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who are bound to the locality by previous engagements in business, must have houses to live in ; but the town cannot improve.
The hindrances to the free sale of land affect the country injuriously in many ways ; even when there is no deficiency of capital for ordinary purposes. To prove this, it is only necessary to refer to the improvements which have been effected in some places in which land has been freely sold. No more striking instance can be mentioned than that of Birkenhead, a second Liverpool, on the opposite side of the Mersey.* This place is remarkable not merely on account of the rapidity of its progress, its large population, and its well built houses ; but for the spirit and enterprise which have planned such an extent of docks, such splendid warehouses, and especially the forethought which has laid out so many miles of well paved streets, and which has provided for the health of the inhabitants, by the most perfect arrangement of sewers in the kingdom, and for their recreation by a park such as very few cities possess. Could this by any possibility have been effected on an entailed estate, where long leases cannot be granted ? Is it conceivable that such improve
* The improvements at Birkenhead are now at a stand. It is probably only a temporary check; but however that may be, it does not affect the present argument.
ments could have been effected under any circumstances, except a free sale and purchase of land, where every one felt that he was working for himself, and improving his own undoubted property ?
Even under the best management, the poor rates must be a heavy tax. They fall wholly on the nominal owner of the property. The mortgagee is not called on to bear any portion of the burden. Annuitants, and others having charges on the property, escape. The labour rate and poor rate will eat up the nominal owner's interest in the land. The estate, if heavily mortgaged, will not be worth the amount of the mortgage ; confiscation must ensue. How can we meet these difficulties, so as to provide employment for the able-bodied poor, and support the aged and infirm, the widow and the orphan? How can we convert our peasantry, half employed, half clothed, half fed on potatoes grown in their own gardens, into a bread-and-meat-eating people, living by the wages of labour, or cultivating their own ground on fair terms, and having that security of possession which alone can induce the industry and energy necessary for any improvement ? To employ labourers and pay wages requires a large amount of capital ; and, with some exceptions, neither our farmers, nor gentry, nor large landed proprietors, possess capital at all in
proportion to the extent of the land which they hold.
If these premises be correct ; if employment, with regular wages, must be found for the peasantry ; if for this purpose capital be necessary ; and if the parties holding the land do not possess sufficient, it follows, either that government must continue to supply the capital required, not merely by a loan for an emergency, but as part of a regular system ; or else that the land must pass into the hands of those who do possess the means of employing the people,—of men who will carry on agriculture as a business, and will bring to their occupation that capital, those habits of business, and that energy and intelligence, which have raised the commerce and manufactures of this kingdom to their present pre-eminence.
Free the land from all restrictions ; make it an article of free sale ; reduce the expenses of transfer to a reasonable amount; make it answerable for the debts of its owner; and, above all, make such arrangements as shall give security and simplicity of title ; and it will soon be found that there is ample capital in the country for the necessary improvements, and for the employment of the people. In short, let a law be passed allowing the sale of landed property, notwithstanding entails or settlements ; let it be accompanied
by arrangements for facilitating transfers, and for simplifying some of the more complicated modes of tenure, and the object will be effected. Land will become an article of sale and purchase constantly in the market. Capital will be attracted to it, not merely as an investment producing a small but secure income, but as an investment for purposes of trade. The unencumbered proprietor of land will find it his interest to sell a portion of his estate, in order that he may be more able to improve the rest. The mortgagee will enter into possession, or sell the property for his own security. The soil of the country, like everything else which is open to free competition, will eventually fall into the hands of those who have the capital, and the ability to manage it with the greatest advantage to themselves and to their country.
This would indeed be a great change—a legal revolution, more serious in its effects on individuals, more important in its consequences to society at large, than any event which has for many years affected the destinies of this empire—a revolution infinitely more important in its bearings than the reform bill, or free trade, or any of the subjects which have heretofore agitated the public mind so strongly. It is much to be feared, from the present pressure on the means of the owners of the soil, that many who have long been accustomed
to all the elegancies of life, may ere long be reduced to a position of serious deprivation ; that many who have thought themselves rich, may find that they are left almost without property. No legislative measures can wholly avert these difficulties. Reverses of fortune are at hand, and are inevitable. They will be only the more severe, the longer the settlement is deferred. To grapple boldly with the difficulty is the surest way to avoid the danger
We cannot remain as we are ; we are evidently on the eve of a great social revolution. The issue of that revolution must depend on the prudence and foresight of those who conduct the affairs of the empire. The potatoes may again be planted without being again blighted, but never with the same feeling of security ; they can never again be relied on as the sole food of three-fourths of the people of Ireland. The position of the country is greatly changed within the past few years. Parliament has virtually declared, that Ireland must be governed by other means than force. Agrarian outrages have fearfully increased. In some places, attempts have been made to compel the resumption of the public works. In others, there is a combination against the payment of rent, or of rates, or an endeavour to retain permanent possession of land. Landlords are in some places ruth