Page:The Settled Estates Act, 1882.djvu/23

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of the estate that a prudent owner in fee simple could require. Once that is done, the one genuine objection, which has any real weight against settlements, is removed, and the objects which may justify State interference are sufficiently attained. As Conservatives, who have learnt to distrust loud professions and large promises however brilliant and ingenious for the regeneration of mankind, who do not believe that the Saturnian age will return again if entail and settlement are abolished, we can hail this measure as a wise reform, and, as Conservatives, too, we may justly congratulate ourselves, that it is a Conservative measure, instituted by a Conservative ex-chancellor, and passed through the House chiefly by the exertions of Conservatives, that has alone redeemed the last session from the charge of utter barrenness. I do not agree with those who think that the selling powers of the Act will be very largely or generally used, or that the convertibility of realty into personalty will cause land to be looked on as an ordinary investment, and deprive it of its present artificial and sentimental value. The aristocracy and landed gentry are not so short-sighted as to fail to see that the possession of ancestral estates enhances the dignity of their titles and position, and gives them much of their influence and weight in the country, and that while they may slightly increase their income by selling their estates, they will be reducing themselves to the level of the nouveaux riches who have amassed gigantic fortunes in trade. Such an act would be one of political and social suicide. The Act perhaps errs in this respect on the side of freedom; but we may trust those in whose hands is the power not to use it so as to compass their own destruction. Whether the measure is likely to be a final settlement of the land question, when