Page:The Settled Estates Act, 1882.djvu/17

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ness is not due to the law of settlement, but to the deep-seated desire among the wealthy commercial classes to become the owners of land, and gain with it that position which the ownership of land alone confers. It Peasant proprietors is vain to talk about establishing a peasant proprietary in England. The tendency, in fact, has been all the other way of late years; nor do I think it would be a beneficial change if it could be done. If there is one thing that the evidence taken before the Royal Commision has shown, more clearly than another, it is that much capital and high farming is necessary in England to make the production compete with the virgin soil of America. This would put it out of the power of peasant proprietors to cultivate with any hope of success. Nor is the solution to be found in the infinite subdivision of the land, and the petite culture popularly but, I think, erroneously supposed to be so successful on the continent. The climate of England is not adapted to the production of wine or flax; and though the system of market gardens might reasonably be extended in the neighbourhood of large towns, it is vain to suppose, that to the development of this industry, and the increased production and consumption of cabbage and cucumbers, the farmer is to look for his prosperity in the future.

Let us take the second objection, viz., that a life Second objection. tenant is not in a position to do justice to the land or his tenant. If this is so, there is, no doubt, a good cause for State interference. Doubtless, in some cases, a life tenant comes into possession with the estate already heavily burdened with a jointure for his mother, and portions for his younger brothers and sisters, with a large place to keep up, and no spare capital to spend upon the land. Moreover, in some cases, owing to the powers of sale being vested in trustees, and the diffi-