Page:The Land Question.djvu/18

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.


land-system is to make the most out of the soil, then the farmer must be encouraged to do his very best by having the right to sell his tenancy at the best price he can get for it. At the same time we should protect the landlord from having an unsuitable tenant thrust upon him, by giving him the right of appealing to the Land Court, where the proposed incoming tenant could be put upon his oath as to his means, his character, and his qualifications.

With these three alterations in the law I think we may fairly say that farming business would have justice done to it, and that every reasonable inducement would be offered to people with some capital to put it into agriculture. One of the best managed farms I know is conducted by two partners, one of whom had always been a local farmer, while the other had been in business in London, and after leaving London took with him, I believe, a considerable capital into the country. There, instead of setting up the farming business entirely on his own account, he entered into partnership with the local man, and so combined his own capital with the skill and experience of a professional farmer. Their holding was a sort of oasis in the midst of an impoverished neighbourhood. Unfortunately, however, they were so imprudent as to be content with an annual tenancy under a Peer, thinking that his lordship would never disturb them. My lord, however, found it desirable the other day to sell his land, and the result is that the partners find themselves under a new landlord whom they cannot get on with, and they have in consequence to leave the place. In this case the inducement to the capitalist to put his money into the concern was the supposed security of tenure under a Peer. This proved imaginary; and I contend that it is necessary to make such security not imaginary but real, and that this can most effectually be done by such changes in the law as those which I have sketched.

Labourers and Small Holders.

I will now leave the farmers and go on to the labourers and small holders. There was a speech made by Lord Rosebery some little time ago in which he was reported to have spoken of the prospect of our entire population flocking into the towns, leaving in the country none but the mere handful of people who, with all the latest improvements to machinery, would suffice to cultivate