Page:The Land Question.djvu/6

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


appearances in the family mansion. Everything is taken out of the land, nothing is put into it. Wages are reduced; everybody feels pinched: and at last, when there come bad seasons, and the farmers can no longer pay their rents in full, the family-system fairly breaks down. The mansion is put into the hands of a letting agent, and the family go abroad to some French watering place to economise. There what remains of the rent is spent, instead of being spent, as it ought to be, among the tenants and upon the land.

Now as to the remedies proposed with regard to Primogeniture and Settlements, it seems reasonable that if a man dies without a will his landed property should be divided, just as his money would be divided, among his children equally. And although few landowners do as a matter of fact die without making their will, yet the alteration of the law would probably produce some effect through the alteration it would make in the ideas of the lawyers. At present, when a father goes to a lawyer to make a settlement or to make his will, the lawyer says to him, "Whatever land you leave your younger children you are taking away from what the law would give your eldest son." Instead of saying that, the lawyer would say, "You surely cannot intend to leave your whole estate, to your eldest son, for then you will be depriving your younger children of their natural and legal share." Something, I think, would be effected in that way; but it is unnecessary to speculate further on the greater or less result that would follow from this alteration of the law, for it is quite certain that when once land-reform is taken in hand seriously the law of Intestate Primogeniture will be the first thing to fall.

To pass on then to Settlements. There has been in this matter some attempt at law-reform. An Act was passed in 1882 making it easier for the tenant for life to deal with his property by sale or otherwise. But even now there are difficulties in the way. If there are trustees with power of sale, the purchase-money goes to the trustees, and if there are no such trustees then the tenant has to go to the Court of Chancery to get them appointed. The Act of 1882 was in fact a piece of tinkering, intended to bolster up the existing system by mitigating some of its worst effects instead of reforming it altogether. Of course the object of Settlements is to keep family