Page:The Land Question.djvu/4

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immense corn-ricks about them: but I do not see the homes of an agricultural people; I do not see either the little houses scattered about that one might expect, or the frequent large villages that would be met with in any equally rich district on the mainland. And when I go into the labourer's cottage I am astonished to find that he has generally no further tie with his home than a weekly tenancy of its four walls; that he possesses no property whatever beyond a few articles of furniture; that he supports his family on from ten to fourteen shillings a week as long as he can earn wages; and that he looks forward to old age spent in the workhouse, or in receipt of public charity, as a matter of course. I further observe that the quantity of stock on your farms, though considerable, is extremely small in proportion to the population of the island, and that an insignificant amount of land is planted with orchards or fruit trees, or used in market-gardening. And when I go from your lonely country-districts into your towns, I observe enormous over-crowding and over-competition, with great misery and squalor in the poorer parts. I see everywhere that as towns extend the land is let on building-leases and not sold to the occupants; and finally, after being wearied out with the farmer's complaints of the cheapness of corn, and after being told that land within forty miles of London is going out of cultivation because farming cannot be made remunerative, I find that the consumption of milk in Liverpool is one pint per week per person; that meat is everywhere enormously dear; and that you pay to the French and other nations annually the following sums:— for butter, £12,000,000, for cheese, £5,000,000, for potatoes and vegetables, £4,000,000, for poultry and eggs, £3,000,000. And I am not surprised," the foreigner might say in conclusion, "that under such circumstances the English people, conservative as they are, are now asking themselves whether there is not something in their land-system which needs a good deal of amendment."

Into some of the above points I propose to enter in this lecture; and as it is constantly said that people with conviction about land-reform are all theorists, ignorant of the very elements of rural life, I ought perhaps to say in self-defence that my own ideas, such as they are, have been gathered in the course of some years' superintendence of Corporate Estates amounting to