LORD SALISBURY ON RICH AND POOR.
T4ORD SALISBURY made a second speech at Oxford on I Thursday, apparently on the spur of the moment, and therefore the more noteworthy. So large was the crowd
attending the meeting, that it could not be contained in the Corn Exchange, and the overflow meeting which formed out- side was clamorous to hear something, if only a few words, from the speaker of the day. Lord Salisbury, therefore, though somewhat exhausted by speaking for two hours, addressed this fresh audience on a topic on which we heartily wish more somewhat exhausted by speaking for two hours, addressed this fresh audience on a topic on which we heartily wish more speakers of the first rank would dilate. This is the utter folly of the popular notion that the laws protect the rich rather than the poor. In an utterly lawless country, none
but the rich would be happy or free, for only they would be able either to protect themselves or to enforce service for their benefit from others. " Law and order," said the Premier, in an epigrammatic sentence to which we only wish we could give universal circulation, " are the privilege of the poor, but the restraint of the rich." There is no truth more true, nor any truth which the advocates of anarchy are so anxious to conceal. The Eighth Commandment in especial, the moral foundation of all laws of property, is the very charter of the poor, for their property—their labour—is the one which, under the strong conscription of hunger, it is the easiest to steal. The moment the laws are silent, wages cease, and the poor man, even if he gets land to work on, or a profitable task to perform, is com- pelled to work in arms, or to obey any order, however unjust, which the armed servants of the rich may choose to enforce. The poor, when the laws are silent, have no means of self-defence except by combining in a mob ; and all history shows that organised bands—and the wealthy readily organise them—can always put down a Jacquerie. They have only to be pitiless enough, and they can work estates as the Roman nobles did,— through bands of slaves as white, as brave, and fifty times as numerous as themselves. The poor man without laws cannot recover the smallest debt ; while the rich man recovers his as the Roman practically did, by flogging the debtor till he gets it. Even a relaxation of order hurts the poor far more than the rich, for they are far more tied to the soil, and far nearer the edge of the great precipice. Suppose a mob frightens the owners of the houses in Grosvenor Square until they decline to live there, who suffers f Not the owners, who are only at the uttermost fined in the value of their leases, who can live anywhere, and who are comparatively careless where they live. The whole of the real pain falls upon the artisans they employ, the servants they pay, the clerks and porters of the tradesmen they deal with, who in the aggregate outnumber the owners by thirty to one at least, who cannot fly, and who lose all means of getting daily bread. It may be said that the mob is more numerous still ; but the mob gets nothing,—no pay out of the fright it has inspired, no food, even, which it did not possess before. If it pillages, it only destroys, getting in the end nothing for itself. The only effect of successful violence is to make the wealthy fly away with their wealth, which, except so far as it is expressed in land, no mob or combination of mobs can take away. They can destroy a part of it—Consols, for example—and so suspend all labour ; but they cannot get the money for themselves. The thing has been tried a thousand times against the Jews, the most powerless of all classes, who have always been accumulators, and has been tried by oppressors at once scientific and relentless ; but the wealth has always eluded the spoilers' hands. Stealing a bill of exchange may ruin Moses, but does not pay the thief. The only effect even of severe taxation for the benefit of the poor is to disincline men to hold the things taxed—say, houses—and ultimately to throw the property exclusively into the hands of those strong enough to protect it from legalised pillage.
But suppose there are no rich? That would not be the land about which we are arguing to-day, but a land such as England or France would be, were the laws so generally re- sisted as to lose their power.
Take the case which always strikes the poor as the one which has in it most of hope for them,—the case of land. Their advocates tell them, amidst general applause, that the great landlords are the fairest subjects of taxation, that they ought to pay all rates, all tithes, and nearly all taxes, for that then they will give up aggregating land, and allow it to be divided. That is the exact contrary of the fact. Every new tax placed on land is pro tante a guarantee against its division. The great owner who is paid in dignity, in influence, and in pleasant occupation, may endure to hold an estate yielding only one-half per cent. for his money, as he endures to hold a white elephant like Chatsworth, Blenheim, or Hatfield ; but the little owner cannot bear that pressure, and retires so rapidly that the old class of yeomen is in England becoming extinct. Still less can he bear it if he is a little cultivator, for then every tax on land is a positive deduction from his family's food. So keenly felt is this, that in Germany, where such taxes are heavy, the peasantry are at this moment crying out that unless protective duties are doubled—that is, unless they are positively granted bounties out of the pockets of all who eat— they will starve. It looks an easy process to go on heaping taxes and disabilities upon owners ; but the first effect of them is that the lesser men find no pleasure in owning land, and the second effect is that the little men of all either give up the struggle, as thousands do in Massachusetts, the freest Commonwealth in the world, or they resist the taxes, and the whole scheme of making the land bear all burdens breaks down by its own weight. There are many valid reasons for peasant-proprietorship, but the ability of the peasant- proprietor to bear taxes is assuredly not one of them. Lord Salisbury, who, for all his gibes at philosophers, is a bit of a philosopher himself, is entirely favourable to peasant- proprietorship, and even—to the dismay, we can fancy, of the Carlton—ventured to hint a doubt whether the English system of cultivating the soil through rent-payers was in itself a good one ; but he put the case against the "universal and all-sufficient land-tax" in a nutshell: —" If you want to increase the number of small owners in the land, you must not bully the landlords. The more you increase the burdens on land, the more you treat it as a kind of parish investment, the more you inflict upon it, as many of our legislators are prepared to do, every kind of exceptional dis,ability and inconvenience, the more do you drive it into the hands of rich men. Land, in proportion as land is an advantageous investment favoured by the State or not injured by the State, will find its way according to economical laws into the hands of small owners ; but directly you affix to it any disability, directly you attach to it any laws or disability peculiar to it, then it becomes a thing in which only those can indulge who have surplus money to throw away, and therefore in that direction you diminish the chance of what we all profess to desire, the increase of the occupiers who are the owners of their own land. This is a very important matter, because we are much governed, unfortunately, by philosophers ; and the philosophers, while proclaiming their eager desire to multiply the owners of land, at the same time lose no opportnnity in matters of taxation to increase the special disabilities upon the owners of land. They are thus neutralising their own- policy. They are trying to sail north and south at the same time. They are trying with one hand to undo the labour of the other, and if you wish—as I hope you wish, and as I most earnestly wish—to multiply the owners of land, you must resist to the utmost any proposi- tion to treat land in any more unfavourable manner than any other kind of investment." Let land bear all the burdens of the State, and the peasantry will reject the land,—that is the plain English of the matter, which the dreamy philanthropists of our day, who fancy that good feeling will abolish arithmetic and be a perfect substitute for sense, will do well to ponder. It is perfectly possible to diffuse property among a much greater multitude than at present ; but it can only be done by strengthening, instead of relaxing law. If debts were more recoverable, smaller men could trade, and all things would be cheaper, for all. things are now taxed to provide against bad debts. If eviction is impossible because of men's emotions, rents will be high in order that the looses caused by those emotions may be met. The only method of diffusing wealth by law yet discovered which does not involve either robbery or the destruction of wealth itself, is the compulsory par- celling at death now so general on the Continent ; and that requires for its success not only laws, but their exact and
rigorous fulfilment in favour of heirs too poor to make every succession the subject of a lawsuit. In every department of life, in fact, and especially in the sale of labour, the more effective the law is, the more perfect is the shelter afforded to the poor man.