VIII. THE HOUSE OF HANOVER.
It may not be unwise to review the grounds that we have been going over, and to glance at the salient points. The ABORIGINAL inhabitants of this island enjoyed the same rights as those in other countries, of possessing themselves of land unowned and unoccupied. The ROMANS conquered, and claimed all the rights the natives possessed, and levied a tribute for the use of the lands. Upon the retirement of the Romans, after an occupancy of about six hundred years, the lands reverted to the aborigines, but they, being unable to defend themselves, invited the SAXONS, the JUTES, and the ANGLES, who reduced them to serfdom, and seized upon the land; they acted as if it belonged to the body of the conquerors, it was allotted to individuals by the FOLC-GEMOT or assembly of the people, and a race of LIBERI HOMINES or FREEMEN arose, who paid no rent, but performed service to the state; during their sway of about six hundred years the institutions changed, and the monarch, as representing the people, claimed the right of granting the possession of land seized for treason by BOC or charter. The NORMAN invasion found a large body of the Saxon landholders in armed opposition to William, and when they were defeated, he seized upon their land and gave it to his followers, and then arose the term TERRA REGIS, "the land of the king," instead of the term FOLC-LAND, "the land of the people;" but a large portion of the realm remained in the hands of the LIBERI HOMINES or FREEMEN. The Norman barons gave possession of part of their lands to their followers, hence arose the vassals who paid rent to their lord by personal service, while the FREEMEN held by service to the Crown. In the wars of the PLANTAGENETS the FREEMEN seem to have disappeared, and vassalage was substituted, the principal vassals being freeholders. The descendants of the aborigines regained their freedom. The possession of land was only given for life, and it was preceded by homage to the Crown, or fealty to the lord, investiture following the ceremony. The TUDOR sovereigns abolished livery and retainers, but did not secure the rights of the men-at-arms or replace them in their position of FREEMEN. The chief lords converted the payment of rent by service into payment in money; this led to wholesale evictions, and necessitated the establishment of the Poor Laws, The STUARTS surrendered the remaining charges upon land: but on the death of one sovereign, and the expulsion of another, the validity of patents from the Crown became doubtful. The PRESENT system of landholding is the outcome of the Tudor ideas. But the Crown has never abandoned the claim asserted in the statute of Edward I., that all land belongs to the sovereign as representing the people, and that individuals HOLD but do not OWN it; and upon this sound and legal principle the state takes land from one and gives it to another, compensating for the loss arising from being dispossessed.
I have now concluded my brief sketch of the facts which seemed to me most important in tracing the history of LANDHOLDING IN ENGLAND, and laid before you not only the most vital changes, but also the principles which underlay them; and I shall have failed in conveying the ideas of my own mind if I have not shown you that at least from the Scandinavian or ANGLO-SAXON invasion, the ownership of land rested either in the people, or the Crown as representing the people: that individual proprietorship of land is not only unknown, but repugnant to the principles of the British Constitution; that the largest estate a subject can have is tenancy-in-fee, and that it is a holding and not an owning of the soil; and I cannot conceal from you the conviction which has impressed my mind, after much study and some personal examination of the state of proprietary occupants on the Continent, that the best interests of the nation, both socially, morally, and materially, will be promoted by a very large increase in the number of tenants-in-fee; which can be attained by the extension of principles of legistration now in active operation. All that is necessary is to extend the provisions of the Land Clauses Act, which apply to railways and such objects, to tenants in possession; to make them "promoters" under that act; to treat their outlay for the improvement of the soil and the greater PRODUCTION OF FOOD as a public outlay; and thus to restore to England a class which corresponds with the Peasent Proprietors of the Continent - the FREEMAN or LIBERI HOMINES of ANGLO-SAXON times, whose rights were solemnly guarenteed by the 55th William I., and whose existence would be the glory of the country and the safeguard of its institution.