Joseph Hyder.

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THE Cx\SE FOR LAND
NATIONALISATION



THE CASE FOR LAND
NATIONALISATION



BY

JOSEPH HYDER

SECRETARY TO THE LAND NATIONALISATION SOCIBTY

AUTHOR OF
"land problems," "public property in land," "state LAND
PURCHASE without LOAN OR TAX," " THE CURSE OF LANDLORDISM '



WITH A SPECIAL INTRODUCTION BY

ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE

D.C.L. (OxoN.), F.R.S., O.M.



LONDON : SIMPKIN, MARSHALL,
HAMILTON, KENT & CO., LTD.



First Edition .... November 1913
Second Edition. . . . June 1914



HID



PREFACE

f BY

ALFRED R. WALLACE

D.C.L., F.R.S.i O.M.
President of the Land Nationalisation Society

AS Secretary to the Land Nationalisation Society for
the past twenty-five years, Mr. Hyder has written
' many pamphlets on the land question, and has addressed
many hundreds of meetings in all parts of the country.
^ Every summer he has gone out with one of the Yellow
^ Vans of the Society and carried the gospel of the land for
f the people into both towns and villages in nearly every
: county in Great Britain. The experience he has thus
^ gained has given him such a knowledge of the whole land
-^ question, and especially of the attitude towards it of the
various interested classes workers and tradesmen, farmers
and labourers, manufacturers and landlords that no one
is better fitted to deal with the whole subject, as he has
done in the present book.

He discusses almost every aspect of the question, and,

considering that it has been written amid the constant

pressure of office work, it is a remarkably complete and

instructive volume. Its nineteen chapters are crowded

with facts and evidence which will be of the greatest value

to our supporters in Parliament and elsewhere, and its

^ appearance is especially valuable now that the Government

^; has undertaken to deal with the subject in a thorough

manner, and, to a large extent, in accordance with the

principles we have so persistently advocated.



'^;^;viU



vi PREFACE

There is, however, one aspect of the land question to
which I wish to call special attention, because it involves
matters of principle which should never be lost sight of
when proposed reforms are being discussed in Parliament.

In his second chapter, entitled " A Cloud of Witnesses"
Mr. Hyder has given us a more complete and valuable
exposition of the opinions of our greatest lawyers, political
writers, and advanced thinkers, as to the actual status
and strict limitations of modem land-holders, than any
previous writer. These authorities date from Sir Thomas
Littleton in the reign of Richard III., through Sir Edward
Coke, a contemporary of Shakespeare, Sir William
Blackstone in his Commentaries on the Laws of England
in the early Georgian era, and a long succession of other
authorities down to the present day, including such men
as Adam Smith, Paley, Coleridge, J. S. Mill, Ruskin, and
Tolstoy, who all declare, in most positive and assured
terms, that there is and can be, according to the law and
constitution of England enforced by principles of natural
justice and morality, no such thing as absolute property
in land. And there is really no exception to this general
statement no one great thinker, or writer, or lawyer, or
moralist, who can be quoted on the other side. They all
maintain that no individual can absolutely own land, and,
further, that all the gifts of kings or parliaments cannot
alter this great principle of law and natural justice, notwith-
standing the claims and usurpations of landlords or the
deeds of lawyers which often imply the contrary.

Yet, strangely enough, our rulers in Parliament have
allowed this wicked and illogical power of unrestricted
ownership to be upheld by a body of lawyers and judges
who, though they must be familiar with the opinions of
the authorities referred to, continually reiterate the
contrary. They tell us that there is not one yard of
English soil which has not an absolute owner. They



PREFACE vii

assert that this ownership must be assumed to exist unless
it can be proved by some deed that it does not exist. They
declare that not only all cultivable land, but even the soil
of our highways, the water of our rivers, our unenclosed
commons and mountains, our seashores down at least to
low-water mark, and every living thing in or upon them
is private property the " cloud of witnesses " to the
contrary notwithstanding !

But if there is not and cannot be absolute private
property in any part of the land of our country, that state-
ment now implies that it belongs absolutely and entirely
to the nation at large, to whom all so-called rights of the
Crown have descended through their representatives in
Parliament, and should be administered for the benefit and
enjoyment of every free-bom Briton.

Mr. Hyder's book will be especially valuable by calling
attention to the glaring inconsistency of our principles
and our practice in this respect ; and now that the
Government have declared their intention of dealing with
the anomalies and injustice of our actual land laws, as
interpreted by lawyers and judges, will induce our
representatives to insist that effect shall be given in every
case to this great and indisputable principle. The very
least that can be done is for Parliament to recognise that
existing land-holders and their living heirs have no more
than a life interest in the land they are permitted to hold,
and that they shall in no case be compensated for more
than the lowest net value of that life interest. And, further,
it must be declared that the burden of proof of any legal
rights to landed property must be shifted from the nation
to themselves, and every particle of their alleged landed
possessions and rights which they cannot -prove to have
been acquired legally and equitably shall at once be re-
claimed as public property.

Every possible opportunity should be taken to bring



viii PREFACE

forward resolutions affirming the ancient rights of the
Crown, to the absolute possession of the soil of our country,
as trustee for the whole nation, subject only to the
life interest of those who are now allowed to hold and
occupy it Thus only will this great injustice and
spoliation of the people be gradually and beneficially
redressed, with full regard to the fundamental rights of all
to the use and enjoyment of their native land. To assist
them in upholding this claim the present volume is an
indispensable storehouse of facts and arguments.



CONTENTS



CHAPTER I

PAGE

THE FIRST PRI\XIPLES OF THE LAND QUESTION . i



CHAPTER II

A CLOUD OF WITNESSES ..... I4

CHAPTER III

A LAND OF GREAT ESTATES .... 35

CHAPTER IV

landlords' POWERS AND PRIVILEGES . . 58

CHAPTER V

THE EXTORTION OF HIGH PRICES FOR LAND . . g2

CHAPTER VI

LAND VALUES AND THE UNEARNED INCREMENT . II4

CHAPTJ::R VII

THE LEASEHOLD SYSTEM ..... I3S



CONTENTS



CHAPTER VIII

PAOB

MINERAL ROYALTIES, RENTS, AND WAY-LEAVES . 157



CHAPTER IX

BENEVOLENT (!) DESPOTISM .... I77

CHAPTER X

THE HOUSING PROBLEM ..... 217

CHAPTER XI

THE AGRICULTURAL LABOURER .... 23I

CHAPTER XII

LANDLORDS AND FARMERS ..... 261



CHAPTER XIII

THE HIGHLAND CLEARANCES



290



CHAPTER XIV

LANDLORDISM IN IRELAND ..... 30I

CHAPTER XV

LAND-REFORM PALLIATIVES ..... 318

CHAPTER XVI

THE SINGLE TAX ...... 336



CONTENTS xi



CHAPTER XVII

PAGE

TAXATION OF LAND VALUES IN PRACTICE . . 35I



CHAPTER XVIIl

HOW TO NATIONALISE THE LAND . . . 372

CHAPTER XIX

ADVANTAGES OF LAND NATIONALISATION . . 397

BIBLIOGRAPHY ....... 429

INDEX ........ 43T



THE CASE

FOR

LAND NATIONALISATION

CHAPTER I

THE FIRST PRINCIPLES OF THE LAND
QUESTION

'T^HE steady depopulation of the country districts,
-*- the continued overcrowding of urban areas, the
increasing emigration of some of the best bone and sinew
to other lands, the increasing dependence of the country
upon foreign food supplies, the growing burden of local
taxation, the persistence of poverty despite the ever-
increasing powers of producing wealth, and the prevalence
of unemployment even when trade is at its best, are all
problems of the first magnitude.

The future welfare of the people depends upon their
solution, and it is impossible to study them without
being brought face to face with the question of the laws
relating to land. They are all, in fact, parts of the great
land problem.

In a primitive state of society the land question is the
only economic question. The dependence of man upon
the soil is, in such a society, obvious to the most casual
thought. In modern society, that dependence is not
in the slightest degree lessened, but it is not so clearly



2 LAND NATIONALISATION

visible. For the complications of modern civilisation
are so great and so varied that man is apt to forget that
he is as much a land animal as any of his most remote
predecessors were.

All the food he eats, all the clothing he wears, all the
houses he inhabits, are derived from land as much as
theirs were. Many things he has which they never had
and never dreamt of, but not one of them is or can be
derived from any other source than the land. And that
land is the same land that grew the crops, and that
fed the flocks and herds, and formed the sites and sub-
stance of the simple homes of men in the most distant
times.

The costly viands that load the tables of a multi-
millionaire come from the same mother earth that yielded
the coarse diet of the savage. The many changes of
raiment that are the joy and pride of the rich to-day
are the products of land as much as the woad that decor-
ated the bodies of their uncivilised savage ancestors, or
the roughly-dressed skins with which they protected
themselves from the inclemency of the weather.

The most magnificent liner that crosses the Atlantic,
with thousands of human beings aboard, with all its
rich furnishings and precious cargo, is made up of land
material as much as was the first boat of the Ancient
Briton which was simply the dug-out trunk of a tree.

The most complicated machine of the present day is
in the direct line of succession from the simple imple-
ments of the Stone Age, and it is composed of land as
they were. The whole of the wonderful productions of
the world's factories, turned out under the system of
modern capitalism, with all its vast ramifications, are
of the same substance as those of the first handicrafts
of the untutored savage.



FIRST PRINCIPLES OF THE LAND QUESTION 3

All the work that man does is concerned with land,
and is performed on land. Every atom of his body is
derived from land, and will be returned to it, of the king
no less than the commoner, of the prince no less than
the peasant. It is the first necessary of the master of
millions as truly as it is of the tramp upon the highway.
From man himself to the lowest forms of life all animals
need land. Without it, in fact, life is impossible and
unthinkable.

The first characteristic of land is, therefore, its indis-
pensability. This alone would place it in a category by
itself, and separate it from all other things that are the
subject of property.

Its second characteristic is that it is absolutely fixed
in quantity. We speak of man making things. In strict
truth man makes nothing. He creates nothing. All the
materials with which he works were here before the first
man came ; before life itself made its appearance upon
our planet. All the labour of the whole human race from
the very beginning has not added, and never can add,
one atom to the fixed stock of this raw material. By
patience, knowledge, and industry, man can increase the
productivity of land, or by unwise action he can diminish
it ; but its total amount is independent of all that he
can do. He can neither make it nor destroy it. He can
convert a swamp into a well-tilled field, or he can trans-
form good soil into a desert. He can reclaim land from
the sea, or, by the neglecting of sea defences, he may
allow dry land to be covered by the ocean. But the
area and volume of land are unchangeable.

For the term land includes that which is covered with
water as well as that which is dry. It includes the whole
planet from the surface to the centre, with all the water
on it and under it. It includes the atmosphere which



4 LAND NATIONALISATION

envelops it as well as the life-giving rays of the sun
which fall upon it.

The importance and urgency of the land question are
due entirely to the unique attributes of the land itself.
And, as it is the first necessary of life, all the arguments
which apply against the private ownership of monopolies
in general apply with additional and even irresistible force
against the private ownership of the monopoly of land.

All other monopolies are the result of human action.
The sale of intoxicants is limited to those who can acquire
a licence from the Government. It is a monopoly created
by Act of Parliament, and a licence for its renewal must
be applied for every year. Then, by the Copyright Laws,
authors and composers are granted a monopoly for a
limited term of years, in the course of which they can
charge what they choose, and so reap the reward of their
brainwork. By the Patent Laws inventors are granted
a similar limited monopoly in the ownership of machines
and processes which arc due to their genius. And the
general opinion of mankind is in favour of such special
monopolies, whether the object be the public control of
a trade which is of a special character, or the encour-
agement of creative ability.

The monopoly of land is, however, not the creation of
parliamentary enactments, but is inevitable in the
nature of things. A Higher Power than the parliaments
of man has decreed that it shall be so. By this or that law
the number of its monopolists may be increased or
reduced, but there can be no question of " abolishing "
the monopoly of land any more than of abolishing the
law of gravitation. The utmost that we can do is to
make such laws to govern its occupation and use that
the rights of the whole people shall be established and
enforced, and their interests safeguarded.



FIRST PRINCIPLES OF THE LAND QUESTION 5

EVERY MAN'S RIGHT TO THE EARTH

Much dialectical skill has been employed from time
to time to prove that man has no natural rights at all.
It has been contended that he has only such rights as
society itself grants and recognises. All this is but the
useless spinning of words. For practical purposes the
laws of parliaments, and all the forces of public opinion
which are not set down in the form of laws at all, but which
are none the less real on that account, are evidence of
the existence of a belief that all men have certain rights
inherent in the very fact of their existence. The laws
may be, and often are, partial in their conception and
enforcement. They may favour some at the expense of
others, but all the time men are feeling their way to-
wards a system of law which eventually will protect
with complete impartiality the interests of all members
of the community. Every human act that the law
regards as an offence is an aggression upon what are held
to be the rights of men, or of the lower animals which
are in their power and ought to be under their protection.

Every man is entitled to freedom of movement and
freedom in the expression of his opinions. He is entitled
to possess undisturbed such property as by honourable
means he may be able to acquire. He is entitled to be
guarded against violence and cruelty. But, above all,
he is entitled to live, and to live the very best life that
is ])ossiblc to him l)y the exercise of his own mental and
physical faculties. These are his rights, and grievous
wrongs are inflicted upon him whenever they are
violated. They are his rights simply because he is a
living, sentient creature, and as such is entitled to be
guarded from pain and suffering caused by his fellows.
What are called the rights of property are simply the rights



6 LAND NATIONALISATION

of men who possess, or who ought to possess, property.
A house has no rights, but a man has. And the supreme
right of all is the right to life.

The worst crime of which a man is capable is the
taking of the life of one of his fellow men, and it is pun-
ishable by the destruction of his own life. And so sacred
is life held that there are those who deny the right of
the community to destroy even the life of one who has
himself taken the life of another. Whether or not a
murderer should have his own life destroyed, is a con-
troversial question, although the overwhelming majority
of men regard it as just and necessary that he should.
But there is, at any rate, entire unanimity that in every
other case the right to life is absolute.

EQUAL RIGHTS

Seeing, then, that all men have an equal right to life,
and that no man can live without land, it follows that all
men have an equal right to the use of the land that is
necessary to sustain their existence.

The premises of this syllogism are axiomatic, and the
conclusion is irresistible.

The question now arises. Is our existing land system
in harmony with this principle ? And the most cursory
examination of that system discloses the fact that it is
completely antagonistic to it.

For practically the whole of the land of the United
Kingdom is private property, the amount that is public
property being so small that it does not affect the issue.
And on all the land that is private property the private
owner is master. No one else has any right there at
all. Whether it shall be used or not is his business and
no one else's. If he decides that it shall be used, as of
course he generally does for the sake of the profit to



FIRST PRINCIPLES OF THE LAND QUESTION 7

himself, it rests with him to determine the use to which
it shall be put. And he alone has the power to determine
who shall use it. In the vast majority of cases his veto
is absolute. Only for special purposes can the land be
taken out of his hands against his will. Happily there
is a growing tendency to assert the community's right
to acquire land for public reasons even where the owner
objects, and to limit his powers over the land which he
is still permitted to retain. But it still remains true
that, except in rare and special cases, the owner of land
has a free hand to let his land or withhold it, to allow
some people on it and to keep others off it, and to charge
the utmost rent or price that he can exact from those
who are fortunate enough to secure his favour and win
his permission.

Even in a country where the ownership of land is
shared by a large number of small proprietors, there are
very many of the people who are excluded from its pos-
session. But, in our own country, those who are landless
constitute the great majority of the people. And a
landless man is in the position of simply existing on the
sufferance of the minority who control practically the
whole area. He is like a man who has been invited to
a feast, but finds all the seats taken before he arrives.
He must get the permission of one of the first comers
before he can take his place at the table. It is open for
every one of them to refuse. And if permission be granted
it must be paid for.

It is, of course, true that many men who have no land
experience no serious and obvious inconvenience on that
account. If they liave money, they can, as a rule, find
a landlord somewhere who will gladly grant them the
use of land, whether for residence, cultivation, or trading
purposes. Even in such cases, whether the conditions



8 LAND NATIONALISATION

are fair or onerous, they always involve the payment of
a price which, in its essence, is merely a price for per-
mission to work and live. But the masses of the manual
workers are in a very different position from those who,
by reason of superior ability or chances, have command
of the money that enables them to be more or less inde-
pendent, and more or less able to secure land for one
purpose or another. Judge Arthur O'Connor stated the
position very clearly when he said :

" It is plain that if a man does not own any land he
must live upon the land of another, and he must, directly
or indirectly, pay to him that owns it a premium or rent
for permission to be there. This is the condition of the
vast majority of the people in England, and every man,
woman, or child in the community, who has no share in
property in land, is whether conscious of it or not as
much a rent-producing machine for the benefit of the
landowners as the cattle that browse in the fields."

The Highland crofters, who were evicted on a whole-
sale scale in the first half of the last century, were, in
fact, no better off in the matter of recognised land rights
than the sheep which were brought on as they were
driven off, and which themselves afterwards had to give
place to deer, when rich men were willing to pay higher
rents for land as deer-forests than could be got for land as
sheep-runs. And every landless man stands in the same
relation to his Mother Earth as did the Scottish crofters,
having no more right on it than the beasts of the field.

No one has ever stated the case against private pro-
perty in land with more convincing and unanswerable
logic than Herbert Spencer did in Social Statics. It is
true that, nearly forty years after its publication, he
withdrew the famous Chapter IX, on " The Right to the
Use of the Earth," because he could not see how its



FIRST PRINCIPLES OF THE LAND QUESTION 9

principles could be carried into effect without injustice
to the landlords. From the view that, " however difficult
it may be to embody that theory (of the equal right to
the earth) in fact, equity sternly commands it to be done,"
he passed, in the timidity and caution of his old age, to
the view that the difficulty was insuperable. Naturally
he was greater as a philosopher than as a politician.
He was a master in the statement of principles, but to
the means by which they could be put into practice he
had never given the same attention. And it is not too
much to say that practical statesmen can surmount
the difficulty which seemed to him insurmountable.
The first thing, however, is to get first principles clearly
understood, and no apology is therefore needed for giving
here an extract from the chapter of Social Statics above
referred to, bearing in mind that, even when withdrawing
it from circulation, its author re-affirmed his opinion
that private property in land was " ethically indefensible."

" Given a race of beings having like claims to pursue
the objects of their desires given a world adapted to the
gratification of those desires a world into which such
beings are similarly born, and it unavoidably follows that
they have equal rights to the use of this world. For, if
each of them ' has freedom to do all that he wills provided
he infringes not the equal freedom of any other,' then
each of them is free to use the earth for the satisfaction
of his wants, provided he allows all others the same
hberty. And conversely, it is manifest that no one, or
part of them, may use the earth in such a way as to
prevent the rest from similarly using it ; seeing that to
do this is to assume greater freedom than the rest,
and consequently to break the law.

" Equity, therefore, docs not permit property in land.
For if one portion of the earth's surface may justly become



10 LAND NATIONALISATION

the possession of an individual, and may be held by him
for his sole use and benefit, as a thing to which he has
an exclusive right, then other portions of the earth's
surface may be so held ; and our planet may thus lapse
altogether into private hands. Observe now the dilemma
to which this leads. Supposing the entire habitable globe
to be so enclosed, it follows that, if the landowners have
a valid right to its surface, all who are not landowners
have no right at all to its surface. Hence, such can exist
on the earth by sufferance only. They are all tres-
passers. Save by the permission of the lords of the soil,
they can have no room for the soles of their feet. Nay,
should the others think fit to deny them a resting-place,
these landless men might equitably be expelled from the
earth altogether. If, then, the assumption that land
can be held as property involves that the whole globe
may become the private domain of a part of its inhabitants;
and if, by consequence, the rest of its inhabitants can
then exercise their faculties can then exist even only
by consent of the landowners, it is manifest that an



Online LibraryJoseph HyderThe case for land nationalisation → online text (page 1 of 32)