Page:Our Common Land (and other short essays).djvu/20

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8
OUR COMMON LAND.

1,000,000 acres left.[1] The right of roving over these lands has been an immense boon to our people; it becomes at once more valued and rarer year by year. Is it impossible, I would ask lawyers and statesmen, to recognise this right as a legal one acquired by custom, and not to be taken away? Mr. Lefevre suggested this in a letter to The Times. He says:

“The right of the public to use and enjoy Commons (which they have for centuries exercised), it must be admitted, is not distinctly recognised by law, though there is a remarkable absence of adverse testimony on the subject. The law, however, most fully recognises the right of the village to its green, and allows the establishment of such right by evidence as to playing games, &c., but it has failed as

  1. The amount remaining uninclosed and subject to Common-rights is variously estimated; a report of the Inclosure Commissioners in 1874 putting it at about 2,600,000 for England and Wales, while the recent return of landowners, prepared by the Local Government Board, makes the uninclosed area little more than 1,500,000 acres.