« AnkstesnisTęsti »
δυοῖν παρόντοιν ἥμισυς λόγος πάρα.
Esch. Eum. 406.
The Communicator warns the Public against being too
Let them both have their say before judgment is pronounced.
Audi alteram partem.
5, ESSEX COURT, TEMPLE,
May 15th, 1875.
Doe v. Roe.
It is with no small satisfaction I am at length able to address you in terms of friendship and esteem. During the interval of three and twenty years, which has elapsed since our correspondence was so rudely, though I trust so happily, interrupted, I have learned to admire an opponent with whom I have fought battles so many and of such renown. Heretofore our long-standing acquaintance extending over a period of some two hundred and twenty years has unfortunately been but that of adversaries; now and from henceforth let it be that of friends.*
We have now no cause for division-no bone of contention. Our politics are the same; for in this age of progress and advancement can any thinking being belong to other than the party of movement and enlightenment? In matters of religion we accept universal toleration as one of the axioms of modern thought. What remains? Social existence in general; and surely, sir, we are at one on all the great points, which form the pivots upon which society turns. The constitution of the family-individual ownership of property-the almost infinite range of contract-the principle of competition-representative institutions above all, the inviolable sacredness of liberty! We are neither communists nor socialists. We recognize an established frame of social life, wherein a graduation of classes is effected by a natural or acquired superiority; it being a
* The writ de ejectione firma was invented in the reign of Edward III., but this did not become the general mode of trying rights to land till the time of Henry VII. or Henry VIII. During the Protectorate Chief Justice Rolle remodelled the ancient proceedings by substituting the fictitious plaintiff and defendant John Doe v. Richard Roe. The Common Law Procedure Act, 1852, swept away these worthy gentlemen in the present form of ejectment.
fundamental maxim that every one is to have fair play, so that talent, genius, and industry may find their proper level, unimpeded by artificial obstacles of any kind, save those only which the public weal render absolutely and imperatively necessary.
But, sir, whilst our theories thus happily harmonize, there are but too many instances in which their obvious dictates are disregarded. How often is the march of civilization suddenly and ruthlessly arrested! How numerous and multiform the attacks upon religious freedom! With what strange and pestilent diseases is the social organism ever and anon smitten!
Yet, pray, do not misunderstand me. It is not to occasional and casual ills I allude, for the best systems will now and again get out of order, and it would be as idle to grieve over such temporary misfortunes as to find fault with the finest piece of mechanism, because like all things human it sometimes goes wrong. The grounds of my complaint are certain standing and permanent obstructions to that continuous advance, which is the sine quâ non of our common improvement. And most conspicuous amongst such obstructions is that antiquated, and, I venture to think, at present absurd system of land tenure and land transfer which still obtain in England. Of all men living you, sir, I deem the most qualified both by nature and experience to handle with me in a sensible and statesmanlike manner the settlement of this intricate and most important question: and hence the liberty I have taken in addressing you in this letter.
It needs no profound or learned course of argument to show how supremely foolish, not to say ridiculous, is the mode, in which the tenure of immoveables is in these days regulated. Only fancy if we were some fine morning to wake up and find our countrymen arrayed in the skins of wild beasts, with all the trappings of the savage-in a word in the very pink of Druidical fashion! Or what should we think of a class of persons calling themselves rational, who insisted the only means of transit should be the four roads of Roman times? In these instances the voice of convenience and common sense is too loud to be inaudible, even to the most obtuse. But when it comes to the maintenance or abolition of a system, adjusted to the necessities of a bygone age, hampered with a thousand rules having no application to an altered state of circumstances, and working an amount of annoyance, expense and injustice not easy to realize, the nation seems stupefied and deaf to all remon
Why, you will ask, are we drowned in such a lethargy? I reply; first, because of the inherent laziness of human nature; and, secondly, because, having been so long habituated to a state
of discomfort, we have like the bed-ridden patient grown callous to our misfortune.
There is, no doubt, trouble involved in sweeping away the existing manner of holding lands, whilst, in individual causes of disgust, the spur to selfishness is too intermittent and remote to call forth general action.
Then again our endurance has been lightened not only by custom, but also by a large amount of patchwork legislation, though it may be truly observed, in the words of a great thinker when speaking of usury, that in this case also the law was reformed as a person reforms a tight shoe, who cuts a hole in it where it pinches hardest, and continues to wear it.”*
Now, sir, I have a very simple remedy for the canker our land laws breed in the interests of private persons and those of the community generally :-excision, simple and thorough, by one comprehensive statute which shall declare that all property of what kind soever is to be henceforth held and treated in all respects as personal property, so far as the different natures of moveable and immoveable will permit.
Like a skilled surgeon I amputate a limb past cure-persuaded the operation now proposed will be the means of saving from decay the healthy members of the social body.
For the present I shall say no more, but relying on your hearty co-operation and anxiously expecting the favour of an early expression of your views
I beg to subscribe myself
Allow me in primis most cordially to reciprocate those sentiments of respect and goodwill your note has so kindly conveyed. I can assure you that my breast also had during our many years of inimical intercourse become at length animated with a deep feeling of reverence and affection for a foe, in whom I could discern the qualities one would most wish to find in a friend. With gladness, therefore, do I seize the
* J. S. Mill, Principles of Political Economy, bk. v. c. 10. .
hand of fellowship you have extended-well assured it is the token of an amicable relationship to cease only with death.
I would fain on this joyful occasion of mutual reconciliation pass unchallenged the character with which you have credited me, so that no variance might exist between us. But, sir, the behests of truth are imperative, and with me frankness and open dealing are synonymous with genuine politeness. I must, therefore, claim leave to repudiate any connection with a party which pretends to be ever on the move. Such a pretension, when closely looked at, amounts to nothing less than a selfcontradiction—it is utterly suicidal. For-not to mention the psychological and metaphysical difficulty, that, if such a phenomenon did in fact exist, we should be so conscious of it as you seem to imagine, inasmuch as the differential element requisite for discrimination would then be absent,—I shall merely point out that a party of this description would according to its own programme have on each successive year or day to undo what it had done on the year or day preceding. There is no such flux and reflux possible in human affairs. But even to the possible, yet withal revolutionary, advancement advocated by one great political faction, I am happy to reckon myself the steady but determined enemy. Innovation in any of our established principles or institutions is a flinging to the winds of the experience and traditions of past ages. It is no better than the ruthless squandering by the profligate in an instant of the treasures heaped up by his ancestor's years of toil and sacrifice. Nay, as the loss is more irreparable and the gift more invaluable, so capriciously to dissipate the heritage of posterity is more culpable and calamitous.
Change indeed there may and must be, but let there be no further alteration than is necessary to oil and grease as it were the springs and wheels of our glorious constitution. But do not take the mighty fabric itself to pieces, for to disrupt it is to disrupt the State.
I rejoice to be able to enrol myself with you under the banner of religious toleration. Of course, you understand, we do not in the general indulgence include those sects, which, under the name of religion, adopt practices prohibited by the law without respect to religion. It is no persecution to insist that vaccination shall be enforced or that dancing in the open streets, so as to prove a nuisance, shall be put down, although the religious scruples of some persons might prompt them to do the acts forbidden; for here the reason of the command is aliunde apart altogether from creed. Again, you will join with me in upholding the Established Church; for leaving its benefits