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just man and a righteous man, and that he walked uprightly before the world, but when he was not before the world his walk was 'slantindicular.' But notwithstanding all this, the Times was a power in this country, and also in Europe. No one lamented more than he did that a paper once great in its independence had become—what should he say?domesticated, for the editor of the Times was now domesticated in the houses of Cabinet Ministers and members of high families in London. He had learned now, when his paper might have been more useful than ever, to fetch and carry for Cambridge House.
Leaving the personal part of the question, Mr. Bright proceeded to expound his ideas upon the general subject. There were three great classes, he said, connected with land—the landowners, the tenant farmers, and the labourers. In regard to prosperity, the last-named class were at a comparatively greater distance from the landlord, and from the tenant, probably, than they were at any former period. He referred to the letters in the Times published under the well-known initials ‘S. G. O.,' and also to certain letters in the Star newspaper describing the condition of the population in Buckinghamshire ; but lest his audience should be unwilling to take their evidence, he cited that of the Saturday Review. In an article on · Agricultural Labourers,' a writer in that journal said that when foreigners come to England and read of the condition of agricultural labourers they must be much shocked,
for, he added, we are moved to a languid shame and sadness by thinking how true the picture is, and what wretched, uncared-for, untaught brutes the people are who raise the crops on which we live.' And then he went on to declare of the old feudalism, which was precisely the thing he (Mr. Bright) had mentioned, 'The old feudalism of England—the state of things when there yet were serfs, and when the lords of the soil were almost a different order of beings—still colours the relations of the rich and the poor.' After other passages showing the degraded condition of the labourer, the writer proposed as a remedy that instead of a man receiving parochial relief from the parish, he should be allowed to receive it from that larger area, the Union; and that a law which was now hardly ever put in practice should be repealed, by which a working man breaking a contract to work was treated as a felon.
Mr. Bright did not believe these remedies would be sufficient for the terrible malady described, and he asked whether it was the unchangeable law of Heaven that the agricultural population of the country should continue in their present condition. He could prove, beyond all doubt, that in all those countries in Europe where the land was divided and the people had a chance of having some of it—those, in fact, who were industrious and frugal—that the condition of the agricultural and peasant population was infinitely superior to anything that was to be seen in Great Britain and Ireland. In many countries in Europe, and in the United States, the law respecting the descent of property followed what was believed to be the natural law of affection and justice between parent and children.
All the property was fairly divided. What was the case in England ? Personal property was divided equally, but land was given to the eldest son in one lump. 'Now, tell me whether the principle which the law of Europe for the most part wishes to enforce, that which the law of America enforces when there is no will, that which we enforce when land is not in question—whether that is not a more just law, does not approve itself more to the hearts of men, and before the eye of Heaven, than a law by which we send beggars into the world—it may
be half a dozen children—that we may make one rich in the possession of unnecessary abundance?' It would be as reasonable to cut off all the younger boys and girls from all education and all freedom as it was to cut them off from their share of their father's property.
Mr. Jefferson, who filled the office of President of the United States, considered it, said Mr. Bright, to be one of the greatest acts of his life when he prevailed upon the Legislature of Virginia to abolish the laws of primogeniture and entail; and in his Life was to be found this statement: “The class which thus provided for the perpetuation of its wealth also monopolized the civil honours of the colony.' The effect of the distribution was to lessen the chances of a man being so enormously rich, and to give an opportunity to a larger number to become moderately so. If there were fewer coaches and six in the State of Virginia, there were twenty times as many carriages and pairs. After touching upon the question of entails, Mr. Bright continued : 'Now, may I ask you what is the political reason for which this state of things is maintained ? It is for the very reason for which this system was established eight hundred years ago—that there may be in this country a handful of
three or four times as many as there are here—twice as many perhaps—who are the owners of nearly all the land, in whose hands is concentrated nearly all the power, by whom the government of the country is mainly conducted, and amongst whom the patronage of the government is mainly distributed. In every country in the world, as far as I know, the possessors of land are the possessors of power.'
This point the speaker proceeded to illustrate. Our great territorial system—which was formed of a number of great properties—left the cultivator of the soil ignorant, and hopeless, and dependent, and degraded. Now, lest the Man in the Mask should misrepresent him again, he would say that he was not against great estates, or great farms, or great factories, but he had a very great liking for small estates, small farms, and small factories. Mr. Bright then indicated as follows the nature of the reforms which he desired :
What I propose is this—it is nothing that I have not stated beforeit is the most moderate thing that can be proposed. If you want to see an admirable description of what I think it would be wise to do, you will find it in a paper which certainly is not very Radical—is rather, in my opinion, though conducted with considerable ability, conceited in some of its criticisms upon us—I mean the Spectator. There was an article on Saturday last in this paper on the subject of land laws in New York, and although there are only three or four lines about New York in the article, that does not matter, for it is admirably written. In one place it reads as follows: “No doubt Mr. Bright would consider this not sufficient change for the purposes he wishes.” He is quite mistaken. The changes which he proposes are more extensive than any changes I have ever proposed, either in public or in private. What are these changes ? First of all, that the law shall declare that when any person owning property dies without making a distribution of it by will, the law shall distribute it upon the same principle that it now adopts when it dividesI am now speaking of landed property-any other kind of property. For example: suppose a man has got money in the bank-I wish everybody had,-suppose he has machinery in his mill, merchandize in his warehouse, ships upon the ocean, or that he has shares, or the parchments for them in his safe,-if he dies, the Government by the law, or rather the law itself, makes a distribution of all that property amongst all his children, in accordance with the great universal law of natural parental affection and justice. Then, I say, let that principle be extended to all the property which a man may die possessed of; and, so far as that goes, I want no further change.
* Then, with regard to the question of entails, I would say this : the Spectator proposes that a man, by entailing his property—so far as I can understand-shall only prevent himself and his next beir from disposing of it; that there shall be, in point of fact, only two persons in the entail. Now, what I propose is that a man may leave his property to as many persons as he likes, to A, B, C, D, and E and F, and so on all through the alphabet, if they are all alive at the time he makes his will, and he can put all their names into it. But at present he can leave it to these people, and to a child then unborn, and who shall not be born, it may be, till twenty years after he has made his will. I would cut that off. I contend that it should be left to persons who are in existence, and whose names are in the will, and you will find that as A, B, and C died it would finally come into the hands of a man who would have the absolute disposal of it, and who could keep, or sell, or give, or waste it as he pleased.
* And I believe it will be much better for the public when that freedom of transfer is given to the possessors of land which is given to the possessors of every other kind of property. Everything which I am proposing