Page:The War and the Future (Masefield, 1918).djvu/18

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The War and the Future

mercialism. And just as competitive commercialism began, a small clique of corrupt politicians, gathered under the foreign king, and by bribery and iniquity of every kind, seized the common lands of the villages of England and enclosed them. Until then, the country folk in England had shared large tracts of land, so that, though they were poor, they still had grazing for cows and sheep and geese, and woodland for firing. Now by various acts of legal robbery these lands were taken from them, and they were reduced to an extreme poverty. They were forced into a position very like slavery. They had no possessions except their right hands. There was no St. George to stand up for them, nor any Robin Hood, except that coarse and bitter truth-teller, William Cobbett. They had the choice to be the slaves of the landowners or of the factory-owners, and the great mass of the populace ceased to have any share of what life offers. The enclosing of the commons robbed them of leisure and independence, the coming of the factories took them from the fields and the old communities, and flung them into new ones, which were allowed to grow up anyhow, without art, without thought, without faith or hope or charity, till the face of the land