THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
|A CANADIAN CHAPTER IN AGRARIAN AGITATION.|
By GEORGE ILES.
WHEN agrarian agitation is mentioned, one expects to hear of Ireland, the Isle of Skye, Scotland, or England. That American communities have been, and are, little troubled by disputes between landlord and tenant, is taken for matter of course, and not without reason. When fertile wild land could be had for nothing till within recent years, the struggle between proprietors and would be proprietors could seldom become very severe. Questions as to the ultimate ownership of land are still practically in abeyance in the New World. Yet America has furnished interesting instances of agrarian agitation. Prodigal grants of land at nominal prices to colonizing corporations and railway companies have induced bitter and increasing complaints in the United States and Canada. Mr. Henry George's attacks on landed proprietorship originated from observation of the grasping policy of Californian owners of counties who waited idly for their property to acquire value from the neighborhood of industrious settlers. In a new country such holdings are very grievous to working settlers. Large uncultivated blocks separate farmers from their markets, add much to local taxation for roads and bridges, and materially enhance the difficulties of maintaining district schools. Hence, in the New Northwest, both American and Canadian, the advantages obtained from railways, aided by large land grants, are not procured without some sacrifices. These sacrifices are, however, rendered temporary by the alacrity of railway companies in settling their lands with a view to developing traffic. Colonization companies, so called, are everywhere less eager to part with their tracts, and the difficulties arising from this fact sometimes occasion distinct agrarian agitation. In Ontario, the chief province of the Canadian Dominion, one of the grievances of a generation ago was the possession of extensive areas by the Canada Company, which obtained its holdings at a nominal price on conditions notoriously disregarded.
It is, however, the agrarian agitation which took place, for more than a century, in Prince Edward Island, the smallest province of Canada, that is to be here sketched. The course of the struggle there between landlord and tenant may have interest in showing how the grantees of lands bestowed for colonization may shirk their engagements. And it may also show how the voting privileges of a democratic community modified an opposition to landlords which in Cork or Kerry might have gone to murderous lengths.
Prince Edward Island is one of the most beautiful agricultural districts of America. Its forests, fields, and meadows, vested in the crown, were in 1767 disposed of according to a method much in vogue