General indignation has been manifested
against the excessive profits, which have been made, both during the war
and since it came to an end, and a new and expressive word has been added
to the English language to describe them. In ordinary times, and in the absence
of scarcity caused by the war, competition between traders is usually fairly
effective in keeping profits within bounds. But in the matter of land the
levying of excessive charges is the normal thing, particularly when land
is required by Stat Departments and Local Authorities, and by such semi-public
bodies as Railway Companies. These excessive charges are made possible by
the fact that land is limited in quantity, and by the further fact that the
community has established no adequate check upon private greed, as it might
have done if the taxable value of land had been made the basis of the purchase
Before giving illustrations of the
extortionate charges, which are such a characteristic and persistent feature
of the operations of landlordism, it may be well to emphasise the peculiar
properties of land, which make it a natural monopoly, and a monopoly of the
worst possible kind to be the subject of private ownership. It is, in fact,
essential always to remember that land is in a category by itself, inasmuch
as it was never created by human effort, and that those who claim it as their
special possession can prove no moral right to it as against the rest of mankind.
Comprehensiveness of the Term "Land.
"–The term "land" includes
the whole substance of the planet: the cultivable soils, the building sites,
the minerals, the forest (including the wild animals which live in them),
the mountains and valleys, the rivers and the lakes (including the fish),
and the springs which feed them, even the light that falls upon the earth,
and the atmosphere which envelops it.
To whomever is permitted
the ownership of land is given the effective control of them all. And all
of them are gifts of nature, as distinct from the products of labour. As
such, by every moral right they should be common property.
Land is a Monopoly,
because it is absolutely fixed in
quantity. The more one man has the less there is for other people. However
widely it may be diffused, land ownership still remains a monopoly. The
private monopoly of land is the worst of all monopolies, because it is the
monopoly of the first necessary of all life and labour.
Land is the One Indispensable Thing.
–All men have an
equal right to life. Therefore all men have an equal right to land.
For life itself is impossible without it. It is
the raw material of all industry. Every atom in the body of every man, and
in everything that he ever handles, comes from land. Private property in
it is therefore indefensible and the gravest evils and injustices are inevitable
wherever it is recognised and established.
Private Titles to Land
are entirely different from titles
to other property. All other property is the result of human labour. Rights
of property, however acquired, can only apply to the outcome of a man's work.
They can never justly apply to Mother Earth, which is nature's gift to mankind,
any more than they can apply to the bodies of men under chattel slavery.
THE LAND MONOPOLISTS.
Who now Possesses the Land?
In the Census of 1861 only 30,766 persons described themselves as landed
proprietors, but the new Domesday Book of 1874 showed 1,173.724 landholders.
That number included long leaseholders and copyholders, who were not owners,
and it counted individuals and railway companies several times over if they
owned land in different counties, thus the Duke of Buccleuch counted 14,
and four other Dukes counted 11 each.
28 Dukes counted as 158 separate owners
33 Marquises counted as 121 owners
194 Earls counted as 634 owners
270 Viscounts and Barons counted as 680 owners
852,438 people owned 188,413 acres, or less than one-fifth of an acre each.
But 500 peers owned one-fifth of the whole country, and the Duke of Sutherland
alone owned more than seven times as much as the 852,438 small landlords did.
252,725 owned 4,910,723 acres, or 19 acres each.
51,090 owned 15,133,057 acres or 296 acres each
10,888 owned 55,000,000 acres or 5,454 acres each
2,250 owned nearly half the enclosed area of England
In Northumberland 10,036 owned 1,424 acres, or less than one-seventh of
an acre each.
The Duke of Northumberland owned one-seventh of the whole county.
In Nottinghamshire one quarter of the county was owned by five people.
The Parliamentary Division of North Dorset contains 166,200 acres. There
are 92 parishes. In 60 parishes practically all the land belongs to one large
owner. In 23 parishes three-fourths of the land belongs to one large owner.
In 7 parishes most of the land belongs to two men. In only 2 parishes are
there many small freeholds. 30 landlords own four-fifths of the whole land
in the division,
In the face of such figures it is evident that
the land is held by a comparative handful of the people. Changes have of course
taken place since the new Domesday Returns were published. In Ireland, owners
have been greatly increased by State purchase and resale of land, while thousands
of small freeholds have been created by building societies, and thousands
of farmers have recently bought their farms in England, Wales, and Scotland
at high prices and under heavy mortgages.
But the great mass of the workers–many millions
of them–are still landless in what they call their "own" country.
"No foot of land do I possess,
A stranger in the wilderness,
A poor wayfaring man."
Some Typical Cases of Profiteering.
The following are a few sample cases, which show how landlords have made
use of their special powers as the possessors of the monopoly of the first
necessary of life, and have consistently used it as an instrument of extortion.
It will be seen that it is an almost invariable
rule that they have tried, and generally with success, to get prices far
in excess of the value on which they were paying taxes; and, although those
sums have often been reduced when the cases have gone to arbitration, the
awards of complacent arbitrators have exceeded the prices offered by the
public authorities, with the result that all the heavy costs of arbitration
have had to be paid by the ratepayers.
AILSA CRAIG.–Five acres bought for a lighthouse. Rateable value, nil. Price
paid, £1,550, or fifty times the rateable value of the whole island.
BASS ROCK.–Small site bought for lighthouse. Rateable value, nil. Landlord
gets £40 per annum feu duty.
BIRKENHEAD.–40 acres at Cerrig-y-Druidion, Denbighshire. Rough mountain
pasture and moor, 1,200 feet above sea-level. Land acquired for a reservoir.
Landlord's claim … £22,000
Arbitrator's award … 5,736
Costs, nearly … 5,000
Scheme for a hospital at Barnaston abandoned, in 1909, because £350
per acre was asked for purely agricultural land, worth not more than £100.
Under the Birkenhead Water Act of 1907 the Corporation
bought 2,039 acres.
Corporation's valuation £9,171
Landlord asked £100,000
Arbitrator's award £26,518
It subsequently transpired that the owner had
bought the whole 3,343 acres a few years previously for £9,000.
BIRMINGHAM.–Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, who was Lord Mayor of Birmingham when
the Corporation Street area was cleared, told a committee of the House of
Commons that the scheme had cost £400,000 more than it would have done
but for the extortionate prices paid for the land.
The cost of the great water scheme, supply from
Wales, was enormously increased by excessive land charges.
School schemes, Leigh Road and George Dixon schools,
abandoned because from £2,500 to £3,000 an acre demanded.
St. Benedict's Schools, Small Heath, agricultural
land rated at 45s. per acre, cost £1,815 per acre in 1907.
Broad Street widening, 1,140 yards, cost £35
a yard in 1912.
Corporation tunnelled (1909) under Stannage Moors
for water mains, at a depth of from 470 feet to 774 feet, for a length of
about two miles. The landlord only paid £20 an acre in 1897, but he
demanded £5,044 for the casement, although the surface of the land
Sewage works at Yardley in 1905. Rural land, cost
£320 per acre.
BRADFORD.–Market rights granted by Henry Ill. to his valet, Edmund de Lacy.
Sold for £2,100 in 1795. Leased to the Corporation in 1866 for 999 years
at £5,000 per annum.
BURY.–Wayleave for overhead electric wire across agricultural land, only
6 poles in length. Landlord first demanded £30 per annum, then refused
wayleave at any price. It cost the Corporation £1,000 to carry the wire
Reservoir at Clough Bottom. Hillside farm, 241
acres, rented at 10s. per acre.
Corporation's offer … £2,500 or £103
Owner's demand … £9,000 or £371 per
Umpire's award .. £6,769 or £280 per
The vendor's costs were £2,373, but they were taxed down to £855.
Total cost to ratepayers, £7,624, or £314 per acre.
CARLISLE.–Feltsdale water scheme. Moorland, valued at £3,000. Price
paid to Earl of Carlisle, £33,000.
CARNARVON.–Land for houses. Rated at 32s. 6d. per acre. Price demanded,
£600 per acre.
Land for cemetery. Rated at £2 per acre. Price asked £847 per
DEVONPORT.–The owner of Devonport, Lord St. Levan, and the owner of Stonehouse,
Lord Mount Edgecombe, about 1798 got Parliamentary powers to build a bridge.
No other means of communication to compete with it. Price asked in 1898, when
the Corporations wanted to abolish the tolls, was £120,000. A similar
bridge could have been built for £5,000.
EAST DENTON (Northumberland).–Three-quarters of an acre of farm land for
a school. Actual value, £45.
Duke of Northumberland's demand… £1,089
Arbitrator's award … £698
Legal costs … … … £65
EDINBURGH.–11½ acres of insanitary property, mostly only fit for
demolition, cost £140,000. Further action on similar lines impossible.
Sir Thomas Hunter, town clerk, gave the following
facts to the recent Royal Commission on Housing:
Street widening case. House acquired. Net rent,
£62, less repairs: 22 years' purchase = £1,400. Corporation
offered £2,000. Arbitrator awarded £2,000, plus 10 per cent.
for compulsion. The addition of the 10 per cent. threw all the costs upon
the Corporation, amounting to £744.
Premises which cost the owner £3,450 had
to be bought for £7,810, plus £954 for expenses.
Premises which cost the owner £7,637 had
to be bought for £11,051, plus £2,405 for expenses.
For a street widening the owner was awarded £469
and the expenses came to £500.
GLAMORGANSHIRE.–County Council published a number of cases showing that
it has had to pay from £400 to £1,000 per acre for schools for
land worth only from £60 to £200.
GLASGOW.–Price demanded for library site, Millbrae Road, £3,500 for
Slums bought at prices ranging from £21,700
to £55,600 per acre.
Sandyford Place, No. 15. 60 yards bought.
Price asked … £700
Sum awarded … £122
Legal costs … £1,053
Fitzroy Place, No. 6. 60 yards bought.
Price asked … £950
Sum awarded … £297
Legal costs … £787
Fitzroy Place, No. 10. 118 yards bought.
Price asked … £1,000
Sum awarded … £279
Legal costs … £460
Cathcart school site. Rated at £3 10s, 10d.
Price paid £3,270, or 920 years' purchase.
Sir John Lindsay, town clerk, gave the following
facts to the Royal Commission on Housing in Scotland: –
For a street widening the grass plots in front
of three or four sets of houses were bought.
Total demand of owners … £4,608
Total award … £1,125
Costs of arbitration … £2,990
In one of these cases the landlord asked £1
,000. He got only £142, and the further costs were £499.
In ten other cases of street widening–
Total claim of owners .. . . . . £56,257
Sum awarded … … £32,000
Total expenses … £7,703
To acquire a public-house the owner asked £10,000.
He got only £5,500, but the costs amounted to £1,549.
In another case
Owner's demand … £3,400
Award … £2,100
Costs … £1,158
Again, £330 was asked, £35 was awarded,
but the costs' were £603. The Town Clerk says: "I have scores of cases
of this kind."
The Duke of Montrose has got scores of thousands
of pounds from the ratepayers in connection with his water "rights" in Loch
Katrine. He also made an excellent bargain for himself when the level of
Loch Arklett was raised to increase the water supply. The operations affected
381 acres (much of it marsh land). This land was part of four rough hill
pasture farms totalling 11,500 acres. The total gross rent of the 11,500
acres was only £700, and the total value, on a liberal estimate, £14,000.
For the 381 acres, about one-thirtieth part of
the whole, he got £19,000. He also got £3,000 for the right to
store the water, and £1,700 for restrictions on feuing. The legal costs
came to £4,700. The Corporation spent £183,000 on the works, adding
£7,000 to the annual rateable value of the parish, and proportionately
relieving the Duke of rates.
He charged £508 per annum for a rope-way
to carry material up to 20,000 tons, and a further charge for quantities beyond
GREENOCK–10 acres, with foreshore, bought for a torpedo range. Rated at
£11 per annum. Price paid £27,225, or 2,475 years' purchase.
Three acres of slums cost £127,000. Legal
HARROGATE.–Land for a cemetery. Rated at 5s. per acre. Price paid £1,200
HYDE.–Sewage works. 16 acres agricultural land, worth £40 per acre.
Cost to ratepayers, £15,000.
HYGEIR (West of Scotland).–Lighthouse site on uninhabited island. Price
IPSWICH.–To widen approach to Stoke Bridge, 60 square yards wanted. Price
asked, £8,000, or £130 per yard. Scheme held up.
KILCREGGAN (on the Clyde).–52 acres, partly foreshore. Bought for a fort.
Rated at £62 per annum. Price paid, £14,000, or 225 years' purchase.
LEEDS.–Sewage works, Newsam estate, 600 acres cost £149,644.
Waterworks on Swinton estate of Lord Masham, bounded
by moors. Rent of the 400 acres, £235.
Corporation offered 116 years' purchase … £27,285
Owner demanded 831 years' purchase … 194,000
Sum awarded 197 years' purchase … … 46,489
Costs of both sides, as usual, paid by ratepayers.
LEICESTER.–225 acres for reservoir. Lord Lanesborough asked £61,500,
and received £34,000.
LIVERPOOL.–Land for Sefton Park. Rated at £1,350. Lord Sefton got
£250,000 for it.
To extend police offices in Dale Street, £32,000
asked for one-ninth of an acre. Scheme held up.
LONDON.–The Victoria, Albert, and Chelsea Embankments cost about £2,250,000,
and added enormously to the value of adjacent land.
Queen Victoria Street, finished in 1871. Seven
houses rated in 1870 at £2,770 were worth £3,794 in 1875, no alteration
having been made.
Improvements would often pay for themselves if
the community received the increases due to their own expenditure.
Waterloo Bridge, freed of tolls in 1878 at a cost
of nearly £500,000. A general rise of rents followed.
Shaftesbury Avenue, Kingsway, Blackwall Tunnel,
the Free Ferry at Woolwich, Tower Bridge, and similar schemes, all brought
grist to the landlord's mill.
MANCHESTER.–For reservoir in 1883, Countess of Ossalinsky got £64,000
for moorland worth only £500 per annum, or 128 years' purchase.
For the Ship Canal, 56½ acres, rated at
£19 per annum. Price paid to Lord Egerton, £63,240, or 3,328 years'
MAPLIN SANDS (off Shoeburyness).–Bought for gunnery training. Whole rights
of two manors cost the owner only £9,100 in 1880. His "expert" witnesses
valued the Sands at £192,000 and £141,606. Sum awarded, £32,500.
NETHERAVON ESTATE. –Military training ground in Wilts. Price paid to Lord
St. Aldwyn, £93,000. Neighbouring estate of twice the rent only fetched
£98,000 in the open market.
OLDHAM.–Widening of High Street. £5,500 asked for 26 square yards,
or £210 per yard.
PLYMOUTH.–Beaumont House and grounds, 9 acres, rated at £160. Bought
for a park. Price paid, £26,000.
ROSYTH (Naval base).–Price paid to the Marquis of Linlithgow, 80 years'
purchase of rent.
SALFORD.–Slum area bought for £4 4s. 0d. per yard, plus £3,000
SHEFFIELD.–Housing scheme, 1905; 1½ acres. The land for each
of 70 cottages cost £85. Annual loss on scheme, £192.
SOUTHPORT.–In 1878 the Corporation bought land for a market. A few years
ago the market was burnt down, and the Corporation proposed to erect a market
hall, police offices, a fire engine station, and other offices on the site.
But restrictive covenants prevented them, and they had to pay a further £5,000
before they could proceed.
STEEPLE ASHTON (Wilts).–An acre bought for water supply. Proper price, £60.
Price paid to Mr. Waiter Long, £970 an acre.
THORNEY ESTATE (Cambridgeshire). The Duke of Bedford published a book showing
that the net income was practically nil! But he wanted the Government to pay
"WEST MALLlNG.–Waylcave for a sewer. Owner's demand, £15,000. Sum
awarded, £1,800. The pumping site cost £100 for the land, plus
£50 legal costs.
LANDLORDS AND RAILWAYS.
The late Mr. Samuel Laing, M.P., when chairman of the Brighton and South
Coast Railway, once declared that the railway companies had had to pay at
least £50,000,000 above the fair market price for the land they had
bought. The companies were "fair game" for the landlords from the very beginning,
but the complaints of high prices were so general that a Select Committee
of the House of Lords was appointed in 1845 to inquire into the matter. A
big landlord, Earl Fitzwilliam, was in the chair, and it was like a committee
of foxes appointed to see if their fellow-foxes were robbing too many hen-roosts.
This Committee considered that "a very high percentage,
amounting to not less than 50 per cent. upon the original value, ought to
be given in compensation for the compulsion only to which the seller is
bound to submit." There are also many cases, they said, where "it is necessary
to consider the land, not merely as a source of revenue, but as the subject
of expensive embellishment, and subservient to the enjoyment and recreation
of the proprietor." They also decided that the railway companies "had no
right to complain of being obliged to purchase at a somewhat high rate."
But the users of railways have just cause for complaint, for they have to
pay interest on those high charges to this day. The burden is on them, not
on the companies.
The late Lord Brampton, in his "Reminiscences,"
said that extortionate charges for land were the general rule, and all the
facts confirm that statement.
Mr. Parker, law agent to the London and Birmingham
Railway, said: "We always pay a great deal more than market value. That
is conceded on all hands."
Mr. Duncan, solicitor to the Eastern Counties
Railway, said it was the custom to make agreements to give great land proprietors
more than the value by way of getting their assent to the Bills. He said
the compensation depended upon the weight of the opposition, so that it is
clear that the landlords nefariously used their position in Parliament to
put money into their pockets. The payment of members of Parliament is an
old-standing institution, but it was indirect, unauthorised, and underhanded,
instead of being direct and above-board as it is now. "We give way to what
is asked," said Mr. Duncan, "rather than continue to stem opposition with
the chance of defeat."
In one case his company paid £5,000 in expectation
of getting certain land, which was as much as a jury would have awarded.
But they changed their plans, and lost the £5,000, although the railway
did not go within forty miles of that owner's land. The £5,000, of
course, stands in the company's books as capital, and interest has to be
paid on it, although it represents nothing but extortion.
The agent to the South Eastern Railway paid to
Lord A. on the Dover line £400 an acre for farm land, and £2,425
costs as well.
The agent to the Brighton Company said they had
paid large sums for the right to tunnel, although the surface was untouched.
They paid four times the proper price for all land from Shoreham to Chichester.
Similarly, the Great Western Railway paid ten
times the proper price between London and Maidenhead.
The late Sir Edward Watkin, chairman of the Metropolitan
Company, said they paid £300 per acre for farmland. "Only twice,"
he said, in 1892, "in my long and varied experience have I known instances
in which the owner did not exact the utmost possible price for land taken
for railway purposes."
For the land required for the Marylebone terminus
of the Great Central Railway, Lord Portman tried to get £400,000.
The arbitrator awarded £260,000, and we may be sure it was more rather
than less than enough.
The City and South London Railway Company, in
1903, paid to the Rector, etc., of St. Mary Woolnoth and St. Mary Woolchurch
Haw, £136,241 for the right to tunnel.
Besides the payment of fancy prices as bribes
to the landed interest, the companies have been in the habit of buying off
opposition to their schemes by offering directorships to landlords
who had no qualifications at all except their titles, their position in
Parliament, and their landed property. A very shrewd railway authority,
the late Sir R. W. Perks, said "As a rule the average English railway director
knows very little about the details of his line. … Directors are chosen
because of their Parliamentary or territorial influence." And this saddling
of the railway system with incompetents has probably done even more harm
than the heavy blackmail, which landlords have been permitted to levy upon
this primary industry.
The history of the leasehold system is a lurid record of confiscations
by the landlords of the improvements made by their tenants. They have been
hard men, reaping where they have not sown, and gathering where they have
not strawed. By owning the land, which no man made, they have been able to
seize the houses which rightfully belonged to those who built them, and they
have thus appropriated to their own uses untold thousands of millions of
pounds worth of property which was entirely produced by others.
From very early times they refused to break up
their estates or to allow others to share in the possession of land. They
would only lease it, and at first for only short and quite inadequate periods.
Thus until 1853 no Church lands could be leased for more than forty years;
and until 1846, no Earl of Arundel could lease land in Sheffield for more
than twenty-one years. The consequence was that buildings were of the poorest
description. They were only built to last for the period of the leases,
and slums were manufactured on a wholesale scale.
In all cases the bargain has been a one-sided
one between landlord and leaseholder. There has been no freedom of contract.
The keenest businessmen were but as children in the landlords' hands. They
had to accept the terms that were offered to them or go without the land.
They have had to put up the buildings at their own expense, keep them in
good repair, insure them in companies approved by the landlord, pay him an
annual ground rent, pay all local rates, and hand the buildings over in first-class
tenantable condition at the end of the lease. When the leases have been
extended they have had to pay increased ground rents, spend money upon the
buildings as they have been ordered, and pay extortionate "fines" as if
they had done something that deserved punishment.
The following sample cases are given, and they
could be multiplied indefinitely; but they are sufficient to show the iniquity
of landlordism in this particular aspect of it.
Some Sample Cases.
Some of the most glaring examples are to be found in London,
where the greater part of the land is in the hands of a few big landlords,
and has all been developed upon the leasehold system.
THE GORRIXGE CASE.–Buckingham Palace Road. Original ground rent, £395.
Raised to £4,000. Building costing £50,000 to go to the Duke of
Westminster at the end of the lease for 63 years. Immediate payment of a
fine of £50,000.
From Hyde Park Corner to the Thames, and westwards
nearly to Sloane Square and Knightsbridge, once a Crown farm, has been developed
on this plan for the ultimate benefit of the Duke of Westminster. Park Lane,
from Mount Street to the Marble Arch, is the westward boundary of another
estate of the same owner, who draws a princely revenue in ground rents and
has the reversion to thousands of costly houses in the most expensive part
of London. And as ground landlord he does not pay a farthing towards the
cost of street cleaning, lighting, sewage, policing, public education, or
any other item of local expenditure.
THE BEDFORD ESTATE.–Covent Garden (the garden of the Westminster Convent)
and Long Acre were worth less then £7 per annum when first granted by
Edward VI. to John Russell. Now Covent Garden market brings in £15.000
per annum. The lessees of Drury Lane Theatre have put £300,000 into
the property, and they pay £10,000 ground rent to the Duke of Bedford.
The whole of the Bloomsbury estate cost only £600
in 1617. All the buildings were put up by the leaseholders, and the ground
rents and reversions are now fabulous in amount. The magnificent Russell
Hotel, in Russell Square, with 700 rooms, is one example of many great properties,
which only belong to their builders for a time and will revert in due course
to the Russell family.
THE PORTMAN ESTATE.–In 1512 the entire estate was worth only £8 per
annum. A Mr. Portman, M.P., bought 260 acres north of Oxford Street as green
fields. In 1888, 1700 leases fell in, and Lord Portman netted a million and
a quarter pounds in rents and fines. From one street he took £120,000.
One case is here given: Ground rent raised from £10 to £80, a
fine of £1,000, and several hundred pounds to be spent on the premises.
The landlord's lawyer charged £15 for drawing up the agreement.
THE CADOGAN ESTATE, in Chelsea. Houses in Hans Place, former rack-rents
of £60 to £80 per annum. Now ground rents of £150, and
rack-rents of £300. A baker's shop, ground rent of £7, now re-built
and ground rent raised to £120.
The Salisbury estate, between the Strand and the
Thames and in the Shaftesbury Avenue district; the Marquis of Northampton's
estate in Clerkenwell; Earl Berkeley's estate, north of Piccadilly; Lord
Roward de Walden's estate, north of Oxford Street; the Duke of Portland's
estate and Earl Camden's estate in Camden Town; Lord Llangattoch's estate
off the Old Kent Road, and numerous estates of the Church, are some of the
principal examples of the leasehold system, and on all of them the usual
exactions have been made.
BIRMINGHAM.–Mostly built on 99-year leases. Lord Calthorpe one of the chief
landlords. Several small shops in New Street, rents gradually raised from
about £20 to £175.
BOOTLE.–When the Liverpool docks were extended to Bootle, Lord Derby received
a very large sum for the sandy shore, but he kept the marsh land at the back
of it in his own hands. The prosperous town of Bootle was developed by his
tenants on the usual terminable leases, and it is now a gold mine to him as
the result of their labour and expenditure.
BURTON-ON-TRENT.–At a meeting of the Town Council in 1909, it transpired
that the Marquis of Anglesey took £80,000 in rents, and only paid £78
CARDIFF.–In 1832 the rateable value of Cardiff was only £14,034. Now
it is a hundred times as much. The Marquis of Bute is the chief owner. Lords
Tredegar and Plymouth also benefit by the phenomenal growth of Cardiff. A
site in St. Mary Street was leased for £45 a year. Under the new lease
the ground rent is £1,900 a year, with the reversion to costly new buildings.
Ground rents in Duke Street were increased from £60 to £360 per
annum. Upon a garden in Mount Street Square the Exchange Buildings were erected.
The ground rent is £1,000. For a property bought in 1849 for £4,000,
the annual rent is now £1,000.
HUDDERSFIELD.–The whole of the site of the town was acquired by an ancestor
of Sir John Ramsden for £1,000. Now the income from it is reputed as
not less than £100,000 per annum.
SHEFFIELD.–The Duke of Norfolk is the great ground landlord. The rest of
the people are, in the language of Punch, his "ground tenants." Much of the
land was common land, and no less than 8,479 acres of such land in and near
Sheffield was enclosed, which is far too polite a word to apply to such operations.
A ground rent in South Street, Park, was raised
from £5 to £150, and £1,000 had to be spent on the property
on a 40-year lease. Close by, in Duke Street, Park, was a Wesleyan chapel
with a ground rent of £8 16s. 0d. a year; the new rent was £100.
In another case a ground rent of a guinea was raised to £39.
The site of the Royal Hotel was let at a ground
rent of £12. When two years of the lease were unexpired, in 1904,
it was bought to make a new road from the Victoria Station. In 1881 it had
been sold at public auction for only £7,200. The Duke claimed £35,000.
For this and neighbouring property he got £50,400.
In 1874 the Corporation was on the point of buying
his market rights for £267,000, but the price was raised and the negotiations
were closed. In 1899 the Duke got £526,000, and the expenses came
to £5,292. The market had only cost £50,000 to build in 1853.
By such means the Duke of Norfolk was able to
build a Catholic cathedral in Norwich, and to keep up his magnificent Arundel
Castle in Sussex.
SOUTHPORT.–Sir John Brunner told the House of Commons in 1899 that he had
been told by the solicitor who advised the transaction that the entire estate,
mostly a stretch of sand and foreshore, had been bought for £45,000.
In thirty years the building leaseholders were
paying £40,000 a year. Now it is four or five times as much. In one
case in Lord Street, the ground rent of £25 was raised to £575,
with the reversion to a new building costing £35,000. In another case
the ground rent was raised from thirty shillings to £185.
TORQUAY.–Three-quarters of the ground rents belonged to Lord Haldon. There
were ten encumbrancers, and under Lord Cairns' Settled Land Act the consent
of them all was necessary before the land could be sold. There were 2,500
separate holdings. That would have meant 2,500 solicitors' bills, and 2,500
surveyors' bills, costing £150,000. So a Private Bill was got, costing
£7,500. Then the leaseholders were permitted to buy their freedom. A
ground rent of 12 guineas fetched £1,700, a £1 ground rent fetched
£300, a £60 ground rent cost £3,500. When asked by the
Town Holdings Committee if there was any particular reason why such high
prices were paid the agent said: "No; except that we thought the lessees particularly
wanted to buy, and so we charged them accordingly."
Some of the property was let on life-leases, a
particularly iniquitous system at one time prevalent in Cornwall and Devon,
and the agent said: "We have been very lucky in people dying off."
WIDNES.–Sir John Brunner, in the House of Commons, in 1899, gave the case
of Widnes, where he lived for ten years. The centre of the town belonged to
a family whose fortune was founded upon the purchase of land in Lancashire.
At the death of the present owner's grandfather the land in Widnes was worth
so little that his two sons hesitated whether it was worth while to prove
the will and claim the property. In 1899 the ground rents and reversions were
Similar evidence could be given of the working
of the leasehold system in such towns as Barry, Blackburn, Buryr Bristol,
Daventry, Devonport, Grimsby, Halifax, Newcastle, Oxford, Pembroke, Plumstead,
Prestwich, Rochdale, and Southampton.
Evidence was given to the Town Holdings Committee
of a landlord who had inserted a clause in one of his leases to prevent
his tenant from selling Carr's biscuits; and in 1894 a well-known member
of Parliament told the House that in his lease of a shooting in Ayrshire
a clause was inserted to prevent him from being present at any political
meeting in the neighbourhood.
The Avenue Theatre was practically destroyed by
the fall of the roof of Charing Cross Station in 1905, but the Courts held
that the leaseholder was liable for the ground rent all the same.
CHAPELS ON THE LEASEHOLD SYSTEM.–The Wesleyans built a chapel in the City
of London in 1843, at a cost of £6,000. The ground rent was £48.
The lease expired in 1893 and rent was raised to £650. The rent was
too high for the chapel to be continued, and it had to be surrendered without
a farthing of compensation.
The Welsh Calvinists reported in 1883 that they
had no less than 347 chapels, worth £355,000, built on the leasehold
system because the landlords had refused to give them the security of the
freehold. In Wales alone Nonconformist chapels to the value of over £1,000,000
are thus liable to forfeiture.
On Lord Penrhyn's estate there are 27 such chapels,
built on 30-year leases, which is eloquent proof of the absence of any real
freedom of contract.
EXAMPLES OF UNEARNED INCREMENT IN THE VALUE
The adjective unearned is usually applied only to the increases in land
values, which are due to the growth of population (and consequently the demand
for land) and similar causes. But it is equally applicable to the whole value
of land. The unearned increment is simply an addition to an already existing
value which is equally unearned by those who now appropriate it.
Mr. Sydney Webb calculated some years ago that
the bare land of London had increased by £6,000,000 per annum (??/pma)
in twenty years, or at the rate of £300,000 a year.
The following examples are given of the growth
of the unearned increment in various parts of London.
The City.–The site of the Royal Exchange was sold for £3,000 in the
middle of the sixteenth century. It was sold for £7,400 after the Great
Fire of 1666. Its value is now estimated at £1,250,000.
The site of the Peabody Statue at the rear of
the Royal Exchange cost the City Corporation £10,000. Adjacent sites
in Cornhill have been sold at the rate of £6,000,000 an acre. A house
in Lombard Street let in 1668 for £28 per annum. The same site yielded
£2,000 per annum in 1877.
Shepherdess Walk.–Site bought for £220 in
1664. Rent £3,500 in 1898, on 91 years' lease. Reversion to rack-rent
of £17,500 in 1989.
Cheapside.–King Street, 4,080 square feet, on
the Mercers' Estate, let by auction in 1905 for 11s. per foot. Capital value,
£630,774 per acre.
Bloommsbury.–All the Bloomsbury Estate was bought
by the Earl of Southampton for £600 in 1617.
Covent Garden and Long Acre.–Covent Garden and
Long Acre, worth £6 6s. 8d. per annum when granted by Edward VI. to
Ground rent (to Duke of Bedford) for Covent Garden
Theatre, £10,000 per annum. Net revenue from Covent Garden market,
£15,000 per annum.
Dulwich College Estate.–Bequeathed by Edward Alleyn,
an actor, and contemporary of Shakespeare, "for the support of twelve poor
scholars." Now valuable building land.
Hampstead.–Land worth 1½ d. an acre
in 1100, now worth £5,000 an acre.
Holborn.–The churchwardens of St. Clement-le-Danes
bought twelve houses in Holborn in the sixteenth century for £160.
The annual income derived from that site is now £7,000.
Kensington.–Land bought by Commissioners of the
1851 Exhibition for £186,000 valued in 1889 at £1,500,000.
Kentish Town.–Prebendal Manor of Cantelows, from
'St. Giles' parish through St. Pancras and Camden Town to Highgate, leased
in 1768 to Mr. Fitzroy, brother to Duke of Grafton, the Prime Minister,
for £300 per annum, now worth more than 1,000 times as much.
Lambeth.-Site of London County Council County
Hall, Pedlar's Acre, left by an old pedlar to St. Mary's, Lambeth, over
400 years ago.
The rent was 2s. 8d. per annum in 1504; £41
in 1690; £100 in 1752; £1,800 in 1911. Sold to the London County
Council for £81,000 in 1911.
Lincoln's Inn Fields.–Site sold for £1,721
in 1758; it realised £13,000 in 1904.
Oxford Street.–Ground rent of Selfridge's Stores
£10.000 per annum. Ground rent of Waring & Gillow, £25,000
(to Lord Ashton) for first ten years, £31,000 for second ten years,
£37,500 for the remainder of the lease.
Pimlico.–Crown Farm, 430 acres, worth £21
per annum. in 1603, now worth millions.
Portman Estate.–Off Edgware Road and Oxford Street.
Bought as grazing land by Mr. Portman. Developed in the year of the French
Revolution on 99-year leases. In 1888 1,700 leases fell in and Lord Portman
St. George's Fields.–Hayle's Charity land sold
for £300 in 1671. Let for £33 per annum in 1784. Revenue, £6,196
per annum in 1913.
St. James' Square.–Forty-five acres granted by
Charles II. to his illegitimate son, the Earl of St. Albans. One acre of it
now worth £250,000.
Shepherd's Bush.–Three plots bought in 1629 for
Campden's Charity; then worth £23 per annum. In 1881 the annual income
was £3,600; now very much more owing to the Central Tube.
Strand-Holborn Improvement.–A site in Wych Street
(6,125 feet) bought in 1879 for £5,000. Held idle for years, rate
free, "in expectation of the clearance." Price asked, £14,000. Price
paid by the London County Council, after arbitration, £11,084.
St. Mary-le-Strand.–Charity land left in 1667;
then worth £7 per annum. Revenue in 1900 was £2,257 per annum.
Trafalgar Square.–According to prospectus of the
Carlton Hotel Company, the site of the Grand Hotel cost at the rate of £4,000,000
In 1760 land to the north of the old Nor' Loch (now Princes Street) feued
at 10s. per annum per acre. In 1766 feued to the city by Heriot's trustees
at £7 per annum per acre.
In 1772 a Princes Street site feued for £4
13s. 4d. per annum. Same site (l acre) sold for £100,000 in 1905.
In 1804 land along Leith Walk feued at £4 per acre, now up to £480
per acre. In 1905 land in George Street sold for £57 per square yard,
or £275,880 per acre.
In 1879 the Braid Estate (600 acres) of the Cluny
Trustees yielded £1,600 per annum in rent. In 1906 onesixth of
it was feued for £3,300 per annum.
Warrender Park Estate (71 acres), originally part
of the Common Good of the City, first feued at £52 per annum. In 1906
gross feu duty was £10,759 per annum.
Duke of Buccleuch got £120,000 for site
of the Gas Works.
Mr. Gordon Gilmour got £60 per annum per
acre for nearly 30 acres, site of Fever Hospital.
In 1862 land was bought for £6
10s. a yard. In 1893 it realised £30 a yard.
In 1862 land in East Parade fetched £1 12s. per
yard. In 1897 it realised £24 10s. a yard.
Land near City Square was sold in 1897 for £75
In 1635 Lord Molyneux bought the
Lordship of Liverpool for £450.
The Corporation leased 1,000 acres in Lord Street
area for £30 per annum.
When giving evidence in 1888 before the Select
Committee of the House of Commons on Town Holdings, the late Sir A. B. Forwood
stated, concerning the Liverpool Corporation Estate (694 acres) "that the
falling in of the leases 53 years later (that being the average unexpired
term) would give the ratepayers of Liverpool a property, the fee simple of
which was worth £12,500,000, and which would absolutely pay all the
rates of the town." The present income is only about £100,000 per annum,
but it ought to be much more.
Parliament Fields were assessed at £40 per
annum as agricultural land. Part of them sold to the city by the Earl of
Sefton for £100,000. He now draws £10,000 a year from the remainder,
which was farm land two generations ago.
Land near the Newsham Estate bought by the Corporation
for 1s. 8d. per yard; now worth 10s. per yard.
In 1596 Sir Nicholas Mosley bought the manorial
rights for £3,500. In 1845 a Mosley sold to the city what was left
In 1833 the Improvements Committee paid from 30s.
to £4 per yard. In 1902 it paid £123 per yard in Corporation
In 1849 the land bought for the Smithfield Market
cost £3 to £7 a yard. Recently the Markets Committee paid up
to £35 a yard for adjacent land.
In 1881 land (384 yards) in Cross Street cost
£20,000. In 1900 it was sold for £40,000.
In 1630 Humphrey Booth bequeathed two meadows,
worth £19 per annum, for charity. The following two cases are parts
of that land. The £19 per annum has grown to £13,764 per annum.
In 1841 a corner site (Piccadilly and Port Street)
was rented at £194. In 1901 the same land was rented at £4,544.
In 1841 a corner site (Oxford Street and Bridgewater
Street) sold for £600. In 1901 it fetched £8,436.
In 1870 the Trafford Estates were worth £90,000.
In 1896 Mr. E T. Hooley bought them for £360,000. In 1897 he sold
them to the Trafford Park Estates Company for £901,000.
In 1817 the site of the old Town Hall cost £22,000
per acre. In 1904 it was sold at the rate of £532,400 per acre, and
the citizens benefited, as it was public property.
Marshall's Charity.–A bequest of land in 1792.
It was sold for £2,250. The money was invested in Consols and the income
has remained stationary at £67.
Clark's Charity.–The land that was bequeathed
was worth £320 per annum in 1792. It now yields £3,318 per annum.
The Bureau of Labour Statistics, State of Illinois, gives the history of
a quarter acre plot in Chicago. In 1830, when Chicago was a frontier post
with a population of fifty, it was bought for $20. In 1891 it had increased
60,000-fold and was worth $1,250.000.
New York.–In 1626 Manhattan Island, on which New
York stands, was bought of the natives by the Dutch West India Company for
$25. It is now crowded with tall buildings and its value is fabulous. The
enormous wealth of the Astors and similar family's comes from this source.
Vancouver City (British Columbia).–In 1885 the site of Vancouver was a dense
forest. With the development of the railway system it was made the great port
for Western Canada: In 1913 the land was valued at $138,000,000; while the
whole of the buildings were only valued at £53,000,000.
Adelaide.–One site of 10 feet frontage is now worth more than the Government
got for the whole site of the city.
Melbourne.–In 1858 Collins Street, the chief street of Melbourne, was part
of a stock-yard. Now land is sold for as much as £2,000 per foot frontage.
In twenty years (1891-1909) the land rose in value by £81,000,000,
while the whole of the improvements added in that time were only worth £50,000,000.
LESSONS FROM THE COAL COMMISSION.
It is a maxim in British law that "to whomsoever the soil belongs, to him
belongs all that is above it and all that is beneath it," except gold and
silver. The commercial greatness of this country has been mainly founded on
coal, which is the most precious of all minerals; and every ton of coal, as
well as of iron, lead, tin, copper, zinc, china clay, and so on, has paid
a tax to a private landlord in the shape of rents, royalties, and wayleaves.
The Sankey Commission unanimously reported in favour of the nationalisation
of coal. Even the capitalist' lessees of the mines agreed to that, although
they are opposed to the State actually working the coal. This unanimity is
a remarkable tribute to the obvious justice of the case for the abolition
of the system of private property in coal, which has lasted for centuries.
The Chairman's chief reasons for making his recommendations on this point
were as follows:–
- That coal is our principal national asset.
- That seams of coal are now vested in the hands of nearly
4,000 owners, some of whom are a real hindrance to their development.
- Where there are many small owners, some of whom cannot
be found, there is great delay and expense in acquiring the right to work
- Barriers of coal are left between different properties,
without real necessity, and millions of tons are thus wasted.
- Drainage and pumping would be less costly and more effective
under centralised ownership.
- Boundaries are arbitrary and irregular, and coal is lost
on that account.
- Mineral owners are allowed to work minerals without providing
support for the land above, and much damage is caused to buildings for which
no compensation can be claimed.
Mr. Justice Sankey did not make any reference to the injustice of permitting
private individuals to appropriate about £6,000,000 a year in royalties
on coal without providing either labour or capital. But this vital aspect
of the question rightly loomed large in the minds of the miners' representatives
and their colleagues, and much most valuable evidence was obtained on it as
the result of their questions.
It would be useful to have these facts in cheap
Some of the biggest royalty owners–men like the
Duke of Northumberland, the Duke of Hamilton, the Marquis of Bute, Lord
Durham, and Lord Tredegar–were put under the most searching cross-examination
by the miners' leaders as to their titles to the coal seams which landlord-made
law permits them to call their own property.
Whether or not their titles are sound in law is
a very small matter. Their moral right is the vital thing, and there can
be no question that no grants by kings "for services rendered" could ever
establish such a right to the very substance of the planet on which we live,
any more than to any other part of the solar system.
How the landlords have made use of their opportunities
to profiteer in minerals may be judged by the following cases.
Profiteering in Minerals.
Valuable evidence on this point was given before the Royal Commission whose
final report was published in 1893.
The alleged willingness of landlords to reduce
their charges in cases of necessity is often used as an argument in support
of the present system; but such willingness has in fact been generally conspicuous
by its absence.
Again and again pits have had to be shut up because
no reduction in royalties could be secured. Between 1875 and 1878, 56 collieries
were stopped and 85 partially stopped in the county of Durham alone.
In Cumberland a colliery had to be closed for
the same reason. The company had paid £5,500 for coal they could not
get, and the minimum rent was £700 a year.
In another case the royalty on iron-ore was fixed
at 7s. a ton when the selling price was from 30s. to 36s. The price fell
to 14s., but the royalty remained fixed and the mine had to be abandoned.
A Cornish tin mine worked at a loss for ten years,
the loss being exactly the amount of the royalty. No reduction, mine closed;
hundreds of men thrown out of work.
The Wigan Coal & Iron Company paid £10,000
a year in royalties to the Duke of Newcastle, and made no profit for themselves.
Mine closed. The same company paid £6,000 for coal they never got.
The Barrow Hematite Steel Company paid £126,000
a year in royalties to the Duke of Devonshire, the Duke of Buccleuch, and
Lord Muncaster, and for years made no profit on their £2,000,000 capital.
At that time the total wages received by all the miners was only half the
amount paid in royalties.
The Darlastoll Steel & Iron Company made a
profit of £2,000 a year and every penny of it went in royalties.
The Cramlington Colliery, in Northumberland, made
no profit for eight years, and the Seaton Delaval Colliery none for fourteen
years, but jointly they paid over £30,000 a year in royalties to idle
landlords all that time.
Two collieries constructed a private railway line
at a cost of £150,000. They paid every year in wayleaves twice the
full fee simple value of the land and £23,000 in royalties when they
made no profit.
In a Northumbrian case the Marquis of Hastings
prohibited the carriage of coal to any other place than the Tyne, except on
the payment of the same wayleaves that would have been charged on that line.
The coal went to Blyth and Sunderland, but had to pay, although they did
not cross the Marquis's land.
Sir Arthur Markham gave a case where a landlord
charged £800 a year for coal crossing a piece of his land no bigger
than the floor of the House of Commons.
In another case 4d. a ton was charged for crossing
a strip of land only 20 yards wide.
The lease of the Dolcoath tin mine, near Camborne,
was renewed on the old terms on payment of a fine of £25,000, after
the landlord had tried to get up to £40,000 a year as a share of the
The Devon Great Consols mine paid in royalties
to the Duke of Bedford £300,000. When the lease was renewed he exacted
a fine of £20,000. Then for years no profit was made beyond the £8,0(0
to £10,000 royalties, and the landlord's charges were only reduced
"at the fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour" when the mine was about
Sir Christopher Furness said in 1909 that a certain
company had paid in royalties £300,000 in ten years; and bear in mind
the receivers of royalties pay not a farthing in local rates.
Mr. Lloyd George, at Newcastle in 1909, told of
a company in South Wales which paid £3,500 a year in rates, made £3,000
profit, and paid £10,600 a year in royalties; and of a company in
Yorkshire which spent £500,000 in developing an area and paid £20,000
a year to a landlord for coal the very existence of which was unknown a
few years previously. Since then the landlord's income has gone up to £40,000
a year and he has done absolutely nothing to earn it. Incidentally, it may
recorded that a clause was inserted in the lease to prevent any man living
in the cottages on the estate who had been convicted of an offence against
the game laws.
PROFITEERING IN LAND FOR HOUSES.
One of the most urgent of all questions is that of the proper housing of
the people. Even before the war the nation needed many hundreds of thousands
of houses more than it had, and hundreds of thousands of the existing houses
were scandalously unfit for human habitation. For ten years building has nearly
stopped, and the cost of labour and material is now so great that houses
for the workers cannot be built except at a heavy loss, which has to be met
by subsidies from the rates and taxes. This fact makes it all the more necessary
that land should be secured at reasonable prices, so that not only may the
deficit be reduced but also that adequate garden ground may be provided for
The evil consequences of permitting private individuals
to treat land as a means of securing the greatest possible profit for themselves
are, very marked in the case of housing. Inevitably they considered that
the best use of land is that which will produce the highest rent. Fifty houses
to the acre meant a higher rent than ten or twelve to the acre. The whole
tendency of private ownership of land has therefore been to foster the crowding
of houses on the land to the utmost extent allowed by lax building regulations.
What this has meant to the health and well-being of the people it is difficult
even to imagine, and impossible to calculate. For the landlords it meant
a high income, and that was the main consideration to them. But to the people
it meant a high rate of sickness and death, which was entirely due to the
stupid policy of allowing private profits to be put before the well-being
of the people.
Poor Men Live on Dear Land.
It is a remarkable fact that, as a general rule, rich men live on cheap
land, while poor men live on dear land. When land rises in value rich men
move out further from the centre, and a site where one man lived, with spacious
garden grounds, is then developed for the habitations of hundreds of families
where there used to be only one.
Again, the fact that so much more can be got for
land on which the homes of the people are built than for land on which cattle
are grazed or crops are grown, has encouraged landlords to hold their land
back from use until it was "ripe" for building; and it was never considered
ripe until a high price could be got for it. Because of this high price
for land, builders had to make it carry as many houses as possible, by building
them in rows, often right up to the frontage of the street, and with a tiny
backyard where there ought to have been a good garden.
There is abundance of land in the country to provide
plenty of space for each home, and plenty of public recreation ground as
well, but the amount that is available for such purposes has been always
made artificially scarce, and consequently artificially dear. Out of the
scarcity that they themselves have created the landlords have got their harvest
of high incomes, while the people have suffered in health and happiness to
an extent that can never be measured in terms of money.
Recent Examples of Extortionate Demands for Land for Housing.
Alfreton … £1,200 an acre,
which only paid 3s 4d. in rates
Bangor … £425 an acre, which only paid 4s
3d. in rates
Barnard Castle … £600 an acre, which only
paid 7s. 6d in rates
Birkenhead … £864 an acre, which only paid
5s. 6d. in rates
Blaydon … £605 an acre, which only paid
2s. 3d. in rates
Bolton … £403 an acre, which only paid 2s.
2d. in rates
Clecthorpes … £500 an acre, which only paid
5s. 0d. in rates
Derby … £650 an acre, which only paid 8s.
3d. in rates
Edinburgh …£13,120 an acre, which only paid
11s. 7d in rates
Hamilton … £500 an acre, which only paid
4s. 8d. in rates
Littlehampton … £100 an acre, which only
paid 3s. 1d. in rates
Maryport … £1,200 an acre, which only paid
2s. 8d. in rates
Northampton … £1,400 an acre, which only
paid 6s. 4d. in rates
Richmond … £2,000 an acre, which only paid
11s. 10d. in rates
Ynysybwl … £1,000 an acre, which only paid
40s. 0d. in rates
Other prices per acre were: £5,800 at Belfast, £10,000 at Dublin,
£3,000 at Manchester, £600 average price in forty-three schemes
in Wales, and £24,250 at Ebbw Vale (Duke of Beaufort) for land rated
at £56 per annum.
Cheap land is the first essential of every housing
scheme, in order that every home may have its garden at the front and back,
plenty of sun and air, and opportunities for life in the open air and the
growing of flowers, grass and shrubs that beautify the surroundings and
make the house attractive-to say nothing of the chances of growing
fruit and vegetables to increase the supply of food for the family. And building
land will never be cheap so long as private profiteering in it is permitted.
Every consideration therefore points to the necessity for making the
community the sole owner of the land it resides on.
Profiteering in Agricultural Land.
Space forbids more than a brief reference to the operations of landlordism
in land that is used for cultivation. The exactions of landlords in Ireland
were such that the State had to step in to reduce them. In Scotland the same
action had to be taken to protect the crofters. In each case it was shown
that there prevailed a systematic robbery of the tenants. Irish hostility
to this country, both in Ireland and America, is a legacy of those evil days.
The high rents charged to smallholders and allotmentholders
in England are matters of universal knowledge. The larger farmers have been
more leniently treated, but in the days of the Corn Laws the landlords thrived
on high rents, while farmers were driven to the bankruptcy courts, and the
common people were starving. And when foreign competition in corn developed
in the 'eighties and 'nineties rents did not come down generally until thousands
of farmers were ruined and scores of thousands of labourers were driven
to the towns or were forced to emigrate.
Where landlords have large incomes from other
sources, as from town rents or mineral royalties, it is quite true that
they do not usually rack-rent their agricultural tenants, and it must be
remembered that in many cases large agricultural estates are not acquired
or held primarily as sources of income so much as pleasure grounds. They
are held because they afford opportunities for game preserving and fox-hunting,
and because they confer power, prestige, political influence, and social
status, and give a sense of spaciousness to the lives of their fortunate
possessors. None the less, the private advantage is the main purpose of their
owners, although it does not solely take the form of money.
But cultivation is hindered whenever sport is
aimed at, the production of food is hampered and reduced, smallholders
are kept off, the farmers have no security of tenure and are kept subservient
either by the fear of displeasure or the hope of favours, while the labourers
are landless and helpless. In fact, not the least of the evils of landlordism
is the way in which it destroys liberty of thought and action in rural places,
and impoverishes men in all the essentials of independence.
In conclusion, it is clear that the highest possible production of wealth
is unattainable under the deadening influence of private landownership.
Millions of acres of land will have to be drained and reclaimed and millions
of acres await afforestation. For every purpose the first requirement is
that the land shall become national property. Under that system, and under
that system only, will it be possible to give incentives to industry and
security of tenure that will promote production, and, by abolishing the treatment
of land as an instrument of private profiteering, will secure for the whole
community the whole value of the land which is their inalienable inheritance.
SIX POINTS OF THE PEOPLE'S LAND CHARTER.
- All the Land under Public Ownership and Control.
On and after a given date all private ownership of land to come to an end.
The State to be supreme owner of all land, including, of course, the minerals.
Local councils to administer it under a National Land Council or Ministry
- Easily Accessible as a Right.
Access to land, each according to his needs and subject only to the equal
rights of others, to be the recognised birthright of every free citizen. A
right that must be granted, not a favour that may be withheld. This is the
very foundation of economic freedom.
- With Full Security of Tenure.
State tenants to enjoy the full security of tenure, which is only obtainable
now by the few who can afford to buy land. This security to be guaranteed
so long as the rent is paid and the land is properly used. Improvements made
by tenants to be their own property. This is the true "magic of property which
turns sand to gold."
- At a Fair Rent.
A fair rent, as distinct from a rack-rent, to represent the true value of
land according to its natural fertility or position. To be periodically revised
in fairness to both the individual as tenant and the community as owner. The
good tenant to pay no more than the bad tenant for the same kind of land.
- The Land to be put to its Best Use.
The governing authorities to insist on this. The highest 'possible production
to be aimed at. Waste land to be reclaimed, all suitable land to be afforested.
The production of wealth in food, timber, houses, etc., to come before
game preservation, fox-hunting, and the maintenance of great parks and pleasure
grounds for a privileged few.
- The Rental Value to be Public Revenue.
The whole annual value of land to become ultimately available for public
purposes, after provisions for the prevention of injustice to those who have
invested their earnings in land with the sanction and encouragement of the
The full financial benefit of land nationalisation would not accrue at once,
but from the very beginning there would be a profit to the State, with the
unearned increment as it accrued and the direct and complete public ownership
and control of land, which is the most essential thing.
OPINIONS OF LEADING THINKERS.
There is absolute unanimity among all legal authorities that land cannot
be full private property.
SIR EDWARD COKE (Institutes
All land or tenements in England, in the hands of subjects, are holden
mediately or immediately of the king.
SIR WILLIAM BLACKSTONE (Commentaries):–
Accurately and strictly speaking, there is no foundation in nature
or in natural law why a set of words on parchment should convey the dominion
MR. SERJEANT STEPHENS (New Commentaries):–
All lands owned by subjects in England are in the nature of fees, whether
derived to them by descent from their ancestors or purchased for a valuable
consideration, for they cannot come to any man by either of these ways unless
accompanied by those feudal incidents, which attended upon the first feudatories
to whom the lands were originally granted.
JOSHUA WILLIAMS (Principles of the Law of Real Property):–
An English subject may enjoy the absolute ownership of goods, but not of
land. The king is the supreme owner, or lord paramount, of every parcel
of land in the realm.
LORD CHIEF JUSTICE COLERIDGE (Laws of Property):–
All laws of property must stand upon the footing of the general advantage;
a country belongs to the inhabitants.
SIR FREDERICK POLLOCK (English Land Laws):–
No absolute ownership of land is recognised by our law books except in
SHELDON AMOS (The Science of Law):–
The land cannot be looked upon, even provisionally, as a true subject of
permanent individual appropriation.
J. A. FROUDE (History of England):–
Land was never private property in that personal sense of property in which
we speak of a thing as our own with which we may do as we please.
Common Landownership Came First.
PROFESSOR PAUL VINOGRADOFF (Growth of the Manor):–
There seems to be hardly anything more certain in the domain of archaic
law than the theory that the soil was originally owned by groups, and not
SIR HENRY MAINE (Village Communities):–
The institution familiar to us. individual property in land, has arisen
from the dissolution of the ancient co-ownership.
EMILE DE LAVELAYE (Primitive Property):–
It is only after a series of progressive evolutions, and at a comparatively
recent period, that individual ownership, as applied to land, is constituted.
OUVE SCHREINER (Stray Thoughts on South Africa):–
Each Bantu tribe holds its land in common, reappointing it as the
increase or diminution of its members require. The doctrine that land can
become the private property of one is morally repugnant to the Bantu.
WALTER BAGEHOT (Economic Studies):–
As is now generally known, the earliest form of land holding was not individual
owning but tribal holding. This joint stock principle is that which has
been by far the commonest in the world, and that with which the world began.
WILLIAM PALEY (Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy):–
The land was once, no doubt, common; and the question is, how any particular
part of it could justly be taken out of the common, and so appropriated
to the first owner as to give him a better right to it than others, and
what is more, a right to exclude all others from it.
The Indian village community, the Russian "mir,"
the German "mark," all alike held the land on which they lived as common
property. Primitive tribes in our own time hold it in the same way. Under
the clan system in Scotland the land was the property of the clan as a whole,
not the property of the chief of the clan, as it is regarded now. And in
all Mohammedan countries the supreme owner of the land is the State, not
ADAM SMITH (Wealth of Nations
The wood of the forest, the grass of the field, and all the natural fruits
of the earth, which, when land was in common, cost the labourer only the
trouble of gathering them, come, even to him, to have an additional price
fixed upon them, when land has become private property. He must then pay
for the licence to gather them, and must give up to his landlord a portion
of what his labour either collects or produces. This portion, or what comes
to the same thing, the price of this portion, constitutes the rent of land.
RICARDO (Principles of Political Economy
Rent is that portion of the produce of the earth, which is paid to the
landlord for the use of the original and indestructible powers of the soil.
JOHN STUART MILL (Principles of Political Economy
The essential principle of property being to assure to persons what they
have produced by their own labour and accumulated by their abstinence, this
principle cannot apply to what is not the produce of labour, the raw
material of the earth. No man made the land: it is the original inheritance
of the whole species. … The land of every country belongs to the people
of that country.
PROFESSOR J. E. CAIRNES (Political Economy
Sustained by some of the greatest names–I will say by every man of the
first rank in political economy–from Turgot and Adam Smith to Mill. I hold
that the land of a country presents conditions, which separate it economically
from the great mass of the other objects of wealth.
PROFESSOR A. MARSHALL (Principles of Economics
The use of a certain area of the earth's surface is a primary condition
of anything that man can do. It gives him room for his actions, with the enjoyment
of the heat and the light, the air and the rain, which nature assigns to
that area. It determines his distance from, and in a great measure, his relations
to, other persons. This property of "land" it is which, though as yet insufficient
prominence has been given to it, is the ultimate cause of the distinction
which all writers on economics are compelled to make between land and other
J. B. SAY (Economique Politique
The earth is the only agent of nature, or nearly so, that one set of men
take to themselves to the exclusion of others; and of which consequently
they can appropriate the benefits. Happily no one has yet been able to say,
"The wind and the sun are mine, and the service which they render must be
THOMAS CARLYLE (Past and Present
Properly speaking the land belongs to these two: To the Almighty God and
to all His children of men that have ever worked well on it. No generation
of men can or could, with never such solemnity and effort, sell land on
any other principle; it is not the property of any generation, we say, but
that of all the past generations that have worked on it, and of all the
future ones that shall work on it.
JOHN RUSKIN (Time and Tide)
Next of wholly unjustifiable rents. These are for things which are not,
and which it is criminal to consider as, personal or changeable property.
Bodies of men, land, water, and air are the principle of these things. … Bodies
of men or women, then, and much more, as I said before, their souls, must
not be bought or sold. Neither must land, nor water, nor air; these being
the necessary sustenance of men's bodies and souls.
LEO TOLSTOY (The Great Iniquity
The nearest and most obvious evil, private property in land. … The truth
that land cannot be an object of property has become so elucidated by the
very life of contemporary mankind that, in order to continue to retain a
way of life in which private landed property is recognised, there is only
one means–not to think of it, to ignore the truth, and to occupy oneself
with other absorbing business. So, indeed, do men of our time.
The evil and injustice of private property in
land have been pointed out a thousand years ago by the prophets and sages
of old. Later progressive thinkers of Europe have been often and oftener
pointing to it.
ST. GREGORY THE GREAT:–
This is the way in which we must preach to the people who keep what they
have got and help not others. We must give them clearly to understand that
the land has been given by God to be the common property of all men.
ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE (The Why and How of Land Nationalisation
Neither pure air, nor water, neither food, clothing, nor fire, can be obtained
without land. A free use of land is therefore the absolute first condition
of freedom to live; and it follows that the monopoly of land by some must
be wrong, because it necessarily implies the right of some to prevent others
from obtaining the necessaries of life.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON (Man, the Conservative
I find this vast network, which you call property, extending over the whole
planet. I cannot occupy the bleakest crag of the white hills of the Alleghany
Range but some man or corporation steps up to me to show me that it is his.
Yonder sun in heaven you would pluck down and prevent shining on the universe,
and make him a property and privacy if you could; and the moon and the north
star you would quickly have occasion for in your closet and bed-chamber.
What you do not want for use you crave for ornament, and what your convenience
could spare your pride cannot.
The land question means hunger, thirst, nakedness, notice to quit, labour
spent in vain, the toil of years. seized upon, the breaking up of homes,
the misery, sicknesses, deaths of parents, children, wives, the despair and
wildness which spring up in the hearts of the poor, when legal force, like
a sharp harrow, goes over the most sensitive and vital rights of mankind.
All this is contained in the land question.