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CHAPTER VIII.

WESTERN CIVILIZATION (CONTINUED).

$ 166.— For the last three centuries the great human tide has been setting across the Atlantic. Hardly pausing on the eastern coasts of America, it has flowed on into the West, sweeping the Indian before it. When the great modern exodus began, all the best land in Europe had been appropriated by the upper class; and the enclosure of the soil there is now complete. In the United States of America at the present time it is a simple fact that all the desirable territory once open to the settler is locked in the grasp of private right, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It is not that the present population of America is too great for the country, nor that the country is settled up to its full capacity; but it is that the unused land of America, like the unused land of Europe, is appropriated, and held at a price. The vacant building lots in and around cities and towns, the empire of unused farming soil, the mining lands whence metals, coal and oil are taken — all these natural opportunities and resources are held on speculation. The situation which has become chronic in Europe is being reproduced in America. The enclosure of the soil in Europe and America has been so well set forth by Henry George that we quote from him. The passage reproduced below was written as far back as 1883; and remarks about conditions at that time apply now with even more force.

“Twelve months ago, when the hedges were blooming I passed along a lovely English road. On one side of the road was a wide expanse of rich land, in which no plow-share had that season been struck, because its owner

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demanded a higher rent than the farmers would give. On the other, stretched, for many a broad acre, a lordly park, its velvety verdure untrodden save by a few light-footed deer. And, as we passed along, my companion, a native of those parts, complained bitterly that, since this lord of the manor had enclosed the little village green and set out his fences to take in the grass of the roadside, the cottagers could not keep even a goose, and the children of the village had no place to play! Place there was in plenty, but, so far as the children were concerned, it might as well be in Africa or in the moon. And so in our Far West, I have seen emigrants toiling painfully for long distances through vacant land without finding a spot on which they dared settle.

There is plenty of vacant land on Manhattan Island. But on Manhattan Island human beings are packed closer than anywhere else in the world.

The social pressure which forces on our shores this swelling tide of immigration arises not from the fact that the land of Europe is all in use, but that it is all appropriated. We still talk of our vast public domain, and figures showing millions and millions of acres of unappropriated public land yet swell grandly in the reports of our Land Office. But already [1883] it is so difficult to find public land fit for settlement, that the great majority of those wishing to settle find it cheaper to buy, and rents in California and the New Northwest run from quarter to even one-half the crop. It must be remembered that the area which yet figures in the returns of our public domain includes all the great mountain chains, all the vast deserts and dry plains fit only for grazing, or not even for that; it must be remembered that of what is really fertile, millions and millions are covered by railroad grants as yet unpatented, or what amounts to the same thing to the settler, are shadowed by them; that much is held by appropriation of the water, without which it is useless; and that much more is held under claims of various kinds, which, whether legal or illegal, are sufficient to keep the settler off unless he will consent to pay a price,

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or to mortgage his labor for years.

To the very farthest corners of the Republic settlers are already going. The pressure is already so great that speculation and settlement are beginning to cross the northern border into Canada and the southern border into Mexico; so great that land is being settled and is becoming valuable that a few years ago would have been rejected -- land where winter lasts for six months and the thermometer goes down into the forties below zero; land where, owing to insufficient rainfall, a crop is always a risk; land that cannot be cultivated at all without irrigation. There is not today remaining in the United States any considerable body of good land unsettled and unclaimed, upon which settlers can go with the prospect of finding a homestead on Government terms. Already the tide of settlement presses angrily upon the Indian reservations, and but for the power of the general government would sweep over them.

We may see what is coming by the avidity with which capitalists, and especially foreign capitalists, who realize what is the value of land where none is left over which population may freely spread, are purchasing land in the United States. This movement has been going on quietly, for some years, until now there is scarcely a rich English peer or wealthy English banker who does not, either individually or as the member of some syndicate, own a great tract of our new land, and the purchase of large bodies for foreign account is going on every day. It is with these absentee landlords that our coming millions must make terms" (1).

After reading this passage, written in 1883, it is interesting to notice a paragraph on the editorial page of The Ohio State Journal, for May 22, 1899, which observes that “the increased demand for land has induced the government officials to expedite surveying and placing on the market the remaining unoccupied government lands in the West."

In the same connection an editorial in The Farmer's Voice, Chicago, January 26, 1901, may be read with profit.

“The growing scarcity of land and the hunger of man for a place he may call his own are never more graphically illustrated than during one of those rushes for land like the one in 1889, when the free land of Oklahoma territory was thrown open to settlement. Who can forget the mingled tragedy and comedy of that exciting time and not pray that its like may never come again! Yet there is in prospect just such another scene of brutality, outrage and murder, for at this moment thousands of men are waiting on the borders of other vast areas of land, prepared to make the run of their lives to secure the land soon to be thrown open. This land comprises about 3,800,000 acres, and is composed of reservations in Oklahoma ceded to the United States since 1895 by the Wichitas and affiliated bands of Indians, and the Comanches, Kiowas and Apaches in the southern and southwestern portions of the territory. The passing of the land of the people is a sad moment in the history of our country. As we go in and out about Chicago, travel through Illinois, or Michigan, or Indiana, and see the millions of acres of virgin land — land that never grew a crop, yet which is held at prohibitive prices — and consider at the same moment the millions who now are landless, and the new-born children who are coming into times when there is left for them no heritage in land such as awaited their parents born under our flag as we contemplate this condition we are compelled to question the future. Lord Macaulay said that so long as we had a vent in free land the safety of our nation was secure, but he foresaw troublous times when the people could no longer go out to the land and establish homes for themselves."

$167.— The land problem has been ably treated by Henry George. Earlier writers, among whom were Thomas Spence (1775) and Patrick Dove (1850), have dealt with the problem to the same issue (2); but Mr. George will always justly stand out as the greatest student of the subject. The principal differences between his apprehension of the problem and our view of it arise out of

historical facts over which no theories can ride. Mr. George discusses the land problem with no systematic reference to history; while, according to the view held by the writer, the land problem is correctly apprehended only in an evolutionary setting. Mr. George developed his views at a time when the newer conceptions of history and of society had not acquired the depth and breadth which they now have. Much excellent work on the source-materials of history, which had not been accomplished when Mr. George formed his ideas, have been at our disposal. It is quite possible to discuss the land problem in its contemporary bearings, without reference to the past; and it is in this practical respect, we think, that the services of Mr. George will be appraised by posterity.

Mr. George's presentation of the land problem was confused with an inadmissible individualism. In harmony with conventional, orthodox economics of the old school, he assumed that capital possesses, or ought to possess, only an individualistic significance. He was tacitly in the position of imagining individual producers peacefully at work through all ages developing the earth's resources, and reserving part of their products in the form of capital, as an aid to future production. If he had been interrupted in the midst of an individualistic argument by a student of social cleavage, he was in the position of brushing aside such an interruption with the remark, "If capital has not been freely accumulated by individuals it ought to have been.” Over against the background of individualism, he introduces the central villain, the landowner, who spoils the play; and we see ground rents ascending into the regions where the landowner dwells, a useless creature, devouring the earnings of capitalists and laborers in luxury and riotous living. We are asked to take this a priori account of the situation as a true picture of the real world in which we live. The treatment is wholly statical. There is nothing said about the historical conditions reckoned with in the present inquiry. Mr. George's writings are not calculated to give the reader any appreciation of the vast

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