Page:Our Common Land (and other short essays).djvu/206

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THE FUTURE OF OUR COMMONS.

besides these there is another extensive process of inclosure going on for which the Legislature is not responsible. It is that which is silently pursued by lords of manors, without any distinct legal settlement of rights. They may be taking only their due; they may be taking more. In some cases they are offering to the commoners, or to the poor, where lands are left for their benefit, gifts of money or land or coals, in lieu of their old rights of cutting fuel or turning out a cow. Perhaps the coals are quite equivalent to the value of the fuel to the individual cottager; but they depend often on the will of squire or lord, are administered by churchwardens to the needy, and become a form of dole instead of a birthright. Again, all land in England is increasing in value. Why should the ignorant agricultural labourer be induced, by the gift of a few poles of land, to part with the valuable inheritance of his descendants? Why should the lord absorb to himself alone the "unearned increment of the