Puslapio vaizdai

out the whole country, and draws the lurid lightning of Mr. Cook's eloquence, while the plurality of acres, which any individual may monopolize, and which is conceded to be a gigantic social crime, is sanctioned in the name of private property. In the rapid progress of social evolution this defender of the truth may yet be heard denouncing, not only polygamy in marriage, but polygamy in land. Mr. Cook says, "The methods of land tenure are decided by convenience and custom and the consent of nations and large general justice." 1

In a sense this is true; but the pertinent question is, for whose convenience "is the land of Great Britain and Ireland held"? Is it by the "consent" of all the people, or by a "large general justice" that 30,000,000, nearly the entire population, are obliged to beg the privilege of living from a few who have got exclusive possession of the land?

We believe that few ministers of the gospel of Christ can be found to-day who will indorse the doctrine of private capital in land.

"I firmly believe," says Rev. Dr. J. M. Buckly, "that the present system of land tenure is not in harmony with either philosophy or religion." 2

On another page Mr. Cook argues that the Socialistic state could not raise money to pay for the land now held by individuals. He says, "Let us suppose that there is a proposition to buy all the land of England, a little island over yonder in the sea. Professor Faucett has shown that the money which would be needed to pay for that land would be more than the present income of the United Kingdom, although that income is 1,000,000,000 pounds annually." His sword cuts both ways. If money is king, then the privileged owners of this land are invested with power such as no Plantagenet or Tudor ever possessed, and this power is none the less cruel and tyrannous when exercised socially and industrially in the exaction of rent enforced by the sovereign law of the nation, than when exercised politically by the mandate of the king.

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We are utterly unable to see how the monopoly of land, and of consequent power in the hands o a few, can harmonize with Mr. Cook's statement that the methods of holding land are decided by "a large general justice." It seems to us to be by a "large general" and outrageous injustice.

The monopoly of land is the chief cause of social discontent everywhere. Half of Prussia is owned by 31,000 men. Of her 26,000,000 people nearly the whole are excluded from the land. Most of the land of Austria is held in very large estates by her nobility. The southern provinces are in the hands of large proprietors.

Immense estates in Italy are closed against the people. "The peasants," says Laveleye, "are reduced to extreme misery by rent and taxation."

The tendency is in the same direction in the United States. Land is becoming dearer and, relatively to the whole population, getting into fewer hands every day. Heretofore it has been plenty and cheap, and this has been the cause of our unexampled prosperity; but we are now beginning to realize the European situation. There are already farms in the West of ten, twenty, and even one hundred thousand acres. Individuals and syndicates, both American and European, have obtained possession of vast tracts. To six railroads, Congress has granted an amount of land equal to the whole of Great Britain, Ireland, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, and Greece; that is, to a few rich men who need nothing, Congress has given vast sums and guaranteed their bonds to the amount of $180,000,000; while to the many wage-workers who need everything it has given and guaranteed nothing.'

The public land is being rapidly exhausted. In 1880 the government had left about 700,000,000 acres. Every year makes a large reduction; 19,000,000 acres were disposed of in the year 1884.

It is agreed on all sides that, at the present rate of grants, in nine years, all the public land will be reduced to private

1 "Modern Socialism" (Grönland), p. 93.

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ownership, and thus, as Dr. Strong says, "Our wide domain will soon cease to palliate popular discontent, because it will soon be beyond the reach of the poor." Will it be safe to continue to teach the poor that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are unalienable rights, when land, the source of life and the guarantee of liberty, is beyond their reach ?

Can anybody be so blind as not to see the mutual antagonism between that idea of property which, in Great Britain, allows, as Dr. Strong says, one man to ride in a straight line one hundred miles on his own estate, or to own a county extending across the whole country, or to fence in three hundred square miles extending from sea to sea for a deer-park, evicting many families to make room. for the deer; and the democratic principle based upon the Declaration of Independence and the word of God? The same idea of absolute private property in land prevails in this country as in England. These principles, namely, that a few may acquire the sole and exclusive right to the earth, and civil liberty, we repeat, are mutually repellent, and, like fire and gunpowder, when their contact becomes sufficiently close there must be an explosion. Against this monopoly of land God pronounces the severest judgments: "Woe unto them who join house to house, that lay field to field till there be no place; "2 that is, till the laborer and the less fortunate have no rights in land.

All history shows that when the masses lose their rights in the land, they are subjected to social degradation, pinching poverty, and industrial slavery.

Can we wonder that the suffering millions are crying out against private property in land and other means of production?

Long before the second great Commandment had found expression in Socialism, Christianity had taken the same position as to property. "Bossuet has merely reproduced what may be read on every page of the Christian Fathers. "The rich man is a thief' (St. Basil). "The rich are robbers; a kind of equality must be effected by making gifts

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out of their abundance. Better all things in common' (St. Chrysostom). 'Opulence is always the product of a theft, committed, if not by the actual possessor, by his ancestors (St. Jerome). Nature created community; private property is the offspring of usurpation' (St. Ambrose). In strict justice everything should belong to all. Iniquity alone has created private property' (St. Clement).”1

It is Christianity, therefore, that has taught Socialists their ideas of private capital and the epithets they apply to it.

We can afford to forgive men driven to madness by the social wrongs they have endured, for calling property theft, when the fathers of the Christian Church have been declaring it theft and robbery for centuries. In the beginning God gave the land into the hands of man, saying let them have dominion over the earth, not over each other. This dominion was not to be exercised by Adam alone, or by any class of men, but by the race. This idea that land was for the common benefit of all prevailed in the earliest times.

Laveleye says, "In all primitive societies the soil was the joint property of the tribes, and was subject to periodical distribution among all the families, so that all might live by their labor as nature ordained. The comfort of each was thus proportioned to his energy and intelligence; no one, at any rate, was destitute of the means of subsistence, and inequality increasing from generation to generation was provided against." 2

It is certain that land was thus held by the Israelites. If poverty compelled one to part with the use of his land, it was only for a time. The year of Jubilee restored it to

him or his family.

God made this law.

He intended to prevent the extremes of wealth and poverty by prohibiting the monopoly of land, and securing to every Israelite a right to the soil. Pauperism was unknown.

Plutocratic oppression, which is now legal and no bar to

1 "Socialism of To-day " (De Laveleye). Intro. p. xix.
2 As quoted in "Progress and Poverty " (George), p. 334.

honor in church and society, would have been visited with death by stoning.

Strabo says the Dalmations "redistributed their land every eight years." 1

To banish inequalities of wealth among the Spartans Lycurgus divided the land into 29,000 parts, and assigned one part to each citizen.2 Republican Rome made it unlawful for a citizen to own but a small portion of land. Pliny says great estates ruined first Italy, then her provinces.3 Henry George, in "Progress and Poverty," a book which marks an epoch in the history of the land question, after a wide historical survey of the subject, says the "Common right to land has everywhere been primarily recognized, and private ownership has nowhere grown up save by ursurpation.

"It nowhere springs from contract; it can nowhere be traced to perceptions of justice or expediency; it has every where had its birth in war and conquest." 4 An examination of the origin of land tenures forces us to acknowledge the truth of these assertions.

Herbert Spencer says, "Equity does not permit property in land.” John Stuart Mill says, "The land is not of man's creation, and for a person to appropriate to himself a mere gift of nature, not made to him in particular, but which belonged to all others until he took possession of it, is prima facie an injustice to all the rest." 5

Not only Socialists, but an increasing number of the 'friends of humanity, sympathize with the demand for the

nationalization of land.

Dr. Behrends admits "That there is a disposition on the part of many to concede the justice of this demand!” 6

Professor R. T. Ely says, "The most tremendous practical consequences flow from the fact that land is a natural

1 Smith's Bible Dictionary, title, "Jubilee." Note.

2 Anthon's Classical Dictionary, title, "Sparta."

8 "Roman Antiquities" (Adams), p. 385.

4 "Progress and Poverty" (George), pp. 332, 333.

5 Dissert. IV., p. 289.

• "Socialism and Christianity," p. 87.

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