Alvin Victor Sellers.

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We want no flag, no flaunting rag

For Liberty to fight ;
We want no blaze of murderous guns,

To struggle for the right.
Our spears and swords are printed words,

The mind our battle-plain ;
We've won such victories before,

And so we shall again."




376-377 STRAND, LONDON, W.C,



THE right to the use of the earth is becoming a burn-
ing question,compelling the attention of thinkers
and reformers of diverse faiths. Of the wrongfulness
of the present system of land monopoly, and the
necessity of equal access for all to the natural source
of wealth, there is a growing consensus of opinion.
The author of the present work desires to unite
workers upon this primal point of agreement, and to
dissuade them from emphasising ultimate differences.
Only the duty that lies nearest deserves immediate
consideration. Individualists and Socialists alike
discern the evil of landlordism, and aim to correct it.
With its abolition will doubtless come the solution of
other waiting social problems having their root in this
unhealthy soil. Therefore, brothers, let us close up
to attack the common enemy, and postpone the
warfare with each other until this victory is gained.
Possibly the goals that now seem so far apart are in
truth separated only by our imperfect vision. . . .
'So I bespeak for this new messenger in the field of
reform the cordial welcome of all lovers of their kind.
May it girdle the earth with its evangel of common-
sense and human justice.







III. A LOAFER . . . . .16

V. A SOCIALIST . . . . .29

PANY . . . . . .44


LEAGUE . . . . .61



XII. LEGAL ETHICS . . . . .86





THE legend about Mahomet visiting the celestial
regions, wandering all over the seven heavens,
encountering countless vicissitudes on his way, and
returning to earth in time to pick up a pitcher he had
accidentally upset on leaving, and that before a single
drop of its contents had time to escape, does not now
seem to me so incredible a feat as when I first read
the story. My own adventure may not be quite so
marvellous as that of the great prophet, but at any-
rate it would come in as a good second. To be
" wafted by a fav'ring gale " from the humble station
of a retiring taxpayer to the exalted office of Lord
Protector ; to hold that office for a full twelve
months ; to crowd into this short span of time the
work of a whole and possibly of several generations ;
and to accomplish all this between sunset and sunrise,
is a performance unparalleled by anything in history,
and is comparable only to the miraculous journey of
Islam's renowned prophet.


I had better tell my tale from the beginning.
weather, good company, and the prospect of
a much-needed rest, enticed me away from my work
to join the members of the local Democratic Club on
a pleasure excursion. As a means of recreation the
outing was, as far as myself was concerned, a complete
failure. There can be no mental rest, as I have
discovered to my cost, among a crowd of earnest,
enthusiastic politicians, especially at a time when the
industries of a country are paralysed by a great
strike, and a great constitutional measure is being
the subject of animated debate both in and out of
Parliament. I might have known as much. Yet
now, after the event, I am not quite sure but that the
prospect of being able to listen to a discussion of the
politics of the day may have been unconsciously-
one of the motives which made me respond to the
invitation. Be this as it may, I went ; and it was
not long before we were in the very thick of the social
problem, and the pleasure party soon constituted
itself into a kind of debating society.

There was no lack of speakers. Everyone present
had something important to say, and almost every-
body wanted to speak at the same time ; so the
necessity for parliamentary methods soon made itself
felt. We abandoned our original project of a tramp
over the moors, settled down under a group of trees,
with myself as Chairman of our impromptu Parlia-
ment. Needless to say that every conceivable phase
of the social problem was discussed, and that there
were as many remedies proposed as there were
speakers. My task as Chairman was not always an
easy one ; at times I had great difficulty in curbing
the impatience of those whose dissent from the views
propounded manifested itself in a manner not strictly


parliamentary. But on the whole things passed off
very well; and an animated, and not altogether profit-
less discussion was carried on, until we were reminded
by the setting sun that it was time to return.

By the time I arrived home that evening my head
was whirling. Although I had not joined in the
discussion itself, I had been an attentive listener to
the several views that had been propounded, some
of them with great ability. There was plenty to
stimulate thought notwithstanding, or I should
rather say because of, the irreconcilable inferences
drawn by several speakers, with equal skill and
plausibility, from the same group of facts.

Against my will, I could not but try to harmonise in
my mind these conflicting statements, and to separate
facts from inferences. But the more I thought, the
greater became my confusion. One thing, however,
struck me very forcibly, and that was that each of
the various schools of political thought had a certain
substratum of truth not to be ignored. I recognised
that each of them saw the same truth, but saw part
of it only, and that from this partial recognition
arose all the confusion. As is usual in such dis-
cussions, they had all paid more attention to their
points of disagreement than to those on which they
agreed, and so the latter were overlooked, while the
former were accentuated. And I could not but
feel how detrimental this was to their common aim,
and how far better it would be for the cause of
humanity if, instead of uncompromisingly opposing
one another, the members of all the different schools
would seek to ascertain how far they could honestly
support each other's plans.

As I sat in my easy chair that evening, reflecting
over the day's proceedings, my thoughts became


more and more confused. Time and space seemed
annihilated. Scene after scene passed before my
vision in rapid succession, until at last I found myself
in Trafalgar Square, in the midst of a surging, noisy
crowd, and then all became clear and natural.

I knew what had happened. There had been a
General Election, Democracy had been triumphant,
and the people had assembled here to determine
the kind of reform that was needed to secure equal
rights and duties to all. All kinds of proposals were
being made, but none met with general approval ; and
the people were beginning in despair to exclaim that
Democracy was a failure, since its leaders could not
agree on a workable plan. I trembled, for I saw that
unless some agreement between the different factions
could be brought about, the cause of Democracy might
be discredited for all future time. With the intention
of bringing about such a reconciliation, I forced my-
self on to the platform, and spoke as follows :

" Friends, do not despair ; your differences are
not so great as you seem to think, for are not your
aims identical ? Your only differences are as to the
means to be adopted for carrying them into effect."

Here I was interrupted by shouts " That's just
the trouble. And if we don't know what means to
adopt, how can we govern the country ? "

" That's very simple," I said.

" Do it, then ! " they all shouted at once.

" But I have not the power. I only intended to
make suggestions." The latter part of my remark
was drowned in the noise.

" Let's give him the power ! "

" If he says he can do it, let him do it ! "

" Let us elect him Lord Protector ! " and other
such cries reached my ears.


I waved my hands, trying to restore silence, and
to explain that I did not intend to be Lord Protector ;
that such a course would be contrary to the spirit of
Democracy ; that, instead of Democracy, it would be
establishing a Dictatorship, which would be un-
desirable. But I could not make myself heard to
the crowd, while the leaders on the platform, as if
glad to be relieved of a responsibility, said, in a
menacing manner, " You are not going to back out
of this " ; whilst the Chairman, telling me to sit
down, rose and read from a paper in his hand as
follows :

" Be it enacted by the Democracy of Great Britain
in Parliament assembled, that Citizen " here there
were shouts of joy, and I only caught the concluding
sentence, " be Lord Protector "

" Say, rather, Dictator," I interrupted indignantly.

But the Chairman took no notice of my remark,
and repeated, " Be Lord Protector of the Realm."
Then he added, " All those in favour of same, please
signify in the usual manner."

A forest of hands,' such as I have seen on one or
two occasions in Trafalgar Square, went up.

Thus, unexpectedly and against my wish, I was
made absolute Dictator of the United Kingdom.


MY sudden elevation to the exalted office of Lord
Protector displeased me as much as it seemed
to give general satisfaction.

" What mockery," I thought to myself, " that the


triumph of Democracy should end in a Dictatorship ;
and I, of all men, to be Dictator ! "

How often had I not inveighed against monarchial
institutions and " one-man worship " of any kind, as
being of the essence of despotism. And how often
had I not wished to be absolute monarch for a few
hours only, so that I might have power to resign for
myself, heirs, and successors, and make monarchial
rule impossible for all future times. My wishes had
been realised, and now was my opportunity to redeem
my promise.

My first thought was to jump up, and, in virtue of
my new office, to declare the Republic for all future
time. In the next moment I hesitated. How is a
Republic possible with such discordant elements,
trained for centuries in a school inimical to Republican
institutions ? No ! that would mean a return to
confusion. My first duty was to make of the
people Republicans. If I should succeed in this, then
the Republic would follow as a matter of course.

" A speech ! A speech ! " shouted the impatient
masses. There was no escape, and but little time for
reflection. I had boasted that I could establish happi-
ness, prosperity, and, above all things, unanimity; and
this promise must be made good. I rose and said

" I am willing to be your servant and manage
the affairs of State for you, but not as a Tsar of
Russia. To this end it is not enough that you invest
me with power to act ; you must also define my duties.
In other words, you must frame a Constitution of
which I am to be the executor."

Shouts of approbation came from all sides. They
actually were all agreed. " A Constitution "
" Frame one " " Suggest one," and so forth,
came from the crowd.


" There is no need to frame one, as the only Con-
stitution worthy of the name and worthy of a true
Democracy is indelibly written in every heart. See
whether I am speaking the truth whether your
hearts will not respond. You all desire to be free. Is
that not so ? "

Never was there a more hearty response made by a
crowd than the one with which these words were

" Well, then," I continued, " our Constitution will
be very brief, and one with the wording of which you
are already familiar, though not with its spirit. It
runs as follows : ' Every individual to have equal
and inalienable rights to life, to liberty, and to the
pursuit of happiness ! '

Again all agreed, and cheered lustily.

" This, then, shall be our Constitution, and all the
law there is or shall be. It clearly defines the rights
and duties of every citizen, and at the same time
marks out the duties which you have delegated to me."

This last sentence was received in profound silence.
I saw that it was not quite clear to them how these
few words could have all the meaning I attributed to
them. Therefore, without appearing to notice their
embarrassment, I continued

" If all have an equal right to life, to liberty, and to
the pursuit of happiness, then it is clear that no one
must be interfered with in the exercise of this right.
Therefore, while free to do as you please, you must
allow the equal liberty to every one of your neigh-

" Hear, hear," from all sides.

" So that your duties consist in respecting these
rights of your neighbours. And my duty consists in
guarding these rights, and in securing them, without


exception, to every individual member of the

Once more I had the assembly with me.

" This Constitution shall not only be our one valid
law, but the very touchstone of right and wrong.
Any enactment of the Executive, or any private act,
by whomsoever committed, that runs counter to this
Constitution, shall be deemed an offence not to be
tolerated ! This is my first official proclamation. My
second is, that all men shall have equally free access
to the opportunities of Nature, and that because
without such access to the sources of Nature the
pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness is impossible."

" Equally free access to the opportunities of
Nature ! Yes, that's what we want, but how can
we all have it ? " interrupted several.

" Wait and you will see," I replied, and then
continued "My third proclamation prohibits, as a
matter of course, any person or persons to take from
any other person or persons the fruits of their exertions
under any pretence whatever, except as the voluntary
gift of him to whom such things rightfully belong.
Therefore, from this hour I abolish all taxes what-
ever, direct or indirect."

This announcement created both surprise and
dissatisfaction. " You can't govern a State without
revenue," came from all sides.

" No," I answered. " But the State is not without
revenue. For inasmuch as the opportunities of
Nature belong to all alike ; and inasmuch as, in the
nature of things, each separate opportunity cannot
be enjoyed by several at the same time. ..."

" Speak plain ! " " We do not understand your
riddles," and like protests, reached me from several
sides at the same time.


"Well, then," I said, "what are called 'the
opportunities of Nature' consist in soil, climate,
locality, water, etc. ; in short, the forces of Nature,
all of which appertain to land. But the same
locality cannot, obviously, be occupied by more than
one person or family. Such person or family, there-
fore, in order to secure to them the harvest of their
labours, must be secured the exclusive occupation
of such locality. But inasmuch as thereby they
enjoy a monopoly of such land, each occupier will
have to pay to the community whatever may be
the value of the advantages that accrue to him
from such exclusive occupation."

' This is very confusing," remonstrated several.

" Plainly, then, it means this, that all former
taxes are abolished, and in their stead is substituted
a tax on land values, irrespective of improvements,
at the rate of twenty shillings in the pound. These
values rightfully belong to all ; hence they will be
appropriated to defray the necessary public expendi-
ture ; thus securing for public uses what is essentially
a public fund. All former contracts, unless con-
flicting with our Constitution, shall be respected
as heretofore ; and no one to be disturbed in his
present possessions. This is all for the present."

This announcement produced general dissatis-
faction, and the crowd became very noisy.

; ' What ! Tax the poor farmer, and allow the
capitalist to escape ? "

" And still allow the workers to be ground down
by the rich ? "

" Not even a property or income tax ? "

These and many other objections were raised, to
reply to which, amidst such a tumult, was clearly
out of the question. I had to make use, therefore,


of the authority with which I had been invested.
After the noise had somewhat subsided I said

"You have imposed upon me the duty to secure
to all equal rights and equal duties. I have told
you the only way in which this can be done. If I
am wrong, the remedy lies in your own hands.
Anyone who can show that he does not possess the
liberties guaranteed to him by the Constitution
shall have his grievance removed. For this purpose
I shall now retire to my office and listen, one by
one, to all those who have cause to complain."

Whereupon I left the platform, followed by a
surging crowd.



rnHE next instant I found myself seated in my
JL audience chamber, with the whole crowd press-
ing in upon me, each eager to be first. Foremost
amongst them was a man whom, for brevity sake,
I shall describe as a Loafer. The guards tried to push
him back to make room for others more respectably
dressed. But I interposed, saying, " Under the
New Constitution all have equal rights by virtue of
their citizenship ; and not by virtue of the kind of
coat they wear. First come, first served."

With this it seemed as if I had recovered a little
of my lost ground. The man himself was delighted,
and thanked me warmly.

" You are the true working man's friend, after all,"
he said. "I have come, Governor, for my bit of land."

" Explain yourself," I replied. " To what bit of
land do you refer ? "


" Well, I mean my share of the division."

" But there is to be no division, neither of land nor
of anything else. The Constitution says nothing of

" No, but it does speak of equal opportunities ; and
how can I have equal opportunities with the Duke
owning his thousands of acres and I having none ? "

" You have equal opportunities with any Duke.
For every penny that accrues to them by virtue of the
mere ownership of land, they have to hand over to the
State. If you owned it, you would have to hand it
over. The real owner, therefore, is the community,
of which Dukes and yourself are equal citizens."

" Then you still allow Dukes to own land ? "

" Certainly, if they like to. What does it matter
to you who has possession of the land, provided that
your share of the land values, or rent, is secured to
you ? "

" All right ; hand me over my share of the rent."

" Not quite so quickly, if you please. You have
equal rights with every other citizen, but also equal
duties, and therefore have to pay taxes the same as
everyone else. Your share of the rent is appropriated
by the State as your share of the taxes."

" What good do I get out of that ? "

" Every good that a well-organised State can
secure you. You will receive every facility to produce
wealth, and the fullest protection for what you do
produce, together with all such conveniences, in the
shape of roads, railways, facilities for education, etc.,
as are best provided by the State."

" But did you not say that we should all have equal
access to land ? "

" Oh, if it is merely access to land you want, you
can be easily supplied. See here, the columns of


the Times are already full of ' Lands to let.' So you
can make your choice."

" And pay rent, I suppose, as before ? "

" You'll pay rent to the State ; for whatever the
ground value is, you would have to pay the State in
any case, whether you were the nominal owner of
it or not."

" Oh, that's fine talk. If there is no advantage in
owning land, then why do not these people who don't
want the land for their own use give it up altogether ?"

" Because they have improvements upon it, which
are theirs. Whatever is paid for the use of these will
go to the owner, the rest goes to the State. If you
want land without any improvements upon it, we have
now plenty belonging to the State, which the former
owners have relinquished rather than pay the tax for
land which to them was useless. Amongst these lands
are some very fine deer parks ; that is, which
formerly were deer parks. You can pick and choose
where you like, and take as much of it as you please."

The applicant's face brightened. " And would
it be mine, then ? "

" Yours as long as you care to keep it. Your
children's after you, or whomsoever you may choose
to transfer your right of possession."

" And what have I to pay for it ? "

" If there are no improvements on it belonging to
former owners, nothing at all."

" And as much as I like ? "

" As much as you care to take, subject to paying
its annual value to the State."

"Oh, that's all right! I don't mind that;
because, you see, I shall let it to tenants at a higher
rate, and so make a comfortable living. It is right
that the working man should at last have his turn."


" Stop, you are under a misapprehension," I
said. " If you take land with such an intention,
it will be of little use to you, since all the rent would
accrue to the State, leaving you only the trouble
of collecting it, and the responsibilities connected
therewith. It is for this very reason that its former
possessors have relinquished it, because they did
not care to incur risk and trouble for land for which
they had no use."

" Yes, but I intend to put the tax on to my tenants
in addition to the rent."

" That will help you but very little, even if you
could get it, as the tax is not a fixed sum, but twenty
shillings in the pound on the annual rental value.
If you can let the land at a higher value than it
was let formerly, this of course would show that
it is worth more, and you would still have to hand
over to the State fully twenty shillings for every
pound you receive."

The applicant pulled a long face. " What good
is the land to me, then ? "

" It gives you free access to the opportunities of
Nature ; and whatsoever you can make it yield
is yours. Whatsoever others, your tenants, as
you say, can make it yield is theirs. This is the
spirit of the Constitution."

" So this is the kind of working men's friend you
are, is it ? "

;t Yes, I am a working man's friend, but not
the friend of those who wish to live by the labour
of others," I replied sternly. " You can have land
in plenty, together with every opportunity and
facility to labour, and full security of the fruits
of your toil, sacred not only as against every fellow-
citizen, but sacred even against the power of the


State. It is yours exclusively and absolutely.
You are free from all manner of taxation and from
all vexatious laws and restrictions that formerly
hampered trade and industry. In short, you have
now every inducement offered to become a working
man, if you really wish to work."
v.My first visitor, being disappointed in his ex-
pectations, assumed a defiant attitude.

" But I don't wish to work. I have not been
used to work for so long, that I don't care to take
to it now."

" Then I fear you will have to starve."

" I can beg, can't I ? "

" Yes, you are at perfect liberty to do so ; but
you will be disappointed, I fear. So long as people
were starving from necessity, and from no fault
of their own, there were always kindly disposed
people to the honour of mankind be it said
who were willing to assist their unfortunate brethren.
But even then these kindly people endeavoured
to discriminate between the loafer and the neces-
sitous. But as it was difficult to discriminate, the
former often participated in what was intended for
the honest poor. In the present State this difficulty
no longer exists. Everybody knows that whosoever
is willing to work can do so equally with every-
body else. Under these circumstances no one will

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Online LibraryAlvin Victor SellersThe story of my dictatorship .. → online text (page 1 of 9)