Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/350

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

estates—estates so vast as to be unwieldy in management, interposing factors and stewards too often between landlord and tenant; these vast estates yield incomes culpably great and so enormous that their recipients are often indifferent to improvements in farming in comparison with proprietors of small farms, and much land is wasted by being held for mere sport. When the holder of an entailed estate quarrels with his heir, the land suffers, that the personal property which may be freely bequeathed may be increased. Such quarrels, if we are to follow the experience of common life, are usually due in part to qualities in the heir which would make him less worthy of the estate than some relative or kinsman to whom the holder might bequeath it were he free to use his judgment.

Mr. Kinnear, who has written a most sensible book on the subject of property in land, argues convincingly that the diffusion of property rather than its aggregation is desirable, holding that nationally property will be found to be accumulated more rapidly in the former case than in the latter, while at the same time comfort and content will be more common. He speaks from wide experience in Great Britain, France, and the Channel Islands. Mr. Kinnear suggests that there be limits placed to the amount bequeath able to an individual, so that very large estates may become divided. In common with the majority of competent observers, he prefers the French tenure of small parcels of land to the British tenure of great estates, but he regards the French compulsory division of the bulk of a property at a father's death among his children as wrong: were the father free to will to whom he pleased, the moral effect would be beneficial.

Children grow disobedient and unfilial when they know they can not be set aside. And speaking of wills, the custom of making what should be naturally one of the saddest events in life the occasion of coming into a father's estate is severely commented upon by the supporters of Russian and other communal systems of tenure. In the Russian mir, when a young man becomes of age, he enters into the enjoyment of a share in the common estate, and the effects of this difference are said to be observable in the stronger family feelings which the Russian peasantry cherish in comparison with their Western brethren.

The sad experience of King Lear and the painful presence of the gaping heir are both avoided by those sensible men of wealth who are their own executors to as great an extent as may consist with the reserve of a personal competence.

The individual holding of land as in France, Germany, England, and America, has been opposed by a great many thinkers and popular leaders. The chief objection lodged against it has been that land, being as absolutely necessary to human subsistence as air and water, it should be as free from monopoly as these; for as the accumulations of a single holder go on there is risk of his being able to drive people forth