SCOTLAND AND THE LAND MONOPOLY
In early times in the Lowlands of Scotland land was farmed on the communal
system much the same as it had been in England, but in course of time most
of this had become enclosed and appropriated by private owners. In the
Highlands, however, right up to the Rebellion of 1745, the old clan system
had persisted. Under this system the land occupied by the clansmen belonged
to the clansmen as a whole, and the chief of the clan was not lord and owner
of the land, but merely chief and lord of the clansmen. As Professor Blackie
says:* "Every man also has his share in the territory occupied by the clan
for tillage or pasturage, as the situation may dictate; and although he may
pay some acknowledgement in the shape of what we call rent to the head of
the clan, it stands more in the place of what we now call taxation for
public purposes, than a price paid for temporary occupancy under the modern
relation of landlord and tenant. Formal leases there could be none where the
right of every member of the clan to have a share in the property of the
clan was practically recognized by both parties. "And referring to the
inalienable right to security of tenure which the clansmen enjoyed, Blackie
says that the "fact that it was so is the most scientific explanation of the
belief that it is so; but the belief and the fact manifestly arose equally,
and in the most natural way possible, from the historical basis on which all
Celtic property in land originally rested, viz. on the principle that the
land belongs to the tribe, and, of course, as a rule the members of the
tribal family have a right to their portion in the common inheritance. "He
goes on to say — what, of course, is perfectly true — that the fact of this
communal ownership and inherited and inalienable security of tenure, was in
no way altered or less true because it was not mentioned in the Statute Book
or legally recognized.
* The Scottish Highlanders and the Land Laws, p.10.
2. The Clan chiefs become absolute owners of the land
In 1745, however, all this was changed in the Highlands. Up to this time the
northern glens had been thickly populated with a hardy race of clansmen,
always ready to leave their flocks and herds and to enter battle at the
bidding of their chief. But this period of freedom was to end, for, as a
result of the 1745 Rebellion, an Act was passed in 1752 annexing
inalienably to the Crown all the lands of the chiefs who had joined
in the rising, and the rents of such lands were to be used for the express
purpose of "civilizing" the inhabitants. The real effect of this measure was
that the Crown confiscated land belonging to the clansmen, for it had never
been the private property of the chiefs, and the evil results were seen in
1783* when these lands were restored to the original chieftains or their
descendants. The chieftains thus became absolute owners, in fact, of the
clan territories — an ownership with a legal backing — and the results of
this change to the country as a whole speedily became apparent.
* 24 George III, cap.57.
From that time onwards began that systematic clearance of the inhabitants from the country-side known as the "Highland clearances" — a system which was to turn vast areas of Scotland into an unfertile desert. It was to be largely a repetition of what had occurred in England in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and some striking similarities will be noted as we investigate.
3. Highland clearances begin. Sheep eat up the men
These great clearances, which brought about the depopulation of the Highland glens, were caused by much the same conditions as the enclosures of the Tudor period — that is, the rise in the price of sheep and wool and the consequent desire for large sheep-runs, causing the displacement of numbers of small tenants. Curiously enough, this system of clearing out the small tenants and replacing them with sheep was known as Improvement — a word which in England had come to mean appropriation with a view to an increase of rent, and which in the Highlands connoted the same thing.
When this system had worked itself out, and sheep had replaced the sturdy clansmen, then the price of sheep and wool fell, many sheep-farmers were ruined, and in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the sheep-farms have been to a large extent replaced by vast deer-forests and lands used entirely for sport.
4. Large and small holders alike insulted and robbed
In these clearances the peasantry, both large and small holders, were treated alike, and none of them was recognized as having any rights in the soil. There was seldom any question of compensation for deprivation of land or house, though in the majority of cases the huts and houses had been built by the peasants themselves. Notices were issued broadcast ordering them to leave on a certain day, and those who were not out by that day were forcibly ejected with their goods, and their huts burnt; and to add insult to injury, they were informed in many cases when their notices were served that arrangements had been made to emigrate them to Canada or Australia. In many cases the dispossessed peasants were actually herded on to the ships which had been provided to transport them to the Colonies. Those who refused to emigrate either endeavoured to eke out a miserable existence on barren land on the sea-shore or migrated to the towns — to Glasgow and south into England.
5. Reputable eye-witnesses and contemporaries condemn the evictions. Fertile and populous glens rendered barren and depopulated
The methods employed in carrying out these clearances in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are testified to by many eye-witnesses, and the accounts of these read more like the advance of a Turkish army in Armenia than occurrences in a civilized country in the nineteenth century. When we consider the cruelties perpetrated in dispossessing these peasants who had farmed the glens for centuries, and the hardships they suffered after eviction, all facts which are proved up to the hilt by reputable eye-witnesses, we are less disposed than ever to think that the writers of the sixteenth century in any way exaggerated when describing the methods of the great enclosers in England and the sufferings of the deprived peasants.
In the Report of the Departmental Committee on Deer Forests, 1922,* we find
this reference to the clearances: "The latter half of the eighteenth century
saw the beginning of a great change. This was the advent of the
south-country farmer with his Cheviot and Blackface stock, and the
displacement of the old population with its primitive breeds of cattle and
sheep to make way for him.... But when their action is viewed now in the
cold light of history, it is clear that the power of wholesale eviction by
private persons was one which ought never to have been permitted, and one
which was rendered doubly odious in this case by contrast with the
patriarchal relations which existed between chieftain and clansmen down to
the rising of '45.... Fair and far-sighted contemporary critics like Sir
Walter Scott condemned them out and out."†
* Cmd. 1636.
P.2 of the Report.
It is often said nowadays that farming or small holdings in the greater part of the Highlands would be impossible, that a living could not be made there owing to unfertility, and that the bulk of the land is only fit for deer forests. It is well to bear this in mind when we come to examine some of the clearances in detail, and find that these so-called wild, unfertile spots formerly nourished a happy, hardy population, which the Government called uncivilized, but of whose help they were glad in time of war.
6. The Sutherland clearances. Devastation of Strathnaver — eye-witnesses
The clearances began in Sutherland about 1807, and according to Hugh
Miller,* of the Witness (Edinburgh), "between the years 1811 and
1820, 15,000 inhabitants of this northern district were ejected from their
snug inland farms."†
* Quoted by Alex. Mackenzie in The Highland Clearances (1883).
With reference to the devastation of Strathnaver, Professor Blackie quotes
from A Tale of the Strathnaver Clearances,* written by a lady of his
acquaintance. This writer said: "My great-grandfather, being a rather
extensive landholder, was the first to suffer, and his death-warrant could
not have caused him greater dismay than the notice to quit his home. His
flocks were scattered, and had to be sold for whatever they could realize.
His house — the home of his ancestors — was burned before his eyes. His
effects were turned out to the roadside, and his wife and family left
without shelter.... The inhuman laws of men made that beautiful valley what
it now is — a wilderness.... My grandfather... about twelve miles farther
down the glen, like the rest of his kith and kin, was doomed.... The family
were shifted from one place to another, until in two years they had no less
than five removals. Ever as they went the black flood of eviction followed
them, until at last they landed, or stranded rather, on the stony braes of
Tongue. There they had to build some kind of abode and subsist as best they
could. Their eight milk cows had dwindled down to one, for they had to part
with them from time to time to obtain the bare necessaries of life."†
* Celtic Magazine, December 1883, pp.57-60. Strathnaver contained about 2,000 inhabitants.
† General Stewart of Garth, a contemporary writer, quoted by Alex. Mackenzie, said: "Over the whole of this district where the sea-shore is accessible the coast is thickly studded with thatched cottages crowded with starving inhabitants."
In 1883, while the Royal Commission was sitting, John Mackay, a civil
engineer of Hereford, took statements in Gaelic from several old people who
had been eye-witnesses of the Strathnaver clearances.* The following are
extracts from two of these, but all testify in the same strain:
* Quoted by Professor Blackie.
|"William Morrison, 89 years of age, crofter, Dalacharn, Farr. I was born at
Rossal, on Strathnaver, and remember well of seeing the following townships
"The people as a rule were, in these townships, expected to be away from their houses before those employed in burning came around.... For people to say that there was no cruelty or harshness shown the people when they were burnt off Strathnaver is a glaring lie, which no amount of flowery language can hide.
"I declare this statement of mine is true.
"Grace Macdonald, 88 years of age, Annadale, Farr. I was born on Strathnaver, in a place called Langail, and was 19 years of age when we were evicted from the Strath. I remember well the burning of the houses. I saw the following five townships burnt:
"There was no mercy or pity shown to young or old — all had to clear away, and those who could not get their effects removed in time to a safe distance had it burnt before their eyes.... The evicted people had to go down to the bleak land skirting the sea-shore, and there trench and reclaim land for themselves.
"I declare this statement of mine is true.
7. The evicted starve on the sea-shore or migrate to the towns and the Colonies. Cruelties of the factors
Hundreds of those evicted in Sutherland left the district altogether, but
for some allotments were provided on barren land by the sea-shore — land so
poor that the only chance of paying the rent demanded was by fishing.
Starving peasants were even prevented in many parts from taking the mussels
from the sea-shore. "Ancient respectable tenants, who passed the greater
part of their lives in the enjoyment of abundance and in the exercise of
hospitality and charity, possessing stocks of 10, 20, and 30 breeding cows,
with the usual proportion of other stock, are now pining on 1 or 2 acres of
bad land with 1 or 2 starved cows, and for this accommodation a calculation
is made, that they must support their families, and pay the rents of their
lots, not from the produce, but from the sea."*
* Alex. Mackenzie, p.30.
Loch, in his Sutherland Improvements,* says: "After pawning
everything they possessed to the fishermen on the coast, such as had no
cattle were reduced to come down from the hills in hundreds for the purpose
of gathering cockles on the shore. Those who lived in the more remote
situations of the county were obliged to subsist upon broth made of nettles,
thickened with a little oatmeal." This rather resembles an account of the
natives of Terra del Fuego than of the peasants of a fertile land.
From 1809 for several years there were annual evictions in Dornich, Loth,
Golspie, etc., and hundreds were ejected, the heath pasture often being
destroyed by fire to ensure their departure. The Earl of Selkirk sent many
peasants to his Red River Estates in British North America, most of whom
were eventually killed by Indians.* Kildonan, with 2,000 inhabitants, was
devastated, three families only remaining. The Rev. D. Norman Macleod,
referring to the clearances of 1809, said: "I myself ascended a height about
eleven o'clock in the evening and counted two hundred and fifty blazing
houses. The conflagration lasted six days."†
* Alex. Mackenzie, p.23.
† Quoted by Alex. Mackenzie, p.28.
Much of the cruelty exercised in these evictions was on the part of the
estate agents or factors who acted for absentee owners. Of these Blackie
says: "No despotism exercised by a Turkish Pasha over the fellahs is more
oppressive and more grinding than that which may be exercised by a Highland
factor in remote districts, acting for an absentee landlord." And what the
Rev. T.M. Davidson, a minister of the Established Church in Skye, said of
Skye at this time might, from all the evidence at our disposal, be said of
the rest of the Highlands: "If he makes a complaint he can get no redress.
There is no law in Skye."*
* Quoted by Blackie.
8. The clearing of Knoydart and Strathglass. Destruction of crops and property
Donald Ross, an eye-witness of the clearance of Knoydart,* described this
occurrence in 1853. The whole district was cleared, houses burnt or
levelled, and many of the inhabitants shipped off to North America. He
writes: "The scene was rendered more painful as the Strath was dotted with
stacks of corn, large plots of potatoes, and with grass that could be easily
mowed down with the scythe. But the voice of man was gone — he was not to be
found. The crop was there, but strangers owned it.... There is something
most melancholy in connection with the entire removal of a people from an
inhabited and cultivated district.... The decree is tantamount to
interdicting the command of the Most High, who said to man,'Go, replenish
the earth, and subdue it.'... Last spring all the crofters on the Glengarry
estates in Knoydart were served with summonses of removal, accompanied with
a verbal message from Mrs. Macdonell and her factor, that Sir John Macneil,
Chairman of the Board of Supervision, Edinburgh, had agreed to convey them
all to Australia.... The state of the neighbouring properties was such that
they could not expect one inch of land thereon — no, not even one night's
shelter.... The ship came to Isle Oransay, and Mrs. Macdonell and her factor
came to Knoydart, and saw the families carried across in boats, and put on
board. The scene at this time was indescribable." When these families had
gone the work of demolition began. "The uninhabited houses were levelled
first, then the houses of those who refused to go on board the ship to
Canada.... The inmates were ordered out, and their articles of furniture
were thrown out after them; beds, chairs, tables, pots, stoneware, clothing,
were all thrown topsy-turvy down the hill.... Clouds of dust rose to the
skies, while men, women, and children stood at a distance completely
dismayed. What took them years to collect and erect was destroyed and
scattered in a few minutes."†
† Quoted by Blackie, pp.67-70.
Referring to Strathglass, Alexander Mackenzie writes: "Another chief's
widow... who died in 1788 gave the whole of Glencruaich as a sheep-farm to
one south-country shepherd, and to make room for him she evicted over 500
people from their ancient homes."* He also states that in 1801 Strathglass
was cleared almost to a man, 799 leaving for Nova Scotia. In 1802, 473 left
the same district for Upper Canada and 128 for Nova Scotia. In this year
also 550 left Knoydart.
*Alex. Mackenzie, p.187.
9. The "weeding-out" of peasants in Ross-shire. Loss of hill-pasture causes ruin of crofters
A special commissioner of The Times, reporting in 1845* on the Ardgay
district, Ross-shire, said: "Let me add that so far from the clearance at
Glencalive being a solitary instance in this neighbourhood, it is one of
many. The tenants of Newmore, near Tain, who, I am told, amount to sixteen
families, are to be weeded out (as they express it here) on the 25th by the
same Mr. Gillanders. The same factor manages the Strathconon estate, about
thirty miles from Newmore, from which during the last four years some
hundreds of families have been weeded out."
* May 15th. Quoted by Alex. Mackenzie.
Of Strathconon Alexander Mackenzie writes: "From 1840 to 1848 Strathconon
was almost entirely cleared of its ancient inhabitants to make room for
sheep and deer, as in other places, and also for purposes of extensive
forest plantations.... The factor, Mr. Rose... began by taking away, first,
the extensive hill pasture, for generations held as club-farms by the
townships, thus reducing the people from a position of comfort and
independence; and secondly as we saw done elsewhere, finally evicting them
from the arable portion of the strath, though they were not a single penny
in arrear of rent.... No fewer than twenty-seven families were evicted from
Glen Meine alone.... It is computed that from four to five hundred souls
were thus driven from Strathconon and cast adrift on the world.... In most
instances where they settled down and reclaimed land, they were afterwards
re-evicted, and the lands brought into cultivation by themselves taken from
them, without any compensation whatever, and given at enhanced rents to
large farmers. This is specially true of those who settled in the Black
Isle, where they reclaimed a great deal of waste, now making some of the
best farms in the district."*
* Alex. Mackenzie, pp.144-6. Ibid., p.150.
We are told that between 1851 and 1863, 2,231 had to leave the Isle of
Lewis. At Leckmelm, in the parish of Loch-broom, a Mr. Price, who had bought
the estate in 1879, in the following year "took away every inch of land —
arable and pastoral — into his own hands, and thus by one cruel stroke
reduced a comfortable tenantry from comparative affluence and independence
to the position of mere cottars and day labourers, absolutely dependent for
subsistence on his own will and the likes and dislikes of his
* Alex. Mackenzie, p.150.
Immediately hill-pasture, which was usually used in common, was taken the crofters were doomed.
10. Evictions in the Hebrides — the clearing of Skye
Referring to the islands and the Hebrides, Alexander Mackenzie quotes the
Rev. John MacMillan, Free Church Minister of the parish:* "Thus it was that
about the year 1808 the stream of Highland soldiery, which had been
gradually ebbing, gave symptoms of running completely dry.... From the
mainland the work of destruction passed rapidly to the isles. These remote
resting-places of the Celt were quickly cleared; during the first ten years
of the great war Skye had given 4,000 of its sons to the army. It has been
computed that 1,600 Skyemen stood in the ranks at Waterloo. To-day in Skye,†
far as the eye can reach, nothing but a bare brown waste is to be seen,
where still the mounds and ruined gables rise over the melancholy
landscapes, sole vestiges of a soldier race for ever passed away."*
* Alex. Mackenzie, p.157.
† Population: 1841, 23,082; 1911, 12,719; 1921, 11,031.
In 1849 Lord Macdonald arranged the eviction of 600-700 persons from Sollas, North Uist, and although there was much opposition, they were all evicted in the following year. Between 1851 and 1853 the villages of Boreraig and Suisimish, Skye, were cleared, forty-two families being turned adrift, many of whom died on board the emigrant ship. From Colonel Gordon's estates in South Uist and Barra some 1,100 persons were compelled to emigrate, and some of those who attempted to escape to the hills were hunted down.
11. Sheep displace men in the small islands
The Rev. Donald Maclean, minister of the parish of Small Isles, referring to
the Isle of Rum in an article in The New Statistical Account, said:*
"In 1826 all the inhabitants of the Island of Rum, amounting at least
to 400 souls, found it necessary to leave their native land and to seek for
new abodes in the distant wilds of our colonies in America.... A similar
emigration took place in 1828 from the Isle of Muck, so that the parish has
now become much depopulated." In 1831 this parish contained 1,015 people,
although previously its population was larger. In 1851 it had fallen to 916,
and in 1881 to 550. In 1881 the population of Rum was only 89.
* Quoted by Alex. Mackenzie, pp.222-3.
Hugh Miller described the Isle of Rum as follows: "We could see among the deserted fields the grass-grown foundations of cottages razed to the ground; but the valley, more desolate than that which we had left, had not even its single inhabited dwelling; it seemed as if man had done with it for ever. The island, eighteen years before, had been divested of its inhabitants, amounting at the time to rather more than 400 souls, to make way for one sheep-farmer and 8,000 sheep. All the aborigines of Rum crossed the Atlantic; and, at the close of 1828, the entire population consisted of but the sheep-farmers and a few shepherds, his servants: the Isle of Rum reckoned up scarce a single family at this period for every five miles of area which it contained."
12. The depopulation of Argyllshire — peasants become paupers
Mr. Somervill, of Lochgilphead, writing of the evictions in Argyllshire,
says:* "The work of eviction commenced by giving, in many cases, to the
ejected population facilities and pecuniary aid for emigration, but now the
people are turned adrift, penniless and shelterless, to seek a precarious
subsistence on the sea-board, in the nearest hamlet or village, and in the
cities, many of whom sink down helpless paupers on our poor roll; and others
festering in our villages form a formidable Arab population, who drink our
money contributed as parish relief." This same writer speaks of a stretch of
nine miles of country on the west side of Loch Awe, which formerly was
divided between forty-five farms, but was at that time rented by one person
* Quoted by Alex. Mackenzie, p.227.
A deputation from the Glasgow Highland Relief Board visited the Isles of
Argyll in 1849, and the particulars they g;ve in their Report enable us to
make some useful comparisons.* The Census figures for Mull show the
population in 1821 as 10,612; in 1841 as 10,064; in 1871 as 6,441; and in
1881 as 5,624. In 1921 the population was only 3,389. The deputation
reported great distress at Tobermory, where the evicted tenants were
congregated. The population of Ulva in 1840 was 360; in 1881 only 51; and in
1921 it was 45. In 1849 the population of Iona was 500; in 1881 it had
fallen to 243; and in 1921 it was 234. The population of the Isle of Coll
fell from 1,193 in 1755 to 1,162 in 1801; to 643 in 1881; and by 1921 it had
fallen to 383.
* Alex. Mackenzie, p.228.
13. The population of Argyllshire decreases and pauperism increases
There were many evictions between 1828 and 1853 in Ardnamurchan, and much good arable land was given over to sheep and deer. In one place 3,000 acres were divested of crofters to make room for one sheep-farm. In 1831 the parish of Morwen contained 2,137 persons, and in 1881 only 714. Macleod stated that when the population was 2,000 the parish received £11 per annum from Church funds for the poor, and in 1863, under the Poor Law, upwards of £600 annually.
Glenorchy, where the Marquis of Breadalbane was sole proprietor, had 1,806
inhabitants in 1831 and 831 in 1841. On this owner's Perthshire estates,
between 1834 and 1853, some 500 families were removed. Taking the population
for the whole county of Argyll* we find that it has varied as follows:
* See 1921 Census, County of Argyll, p.245. In 19 of the 28 mainland parishes and in all the insular parishes the population is at least 30% less than the maximum of any previous Census. In 9 instances there is a loss of 70% or more. The population is less than any Census between 1801 and 1861.
1831 ... 100,973 (of which rural population was about 85,973)
1881 ... 76,468 (of which rural population was about 46,081)
1911 ... 70,902 (of which rural population was about 48,419)
1921 ... 76,862 (of which rural population was about 46,751)
The following figures show an interesting comparison:
|Amount spent for|
||1846 || ...
||1881 || ...||£900,000
Thus we see that pauperism grew during this period nine times faster than population.
14. Land monopoly in Scotland causes depopulation and great restriction of opportunities for employment
We thus see that in Scotland, as in England, land had become monopolized in
the hands of a few, the majority being dispossessed and compelled to compete
for a livelihood in the crowded towns or to emigrate to the Colonies. It
will be found that in the counties of Perth, Argyll, Inverness,* Ross and
Cromarty, and Sutherland† the great majority of the parishes had a smaller
population in 1911, and even in 1921, than they had in 1831.
* Inverness — Population 1911, 87,272; 1921, 82,455.
† Sutherland — Population 1911, 20,179; 1921, 17,802.
The opportunities for employment were curtailed in Scotland to an even greater extent than they had been by the enclosures in England; for in Scotland vast areas of the land from which the peasants were evicted came to be used, as we shall see, solely for sport. Not only were the dispossessed deprived of employment, but others were shut out from the natural opportunities which they had formerly utilized.
15. Sheep give place to deer. Great increase in area of deer forests
We have now to inquire into the results of these great clearances in the Highlands, and to ascertain the condition and appearance of the country when they had been carried out.
After 1850 the value of wool began to decline, a decline which became more
rapid after 1874. The value of sheep also declined rapidly after 1884, and
the result of this fall was that from 1850 onwards deer forests
increased rapidly at the expense of sheep-farms, and by 1892 the rents of
sheep-farms had fallen by some 50%.*
* See Report of Departmental Committee on Deer Forests (1922).
The total acreage of Scotland is 19,070,466 acres. In 1891* the area devoted
to deer forests and exclusively to sport was 2,585,973 acres.
* Parliamentary Return: Deer Forests, etc.
Deer forests alone in the six Highland counties in 1883 covered 1,711,892
acres, and in 1898,* 2,287,297 acres. In 1904 the figures for the same
counties were 2,920,097 acres, and in 1908,† 2,958,490 acres.
* Return of Deer Forests in Six Highland Counties, 1899.
† Parliamentary Paper 220, 1908.
The total area of deer forests and land used for sporting purposes was in
1908, 3,519,678 acres, and in 1911,* 3,599,744 acres, or about one-fifth of
the total acreage of the country. The area given for deer forests in 1920†
is 3,432,385 acres, but apparently this figure does not include land, other
than deer forests, used exclusively for sport. Taking, therefore, this fact
into consideration, and also that owners are not compelled to furnish
returns, and that large areas returned as agricultural or pasture are often
used exclusively for sporting purposes, it is probable that the area of deer
forests and sporting lands is nearer 4,000,000 acres.
* Deer Forests and Sporting Lands (Scotland), Parliamentary Paper 538, 1913.
† Cmd. 1636.
If we compare the increase of deer forests, etc., in some individual counties the figures are striking:
|Ross and Cromarty||812,819||795,545||927,854|
The Deer Forest Report of 1911 tells us that there were some 200 deer forests, ranging in extent from 100 acres to 110,000 acres.
16. The spread of deer forests causes loss to neighbouring farmers and general decay and desolation
There is abundant evidence in all Government and other Reports of the harm
this extension of deer forests has done both to the land so used and to
neighbouring farms. It is the policy of the deer forest owner to render the
whole district comprised within the forest area, and also the neighbouring
land, as desolate as possible, in order that the deer may not be disturbed.
As the deer were replacing the sheep, the leases of sheep and other farms
were not renewed or were terminated with compensation before the end of
their term. At the same time houses and farm buildings have been allowed to
fall into decay, and in this way vast tracts have been completely denuded of
men in order that the deer may flourish. As the Report of the Land Inquiry
Committee (Scotland) states:* "The value of a deer forest tends to be
inversely in proportion to the number of people located on it or in its
vicinity." And with reference to the effect of the encroaching of the deer on
farm-land, the Report adds: "In addition to the utilization of this land for
the purposes of this costly sport it is to be remembered that throughout the
area devoted to deer forests there is serious deterioration in drainage, in
the quality of the grass grown on the land, etc. This is borne out by the
fact that throughout these areas there are many remains of small houses and
evidences of land which formerly was cultivated, but has steadily
depreciated ever since it has been given over exclusively to sport.... On
the eviction of the crofters, their patches of cultivated ground for many
years grew luxuriant herbage, but gradually the ground has gone back to the
more or less barren state in which it was before reclaimed by the
17. Much deer forest land suitable for crofts
It has been seen that large areas of land now under deer forests were
formerly fertile crofts, and in addition thousands of acres have been
rendered useless for crofts owing to the loss of the hill-pasture, which in
the Highlands is usually essential to the success of a small holding.* The
Royal Commission (Highlands and Islands) reported in 1895 that in the six
Highland counties there were 1,782,785 acres of land used for sporting or
grazing purposes which were quite suitable for small holdings; and in
proceedings under the Crofters Commission portions of deer forests have
often been assigned for small holdings.
* "The fact is that these higher altitudes supply only the summer grazing for the deer, and the deer winter on the low grounds and are often fed by the keepers. Indeed, as a matter of fact, a Highland sheep will survive where a deer will perish" (Scotland, p.186).
A vast amount of damage is done to crops on farms near deer or grouse
preserves, and it is stated that in some parts the owners arrange with
tenant farmers to keep only a portion of the possible sheep-stock in the
interests of game-rearing.*
* Scotland, p.165.
18. Government Reports testify to enormous damage done by deer and small game. Tillage continues to decrease
The Report of the Departmental Committee on Deer Forests, 1922, and both the Majority and Minority Reports of the Game and Heather Burning (Scotland) Committee, 1921, agree that deer forests cause a vast amount of damage annually to crops, and that small holders are the greatest sufferers, as their farms are usually at higher altitudes and fringe the game moors.
The Majority Report of the latter Committee states: "That the damage
caused by deer to crops and grazing land is widespread and serious is
clearly established by the statements of numerous witnesses."* Mr. James
Scott, S.S.C., in the Minority Report† writes: "The 'unhealthiness'
has reached this point, that farmers have their crops eaten up wholesale,
their grazings ruined, and they themselves harassed and impoverished to a
degree which makes one wonder whether the evidence adduced related to some
wild and semi-civilized country instead of Scotland. Evidence bearing out
this description to the letter was given not only by small holders, but also
by large farmers, by a member of the Land Court, by executive officers and
† This Report only differs from the Majority Report in the remedies proposed.
"The evidence submitted to the Committee satisfied me that the damage done
by winged game, and particularly by grouse, pheasants, and black game, is
great, and results in serious loss of food supplies. Some idea of the
possible culprits in causing damage may be obtained from the fact that about
3,000,000 grouse* alone are killed every year on Scottish moors."†...
* See Majority Report, par.63: "Grouse do considerable damage to corn crops on upland farms adjoining moors in late harvests, when the corn, on account of wet weather, cannot be expeditiously ingathered."
"There has recently been published by the Board of Agriculture a statement
as to the numbers of live-stock in Scotland, based on returns made on June
4, 1920. The statement shows an alarming state of affairs. Cattle have
decreased by 63,925, or 5.2%. The numbers of sheep are the lowest recorded
since the returns were first collected over fifty years ago, being 49,111
below last year's figures, and more than half-a-million below the
decennial average.*... The acreage under wheat shows a
decrease of 25,150 acres, and is the lowest recorded since 1913. The acreage
under oats shows a further decline, the decrease this year being 78,613
acres, or 7.08%."†
19. Great possibilities of afforestation in Scotland
The question of afforestation is a very important one for Scotland, where,
according to the Royal Commission on Coast Erosion and Afforestation,* some
6,000,000 acres, or nearly one-third of the total area, might be afforested.
This Report points out that the United Kingdom is the most poorly afforested
country in Europe,† but the best suited to the growth of timber trees, both
by reason of soil, climate and lack of certain insect pests. But as with
agriculture in Great Britain, so with afforestation, "the sylvicultural
details have to be accommodated to the hunting and shooting, and trees must
be taken down in different places to make cover for foxes, and so on."‡ In
Scotland deer do great damage to the trees, and through neglect poor quality
* Cd.4460, 1909.
† Percentage of land occupied by forests:
Scotland ... 4.6 | Holland
England ... 5.3 | France
Denmark ... 7.2 | Germany
The Commission considers that afforestation might be a useful subsidiary
industry, and refers to its financial success in Germany. The Report of the
Land Inquiry Committee quotes an example of the economy of a German forest
in the Spessart given by Sir John Stirling Maxwell:* "The forest extends to
10,000 acres, and attached to it are about 3,000 acres of agricultural land.
This area of 13,000 acres would... in the Highlands compose one small deer
forest or a couple of fairly large sheep-farms.... As two sheep-farms it
would support two tenants and at most 13 shepherds, or 15 families in all.
Divided among a number of smaller tenants it might... support at most some
60 families." In Germany the permanent staff in this forest consists of a
head forester and clerk, 6 forest guards, 10 unskilled workmen, and 25 other
men who find employment all the year round as contractors. There is thus
permanent employment for 43 men. In addition there are 80 woodcutters
employed for about 6 months, 70 women and children for about 2 months on
nursery planting, etc., and 260 men employed in forest industries. The
forest and its industries thus provide constant employment for 303 men,
besides the 80 men employed for 6 months and the 70 women and children. The
total population of the area affected by the forest is 2,500, and of these
some 1,520 are directly dependent on the forest, the remainder being small
tradesmen, saddlers, smiths, and workers in small agricultural industries.
20. Forestry a subsidiary industry for the small holder. Large and increasing market for timber
Referring to the great benefits which sylviculture would bring to the small holder, the Royal Commission reports: "It is precisely when the small holder has leisure that sylviculture is most insistent on a supply of labour, and it is therefore not surprising that your Commissioners have had much evidence placed before them of the natural relationship that exists between small holdings and forestry. And similarly with regard to the relationship of forestry and agriculture.... Most of the witnesses examined were emphatic in maintaining that forestry promised to be a powerful agency in stemming the tide of rural depopulation and in attracting back to the country men and families who have migrated to the towns."
The Departmental Committee on Deer Forests (1922), referring to the area afforested between 1892 and 1912, reports: "We are satisfied that, even at the prices then current, a considerable part of the area afforested at this period could have been farmed at a profit after paying a moderate rent." And the Report adds: "This additional area includes a better class of land than the older forests, and embraces large tracts of first-class summer grazing from which the sheep stock had been removed for the reasons above given."
A paper on afforestation read at the Ordinary General Meeting of the
Surveyors' Institute in June 1923 contains some interesting comments on
British Forestry. The following is an extract from this paper:* "Our
woodlands are at zero because Britain has hitherto been content to think in
trees and not in forests. We possess less growing timber than any kingdom or
dominion — in fact, our woodlands are infinitesimal and our reserve of
growing trees the most meagre in the world. It is doubtful if the marketable
woodlands in the country cover 3,500 square miles.... It appears to me that
there never was a time when the prospect of a reasonable financial return
was better than now. For five hundred years or more the virgin forests of
the world have been exploited or destroyed, and for every 100,000 acres of
virgin forest which has disappeared, less than 1 acre has been restored or
replanted. While this encroachment on timber reserves has been in progress
the world-demand for wood has increased with the population as well as
through the more extensive uses found for it. In 1851 we used 3.5 cubic feet
of imported timber per head. In 1911 the consumption per head was 10.5 cubic
feet. Raw wood is now used in 1,500 different ways."
* Journal of the Surveyors' Institution, September 1923.
21. Rural depopulation continues and emigration increases
The Report of the Scottish Land Inquiry Committee shows that rural
depopulation has proceeded in Scotland as in England, and in many districts
in a much more wholesale fashion. The counties of Argyll, Berwick, Perth,
and Sutherland had in 1911 a smaller population than in 1801; and in 533 of
the 874 parishes of Scotland the population was in 1911 smaller than in
1901. The Report states: "The drain of emigration has been most severe among
the younger members of the rural community, and already the loss of so many
of the best of the younger rural workers has attained the proportion of a
national calamity. There has been witnessed the complete obliteration of
large numbers of rural homes which, from time immemorial, have been the
source from which has come a large proportion of the men who have achieved
at home and abroad, in the practice of war and in peaceful pursuits, those
distinctions which have gained for the Scottish race a proud reputation all
over the world."* Emigration to non-European countries rose as follows:
1909 ... ... ... 33,366
1910 ... ... ... 58,384
1911 ... ... ... 61,328
In 1878 English emigrants formed 64% of the total from the United Kingdom and Scottish 10%, but in 1911, while the English percentage was 65%, the Scottish had risen to 19%. The Committee was informed throughout Scotland that the chief reasons for this emigration were "the lack of opportunities of access to rural land at home and the absence of the prospects of a career on it." In combating the view that it is town pleasures that attract the people from the country, the Committee point out that the majority of those who emigrate go to parts of the Colonies much farther removed from town life than any part of the Highlands would be.
22. Decline in number of agricultural workers and increase in gamekeepers
The following figures show the decline in the number of rural workers and the increase in the number of gamekeepers:
Number of persons (male and female) engaged in Agriculture
(all persons except female relatives of farmers engaged in
work on the farm and farmers' sons Under fifteen years):
1871 ... ... ... 254,842
1881 ... ... ... 240,131
1891 ... ... ... 213,060
1901 ... ... ... 204,183
1911 ... ... ... 199,083
This shows a decrease of 22%.
This shows a decrease of 32%.
The following includes all persons (male and female) aged ten years and upwards occupied in the specified classes:
|| Number returned ||Decrease
|| Number returned ||Increase
| 1881-1911 |
| 1881-1911 |
23. Conversion of arable to pasture and pasture to sporting land continues. Sporting land rapidly deteriorates
In Scotland, as in England, we find the continued conversion of arable land to pasture in addition to the conversion of pasture to deer forest. In 1912 the arable land covered 3,325,027 acres and permanent grass 1,496,307 acres, the two together comprising about 25% of the total area. Between 1882 and 1911 the arable area decreased by 251,375 acres, 123,000 acres being withdrawn from arable between 1901 and 1911. Permanent grass increased by 400,000 acres between 1870 and 1910.
Depopulation and the increase of sport has led to a great deterioration of
land of all classes and to the decay of houses. The Land Inquiry Committee
states: "We find also that there has been much deterioration of land through
growth-of bracken, rough grass, heather, etc. This has been most notable in
the case of land that is used very largely for sporting purposes. With the
reduction of the resident population and of sheep stocks and cattle in the
interest of sport, there has proceeded a great increase in the growth of
rough grass, heather, bracken, etc., so that, as a result, large areas are
now losing much of their value for the carrying of sheep and cattle. In the
deer forests also, where there are no sheep stocks, there is great
deterioration of the grasses on the lower lands, large tracts of which
formerly under cultivation now grow what is known as 'fent.'"*
The replies from all districts justify this report, the following being
typical of many: (Inverness-shire*) — "All the land on the fourteen farms
in------Deer Forest, from which the tenants were evicted, is now well grown
over with heather. The arable land was as good as any in the parish. The
occupiers of the farms, who, with their families, numbered 119 individuals,
depended largely on the excellent pasture, which carried 10,000 sheep, 200
head of cattle, and 20 horses. The occupants now are 5 keepers, with 4
ghillies for the season, and the annual output now is about 100 stags and
24. The evil of the "led" farm
There is a form of ingrossing and consolidation of farms known as the "led"
farm system, which is especially rampant in the southern part of Scotland.
This is a system under which a farm is let to a farmer who does not reside
on it for grazing purposes only, with the natural result that houses and
buildings on the "led" farm fall into decay, and the land rapidly
deteriorates. The Report of the Inquiry Committee states: "The 'led' farm
has generally a dilapidated appearance, the tenant of a 'led' farm being
content, as a rule, with a little less profit per acre, so that cultivation
is not so thorough, and further deterioration of the holding continues often
The Committee further describes this system as one "which lays great areas
of the country-side practically derelict, extinguishes the business of the
local tradesmen and shopkeepers and all who are dependent on the economic
life of the district, reduces the number of homesteads, and withdraws the
land from better utilization in agricultural production — in short, stifles
all possibility of the normal maintenance of the life and activity of the
locality, and conduces to still further rural decay.... In many districts,
particularly in the south-east, the complaints are very loud, and the
picture of the depleted country-side, with many farm buildings in ruins, is
quoted as a standing condemnation of the system."*
The evil of the "led" farm is testified to by witnesses from many counties.
A reply from Aberdeen states:* "There are 26 holdings in the outlaying
parish and 10 in this area that have gone out of existence of recent years;
the houses have fallen into decay and the land has been added to other
There is a strong feeling in the parish against this practice, and when a small holding comes into the market there is a keen demand for it."
25. Great unsatisfied demand for small holdings
Throughout Scotland there is, and for a long time has been, a great
unsatisfied demand for small holdings or crofts, and where access to land
can be obtained, the Scotch farmer, famous for his efficiency, succeeds in
making a living. The Report of the Royal Commission on the Highlands and
Islands* provided a mass of evidence from all parts as to the great land
hunger and the possibility of making a comfortable living on crofts which
might be carved out of the various deer forests. Witnesses from all parts
gave evidence as to the larger population and lack of pauperism before sheep
and deer turned out men.
John G. Mackay, a merchant of Portree, said:* "I wish to show that before
the introduction of these changes the people of this country were in a state
of comparative comfort, that since that time the population has been
gradually but speedily reduced, and that in adverse ratio as the
population was being reduced pauperism increased to an alarming extent....
Skye before the introduction of sheep-farming was able to maintain a much
larger population than at present, and that almost entirely on its own
resources.... Skye in its present state would not maintain itself for two
months of the year."
* Vol.i, p.2.
Donald Macrae, a crofter of Raasay, presented a statement on behalf of the
tenants:* "Townships in Raasay are, and unless relieved will remain, in a
condition of chronic poverty because:
* Ibid., p.17.
26. Crofters prefer to be tenants with security of tenure rather than owners
As in England, so in Scotland, small holders do not wish to purchase, but
prefer to be tenants with security of tenure. The Inquiry Committee,*
referring to the Small Landholders Act, 1911, say that by 1913 "25,000
persons have secured fixity of tenure... and 700 are in course of getting
small holdings." But here again those who seek to replace men on the land
are continually being thwarted by the land monopoly, by the owner who
objects to the presence of crofters and demands a prohibitive price for his
land. On this point the Inquiry Committee say: "In many districts where few
persons have made applications for new holdings, we are satisfied that if
new holdings were, in fact, made there would be many more applicants for
them.... They see no immediate prospect of getting a holding, and they
rather shrink from placing themselves in the position of being applicants
for something which does not exist. They have an idea very frequently that
it will damage them in their existing occupations."†
Aberdeen is a county of small holdings, the number of holdings in 1913*
being 10,952 of an average size of 57.3 acres. This county contains the
largest number of arable acres in Great Britain except Lincolnshire and
Norfolk. Compared with the three south-eastern counties, we find that,
although its cultivated area is only 25% more, it had nearly four times the
number of farmers and bailiffs.
27. How land monopoly has killed the Government Settlement Scheme
The Report of the Scottish Board of Agriculture for 1921 shows us how
difficult it is to get access to some of the Highland territories which so
many people are in the habit of calling worthless. The Report states: "Heavy
outlays have to be incurred in acquiring Highland pastoral lands, including
the cost of acquisition of sporting rights* over the land and also of
taking over sheep stocks which are in most cases acclimatised† and bound to
* These formerly belonged to the clansmen.
† I.e. payment must be made for climate.
"Descendants of crofters who were removed some generations ago from the island of Raasay left Rona, erected houses on Raasay and took possession of and cultivated land there.... The Board had opened negotiations in the year 1919 for a scheme of land settlement in Raasay, but... inability to agree with the owners as to price prevented progress."
"The case of Raasay is a striking illustration. It was recognized that the circumstances of the applicants were necessitous, and had it been possible to provide for them at a reasonable cost, a scheme would long ago have been in operation; but to proceed... was impossible except at a prohibitive cost."
"The terms on which the Board can now acquire the land... are still such that they can be justified only by the exceptional circumstances of the case. If similar terms had to be arranged generally in schemes of land settlement the funds available for the settlement of ex-Service men would fall far short of meeting the demand."
Comment on the above would be superfluous. It is obvious how such a system restricts the opportunities for employment and causes widespread poverty and unemployment.
Referring to the western islands, the Inquiry Committee say: "It is astonishing how these men in the islands can make productive use of the least favoured land, often unreclaimed moorland — land which would be regarded as valueless by the average small holder in England."
28. Loss of production caused by deer forests
The Reports of the Departmental Committee on Deer Forests (1922) and the Game and Heather Burning (Scotland) Committee, 1921, furnish figures to show what might be produced in the way of meat and wool if deer were replaced by sheep. One sheep is given to every 5 acres, and the carcases are reckoned as if immediately slaughtered. At this rate, if the deer-forest area of 1912 had been under sheep, it would have produced:
|1,834 tons of meat, worth||...||£169,050|
|2,455,747 lb. of wool, worth||...||94,648|
|Skins to value of||...||34,324|
|Total value at that time||...||£298,022|
|1920 figures, total value||...||£512,996|
Mr. James Scott, in his Minority Report, quotes the Ministry of Food as authority for saying that the meat consumed in Scotland in the first twelve months of the rationing period was 97,361 tons, and that an expert witness had estimated the total weight of all kinds of game at 2,225 tons. It had also been estimated by a witness before the Napier Commission in 1884 that the weight of meat provided by deer amounted to one-fifth of the mutton displaced.
29. The possibilities of water power in the Highlands
The water power resources of the Highlands appear to be very large, and Mr.
Newlands, the chief engineer of the Highland Railway Company, estimated that
it would be possible to develop some 500,000 horse power — a power which, at
a small cost, would provide a large population with light and heat. Again
such a development is prevented by land monopoly. "The absence of a
considerable resident population operates against the larger utilization of
water power. The inducement to locate new industries utilizing water power
in other countries has been strengthened largely by the presence of a very
considerable resident population. There is difficulty in obtaining access to
land for the purpose of small industries on account of the opposition of the
proprietors of the land, who are unwilling to depreciate its present value
as sporting preserve by allowing small industries and small centres of
population to grow up. It is reported that several schemes for utilizing
water power have been rendered abortive owing to the difficulty of obtaining
access to the necessary land."*
* Inquiry Committee (Scotland), p.248.
THE MINERAL MONOPOLY
1. Land tenure and mineral resources. The available supply of coal
The nature of the tenure of land does not, of course, affect only land used for agriculture or building, but land in the economic sense, all the natural physical resources of the country, not only the surface of the earth, but all the mineral resources contained therein. The mineral resources comprise not only coal-mines, but all metallic ore-mines, quarries, brickyards, etc. It would be impossible and also unnecessary to deal in detail here with the various kinds of minerals; but as tenure affects them all in a similar way, it is proposed to deal chiefly with coal and mining in general, and to examine what is said on the subject in the Reports of the Acquisition and Valuation of Land Committee (Mines and Minerals), 3rd Report, 1919, and also in the Reports of the Coal Industry Commission, 1919.
Coal and iron are at the basis of the manufacturing industries of this country, and the building trade is, among others, vitally affected by the accessibility and the prices of bricks, slates, cement, metals, etc.
With regard to coal, there would appear to be no shortage of the supply, for, according to the Final Report of the Coal Conservation Committee, 1918: "Professor H.S. Jevons (1915)... gives 197,000,000,000 tons as a maximum quantity within 4,000 feet from the surface. Adopting this as an outside estimate, and deducting 15% on account of 'pit wastage' — i.e. coal which is left for one reason or another in the workings — we obtain a new figure for actually available coal at the surface of (say) 168,000,000,000 tons, or (say) 580 times our present annual output."
2. Land tenure and the loss of minerals to the community. Report of Acquisition and Valuation of Land Committee
The Acquisition and Valuation of Land Committee in their 3rd Report, dealing with mines and minerals, collect together causes of the loss to the nation of its mineral resources — losses, they add, which may result in the permanent loss of the minerals in question. These causes, which we set out in extenso, are as follows:
With reference to par. (v) above, the Report adds: "For example, a trustee has no power to grant an option, and a tenant for life for the purposes of the Settled Land Acts is under a similar disability, since in the exertion of his powers under these Acts he is in a position analogous to that of a trustee. Options have, for many years, been frequently adopted in the development of land, and we think that the disability in this respect of trustees and tenants for life might be removed with considerable advantage. It also sometimes, though rarely, happens that a tenant for life cannot utilize the provisions of the Settled Land Acts in order to grant a mining lease, and consequently an application to the court is necessary in order to enable a lease to be granted by the trustees. This procedure entails expense and delay."
3. The mineral monopoly. Corroborative evidence in the Report of the Coal Industry Commission
The Report of this Committee is a very strong indictment of the system of
land tenure in this country, a system which, as the Report shows, enables a
few men to say whether or no minerals shall be procured at all, and if so,
at what price. It is also shown how indirectly this system leads to large
areas of minerals being untouched and so permanently lost to the nation.
Moreover, the owners of mineral lands not only possess these powers, but
they often exercise them, either in prohibiting the digging of minerals
altogether, in delaying their development, or by charging unreasonable
terms. When a cheap and abundant supply of minerals is urgently needed, it
is obvious that any obstacle in the way of procuring these raw materials
from the various mines and quarries is a plain source of unemployment.*
* Unemployment not only for those who might be procuring the minerals, but for those who depend on these minerals in other industries.
In the Report of the Coal Industry Commission we find much evidence supporting the findings of the Acquisition and Valuation of Land Committee, and evidence which goes to show that the system of tenure of mineral-bearing land results in unemployment.
4. The Chief Inspector of Mines and the difficulty of access to minerals on account of private ownership
Sir Richard Redmayne, K.C.B., H.M. Chief Inspector of Mines, in giving
evidence before the Commission, said:* "In the early days of the Control of
Coal-Mines cases were brought to my notice where the inability to obtain
powers by colliery owners to work minerals was leading to loss of output.
The difficulty in the way in most cases was either (1) due to the refusal of
the owners of the minerals to treat; or (2) the fact that the ownership of
the minerals was unknown; or (3) the subdivision of the area into very small
ownerships whereby the cost of negotiating a lease in the ordinary way was
prohibitive and out of proportion to the value of the coal to be won or
* Vol.ii. of the Report, June 1919, p.1154.
Further on he states: "A number of cases have been brought to my notice of either absolute refusal to lease mines, or the demand of prohibitive and unreasonable terms, even where no grounds for asserting that mineral support was essential, existed. I venture to say that an examination of the majority of colliery plans would show cases where coal had been left unworked for one or other of the reasons given above, resulting in an absolute loss of coal for ever. I have one case in mind at the present time of divided ownership of minerals where one joint owner out of five is preventing coal being leased and the main headings of a colliery are standing at the coal in question.... Expense is incurred in so rearranging the workings as to cut round these areas, and this further involves loss of output."
Sir Richard then gives another example of how output is restricted: "A common source of trouble arises from the fact that with ownership in detached areas the whole of a mineral owner's property is leased to one colliery company, with the result that trade jealousy may prevent that company extending facilities for working of certain areas on proper terms to an adjoining colliery in whose mining area they exist. I have knowledge at the present time of a case where a colliery company have shortly to give up possession of the lease of an area now forming part of their royalty, which has been leased along with other properties to an adjoining colliery. The present lessees have to withdraw their rails and leave their present roads, although the area they are working will not be accessible to the new lessees for twenty or thirty years, and in some cases the coal to be left is actually surrounded by goaf and is of such extent that it will probably never be worked by the newcomers, though accessible to the present lessees. I maintain that such cases as these constitute grave national losses, and cannot be defended on any economic grounds."
5. Unnecessary barriers and penalties for letting down surface result in great loss of coal to the community
Sir Richard refers to the vast amount of coal lost through unnecessary barriers between mines, and the large areas left through fear of disturbing the surface. This coal has often to be paid for, though it can never be touched. On the subject of barriers he says: "Barriers separating royalties vary from 40 to 100 yards in width. A consolidation of royalties doing away with the necessity for boundaries for any but engineering purposes would bring a great part of the coal now so left into the market. The late Sir George Elliot estimated that this would, together with the saving in coal at present consumed in working circuitous haulages occasioned by these barriers, add 10% to the annual output (1893)."
With reference to surface support he says: "I maintain that where the damage
is likely to be considerable some graduation of the price of the coal should
be made, as the custom now is the royalty owners not only often obtain
payment for their coal at full value, but afterwards claim large sums for
the injury of the surface due to the working of such coal.... The mine
worker may have plenty of coal to work, and prefers to leave pillars sooner
than face the risks of onerous claims for surface damage. In other cases
where the lessee is anxious to work the coal he is prevented by the
prohibition of the lessor. The damage which would result if the coal was
swept out in a wide face would very often be negligible, and thus valuable
coal is being left unnecessarily."*
... "At the moment I am considering the coal left not so much for
mission-rooms, schools, and churches as the immense area of coal that is
left under some of the old halls, where there is as much as 20, 30, 40, or
50 acres. If they allowed us to drive narrow places, or even wide places,
through that coal and work it in a method approved by all mining engineers,
45 per cent of that coal could be recovered without any injury to the
6. Wayleaves and heavy cost of negotiating small areas
Sir Richard also gave evidence as to the onerous terms frequently exacted by mine-owners, which hindered, and often prevented, production. He said: "I have frequently met with cases where the prospective lessor has known that his particular area of coal was of vital moment to a colliery company, and in some cases opportunity has been availed of to extract extortionate terms, either of wayleaves or by unduly inflating the price. Underground wayleaves are, in my opinion, absolutely unjustifiable where the exercise of such wayleave does not inflict any loss on the owner of the property passed through. In some cases lessees are forced to take in lease and pay minimum rent for seams which they have no possibility of being able to work in a reasonable time merely to obtain the lease of vital areas."
..."I believe the cost of negotiating small areas of coal is very often out
of all proportion to their value, and is a substantial addition to the
Royalty Rent. I recently had particulars of a case where the purchase price
of the minerals was £350 and the negotiation costs were 80 guineas, and this
despite the fact that no complications of title or of working were involved.
It will be readily seen that such costs as these, coupled with stringent
regulations as to reparation of surface damages, constitute a very serious
tax on the working of coal in certain areas."*
7. Insecurity of tenure resulting in cessation of production and loss of employment
The Land Inquiry Committee, in their Report on Scotland, 1913, express
similar opinions to the foregoing, and arrive at the conclusion that land
monopoly seriously restricts the development of minerals by making access
difficult or impossible and tenure insecure. The Report states:* "We have
also evidence that the landowners' monopoly powers sometimes inserted in
mining leases are not infrequently of a burdensome and inequitable
character, and are calculated to restrict the free development of the
mineral field."... "The maximum, minimum, and average rates of royalty
charged per ton are: In Lanarkshire, Is. 4d., 3d. and 7d. respectively; in
Fife and the Lothians, Is. 2d., 3d., 6d.; while in the case of gas-coal the
rate is much higher, rising to 3s. 6d. a ton. The rates levied in Scotland,
as in the United Kingdom, are greatly in excess of those paid on the
* Scotland, p.339.
"Mineral tenants have to make a very large initial expenditure of capital in sinking shafts, erecting buildings, machinery, houses, etc., and in laying branch railways and sidings. On the expiry of their leases they are often placed in a very disadvantageous position when negotiating for a renewal. They are faced with the alternative of agreeing to the landowners' terms or sacrificing the large capital which they have laid out in developing the workings."
With reference to this latter statement an example is given of a colliery which prior to 1906, with a capital of £200,000 and 600 men, was producing 1,000 tons per day. On the termination of the lease the owners demanded lOd. instead of 6d. per ton as royalty, and as this could not be paid, the mine was closed, the men discharged, and the workings demolished.
8. An example from Wales — land monopoly and development of quarries
The Land Inquiry Committee (Urban) received similar reports from
investigators in Wales with reference to the working of quarries. A report
from North Wales runs as follows:* "There are many undeveloped quarries in
the district, and where it is certain good slate may be obtained, but owing
to exorbitant or prohibitive rent they demand for wayleaves, the quarries
are not worked. In some cases land for tipping debris is difficult to
obtain.... In this case the quarry is situated less than half a mile from
the three railway lines, but owing to the difficulty of getting a small
tram-line from the quarry the produce has to be carted. There are also other
valuable slate quarries in the district undeveloped for want of land for
tipping debris, and for running inclines and tram-lines from such quarries
to the different railway stations."... "A quarry company wanted land for the
purpose of shooting debris into a lake. The owner of the land adjoining the
lake, who was also the lessor of the land occupied by the quarry, granted
leave for the use of the land and for the debris to be shot into the lake on
an annual payment of £100. Later a little more land was required for the
same purpose, and an additional £100 a year had to be paid by the quarry
company. When this accommodation proved inadequate, and a request was made
for facilities for the use of a further piece of land, yet another £100 rent
was demanded. At this point the company considered that they were unable to
meet this extra demand, with the consequence that work in that portion of
the quarry was discontinued, and nearly 150 men were dismissed."
* The Land, vol.ii, p.336.
9. Amount of royalties and some individual holdings
Certain statistics furnished for the information of the Coal Industry
Commission give some idea as to what is meant by "monopoly" as far as coal
is concerned. Somewhat less than 4,000 persons own the coal of this country,
but a large proportion of these are quite small owners. An Inland Revenue
return gives the following figures concerning royalties:*
* Coal Industry Commission Report, vol.iii, appendix No.78.
|Total income from coal royalties in U.K.
||Number of Royalty Owners
||" "||10,000|| "
||" "||20,000|| "
The following are statistics relating to some of the large owners:
Duke of Northumberland (p.625)
|Acreage of surface land
||... ... ...||169,000||acres
||Proved mineral rights
||... ... ...||244,500|| "
|| (This includes about
168,500 acres of the lands|
comprising the 169,000 acres, as both surface and
mineral rights of these form part of the estate.)
|1913-1918 average annual output
||... ... ...||1,950,044||tons
||1918 gross income
||... ... ... ||£82,450|
||... ... ...||128,682||acres
||Proved mineral rights||... ... ...
||1912-1918 average annual output
||... ... ...||3,241,962||tons
||Gross annual income for this period:|| Royalties||... ... ...
||£109,277|| Wayleaves||... ... ...
|Royalties and wayleave rents in 1917 ... £370,000|
|Surface acreage||... ... ...
||Coal area||... ... ...
||1918 output (an average year)
|| ... ... ||2,318,248||tons
||1918 royalties and wayleaves
|| ... ...||£64,370|
|Coal area (Durham)
||... ... ... ||12,411||acres
||1913 output||... ... ...
||1918 "||... ... ... ||1,526,315|| "
||1918 gross income||... ... ... ||£40,522||1918 dead rents||... ... ... ||£10,000|
10. Inequities resulting from private ownership. Mr. Smillie's examination of a Kent coal-owner
Reference is made in the Report of the Coal Commission to the question of coal going as the absolute property of the surface owner when such coal has been discovered at the sole expense of the Geological Survey — a Government Department. But the inequity of such private ownership appears even more glaring when we examine some instances of how private prospectors are charged large sums by landowners to prospect for coal, and then have to pay onerous dues as soon as it is discovered. These payments are often so heavy as effectually to prevent capitalists from undertaking the task of looking for coal.
Interesting examples of how land monopoly stands in the way of development, and makes huge sums out of the efforts of the community to find minerals, are provided by the examination of Mr. John Dewrance, chairman of certain pioneer companies who prospected for coal in Kent, by Mr. Smillie, and also the examination of Mr. H.F. Plumptre, landlord of 1,062 acres in the Kent Coal Concession's area, by the same gentleman.
Examining Mr. Dewrance, Mr. Smillie said:
17283. — Supposing you bored in Kent and you found the coal all right, but you could not raise money to sink pits for the coal, would you still be required to go on paying a dead rent? — Yes.
17284. — For what period? — Some of them have periods at which you can discontinue, but not all of them.
17288. — I am putting to you that it might not have taken place, and you pay for the lease, and the pioneer boring company would have to pay £2 an acre for 60,000 acres? — Ultimately.
(The dead rent for Kent Concessions was £400 the first and second years, £700 the 3rd year, and thereafter a yearly rate of £3,000 for 2,323 acres. Royalties were from £35 to £95 per acre according to thickness of seam, and 6d. per ton for ironstone.)
17319 (Chairman). — The fourth year — that is 1911 — you had to pay £3,000 a year for this and getting no coal? — Yes.
17326 (Chairman). — Mr. Smillie's point is, are you paying to these landlords this sum of £3,000, although as a matter of fact you have not got to the coal? — We were up to the outbreak of war.
17327 (Mr. R. Smillie). — Are you paying a dead rent for that 400 acres*
that is reserved, that you can never touch? — Yes.
* This was under the owner's private park.
17328. — In the lease you have you can never take out the coal from under that 400 acres, but you are paying a dead rent for that coal that you can never take out? — Yes.
Mr. Plumptre, the landowner, was then examined by Mr. Smillie.
17423. — There was no boring done on your estate until this lease 1 — No.
17424. — It is quite possible there may not have been any coal on your estate at all? — No, there may not have been.
17425. — And you did not take the trouble yourself to prove it? — I got them to give me the agreement to prove the coal before the lease was granted. There was an agreement that they should bore for coal, and prove it to my satisfaction and theirs before I granted the lease.
17428. — Did you yourself expend any money or promise to expend any money on the boring operations% — No.
17429. — We may take it that you allowed other people to spend their money to prove whether you were the possessor of coal in that land? — Yes. They rather came asking me to do it.
17431. — You allowed them to spend their money in proving that your estate was more valuable than you had any previous idea of? — Yes.
17432. — From the time boring started were you charging a dead rent to these people, or an annual rent to these people whom you had allowed to spend their money in trying to prove your property was valuable? — Yes; when the lease was signed they paid dead rent.
17433. — Not only were other people spending their money to prove your property was more valuable than you thought, but you charged them for spending their money? — Yes.
17434. — Is that just and equitable? — Well, I believe it is a matter of business, and was the best way of inducing them to work the coal.
17437. — But they ran the risk of losing the money they were paying to you in order to prove your property was more valuable? — Yes, but it was their choice* and not mine. * There would seem to have been little choice in the matter.
11. Restricted access to mineral resources results in fewer opportunities for employment
The foregoing interrogatories require little comment, as they speak for themselves. As with the surface land of this country, both agricultural and building, so with mineral-bearing land, we see that it is within the power of a handful of owners to say whether there shall or shall not be access to these natural opportunities, and if permission is granted it is at a price which they choose to fix. If labour had easy access to these mineral resources, and owners were eager to develop them, it is easy to see that there would be a vast increase in employment, and the production of mineral raw materials would be enormously increased and cheapened. As it is, these natural opportunities for employment might, in many cases, be non-existent as far as labour is concerned, so difficult is it to obtain access to them.
12. Private ownership and monopoly of minerals unsound
Referring to the question of the ownership of minerals, Mr. Justice Sankey in his Report says: "The seams of coal are now vested in the hands of nearly 4,000 owners, most of whom are reasonable, but some of whom are a real hindrance to the development of the national asset."
Sir Arthur Duckham reports that "the private ownership of minerals has not been and is not in the best interests of the community."
On this same question Sir Richard Redmayne says: "I believe that the
incidence of private ownership of minerals is often prejudicial to the
economic working thereof. A large proportion of the cost of winning coal is
due to dead work, such as the construction and maintenance of shafts and
underground roads, and the fullest value will only be obtained where proper
regard is had to the geographical situation of the minerals in relation to
the various shafts and roadways by which they can be won. It is obviously
unsound to allow collieries to be closed from exhaustion when further
mineral areas could be profitably and economically won therefrom if
facilities were obtainable."
UNEMPLOYMENT — ITS CAUSE AND THE REMEDY
1. The limits of the inquiry
Our inquiry is finished, but before we sum up our conclusions let us review briefly the nature of the problem we set out to solve. In Chapter I we limited our investigations to the relation between unemployment and the tenure of land, because it seemed clear that unemployment must be caused, if there were sufficient land, by the inability of labour to get to that land; and also because, if it were established that Nature's opportunities for employment existed in abundance, unemployment could not exist so long as these were accessible to labour.
2. Real aim of the inquiry
The terrible phenomenon of unemployment means, then, that the sellers of labour are numerous as compared with those able to buy; that only comparatively few have the means of employing labour. But as each seller of labour, now unemployed, would have the means of employing his own and someone else's labour if he had access to land, our inquiry has been directed to seeing whether he has that access, and if not, what is preventing it. In other words, we have investigated the problem in order to ascertain why only comparatively few have the means of employing labour, when really each worker himself has the supply of the active factor in production (labour), which, with the help of land, could satisfy his demand for wealth; why it is that if a worker cannot find someone who has the means of employing his labour he should not be able to employ his own labour by producing to satisfy his needs directly from Nature.
In the course of this inquiry, in addition to arriving at a definite positive conclusion as to the cause of unemployment, we have at the same time been able to see that many other so-called explanations of the phenomenon really fail to explain anything except that labour is robbed of a proportion of its just reward. They do not explain why labour must remain unemployed unless an employer "furnishes" employment.
3. Results of inquiry — Saxon and early Norman England, no unemployment
Our inquiry has disclosed the origin and progress of unemployment. In Saxon and early Norman times we saw that there was no unemployment, for the very good reason that the alternative to not being able to find a man with the means of employing one's labour was not unemployment, but employing oneself directly on the land. Nature's opportunities for employment were in abundance, and land was freely at the disposal of him who wished to till it. Land required for cultivation was neither held out of use nor under-used.
4. Black Death and after — enclosures and unemployment
Soon after the Norman Conquest the lords began to enclose waste and common land, which, although frequently for colonizing purposes, resulted in a curtailing of common rights and a restriction of the number of opportunities of employment to which there was free access. The number of such opportunities still, however, exceeded the supply of labour capable of using them, and there was no unemployment.
But after the Black Death, when lords of manors were unable to obtain sufficient labour to carry on the cultivation of the land which had been formerly tilled, an enclosure movement began on a very large scale — began because wages had increased at the expense of rent, and continued because grass farming was seen to be profitable owing to an increase in the price of wool.
For a time, at any rate, opportunities for employment would still appear to have exceeded the supply of labour, with consequent full employment; but as the population recovered in numbers and the enclosure movement continued, about the middle of the fifteenth century, for the first time in English history, opportunities for employment began to fall short as compared with the supply of labour, and a surplus of unemployed labour appeared. This surplus was unable to obtain access to Nature's opportunities to satisfy its own demand for subsistence, etc.
The beggars came to town, but they were beggars who possessed in their own labour, if they had had access to land, the means of satisfying their own and their families' wants. They had been cleared directly off the land, and arguments about over-population or insufficiency of opportunities would not have appealed to those who had been robbed of their opportunities, and who saw a fence put round other opportunities on which they might have employed their labour.
5. The coming of the surplus of unemployed — a double loss to the community
This was the beginning of unemployment, pauperism, and the drain from the country-side to the towns, which by a one-sided competition pulled down wages to the subsistence level. Then for the first time the supply of labour appeared to exceed the demand, the sellers of labour to exceed the buyers; but what had really happened was that for the first time the supply of labour was prevented from satisfying demand because it was denied that access to land which it formerly had.
Not being able to produce wealth for themselves, this surplus of unemployed either had to beg or steal, until the State imposed rates on those in work to provide for their maintenance. In this way the unemployed were a double burden on the community, for they caused loss to the artisans who formerly produced goods for them, which they were now unable to purchase, and they also had to be maintained out of the wealth produced by the rest of the community without being able to add anything to that wealth themselves.
6. Land Monopoly spreads until it covers the whole country — results
The enclosure movement continued throughout the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and unemployment increased as opportunities became more and more restricted; but all through this period there were still opportunities for employment unmonopolized, but which, on account of inaccessibility and distance from centres of population, were as good as non-existent.
In the middle of the eighteenth century began the last and greatest period of enclosures, which by the middle of the nineteenth century had accounted for practically all the land in the kingdom. This period saw the wholesale depopulation and devastation of the country-side; the rise of the slums of the great industrial cities, in which the dispossessed had to take refuge; the pauperization of a large proportion of the population of Great Britain; and the growth of that terrible one-sided competition among the surplus of unemployed for the jobs which appeared to be too few to go round.
We have seen how hundreds of thousands of these who now formed the unemployed surplus were directly deprived of their right to produce for themselves from the land, and that, once evicted, they had no means of employing themselves, no alternative employment if they were unable to find anyone who could buy their labour.
7. Ample opportunities for all, but labour is fenced off
This private enclosure of the land has continued, until, at the present day, a strong monopoly holds the land of Great Britain in thrall, and a few thousand owners have the power, which they use, to deny access to the land, or to permit it only on terms which make industry difficult or impossible.
The opportunities for employment provided by the land of Great Britain are, as we have seen, more than ample to enable the supply of labour to satisfy its wants directly and to employ itself; but the land monopoly, which has grown until its tentacles reach to the farthest corners of the country, has artificially restricted these opportunities for employment, so that they are out of reach of labour. And so throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the surplus of unemployed has grown and persisted. It fluctuates in size, but the tendency seems to be for the minimum to increase as speculation in land increases, and the barrier round the land becomes more impenetrable, as we have seen it has done since the Great War.
8. Gradual confiscation of communal rights
While tracing the connection between the gradual restriction of the opportunities for employment and the growth of unemployment, we have been unable to shut our eyes to the fact that in so appropriating and monopolizing the land the landlords were, in fact, robbing the community of its rights over the land — rights which originally it clearly possessed, and which should have been handed down from generation to generation.
We have seen, too, how, from the Norman Conquest and the Statute of Merton, these rights were not lost without a struggle, and how the Commons of England frequently rose in armed revolt down to the nineteenth century, until the country-side was so drained that there were few left to rise. In Scotland this wholesale confiscation of the rights of the community took place within comparatively recent times, and has turned fertile valleys into desolate wastes and depopulated the whole country-side.
9. The confiscation a continuing one
In considering this aspect of the question it is important to bear in mind that this confiscation of the land did not, as a wrong, cease with the generation in existence when it was committed; but inasmuch as the land is now wholly monopolized the community is still being deprived of its right of access — the confiscation is a continuing one.
The significance of this can be seen very clearly when we recall how Professor Gonner was at pains to show that enclosure of the wastes did not result in depopulation if the enclosure was to arable. As we pointed out when considering that statement, although it may not have caused depopulation at the time, the private appropriation had given the landlords power to turn the land to grass, or even to hold it out of use entirely, at any time, because the appropriation affected all succeeding generations. We have already seen that this process has gone on all through the nineteenth century, and is even continuing at the present day. Land is — in theory, of course — still the property of the King, but his tenants have long ceased to pay rent, and it will be evident from our inquiry that fact and theory are now unrelated.
10. Land monopoly accompanied by insecurity of tenure
It has also been proved that, until the coming of unemployment and the beginning of land appropriation on a large scale, the Commons had security of tenure, even for those who held purely "at will," and that as enclosure proceeded and unemployment grew, so tenure became less and less secure, starting with tenants "at will," who then could show no legal right to security, and including copyholders, who, despite the fact that they had legal security of tenure, were frequently evicted or deprived of their copies. This insecurity of tenure has continued to the present day, and is exemplified in the system of yearly tenancies.
11. Conclusions as to cause of unemployment do not depend on any theory of origin of rights
But although we hold it clearly established that the land of Great Britain originally belonged to the community, and that communal rights were gradually filched away, yet our conclusions do not depend for their validity on the accuracy of any particular theory as to the origin of rights of the peasants over the soil in Saxon and Norman times. Apart altogether from the question of the rights of the community or of the landlords at that time, our conclusions are based on the fact that when access to land was free to labour and opportunities were available for all, there was no unemployment, and that as the land became monopolized, as opportunities were artificially restricted, unemployment increased. Now at the present time, when all Nature's opportunities are monopolized and access to land is denied, there is always a large surplus of unemployed, with its complement a mass of underpaid labour.
12. Land monopoly an unnatural barrier — land provides opportunities in plenty
The system of absolute private ownership of land, which we have called land
monopoly, acts as a barrier around all Nature's opportunities for
employment. It was this barrier which seemed so unnatural to the Diggers of
Wellingborrow when they said: "We find that no creature that ever God made
was ever deprived of the benefit of the Earth but Mankind."*
* Chapter X, par.12.
If labour ceased to be deprived of the "benefit of the earth," our inquiry has demonstrated clearly that the opportunities afforded by the land of Great Britain would be ample in number. We have seen that there are millions of acres unused or very much under-used, and millions of acres of so-called cultivated land covered with poor grass and almost destitute of men. We have compared the agricultural production of some other countries, and have made it clear that the opportunities in agriculture and forestry alone in this country are enormous, and offer a field for the production of great wealth. Would labour be idle if it could get to these opportunities?
13. Great opportunities afforded by mineral resources
Reference to the mineral resources of Great Britain was necessarily brief, but we saw enough to be able to demonstrate that here again there are vast opportunities for employment where Nature offers the things so many men lack. But again the Chinese wall of monopoly hinders the access of labour to these various mineral resources. The opportunities provided by the stock of minerals in Great Britain — the clays, building stones, and slates, in addition to the metallic ores and coal — are enormous in extent, but although many want these things, yet labour is denied access, or is only allowed in on terms which make production so dear that industry is restricted by those who call themselves owners. Land monopoly has fenced off the active factor in production.
14. Land Monopoly in urban districts
An investigation of the question of land tenure in urban districts revealed the same state of affairs: everywhere land is held out of use or under-used. In all our great cities and towns a large proportion of their areas is rated as agricultural land, most of which for all practical purposes may usually be regarded as unused, and in all these districts land is urgently wanted for new houses, for roads, improvements, and for the reconstruction of slum areas. But again we have found that, although in every instance the opportunities for the necessary improvements exist in abundance, yet land monopoly in case after case prevents access, or allows it only at a price which mortgages the increase of wealth resulting from the improvement for years ahead, and causes much loss in other directions.
Thus in every case we see that the opportunities for employment are clearly greatly in excess of the supply of labour in this country. All through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, by reason of the growth of population, and improvements, discoveries and inventions in manufacturing industries, the opportunities of producing wealth afforded by the land have increased enormously, but labour, except to a very limited extent, has been unable to avail itself of these advantages. Were only some of these opportunities accessible to labour, there is no reason why labour should not employ itself, produce the wealth direct from the land and exchange the surplus, so creating a real demand for other goods, and relieving industry of the burden of supporting the unemployed.
15. Land necessary to all forms of labour — man a land animal
It will be advisable once again to emphasize how essential land is to all forms of industry, and how neither wealth nor services can be produced unless labour has access to it. It may not be clear to the clerk working in the top story of a London office how his employment depends on access to land, but this was brought home to many such workers during the Coal Strike of 1921, when they found themselves without work because some men who produced wealth directly from the land had ceased work; and this same clerk is also vitally interested in land tenure and access to land as regards his housing accommodation, the means of conveyance and transport he uses, and everything he buys.
Man produces wealth by adapting and combining, with the aid of the physical forces of Nature, natural products obtained from the land, by utilizing the reproductive forces of Nature in agriculture and farming, and by trading and exchanging. For each of these methods land is needed in varying quantities. It is not only required by the man directly engaged in producing wealth from the land, but for those who work on and manufacture the natural products, and by those who transport them or display them for the convenience of purchasers in retail shops. It is obvious that not only workers such as these are directly concerned with the question of access to land, but all clerical workers necessary to these forms of production, and also all producers of services — as, for example, doctors, lawyers, singers, etc. — who can only be paid in wealth produced in one of these ways. Truly has it been said that man is a land animal.
16. Capitalism and unemployment
The growth of land monopoly, as we have already shown, brought many attendant evils in its train, and most of these have at various times been seized on as the cause of poverty and unemployment. Let us refer to one or two of these alleged causes.
Capital, the capitalist, or capitalism are each frequently denounced as the
arch-enemy of labour, the oppressor of industry, the cause of unemployment
and poverty. In this connection it is interesting to note what the great
apostle of this theory, Karl Marx, had to say as to the origin of
capitalism. He wrote: "The starting-point of the development that gave rise
to the wage-labourer as well as to the capitalist was the servitude of the
labourer.... The expropriation of the agricultural producer, of the peasant,
from the soil, is the basis of the whole process."*
* Karl Marx, Capital, p.739.
Marx here seems to get a glimpse of the truth, for, as we have seen in this inquiry, "capitalism," or the control of large aggregates of capital by a few, began and grew when and as land was enclosed; and people driven from the countryside to the towns without any alternative employment there engaged in a one-sided competition for the jobs that were too few to go round. Such a situation provided an opportunity for the capitalist producer, and he took advantage of the cheap labour provided by the growth of land monopoly. This process was much intensified in the eighteenth century at the time of the Industrial Revolution. The workers were driven off the land by wholesale methods of enclosure into the arms of the industrialist, who was enabled thereby to produce cheaply and on a large scale, for, having no alternative employment, they had to accept his terms or starve. These workers were frequently worse off than slaves, for the capitalist had no need to take any thought of their physical welfare, for, for every one who fell by the way, there were several clamouring for admission at the factory gates, and so he ground the last ounce out of them.
17. Capitalist has no power to oppress in absence of land monopoly
But just as one millstone cannot crush the grain without another stone to crush it against, so the capitalist could not have crushed the worker until he had been driven off the land and denied access to Nature's opportunities for employment by land monopoly — this was the other millstone. Unless, therefore, there was this other millstone, the capitalist would be powerless to oppress.
While the worker still had access to land, and so an alternative occupation, he would not have worked for the capitalist for less than he could make when employing himself; and the capitalist would have been, and would still be, powerless to oppress labour if there was no crowd of unemployed clamouring at the gate for the work which the capitalist is supposed to be good enough to "furnish." It is not in the nature of capital to oppress. Capital, the instruments of production, that part of wealth which is used to produce more wealth, is the creation of labour, and should be its servant, not its oppressor; but when capitalism appears as an oppressor of labour it is because of the monopoly power it derives from land monopoly, the mother of all monopolies. Karl Marx seems to have appreciated this, but afterwards mistook the result for the cause; and most of his present-day followers do the same, and ignore, or do not know, what he said as to the origin of capitalism. If expropriation of the people from the soil, or land monopoly, gave the capitalist the power to oppress, the thing to remove would surely seem to be land monopoly, the millstone without which the capitalist could not grind labour.
18. Over-population and unemployment
There are also many supporters of the theory that overpopulation is the
cause of unemployment. It will be remembered that the question of
over-population was first mentioned in the sixteenth century, when the
beggars were crowding into the towns; and Harrison, writing in the reign of
Elizabeth, referred to those who said there were too many people. In 1607*
there was the "Consideration" of the House of Lords, which stated that the
country was over-populated, and that the surplus should be shipped off to
* Chapter X, par.8.
Throughout this period, when over-population was supposed to be the cause of poverty and unemployment, we have seen that opportunities for employment existed in abundance for those who were supposed to be surplus, but access was denied to them. The over-population argument would not have appealed to the English cotter or the Scotch crofter who saw his holding, from which he had been making a living, given over to sheep or deer.
This theory again flourished in the beginning of the nineteenth century, when the great enclosure movement was in full swing and the towns were becoming over-crowded at the expense of the country-side. But at that time again, as we know, there were more than enough opportunities for employment for all the population. We have also shown clearly that opportunities exist in abundance at the present time, and this being the case, it seems to us to follow from the principles of the co-operation of labour that the greater the population, the greater should be the production of wealth per unit of population.
But although the country as a whole is not over-populated, it is clear, nevertheless, that the towns are over-populated as compared with the country-side; and certainly to one of the unemployed at the factory gates it must seem that if there were fewer people he might stand more chance. But while there are opportunities in plenty from which labour is barred there cannot be over-population. If this country contained two men only, and one of them owned all the land and had no need of the labour of the other, and refused even to give him permission to use the land, the country would be over-populated.
19. Land monopoly and speed of increase of the population
It would, however, appear to be the case that land monopoly has been the cause of population increasing faster than it would have done under conditions where labour had easy access to land. Population seems to increase slowly where wealth is more widely distributed, as it was in England between Saxon times and the Black Death. After the Plague, when a greater population was required to ensure the maximum of well-being, population increased for a time very rapidly. The more rapid increase from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, and the very rapid increase during the latter part of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries, coincided with the reduction of an ever-increasing proportion of the "commons" to paupers and under-paid workers. A large body of men was coming into existence that had little hope of rising in the social scale or of achieving any form of independence.
Driven from the land, these men crowded into insanitary hovels, where disease took a heavy toll of infant lives, and their whole life was one weary struggle for subsistence, with no opportunity of rising. When man is thus kept down in a condition resembling that of the lower animals, with no opportunity of developing those gifts which the animals do not possess, and with no opportunity of raising his standard of living, he, like the animals, multiplies quickly. If wealth were more equally distributed, as it would be if all had access to land, a class such as we have described would not exist, and it seems clear that the economic check of a rising standard of life would bring about a much slower increase of population.
20. Currency manipulation and unemployment
Another alleged cause of unemployment frequently put forward is currency manipulation, but with this, as with other ills from which the inhabitants of this country may suffer from time to time, it is difficult to see how it could cause unemployment as long as labour had free access to land. It seems to us that the exponents of these various so-called causes of unemployment all err with regard to the same vital point, namely, in entirely disregarding how wealth is really produced and what are the factors necessary for its production. Labour may be robbed in many ways, but as long as access to land with security of tenure is unrestricted there need be no unemployment.
21. Machinery and unemployment
Again, labour-saving machinery is sometimes blamed for causing unemployment, and we can see that this may be so for a time if the labour "saved" has no opportunity of obtaining any alternative occupation. The saving of labour effected by such machinery should, of course, benefit every worker by enabling him to obtain more wealth with the same labour or the same wealth with less labour than before; but with a surplus of unemployed and under-employed this advantage tends to be lost through the one-sided competition for work and the denial of access to land. It is because labour is denied access to land that the average worker is distrustful when he hears of new labour-saving machinery; he has come to think that the unemployed surplus must be always with us, and he regards work as of more importance than the results of labour.
22. The Trade Cycle
The phenomenon known as the Trade Cycle, that recurrence of industrial depression and a maximum of unemployment at intervals of about ten years, is regarded by some as natural, and necessarily resulting in unemployment, as, in fact, the cause of unemployment. The proposals of those who support this theory all centre on schemes for making the best of an unfortunate but inevitable state of affairs, by insurance and State regulation of industry and the labour supply. An acceptance of the Trade Cycle explanation of unemployment is an acceptance of the theory that prosperity continued for a time results in poverty and unemployment. The Trade Cycle undoubtedly exists, and the supporters of this theory of unemployment accurately describe one side of the picture, but fail to disclose any causal connection between the various phases of the cycle. They do not explain how a manufacturer of boots, for example, can have produced too many boots when thousands of people need another pair and are able and willing to work. Again, looking at it from the other side, they do not explain why, when human wants are insatiable, demand should apparently diminish as long as men have their labour and there is access to the raw materials of Nature to enable them to satisfy their wants.
One side of the picture is, however, omitted in descriptions of the Trade Cycle. During the period of prosperity which precedes collapse and stagnation, there is enormous speculation in land, in the source of the raw material of all wealth. Men buy and hold for a rise in confident expectation that they will, in the near future, make a handsome profit. It is this very process of land speculation during a period of good trade which gradually strangles production by making it harder and harder for labour and capital to get access to land. The price which labour and capital have to pay is forced higher and higher, until the limit is reached, and further production is impossible. This cessation of production at some points means a lessening of purchasing power. The effect of this is felt throughout the industrial world, leading to collapse and subsequent depression until a lowering of rents and a fall in land values makes production again possible.
23. The remedy
Now that we have ascertained the cause of unemployment the remedy is clear. The land monopoly must be broken down, and labour must be afforded free and equal access to all land, so that it may be possible for a man to supply his own demands for goods by producing directly from the land, by linking his labour with the opportunities which the land provides. This might be brought about by a gradual resumption by the community of the rights over the land which undoubtedly they formerly possessed, and a change in the basis of taxation and rating, so that instead of industry being penalized, as we have seen it now is, and a premium put on the withholding of land from use or keeping it in an under-used state, industry would be freed from penalizing taxation, and the penalty fall on him who withholds land from labour. Such an adjustment would make it unprofitable for anyone to withhold land from use or to keep it in an under-used state.
Just as a high protective tariff acts as a wall round a country to keep out a large proportion of foreign goods that in the normal course of trade and exchange would come in, so the land monopoly acts as a tariff protecting the interests of the owners, the monopolists, and keeping out labour. The monopoly must be broken up, the tariff wall demolished, and labour given the access which it is now denied.
24. Results of the destruction of land monopoly
The forcing of land into use and the relief of industry from the burdens that now oppress it would have the effect of very rapidly absorbing the surplus of unemployed. It would not, of course, be necessary that all, or even nearly all, should go on the land as farmers, for the breaking down of the barriers which now shut off labour from the land would not only stimulate the industries which extract wealth directly from the land, but also village industries and all forms of manufacturing, transport, and exchange. Production in the building and allied trades would be directly stimulated by rendering sites easily available and also by cheapening the production of all building materials; and by giving labour access to all minerals, production would be stimulated in industries requiring those minerals. There would also be the greatly increased demand for manufactures set up by those who would now be working directly on the land.
But there is little doubt that a large and increasing number would become small holders. If, for example, 500,000 men took small holdings, this would account for some 2,000,000 souls and only 5,000,000 acres of land if each holder took 10 acres; and there is little doubt that less than this would be needed if the land were farmed co-operatively in village groups. In fact, with small holdings on any considerable scale, farmed on the co-operative system, it would probably be found that something in the nature of the open-field system would prove far more economical and productive.
These 500,000, then, would not only be supplying their own demands for commodities, but would also have a considerable surplus to exchange. This surplus would in turn set up a demand in the industries supplying the goods they required, and thereby increase employment in those industries. It would be exactly the same as if a new country had been discovered, with a population of 2,000,000, all with a real demand for the products of our industries.
25. State ownership of capital unnecessary. Industry after the breakdown of land monopoly
It is misleading in the extreme to say that some unemployment is necessary in order to carry on the modern capitalist system of industry. Some unemployment is, of course, necessary if the capitalist is to continue to oppress labour by taking advantage of labour's extremity, but there is no reason why industry should not be carried on quite well without the capitalist having this power, which he would not have but for land monopoly and the surplus of unemployed. It is not necessary for the State to take over capital in order to deprive him of this power.
It is probable, however, that under the social system which would arise out of the break up of land monopoly industry would tend to become more and more decentralized as the balance between agriculture and the manufacturing industries became redressed. The industrial village would become once more a feature of the country-side, and the villages of Great Britain would be more cheerful and comfortable places to live in than many of them now are.
26. Development of the "home market." Human wants unlimited in number
This breakdown of the land monopoly and the opening up of natural opportunities to labour would develop the "home market" in the only way practicable by giving all the opportunity to work and produce wealth, which would stimulate to an enormous extent home industries to meet the increased real and effective demand at home. With the relief of industry from the crushing burden of taxation, and the removal of the dead hand of landlordism, production would increase by leaps and bounds to meet the steadily increasing home demand.
Although each individual want is satiable, wants are unlimited in number, for as soon as one want is satisfied another arises. As soon as quantity is satisfied, a desire for quality arises, and so on. Man is the only unsatisfied animal. Human wants do not increase and then diminish or cease altogether, and if every man has the opportunity to satisfy his wants, demand must remain steady. At the present day, should foreign demand for a British product fall off, unemployment may result, but with alternative opportunities of employment provided by the throwing open of natural resources, and the competition among employers of labour, there would be no need for this. Moreover, the home demand would be greatly increased by reason of the fact that many previously unemployed would now have an effective demand for the products of other industries.
27. The end of one-sided competition. The opportunity of employment for all
This opening up of the land to labour would then have the result of putting an end to the one-sided competition under which workers compete for jobs but employers seldom compete for workers. This form of competition is so prevalent that it has come to be regarded as typical of competition in general — of real competition. But with Nature's opportunities for employment thrown open to all, the number of potential employers would be greatly increased, and the greatest of all competitors for labour, the demand of labour itself, would have come into the market. Then for the first time for nearly 500 years there would be free competition — a competition which would give to each the full product of his labour, neither more nor less.
Under such a system, where every man had access to land with security of
tenure and no one had the power to levy a toll on him before he could employ
his labour, no man need ever be unemployed. It is only by the abolition of
land monopoly and the relief of industry from taxation that this result can
be brought about, while at the same time preserving individual freedom.
STATE PAPERS, ETC
Privy Council Register:
State Papers, Domestic:
Statutes of the Realm
Transactions of the Royal Historical Society:
Historical MSS Commission:
English Historical Review: