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Is not the principle on which this old gentleman has managed his property, similar to that which is acted on by many others? May we not appeal to the landed gentry themselves? Even when the best feelings exist between father and son, are they not restrained by their duty towards their younger children, from the expenditure of money, which they know would permanently improve the family property ? Or if the eldest son, being of age, unites with his father in charging the estate for the benefit of the younger children, is not the nucleus of a debt formed, which, increasing from generation to generation by a similar process, first embarrasses, and finally ruins the family? Have not many estates been thus forced to the hammer ? Have not the difficulties in which he was involved destroyed the happiness of the last possessor, and in many cases embittered the lives of two generations 2 Have not the social condition and
“of an Irish settlement, has power to charge but a small sum as a pro“vision for his younger children; as a prudent father, having more “than one child, he naturally seeks to accumulate property in aid of “the provision to which he is restricted by his settlement—that, under “the present system, he does through the public securities, &c. He “cannot lay out his savings upon the improvement of his family estate, “for the effect would be, to enrich the elder son, and deprive himself of “means to provide for his younger children; the consequence is gene“rally, and in many cases even within my own professional experience, “that estates which otherwise would be improved are neglected, and “the savings accumulated by the tenants for life are laid out at interest “upon loans secured on neighbouring estates or in the public funds."
character of the tenantry been ruined, by the mismanagement resulting from these difficulties 2 Probably the estate may have been for years under the court of chancery before its sale, or perhaps it has been mortgaged to some one, who advanced the money on condition of obtaining the agency, and who has made the most of his position, without regard to the welfare of the property or those living on it. How many of the outrages and murders, which have stained the character of the country, may be distinctly traced to the disorganization thus produced ? The purchaser endeavours to reduce the property to order ; the severity which he can scarcely avoid provokes retaliation, and he at length becomes the victim of a train of circumstances, clearly traceable to that settlement of the estate, which the original possessor fondly hoped would secure it to his posterity for ever. The permanency of property in land is undoubt
edly a great social advantage. It gives stability to the institutions of a country. A time-honoured family, who have held the same lands, transmitted from father to son for many generations, demands our respect. If their names are honourably known to history, or if they have fulfilled the no less important local duties attendant on property and station, we feel that it gives them a title to our confidence, whilst it imposes on them the obligation to uphold the high character which their ancestors enjoyed. But are entails necessary to effect this object 2 If each successive owner of the property be a man of prudence and economy, no settlement is necessary. If, on the other hand, he involve himself in debt, by unwarrantable expenditure, and so render himself unable to fulfil the duties of his station, he loses his local influence, and the respect which his predecessors had acquired; and the entail becomes alike injurious to himself and to his country. We cannot by legislation contravene the established laws of Providence, which render prosperity dependent on prudent management. The attempt to do so inevitably brings suffering upon all parties concerned. It interferes with the salutary exercise of parental control. The heir thinks himself released from the restraints of authority, and from the necessity of prudence; and his fancied security often betrays him into a course of improvident excess, which embitters the whole of his after life. If the estate were free from entail, he would be exposed to much less temptation. An education in those habits of prudence and economy, which would prevent him from spending beyond his income, would be much more likely to attain the object of the settlement, namely, the preservation
of the estate in the family; and would, at the same time, qualify the owner to enjoy his property, and to fulfil the duties of his station. But it is said, that the power of settlement is a right inherent in property, of which it should not be deprived ; that a man may do what he likes with his own. Is this so 2 Has an owner of land a right to destroy it 2 to keep it waste or untenanted ? to break down the banks of his river, and convert the neighbouring fields into a morass 2 to cover them with stones or gravel, and destroy their fertility ? It will be said that none but a madman would act thus. Granted: but still we may ask the question, does he possess the abstract right to do so 2 Certainly not. The soil of the country is the property of the state, granted to its possessors to use, not to destroy. It is a trust for the benefit of all, which should be guarded with peculiar care; because, whilst limited in extent, all must ultimately derive their support from it. There are limits to the power of an owner over his land; he may not destroy it; he may not permanently injure it. He is fully entitled to enjoy it during life, and to bequeath it at his death. There his responsibility ends, and his natural right ceases; any extension of his power is a factitious, not a natural right. It is created by law, and is to be exercised only so far as it does not interfere with the public
good ; the power which has created may control and limit it. This has already been done in the Thelluson case, and by the various statutes of mortmain. The owner of an estate in England and Ireland has been deprived of the power of entailing it for ever. The state may interfere farther—nay, is bound to do so, if a sufficient cause be shown. When a railway or other public work is to be carried on, the owners of the ground are deprived of their land. If sufficient cause be shown, parliament will even break an entail, and allow the sale of an estate. It is wholly a question of expediency. If the present power over landed property be injurious to the community, it ought to be further limited. The inability to grant long leases has a most injurious effect upon towns. Some of the evidence before the land commissioners refers to this circumstance; in particular it is stated, that the improvement of the town of Bangor, in Down, has been much retarded from this cause. They have been obliged “to build up half the town on holdings at “will, waiting until they could get a satisfactory “lease, the tenants relying upon the landlord giv“ing them a better lease when he can.” This is a case of frequent occurrence, and highly injurious. No man could be expected to build a good or permanent house under such circumstances. Those