is becoming year by year less expansive, if not actually decreasing, in proportion to the increase of the population—a fact acknowledged in the budget speech of one of the most sanguine of her Chancellors of the Exchequer. The future of the trade of England is even darker still, for it is becoming every year more dependent on the export of her coal and iron not to be replaced, of her machinery to be used against her manufacturers by their rivals in other countries, and of her capital to be employed in other countries in working up the exported raw minerals of her land and in working her machinery.

Now, the remedy for the most of this advance to the decay of England's trade the author believes to be co-operation in the tillage of the land, which would place the prosperity of the country on a much sounder footing. But, for co-operation to have this effect it must be of such a nature as to raise up the labour employed in the actual tillage of the land to a higher material, political, and perhaps social position than it has ever yet been allowed to take. Possibly, it has been with this view that a peasant proprietary has been advocated. But, as shown in the course of the work, this form of land tenure and tillage would make the condition of the farm labourer scarcely any, if at all, better than now.

The author feels he ought to offer a word of apology to the reader for introducing politics into a work professing to treat of co-operation in land tillage. The truth is, when he began it, it was with the intention of confining himself to the subject of the title of his book. But, as he proceeded, he found the ownership of the land, the condition of its cultivators, and the nascent power of the cultivators to give expression to their discontent at that condition so inextricably mixed up with politics that he could not avoid making allusion to them. He has however been careful to do so only so far as co-operation in the tillage of the land is concerned. His references to politics have been made with the view of showing from a political standpoint how extremely effective would be the kind of co-operation suggested by him for preserving the capital and institutions of England, and through their preservation for preventing

the disintegration of the empire. How closely connected with land and its tillage are politics a proof is afforded in the composition of the present Cabinet of Ministers, which consists either of large landowners or of those who have risen to their high position in the State through carrying on a political warfare more or less unrelentingly against that class.

Most of the chapters form a separate essay on the subject of which they severally treat. Yet, it would be an advantage to read them all to be able to fully comprehend the main drift of the book. They should moreover be read in the order in which they are placed: for it has been the aim of the author to form a consecutive series in matter as well as in form.

The author has now only to say that he has had no other object in view in writing the book than to do the greatest amount of good he can to his country and to make it the medium of conferring by an example of a particular kind set therein a great boon on the human race. This boon is to be conferred, as will be seen towards the end of the book, by the settlement first of all in the British empire in a peaceable manner and to the advantage of both interests concerned of a harassing question of long standing, which, if not settled in some such way as the author has suggested, threatens to involve in misery, if not depopulate, this fair earth.

« PrécédentContinuer »