VIII. THE HOUSE OF HANOVER.
The establishment of two estates in land; one the ownership, the other the use, may be traced to the payment of rent, to the Roman commonwealth, for the AGER PUBLICUS. Under the feudal system the rent was of two classes - personal service or money; the latter was considered base tenure. The legislation of the Tudors abolished the payment of rent by personal service, and made all rent payable in money or in kind. The land had been burdened with the sole support of the army. It was then freed from this charge, and a tax was levied upon the community. Some writers have sought to define RENT as the difference between fertile lands and those that are so unproductive as barely to pay the cost of tillage. This far-fetched idea is contradicted by the circumstance that for centuries rent was paid by labor - the personal service of the vassal - and it is now part of the annual produce of the soil inasmuch as land will be unproductive without seed and labor, or being pastured by tame animals, the representative of labor in taming and tending them. Rent is usually the labor or the fruits of the labor of the occupant. In some cases it is income derived from the labors of others. A broad distinction exists between the rent of land, which is a portion of the fruits or its equivalent in money, and that of improvements and houses, which is an exchange of the labor of the occupant given as payment for that employed in effecting improvements or erecting houses. The latter described as messuages were valued in 1794 at SIX MILLIONS per annum; in 1814 they were nearly FIFETEEN MILLIONS; now they are valued at EIGHTY MILLIONS.
[Footnote: A Parliamentary return gives the following information as to the value of lands and messuages in 1814 and 1874:
Lands, L34,330,463 L49,906,866
Messuages, 14,895,130 80,726,502
The increase in the value of land is hardly equal to the reduction in the value of gold, while the increase in messuages shows the enormous expenditure of labor.]
The increase represents a sum considerably more than double the national debt of Great Britain, and under the system of leases the improvements will pass from the industrial to the landlord class.
It seems to me to be a mistake in legislation to encourage a system by which these two funds merge into one, and that hands the income arising from the expenditure of the working classes over to the tenants-in-fee without an equivalent. This proceeds from a straining of the maxim that "what is attached to the freehold belongs to the freehold," and was made law when both Houses of Parliament were essentially landlord. That maxim is only partially true: corn is as much attached to the freehold as a tree; yet one is cut without hindrance and the other is prevented. Potatoes, turnips, and such tubers, are only obtained by disturbing the freehold. This maxim was at one time so strained that it applied to fixtures, but recent legislation and modern discussions have limited the rights of the landlord class and been favorable to the occupier, and I look forward to such alterations in our laws as will secure to the man who expends his labor or earnings in improvements, an estate IN PERPETUO therein, as I think no length of user of that which is a man's own - his labor or earnings - should hand over his representative improvements to any other person. I agree with those writers who maintain that it is prejudicial to the state that the rent fund should be enjoyed by a comparatively small number of persons, and think it would be advantageous to distribute it, by increasing the number of tenants- in-fee. Natural laws forbid middlemen, who do nothing to make the land productive, and yet subsist upon the labor of the farmer, and receive as rent part of the produce of his toil. The land belongs to the state, and should only be subject to taxes, either by personal service, such as serving in the militia or yeomanry, or by money payments to the state.
Land does not represent CAPITAL, but the improvements upon it do. A man does not purchase land. He buys the right of possession. In any transfer of land there is no locking up of capital, because one man receives exactly the amount the other expends. The individual may lock up his funds, but the nation does not. Capital is not money. I quote a definition from a previous work of mine, "The Case of Ireland," p. 176:
"Capital stock properly signifies the means of subsistence for man, and for the animals subservient to his use while engaged in the process of production. The jurisconsults of former times expressed the idea by the words RES FUNGIBILES, by which they meant consumable commodities, or those things which are consumed in their use for the supply of man's animal wants, as contradistinguished from unconsumable commodities, which latter writers, by an extension of the term, in a figurative sense, have called FIXED capital."
All the money in the Bank of England will not make a single four- pound loaf. Capital, as represented by consumable commodities, is the product of labor applied to land, or the natural fruits of the land itself. The land does not become either more or less productive by reason of the transfer from one person to another; it is the withdrawal of labor that affects its productiveness.