« PreviousContinue »
THE LAND QUESTION IN
History of Welsh Land Question-Distinction of Welsh case from Irish
and Scotch Cases--Altempt to confuse Land Question with Church Question-Influence and Operations of Welsh Vernacular PressLord Penrhyn's Evidence from Welsh Press--"Adfyfr's " " Landlordism in Wales”—Mr. T. E. Ellis, M.P., and Lord Penrhyn.
No treatise upon the subject into which the Welsh Land Commission was requested to inquire would be complete or even intelligible without something in the way of a connected account of the manner in which the Welsh Land Question, if question it be, came into being and of the progress of the history of the Question. And first be it observed that the history to be told in this case is not, as it would be if it were necessary to deal with the like subject in relation to Ireland, or to the crofting areas of Scotland, distinguished by great length nor, for the consideration of the matter from a practical point of view, is it essential to indulge the passion for antiquarian research. It is true that the Welsh Commission did from time to time digress into those antiquarian paths ; and no doubt they will report the results of their inquiries; it is also true that from each digression something in the nature of profitable information was reaped; but the harvest went, in
an unthreshed condition and in the form of wheat sheaves with a large admixture of tares, to the general storehouse of knowledge. For practical purposes it was of no value save from a negative point of view; it was of no use save to show in rather a vague way that the case of Wales is entirely distinct from that of Ireland or of the crofting areas of Scotland. This is a matter of some importance, because it is clear from the fact that three revolutionary Acts, contradicting and nullifying one another in some measure, have been passed in connection with Irish Land Tenure within the last thirtyfive
years, and that the Crofters Acts have also been in active operation for some little time, that there is a large body of British citizens, more or less adequately represented in Parliament, who think that special circumstances may justify legislation contrary to economic principle, reactionary in tendency and confiscatory in spirit. For our part we venture to hold the contrary opinion and to believe that, great as are the present evils which have arisen from the Irish Land Acts, they are not to be compared with those which must inevitably follow from attempts to tinker at and improve a system which is bound to produce increasing evils, since it is an attempt to defy those laws governing human action which are, as sound economists know, essentially laws of nature. But it is idle to pretend to ignore the existence of persons, some of them earnest men and thoughtful, who hold in complete sincerity an absolutely different theory. Prudence and generalship, therefore, dictate that, without surrendering for a moment the impregnable fortress of principle, we should meet our opponents first on their own ground.
Is there any similarity between the peaceful story of the advance of civilisation in Wales and the troubled history of Ireland ? A glance at the annals of that unfortunate island makes the answer to that question apparent at once. Almost from the beginning of authentic history up to the