Page:The Land Question.djvu/7

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estates unbroken. That is, the land is treated as an instrument for maintaining family dignity, instead of being treated as a source of national comfort and well-being. I trust that when we get a new Parliament and a government capable of dealing with these large questions in a large and courageous way, the simple course will be taken of abolishing Family Settlements altogether, and making the proprietorship of land (subject of course to leases granted for valuable consideration) everywhere ownership in fee-simple. There would be difficulties in the way of doing this; but these difficulties are not beyond the power of lawyers to overcome; and I venture to say that if the pension of the present Ex-Lord Chancellor were made dependent upon his producing some effectual scheme for this purpose, the scheme would not be long in forthcoming.

Mortgages and Charges on Land.

I now pass on to the question of mortgages and charges in general. It is an open question whether in the public interest all mortgages and charges whatsoever on land should not be made null and void; for the operation of the system is that a quantity of land is kept together in the hands of impoverished owners, so that a man who passes for the owner of an estate of say 2,000 acres, bringing in a rental of £3,000 a year, may really have to pay away £1,500 a year in interest or annuities, and so have only half the income necessary for the purpose of keeping up his estate. It would be much better that half the estate should from time to time have been sold in the natural way. The owner would then have the same or a better income, and instead of starving and pinching 2,000 acres he would be able to do justice to half that amount of land, while the rest of the estate would have passed into the hands of people possessed of more capital and capable of making a better use of the land. But whether or not we go so far as to prohibit all mortgages and charges, it is certain that these operations, if permitted, ought to be made public, and to be registered in some Court open to public inspection. The tradesman who gives a bill of sale on his goods has to submit to its being registered in a public office, and the landlord who gives a bill of sale on his land (for it comes to exactly the same thing) ought to be treated in the same way. The result of the secrecy of mortgages and charges is