« PreviousContinue »
These are figures of a very striking character, showing that, while the annual value of the lands in the county fell by £386,537, the annual value of lands in that portion of the county of Essex which is included in the Cambridge survey district actually rose by all but £20,000. True, there may have been special local causes at Cambridge, but special local causes, which are numerous, go to make our point, which is that many varying factors go to make the aggregate figures, and that these figures do rise and fall for causes entirely distinct from the rise and fall of agricultural rentals.
The full argument upon this question will be found in the appendix, but it is necessary to point out at this stage that the arithmetical aspect of the matter, partly, perhaps, because it took a form calculated to attract the popular fancy, has received far more attention than it deserves from the scientific point of view. The real question is and was this : “Is there anything in the relation of landowner and tenant, or in the relations of a substantial number of landowners and tenants, in Wales so peculiar and exceptional as to call for and to justify the application to the tenure of land in Wales any legislative principles other than those which are used in England ?" Such a question cannot be answered upon any such basis as that suggested by Mr. Ellis and adopted by Mr.
54 THE LAND QUESTION IN NORTH WALES. Gladstone later with considerable, and in some cases prudent, reservations. In discussing such an issue a thousand questions must necessarily crop up, and the principal ones among them are these : “Does systematic absenteeism prevail ? " “ Are the relations between landowner and tenant normally friendly ? ” “ Are the conditions under which the farmer wins his livelihood better or worse in the one country than in the other, and, whether they be worse or better, is this result due to human and preventible causes or to physical and inevitable causes ?” These and many other questions following from them are involved in the great problem which is in large measure our subject matter.
The Commission appointed—its Constitution-Antecedents of Members
- Majority of Radicals over Unionists—the Terms of Reference and their Meaning-Issue affects English and Scotch Land alsoSummary of Complaint against the Commission, its Methods and its Procedure.
MR. GLADSTONE's Snowdon speech contained, as was recognised on all hands in North Wales, a virtual promise for the appointment of a Royal Commission; and the North Wales Property Defence Association immediately set themselves to work to prepare that careful and statistical evidence which they had every reason to expect that a Royal Commission would welcome with gratitude as essential to the discovery of truth. The landowners and supporters of the present system in South Wales, however, appeared inclined to let matters slide, and it was not until the announcement of the impending appointment of a Commission had been made and the names of the Commissioners had been published early in the Parliamentary Session of 1893 that they began to take steps towards organisation with the view of placing their case properly before the public. These facts were made known to the Commissioners at an early date ; but, in the face of that knowledge, they elected to begin proceedings in Glamorganshire, where the landowners were confessedly unready, and where the very idea of the existence of a Land Question was young.
But the course of events must not be anticipated. The Commission, as announced to the public, was thus constituted:
Chairman, Lord (now Earl) Carrington ; Lord Kenyon; Sir John T. Dillwyn Llewelyn ; F. Seebohm, Esq. ; Professor (now Principal) Rhys; Edwin Grove, Esq.; D. Brynmor Jones, Esq., Q.C., M.P.; Mr. Richard Jones; Mr. J. Griffiths. Without entering into personal reference where it can be avoided, it is necessary to incur such odium as may be attached to inquiry into the antecedents of these gentlemen and into their qualifications for the grave and important task which lay before them. Lord Carrington was Lord Chamberlain; had been Governor of New South Wales; was, as he had every right to be, a pronounced Radical; was given to the discussion of social questions, from the sentimental point of view, with Cardinal Manning; had possessed a considerable estate in South Wales, which he had sold; and was a large landowner in England. Inasmuch as he had sold his Welsh estate immediately after he succeeded to it, he could not be regarded as having any special knowledge of Welsh affairs. Lord Kenyon, who was less than thirty years of age, and, it may be said without offence, quite unknown in public life, was a landowner on a considerable scale in Shropshire and in the Hundred of Maelor, which is technically Welsh, but for all practical purposes English. In politics he was a Conservative, and an opportunity may be taken here of saying that, throughout the sittings of the Commission, he displayed a practical knowledge of estate management which was invaluable, and a power of eliciting the truth by tactful and polite cross-examination which he may have inherited from his illustrious ancestor, who was Lord Chief Justice of England and Master of the Rolls at the end of the eighteenth century. His effectual work as a Commissioner may, perhaps, have surprised those who appointed him. Sir John Llewelyn was a large landowner in Glamorganshire, with a reputation for great administrative ability as Chairman of Quarter Sessions, and possessed of special knowledge upon a variety of subjects. In politics he was a Conservative, and
had sought Parliamentary honours without success : since the appointment of the Commission he has entered Parliament. Mr. F. Seebohm was the member of the Coinmission who entered upon his duties with the highest public reputation. He was a Liberal Unionist in politics and a banker at Hitchin by profession; but his true fame was in the world of antiquarian letters. His English Village Community, published in 1883, is, and is likely to remain, the classical work on the subject; and during the existence of the Commission was published by Messrs. Longmans his masterly book on The Tribal System in Wales. That Mr. Seebohm's interests were purely antiquarian it were erroneous to assert, for he showed throughout the inquiry an acute zeal to realise the conditions of rural life in Wales; but he would probably be the last man to claim practical acquaintance with the agricultural life of to-day in either England or Wales. The antecedents of Mr. Brynmor Jones, Q.C., M.P.—and to his antecedents we confine ourselves for the moment—may be told shortly. The son of a famous Nonconformist minister in South Wales, he had gone to the Bar, and after a shorter career on the South Wales circuit than commonly precedes official promotion, had been appointed a County Court Judge. Relinquishing this office he had returned to the Bar, and had entered Parliament as member for the Stroud Division of Gloucestershire. During the life of the Commission he has migrated to Glamorganshire, and now sits in Parliament as the Radical representative of a Welsh constituency. Of the politics of Professor (now Principal) Rhys little was or is known. He was, at the time of his appointment, Bursar of Jesus College, Oxford, which possesses considerable property in Wales, and his reputation as a Welsh antiquarian and folklorist stood then, as it stands now, very high. His scholarly knowledge of the Welsh language was, perhaps, his principal qualification, and certainly it stood the Commission in good stead. Mr. Edwin Grove, Chairman of the