Profiteering in Land

Joseph Hyder: 
Profiteering in Land. An Armory of Facts
First published July, 1924, by
Land Nationalisation Federation

General indignation has been manifested against the excessive profits, which have been made, both during the war and since it came to an end, and a new and expressive word has been added to the English language to describe them. In ordinary times, and in the absence of scarcity caused by the war, competition between traders is usually fairly effective in keeping profits within bounds. But in the matter of land the levying of excessive charges is the normal thing, particularly when land is required by Stat Departments and Local Authorities, and by such semi-public bodies as Railway Companies. These excessive charges are made possible by the fact that land is limited in quantity, and by the further fact that the community has established no adequate check upon private greed, as it might have done if the taxable value of land had been made the basis of the purchase price.  

Before giving illustrations of the extortionate charges, which are such a characteristic and persistent feature of the operations of landlordism, it may be well to emphasise the peculiar properties of land, which make it a natural monopoly, and a monopoly of the worst possible kind to be the subject of private ownership. It is, in fact, essential always to remember that land is in a category by itself, inasmuch as it was never created by human effort, and that those who claim it as their special possession can prove no moral right to it as against the rest of mankind. 

Comprehensiveness of the Term “Land.“–The term “land” includes the whole substance of the planet: the cultivable soils, the building sites, the minerals, the forest (including the wild animals which live in them), the mountains and valleys, the rivers and the lakes (including the fish), and the springs which feed them, even the light that falls upon the earth, and the atmosphere which envelops it. 

To whomever is permitted the ownership of land is given the effective control of them all. And all of them are gifts of nature, as distinct from the products of labour. As such, by every moral right they should be common property. 

Land is a Monopoly, because it is absolutely fixed in quantity. The more one man has the less there is for other people. However widely it may be diffused, land ownership still remains a monopoly. The private monopoly of land is the worst of all monopolies, because it is the monopoly of the first necessary of all life and labour. 

Land is the One Indispensable Thing.–All men have an equal right to life. Therefore all men have an equal right to land. 

For life itself is impossible without it. It is the raw material of all industry. Every atom in the body of every man, and in everything that he ever handles, comes from land. Private property in it is therefore indefensible and the gravest evils and injustices are inevitable wherever it is recognised and established. 

Private Titles to Land are entirely different from titles to other property. All other property is the result of human labour. Rights of property, however acquired, can only apply to the outcome of a man’s work. They can never justly apply to Mother Earth, which is nature’s gift to mankind, any more than they can apply to the bodies of men under chattel slavery. 


Who now Possesses the Land? 

In the Census of 1861 only 30,766 persons described themselves as landed proprietors, but the new Domesday Book of 1874 showed 1,173.724 landholders. That number included long leaseholders and copyholders, who were not owners, and it counted individuals and railway companies several times over if they owned land in different counties, thus the Duke of Buccleuch counted 14, and four other Dukes counted 11 each.  

28 Dukes counted as 158 separate owners
33 Marquises counted as 121 owners
194 Earls counted as 634 owners
270 Viscounts and Barons counted as 680 owners

852,438 people owned 188,413 acres, or less than one-fifth of an acre each. But 500 peers owned one-fifth of the whole country, and the Duke of Sutherland alone owned more than seven times as much as the 852,438 small landlords did. 

252,725 owned 4,910,723 acres, or 19 acres each.
51,090 owned 15,133,057 acres or 296 acres each
10,888 owned 55,000,000 acres or 5,454 acres each
2,250 owned nearly half the enclosed area of England and Wales.

In Northumberland 10,036 owned 1,424 acres, or less than one-seventh of an acre each.
The Duke of Northumberland owned one-seventh of the whole county.
In Nottinghamshire one quarter of the county was owned by five people.

The Parliamentary Division of North Dorset contains 166,200 acres. There are 92 parishes. In 60 parishes practically all the land belongs to one large owner. In 23 parishes three-fourths of the land belongs to one large owner. In 7 parishes most of the land belongs to two men. In only 2 parishes are there many small freeholds. 30 landlords own four-fifths of the whole land in the division, 

In the face of such figures it is evident that the land is held by a comparative handful of the people. Changes have of course taken place since the new Domesday Returns were published. In Ireland, owners have been greatly increased by State purchase and resale of land, while thousands of small freeholds have been created by building societies, and thousands of farmers have recently bought their farms in England, Wales, and Scotland at high prices and under heavy mortgages. 

But the great mass of the workers–many millions of them–are still landless in what they call their “own” country. 

“No foot of land do I possess,
A stranger in the wilderness,
A poor wayfaring man.”

Some Typical Cases of Profiteering. 

The following are a few sample cases, which show how landlords have made use of their special powers as the possessors of the monopoly of the first necessary of life, and have consistently used it as an instrument of extortion. 

It will be seen that it is an almost invariable rule that they have tried, and generally with success, to get prices far in excess of the value on which they were paying taxes; and, although those sums have often been reduced when the cases have gone to arbitration, the awards of complacent arbitrators have exceeded the prices offered by the public authorities, with the result that all the heavy costs of arbitration have had to be paid by the ratepayers. 

AILSA CRAIG.–Five acres bought for a lighthouse. Rateable value, nil. Price paid, £1,550, or fifty times the rateable value of the whole island. 

BASS ROCK.–Small site bought for lighthouse. Rateable value, nil. Landlord gets £40 per annum feu duty. 

BIRKENHEAD.–40 acres at Cerrig-y-Druidion, Denbighshire. Rough mountain pasture and moor, 1,200 feet above sea-level. Land acquired for a reservoir. 

Landlord’s claim … £22,000
Arbitrator’s award … 5,736
Costs, nearly … 5,000

Scheme for a hospital at Barnaston abandoned, in 1909, because £350 per acre was asked for purely agricultural land, worth not more than £100. 

Under the Birkenhead Water Act of 1907 the Corporation bought 2,039 acres.

Corporation’s valuation £9,171
Landlord asked £100,000
Arbitrator’s award £26,518

It subsequently transpired that the owner had bought the whole 3,343 acres a few years previously for £9,000. 

BIRMINGHAM.–Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, who was Lord Mayor of Birmingham when the Corporation Street area was cleared, told a committee of the House of Commons that the scheme had cost £400,000 more than it would have done but for the extortionate prices paid for the land. 

The cost of the great water scheme, supply from Wales, was enormously increased by excessive land charges. 

School schemes, Leigh Road and George Dixon schools, abandoned because from £2,500 to £3,000 an acre demanded. 

St. Benedict’s Schools, Small Heath, agricultural land rated at 45s. per acre, cost £1,815 per acre in 1907. 

Broad Street widening, 1,140 yards, cost £35 a yard in 1912. 

Corporation tunnelled (1909) under Stannage Moors for water mains, at a depth of from 470 feet to 774 feet, for a length of about two miles. The landlord only paid £20 an acre in 1897, but he demanded £5,044 for the casement, although the surface of the land was untouched. 

Sewage works at Yardley in 1905. Rural land, cost £320 per acre. 

BRADFORD.–Market rights granted by Henry Ill. to his valet, Edmund de Lacy. Sold for £2,100 in 1795. Leased to the Corporation in 1866 for 999 years at £5,000 per annum. 

BURY.–Wayleave for overhead electric wire across agricultural land, only 6 poles in length. Landlord first demanded £30 per annum, then refused wayleave at any price. It cost the Corporation £1,000 to carry the wire further round. 

Reservoir at Clough Bottom. Hillside farm, 241 acres, rented at 10s. per acre. 

Corporation’s offer … £2,500 or £103 per acre.
Owner’s demand … £9,000 or £371 per acre
Umpire’s award .. £6,769 or £280 per acre

The vendor’s costs were £2,373, but they were taxed down to £855. Total cost to ratepayers, £7,624, or £314 per acre. 

CARLISLE.–Feltsdale water scheme. Moorland, valued at £3,000. Price paid to Earl of Carlisle, £33,000. 

CARNARVON.–Land for houses. Rated at 32s. 6d. per acre. Price demanded, £600 per acre. 

Land for cemetery. Rated at £2 per acre. Price asked £847 per acre. 

DEVONPORT.–The owner of Devonport, Lord St. Levan, and the owner of Stonehouse, Lord Mount Edgecombe, about 1798 got Parliamentary powers to build a bridge. No other means of communication to compete with it. Price asked in 1898, when the Corporations wanted to abolish the tolls, was £120,000. A similar bridge could have been built for £5,000.  

EAST DENTON (Northumberland).–Three-quarters of an acre of farm land for a school. Actual value, £45. 

Duke of Northumberland’s demand… £1,089
Arbitrator’s award … £698
Legal costs … … …  £65

EDINBURGH.–11½ acres of insanitary property, mostly only fit for demolition, cost £140,000. Further action on similar lines impossible. 

Sir Thomas Hunter, town clerk, gave the following facts to the recent Royal Commission on Housing:­

Street widening case. House acquired. Net rent, £62, less repairs: 22 years’ purchase = £1,400. Corporation offered £2,000. Arbitrator awarded £2,000, plus 10 per cent. for compulsion. The addition of the 10 per cent. threw all the costs upon the Corporation, amounting to £744. 

Premises which cost the owner £3,450 had to be bought for £7,810, plus £954 for expenses. 

Premises which cost the owner £7,637 had to be bought for £11,051, plus £2,405 for expenses. 

For a street widening the owner was awarded £469 and the expenses came to £500. 

GLAMORGANSHIRE.–County Council published a number of cases showing that it has had to pay from £400 to £1,000 per acre for schools for land worth only from £60 to £200. 

GLASGOW.–Price demanded for library site, Millbrae Road, £3,500 for quarter acre. 

Slums bought at prices ranging from £21,700 to £55,600 per acre. 

Sandyford Place, No. 15. 60 yards bought.
Price asked … £700
Sum awarded … £122
Legal costs …  £1,053

Fitzroy Place, No. 6. 60 yards bought.
Price asked … £950
Sum awarded … £297
Legal costs … £787

Fitzroy Place, No. 10. 118 yards bought.
Price asked … £1,000
Sum awarded … £279
Legal costs … £460

Cathcart school site. Rated at £3 10s, 10d. a year.
Price paid £3,270, or 920 years’ purchase.

Sir John Lindsay, town clerk, gave the following facts to the Royal Commission on Housing in Scotland: – 

For a street widening the grass plots in front of three or four sets of houses were bought.
Total demand of owners … £4,608
Total award … £1,125
Costs of arbitration … £2,990

In one of these cases the landlord asked £1 ,000. He got only £142, and the further costs were £499. 

In ten other cases of street widening–
Total claim of owners .. . . . . £56,257
Sum awarded … … £32,000
Total expenses … £7,703

To acquire a public-house the owner asked £10,000. He got only £5,500, but the costs amounted to £1,549. 

In another case­
Owner’s demand … £3,400
Award … £2,100
Costs … £1,158

Again, £330 was asked, £35 was awarded, but the costs’ were £603. The Town Clerk says: “I have scores of cases of this kind.” 

The Duke of Montrose has got scores of thousands of pounds from the ratepayers in connection with his water “rights” in Loch Katrine. He also made an excellent bargain for himself when the level of Loch Arklett was raised to increase the water supply. The operations affected 381 acres (much of it marsh land). This land was part of four rough hill pasture farms totalling 11,500 acres. The total gross rent of the 11,500 acres was only £700, and the total value, on a liberal estimate, £14,000. 

For the 381 acres, about one-thirtieth part of the whole, he got £19,000. He also got £3,000 for the right to store the water, and £1,700 for restrictions on feuing. The legal costs came to £4,700. The Corporation spent £183,000 on the works, adding £7,000 to the annual rateable value of the parish, and proportionately relieving the Duke of rates. 

He charged £508 per annum for a rope-way to carry material up to 20,000 tons, and a further charge for quantities beyond that. 

GREENOCK–10 acres, with foreshore, bought for a torpedo range. Rated at £11 per annum. Price paid £27,225, or 2,475 years’ purchase. 

Three acres of slums cost £127,000. Legal expenses, £1,567. 

HARROGATE.–Land for a cemetery. Rated at 5s. per acre. Price paid £1,200 per acre.

HYDE.–Sewage works. 16 acres agricultural land, worth £40 per acre. Cost to ratepayers, £15,000. 

HYGEIR (West of Scotland).–Lighthouse site on uninhabited island. Price paid, £600.

IPSWICH.–To widen approach to Stoke Bridge, 60 square yards wanted. Price asked, £8,000, or £130 per yard. Scheme held up. 

KILCREGGAN (on the Clyde).–52 acres, partly foreshore. Bought for a fort. Rated at £62 per annum. Price paid, £14,000, or 225 years’ purchase. 

LEEDS.–Sewage works, Newsam estate, 600 acres cost £149,644. 

Waterworks on Swinton estate of Lord Masham, bounded by moors. Rent of the 400 acres, £235.
Corporation offered 116 years’ purchase … £27,285
Owner demanded 831 years’ purchase … 194,000
Sum awarded 197 years’ purchase … … 46,489

Costs of both sides, as usual, paid by ratepayers. 

LEICESTER.–225 acres for reservoir. Lord Lanesborough asked £61,500, and received £34,000.

LIVERPOOL.–Land for Sefton Park. Rated at £1,350. Lord Sefton got £250,000 for it. 

To extend police offices in Dale Street, £32,000 asked for one-ninth of an acre. Scheme held up. 

LONDON.–The Victoria, Albert, and Chelsea Embankments cost about £2,250,000, and added enormously to the value of adjacent land. 

Queen Victoria Street, finished in 1871. Seven houses rated in 1870 at £2,770 were worth £3,794 in 1875, no alteration having been made. 

Improvements would often pay for themselves if the community received the increases due to their own expenditure. 

Waterloo Bridge, freed of tolls in 1878 at a cost of nearly £500,000. A general rise of rents followed. 

Shaftesbury Avenue, Kingsway, Blackwall Tunnel, the Free Ferry at Woolwich, Tower Bridge, and similar schemes, all brought grist to the landlord’s mill. 

MANCHESTER.–For reservoir in 1883, Countess of Ossalinsky got £64,000 for moorland worth only £500 per annum, or 128 years’ purchase. 

For the Ship Canal, 56½ acres, rated at £19 per annum. Price paid to Lord Egerton, £63,240, or 3,328 years’ purchase.  

MAPLIN SANDS (off Shoeburyness).–Bought for gunnery training. Whole rights of two manors cost the owner only £9,100 in 1880. His “expert” witnesses valued the Sands at £192,000 and £141,606. Sum awarded, £32,500. 

NETHERAVON ESTATE. –Military training ground in Wilts. Price paid to Lord St. Aldwyn, £93,000. Neighbouring estate of twice the rent only fetched £98,000 in the open market. 

OLDHAM.–Widening of High Street. £5,500 asked for 26 square yards, or £210 per yard.

PLYMOUTH.–Beaumont House and grounds, 9 acres, rated at £160. Bought for a park. Price paid, £26,000. 

ROSYTH (Naval base).–Price paid to the Marquis of Linlithgow, 80 years’ purchase of rent. 

SALFORD.–Slum area bought for £4 4s. 0d. per yard, plus £3,000 costs. 

SHEFFIELD.–Housing scheme, 1905; 1½  acres. The land for each of 70 cottages cost £85. Annual loss on scheme, £192. 

SOUTHPORT.–In 1878 the Corporation bought land for a market. A few years ago the market was burnt down, and the Corporation proposed to erect a market hall, police offices, a fire engine station, and other offices on the site. But restrictive covenants prevented them, and they had to pay a further £5,000 before they could proceed. 

STEEPLE ASHTON (Wilts).–An acre bought for water supply. Proper price, £60. Price paid to Mr. Waiter Long, £970 an acre. 

THORNEY ESTATE (Cambridgeshire). The Duke of Bedford published a book showing that the net income was practically nil! But he wanted the Government to pay £750,000. 

“WEST MALLlNG.–Waylcave for a sewer. Owner’s demand, £15,000. Sum awarded, £1,800. The pumping site cost £100 for the land, plus £50 legal costs. 


The late Mr. Samuel Laing, M.P., when chairman of the Brighton and South Coast Railway, once declared that the railway companies had had to pay at least £50,000,000 above the fair market price for the land they had bought. The companies were “fair game” for the landlords from the very beginning, but the complaints of high prices were so general that a Select Committee of the House of Lords was appointed in 1845 to inquire into the matter. A big landlord, Earl Fitzwilliam, was in the chair, and it was like a committee of foxes appointed to see if their fellow-foxes were robbing too many hen-roosts. 

This Committee considered that “a very high percentage, amounting to not less than 50 per cent. upon the original value, ought to be given in compensation for the compulsion only to which the seller is bound to submit.” There are also many cases, they said, where “it is necessary to consider the land, not merely as a source of revenue, but as the subject of expensive embellishment, and subservient to the enjoyment and recreation of the proprietor.” They also decided that the railway companies “had no right to complain of being obliged to purchase at a somewhat high rate.” But the users of railways have just cause for complaint, for they have to pay interest on those high charges to this day. The burden is on them, not on the companies.  

The late Lord Brampton, in his “Reminiscences,” said that extortionate charges for land were the general rule, and all the facts confirm that statement. 

Mr. Parker, law agent to the London and Birmingham Railway, said: “We always pay a great deal more than market value. That is conceded on all hands.” 

Mr. Duncan, solicitor to the Eastern Counties Railway, said it was the custom to make agreements to give great land proprietors more than the value by way of getting their assent to the Bills. He said the compensation depended upon the weight of the opposition, so that it is clear that the landlords nefariously used their position in Parliament to put money into their pockets. The payment of members of Parliament is an old-standing institution, but it was indirect, unauthorised, and underhanded, instead of being direct and above-board as it is now. “We give way to what is asked,” said Mr. Duncan, “rather than continue to stem opposition with the chance of defeat.” 

In one case his company paid £5,000 in expectation of getting certain land, which was as much as a jury would have awarded. But they changed their plans, and lost the £5,000, although the railway did not go within forty miles of that owner’s land. The £5,000, of course, stands in the company’s books as capital, and interest has to be paid on it, although it represents nothing but extortion. 

The agent to the South Eastern Railway paid to Lord A. on the Dover line £400 an acre for farm land, and £2,425 costs as well. 

The agent to the Brighton Company said they had paid large sums for the right to tunnel, although the surface was untouched. They paid four times the proper price for all land from Shoreham to Chichester. 

Similarly, the Great Western Railway paid ten times the proper price between London and Maidenhead. 

The late Sir Edward Watkin, chairman of the Metropolitan Company, said they paid £300 per acre for farmland. “Only twice,” he said, in 1892, “in my long and varied experience have I known instances in which the owner did not exact the utmost possible price for land taken for railway purposes.” 

For the land required for the Marylebone terminus of the Great Central Railway, Lord Portman tried to get £400,000. The arbitrator awarded £260,000, and we may be sure it was more rather than less than enough. 

The City and South London Railway Company, in 1903, paid to the Rector, etc., of St. Mary Woolnoth and St. Mary Woolchurch Haw, £136,241 for the right to tunnel. 

Besides the payment of fancy prices as bribes to the landed interest, the companies have been in the habit of buying off opposition to their schemes by offering director­ships to landlords who had no qualifications at all except their titles, their position in Parliament, and their landed property. A very shrewd railway authority, the late Sir R. W. Perks, said “As a rule the average English railway director knows very little about the details of his line. … Directors are chosen because of their Parliamentary or territorial influence.” And this saddling of the railway system with incompetents has probably done even more harm than the heavy blackmail, which landlords have been permitted to levy upon this primary industry. 


The history of the leasehold system is a lurid record of confiscations by the landlords of the improvements made by their tenants. They have been hard men, reaping where they have not sown, and gathering where they have not strawed. By owning the land, which no man made, they have been able to seize the houses which rightfully belonged to those who built them, and they have thus appropriated to their own uses untold thousands of millions of pounds worth of property which was entirely produced by others.  

From very early times they refused to break up their estates or to allow others to share in the possession of land. They would only lease it, and at first for only short and quite inadequate periods. Thus until 1853 no Church lands could be leased for more than forty years; and until 1846, no Earl of Arundel could lease land in Sheffield for more than twenty-one years. The consequence was that buildings were of the poorest description. They were only built to last for the period of the leases, and slums were manufactured on a wholesale scale. 

In all cases the bargain has been a one-sided one between landlord and leaseholder. There has been no freedom of contract. The keenest businessmen were but as children in the landlords’ hands. They had to accept the terms that were offered to them or go without the land. They have had to put up the buildings at their own expense, keep them in good repair, insure them in companies approved by the landlord, pay him an annual ground rent, pay all local rates, and hand the buildings over in first-class tenantable condition at the end of the lease. When the leases have been extended they have had to pay increased ground rents, spend money upon the buildings as they have been ordered, and pay extortionate “fines” as if they had done something that deserved punishment. 

The following sample cases are given, and they could be multiplied indefinitely; but they are sufficient to show the iniquity of landlordism in this particular aspect of it. 

Some Sample Cases. 

Some of the most glaring examples are to be found in London, where the greater part of the land is in the hands of a few big landlords, and has all been developed upon the leasehold system. 

THE GORRIXGE CASE.–Buckingham Palace Road. Original ground rent, £395. Raised to £4,000. Building costing £50,000 to go to the Duke of Westminster at the end of the lease for 63 years. Immediate payment of a fine of £50,000. 

From Hyde Park Corner to the Thames, and westwards nearly to Sloane Square and Knightsbridge, once a Crown farm, has been developed on this plan for the ultimate benefit of the Duke of Westminster. Park Lane, from Mount Street to the Marble Arch, is the westward boundary of another estate of the same owner, who draws a princely revenue in ground rents and has the reversion to thousands of costly houses in the most expensive part of London. And as ground landlord he does not pay a farthing towards the cost of street cleaning, lighting, sewage, policing, public education, or any other item of local expenditure. 

THE BEDFORD ESTATE.–Covent Garden (the garden of the Westminster Convent) and Long Acre were worth less then £7 per annum when first granted by Edward VI. to John Russell. Now Covent Garden market brings in £15.000 per annum. The lessees of Drury Lane Theatre have put £300,000 into the property, and they pay £10,000 ground rent to the Duke of Bedford. 

The whole of the Bloomsbury estate cost only £600 in 1617. All the buildings were put up by the leaseholders, and the ground rents and reversions are now fabulous in amount. The magnificent Russell Hotel, in Russell Square, with 700 rooms, is one example of many great properties, which only belong to their builders for a time and will revert in due course to the Russell family. 

THE PORTMAN ESTATE.–In 1512 the entire estate was worth only £8 per annum. A Mr. Portman, M.P., bought 260 acres north of Oxford Street as green fields. In 1888, 1700 leases fell in, and Lord Portman netted a million and a quarter pounds in rents and fines. From one street he took £120,000. One case is here given: Ground rent raised from £10 to £80, a fine of £1,000, and several hundred pounds to be spent on the premises. The landlord’s lawyer charged £15 for drawing up the agreement. 

THE CADOGAN ESTATE, in Chelsea. Houses in Hans Place, former rack-rents of £60 to £80 per annum. Now ground rents of £150, and rack-rents of £300. A baker’s shop, ground rent of £7, now re-built and ground rent raised to £120. 

The Salisbury estate, between the Strand and the Thames and in the Shaftesbury Avenue district; the Marquis of Northampton’s estate in Clerkenwell; Earl Berkeley’s estate, north of Piccadilly; Lord Roward de Walden’s estate, north of Oxford Street; the Duke of Portland’s estate and Earl Camden’s estate in Camden Town; Lord Llangattoch’s estate off the Old Kent Road, and numerous estates of the Church, are some of the principal examples of the leasehold system, and on all of them the usual exactions have been made. 

BIRMINGHAM.–Mostly built on 99-year leases. Lord Calthorpe one of the chief landlords. Several small shops in New Street, rents gradually raised from about £20 to £175. 

BOOTLE.–When the Liverpool docks were extended to Bootle, Lord Derby received a very large sum for the sandy shore, but he kept the marsh land at the back of it in his own hands. The prosperous town of Bootle was developed by his tenants on the usual terminable leases, and it is now a gold mine to him as the result of their labour and expenditure.

BURTON-ON-TRENT.–At a meeting of the Town Council in 1909, it transpired that the Marquis of Anglesey took £80,000 in rents, and only paid £78 in rates. 

CARDIFF.–In 1832 the rateable value of Cardiff was only £14,034. Now it is a hundred times as much. The Marquis of Bute is the chief owner. Lords Tredegar and Plymouth also benefit by the phenomenal growth of Cardiff. A site in St. Mary Street was leased for £45 a year. Under the new lease the ground rent is £1,900 a year, with the reversion to costly new buildings. Ground rents in Duke Street were increased from £60 to £360 per annum. Upon a garden in Mount Street Square the Exchange Buildings were erected. The ground rent is £1,000. For a property bought in 1849 for £4,000, the annual rent is now £1,000. 

HUDDERSFIELD.–The whole of the site of the town was acquired by an ancestor of Sir John Ramsden for £1,000. Now the income from it is reputed as not less than £100,000 per annum. 

SHEFFIELD.–The Duke of Norfolk is the great ground landlord. The rest of the people are, in the language of Punch, his “ground tenants.” Much of the land was common land, and no less than 8,479 acres of such land in and near Sheffield was enclosed, which is far too polite a word to apply to such operations. 

A ground rent in South Street, Park, was raised from £5 to £150, and £1,000 had to be spent on the property on a 40-year lease. Close by, in Duke Street, Park, was a Wesleyan chapel with a ground rent of £8 16s. 0d. a year; the new rent was £100. In another case a ground rent of a guinea was raised to £39. 

The site of the Royal Hotel was let at a ground rent of £12. When two years of the lease were unexpired, in 1904, it was bought to make a new road from the Victoria Station. In 1881 it had been sold at public auction for only £7,200. The Duke claimed £35,000. For this and neighbouring property he got £50,400. 

In 1874 the Corporation was on the point of buying his market rights for £267,000, but the price was raised and the negotiations were closed. In 1899 the Duke got £526,000, and the expenses came to £5,292. The market had only cost £50,000 to build in 1853. 

By such means the Duke of Norfolk was able to build a Catholic cathedral in Norwich, and to keep up his magnificent Arundel Castle in Sussex. 

SOUTHPORT.–Sir John Brunner told the House of Commons in 1899 that he had been told by the solicitor who advised the transaction that the entire estate, mostly a stretch of sand and foreshore, had been bought for £45,000. 

In thirty years the building leaseholders were paying £40,000 a year. Now it is four or five times as much. In one case in Lord Street, the ground rent of £25 was raised to £575, with the reversion to a new building costing £35,000. In another case the ground rent was raised from thirty shillings to £185. 

TORQUAY.–Three-quarters of the ground rents belonged to Lord Haldon. There were ten encumbrancers, and under Lord Cairns’ Settled Land Act the consent of them all was necessary before the land could be sold. There were 2,500 separate holdings. That would have meant 2,500 solicitors’ bills, and 2,500 surveyors’ bills, costing £150,000. So a Private Bill was got, costing £7,500. Then the leaseholders were permitted to buy their freedom. A ground rent of 12 guineas fetched £1,700, a £1 ground rent fetched £300, a £60 ground rent cost £3,500. When asked by the Town Holdings Committee if there was any particular reason why such high prices were paid the agent said: “No; except that we thought the lessees particularly wanted to buy, and so we charged them accordingly.”  

Some of the property was let on life-leases, a particularly iniquitous system at one time prevalent in Cornwall and Devon, and the agent said: “We have been very lucky in people dying off.” 

WIDNES.–Sir John Brunner, in the House of Commons, in 1899, gave the case of Widnes, where he lived for ten years. The centre of the town belonged to a family whose fortune was founded upon the purchase of land in Lancashire. At the death of the present owner’s grandfather the land in Widnes was worth so little that his two sons hesitated whether it was worth while to prove the will and claim the property. In 1899 the ground rents and reversions were worth £3,000,000. 

Similar evidence could be given of the working of the leasehold system in such towns as Barry, Blackburn, Buryr Bristol, Daventry, Devonport, Grimsby, Halifax, Newcastle, Oxford, Pembroke, Plumstead, Prestwich, Rochdale, and Southampton. 

Evidence was given to the Town Holdings Committee of a landlord who had inserted a clause in one of his leases to prevent his tenant from selling Carr’s biscuits; and in 1894 a well-known member of Parliament told the House that in his lease of a shooting in Ayrshire a clause was inserted to prevent him from being present at any political meeting in the neighbourhood.  

The Avenue Theatre was practically destroyed by the fall of the roof of Charing Cross Station in 1905, but the Courts held that the leaseholder was liable for the ground rent all the same. 

CHAPELS ON THE LEASEHOLD SYSTEM.–The Wesleyans built a chapel in the City of London in 1843, at a cost of £6,000. The ground rent was £48. The lease expired in 1893 and rent was raised to £650. The rent was too high for the chapel to be continued, and it had to be surrendered without a farthing of compensation. 

The Welsh Calvinists reported in 1883 that they had no less than 347 chapels, worth £355,000, built on the lease­hold system because the landlords had refused to give them the security of the freehold. In Wales alone Nonconformist chapels to the value of over £1,000,000 are thus liable to forfeiture. 

On Lord Penrhyn’s estate there are 27 such chapels, built on 30-year leases, which is eloquent proof of the absence of any real freedom of contract. 


The adjective unearned is usually applied only to the increases in land values, which are due to the growth of population (and consequently the demand for land) and similar causes. But it is equally applicable to the whole value of land. The unearned increment is simply an addition to an already existing value which is equally unearned by those who now appropriate it. 

Mr. Sydney Webb calculated some years ago that the bare land of London had increased by £6,000,000 per annum (??/pma)  in twenty years, or at the rate of £300,000 a year. 

The following examples are given of the growth of the unearned increment in various parts of London. 


The City.–The site of the Royal Exchange was sold for £3,000 in the middle of the sixteenth century. It was sold for £7,400 after the Great Fire of 1666. Its value is now estimated at £1,250,000. 

The site of the Peabody Statue at the rear of the Royal Exchange cost the City Corporation £10,000. Adjacent sites in Cornhill have been sold at the rate of £6,000,000 an acre. A house in Lombard Street let in 1668 for £28 per annum. The same site yielded £2,000 per annum in 1877.

Shepherdess Walk.–Site bought for £220 in 1664. Rent £3,500 in 1898, on 91 years’ lease. Reversion to rack-rent of £17,500 in 1989. 

Cheapside.–King Street, 4,080 square feet, on the Mercers’ Estate, let by auction in 1905 for 11s. per foot. Capital value, £630,774 per acre. 

Bloommsbury.–All the Bloomsbury Estate was bought by the Earl of Southampton for £600 in 1617. 

Covent Garden and Long Acre.–Covent Garden and Long Acre, worth £6 6s. 8d. per annum when granted by Edward VI. to John Russell.

Ground rent (to Duke of Bedford) for Covent Garden Theatre, £10,000 per annum. Net revenue from Covent Garden market, £15,000 per annum. 

Dulwich College Estate.–Bequeathed by Edward Alleyn, an actor, and contemporary of Shakespeare, “for the support of twelve poor scholars.” Now valuable building land. 

Hampstead.–Land worth 1½  d. an acre in 1100, now worth £5,000 an acre. 

Holborn.–The churchwardens of St. Clement-le-Danes bought twelve houses in Holborn in the sixteenth century for £160. The annual income derived from that site is now £7,000. 

Kensington.–Land bought by Commissioners of the 1851 Exhibition for £186,000 valued in 1889 at £1,500,000. 

Kentish Town.–Prebendal Manor of Cantelows, from ‘St. Giles’ parish through St. Pancras and Camden Town to Highgate, leased in 1768 to Mr. Fitzroy, brother to Duke of Grafton, the Prime Minister, for £300 per annum, now worth more than 1,000 times as much. 

Lambeth.-Site of London County Council County Hall, Pedlar’s Acre, left by an old pedlar to St. Mary’s, Lambeth, over 400 years ago. 

The rent was 2s. 8d. per annum in 1504; £41 in 1690; £100 in 1752; £1,800 in 1911. Sold to the London County Council for £81,000 in 1911.

Lincoln’s Inn Fields.–Site sold for £1,721 in 1758; it realised £13,000 in 1904. 

Oxford Street.–Ground rent of Selfridge’s Stores £10.000 per annum. Ground rent of Waring & Gillow, £25,000 (to Lord Ashton) for first ten years, £31,000 for second ten years, £37,500 for the remainder of the lease. 

Pimlico.–Crown Farm, 430 acres, worth £21 per annum. in 1603, now worth millions. 

Portman Estate.–Off Edgware Road and Oxford Street. Bought as grazing land by Mr. Portman. Developed in the year of the French Revolution on 99-year leases. In 1888 1,700 leases fell in and Lord Portman netted £1,250,000. 

St. George’s Fields.–Hayle’s Charity land sold for £300 in 1671. Let for £33 per annum in 1784. Revenue, £6,196 per annum in 1913. 

St. James’ Square.–Forty-five acres granted by Charles II. to his illegitimate son, the Earl of St. Albans. One acre of it now worth £250,000.

Shepherd’s Bush.–Three plots bought in 1629 for Campden’s Charity; then worth £23 per annum. In 1881 the annual income was £3,600; now very much more owing to the Central Tube. 

Strand-Holborn Improvement.–A site in Wych Street (6,125 feet) bought in 1879 for £5,000. Held idle for years, rate free, “in expectation of the clearance.” Price asked, £14,000. Price paid by the London County Council, after arbitration, £11,084. 

St. Mary-le-Strand.–Charity land left in 1667; then worth £7 per annum. Revenue in 1900 was £2,257 per annum. 

Trafalgar Square.–According to prospectus of the Carlton Hotel Company, the site of the Grand Hotel cost at the rate of £4,000,000 an acre. 


In 1760 land to the north of the old Nor’ Loch (now Princes Street) feued at 10s. per annum per acre. In 1766 feued to the city by Heriot’s trustees at £7 per annum per acre. 

In 1772 a Princes Street site feued for £4 13s. 4d. per annum. Same site (l acre) sold for £100,000 in 1905. In 1804 land along Leith Walk feued at £4 per acre, now up to £480 per acre. In 1905 land in George Street sold for £57 per square yard, or £275,880 per acre. 

In 1879 the Braid Estate (600 acres) of the Cluny Trustees yielded £1,600 per annum in rent. In 1906 one­sixth of it was feued for £3,300 per annum. 

Warrender Park Estate (71 acres), originally part of the Common Good of the City, first feued at £52 per annum. In 1906 gross feu duty was £10,759 per annum. 

Duke of Buccleuch got £120,000 for site of the Gas Works. 

Mr. Gordon Gilmour got £60 per annum per acre for nearly 30 acres, site of Fever Hospital. 


In 1862 land was bought for £6 10s. a yard. In 1893 it realised £30 a yard. 

In 1862 land in East Parade fetched £1 12s. per yard. In 1897 it realised £24 10s. a yard. 

Land near City Square was sold in 1897 for £75 a yard. 


In 1635 Lord Molyneux bought the Lordship of Liverpool for £450. 

The Corporation leased 1,000 acres in Lord Street area for £30 per annum. 

When giving evidence in 1888 before the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Town Holdings, the late Sir A. B. Forwood stated, concerning the Liverpool Corporation Estate (694 acres) “that the falling in of the leases 53 years later (that being the average unexpired term) would give the ratepayers of Liverpool a property, the fee simple of which was worth £12,500,000, and which would absolutely pay all the rates of the town.” The present income is only about £100,000 per annum, but it ought to be much more. 

Parliament Fields were assessed at £40 per annum as agricultural land. Part of them sold to the city by the Earl of Sefton for £100,000. He now draws £10,000 a year from the remainder, which was farm land two generations ago. 

Land near the Newsham Estate bought by the Corporation for 1s. 8d. per yard; now worth 10s. per yard. 


In 1596 Sir Nicholas Mosley bought the manorial rights for £3,500. In 1845 a Mosley sold to the city what was left for £200,000. 

In 1833 the Improvements Committee paid from 30s. to £4 per yard. In 1902 it paid £123 per yard in Corporation Street.  

In 1849 the land bought for the Smithfield Market cost £3 to £7 a yard. Recently the Markets Committee paid up to £35 a yard for adjacent land. 

In 1881 land (384 yards) in Cross Street cost £20,000. In 1900 it was sold for £40,000. 

In 1630 Humphrey Booth bequeathed two meadows, worth £19 per annum, for charity. The following two cases are parts of that land. The £19 per annum has grown to £13,764 per annum. 

In 1841 a corner site (Piccadilly and Port Street) was rented at £194. In 1901 the same land was rented at £4,544. 

In 1841 a corner site (Oxford Street and Bridgewater Street) sold for £600. In 1901 it fetched £8,436. 

In 1870 the Trafford Estates were worth £90,000. In 1896 Mr. E T. Hooley bought them for £360,000. In 1897 he sold them to the Trafford Park Estates Company for £901,000. 

In 1817 the site of the old Town Hall cost £22,000 per acre. In 1904 it was sold at the rate of £532,400 per acre, and the citizens benefited, as it was public property. 

Marshall’s Charity.–A bequest of land in 1792. It was sold for £2,250. The money was invested in Consols and the income has remained stationary at £67. 

Clark’s Charity.–The land that was bequeathed was worth £320 per annum in 1792. It now yields £3,318 per annum. 


The Bureau of Labour Statistics, State of Illinois, gives the history of a quarter acre plot in Chicago. In 1830, when Chicago was a frontier post with a population of fifty, it was bought for $20. In 1891 it had increased 60,000-fold and was worth $1,250.000. 

New York.–In 1626 Manhattan Island, on which New York stands, was bought of the natives by the Dutch West India Company for $25. It is now crowded with tall buildings and its value is fabulous. The enormous wealth of the Astors and similar family’s comes from this source. 


Vancouver City (British Columbia).–In 1885 the site of Vancouver was a dense forest. With the development of the railway system it was made the great port for Western Canada: In 1913 the land was valued at $138,000,000; while the whole of the buildings were only valued at £53,000,000.  


Adelaide.–One site of 10 feet frontage is now worth more than the Government got for the whole site of the city. 

Melbourne.–In 1858 Collins Street, the chief street of Melbourne, was part of a stock-yard. Now land is sold for as much as £2,000 per foot frontage. 

New Zealand. 

In twenty years (1891-1909) the land rose in value by £81,000,000, while the whole of the improvements added in that time were only worth £50,000,000. 


It is a maxim in British law that “to whomsoever the soil belongs, to him belongs all that is above it and all that is beneath it,” except gold and silver. The commercial greatness of this country has been mainly founded on coal, which is the most precious of all minerals; and every ton of coal, as well as of iron, lead, tin, copper, zinc, china clay, and so on, has paid a tax to a private landlord in the shape of rents, royalties, and wayleaves. The Sankey Commission unanimously reported in favour of the nationalisation of coal. Even the capitalist’ lessees of the mines agreed to that, although they are opposed to the State actually working the coal. This unanimity is a remarkable tribute to the obvious justice of the case for the abolition of the system of private property in coal, which has lasted for centuries. 

The Chairman’s chief reasons for making his recommendations on this point were as follows:–

  1. That coal is our principal national asset. 
  2. That seams of coal are now vested in the hands of nearly 4,000 owners, some of whom are a real hindrance to their development. 
  3. Where there are many small owners, some of whom cannot be found, there is great delay and expense in acquiring the right to work the coal. 
  4. Barriers of coal are left between different properties, without real necessity, and millions of tons are thus wasted. 
  5. Drainage and pumping would be less costly and more effective under centralised ownership. 
  6. Boundaries are arbitrary and irregular, and coal is lost on that account. 
  7. Mineral owners are allowed to work minerals without providing support for the land above, and much damage is caused to buildings for which no com­pensation can be claimed. 

Mr. Justice Sankey did not make any reference to the injustice of permitting private individuals to appropriate about £6,000,000 a year in royalties on coal without providing either labour or capital. But this vital aspect of the question rightly loomed large in the minds of the miners’ representatives and their colleagues, and much most valuable evidence was obtained on it as the result of their questions. 

It would be useful to have these facts in cheap form. 

Some of the biggest royalty owners–men like the Duke of Northumberland, the Duke of Hamilton, the Marquis of Bute, Lord Durham, and Lord Tredegar–were put under the most searching cross-examination by the miners’ leaders as to their titles to the coal seams which landlord-made law permits them to call their own property. 

Whether or not their titles are sound in law is a very small matter. Their moral right is the vital thing, and there can be no question that no grants by kings “for services rendered” could ever establish such a right to the very substance of the planet on which we live, any more than to any other part of the solar system. 

How the landlords have made use of their opportunities to profiteer in minerals may be judged by the following cases. 

Profiteering in Minerals. 

Valuable evidence on this point was given before the Royal Commission whose final report was published in 1893. 

The alleged willingness of landlords to reduce their charges in cases of necessity is often used as an argument in support of the present system; but such willingness has in fact been generally conspicuous by its absence. 

Again and again pits have had to be shut up because no reduction in royalties could be secured. Between 1875 and 1878, 56 collieries were stopped and 85 partially stopped in the county of Durham alone. 

In Cumberland a colliery had to be closed for the same reason. The company had paid £5,500 for coal they could not get, and the minimum rent was £700 a year. 

In another case the royalty on iron-ore was fixed at 7s. a ton when the selling price was from 30s. to 36s. The price fell to 14s., but the royalty remained fixed and the mine had to be abandoned. 

A Cornish tin mine worked at a loss for ten years, the loss being exactly the amount of the royalty. No reduction, mine closed; hundreds of men thrown out of work. 

The Wigan Coal & Iron Company paid £10,000 a year in royalties to the Duke of Newcastle, and made no profit for themselves. Mine closed. The same company paid £6,000 for coal they never got. 

The Barrow Hematite Steel Company paid £126,000 a year in royalties to the Duke of Devonshire, the Duke of Buccleuch, and Lord Muncaster, and for years made no profit on their £2,000,000 capital. At that time the total wages received by all the miners was only half the amount paid in royalties. 

The Darlastoll Steel & Iron Company made a profit of £2,000 a year and every penny of it went in royalties. 

The Cramlington Colliery, in Northumberland, made no profit for eight years, and the Seaton Delaval Colliery none for fourteen years, but jointly they paid over £30,000 a year in royalties to idle landlords all that time. 

Two collieries constructed a private railway line at a cost of £150,000. They paid every year in wayleaves twice the full fee simple value of the land and £23,000 in royalties when they made no profit. 

In a Northumbrian case the Marquis of Hastings prohibited the carriage of coal to any other place than the Tyne, except on the payment of the same wayleaves that would have been charged on that line. The coal went to Blyth and Sunderland, but had to pay, although they did not cross the Marquis’s land. 

Sir Arthur Markham gave a case where a landlord charged £800 a year for coal crossing a piece of his land no bigger than the floor of the House of Commons. 

In another case 4d. a ton was charged for crossing a strip of land only 20 yards wide. 

The lease of the Dolcoath tin mine, near Camborne, was renewed on the old terms on payment of a fine of £25,000, after the landlord had tried to get up to £40,000 a year as a share of the profits. 

The Devon Great Consols mine paid in royalties to the Duke of Bedford £300,000. When the lease was renewed he exacted a fine of £20,000. Then for years no profit was made beyond the £8,0(0 to £10,000 royalties, and the landlord’s charges were only reduced “at the fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour” when the mine was about to close. 

Sir Christopher Furness said in 1909 that a certain company had paid in royalties £300,000 in ten years; and bear in mind the receivers of royalties pay not a farthing in local rates. 

Mr. Lloyd George, at Newcastle in 1909, told of a company in South Wales which paid £3,500 a year in rates, made £3,000 profit, and paid £10,600 a year in royalties; and of a company in Yorkshire which spent £500,000 in developing an area and paid £20,000 a year to a landlord for coal the very existence of which was unknown a few years previously. Since then the landlord’s income has gone up to £40,000 a year and he has done absolutely nothing to earn it. Incidentally, it may recorded that a clause was inserted in the lease to prevent any man living in the cottages on the estate who had been convicted of an offence against the game laws. 


One of the most urgent of all questions is that of the proper housing of the people. Even before the war the nation needed many hundreds of thousands of houses more than it had, and hundreds of thousands of the existing houses were scandalously unfit for human habitation. For ten years building has nearly stopped, and the cost of labour and material is now so great that houses for the workers cannot be built except at a heavy loss, which has to be met by subsidies from the rates and taxes. This fact makes it all the more necessary that land should be secured at reasonable prices, so that not only may the deficit be reduced but also that adequate garden ground may be provided for each house. 

The evil consequences of permitting private individuals to treat land as a means of securing the greatest possible profit for themselves are, very marked in the case of housing. Inevitably they considered that the best use of land is that which will produce the highest rent. Fifty houses to the acre meant a higher rent than ten or twelve to the acre. The whole tendency of private ownership of land has therefore been to foster the crowding of houses on the land to the utmost extent allowed by lax building regulations. What this has meant to the health and well-being of the people it is difficult even to imagine, and impossible to calculate. For the landlords it meant a high income, and that was the main consideration to them. But to the people it meant a high rate of sickness and death, which was entirely due to the stupid policy of allowing private profits to be put before the well-being of the people. 

Poor Men Live on Dear Land. 

It is a remarkable fact that, as a general rule, rich men live on cheap land, while poor men live on dear land. When land rises in value rich men move out further from the centre, and a site where one man lived, with spacious garden grounds, is then developed for the habitations of hundreds of families where there used to be only one. 

Again, the fact that so much more can be got for land on which the homes of the people are built than for land on which cattle are grazed or crops are grown, has encouraged landlords to hold their land back from use until it was “ripe” for building; and it was never considered ripe until a high price could be got for it. Because of this high price for land, builders had to make it carry as many houses as possible, by building them in rows, often right up to the frontage of the street, and with a tiny backyard where there ought to have been a good garden. 

There is abundance of land in the country to provide plenty of space for each home, and plenty of public recreation ground as well, but the amount that is available for such purposes has been always made artificially scarce, and consequently artificially dear. Out of the scarcity that they themselves have created the landlords have got their harvest of high incomes, while the people have suffered in health and happiness to an extent that can never be measured in terms of money. 

Recent Examples of Extortionate Demands for Land for Housing. 

Alfreton … £1,200 an acre, which only paid 3s 4d. in rates
Bangor … £425 an acre, which only paid 4s 3d. in rates
Barnard Castle … £600 an acre, which only paid 7s. 6d in rates
Birkenhead … £864 an acre, which only paid 5s. 6d. in rates
Blaydon … £605 an acre, which only paid 2s. 3d. in rates
Bolton … £403 an acre, which only paid 2s. 2d. in rates
Clecthorpes … £500 an acre, which only paid 5s. 0d. in rates
Derby … £650 an acre, which only paid 8s. 3d. in rates
Edinburgh …£13,120 an acre, which only paid 11s. 7d in rates
Hamilton … £500 an acre, which only paid 4s. 8d. in rates
Littlehampton … £100 an acre, which only paid 3s. 1d. in rates
Maryport … £1,200 an acre, which only paid 2s. 8d. in rates
Northampton … £1,400 an acre, which only paid 6s. 4d. in rates
Richmond … £2,000 an acre, which only paid  11s. 10d. in rates
Ynysybwl … £1,000 an acre, which only paid 40s. 0d. in rates

Other prices per acre were: £5,800 at Belfast, £10,000 at Dublin, £3,000 at Manchester, £600 average price in forty-three schemes in Wales, and £24,250 at Ebbw Vale (Duke of Beaufort) for land rated at £56 per annum. 

Cheap land is the first essential of every housing scheme, in order that every home may have its garden at the front and back, plenty of sun and air, and opportunities for life in the open air and the growing of flowers, grass and shrubs that beautify the surroundings and make the house attrac­tive-to say nothing of the chances of growing fruit and vegetables to increase the supply of food for the family. And building land will never be cheap so long as private profiteering in it is permitted. Every consideration there­fore points to the necessity for making the community the sole owner of the land it resides on. 

Profiteering in Agricultural Land. 

Space forbids more than a brief reference to the operations of landlordism in land that is used for cultivation. The exactions of landlords in Ireland were such that the State had to step in to reduce them. In Scotland the same action had to be taken to protect the crofters. In each case it was shown that there prevailed a systematic robbery of the tenants. Irish hostility to this country, both in Ireland and America, is a legacy of those evil days. 

The high rents charged to smallholders and allotment­holders in England are matters of universal knowledge. The larger farmers have been more leniently treated, but in the days of the Corn Laws the landlords thrived on high rents, while farmers were driven to the bankruptcy courts, and the common people were starving. And when foreign competition in corn developed in the ‘eighties and ‘nineties rents did not come down generally until thousands of farmers were ruined and scores of thousands of labourers were driven to the towns or were forced to emigrate. 

Where landlords have large incomes from other sources, as from town rents or mineral royalties, it is quite true that they do not usually rack-rent their agricultural tenants, and it must be remembered that in many cases large agricultural estates are not acquired or held primarily as sources of income so much as pleasure grounds. They are held because they afford opportunities for game preserving and fox-hunting, and because they confer power, prestige, political influence, and social status, and give a sense of spaciousness to the lives of their fortunate possessors. None the less, the private advantage is the main purpose of their owners, although it does not solely take the form of money. 

But cultivation is hindered whenever sport is aimed at, the production of food is hampered and reduced, small­holders are kept off, the farmers have no security of tenure and are kept subservient either by the fear of displeasure or the hope of favours, while the labourers are landless and helpless. In fact, not the least of the evils of landlordism is the way in which it destroys liberty of thought and action in rural places, and impoverishes men in all the essentials of independence. 


In conclusion, it is clear that the highest possible production of wealth is unattainable under the deadening influence of private landownership. Millions of acres of land will have to be drained and reclaimed and millions of acres await afforestation. For every purpose the first requirement is that the land shall become national property. Under that system, and under that system only, will it be possible to give incentives to industry and security of tenure that will promote production, and, by abolishing the treatment of land as an instrument of private profiteering, will secure for the whole community the whole value of the land which is their inalienable inheritance. 


  1. All the Land under Public Ownership and Control.
  2. On and after a given date all private ownership of land to come to an end. The State to be supreme owner of all land, including, of course, the minerals. Local councils to administer it under a National Land Council or Ministry of Lands. 
  3. Easily Accessible as a Right.
  4. Access to land, each according to his needs and subject only to the equal rights of others, to be the recognised birthright of every free citizen. A right that must be granted, not a favour that may be withheld. This is the very foundation of economic freedom. 
  5. With Full Security of Tenure.
  6. State tenants to enjoy the full security of tenure, which is only obtainable now by the few who can afford to buy land. This security to be guaranteed so long as the rent is paid and the land is properly used. Improvements made by tenants to be their own property. This is the true “magic of property which turns sand to gold.” 
  7. At a Fair Rent.
  8. A fair rent, as distinct from a rack-rent, to represent the true value of land according to its natural fertility or position. To be periodically revised in fairness to both the individual as tenant and the community as owner. The good tenant to pay no more than the bad tenant for the same kind of land. 
  9. The Land to be put to its Best Use.
  10. The governing authorities to insist on this. The highest ‘possible production to be aimed at. Waste land to be reclaimed, all suitable land to be afforested. The produc­tion of wealth in food, timber, houses, etc., to come before game preservation, fox-hunting, and the maintenance of great parks and pleasure grounds for a privileged few. 
  11. The Rental Value to be Public Revenue.
  12. The whole annual value of land to become ultimately available for public purposes, after provisions for the prevention of injustice to those who have invested their earnings in land with the sanction and encouragement of the State itself.
  13. The full financial benefit of land nationalisation would not accrue at once, but from the very beginning there would be a profit to the State, with the unearned increment as it accrued and the direct and complete public ownership and control of land, which is the most essential thing. 


There is absolute unanimity among all legal authorities that land cannot be full private property. 

SIR EDWARD COKE (Institutes):–

All land or tenements in England, in the hands of subjects, are holden mediately or immediately of the king. 


Accurately and strictly speaking, there is no founda­tion in nature or in natural law why a set of words on parchment should convey the dominion of land. 

MR. SERJEANT STEPHENS (New Commentaries):–

All lands owned by subjects in England are in the nature of fees, whether derived to them by descent from their ancestors or purchased for a valuable consideration, for they cannot come to any man by either of these ways unless accompanied by those feudal incidents, which attended upon the first feudatories to whom the lands were originally granted. 

JOSHUA WILLIAMS (Principles of the Law of Real Property):–

An English subject may enjoy the absolute ownership of goods, but not of land. The king is the supreme owner, or lord paramount, of every parcel of land in the realm. 


All laws of property must stand upon the footing of the general advantage; a country belongs to the inhabitants. 


No absolute ownership of land is recognised by our law books except in the Crown. 

SHELDON AMOS (The Science of Law):–

The land cannot be looked upon, even provisionally, as a true subject of permanent individual appropriation. 

J. A. FROUDE (History of England):–

Land was never private property in that personal sense of property in which we speak of a thing as our own with which we may do as we please. 

Common Landownership Came First. 


There seems to be hardly anything more certain in the domain of archaic law than the theory that the soil was originally owned by groups, and not by individuals. 

SIR HENRY MAINE (Village Communities):–

The institution familiar to us. individual property in land, has arisen from the dissolution of the ancient co-ownership. 

EMILE DE LAVELAYE (Primitive Property):–

It is only after a series of progressive evolutions, and at a comparatively recent period, that individual ownership, as applied to land, is constituted. 

OUVE SCHREINER (Stray Thoughts on South Africa):–

Each Bantu tribe holds its land in common, reap­pointing it as the increase or diminution of its members require. The doctrine that land can become the private property of one is morally repugnant to the Bantu. 

WALTER BAGEHOT (Economic Studies):–

As is now generally known, the earliest form of land holding was not individual owning but tribal holding. This joint stock principle is that which has been by far the commonest in the world, and that with which the world began. 

WILLIAM PALEY (Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy):–

The land was once, no doubt, common; and the question is, how any particular part of it could justly be taken out of the common, and so appropriated to the first owner as to give him a better right to it than others, and what is more, a right to exclude all others from it. 

The Indian village community, the Russian “mir,” the German “mark,” all alike held the land on which they lived as common property. Primitive tribes in our own time hold it in the same way. Under the clan system in Scotland the land was the property of the clan as a whole, not the property of the chief of the clan, as it is regarded now. And in all Mohammedan countries the supreme owner of the land is the State, not the individual. 

Political Economists.

ADAM SMITH (Wealth of Nations):–

The wood of the forest, the grass of the field, and all the natural fruits of the earth, which, when land was in common, cost the labourer only the trouble of gathering them, come, even to him, to have an additional price fixed upon them, when land has become private property. He must then pay for the licence to gather them, and must give up to his landlord a portion of what his labour either collects or produces. This portion, or what comes to the same thing, the price of this portion, constitutes the rent of land. 

RICARDO (Principles of Political Economy):–

Rent is that portion of the produce of the earth, which is paid to the landlord for the use of the original and indestructible powers of the soil. 

JOHN STUART MILL (Principles of Political Economy):–

The essential principle of property being to assure to persons what they have produced by their own labour and accumulated by their abstinence, this principle can­not apply to what is not the produce of labour, the raw material of the earth. No man made the land: it is the original inheritance of the whole species. … The land of every country belongs to the people of that country. 

PROFESSOR J. E. CAIRNES (Political Economy):–

Sustained by some of the greatest names–I will say by every man of the first rank in political economy–from Turgot and Adam Smith to Mill. I hold that the land of a country presents conditions, which separate it economically from the great mass of the other objects of wealth. 

PROFESSOR A. MARSHALL (Principles of Economics):–

The use of a certain area of the earth’s surface is a primary condition of anything that man can do. It gives him room for his actions, with the enjoyment of the heat and the light, the air and the rain, which nature assigns to that area. It determines his distance from, and in a great measure, his relations to, other persons. This property of “land” it is which, though as yet insufficient prominence has been given to it, is the ultimate cause of the distinction which all writers on economics are compelled to make between land and other things. 

J. B. SAY (Economique Politique):–

The earth is the only agent of nature, or nearly so, that one set of men take to themselves to the exclusion of others; and of which consequently they can appropriate the benefits. Happily no one has yet been able to say, “The wind and the sun are mine, and the service which they render must be paid for.” 


THOMAS CARLYLE (Past and Present):–

Properly speaking the land belongs to these two: To the Almighty God and to all His children of men that have ever worked well on it. No generation of men can or could, with never such solemnity and effort, sell land on any other principle; it is not the property of any generation, we say, but that of all the past generations that have worked on it, and of all the future ones that shall work on it. 

JOHN RUSKIN (Time and Tide):–

Next of wholly unjustifiable rents. These are for things which are not, and which it is criminal to consider as, personal or changeable property. Bodies of men, land, water, and air are the principle of these things. … Bodies of men or women, then, and much more, as I said before, their souls, must not be bought or sold. Neither must land, nor water, nor air; these being the necessary sustenance of men’s bodies and souls. 

LEO TOLSTOY (The Great Iniquity):–

The nearest and most obvious evil, private property in land. … The truth that land cannot be an object of property has become so elucidated by the very life of contemporary mankind that, in order to continue to retain a way of life in which private landed property is recognised, there is only one means–not to think of it, to ignore the truth, and to occupy oneself with other absorbing business. So, indeed, do men of our time. 

The evil and injustice of private property in land have been pointed out a thousand years ago by the prophets and sages of old. Later progressive thinkers of Europe have been often and oftener pointing to it. 


This is the way in which we must preach to the people who keep what they have got and help not others. We must give them clearly to understand that the land has been given by God to be the common property of all men. 

ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE (The Why and How of Land Nationalisation):–

Neither pure air, nor water, neither food, clothing, nor fire, can be obtained without land. A free use of land is therefore the absolute first condition of freedom to live; and it follows that the monopoly of land by some must be wrong, because it necessarily implies the right of some to prevent others from obtaining the neces­saries of life. 

RALPH WALDO EMERSON (Man, the Conservative):–

I find this vast network, which you call property, extending over the whole planet. I cannot occupy the bleakest crag of the white hills of the Alleghany Range but some man or corporation steps up to me to show me that it is his. Yonder sun in heaven you would pluck down and prevent shining on the universe, and make him a property and privacy if you could; and the moon and the north star you would quickly have occasion for in your closet and bed-chamber. What you do not want for use you crave for ornament, and what your convenience could spare your pride cannot. 


The land question means hunger, thirst, nakedness, notice to quit, labour spent in vain, the toil of years. seized upon, the breaking up of homes, the misery, sicknesses, deaths of parents, children, wives, the despair and wildness which spring up in the hearts of the poor, when legal force, like a sharp harrow, goes over the most sensitive and vital rights of mankind. All this is contained in the land question.