Scotland and Scotsmen
[An address to the people of Scotland - 1884]
Richard McGhee, of Glasgow. On the following Sunday, January 6, he
was formally welcomed at Euston Station, London, by a great gathering
of Labour organisations. The Land Question had been to the front in
Ireland and Scot-land, and was being carried into England.
The lecture campaign opened in St. James' Hall, in the West End of
London, on January 9. A few weeks previous to this, that hall was
crowded when Michael Davitt gave an address on "The Land for the
People". He had broken away alike from the advocates of physical
force and those who seemed content to merely "swap landlords",
and was proclaiming the doctrine of common rights in land. But, if
Davitt filled St. James' Hall, it was packed when George spoke; there
was no standing room, and the platform was crowded.
After speaking in London, the tour proceeded through a number of
important provincial towns, and then to Scot-land, where the campaign
opened, in February, at Dundee.
Scotland was ripe to hear the gospel of the Land for the People.
Besides the slum question of the big towns, there was the case of the
Cottars and the Crofters. Only a year or two previously there had been
further enclosure of common land in the Western Isles - land that had
been common from ancient times. The Crofters had offered physical
resistance for a time, but were put down by force of law. Large
proprietors were displacing the small owners. The former hardy
inhabitants were being forced out, while more and more the land was
being occupied by sheep and deer.
A Royal Commission had been appointed into the grievances of the
Crofters and Cottars, and this Commission eventually effected a
reduction in rents - by no means a remedy. There was a general feeling
that there were serious wrongs to be righted, but no comprehensive
remedy was being put forward. Henry George's campaign in Scotland was
From Dundee, the lecture course was to northern towns, and George
visited John o' Groat's house. Thence to the Western Isles, where the
Land Question was so intense, and where he spoke at Portree, on the
Isle of Skye.
After the Islands, Henry George spoke at some western towns; then
followed the two most important meetings of the tour, both in the City
At the first meeting, held Monday, February 1 8,1 884, Councillor
Crawford presided, and the address was entitled "Scotland and
Scotsmen". It brought frequent and continued applause, the
audience becoming more enthusiastic as the address proceeded, and, at
the close, five hundred people remained in the Hall to take part in
forming an organisation -- the Scottish Land Restoration League.
The second meeting, held February 24, was for the purpose of
launching the organisation in good style. It was a great occasion.
There were other speakers besides George, all inspiring, and the
meeting was a huge success. The large City Hall was crammed with
people, while enough were turned away to make another big meeting.
The Scottish Land Restoration League was duly launched, with William
Forsyth, president; and Henry George wrote the League's Proclamation
to the people of Scotland. Similar Leagues were formed at Inverness,
Aberdeen and Edinburgh, where George spoke later; also at Dundee,
Greenock and several other towns.
Since then, "Scotland and Scotsmen" has been published in
many editions in Britain, America and Australia.
This is the second time I have had
the privilege of standing in this hall. I visited Scotland once
before, but only Glasgow. I came in by night in a Pullman car,
and I went back again by night in a Pullman car, and I saw
nothing of the country. The audience that I then addressed was
an Irish audience - it was on St. Patrick's night. This audience
is a general audience; I presume a Scottish audience.
The Logical Scot
Now, I have been pretty well abused. I read in the papers all sorts
of things about myself, and if I did not know Henry George pretty
well, I had thought he was a cross between a thief and a fool. These
charges I have never noticed; nevertheless, there is one charge that
has been made against me since I came to Scotland which I would like
to say a word about: I have been accused of flattering Scotsmen.
The first place where I spoke in Scotland was in Dundee, and I was
glad to get before a Scottish audience. It so happens that in my own
country I know very many Scotsmen, and among the men who stand with me
are very many Scotsmen. These Scotsmen have always been telling me:
"Ah, a Scottish audience is the thing; wait till
the Scottish people take hold of this question, and they will go to
the logical end". I was glad to get before a Scottish audience,
and I told them about my Scottish friends, and I told them about the
letter I had received from a good "canny" Scotsman, who
said to me, "Don't waste your time on these English people.
They are a 'beery' set. Beer confuses and dulls their
understandings. You can do far more good in Scotland, where they are
logical, clear-headed people; and if they drink anything at all, it
is only whisky, which does not have such a confusing effect on the
Well, I told them that, in the frankness of my nature, and next
morning the papers, in their usual denunciation, said I took an
advantage by flattering a Scottish audience. Now, I may have been
accused of many things, but I don't think those who know me would
accuse me of attempting to flatter Scotsmen about Scotland. I doubt if
that is possible.
Henry George's Scottish Blood
When I came from New York to California, a Scottish banker sought me
out and said, "I had a wager about you, and I want to ask you a
personal question. You are an American by birth?" And I said, "I
am". "Have you not Scottish blood in your veins?" "Well",
I said, "my mother's father was a Glasgow body". Says he, "I've
won my bet; it's through your mother you get your talent". That
man had, and has, a theory that every great man is a Scotsman, with
two or three exceptions, and in these cases a mistake was made. Now,
joking aside, I do not want to flatter anybody; and if Scotsmen don't
like to be flattered, will you let me tell you tonight some home
truths - some things that are not complimentary?" (Cries of "Yes!
I draw my blood from these islands. But it so happens this is the
only place to which I can trace my ancestry with any certainty. I do
not know but that some of my own kindred perhaps today live in
Glasgow, and it is from Glasgow men some of my blood, at least, is
drawn. I am not proud of it. If I were a Glasgow man today I would not
be proud of it.
"Let Glasgow Flourish by the
Here you have a great and rich city, and here you have poverty and
destitution that would appal a heathen. Right on these streets of
yours the very stranger can see sights that he could not see in any
tribe of savages in anything like normal conditions.
"Let Glasgow Flourish by the Preaching of the Word" -- that
is the motto of this great, proud city. What sort of a Word is it that
here has been preached? Or, let your preaching have been what it may,
what is your practice? Are these the fruits of the Word - this
poverty, this destitution, this vice and degradation? To call this a
Christian community is a slander on Christianity. Low wages, want,
vice, degradation - these are not the fruits of Christianity. They
come from the ignoring and denial of the vital principles of
Christianity. Yet you people in Glasgow not merely erect church after
church, you also subscribe money to send missionaries to the heathen.
I wish the heathen were a little richer, that they might subscribe
money and send missionaries to such so-called Christian communities as
this - to point to the luxury, the very ostentation of wealth, on the
one hand, and to the barefooted, ill-clad women on the other; to your
men and women with bodies stunted and minds distorted; to your little
children growing up in such conditions that only a miracle can keep
Excuse me for calling your attention to these unpleasant truths; they
are something that every man with a heart in his breast ought to think
How the Poor Live
John Bright, in his installation speech to the Glasgow University in
1 883, made a statement, taken from the census of Scotland, in which
he declared that 41 families out of every 100 in Glasgow lived in
houses having only one room. He further said that 37 per cent beyond
this 41 per cent dwelt in houses with only two rooms; thus, 78 per
cent, or nearly four fifths, dwelt in houses of one or two rooms; and
he went on to say further, that in Scotland nearly one third of the
people dwelt in houses of only one room, and that 70 per cent, or more
than two thirds, dwelt in houses of not more than two rooms. Is not
that an appalling statement; in the full blaze of the nineteenth
century, in the year of grace 1 884, here in this metropolis -- this
great city of Scotland -- Christian Scotland!
Now, consider what it implies - this crowding of men, women, and
children together. People do not herd that way unless driven by dire
want and necessity. These figures imply want and suffering, and
brutish degradation, of which every citizen of Glasgow, every
Scotsman, should be ashamed.
A Shocking Illustration
Here I take at random from one of your papers of this evening a
story, a mere item of an inquest held at Peterborough. The deceased
was a married woman, the house had no furniture, and the four children
were half starved. There was no food in the house, and the only
protection against the chills of night were three guano bags - a
basket of litter for the whole family. The dead body of the mother was
found to be a mass of sores, and the left arm was shrivelled up. The
daughter stated that when they got food the father would bite first,
and pass it round in turn. The dying woman craved a bun, but they
could not give her even that. In their verdict of death from natural
causes, paralysis, deep-seated sores, and exhaustion, the jury stated
that the husband had been guilty of gross and unpardonable neglect to
his wife and family. But this seems to be based upon the fact that he
had not taken his wife to the almshouse, though, as he stated, he had
tried to get her into the almshouse, but had been refused, unless he
would go too. There is nothing to show that he was idle or drunken. He
was but a labourer, and seems to have tried his best to get what work
he could, and came home every night to lie beside that poor woman on
the rotting straw.
Slum Life and Savage Life
But take the bare facts. Among what tribe of savages in the whole
world, in anything like a time of peace, would such a thing as that be
possible? I have seen, I believe, the lowest races on the face of the
earth -- the Tierra del Fuegans, who are spoken of as the very lowest
of mankind; the black-fellows of Australia; the Digger Indians of
California. I would rather take my chances, were I on the threshold of
life tonight, among those people, than come into the world in this
highly-civilised Christian community in the condition in which
thousands are compelled to live.
The fault of the husband, the verdict says! I know of this case only
what the papers say; but this I do know, from the testimony of men of
position and veracity, from officials and ministers of the Gospel,
that such things as that are happening every day in this country, not
to drunken men, but to the families of men honest, sober, and
Why, in this great, rich city of yours, there are today numbers and
numbers of men who cannot get employment. Here the wages of your
engineers were reduced a little while ago, and they had to submit. The
engineers of Belfast had also to submit to a reduction of wages,
because there were so many unemployed shipwrights and engineers in
Glasgow that they feared they could not maintain a strike. Am I not
right in saying that such a state of things is but typical of that
which exists everywhere throughout the civilised world? And I am bound
to say that it is a state of things you ought to be ashamed of. I
speak, not because they do not exist in my own country, for in their
degree there is just the same state of things in America. But is not
the spirit that, ignoring this, gives thanks and praise to the
Almighty Father, cant of the worst kind?
Our Twofold Duty
Can we separate duty towards God from duty towards our neighbours?
Yet here are men who preach and pray, while they look on such things
as matters of course, laying the blame upon natural laws, upon human
nature, and upon the ordinances of the Creator. Is it not cant and
blasphemy of the worst kind? How can a man love a God whom he believes
responsible for these things -- a God who made a world in which only a
few of His creatures could live comfortably; who has made a world in
which the great masses have to strain and strive all their lives away
to keep above starvation point?
It is not the fault of God! It is due merely to the selfishness and
ignorance of men. And when you come to ask the reason of this state of
things, if you seek it out, you will come at last, I believe, to the
great fact, that the land on which and from which it was ordained that
all mankind must live has been made the private property of a few of
their number. This is the only adequate explanation.
Landlords Command Men
Man is a land animal. All his substance must be drawn from the land.
He cannot even take the birds of the air or fish in the sea without
the use of the land or materials drawn from the land. His very body is
drawn from the land. Take from a man all that belongs to land, and you
would have but a disembodied spirit. And as land is absolutely
necessary to the life of man, and as land is the source from which all
wealth is drawn, the man who commands the land, on which and from
which other men live, commands those men.
Crowded Cities and Low Wages
Take the opposite course; trace up the facts. Why is it that men are
crowded together so in Glasgow? Because you let dogs-in-the-manger
hold the land on which these people ought to live. Here is one fact
that I happened to see in a communication in one of your papers
recently. There is a field in Glasgow called Burnbank, comprising
fourteen acres, worth £90,000 -- it is surrounded by houses -and
ought to be used for buildings. But the owner is holding it till he
can get a higher price from the necessities of the community. You let
him hold it. You don't charge any taxes for it. The taxation you put
upon the houses.
The same article says, if that field were feued and covered with
houses, these houses would pay not less than £7000 a year in
taxation. You charge and fine a man who puts up a house that would
give accommodation to the people, and the man who holds land without
making any use of it you do not charge a penny for the privilege. How
can there be any doubt as to the reason why you are so crowded
together? Or, take the fact that wages are so low; that men are
competing with one another so eagerly for employment that wages are
brought down to starvation rates. What is the reason? Simply that men
are denied natural opportunities of employment.
This city of Glasgow has been crowded with people driven from
Ireland, and your Highlands, where they were living. When I was over
in Ireland two years ago I saw the process.
Landlord Tyranny in Ireland
Aye, over there, I followed some of those red-coated evicting armies,
and saw how, at the behest of men who had never set foot in Ireland,
the military forces of the Empire were being used to turn out poor
people from the cabins and the land on which their fathers had lived
from time immemorial. Where were they forced to go? Into the cities,
there to obtain work at any price.
That great man who has stood on this platform, Michael Davitt, is one
of that class. His mother, forced from her home, carried him around
begging, rather than go to the almshouse, and coming over here, he
had, at an early age, when he ought to have been at play and at
school, and not at work, to enter one of your factories, and that
empty sleeve on his right side is a memento of that tyranny. Thus is
your labour market crowded with people who must get work or starve,
who cannot employ themselves, who are forced into competition for
anything they can get.
So with your own people -- the people of Scotland. They have been
crowded here in the same way. There is the explanation. This is the
explanation of the fact that, although during this century, by reason
of invention and improvement, the productive power of labour has
increased so wonderfully, wages have not increased at all save where
trades' unions have been formed and have been able to force them up a
I have now seen something of Scotland, and let me tell you frankly
that what I have seen does not raise my estimate of the Scottish
character. Let me tell you frankly -- seeing I have been accused of
flattering you, and you say you can stand unpleasant truths - I have a
good deal more respect for the Irish. The Irish have done some kicking
against this infernal system, and you men in Scotland have it yet to
The Scots are a logical people, as my friend says. I won't gainsay
that; but their major premise must be a very curious one. I have
really been wondering, since I have been in Scotland, whether you have
not got things mixed a little.
There is a story I heard in Ireland about a little crossroads
innkeeper. A woman kept an inn there, and a lord came along and
stopped there one night. Oh, she was all in a flutter at attending
upon a lord, and so she carefully instructed the boots -- a rude boy
-- as to how in the morning he must go and knock at Lord So-and-so's
door, and when his lordship asked who was there, he was to reply, "The
boy, my lord". Well, the poor fellow was awfully flustered, and
he gave a thundering rap at the door, when Lord So-and-so cried out, "Who's
there?" and the boy shouted out, "The Lord, my boyl" He
had got things mixed.
Lords of Land and Water
The Scots are a Bible-reading people. I have sometimes wondered
whether, instead of reading that "In the beginning the Lord
created the heavens and the earth", they haven't got it that, "In
the beginning the lairds created the heavens and the earth".
Certainly the lairds have it all their own way through Scotland.
Theirs is the land and all upon it; theirs is all that is beneath the
land; theirs are the fishes in the rivers and in the lochs; theirs are
the birds of the air; theirs are the salmon in the sea, even the
seaweed that is thrown ashore, even the whales over a certain length,
even the driftwood Theirs are even the water and the air.
Why, in Dundee, do you know, the people there, in order to get water,
had to pay £25,000 to the Earl of Airlie for the privilege of
drawing water for their use out of a certain loch. The water alone; he
retains the right to the fish. The very rain as it descends from
heaven is the property of the Laird of Airlie!
Why, just think of it! You know how that the chosen people were
passing through the wilderness and they thirsted, and Moses struck the
rock and the water gushed forth. What good would it have done if that
rock had been private property, and some Earl of Airlie had been there
who would say: "You cannot take a cupful until you pay me £25,000"?
And this Earl of Airlie does not live in Scotland at all -- at any
rate, he does not live in Dundee! He never drinks a cupful of that
Why -- just think of it! Here, when you have dry weather, the
preachers pray for rain, and then when the good Lord listens to their
prayer, and sends it down, it belongs to the Earl of Airlie!
Scottish Land Taboo to Scotsmen!
But the people of Scotland have the air -- that is, what they can get
in the streets and the roads! There is at Dundee a hill they call
Balgay. It was never cultivated, and the only thing about it is that
there is good air to be obtained there, also fine views to be had.
That hill belongs to a non-resident. I think the man's name is Scott,
and he lives in Edinburgh. The people of Dundee want to take their
walks on that hill. How do they get that privilege? By paying him a
rent of £14 per acre!
Talk about the taboo! Do you remember those superstitious South Sea
Islanders to whom we sent missionaries, and who are now dying out from
rum and disease? Do you know these people had a custom that they
called the taboo? Their high chiefs, whom they venerated as gods on
earth almost, could say of a certain thing, "That is tabooed",
and one of the common sort dare not touch it or use it; he would have
to go around for miles rather than set his foot on a tabooed path, go
thirsty rather than drink at a tabooed spring, and go hungry though
fruit on a tabooed tree was rotting before his eyes. You have just
precisely the same thing here. There are miles and miles of this
Scotland of yours -- that is, the Scotland that you common Scotsmen
call your country -- that is, the Scotland for which you are told you
ought to lay down your lives if necessary -- there are miles and miles
of it in a state of nature, which one of you common Scotsmen dare not
set his foot on.
There is one of my countrymen -- an American named Winans -- who made
a great deal of money in Russia; he comes over here and has a
playground stretching from sea to sea, in a state of nature, tenanted
by wild animals, and from which every one of you Scotsmen is
rigorously excluded; and that is only an example of the country all
If you were heathens, if you were savages, many of you would be far
better off. People would not have to live on oatmeal and potatoes
while the streams were flashing with fish and the moors were alive
If Quail Were Sent from Heaven
All the fish are preserved. I got hold of a book the other day, "The
Streams and Lochs of Scotland", and I had the curiosity to look
over it. Why, every bit of water in which you can paddle a tub is
preserved; it belongs to Lord This, or Lady That, or Mr. Somebody
Else. And the quail! Why, to go back to what I was just talking about.
You remember how, to feed the hungry Israelites, quail were sent from
heaven. If they had been sent into Scotland, you common Scotsmen would
not have dared to touch them. Here the quail are preserved. Why,
through the country that I have been, the common, ordinary working
Scotsmen live on potatoes, and are well off when they get salted
herrings or a little oatmeal. If the potato rot were to come, you
would have just such a famine as occurred in Ireland in 1848. In point
of fact, this year there is on the Isle of Skye a crop of potatoes
only by the charity of the people who subscribed to the destitution
fund, and so furnished those people with seed.
Rack-Rented from the Land
Full-fed, comfortable people, who eat hearty dinners every day,
professors of universities with good salaries, gentlemen with nice
steady incomes and pensions, say: "Oh, everything is going right;
the working classes are getting better off"; and they deny most
bitterly the assertion that poverty is keeping pace with progress, and
they give you long tables of statistics to prove it. Everywhere that I
have been I have asked the working people themselves what they
thought, and I found everywhere that the very reverse was their
Certainly, after going through this country, there can be no question
that all this progress and civilisation has only ground these people
lower down; that they were better off hundreds of years ago when they
were half heathen savages. They have now been driven from the good
land they used to cultivate, and have been forced upon poor land.
Their little holdings have been curtailed, so that they cannot keep
enough stock to pay their rent. The rent has been increased and
increased, and their only way of paying it is to trench upon their
revenue and sell off their stock. There are places where they used to
fish, where they have become so impoverished that they have now no
fishing boats. There are places where they used to have horses, where
now they have none, and where women - Scottish women - have to do the
work of beasts of burden! You can see them today carrying manure and
everything else on their backs.
Poverty Among the Highland Crofters
Go to the Highlands and you will see a state of society - of
industrial society - that belongs to past centuries. You will find
people cultivating the ground with the old-fashioned 'crookit spade',
reaping with a hook, and beating out their little harvest of corn with
a flail. Civilisation has done nothing for them save to make life
harder. Those men, large numbers of them, have to pay rents which they
cannot possibly get out of the ground. They are forced to go fishing,
or to come down to the Lowlands to seek for work, in order to get
money to pay their rents. It is not merely for the ground they are
charged, not merely for the virtues of the soil; they are charged for
a mere breathing space, a mere living place.
Yet those people who live in that way are called lazy! Lazy! I would
like to have some of those well-fed people who talk about their
laziness go up and take a week of that sort of work. Let these men go
up and dig a little with the 'crookit spade', and go out and face the
rough sea in one of those fishing boats; and let those fine ladies go
to the Highlands and carry turf on their backs as the women do there.
As far as I learned when there, it takes, on the average, about one
person's labour to keep up those miserable peat fires in the centre of
the hut. As for flowers; since I have been in Scotland I have never
seen a single flower around one of those miserable cabins, where most
of the people live.
At Glendale I asked one crofter if they had ever any fruit. "Well",
he said, "they used to have some kail".
Struggle to Pay the Rent
I went, as Americans would say, to the jumping-off place -- to John
0' Groat's -- and there I saw two very bright fellows bringing up
stones from the seashore. One of them stooped down upon his knees to
help me to hunt for groatie buckles, and we had a talk. He said he was
going to build a house. The gentleman who was with me asked if he had
any surety in building it except the word of his landlord? He said he
was a good landlord. I asked, "How much have you to pay?" I
think he said £5. His father lived there, and there were two
other sons. I asked, "What do you make out of it?" One of
them said, "We generally get the meal". I said, "Do you
get enough to pay your rent?" "No; we have got to make it
up. I go off to the fishing, and my brother goes off to work.
Sometimes we get enough to pay the rent, but generally we don't".
I said, "The goodness of this good, kind landlord of yours
amounts to this, that he lets you live there, and takes from you all
that you make, save just enough to live". He said, "That is
just about so". But then he said, "He is really better than
many other landlords". Well, so he is; some of those landlords
are there skinning the people alive.
The Cottar's Hard Lot
It is not the crofters who have the worst lot - it is the cottars,
who come under the tacksmen. The crofter can only be put out once a
year; the cottar can be put out at forty-eight hours' notice. The
cottars are the absolute slaves of the tacksmen. There is just as much
slavery as there existed in any land where human flesh was bought and
sold. Why, there was the testimony before the Royal Commission.
By-the-bye, that Royal Commission - to a man who does not know
anything about it - looks like a committee of wolves to investigate
the condition of the sheep. I would like to see labouring people
represented on some of these commissions. Anyhow, a very intelligent
Gaelic witness said all the land he had was for his cabin and grass
for a cow. Lord Napier asked mow much rent he paid. He replied £5.
The Commission did not believe it - it seemed so incredible. They
said, "How do you pay it?" He replied, "I work a 1 00
days in the year at 1/- a day". Is it any wonder that wages are
low in your city when that is the state of labour in the outskirts?
A Pitiful Example
Poverty and destitution! There is enough to make you sick at heart if
you listen to it. Why, a banker in the Highlands told me that only
last week a young fellow had come to him whom he knew was an honest,
sober, industrious, hard-working man, and a cottar, and asked him for
the loan of a couple of pounds. "Well", the banker said, "I
can't lend you that as a matter of business. What is the matter?"
The man replied, "I don't know where to get anything to eat.
Myself, my wife, and four children have had nothing but potatoes since
last November - over two months -and not enough of them; and now there
is not a particle of food in the house. All I have in the world is a
cow and a stirk. If I sell them now, I can get nothing for them. If
you lend me this money, I will sell the stirk at the term time and
give it back to you". My friendly informant said, I will give you
so much meal, enough to keep you', - I forget how much, so many stones
you call it - "to last you up to the time, and bring me the money
when you sell the stirk". The man dropped down and burst into a
flood of tears.
My informant said to me: "I never felt so humiliated in my life
as to see a human creature, a fellow-man, driven to such a pinch".
And then he said: "The man told me, 'You don't know what anguish
I have suffered. Morning after morning I have seen my little children
going to school fearing they would fall down from sheer weakness on
The Poor Help the Poor
And the treatment of the poor - the poor broken creatures who have
nothing of their own -- is something outrageous -- this endeavour to
keep down the poor rates! Do you know that in some of these parishes
there are poor decrepit creatures who get an allowance of 2/- a month,
and in other places 14 lbs. of meal for two weeks? Well, I asked, over
and over again, "How do they live? They can't live on that".
What they live on is the charity of the poor people. The landlords,
the rich farmers, shunt this burden of providing for the poor that
their rapacity creates upon the hard-working people, who themselves
can hardly keep from starvation.
Oppressed by Landlord and Factor
One of the London papers said, jeering at me, that proposed to take
all the property from the landowners, and they supposed, however, I
was very kind -- I would send them to the almshouse. Well, now, I wish
- I have no ill-will towards them - but I heartily wish that a lot of
your ruling classes could be sent to the almshouse. I think if some
dukes and duchesses and earls and countesses were treated as these
poor people are treated, that the wickedness of it, the sheer
cold-blooded barbarity of it, would become apparent to your so-called
Utter slavery! Why, as one man said to me, "We have feared the
landlords more than we have feared Almighty God, and we have feared
the factor as much as the landlord - perhaps even more -- and the
ground-officer as much as the factor". Why, they are absolutely
in their power.
There is a case, I am told of, where the factor was a fish merchant,
and compelled the people to sell him the fish, and fined them £1
if they sold the fish to anybody else. Why, a gentleman was telling me
- a professional man - how he had ridden, just a week or two ago,
round with the factor on the estate of one of your members of
Parliament. They came up to a man, and the factor said to him, "Look
here, why were not your children at school yesterday?" Well, the
man sheepishly replied, and the factor said, "Look here, don't
you allow that to happen again. See that they are at school". "Yes,
your honour", the man replied. "Heavens and earth, how can
you talk to a man like that?" said the professional man, and the
factor said, "I can make him toe the mark; I have plenty of power".
Why, take the Isle of Skye, the factor there is everything except the
I spoke there, at Portree, the other evening. I went up to Portree,
and some of the inhabitants came to me, like Nicodemus, at night, and
said, "You must not leave Portree without speaking here". I
said that I did not want to thrust myself upon them, but if they
secured a hall I would speak. They went away, and by-and-bye they came
back and said, "There is not one of us who has the courage to ask
for a hall". They were afraid, and I said, "I will take the
whole responsibility, and offer myself, if need be, a vote of thanks".
I wrote a letter to the factor. I suppose you have heard of that
factor - Mr. McDonald, I think his name is. He is Justice of the Peace
and everything else, and he has charge of the only hall there. I wrote
him a polite note, stating that some of the people wanted me to speak
on the land question. He wrote back to me to say that he could not let
the hall for a lecture; he could not take the responsibility without
consulting all the proprietors. Anyway, we got a schoolhouse. A
clergyman at the head of the School Board was good enough to grant the
use of a schoolhouse, though there were threats of interdicts and
other terrible things made against him.
Highland Lions and Highland Sheep
I remember reading in an English book, written some years ago, about
an aristocratic Pole in the old times, who took an English traveller
over some of his ground, and pointed out some miserable-looking
objects. He told the traveller he could kick any of them he wanted to.
It was much like that in Scotland today. Your aristocracy take a pride
in all that sort of thing. They like to keep up those Highland
romantic notions, the feather bonnet and the kilt, and all that sort
of thing. Well, now, really when you come to think of it, those
Scottish Highlanders have been an ideal people with the aristocracy.
They fight like lions abroad, and they have been taken abroad at the
dictate of the very power which has oppressed them, to rob and
plunder, and kill other people; but they are as tame as sheep at home.
Don't you think that alongside of the Scottish lion you ought to put a
There is one thing that has greatly displeased me. The most
displeasing thing I saw in Ireland was the police force - the Royal
Irish Constabulary. Well, now, you are keeping up here in Scotland an
institution very much the same. When I was in Skye I saw policemen
loafing around just as the Irish Constabulary loaf about. In a little
bit of a village named Dunvegan, where I don't think there are more
than six or seven houses, there are two policemen, all in uniform. The
police of the County of Inverness have been increased by fifty, at a
cost of £3000 to the rate-payers, and £3000 more to the
whole country, on account of the fears of the landlords.
No Remedy in Half Measures
Now, I have been pointing out the evil. How can it be cured?
Well, it cannot be cured by any half-way measures; it cannot be cured
by any measures that will be agreeable to your aristocracy. You know
that at the beginning of big sheep-farming in the Highlands, and the
eviction of their brethren by chiefs who had become landowner's under
an infamous English law, there was a good deal of misery, and one of
the earliest measures to relieve that misery was to get up those
Highland regiments. They were got up about the time of the American
war, and a lot of them were sent over there to fight the American
people. You can't relieve poverty by any such measures as that.
The Wrong Road
In the beginning of the century, when the Duke of Sutherland and
other men of that kind were evicting their people with a barbarity
that will hardly find a parallel in the annals of savage warfare,
there was another measure got up to relieve the destitution -- that
was, the making of the roads. Some £267,000 of public money, in
addition to £5000 a year from the public funds, was, for many
years, spent on making roads through the Highlands; but this grant was
finally abandoned, on the ground that all it had done was to improve
the rents of the Highland landlords. No such measures as that will
You cannot get rid of it by such measures as you Glasgow people
adopted in your City Improvement Trust. You have taxed the masses of
the people only to foster corruption; to put large sums into the
pockets of speculators and landlords; to improve the property of other
landowners: and you have not a whit relieved overcrowding or
destitution. Your have simply changed the place of the disease. It is
like putting a plaster on a cancer and driving it somewhere else. You
cannot cure this deep-seated disease by any such measures as these;
you must go to the root, boldly and firmly.
Take the Beast by the Throat
Take no stock of those people who preach moderation. Moderation is
not what is needed; it is religious indignation. Grasp your thistle.
Take this wild beast by the throat. Proclaim the grand truth that
every human being born in Scotland has an inalienable and equal right
to the soil of Scotland - a right that no law can do away with; a
right that comes direct from the Creator, who made earth for man, and
placed him upon the earth.
Your cannot divide the land and secure equality. It could be done
among a primitive people, such as the children of Israel, who, under
the Mosaic law, divided the land; but in our complex civilisation that
cannot be done. It is not necessary to divide the land, when you can
divide the income drawn from the land. You can easily take the revenue
that comes from the land for public purposes. There is nothing very
radical in this: it is a highly conservative proposition. Why, I had
the pleasure of reading a speech delivered in this hall by your
member, Dr. Cameron, proposing substantially the same thing. Dr.
Cameron and myself, I am glad to say, stand upon the same platform in
this respect. He wants to reestablish the old, ancient tax upon land
that the landowners have thrown upon the masses of the people. That is
what I want to do; and when we have done that, I want to go a little
further. But I have no doubt that Dr. Cameron, when he had got so far,
would be quite willing to go a little further. The real fight will
come on some such proposition as that made by Dr. Cameron, and I have
not the shadow of a doubt that, if the people do their duty, the
landlords will be routed -- horse, foot, and dragoons.
Shift the Burden of Taxation
Now, see the absurdity of the present system, even as a great
economic measure. Here, in Glasgow, take that field of Burnbank. The
owner allows it to be vacant, and pays nothing; but if he puts houses
upon it you will then get £7000 a year in taxation. Have you got
enough houses in Glasgow? Why should you tax houses and not land? The
man is a public benefactor who puts up houses. The more you tax
houses, the less houses your have. But you may tax the value of land
20 shillings to the pound and you will not have an inch less land.
A good part of this city used to belong to your people. It was
purchased by a Lord Provost named Campbell. I don't know how he got
it. It reminds me of the story I heard in Cardiff, how an ancestor of
the Marquis of Bute got a great part of the common of that town - now
most valuable property. A predecessor of Lord Bute gave the freemen a
dinner every year. In a fit of generosity they voted the common to
him; but he did not continue the dinner. I don't know how the Lord
Provost got this property. But I am informed he paid £1 500 for
it. Now, his successor, Sir Archibald Campbell, draws £30,000 in
feuduties, and he does not pay a penny of the rates of the town. Would
it not be better to take that £30,000 in taxation, and remit your
taxes on some other things?
The Fund of Land Values
I want to call your attention to what an enormous fund you would get
for public purposes in this way. The chief advantage of putting taxes
upon land is that you would choke off those dogs in the manger who are
now holding the land without using it, or making deer forests of what
ought to be the homes of men; who, that they may compel a larger
black-mail, are withholding land around your towns from building uses,
while whole families are crowded in four-storied houses, a family to
each room. A great stimulus would be given to industry, to the
investment of capital, to production of all kinds, by the removal of
the taxes that weigh and press them down. And by taking that which now
goes to the landowner and using it for public purposes, instead of
making poor people pay for the education of their children, as you do
now, you could have all your schools free, and the best kind of
education given to the children of the poor, as well as to the
children of the rich; you could establish libraries and museums, and
public parks, and gardens, and baths, if you chose, in every town; you
could all around this coast build safe harbours for your fishermen;
and you could give a pension of enough to live comfortably on to every
old and decrepit person, to every helpless one; you might even dower
every girl, and give every young man a start in life.
Preposterous does it seem? Well, it does - this thing of doing
anything for the masses of the people. It is highly demoralising, we
are told, to give the people something for nothing; it would destroy
their independence if the poor people didn't have to pay for the
education of their children!
You don't hear anything about that when individual pensions are
granted up to thousands of pounds. Your Parliament votes £25,000
a year to a young prince as though it were nothing at all. Judges,
officers, and others such, get most handsome retiring pensions. It
doesn't hurt them! It doesn't demoralise them!
The Cost of War
And see how enormously your other expenses would be reduced. Why, I
saw in an office today a chart showing the expenses of this nation
diagrammed, and, according to that chart, it was nearly all for war -
the cost of war, and preparation for war. You have been going round
the world warring with other people, and out of the present taxes,
according to that chart, you pay 1 6/9,1 think, a year, for war, the
expense of war, and the costs of war, and 3/3 for other expenses.
Why is that expense placed upon you? Because you are governed by a
land-owning aristocracy. The army is a good place for younger sons.
You have been governed by the class that likes to make war, and that
finds a profit in rnaking war. With the rule of the people that would
Justice Outraged Demands a Penalty
There is enough here for all of us. There is no natural reason for
poverty, or even for hard work. The inventions and discoveries that
have been already made give man such a command over material
conditions, that we all could live in ease and luxury if we did not
scramble and tread each other underfoot.
Once give the people an opportunity, give mind a chance to develop,
and the forces of production would increase at a rate never dreamed
of. Where wages are highest, there is labour always most productive,
there is invention most active. And certainly it is time that
something were done.
Why, think if one of us, having a family of children, were to go away
from home, and come back and find the big ones leaving the little ones
out in the cold, keeping them in ignorance, in squalor and misery, and
disease -- what would we say?
Do you believe that the laws of justice can be outraged with
impunity? Not so. The whole history of the world shows that, though,
on the narrow scale of individual life and individual action,
injustice sometimes seemed to succeed, yet on the great scale of
national life, the punishment of national crimes always comes sure and
certain. And, so sure as God lives, that punishment must overtake such
nations as this. The cry of the oppressed cannot go up for ever and
ever without bringing down punishment.
Look back at the greatest nation that ever played its part on this
world's stage - Imperial Rome. What was its fate? That very fate may
be seen coming over this nation today. Italy, when the Roman power
went forth to conquer the world, was the home of hardy husbandmen,
independent and self-reliant. As fortunes grew, these men were drained
off to the wars, evicted, driven out, and Italy was given up to sheep
and cattle and great estates. That very same thing is going on in
these islands today.
The Braes Given to the Huntsmen
What was Scotland made for? What was this earth made for? Was it not
for man? Was not man given the dominion over the birds of the air and
the beasts of the field? Was it not made his duty to subdue the earth?
Is not man the highest thing that earth can produce? And yet here, in
this Scotland, you are driving men off the land, and putting on
beasts, and the vengeance is coming.
We know something of the laws of the universe. We do not yet know
them all. But there is a strange thing that has been noticed in new
countries, and that is the influence that man seems to have by his
mere presence upon nature. The bee follows the pioneer across the
American continent; where settlements are made more rain seems to
fall, new flowers without planting seem to spring up, and the earth to
bring forth more abundantly; and, where man retires, nature becomes
more savage. See how, in Italy, fertile districts, when depopulated,
became the haunts of fever. Look to the arid wastes of North Africa,
once such a teeming hive of population.
Men Who Love Scotland, Arise
The very same thing can be seen in Scotland today. Upon this land the
curse that follows the expulsion of men is coming. Men have been
driven off the richest and best land, and the sites of their little
homes and their little cultivated fields given up to sheep, and the
sheep fattened. It was good grass where the men had been. That,
everywhere I can learn, is giving way. I am told by capable
authorities that where a thousand sheep twenty or thirty years ago
could be kept, in places men had been driven off, not 700 can be kept
now. There is a fungus moss creeping over the ground; Scotland is
relapsing into barbarism again; even sheep are giving way to the
solitude of the deer forest and the grouse moor.
Will you, men who love Scotland, let it go on?
The address concluded, there was long-continued applause. The
Chairman then announced that Mr. George was prepared to answer
questions. The first three he would submit to him had been handed in
by a journeyman tailor. The following questions, some written, others
called out from the audience, were asked and answered.
Q: Why does Mr. George address meetings in large cities instead of
amongst the farmers and farm labourers, the large cities being centres
of commerce, and their inhabitants having no interest in the question?
A: Because I think it is in large cities that the evils of land
monopoly are best seen - and it is to the large cities that I look for
the force that is to reform these evils. Those poor, cowed people in
the Highlands, trembling under the eyes of their factors, what can
they do for themselves? It is to you men of the cities that I mainly
and principally look. The towns must carry the standard of
advancement, as they always do.
Q: How would nationalisation of the hand tend to raise wages or
shorten the hours of labour of the city artisan?
A: I do not propose nationalisation of the land, but to Nationalise
Land Values by collecting the Rental Value of Land for the nation.
That would open to labour the primary source of all employment. Why
are wages, generally speaking, in new countries higher than in old
countries? Adam Smith, a hundred years ago, stated the reason when he
said it was because there land was cheap - because a man can there
work for himself, and therefore will not work for anybody for less
than he can earn for himself. When you open up the land, you relieve
the pressure on every industry. It is the pioneers in a new country
who furnish the foundation and market for all the others. First you
have the herdsmen and farmers, and afterwards you have the operatives.
It is sometimes said, "We cannot all be farmers"; but that
is the only thing we all can be. We all might be farmers, because
communities have existed in which everybody was a farmer; but you
never heard of a community where everybody was a tailor It is not
necessary, however, for us all to be farmers. If we break up the
monopoly of land, so that in the primary occupations there will be
easy employment and high wages, then there will be a brisk demand for
labour and high wages in all employments.
Q: If Mr. George would not tax labour products, and if the rent of
the agricultural and grass land is only about £66,000,000 per
year-56 millions of this amount being a rent imposed upon the labour
of the farmer-would he explain to us how he proposes to abolish the
existing poverty with the paltry sum of 10 millions which remain?
A: The landlords are very anxious to show how little they get. Mr.
Mallock has made a coloured diagram in which he pictures it as only £100,000,000.
If it is so little, what is the use of making a fuss about it? The
fact is, that it is an enormous sum. The agricultural rent is put at £60,000,000;
but that is the smallest part of the rent. The rents of towns and
cities and mineral lands ought to be at least twice as much. Nor in
these estimates is everything given. It is merely rent received by the
landlords. There may be feued ground that pays 20/-, and which the
growth of the city has made worth £10 or £20. All that is
rent. The Duke of Westminster gets, besides the rent, all the
buildings upon his estates in London at the expiration of the leases.
The rent of these kingdoms is at least £200,000,000 -- enough to
pay all your legitimate expenditure, and all your extravagant
expenditure in some directions, and a great deal more, and at the same
time giving labour a chance.
Q: If it be unjust to hold private property in land, is it not
equally unjust to build a private house upon land, seeing that to
build a house upon land is putting a portion of the people's earth to
private uses, and excluding every one except the owner of the house
from the use of that portion of the earth?
A: That question is on a par with what you will find in the reviews
of your best newspapers: it must come from the editor of one of your
leading dailies. If a man takes a fish out of the sea, the fish is
properly his private property; but that fact does not necessitate
giving him the sea as private property. So with the man who builds a
house. He must have the exclusive use of certain land to justify him
in building. The house he builds is his private property, and should
not be taxed. But he should pay to the community the Rental Value of
the Land he holds. That is equitable.
Q: Would not the abolishing of taxes benefit the large merchants of a
city rather than the artisans or labouring classes?
A: No; I don't think so. The greatest benefits would be to the
labouring classes. The incidence of taxation, as now laid, benefits
the capitalist, or the man who has most money. The making of liquor
has been concentrated, and distillers have built up great fortunes
over in Ireland. The distillers are the men who renovate and build
churches. It is the same with all sorts of business.
We have in our country, more than in yours, a protective tariff. The
duties are paid primarily by the importers. Do you think you can get
them to work for free trade? On the contrary they profit by the
duties, as their effect in increasing the amount of capital required
for the business keeps competitors out. The effect of all these taxes
is to concentrate business in the hands of capitalists.
Now, it is said, why attack the landlord alone; why not go for the
capitalist? The capitalist, as a capitalist, is doing nobody any harm.
What harm is done by the capitalist is as a monopolist.
It is the monopoly that you want to destroy. Now, we find when a man
has a great sum of money, this power is, in the phrase of the
Socialists, used in exploiting labour. Where does this power come
from? Suppose I take a million pounds and go into a country where men
can earn for themselves £1 a day and put up my big factory: can I
get anybody to work for less than £1 a day? No indeed. It is
because men are impoverished that they are forced to compete with each
other for starvation wages. Suppose every family had, as it well might
have, its own house and garden, enough to live on; would you find
people working for a few shillings a week? You can see where the
pressure comes from. One millstone cannot grind. It requires two, the
nether millstone as well as the upper millstone.
Q: Supposing the rent of the land was paid to the State, instead of
to the private owner, would it make any difference?
A: It might not make any difference in the rent, but it would make a
very great difference to the people who paid the rent, and to the
community. That question was answered in a London newspaper in another
way by my friend Mr. Joynes. A man wrote, and asked what difference
was it to the farmer whether he paid his rent to the State, or whether
he paid it to the landowners? He said this was the difference -- that
the State was not likely to go to the Continent, or go off in its
yacht and spend it: that it would be spent for the general good. As to
the amount of rent levied; it would not be just to the rest of the
people to make rents low. Every rent ought to be a proper rent, as
much as the land is worth, because that is the only way of securing
equality. There's the mistake our friends in Ireland have made. They
have gone and turned that great agitation into a miserable little
thing for the tenant-farmers. Now, the tenant-farmers are not entitled
to a whit more favour than any other class in the community. The class
to look to, the class to strive for, is the lowest class -not the
farmer, but the labourer. He is the man. Improve the condition of the
man who has nothing but his hands, and you improve the condition of
the whole community.
Q: Does Mr. George propose to confiscate the interest on bonds held
by widows and orphans, which absorbs a large part of the income of
A: I would propose to confiscate the whole value of the land.
Q: Well, what I refer to belongs to widows and orphans.
A: Do not be deluded by this widow and orphan business. That is a
matter that is always put to the front. When men talked about
abolishing slavery in my country, the cry was raised about the widow
and the orphan. It was said, "Here is a poor widow woman who has
only two or three slaves to live upon; would you take them away?"
It reminds me of the story of the little girl who was taken to see a
picture of Daniel in the lions' den. She began to cry very bitterly,
and her mother said, "Do not cry, do not cry; God will take care
that no harm will befall him". To which she replied "I ain't
crying for him, but for the poor little lion at the back -- he is so
little I am afraid he won't get any."
Now, as to the widow and the orphan: in the state of society which
would ensue from breaking up land monopoly, no one need fear that the
helpless ones he left behind would come to want. This is not the case
now. Take your Duke of Argyle or Duke of Sutherland -their descendants
will yet be tenanting your alms-houses. John 0' Groat was sent by one
of your kings up to Caithness, and made a rich laird. But the lot of
the 0' Groats now existing there is just as poor and miserable as any
people there. The best blood of England, as it is called, runs in the
almshouses. How much better it would be for the richest man to know
that he left his widow and children in a state of society where they
could not possibly want, where all the influences around them were
healthy, than in such a state of society as this. Why, look at its
moral aspects. The vice and disease that are bred of poverty - do they
rest merely with the poor people? No; they climb up through the ranks
of the rich to the highest.
Q: If Mr. George would abolish ownership in land, what compensation
would he give to those owners of land who have acquired it by
purchase, sanctioned by existing law?
A: I would not give them a penny. I don't think this matter of
compensation comes into practical politics. Why should you make any
discrimination between a man who purchased his land, and a man who did
not purchase it? Does it make much difference whether I am a robber or
I bought the thing of the robber? Supposing I was big enough to steal
one of you, and run you off to a country where I could hold you as my
slave: you would have a moral right to get away from me as soon as you
could; but would the moral right cease the moment I had sold you to
somebody else? If you were to say we will recompense anybody who can
show that they bought their land, what would be the result? Why, by
the time you came to take the Land Values, everybody would have sold
the land to somebody else.
A gentleman said to me tonight -- Oh, Scotsmen will not hear of
anything else but compensation." I don't believe that. I have a
very much higher notion of Scotsmen than that. I believe the Scots are
too logical a people to tolerate the idea of compensation. I will tell
you a story I heard about this matter of compensation. There was one
of your Highland lairds - a Gordon something or other - in a railway
train with a gentleman, and he was talking about these wicked ideas
that were floating about. The gentleman said to him, "How did you
get your land?" He said, "We got our land by bringing our
men into the field to fight for the country" The gentleman said
to him, "What did the men get?" Well, he had to admit that
the men had not got anything. "But", he said, "we have
had the land for a long time, and sanctioned by law. It would be
robbery to deprive us of it". The other gentleman asked, "How
long have you had it?" "We have had it for 800 years". "Well",
the gentleman said, "if you have had it for 800 years, don't you
think you have had it long enough?"
Compensation is preposterous. Why, all titles to land are nothing but
robbers' titles, and the titles to a large part of the land in
Scotland are a great deal worse than robbers' titles. They are not
titles won by the strong hand or by conquest. They are rather the
titles of the sneak thief - or worse. These Highland chiefs betrayed
their brethren - took advantage of a language and a law that they did
not understand. They were won by treachery and treason. I don't
propose to go back into inquiries of that sort, because, to my mind,
it makes no difference how a man got the land. It may be said he
bought it. Supposing he bought the sun? Could he buy it from any one
who had the right to sell it? But where do these titles come from? Has
one generation, supposing they were all united, the right to sell the
rights of the coming generation? This earth belongs to all
You men have carried in a certain direction compensation to the
extreme of absurdity, but it has always been compensation to the
ruling classes. You paid the descendants of Charles the Second's
illegitimate children compensation for hereditary pensions and taxes,
and you paid enormous sums to buy out the hereditary jurisdiction of
your Highland chiefs. For every sinecure held by one of the ruling
classes he gets compensation, but you never hear of a poor man being
compensated. How much were the people compensated when the taxation
was taken off the land and put upon labour? Why should you compensate
the landlords? The only reason is that you have been doing it for a
long time. Nobody proposes to take anything from the landlords. I
would give every one his full equal share. It is not proposed to take
anything from them; it is merely to stop them from taking from other
Q: What about recently acquired land?
A: Treat it in the same way. Supposing the land was acquired by
purchase; is it not the principle of law that the buyer can get no
better title than the seller has to give? If a man has no right to the
land, how can he give another man the right to it? As a matter of
fact, you would do no injury by laying down that principle, No one
could be hurt by the resumption of the land as common property, save
those who could well afford to have their incomes lessened. The man of
small means who had got himself a house and lot would be the direct
gainer by the change which would exempt houses from taxation, and put
it upon lots, while he would be an enormous gainer by the increase of
wealth and the rise in wages. Then the business men who are landowners
would profit by the improvement and stimulation of the productive
energies of society far more than they would lose as landlords.
There is one who would lose, by losing his power of living on the
toil of others - the mere landowner: the typical landlord, the man who
goes to the Mediterranean in a yacht, and spends the money which he
draws from the toil of the people here. Or, like that Dublin man,
known as "Cosey" Murphy, who practically went to bed for
seven years. At the end of that time he woke to find himself twice as
wealthy as when he went to bed. "Cosey" Murphy was, of
course, a landowner. Without any effort on his part, the progress and
activity of the community increased the value of the land he held, and
that is how he grew wealthy while he slept.
Consider, the real thing that would be taken from the people who
demand compensation is not land, but the power which the possession of
land now gives them of levying toll upon the labour of others. What
does the Duke of Sutherland want with his twelve hundred thousand
acres; or the Duke of Westminster with his London estates? No more
than the Earl of Airlie wants with the water that he sold. They want
to have the privilege of taking the wealth of the people who have
produced it. That is a right that no one can have. That is a power
that can be sanctioned by no purchase, and for which no one can justly
Q: Suppose a man was induced by our Land Laws to invest £100 in
land. He might have invested the money in any other commercial
enterprise. Would Mr. George compensate the man who had lost his money
by the so-called pernicious Land Laws?
A: I would not. [A voice: "You will not do for Scotland".
Second voice: "Keep quiet, you fool! Do you speak for Scotland?"]
If a man invests a gold sovereign in a bad Bank of England note, I
would not reimburse him. If a man invests a hundred pounds in slaves,
I would not reimburse him.
[A voice: "We compensated the West Indian slaveholders".]
A very wicked thing it was. I hope you will not do so again. You
shunted the loss which the slaveowner ought to have incurred upon the
backs of the working classes of this country. You did worse. You
strengthened slavery all over the world; you taught the American
slaveholder to believe that, if abolition should come he would get a
price for his human property. Up to the verge of the war slaves
commanded as high a price as ever they did. If, on the contrary, that
agitation had gone on on the basis of absolute emancipation, the thing
would have been gradual. The value of slaves would have declined. Men
would not have bought and sold them. Now, the same is true in this. I
want to do this at 1 0 o'clock to-morrow morning; but if we all wanted
to do it, it would take a good while. It necessarily must be a
progressive step. We must necessarily, on account of the resistance,
move step by step. And as we do this the landowners will have a
chance; your recent purchaser will have a chance not to purchase. The
decline would be slow and gradual.
Q: Why not begin at home?
A: Why not begin at home? I am beginning at home! I don't come over
here to preach anything I have not preached in my own country. The
very conditions that I have been speaking to you about I have seen
growing upon new soil, and it was because of that that my eyes were
opened to it. Why not begin at home? I am here beginning at home. We
who speak this language are on both sides of the Atlantic but one
people - becoming every day more one. The agitation must go forward on
both sides of the Atlantic - by action and reaction. America must be
affected through England and Scotland, and England and Scotland will
be affected through America. Whatever we do, we do for this whole,
great imperial race - the race to whom the destiny of modern
civilisation is entrusted.
Q: Would you confiscate all rent?
A: I would confiscate all rent in the economic sense.
Q: Then, would you give compensation for improvements?
A: I do not propose to take the improvements, but to let everything
stand as it is now. The proposal is to take the Annual Value of all
land for the National Revenue, and this need not disturb any man in
his holding. If at any time he gives up possession he would certainly
be entitled to compensation for his improvements, and this would be
paid by his successor. There would be no confiscation of improvements.
It is the present system that is confiscatory. It is confiscating
labour every day. It is not a robbery that is done and passed away; it
is robbery that is going on every week and every month, every day and
every hour. It is a fresh robbery that is committed on every child
that comes into the world.
Now, to go back to this matter of compensation. Some people do
propose to compensate. There are some who propose to compensate all
who can show that they have purchased the land, at the price they gave
for it, minus the net rent that they have received. Then there is Miss
Helen Taylor, the step-daughter of John Stuart Mill. She is also in
favour of compensating everybody who can show that they have purchased
the land with the proceeds of their labour. She proposes to make the
landowners pay up with interest, and compound interest, all the back
taxes from the time of Charles the Second, and then to take part of
that money and compensate the people who could show that they had
purchased with their own earnings. There are people who believe in
compensation-compensation not to the landowner, but to the people who
have suffered. I would cut the whole thing now. I should be perfectly
willing to draw the line at "let the past be the past." If
any one wants to compensate landholders, they have a perfect right, so
far as they are concerned themselves, to give compensation. They could
make a collection for them. You have a perfect right to do that, but I
deny the right of any individual to grant away the natural rights of
another individual. Be just before you attempt to be generous. There
is only one true basis of social reconstruction, and that is the basis