Joseph Hyder: The Case for Land Nationalisation
CHAPTER IX: Benevolent (!) Despotism
A condition of things under which the owner of, say, the Scilly Isles might make tenancy of his land conditional upon professing a certain creed or adopting prescribed habits of life, giving notice to quit to any who did not submit, is ethically indefensible.
Herbert Spencer, Letter to the “Times,” November 7, 1889.
The inhabitants [of the Island of Rum] are only fifty-eight families, who continued Papists for some time after the laird became a Protestant, and their adherence to their old religion was strengthened by the countenance of the laird’s sister, a zealous Romanist; till one Sunday as they were going to Mass under the conduct of their Patroness, Maclean met them on the way, gave one of them a blow on the head with a yellow stick, – I suppose a cane, for which the Earse had no name, – and drove them to the kirk, from which they have never departed. Since the use of this method of conversion the inhabitants of Eigg and Canna, who continue Papists, call the Protestantism of Hum the religion of the Yellow Stick.
Dr. Samuel Johnson, Journey to the Western Islands.
THE rule of our British squirearchy has been described by its own friends as a “benevolent despotism.” In far too many cases the despotism is much more pronounced than the benevolence. Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman was simply speaking the truth, however unpalatable it may have been, when he declared that many villagers “hardly dare call their souls their own.” There is abundant evidence to prove that this is, unfortunately, a fact, and it constitutes one of the strongest arguments that can be advanced against the landlord system.
No one can say that landlords are naturally worse men than other men, or that British landlords are worse than landlords of other nationalities. Taking them as a whole, they are probably as considerate as most men of the rights of others. Inconsiderate, intolerant, masterful, and tyrannical men are to be found in all classes, and when such men happen to be endowed with the power of inflicting harm upon others, they are apt to use it. The possession of land, which is needed by other men, confers such a power, and no account of the workings of the landlord system can be complete which does not deal with the ways in which that power has often been used to restrict liberty of speech and action.
We often speak of British love of fair play as a national characteristic of which we have reason to be proud. But the stoutest champion of the claim would never dream of saying that all his countrymen live up to this noble tradition. In the bravest of nations there are cowards, in the wisest of nations there are fools, in the strongest races there are weaklings, in the most honest nations there are fraudulent men, and in the fairest nations there are very many men who are unfair.
It would therefore be a miracle, if, amongst the lords of the soil, there were not many who are quick to take advantage of their position by bringing pressure to bear upon their tenants in order to induce them to act differently from the way they would act if they had their freedom. It would be a miracle if some among such landlords did not go further, and actually punish by eviction such of their tenants as were not to be “brought to heel” by less drastic methods.
The manner in which landlordial pressure is exercised varies as much as the reasons, which account for its use. Sometimes it is by the withholding of an advantage, such as the construction of an improvement or an abatement of rent. Sometimes it is by the infliction of a disadvantage, such as by the denial of land, or by actual eviction or the threat of eviction. Sometimes it is for religious reasons, sometimes for political reasons, and sometimes for private reasons having no connection either with politics or religion.
Even when the landlord’s power is not exercised overtly it is known to be there, and the knowledge that it may at any time change from a latent to an active force operates to confer upon them an authority out of all proportion to their worth, their numbers, or their wealth.
The mere possession of a weapon will enable one man to become the master of many who are without one. A single desperado with a revolver can hold up a train and rob every passenger on it without firing a shot. No man knows when the pistol will go off, and every man yields his money rather than run the risk of losing his life. The ownership of land gives a man a dangerous weapon, the power of evicting those who displease him, and at any time it may go off. In many thousands of cases it has gone off, with disastrous consequences to its victims. It must, however, never be forgotten that the evil results of the power of eviction are not to be measured by the number of cases where it has been used, but by the far greater number of cases where men are kept subservient by the knowledge that it can be used if need be.
Again, it will be noticed that most cases of landlord tyranny occur in the country rather than in the towns. The reason is obvious. Ownership of town-land is sought because of the income it yields. The purchaser buys town-land as an investment. But the ownership of a great agricultural estate confers power and prestige. It is avowedly sought for those ends. The net rent received may yield but a moderate percentage on the purchase money, but the accession of social status and political influence is looked upon as compensating for a lower monetary income than could be got from the investment of a like sum in industry.
The inhabitants of a town would never submit to such interferences with personal liberty as the inhabitants of many villages take as a matter of course. For one thing, revolt is more easy in a town than in a village. Petty tyranny could not live where big public meetings could be speedily arranged to resist it, or where the power of the press could be enlisted to expose it. For another, the ownership of the land of a town is generally much more subdivided. If one landlord were to drive a tenant out there is another landlord who would gladly take him in. Competition among town landlords is the best safeguard for the liberty of town tenants. But in many country districts there is no such competition. One man may own a whole village or a succession of villages. In such a case a notice to quit is a sentence of banishment, and woe to the farmer, or tradesman, or labourer upon whom it falls.
On bended knees and with bowed heads the tenants in olden times rendered homage to their feudal superiors, and the vogue of the bended knee and the bowed head has by no means passed away. It is said that when Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned in the Tower of London, his dungeon was so low that he could not stand upright in it. There are thousands of men today who are imprisoned in the system of private property in land which prevents the upright position. They live by the favour of the lords of the soil, not by their own right as men.
“One of the great advantages of the landowner,” said the late Duke of Argyll, “is that he can choose who shall live upon the land.” And again he said, “The choice, or right of choice, of the persons who should live upon the land is the most essential of the duties and the rights of ownership.”
The Marquis of Lansdowne expressed the same view when he said: “Surely what gives reality to ownership, what makes it a valuable and precious thing to many people, is that we have hitherto associated with it the power of guiding the destinies of the estate, of superintending its development and improvement, and, above all things, the right to select the persons to be associated with the proprietor in the cultivation of the soil.”
This claim on the part of a handful of landlords, to say who shall live on the land and who shall not, is a claim that has only to be stated to be rejected. No more preposterous claim has ever been put forward. It cannot possibly be defended, and yet it is absolutely granted to every man who is lucky enough to buy a piece of land, or to inherit it from some one else, who either bought it or acquired it in less honourable ways. Even if this right of choice were usually exercised with wisdom and fairness, it confers a power too great to be entrusted to private individuals who are responsible to no guiding and restraining authority. For the lending of land is very different from the lending of money. A man may with absolute justice claim the right to lend his money to whomsoever he will. He is never likely to discriminate against men of different political or religious views when investing capital, and, if he did, he could do them no hurt. An industrial enterprise gets the capital it requires upon its own merits and prospects, but land is a different thing altogether. A man who has the power of lending land the primary means of life, and absolutely limited in quantity, to his friends and withholding it from those whom he may regard as his enemies, has a power, which has worked incalculable mischief.
Those who have suffered by it appear generally to have been Liberals rather than Conservatives, and Nonconformists rather than Churchmen. This fact seems, at first sight and superficially, to narrow the issue to one of Liberalism (and Labourism or Socialism) versus Conservatism, and Chapel versus Church. It is of course something far greater than that. It is a question of freedom for all. It is above mere party. A fair-minded Conservative or Churchman cannot but condemn intolerance even though it be shown by one of his own friends.
In the citation of the following instances of a despotism that is far removed from benevolence, there is, therefore, no desire to disparage Conservatives as such, or Churchmen as such. No selection has been made with so unworthy an object. No instances have been suppressed because they might have brought Liberal or Nonconformist landlords into an unfavourable light. Intolerance is to be condemned for its own sake, irrespective altogether of the political or religious views of the one who displays it.
From time to time cases have been published in the press, and have been quoted by witnesses before Committees of the House of Commons or Royal Commissions. From such sources the following have been entirely taken, and no partiality has been shown in their selection.
The Moral of The Secrecy of The Ballot
For over forty years we have had a system of voting, which enables every voter to record his vote for whichever candidate he favours. Previous to that, for forty years, the way in which a man voted was known by his opponents as well as his friends. And we have grown so accustomed to the system now in force that the reasons for its institution are apt to be lost sight of. Why have we a secret system of voting at all? The answer is that secrecy is absolutely essential for the protection of many men who are dependent upon the favour of others for their means of livelihood. The tyranny of partisan mobs and the tyranny of landlords, after forty years’ trial of the old plan, made the continuance of open voting an impossibility. If all men were free, or if they were all fair, secrecy in voting would be unnecessary. The fact that it is necessary at all is regrettable, and is of itself sufficient evidence of a widespread lack of freedom.
Voting is an act of writing, the mere making of a mark, which can be done in silence. But the right to vote as a man likes is only a part of his political rights. If he may vote for his party, why may he not speak and write for his party? By the law of the land he may, but, by the law of the landlord, he had often better refrain or take the consequences. For advocacy of a cause, with voice or with pen, is a public act. The Ballot Act is no protection in cases like those, nor is anything else that falls short of giving him a right to the use of the earth, and removes him from being dependent for it upon the goodwill of another.
When Mr. Leatham moved the second reading of the Ballot Bill of 1870 (March 16) he referred to the case of a Mr. Scott, who was one of the largest farmers in the Lowlands, and one of the best. He paid £5,000 in rent to various landlords, and rented the farm of Timpendean under the Marquis of Lothian. Immediately after the previous election he was refused the renewal of his lease because of his political views. The Marquis admitted that this was at least one of the reasons. He said, “It is perfectly true that I had many reasons for not letting the farm of Timpendean to Mr. Scott, but I should consider myself acting unfairly if I did not say at once that among them was the vote he gave at the last election.” And he added, “Nor do I see why I should not make the admission.”
Mr. Leatham referred to the practice that prevailed in Ireland. “Tenant farmers,” he said, “are collected by the estate agent, in some instances many days before the election, placed upon strings of cars, handed over to the military, escorted as prisoners, or believing themselves to be prisoners, by horse, foot, and artillery, and all the paraphernalia of an enemy’s country, to the polling place, and they are kept there in forced custody and with locked doors until the day of the poll, not even being permitted to avail themselves of the ministrations of religion, and then finally polled in the presence of the landlord or the agent.”
As far back as the reign of Edward I. the evils of undue influence had made their appearance, and an Act was passed ordering that “no man shall be brought to vote by force of arms or menace”; and, by the Act of 7 Henry IV., it was ordered that “the electors shall vote freely and independently.” It was not till the Ballot Act was passed in 1872 that freedom of voting was ensured by a system of secrecy. But full freedom of speech and action can only be secured by other means.
Mr. A. Russell, editor and part-proprietor of the Scotsman, gave evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Commons on May 11, 1869. He said: “I will state a case in Roxburgh, without giving the names. A man who was on the point of getting a renewal of his lease voted in a certain way at the General Election, and he stated to me that the factor came to him and said that the landlord had made up his mind not to give him the lease, and that he would never give another lease on his property to any man that would vote against his (the landlord’s) party; and the tenant wrote to the landlord a letter which I saw, and it was a very polite and rather submissive letter, saying that he had never been a politician, but that in his capacity of Vice-Chairman, I think it was, or a committee-man, of the Agricultural Club, he had taken up certain questions, such as hypothec and game, and that he could not decently vote against what he had done in that capacity, and also that three of his family, who were all very eminent farmers, had voted as their landlords wished them. But the landlord never answered the letter, and refused the lease. I might mention that this man is one of the most eminent farmers in Scotland.
“Another case,” Mr. Russell said, “was that of a farmer who, like the other one, voted Liberal in November, and sent in his written pledge to vote again in the same way in the case of another contest. He told me that he had got a letter from his factor, asking him, as a favour, to vote for the Tory candidate, and about the same time he was told indirectly that he would not be allowed in future to sell his rye grass by auction, as it was a contravention of his lease, unless he voted Tory; and he did vote Tory, although he had voted Liberal in November, and although he assured me at the time that his principles had not changed.
“Another farmer voted Liberal in November, and sent in his written pledge in December. He told me that his landlord had pressed him very much to vote Tory, and had reminded him that he had had a favour given him on his father’s death by getting the lease transferred to his name, and he told me that he saw that his landlord would be much displeased if he voted against him, and to save trouble to the family he voted for the Tory, although he was a Liberal in principle.
“On the same estate a farmer who voted and pledged as the others had done, after the first election, when he voted for Sir Sydney Waterlow, his landlord passed him on the road without taking any notice of him, and showed his displeasure in several other ways. On the second canvass this landlord became very urgent, and told the man he had voted once to please himself, he must vote this time to please him. He had been in the habit of doing odd jobs at the big house, and he told me he concluded it would be better for him to sacrifice his principles and vote Tory, and he did so.”
Shopkeepers were intimidated by the withdrawal of the custom of factors and landlords. What wonder that after the election a petition was sent up from every parish in the county in favour of taking votes by ballot, signed in some cases by two-thirds of the population of the parish!
The tyranny, which intolerant and unscrupulous landlords have in their power to exercise upon tenants who differ from them in politics, was much in evidence during and after the General Elections of 1859 and 1868. Mr. Thomas Ellis, M.P., told the Welsh Land Commission of the thrill of horror which went through the tenant farmers of Wales at that time. Well authenticated cases by the hundred were brought before that Commission, as well as before the Select Committee of the House of Commons (in 1869), whose Report convinced Parliament of the need for the secret ballot. Seven tenants on the Glanllyn Estate in Merionethshire were evicted. They were nearly all “leading men in Chapels,” who had voted for the Liberal candidate, and some of their farms were then let to churchmen and supposed Conservatives. On the same estate, the Commission says, seven other Nonconformist tenants who refrained from voting for either candidate had their rents raised by sums of varying amounts.
At Bala the landlords stood in the Town Hall to watch their tenants vote; all the tenants (except one) on two estates voted for the Conservative candidate, and this decided the election. What wonder can there be that the Merionethshire electors “petitioned the House of Commons to be relieved of the franchise or to have the Ballot adopted” ! A similar petition had been previously presented by the electors of Montgomeryshire Boroughs because of the “habitual and systematic terrorism” which they suffered.
In April 1860, Miss Mary Morice, the owner of the Carrog Estate, Llanddeiniol, in Cardiganshire, addressed to each tenant a letter containing these words: “I feel myself morally bound to set before you two alternatives, and you are at liberty to choose for yourself; namely, to attend our Church service with your family and thus support its principles, or otherwise (if your conscience will not allow you to comply with my request) you must quit the farm you hold from me.” At that time there were fourteen Nonconformist farmers, two Church farmers, thirteen Nonconformist cottagers, and two Church cottagers. The Commission reported that in April 1894 there were only three Nonconformist cottagers on the estate, and all the farmers were obliged, without exception, to go to church on Sundays.
On another estate the Nonconformist farmers numbered twenty in 1868, and there were only five who were churchmen. By 1890 the twenty had dwindled to eight, and the five had grown to sixteen.
In 1869 the Gwydyr Estate was the property of Lord Willoughby d’Eresby, and the following letter from one of the trustees was quoted in the House of Commons as having been sent to each tenant on the estate: “I feel it necessary to explain that Lord Willoughby d’Eresby is a Conservative, and gives all his support to Mr. Pennant, and therefore does not consider it right that you should allow yourself to be led by others to vote against the interest of the estate on which you live, and against the wishes of his lordship.” Five Liberal and Nonconformist tenants on this estate were evicted, and were supported out of a fund, which was raised for the purpose of assisting the victims of landlordism at that time.
The Select Committee, of which the Marquis of Hartington was chairman, reported in 1870 as follows: “We have endeavoured to investigate some of these cases, but found ourselves involved in inquiries which unduly prolonged our proceedings, and, for the reasons mentioned above, were not altogether satisfactory. It is certain, however, that an influence, exceeding in a greater or less degree the legitimate influence, which a popular and respected landlord must always exercise in his neighbourhood, is often brought to bear on tenant farmers and other voters in agricultural districts. The agent frequently holds language which the landlord would shrink from using, but which the latter does not think it necessary to disown. An instance was given where tenants who had signed the requisition to a candidate all voted with their landlord against that candidate; another, where no tenant on the estate would promise the same candidate a vote until they had received an assurance from their landlord that they might vote as they pleased, on receiving which they all both promised and voted for the candidate opposed to the landlord’s politics. The inducement to vote with the landlord may frequently proceed rather from the hope of future advantages to be conferred than from the fear of injury to be inflicted; but, of whichever character the inducement may be, we think that the influence so exercised comes under the description of undue influence, and as such ought, if possible, to be checked.”
Even after the Ballot Act was passed we find cases like the following recorded by the Welsh Land Commission in connection with the 1874 election: “The Abermarlais tenants were told to assemble at the Abermarlais toll-gate, and were there decorated with red rosettes, the Conservative colours, and were marched to the polling place at Llangadock, calling on the way at the Tory committee-room to get their register number, which was given them on a card. Likewise, the tenants of the Dolgarreg Estate, then belonging to Mr. Charles Bishop, clerk of the peace for the county of Carmarthen, were assembled in a body at Llanwrda, and, after being similarly decorated, were marched to the polling place for that district.”
Twenty years after that election we find the Commission stating that “we feel bound to say that, not simply a small number of exceptionally timid or prudent men, but a very large proportion of the tenant farmers in each district were deterred from coming forward to give evidence by fear of incurring the displeasure of the landlord, and therefore of possibly receiving notice to quit, or, at any rate, being placed in a disadvantageous relation to him and his agent.”
Testimony Of A Dean
Much political capital was made out of the fact that the unofficial Land Inquiry Committee appointed by Mr. Lloyd George was a private Committee instead of a public one, and his opponents demanded to know if the names of the witnesses would be published. It is, of course, a matter of common knowledge that thousands of men would never dare to give evidence at all before a public inquiry. The following letter to the press from the Dean of Worcester gives a picture of village conditions which is by no means exceptional, and it explains why witnesses must sometimes be protected by anonymity:
“The Deanery, Worcester, “October 17, 1912.
“Take a parish which we will call X – the instance is not altogether imaginary. The whole of the land is owned or farmed by one man; every cottage is in his hands. No one can live or work in the parish without his permission. No one is allowed to live in the parish if he, or any member of his family, works elsewhere; parents have been forbidden to send their children to a neighbouring town where more advanced education may be obtained, and have been threatened with ejectment if they do.
“The Public Authorities, which have power to intervene, at any rate as concerns sanitary matters, are useless, for the man who owns the parish is a member of the Parish Council, Chairman of the District Council, and County Councillor. Even the Church is gagged; for the local tyrant is ‘People’s’ Warden; and if the parson ventures to suggest that mothers would be well advised to spend more time in their homes and less in the fields, the People’s Warden gives him to understand that he is going beyond his province, and that the people belong to him, and are to work when he wants them, and as long as he wants them, and for what he chooses to give them. X may be worse than most parishes; but it is only a question of degree, and, where home and livelihood are dependent upon the will of landlords and farmers, information cannot be obtained unless those who give it are sure its source will not be divulged.
“People complain of the exodus from the country, and suggest various explanations.
“The chief cause is love of freedom. In a town employment may be precarious, but a man can call his soul his own. There will be no going back to the land until the conditions of labour are altered. One step in emancipation would be the adoption of a measure for building labourers’ cottages on the lines of that, which has worked so well in Ireland. Men who could not be evicted by their employers would have some measure of freedom.
(Signed) “W. Moore Ede.”
Eviction Of A Cottager
A case was tried at Exeter on October 27, 1910, the defendant being Mrs. Ada Elizabeth Johnson, who was charged with unlawfully using undue influence toward Daniel Davey by turning him out of his cottage at Winkleigh after the General election in January that year. He was a thatcher, and had been a tenant of the cottage for fifteen years without any complaint as to character or payment of rent. The following letter from Mrs. Johnson to her tenant was put in as evidence:
“I was surprised to see my door placarded with Liberal papers. I hope you won’t allow this to happen again, and I also hope you won’t support Lambert against me as a landowner, as I would not have any tenant who went against me.”
The jury found Mrs. Johnson “not guilty,” and Mr. Justice Bankes agreed, but, in view of the above letter, which he condemned as improper, he refused to allow costs.
A Christian Clergyman and Landlord
The British Medical Journal of June 18, 1892, published a very instructive case as follows: “The Rev. Blackmore, rector of the parish and lord of the manor of Morchard-Bishop, Devon, was convicted at the Crediton police court of assaulting Mr. Tronson, M.R.C.S., and sentenced to pay a fine of 40s. and costs. The case is interesting by reason of the extraordinary conduct of defendant subsequently to the taking out of the summons against him. On receipt of this document the reverend gentleman wrote to the complainant a long letter containing, among other threats, the following passage:
” ‘When the Court proceedings are over, I have firmly decided to act as follows: As I am now likely to remain at Morchard through the breakdown of the negotiations for my leaving, I shall rigidly boycott you with all my tenants: and if any of them venture to employ you professionally after receiving my circular, they will immediately have notice to quit, whoever they may be. As I have eighty houses in my hands, either as rector or as lord of the manor, the effect upon your position will be pretty considerable. I shall then advertise in the medical papers, or through the agents, that there is a good opening here for a doctor to begin practice without purchase, and I shall offer board and residence in the rectory free to any gentleman who will come and establish himself. I have only to do this to take your practice completely away, with the exception of a few personal friends you may have. Lots of the parishioners have told me they will gladly welcome a new man. …
This is my answer to your challenge, and you ought to know by the many defeats the farmers have met with at my hands that when I make up my mind to a thing I leave no stone unturned to gain my end!’ ”
Squire Versus Doctor
Dr. T. M, Watt was for twenty-three years a tenant at Hovingham, in Yorkshire. The whole village belonged to one man, and the following extract from the doctor’s address to the electors before the Parish Council Election in December 1894 will explain the position:
“We in the village are under a despotism as irresponsible as that of any Czar, a rule based upon boycott and banishment, a veritable reign of terror. As in Russia, so here. Our original reading-room was open to papers of every colour, but there is now the strictest autocratic censorship of the press, obnoxious papers being ordered to be burnt by the attendant on delivery. Neither in schoolroom, club-room, nor even in the open air is any one allowed to be heard who will not say ‘Wow’ to the ruler’s ‘Dow.’ Thus we are robbed of freedom of thought and speech. You are allowed to hear only one side of any question, and no side of others, so that you may grow biased, prejudiced, narrow-minded, and lean-souled.
“Freedom of action is also denied you. I have known a man have his rent raised to coerce him into payment of an illegal Church rate over some eighteen years, though no rate had been levied on any other tenant on the estate all that time. I have known a drill-sergeant compelled to attend church, against his will and to the hurt of his own soul. Numbers of women have felt constrained to throw up the tried doctor of their choice, and to accept the attendance of strangers and of inexperienced young men fresh from the schools, because they had been assiduously canvassed, with the significant assurance that it would he better for them to fall in with the new arrangement. One tradesman, because in this matter he resisted personal letters and stood by his rights, was deprived of his previous Hall custom. The rights of tenant farmers, under the Ground Game Act, have been unrighteously confiscated.”
And so on runs the record of landlord absolutism which is the characteristic feature of hundreds of villages in the land, whose inhabitants proudly but falsely say that they ” never will be slaves.” Then comes the following passage:
“Today I stand under sentence of banishment, I and my family, from a home of twenty-three years, the only home most of them have ever known. In the absence of any reason (though such has been asked for), and in view of the unceasing efforts to filch away my practice, that date from immediately after the last County Council Election, when I had the effrontery to come forth as the friend of the people and the champion of democracy against my betters, I can only suppose that I am to be exiled because in our various local Councils I might be found, as hitherto, upholding your rights and liberties, so that it would be a good business to shift me.”
A Hebridean Case
Mr. Wilson was a solicitor and friend of the Crofters in 1889. For failing to carry out the eviction of an old man he incurred the grave displeasure of Sir John Orde, the lord of Lochmaddy in North Uist, and was himself evicted. Being by Sir John’s orders refused shelter by the householders, he took up his quarters in the local hotel. A change in the tenancy of the hotel occurring, a clause was inserted in the lease prohibiting his being taken in there. The Free Church Mission House then opened its doors to him, but, after two years (in 1895), under threat of the forfeiture of the feu, he had to leave and take up his residence on shipboard, as some ministers had to do at the time of the disruption of the Scottish Church in 1843. [Vide Daily Chronicle, December 1895.)
A Case in Norfolk
Mr. Burrell Hammond was a farmer of 400 acres on the Melton Constable estate of Lord Hastings. His farm was one of the best cultivated holdings in a part of a county famed for the quality of its agriculture, tie had held it for sixteen years, and the rent was always paid with strict punctuality. He was a sportsman, he subscribed to the hunt, and made the huntsmen welcome over his fields. He never shot the hares, although legally he might have done under the Ground Game Act. But he was more than a good farmer – he was an ardent politician. He entertained the Liberal candidate, Sir Brampton Gurdon, and was his most active supporter. Lord Hastings as actively supported the Conservative candidate. Major Follett. And the very next day after the North Norfolk by-election, when the former won by a big majority, Mr. Hammond received a notice to quit. It gave no reasons. When he asked for the reason he received the following letter from Lord Hastings:
“October 16, 1900
“The reason that you have received notice to quit your farm is that I am anxious to have a tenant who would act on more friendly terms with his landlord, and also one not so hostile to the clergy and everything connected with the Church of England.
“P.S. – If you would wish to see me I am quite willing to grant you an interview.”
It is not often that a landlord will so frankly give the reason for the notice to quit, but here we have the avowal in black and white. Mr. Hammond, according to the Rev. G. W. Rolfe, the rector of Swanton Novers, was a man of “singular courtesy and moderation,” but, even if he had been the reverse, it is surely a bad system that places any man at the mercy of a political opponent. Was he not as much entitled to work for one party as Lord Hastings was for the other?
A Case in Wiltshire
The Wiltshire Advertiser(October 26, 1905) published three letters from which the following extracts are made. The first was from the Misses M. Margaret Niven and Isabel G. Niven, who, writing from The Grange, Marden, near Devizes, on September 26, 1905, to Mr. A. W. Perren, The Grange Farm, Marden, said: “You are aware that when you took our farm, we expressly stated that we wished to have a churchman as tenant, and that we had refused to let to more than one farmer because they honestly confessed that they were Dissenters.
“As you no longer fulfil the conditions on which we let you the farm, we have expected that you would yourself offer to give it up, but since you show no sign of doing this, we hereby give you notice to leave our farm and farm premises at Michaelmas, 1906.”
Mr. Perren, writing on October 9, in acknowledgment of this letter, remarked:
“I am writing a few lines acknowledging the notice to leave your farm. When I took it I know you inquired if I were a churchman. I was then, but you did not ask me if I were a Christian. Well, since then I have had my spiritual understanding enlightened, that is, I have been converted by the Spirit of God, and become His child by adoption. The same Spirit led me to the little chapel where I met with the above blessing, so you see I obeyed the voice of God rather than man, and for that reason you are persecuting me by turning me out of my earthly home. Now, as you are professing Christianity, did you seriously think before you took that step and ask yourselves the question, ‘What would Jesus do?’ The Scripture says, ‘If you have not the Spirit of Christ, you are none of His.’ I would solemnly ask you, is this action of yours prompted by the Spirit?
“The simple reason why I did not give you notice to leave when I joined the Baptist Church was that I would not insult you by thinking you expected so unreasonable a thing.”
The foregoing was of no avail, for Miss M. Niven replied on October 14, as follows: ”I have been away from home and had intended to ask you to come to sec me on my return, as I wished to tell you how disappointed we were at your desertion of the Church. But, after reading your letter, I think an interview would be useless, as you only seem able to see one side of the question – that is, your own. Our view is that Church doctrine is right, and that Dissent is wrong, and that we should not be doing our duty by our Church if we kept as tenant one who goes about preaching doctrine that is contrary to her teaching – that is, the teaching which has come to us through the Apostles from Christ Himself.
“You took the farm knowing that we made it a condition that our tenant should be a churchman. As you have chosen to break through these conditions, our agreement naturally comes to an end.”
A Case in Shropshire
Mr. Fred Horne was a farmer under the late Colonel Kenyon-Slancy, M.P., and was as active on one side as his landlord was on the other. This was the rock of his offence, and the facts of the case may be summarised in the following letter, which was addressed to the Colonel by Lord Stanley of Alderley in the latter part of 1905:
“In 1895 your tenant, Mr. Horne, supported Captain Owen Thomas, a tenant farmer, in the Oswestry Division, against Mr. Stanley Leighton. You then wrote to him that if he took an active part against your old friend, Mr. Stanley Leighton, it would seriously interfere with the friendly relations, which should exist between landlord and tenant.
“Mr. Horne very properly replied denying your right to dictate as to his political action.
“I wonder what you would have said or thought if your tenants had written to you objecting to your supporting Mr. Stanley Leighton as likely to interfere with their friendly relations with you. It has probably never entered your head that superiority in wealth and in social position are no excuses for political interference and dictation to others in the discharge of a public duty. In 1905, it is clear from your letter read at the audit dinner, that you resented Mr. Horne’s candidature in the Ludlow Division. What your ideas of courtesy may be I do not know, but I know that in that letter you spoke of lack of self-respect in Mr. Horne not giving up a holding since his political sentiments were offensive to you. Subsequently you drove Mr. Horne from his holding, as is clear from his memorandum of February 6, 1905, submitted to your agent in connection with the meeting that led to the surrender of the farm.
“I must say that your action – first in denouncing Mr. Horne in your letter to your tenants for not having enough self-respect to give up his farm; secondly, in accepting the surrender on the basis of the memorandum, handed to your agent on February 6, as follows: ‘Mr. Horne wishes it to be clearly understood that he is perfectly satisfied with his tenancy at Hinnington, and that he enters upon the discussion solely because Colonel Kenyon-Slaney has expressed himself dissatisfied with his presence at Hinnington’ – does not seem to me consistent with the statement made by you in your letter to the Daily News, ‘It was untrue to suggest that either directly or indirectly I gave him or had the slightest intention of giving him notice to quit.’ …
“I consider that the concluding remarks of your letter of January 22, 1905, to Mr. Horne, ‘The path of politics in which you doubt as having been wise to enter,’ indicate an opinion that Parliamentary aspirations on a Radical platform are unsuitable to a tenant farmer.
“But I must conclude by saying that your claim to interfere with the political activity of your tenant, it opposed to you, your contention that such action is incompatible with the friendly relations of landlord and tenant, and even bars social intercourse at a rent-day dinner, seem to me a far more serious invasion of the constitutional rights of Englishmen, and, what perhaps may appeal to you even more strongly, a serious danger to the interests of landlords; for an abuse of the rights of property may reasonably lead, if it became common, to a serious restriction of those rights if they proved in practice incompatible with freedom of election and the purity of our Parliamentary representation.”
Eviction of a Cheshire Farmer
Mr. Thomas Parker was a Cheshire farmer, and for nearly fifty years he and his father were tenants on the Barnston Estate. Both were widely known as highly prosperous and enterprising tenant farmers. Mr. Parker received notice to quit. The following resolution, which was passed by a representative meeting of Cheshire and Border county farmers at Chester, convened to consider the best way of recognising his services as County Councillor for the Malpas Division, will explain the circumstances:
“That this representative meeting of farmers hereby expresses entire approval of the conduct of Mr. Parker in declining to be coerced either in his political principles or in matters specially affecting farmers’ interests, and desires to place on record its deep sympathy with him in his eviction from Churton Hall Farm, which he and his father have occupied and improved for nearly half a century; that as Mr. Parker’s loss, through changing his home and leaving behind him so much of his own improvements, has been brought on through his exercising what is professedly every Briton’s right – namely, to think for himself and act accordingly – an appeal for support be made not only to tenant farmers, but to all lovers of freedom and justice.” £100 was immediately subscribed in the room. (Vide Manchester Evening News, April 1894.)
Another Case in Cheshire
Mr. Joseph Knowles was a farmer, and he came of a farming family which had been on the Arley Estate, near Warrington, for many generations. This estate was in the hands of Mr. Piers Egerton Warburton. In the farm agreements there were several interesting stipulations, e.g.:
Boon Work, etc. – The tenant to do four days’ boon work annually, and to deliver every other year a cheese of average weight for the landlord’s use.
Yeomanry Cavalry. – To furnish a man and horse for the Arley troop of the Earl of Chester’s Yeomanry Cavalry.
These quasi-feudal services seem to have been rendered under stress of compulsion, as part of the farmers’ bargains, and are witnesses to the immense value of freedom of contract between the land monopolist and the land cultivator.
The following extract from the Liverpool Echo puts the matter in a nutshell: “In the course of an interview with our correspondent, Mr. Knowles stated that his family had been on the Arley Estate for several generations. When his father died he was sent for to the estate office, and was informed that they wanted a churchman on the farm. He, being a Wesleyan, replied that he did not desire to be tied to the Church, but ought to be free to go where he pleased to worship. His father lived upon the Yew Tree Farm for thirty years, and he himself was born there. His father was a Wesleyan, as was also his grandfather. They did not object to his father going to chapel, but when his father died, and he was coming in as the new tenant, it was then that they objected. It was not the present Mr. Warburton who gave him notice about the Church, but his father, who died last year. That notice was withdrawn. He had now received notice from the son, the fresh reason assigned being that he did not personally join the Cheshire Yeomanry Regiment raised on the estate. He had offered a substitute; in fact, to find the same man who was substitute for his father: but they would not have him. He had a distaste for soldiering, and thought he would be better employed attending to his own business. He had two interviews with his landlord about the matter, but they were very unpleasant. When parting, Mr. Warburton said he had received notice to quit, and he must go. His father had spent thousands of pounds improving the farm. Between his father and grandfather and uncle they had paid the Arley proprietors £600 a year.”
The right to worship according to one’s own desires is an elementary one, and there ought not to be any question about it. Even the West Indian slaves, who were liberated by the Reform Parliament in 1833, were protected in that right by express enactment. Clause XXI. says, “Nor shall any apprenticed labourer be liable to be hindered or prevented from attending anywhere on Sundays for religious worship, at his or her free will or pleasure, but shall be at full liberty so to do without any let, denial, or interruption whatsoever.” Happy negroes to be thus tenderly cared for by a Parliament of men of another race! But how fared it with the fellow countrymen of the men who passed that law? The history of the disruption of the Scottish Church, which took place only ten years later, gives an eloquent answer to the question. Many thousands of members of the Church of Scotland decided with their ministers to come out from the Established Church, and to form a Free Church of their own. But their difficulties began when they sought to buy sites for the proposed new churches and manses. As usual, most of the owners of the land belonged to the Established Church, and the majority of them absolutely refused to sell an inch to their fellow countrymen whose only crime was their nonconformity with the State Church. So even in the depth of winter the Free Church people had to worship as best they could in the open air. The Rev. Thomas Brown, in the Annals of the Disruption, says, “For many years at the approach of winter, as each successive Sabbath came round, there was not a stormy wind blew from the heavens, nor a shower of snow fell, that men did not think of their brethren compelled to worship God in the open air among the cold fir woods of Strathspey or shivering on the bleak uplands of Wanlockhead. During the first winter things were left to take their course, and the congregations had to bear as best they could the perils of exposure. The second winter, however, was more severe, and when the stormy weather had fairly set in, it was felt that something must be done.”
Deputations were appointed to make inquiries, and a Committee was sent to London to interview the leading site-refusers in private, in order to alter explanations, and, if possible, remove misconceptions. “We had no wish,” said Dr. Buchanan, “to brand any man in the face of the public and in the face of Parliament.” But this well-meant effort almost wholly failed. The leading opponents resolutely held their ground, and Parliament appointed a Committee of Inquiry on March 9, 1847.
One of the first cases brought before it was that of Ballater, on Deeside, in the neighbourhood of Balmoral. The proprietor, Mr. Farquharson of Monaltrie, had recently died, and a site had been refused by the trustees. They said that the refusal was very painful to them, but they felt bound to refuse because they knew that the refusal was in accordance with the sentiments of “the late Monaltrie.” The Free Churchmen then hired the Ballater Public Hall, but the trustees, who were the feudal superiors, got an injunction against them. Driven thus from the village, they met during the first winter on an exposed muir in the open air. Afterwards they found partial shelter in a rude sheep-cote by leave of a farmer. The place was only 9 feet in breadth, the walls were only 5 feet high, and there were no windows. They proposed to raise the walls and put on a new roof at their own expense. The trustees forbade them, so they asked permission to lower the floor, and they were then graciously permitted to increase the accommodation by burrowing in the ground.
The Earl of Seafield’s Strathspey Estate was 28 miles long and 15 in mean breadth. He was “much respected and beloved. No one could be more so.” But no part of the Strathspey Estate could be had for the Free Churchmen, and much suffering was caused.
Lord Macdonald steadfastly declined to sell or lease any part of his vast estates in Skye and Uist for church sites. On one occasion, the minister said, it began to snow, and, at the close, he said, ” I could hardly distinguish the congregation from the ground on which they sat except by their faces.” At the hamlet of Paible in North Uist the Crofters gathered together materials and started to erect a rough shelter of turf and stone on what was called a common. The factor got together the carts belonging to members of the Established Church and removed the materials to a distance. Some of the Crofters were turned out of their holdings, and some were fined £1 and £2. He admitted to the Inquiry Committee that the landlord had given him a list, and said, ” Here is a list of fellows that must have notice to quit.”
The whole Island of Eigg, one of the smaller Hebrides, belonged to Professor Macpherson of Aberdeen, and he absolutely refused to part with an inch. The outgoing minister was refused a home, and the nearest place he could get was at Ornsay in Skye, across miles of stormy sea. While his family lived there he procured a small vessel, and Hugh Miller’s Cruise of the ” Betsy” records how he lived upon the waters and preached to his congregation standing on the shore. ” But my friend the minister,” he says, ” now afloat in his Free Church Yacht, had got a home on the sea beside his island charge, which, if not very secure when nights were dark, and winds loud, and the little vessel tilted high to the long roll of the Atlantic, lay at least beyond the reach of man’s intolerance, and not beyond the protecting care of the Almighty. … We were now at home – the only home which the proprietor of the island permits to the islanders’ minister.”
Over the vast estates of the Dukes of Buccleuch and Sutherland, comprising nearly two million acres, the ban applied. The Right Hon. Fox Maule was moved to write to Lord Morpeth urging him to use his influence with the Duke of Sutherland to grant sites for churches and manses. Here is the Duke’s reply to Mr. Fox Maule:
“June 6, 1843.
“My dear Sir,
“Lord Morpeth has communicated to me your letter on the expediency of granting sites for chapels for seceders from the Church of Scotland.
“I fully agree with you in the principles you express of toleration in general, and in respect for the religious feelings of the people of Scotland, and I must always regret when it may not be in my power to meet their wishes in furthering measures which may seem to them essential, and in accordance with their zealous piety and devotion.
“Though not a Presbyterian, I have always been accustomed to consider the Church of Scotland entitled to the respect and the attentive care of all who have at heart the welfare of the people. … I am placed in a very difficult position, being loyally engaged to endeavour to maintain an Establishment which I sincerely respect, and being naturally disposed, as far as I can, to consult the feelings of the people, even when I consider them to have been misled and mistaken. Above all I dislike religious persecution, and I trust that I shall always be an opposer of measures tending to it, or to intolerance. I cannot but think, however, that such are at present directed against the Establishment, and that if, as a proprietor, I were to grant sites for building for the purpose of opposing the ministrations of that Church, to do which a desperate spirit has been evinced, I should not only acquiesce in, but even sanction and encourage it, and this I should consider very wrong. … I consider it out of the question that they (i.e. the new churches) should be raised whenever the Church (i.e. the Established Church) offers proper accommodation within reach.”
He then goes on to say that he only knows of one parish where there is need for a new church, and he would be unwilling to refuse a site in such a situation. “I should require, however,” he said, “an acknowledgment to be regularly made in that case, until the time, if it ever occur, of such building coming properly under the Establishment.”
This letter was not published until three months later, and so some of the ducal tenants decided to try the effect of a humble petition, which reads almost more like a petition to the Deity than to a fellow-creature.
“Unto his Grace the Duke of Sutherland, K.G.
“The Petition of the undersigned delegates commissioned to represent the Parishes of Dornoch, Lairg, Rogart, etc., etc., in Sutherland, Most humbly showeth, etc., etc,
“That your Grace’s petitioners, contemplating the painful prospects before them and their brethren in separating from the State . . . did anticipate that their position was more favourable than that of many others, calculating as they did on the kind condescension of your Grace. … That the petitioners still confidently cling to this hope, and they do most earnestly beseech your Grace to grant them their reasonable request, to enable them to follow out their deliberate and conscientious convictions of duty, founded, as they believe, on the Word of God, from which, they trust, no earthly influence shall ever induce them to deviate. …
“May it therefore please your Grace to consider the peculiar circumstances in which your Grace’s respectful and attached petitioners are placed, and kindly to grant the prayer of this memorial. And your Grace’s petitioners, in behalf of themselves, and all their fellow-petitioners, as in duty bound, shall ever pray.”
(Here follow the signatures of the delegates for their respective parishes, stating the number of adherents in each parish.)
Then comes the answer:
“The Duke of Sutherland regrets that he should have received an application from some inhabitants of different parishes in Sutherland for his co-operation, under circumstances which oblige him to decline complying.
“He feels it to be his duty to maintain the Church of Scotland; he regrets that those who have been induced to sign the application should have other objects in view; he has no wish to interfere with the religious feelings of any, but … he can give no aid to any measures against the Establishment.”
The whole story makes one rub one’s eyes, and wonder that such territorial arrogance and intolerance should have been displayed within the lifetime of existing men. And the moral of it is, not merely that the landlords were wrong in acting as they did, but that the system of private property in land is indefensibly bad which gave them the power to do so.
It must not be forgotten that the same spirit still actuates many men and women today, and that the private ownership of land still exists to arm them with the power to hurt those who differ from them.
The Free Church Congress, held at Manchester in November 1892, passed a resolution on the motion of the Revs. J. Hirst Hollowell and Hugh Price Hughes, ” deploring the prevalence of ecclesiastical and territorial persecution of Nonconformists in many parts of the country.” One of the methods of territorial intolerance was exhibited in the village of Fraisthorpe. The Primitive Methodists in the village wrote to ask Sir Charles Strickland for a site for a chapel. He declined to grant it, as they belonged to a party, which advocated Church Disestablishment. Theirs was “an unholy alliance for an unholy purpose,” and his land should not be desecrated by supporting a dissenters’ chapel if he could prevent it.
In the village of Harewood, near Leeds, there stands a Wesleyan church, which was permitted to be built on the following conditions: that no printed announcements were to be placed outside it, that no persons must be baptised in it, that the sacrament must not be administered in it, and that no service must be held in it except when no State Church service was being held. The restrictions have been removed for some years, but the case is nevertheless worth recording.
It is well known that it is a condition on some estates that no Nonconformist chapels are to be built on them. At least one important chapel in London (in Brixton) is known to the writer, the site for which was only bought by ” equivocal sale,” and the minister cited the case of a Congregational church at Beckenham, which is built just on the outside of an estate where such chapels, public-houses, and “other nuisances” are banned.
In the debate (February 22, 1893) on the Places of Worship Enfranchisement Bill, Sir Robert Perks gave a case of a Wesleyan chapel in a Midland health resort, built on lease from a noble (?) duke, who had a clause inserted in the agreement compelling the use of the Anglican services.
No Dissenter Need Apply
Mr. Henry Labouchere, in Truth (October 1891), referred to the well-known Heaton Chapel case, in which Lord Egerton desired to impose some very onerous conditions accompanying a grant of land for a school. In support of his assertion that this was not the first instance in which Lord Egerton had shown his religious bias in dealing with his land, Mr. Labouchere said: “About six years ago, Sir John Harwood, a well-known merchant and alderman, but also a Methodist in religion, and a Liberal in politics, made an offer for a vacant farm on Lord Egerton’s estate. He was told by the agent that Lord Egerton’s farms were only let to tenants who attended the Established Church.”
In November 1894 the Christian World published the following circular which had just been sent to every Conservative landowner in Wales:
“To THE Clergy, Landowners, and Tenants,
“When the Church and all landed property are so severely and relentlessly attacked, it has become highly necessary for the clergy and the wealthier amongst the laity to know who are their true friends and loyal supporters, and to act accordingly. Landowners in particular should be on their guard as to the person to whom they let their land, and should ascertain whether candidates for their farms are the friends of order and justice or of anarchy and confiscation. At the urgent request of several persons of influence, I have opened a Conservative registry as a medium of communication between landowners wanting tenants and tenants wanting farms; and, with a view to carrying out the suggested scheme, I have to suggest that incumbents inform me of any farm vacant in their parishes; that all churchmen and Conservatives be made acquainted with the existence of such an office; and that Conservative landowners and their agents communicate with me whenever a tenant is required.”
Mr. H. Lee Warner, of Swaffham, published in the press, in May 1891, the case of a farmer, Mr, H. J. Waters, who was a Liberal and Nonconformist member of the Norfolk County Council. Mr. Waters applied for a farm at Acle, and was told that “only a churchman would do.” Seeing the farm was again advertised, he applied once more, and the agent closed the matter by writing, “Lord Calthorpe will not alter his decision as to having a churchman tenant for his farm.”
Mr. Froude says that at one time it was a common thing for landlords to insert a clause in their leases to compel their tenants to vote as they wished them to vote. The following lease was formerly in operation on the extensive estates of the Earls of Ilchester in Somerset and Dorset:
“He, the said A. M., his executors, administrators, or assigns, or either of them, shall not, nor will wittingly or willingly permit or suffer to be erected or established on the said hereby demised premises, or any part thereof, any chapel, meeting-house, or other edifice, or apply any building at present thereon, for the assembly of worship of any sect of Dissenters from or Nonconformists with the Church of England, whether Presbyterians, Independents, Anabaptists, Quakers, Methodists, or of any other denomination whatsoever.”
A Milder Case
In November 1911 the following notice was posted on the church door at Littleton near Guildford:
“Loseley Estate Office”
“I have been instructed to put the following on the Littleton Church door – Ralph Radcliffe.
“That the Squire and Mrs. Molyneux-McCowan wish those and their families who are connected with Loseley, whenever possible, to attend service at Littleton, and worship in the steps of their forefathers. They have particularly noticed the absence of choir boys.”
It reminds one of the old-time squire. Sir Roger de Coverley, who ” sometimes stands up when everybody else is upon their knees to count the congregation, or see if any of his tenants are missing,” and who, after the sermon, ” walks down from his seat in the chancel between a double row of his tenants that stand bowing to him on each side; and every now and then inquires how such a one’s wife, or mother, or son, or father do, whom he does not see at church; which is understood as a secret reprimand to the person that is absent.”
A New Law of Vaccination
The following extraordinary notice, circulated amongst the tenants of a certain estate at Wadesmill, in Herefordshire, was reproduced in the press at the time:
“As agent for and on behalf of … I hereby give you notice to quit and deliver up, on the 24th day of June 1902, the possession of the Cottage Garden and Premises which you now rent and hold of him, and situate at …
“Dated this 3rd day of March 1902.
“Agent . . .
“Note. – This notice will be withdrawn if you can, previous to the 24th of June 1902, produce evidence that you and your wife have been lately revaccinated, or are over the age of sixty years; that your children under the age of ten years have been vaccinated, and that your children over that age, or any lodger, have been re-vaccinated.
“No excuses will be entertained except on the ground of health, to be certified by a medical man.
“If satisfactory evidence is given that you have lost a half-day’s work in attending before the Public Vaccinator a sum of two shillings and sixpence will be remitted to you on settlement of your next quarter’s rent.”
This amazing interference with the liberty of the subject is one more example of the effect of land being treated as private property. Vaccination has been the subject of legislation, the “conscientious objector” is legally recognised, and no person is obliged to be vaccinated more than once. Yet here is an attempt to impose a different set of conditions upon the people of a particular district.
Within the last few years party feeling has run unusually high because of a Reform Government’s efforts to deal with some of the anomalies of the land laws. The suicidal folly of the House of Landlords in throwing the 1909-10 Budget out was only one sign of the times out of many. The landed interest was aroused as it has scarcely ever been before, and all its machinery of undue pressure was brought into play. Poor men were intimidated in all parts of the country by all the subtle forces that that great vested interest can command. Workmen were threatened with loss of employment, tradesmen with loss of custom, and tenants with loss of their homes. All this is strictly legal, and, even if it were not, the difficulty of dealing with it by law is well-nigh insuperable. Even when intimidation was rampant, as it was in the pre-ballot days, the introducer of the Ballot Bill (Mr. Leatham) referred to the matter in these terms:
“The revelations of the Blue Book proved the existence of every form of coercion, coercion which descends by almost insensible gradations from almost brutal violence down to an influence which is scarcely distinguishable from that which is natural and just. And bear in mind that there is hardly one instance of them all, which was brought, or could be brought, within the grasp of the law. Penal law is almost helpless in the presence of coercion.
. . What so difficult to prove? What witnesses so unreliable as a discharged servant? What tale so unworthy of credence as that of an evicted tenant? For there are always plausible reasons for the discharge of servants and the eviction of tenants. Bribery you may possibly prove, but who can prove the significance of a gesture? Who can bring a frown into court?”
In the same debate, Mr. Gladstone declared that “freedom is threatened from many quarters, from the dictation and possible violence of mere numbers, as well as from the more subtle, more extensive, and more continuous action of those influences which are connected with property.”
Open Advocacy of Boycotting
The present chapter may be fitly closed with a significant proof that the bitterness engendered in many minds, when propertied and vested interests are thought to be in danger, is by no means dead. And it resembles nothing so much as the snarling of a dog over a bone as it warns off possible aggressors, even though the bone may have been previously purloined.
The secretary of the Liberty and Property Defence League, soon after his party had been beaten at the polls in the General Election of January 1910, sent a letter to the Conservative Press.
“Let us,” he urged, “make it known that we propose to spend our money with those who are for an England free, prosperous, and great, and that we will not willingly transfer a penny of ours to the pockets of those who are in favour of such measures as the Licensing Bill and the Budget. For this purpose there should be no difficulty in ascertaining the politics of local tradesmen. The local Conservative agent could in every instance give this information.
“Heads of households who are prepared to move in this matter should, in transferring their custom, notify their reason for the step taken to the discarded trader and to the trader who replaces him. If this were done generally, the result would, it is believed, do more to consolidate the Conservative forces in the country than all the efforts of party organisations put together.
“And, since the wealthy and property-owning classes are the best customers of the shopkeepers and traders, these latter would soon realise that, to promote their private interests, they must associate themselves with sound principles of public policy, and not support a political party whose measures are destructive of the very conditions essential to commercial and industrial prosperity.”
When interviewed on the subject he said, “The views I have expressed represent those of very many Conservative property owners who have spoken to me on the subject in this office; and I know that the withdrawal of custom from Liberal tradesmen has been practised largely.”
So long as a spirit like that is abroad the only safety for the people lies in economic freedom. And nothing will do so much to win that freedom as the resumption of the control of hind by the community. The landlords and their allies will then be like Samson shorn of his locks. Then, and not till then, can religious and political liberty be ensured to all. For it is inconceivable that public landlords, elected by the people themselves and responsible to them, would attempt to make a man’s religious or political opinions a test of his fitness for occupying land in the way that private landlords have so frequently done.