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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 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