Wilfrid Richmond.

The Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 online

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GREAT BRITAIN— RAILWAYS



about as far as from New York to Chicago. In
fact there is practically no traffic here requir-
ing to be carried any such distance. If it did,
it would probably go by water, for there is no
place in Great Britain more than 80 miles from
a sea port. Any thing over 100 miles is referred
to in England as a long haul; in the United
States the average haul of freight is 133 miles.
The average passenger journey in the United
States is 30 miles; in Great Britain it is prob-
ably — accurate statistics do not exist — about
10 miles.

Again, Great Britain is densely populated;
the United States is the reverse. On one-thir-
tieth of the area of the United States, England
has half as much population. Naturally, there-
fore, while the United States has fewer miles
of railway per square mile of area, Great Britain
has fewer miles per thousand of the popula-
tion. Roughly, the United States has one mile
of railway per 18 square miles of area; Great
Britain, one mile for every six square miles.
But in Great Britain there is a mile of line for
every 2,000 of the population; in the United
States a mile of line for every 400. The popu-
lation of Great Britain, and therefore, its inter-
course, per mile being so much greater, it is
also natural that a mile of railway is a much
more elaborate thing than in the United States.
For every route mile in the United States there
are one and one third miles of track, while in
Great Britain there are well over two miles.
In equipment the contrast is even greater. With
only one-tenth of mileage of railway in the
United States, Great Britain has half the num-
ber of locomotives, more passenger cars, and
nearly as many freight cars.* Put another
way, a mile of English railway represents an
expenditure of almost as many pounds as a
mile of American railway represents dollars; a
mile of English line earns five dollars for every
two dollars that an American mile earns.

It must not. however, be assumed that a
mile of English railway does work as com-
pared with a mile of American in the same
ration in which it earns revenue. How much
work American railways do is known. In the
year 1905 they carried over 22,000,000,000 passen-
gers and 174,000,000,000 tons of freight one
mile. The railways of the United Kingdom in
the same period — according to the best estimate
that, in the absence of precise statistics, it is
possible to make — carried about 14,000,000,000
passengers, and 150,000,000,000 tons one mile.
In other words the railways of the United
States dealt with over 700,000,000 passengers,
carrying them on the average 30 miles each.
English railways dealt with double that num-
ber, but only carried them on the average of 10
miles each. In freight service the railways of
the United States handled thrice the tonnage of
English railways — 1,300,000,000 against 450,-
000,000 tons, and carried it nearly four times as
far — 133 miles against ar. estimated 30 miles.
The average mile of railway therefore in Amer-
ica carried in the year (in very round figures)
100,000 passengers and 800,000 tons of freight.
For the United Kingdom the estimated figures

•Of course in Great Britain the locomotives and cars are
smaller and freight cars only one-third of the size of those
•f the United States. The comparison includes freight cars
privately owned (believed to be not less than 500,000 in
number) which are ignored in English official statistics.



are 600,000 passengers, and 670,000 tons of
freight Less freight service but six times as
intense a passenger service. It would be
wearisome to pursue the statistical contrast
further. We may sum it up by saying that,
whereas in the United States the typical passen-
ger travels for a considerable distance at pretty
Ion©; intervals, in Great Britain the railway oc-
cupies in great measure the place of the street
car of the United States, and is the means by
which large sections of the population move
daily to and from their work and whereas the
typical freight consignment in the United
States is a ^straight* carload of produce carried
for a long distance, the typical consignment in
Great Britain is a single box, or bag, or bale,
or other package of manufactured articles, car-
ried from one town to another closely adjacent

The service required of the railways by the
public of the two countries being so entirely
different, it is only natural that the method of
performing it, and the charges made for it
should show equally wide differences. In the
United States the railways receive two cents per
mile on the average for every passenger, and at
this rate find passenger traffic barely profitable.
In Great Britain the railways receive hardly, if
at all, more than one cent a mile on the average.
Yet they can make a handsome profit, spite of
the fact that they give a much more frequent
and a faster service, with accommodation cer-
tainly not inferior in comfort. The mainstay
of railway prosperity in the United States is
in the carriage of freight at a rate of, roughly,
five miles for four cents. English companies'
receipts average, it is estimated, not less than
two cents for each mile. Yet the prevailing
opinion of those best qualified to judge is that
much of the freight traffic in Great Britain is
unprofitable, while not a little is done at an
actual loss — for the irony of fate has de-
creed that England, with freight rates un-
doubtedly on the average the highest in the
world, shall also have certain rates undoubtedly
the lowest For instance, for eight cents the
Great Eastern Railway Company will bring
from any of its country stations, say between
50 and 130 miles off, and deliver to the consum-
er's door in London a box of farm or garden
produce of a gross weight of 20 lbs. See Amer-
ican Railroads; Railway Systems of thk
United States; Railway Consolidation.

Similarity. — England and the United States
are the only great countries where the railway
system has been provided by practically unaided
private enterprise, and still remains in the
hands of practically independent private com-
panies. In both countries the state has found
it necessary to interfere at many points, and an
interesting essay might be written comparing
the methods of government control adopted in
each. But here it can only be very briefly
pointed out that in both countries the Anglo-
Saxon tradition has prevailed, and such gov-
ernmental control as exists has taken in the
main a legislative and judicial form. Executive
interference — which in France descends to the
minutest details of every-day operation — is of
relatively small importance. On the whole it
is safe to say that English railways are and
always have been more closely supervised by
public authority than the railways of the United
States. On paper it is true some States of the



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GREAT BRITAIN— THE ENGLISH LAND LAW



Union — Texas more particularly — appear to
interfere more than does the English govern-
ment. But the operation of the Constitution
and the rival state and federal jurisdiction se-
cure even for railway corporations in Texas* a
considerable degree of practical freedom, while
there is no possibility of escape from the su-
preme and final authority of an English Act of
Parliament.

Laws Governing the Railway Systems. — Ac-
cording to the English code of railway law,
which took practically its present shape as long
ago as 1845, no company can come into exist-
ence, no new line can be constructed, no new
capital can be raised without the authority of a
special Act of Parliament, which lays down with
great detail the constitution of the company,
the route of the line and its method of construc-
tion, the amount of the capital and the purposes
to which it shaH be applied. Maximum rates
and fares for goods and passengers are also pre-
scribed. The authorized railway cannot be
opened for passenger traffic until an inspection
by public authority has secured that every pos-
sible precaution for safety has been taken.
Once opened, however, the operation of the
company is in the main in its own hands. Not
so, however, the commercial management. A
special court, the Railway Commission, exists to
watch over the observance of the law of undue
preference. Its powers are, it is true, seldom
invoked, but that is the best proof of their real
efficacy. Further, the same tribunal has power
to forbid the increase of any existing rate for
goods, and does in fact refuse to permit any
such increase unless under exceptional circum-
stances. See Railway Consolidation: England.

Finances. — Regarded as financial invest-
ments, the relative position of English and
American railway stocks has been completely
inverted within recent years. Formerly English
railways were the most popular investments for
English capital. To-day they are quite out of
favor. The stock of one leading company,
quoted a few years ago at 230, has recently been
sold at under 150, though the dividend has re-
mained practically unchanged. In cases, and
they are very numerous, where the dividend has
fallen, the drop in the capital value has been
even more marked. It would probably be safe
to say that the market value of English rail-
way securities has fallen by at least a thousand
million dollars within the last decade. In the
year 1900, for the first time on record, the
average earnings of all English railway capital
fell below y/ 2 per cent. And this at a time
when trade was booming, and when the valua-



tion of American railway capital was advancing
by leaps and bounds. The explanation is sim-
ple enough. The cost of working has been
steadily rising owing to the more exacting de-
mands of the public, the increased cost of ma-
terials, and the higher wages and shorter hours
of the railway employees. The operating ratio
rose steadily from 52 per cent in 1889, to 63 per
cent in 1901. Moreover, with net receipts sta-
tionary, the railway capital has grown with
alarming rapidity. For, it has been the tradi-
tional policy of English railway companies to
divide half year by half year the whole of its
profits among the shareholders, and to charge
all additions and improvements to capital. This
has been done perfectly openly and deliberately.
But it has proved to be short-sighted finance.
For it has resulted in swelling capital accounts
to a size on which the earnings of the line can
hardly pay more than a very modest- dividend.
And, in this staid, old-fashioned country, no
railway company can hope to wipe out its past
and start afresh with a reorganized capital ac-
count, as did some of the greatest and most
famous railroads of the United States after the
financial collapse of 1893.

One other point of contact between Eng-
land and the United States may be noted in
conclusion. Between them they are responsible
for the original invention of railways, and for
every important improvement in railway meth-
ods and practice that has been introduced since.
There are some students of railway history
who, spite of the fact that the nations of con-
tinental Europe are more and more going over
to state ownership of railways, believe that this
is no accident, but rather a natural result of the
Anglo-Saxon habit of leaving to private enter-
prise the utmost freedom which practical expe-
rience shows to be compatible with the welfare
of the nation at large.

Bibliography. — Findlay, < Working and Man-
agement of an English Railway > (London,
4th ed. 1891) ; Pratt, Railways and Their Rates ;
(London 1905) ; Acworth, ( The Railways of
England* (London, 5th ed. 1900) ; Browne and
Theobald's ( Law of Railways * (London, 3d ed.
1899) ; Paish, <The British Railway Position*
(<The Statist,* London 1902); Stevens, in-
vestment and Speculation in British Railways*
(London 1902).

W. M. Acworth,
Lecturer on Railway Economics in the London

School of Economics and Political Science;

Member Vice-Regal Commission on Irish

Railways; Author of <The Railways of

England? etc.



THE PRODUCTION OF WEALTH.



22 (a). Great Britain — The English Land
Law. Sources and General Characteristics. —
The law of land, or a real estate 1 * bears the
traces of the different streams of influence that
have made English history. It derives its main
characteristics from the feudal organization of
society but these characteristics have been su-
perimposed on other systems, or combined with
other elements, which may be of early Ger-
manic, Celtic, or in some instances even of



Roman origin. Again, the land laws have been
the subject of frequent legislation; in the usual
English method, particular evils have from time
to time been remedied without any logical re-
casting of the body of the law and without the
removal of mere anomalies which could not rank
as grievances. But the main principles of the
law may still be called feudal.

The modern law may be compared to a
chalk cliff in which are many fossils; a cliflB



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GREAT BRITAIN— THE ENGLISH LAND LAW



pierced by works and tunnels. for such useful
purposes as railways or mine4, but left, where
modern necessities have not interfered, to the
slow decomposing action of the elements. The
chalk is the feudalized common law, the fossils
are pre- feudal survivals, such as land of (< copy-
hold* tenure, the works and tunnels are Parlia-
mentary Statutes, and the elements are the forces
of public opinion acting by judicial exposition
and construction. Compared to the law as it was
in the early years of the 19th century, the mod-
ern law of real property is simple, but if it be
tested by any more severe standard it still re-
tains many intricacies for which it is easier
to find a historical than a logical explanation.

Land on feudal principles is the subject of
tenure and not ownership. No man owns Eng-
lish land unless he be King of England. Land
is always *held of 9 some one — either the King,
or a tenant in some degree of the King. Land
was thus originally looked on rather as the
means of fulfilling a duty than as so much prop-
erty, and for the comparatively simple conception
of ownership was substituted the more subtle idea
of 'estates,* •'. e., parts of and interests in own-
ership. Some of these interests were not rec-
ognized in the Courts of Common Law but only
in •Equity,* ♦. e. the extraordinary jurisdiction
of the Chancellor. In time the feudal idea of
tenure ceased to express the real state of things,
and a tenant in fee simple became and has for
many centuries been an absolute owner. But
the inherited complications remained and indeed
grew, being constantly developed so as to evade
and even counteract Parliamentary Statutes
which landowners and the legal profession
viewed with disfavor. In 1832 the Lnglish land
law was a vast metaphysical system requiring
and developing great acuteness of intellect
among practitioners but utterly unintelligible to
a layman.

The feudal theory of tenure gave to English
land holding a certain social character which in
many country districts has never been lost. To
this day land in rural England is looked on less
as a means of livelihood or source of income
than as giving a certain social status to which
rights and obligations are attached. Indeed it
would be difficult even now to give a better defi-
nition according to received ideas of the English
upper social class than to say that it consists
of the owners of the country estates of England.

The legal position of the possessor of land
may be considered in three main aspects: his
relations to his predecessors and successors, in-
cluding what may be called family law; his
economic and social relations, including the law
of landlord and tenant; an J his relations to the
community as a whole, including his liability
to taxation and generally the rights and powers
of the State.

Family Law; (1) Settled Land.— England
Is a country of large properties, and most large
properties are, to use a legal phrase, a Settled
Land* The meaning of this is that by the
terms of some deed or will, (called for this
purpose *a settlement*) the land is not at the
disposition of a living person to sell, mortgage
or give away; the apparent owner is only what
is called a ^tenant for life,* and on his death
the land will pass to some other person, gener-
ally his eldest son, if he has children, but if he



has not, then to some collateral relative, with-
out any effort and without any power of inter-
ference on his part. A ^settlement* of this
kind may be looked on as a temporary and
conventional a entail*; it originates in the vol-
untary act of some tenant in fee simple, and
its duration is limited by law to the life or lives
of some person or persons in being when the
settlement is made and a further period of 21
years afterward. The practical effect of an
ordinary English settlement is to preserve the
land for two or even three generations to the
eldest living male of the senior line as head
of the family to the exclusion of females and
younger sons. In most land-holding families
as soon as the person who will succeed to the
land not merely as a life tenant but with abso-
lute power of disposition, is next in succession
and is 21 years of age, he joins with the exist-
ing tenant for life — usually his own father —
to resettle the land for another two generations.
Thus one settlement succeeds another,* and a
tenant in fee simple is rarely, if ever, in pos-
session. Provision is usually made for a widow
of a tenant for life by giving her an annuity
known as a ^jointure,* and younger children
are given comparatively small sums of capital
known as "portions* which are made charges
on the estate. This practice of settlement is
permitted but not enjoined by the law; it came
into fashion about the middle of the 17th
century. It is thought by some observers that
the practice now (1906), shows some signs of
being on the wane, but no direct evidence is
available; certainly it still affects nearly all
large properties, and therefore the greater part
of English land. Its result has been to make
each eldest son in turn the proprietor of one
or more family estates, to prevent the dispersal
of land into many hands, and to keep for the
head of a family a social prestige and pre-
eminence among both relations and neighbors.
If there happens to be a peerage or baronetcy
in the family, the land practically always goes
with the title. In fact it is not uncommon even
in cases where there is no title or honor in the
family for the settlement to provide that any
person succeeding who does not already bear
the family name — e. g. a married daughter, or
a daughter's son — shall take the name and ar-
morial bearings of the author of the settlement
on pain of exclusion from the property. Younger
sons, on the other hand, after a boyhood spent
on the family property are left with slender
portions to make their own careers; thus
in their case class distinctions tend to be oblit-
erated; younger sons of the land-holding class
may be found in almost every branch of activ-
ity, in the navy, the army, in orders in the An-
glican Church, in commerce, and in the learned
professions.

British colonial development owes much to
the adventurous disposition fostered by the out-
door life and the economic necessities of the
younger sons of the land-holding classes.

Formerlv the main economic objection to
the legal fetters imposed on land-holders by
settlements, was that during a settlement the
land was taken out of commerce as it had no
proprietor who could seU. This difficulty has
now been removed as the result of an important
Act of Parliament (The Settled Land Act



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GREAT BRITAIN — THE ENGLISH LAND LAW



1882). Every English tenant for life may now
(1906) be considered as a kind of plenipoten-
tiary agent for the whole family, born and un-
born. Subject to certain not onerous restric-
tions, he can sell or lease for long periods on
the recognized terms as he pleases; indeed he
can do almost anything which a prudent and
honest owner would do, but always on the terms
that the property or the proceeds of sale are
kept to descend in due course of settlement
But the real fetters on an English tenant for
life are not those which the law imposes, but the
fetters of tradition and family sentiment which
no legal power or ingenuity can remove.

(2) Land not Settled. — Apart from this lib-
erty of terminable settlement the English
law does not favor restrictions on the powers
of a landholder. No entail can by English
law be created which cannot be destroyed as
soon as some person unborn at the date of
its creation attains 21 years of age. In the
15th century English lawyers, more daring
than their Scottish brethren, with public feel-
ing behind them, went so far as in sub-
stance to defeat the provisions of a Statute
of Edward I. (De Donis Conditionalibus, a.d.
1285), by which Parliament had sought to
make entails perpetual. Where land is not set-
tled, in the case of the death of a landholder
without a will, the common law on feudal prin-
ciples gives his land to his eldest son; pre-
feudal customs are, however, not left entirely
without witnesses; in parts of the county of
Kent the older custom of equal division, known
as gavel-kind, still prevails, and in a few an-
cient boroughs under the custom known as
^Borough English* the youngest son alone suc-
ceeds. But cases of intestacy are not common
among the wealthy classes.

Wills. — A tenant in fee simple has, contrary
to feudal principles, been gradually empowered
by successive Acts of Parliament, . culminating
in the year 1662, to dispose of his land by will
after his death in the same absolute manner as
during his life. He can disinherit totally or
partially all or any of his children and can at
his pleasure give the land to strangers or, since
the year 1891, even to charity. But the charity
as a rule is bound to sell the land and not re-
tain it.

Landlord and Tenant. (1) The Town, —
There is a sharp contrast between the land sys-
tem in the towns and in the country. In and
near towns the proportion of settled to unsettled
land is probably smaller than in the country;
but even in the case of settled land the tie be-
tween landlord and tenant is purely economic.
A town landlord may often be of inferior social
standing to his tenant; further, urban and sub-
urban land is often owned by commercial com-
panies formed for dealings in land. But both
in town and country, England is a land of large
properties and it is the exception to find that
the actual occupier of land is, in the popular
phrase, "his own landlord.*

On all land in or near towns, building is
usually done on the lease-hold system. By this
system the land is let, usually to a builder, for
a long period, from 80 to 99 years. The lessee
contracts to build and keep his building in re-
pair; to pay an annual "ground rent*; to dis-
charge all taxes levied on the land, and in fact



to bear all possible burdens connected with it
At the end of the lease the land and the build-
ing on it revert to the successors of the original
landlord. The long lease thus granted may
usually be sold or mortgaged at the pleasure of
the lessee, and the building itself is frequently
sublet by the lessee as landlord to the actual oc-
cupant as tenant, who pays to the original lessee
or his successor a full or a rack* rent for build-
ing and land together.

Until recent years the whole tendency of the
law was to favor the landlord as against the
tenant, and even now the law can hardly be said
not to lean in the landlord's favor, particularly
in allowing him the right of distress for rent
In the exercise of this right, contrary to the gen-
eral principles of English law, a landlord whose
rent is in arrear can without the judgment of
any Court seize and sell any chattels of any per-
son, whether his tenant or a stranger, that he
can find on the premises, and thus pay himself
his rent Recent legislation (The Conveyancing
and Law of Property Act 1881) has, however,
interfered against the landlord, who, whatever
the terms of the lease, can now no longer forfeit
a lease for a casual breach of covenant not de-
liberately persisted in by the tenant.

This leasehold system in and near towns,
though frequent, is not by any means universal,
especially in the north of England; there, a
common plan is to sell land for building pur-
poses out and out, in consideration of a per-



Online LibraryWilfrid RichmondThe Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 → online text (page 25 of 185)