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Landholding in England   By:

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THE HISTORY OF LANDHOLDING IN ENGLAND.

By Joseph Fisher, F.R.H.S.

"Much food is in the tillage of the poor, but there is that is destroyed for want of Judgment." PROV. 13: 23.

"Of all arts, tillage or agriculture is doubtless the most useful and necessary, as being the source whence the nation derives its subsistence. The cultivation of the soil causes it to produce an infinite increase. It forms the surest resource and the most solid fund of riches and commerce for a nation that enjoys a happy climate.... The cultivation of the soil deserves the attention of the Government, not only on account of the invaluable advantages that flow from it, but from its being an obligation imposed by nature on mankind." VATTEL.

INTRODUCTION.

This work is an expansion of a paper read at the meeting of the Royal Historical Society in May, 1875, and will be published in the volume of the Transactions of that body. But as it is an expensive work, and only accessible to the Fellows of that Society, and as the subject is one which is now engaging a good deal of public consideration, I have thought it desirable to place it within the reach of those who may not have access to the larger and more expensive work.

I am aware that much might be added to the information it contains, and I possess materials which would have more than doubled its size, but I have endeavored to seize upon the salient points, and to express my views as concisely as possible.

I have also preferred giving the exact words of important Acts of Parliament to any description of their objects.

If this little essay adds any information upon a subject of much public interest, and contributes to the just settlement of a very important question, I shall consider my labor has not been in vain.

JOSEPH FISHER.

WATERFORD, November 3, 1875.

I do not propose to enter upon the system of landholding in Scotland or Ireland, which appears to me to bear the stamp of the Celtic origin of the people, and which was preserved in Ireland long after it had disappeared in other European countries formerly inhabited by the Celts. That ancient race may be regarded as the original settlers of a large portion of the European continent, and its land system possesses a remarkable affinity to that of the Slavonic, the Hindoo, and even the New Zealand races. It was originally Patriarchal, and then Tribal, and was communistic in its character.

I do not pretend to great originality in my views. My efforts have been to collect the scattered rays of light, and to bring them to bear upon one interesting topic. The present is the child of the past. The ideas of bygone races affect the practices of living people. We form but parts of a whole; we are influenced by those who preceded us, and we shall influence those who come after us. Men cannot disassociate themselves either from the past or the future.

In looking at this question there is, I think, a vast difference which has not been sufficiently recognized. It is the broad distinction between the system arising out of the original occupation of land, and that proceeding out of the necessities of conquest; perhaps I should add a third the complex system proceeding from an amalgamation, or from the existence of both systems in the same nation. Some countries have been so repeatedly swept over by the tide of conquest that but little of the aboriginal ideas or systems have survived the flood. Others have submitted to a change of governors and preserved their customary laws; while in some there has been such a fusion of the two systems that we cannot decide which of the ingredients was the older, except by a process of analysis and a comparison of the several products of the alembic with the recognized institutions of the class of original or of invading peoples.

Efforts have been made, and not with very great success, to define the principle which governed the more ancient races with regard to the possession of land... Continue reading book >>




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