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"The Irish Famine of '46 is example and proof. The corn crops were sufficient to feed the island. But the landlords would have their rents in spite of famine and in defiance of fever. They took the whole harvest and left hunger to those who raised it. Had the people of Ireland been the landlords of Ireland, not a human creature would have died of hunger, nor the failure of the potato been considered a matter of any consequence." - James Fintan Lalor (1807-49) Irish patriot

Many Americans can trace their roots to at least one ancestor who came here from Ireland. Henry George wrote a long piece on what he called "The Irish Land Question." Later, it was republished under the title The Land Question. Indeed, in the original, George made the point that there was nothing unique about what was going on in Ireland, just that it was easier to see the dynamics there than it might be in other places. This might give those whose ancestors left Ireland some additional perspective -- but should be equally relevant for most of us with immigrant ancestors.


Henry George:  The Irish Land Question (1881)

... It is the fashion of Land League orators and sympathizing newspapers in this country to talk as if the distress and disquiet in Ireland were wholly due to political oppression, and our national House of Representatives recently passed, by unanimous vote, a resolution which censured England for her treatment of Ireland. But, while it is indeed true that Ireland has been deeply wronged and bitterly oppressed by England, it is not true that there is any economic oppression of Ireland by England now. To whatever cause Irish distress may be due, it is certainly not due to the existence of laws which press on industry more heavily in Ireland than in any other part of the United Kingdom.

And, further than this, the Irish land system, which is so much talked of as though it were some peculiarly atrocious system, is essentially the same land system which prevails in all civilized countries, which we of the United States have accepted unquestioningly, and have extended over the whole temperate zone of a new continent – the same system which all over the civilized world men are accustomed to consider natural and just. ...

And as to the United States, let me ask the men who to applauding audiences are nightly comparing the freedom of America with the oppression of Ireland – let me ask the Representatives who voted for the resolution of sympathy with Ireland, this simple question: What would the Irish landlords lose, what would the Irish tenants gain, if tomorrow, Ireland were made a State in the American Union and American law substituted for English law?

I think it will puzzle them to reply. The truth is that the gain would be to the landlords, the loss to the tenants. The simple truth is that, under our laws, the Irish landlords could rack-rent, distrain, evict, or absent themselves, as they pleased, and without any restriction from Ulster tenant-right or legal requirement of compensation for improvements. Under our laws they could, just as freely as they can now, impose whatever terms they pleased upon their tenants – whether as to cultivation, as to improvements, as to game, as to marriages, as to voting, or as to anything else. For these powers do not spring from special laws. They are merely incident to the right of property; they result simply from the acknowledgment of the right of the owner of land to do as he pleases with his own – to let it, or not let it. So far as law can give them to him, every American landlord has these powers as fully as any Irish landlord.

  • Cannot the American owner of land make, in letting it, any stipulation he pleases as to how it shall be used, or improved, or cultivated?
  • Can he not reserve any of his own rights upon it, such as the right of entry, or of cutting wood, or shooting game, or catching fish?
  • And, in the absence of special agreement, does not American law give him, what the law of Ireland does not now give him, the ownership at the expiration of the lease of all the improvements made by the tenant?
  • What single power has the Irish landowner that the American landowner has not as fully?
  • Is not the American landlord just as free as is the Irish landlord to refuse to rent his lands or his houses to any one who does not attend a certain church or vote a certain ticket? Is he not quite as free to do this as he is free to refuse his contributions to all but one particular benevolent society or political committee?
  • Or, if, not liking a certain newspaper, he chooses to give notice to quit to any tenant whom he finds taking that newspaper, what law can be invoked to prevent him? There is none. The property is his, and he can let it, or not let it, as he wills. And, having this power to let or not let, he has power to demand any terms he pleases.

The truth is that the Irish land system is simply the general system of modern civilization. In no essential feature does it differ from the system that obtains here – in what we are accustomed to consider the freest country under the sun. Entails and primogeniture and family settlements may be in themselves bad things, and may sometimes interfere with putting the land to its best use, but their effects upon the relations of landlord and tenant are not worth talking about. As for rack-rent, which is simply a rent fixed at short intervals by competition, that is in the United States even a more common way of letting land than in Ireland. In our cities the majority of our people live in houses rented from month to month or year to year for the highest price the landlord thinks he can get. The usual term, in the newer States, at least, for the letting of agricultural land is from season to season. And that the rent of land in the United States comes, on the whole, more closely to the standard of rack, or full competition rent, there can be, I think, little doubt. That the land of Ireland is, as the apologists for landlordism say, largely under-rented (that is, not rented for the full amount the landlord might get with free competition) is probably true. Miss C. G. O'Brien, in a recent article in the Nineteenth Century, states that the tenant-farmers generally get for such patches as they sub-let to their laborers twice the rent they pay the landlords. And we hear incidentally of many "good landlords," i.e., landlords not in the habit of pushing their tenants for as much as they might get by rigorously demanding all that any one would give. ...

... it is best that the truth be fully stated and clearly recognized. He who sees the truth, let him proclaim it, without asking who is for it or who is against it. This is not radicalism in the bad sense which so many attach to the word. This is conservatism in the true sense.

What gives to the Irish Land Question its supreme significance is that it brings into attention and discussion – nay, that it forces into attention and discussion, not a mere Irish question, but a question of world-wide importance. ...

What has brought the land question to the front in Ireland, what permits the relation between land and labor to be seen there with such distinctness – to be seen even by those who cannot in other places perceive them – is certain special conditions. Ireland is a country of dense population, so that competition for the use of land is so sharp and high as to produce marked effects upon the distribution of wealth. It is mainly an agricultural country so that production is concerned directly and unmistakably with the soil. Its industrial organization is largely that simple one in which an employing capitalist does not mind between laborer and landowner, so that the connection between rent and wages is not obscured. Ireland, moreover, was never conquered by the Romans, nor, until comparatively recently, by any people who had felt in their legal system the effect of Roman domination. It is the European country in which primitive ideas as to land tenures have longest held their sway, and the circumstances of its conquest, its cruel misgovernment, and the differences of race and religion between the masses of the people and those among whom the land was parceled, have tended to preserve old traditions and to direct the strength of Irish feeling and the fervor of Irish imagination against a system which forces the descendant of the ancient possessors of the soil to pay tribute for it to the representative of a hated stranger. It is for these reasons that the connection between Irish distress and Irish landlordism is so easily seen and readily realized. ... read the whole article

Henry George: The Crime of Poverty  (1885 speech)

  Poverty! Can there be any doubt of its cause? Go, into the old countries — go into western Ireland, into the highlands of Scotland — these are purely primitive communities. There you will find people as poor as poor can be — living year after year on oatmeal or on potatoes, and often going hungry. I could tell you many a pathetic story. Speaking to a Scottish physician who was telling me how this diet was inducing among these people a disease similar to that which from the same cause is ravaging Italy (the Pellagra), I said to him: "There is plenty of fish; why don't they catch fish? There is plenty of game; I know the laws are against it, but cannot they take it on the sly?" "That," he said, "never enters their heads. Why, if a man was even suspected of having a taste for trout or grouse he would have to leave at once."

There is no difficulty in discovering what makes those people poor. They have no right to anything that nature gives them. All they can make above a living they must pay to the landlord. They not only have to pay for the land that they use, but they have to pay for the seaweed that comes ashore and for the turf they dig from the bogs. They dare not improve, for any improvements they make are made an excuse for putting up the rent. These people who work hard live in hovels, and the landlords, who do not work at all—oh! they live in luxury in London or Paris. If they have hunting boxes there, why they are magnificent castles as compared with the hovels in which the men live who do the work. Is there any question as to the cause of poverty there?  ... read the whole speech

Henry George: In Liverpool: The Financial Reform Meeting at the Liverpool Rotunda (1889)

It is the old, old story! And no wonder, for property in land is just as absurd! just as monstrous as property in human beings. (Hear, hear, and cheers) What difference does it make whether you enslave a man by making his flesh and blood the property of another, or whether you enslave him by making the property of another that element on which and from which he must live if he is to live at all? (A voice: "None whatever!" and cheers)

Why, in those old days slave ships used to set out from this town of Liverpool for the coast of Africa to buy slaves. They did not bring them to Liverpool; they took them over to America. Why? Because you people were so good, and the Englishmen who had got to the other side of the Atlantic, and had settled there, were so bad? Not at all. I will tell you why the Liverpool ships carried slaves to America and did not bring them back to England. Because in America population was sparse and land was plentiful. Therefore to rob a man of his labor — and that is what the slaveowner wanted the slave for — you had got to catch and hold the man. That is the reason the slaves went to America. The reason they did not come here, the reason they were not carried over to Ireland was that here population was relatively dense, land was relatively scarce and could easily be monopolized, and to get out of the laborer all that his labor could furnish, save only wages enough to keep him alive even the slaveowner had to give this — it was only necessary to own land.

What is the difference, economically speaking, between the slaves of South Carolina, Missouri, Mississippi, and Georgia and the free peasantry of Ireland or the agricultural laborer of England? (Cheers) Go to one of those slave states in the slave days, and there you would find a planter, the owner of five hundred slaves, living in elegant luxury, without doing a stroke of work, having a fine mansion, horses, [and a] carriage — all the things that work produces, but doing none of it himself. The people who did the work were living in negro huts, on coarse food; they were clothed in coarse raiment. If they ran away, he had the privilege of chasing them back, tying them up and whipping them and making them work.

Come to this side of the Atlantic, in a place where you saw the same state of development. There you found also five hundred people living in little cabins, eating coarse food, clothed in coarse raiment, working hard, yet getting only enough of the things that work produces to keep them in good times, when bad times came having to appeal to the world for charity. But you found among those little cabins, too, the lordly mansion of the man who did no work. (Hear, hear, and groans)

You found the mansion; you did not often find the man. (Laughter and cheers) As a general rule he was off in London, or in Paris, enjoying himself on the fruits of their labor. (Hear, hear) He had no legal right to make them work for him. Oh! no. If they ran away he could not put bloodhounds on their track and bring them back and whip them; but he had, in hunger, in starvation, a ban dog40 more swift, more keen, more sure than the bloodhound of the south. (Cheers)

The slaveowner of the south — the owner of men — had to make those men work for him. He went to all that trouble. The landlord of Ireland did not have to make men work for him. He owned the land, and without land men cannot work; and so men would come to him — equal children of the Creator, equal citizens of Great Britain — would come to him, with their hats in their hands, and beg to be allowed to live on his land, to be allowed to work and to give to him all the produce of their work, except enough to merely keep them alive, and thank him for the privilege. . . . ... read the whole speech


Henry George: The Great Debate: Single Tax vs Social Democracy  (1889)

How is labour to get the land? How has labour got the land when it was much further off? Irish labourers have gone some 3,000 miles across the sea; and then in many cases 1,000 miles further west, by saving or by borrowing some member of the family has gone across, and their earnings have constituted an emigration fund for the rest of the family. That great emigration has been going on all these years, not by capital supplied by the Government, but by capital earned by the strong arm of labour. (Applause.) The whole development of the United States, the whole development of every new country, proves the fallacy of this assertion that labour cannot employ itself without capital, and proves the fallacy of the assertion, that the opening of land to labour would do nothing to improve wages. Go into a new country where land is free; go into a country where the price of land is not yet high, and there, you will find no such thing as an unemployed man; there you will find no such thing as a man begging for employment as though it were a boon. (Hear, hear.)  ... Read the entire article

The Most Rev. Dr Thomas Nulty, Roman Catholic Bishop of Meath (Ireland): Back to the Land (1881)
  ... The people of Ireland are now keenly alive to the important fact that if they are loyal and true to themselves, and that they set their faces against every form of violence and crime, they have the power to compel the landlords to surrender all their just rights in their entirety.

If the tenant farmers refuse to pay more than a just rent for their farms, and no one takes a farm from which a tenant has been evicted for the non-payment of an unjust or exorbitant rent, then our cause is practically gained. The landlords may, no doubt, wreak their vengeance on a few, whom they may regard as the leaders of the movement; but the patriotism and generosity of their countrymen will compensate these abundantly for their losses, and superabundantly reward them for the essential and important services they have rendered to their country at the critical period of its history.

You know but too well, and perhaps to your cost, that there are bad landlords in Meath, and worse still in Westmeath, and perhaps also in the other Counties of this Diocese. We are, unfortunately, too familiar with all forms of extermination, from the eviction of a Parish Priest, who was willing to pay his rent, to the wholesale clearance of the honest, industrious people of an entire district. But we have, thank God, a few good landlords, too. Some of these, like the Earl of Fingal, belong to our own faith; some, like the late Lord Athlumny, are Protestants; and some among the very best are Tories of the highest type of conservatism.

You have always cherished feelings of the deepest gratitude and affection for every landlord, irrespective of his politics or his creed, who treated you with justice, consideration and kindness. I have always heartily commended you for these feelings.

For my own part, I can assure you, I entertain no unfriendly feelings for any landlord living, and in this Essay I write of them not as individuals, but as a class, and further, I freely admit that there are individual landlords who are highly honourable exceptions to the class to which they belong. But that I heartily dislike the existing system of Land Tenure, and the frightful extent to which it has been abused, by the vast majority of landlords, will be evident to anyone who reads this Essay through. ...

Human Slavery Once Generally Accepted.
Slavery is found to have existed, as a social institution, in almost all nations, civilised as well as barbarous, and in every age of the world, up almost to our own times. We hardly ever find it in the state of a merely passing phenomenon, or as a purely temporary result of conquest or of war, but always as a settled, established and recognised state of social existence, in which generation followed generation in unbroken succession, and in which thousands upon thousands of human beings lived and died. Hardly anyone had the public spirit to question its character or to denounce its excesses; it had no struggle to make for its existence, and the degradation in which it held its unhappy victims was universally regarded as nothing worse than a mere sentimental grievance.

On the other hand, the justice of the right of property which a master claimed in his slaves was universally accepted in the light of a first principle of morality. His slaves were either born on his estate, and he had to submit to the labour and the cost of rearing and maintaining them to manhood, or he acquired them by inheritance or by free gift, or, failing these, he acquired them by the right of purchase -- having paid in exchange for them what, according to the usages of society and the common estimation of his countrymen, was regarded as their full pecuniary value. Property, therefore, in slaves was regarded as sacred, and as inviolable as any other species of property.

Even Christians Recognised Slavery.
So deeply rooted and so universally received was this conviction that the Christian religion itself, though it recognised no distinction between Jew and Gentile, between slave or freeman, cautiously abstained from denouncing slavery itself as an injustice or a wrong. It prudently tolerated this crying evil, because in the state of public feeling then existing, and at the low standard of enlightenment and intelligence then prevailing, it was simply impossible to remedy it.

Thus then had slavery come down almost to our own time as an established social institution, carrying with it the practical sanction and approval of ages and nations, and surrounded with a prestige of standing and general acceptance well calculated to recommend it to men's feelings and sympathies. And yet it was the embodiment of the most odious and cruel injustice that ever afflicted humanity. To claim a right of property in man was to lower a rational creature to the level of the beast of the field; it was a revolting and an unnatural degradation of the nobility of human nature itself.

That thousands upon thousands of human beings who had committed no crime, who had violated no law, and who had done no wrong to anyone, should be wantonly robbed of their liberty and freedom; should be deprived of the sacred and inalienable moral rights, which they could not voluntarily abdicate themselves; should be bought and sold, like cattle in the markets; and should be worked to death, or allowed to live on at the whim or caprice of their owner, was the last and most galling injustice which human nature could be called on to endure.

The World's Approval Cannot Justify Injustice.
To arrest public attention, and fix its gaze effectively on the intrinsic character and constitution of slavery, was to seal its doom; and its death knell was sounded in the indignant cry of the great statesman who "denied that man could hold property in man." Twenty millions of British money were paid over to the slave owners as compensation for the loss of property to which they had no just title, and slavery was abolished forever.

The practical approval, therefore, which the world has bestowed on a social institution that has lasted for centuries is no proof that it ought to be allowed to live on longer, if, on close examination, it be found to be intrinsically unjust and cruel, and mischievous and injurious besides to the general good of mankind. No amount of sanction or approval that the world can give to a social institution can alter its intrinsic constitution and nature; and the fact of the world's having thus approved of an institution which was essentially unjust, cruel and degrading to human nature, only proves that the world was wrong: it furnishes no arguments or justification for allowing it to live on a moment longer.

Irish Land Tenure the Twin Sister of Slavery.
The system of Land Tenure in Ireland enjoyed a long and similarly prosperous career, and it, too, has created a state of human existence, which, in strict truth and justice, can be briefly characterised as the twin sister of slavery. The vast majority of tenant farmers of Ireland are at the present moment slaves. They are dependent for their peace of mind, for their material comforts, for the privilege of living under the roof beneath which they were born, and for the right of earning their bread on the farms which their forefathers enriched with their toil, on the arbitrary and irresponsible will of their landlord.

Abject, absolute and degrading dependence of this kind involves the very essence, and is, in fact, the definition of slavery. They toil like galley slaves in the cultivation of their farms from the opening to the close of the year, only to see substantially the whole produce of their labour and capital appropriated by others who have not toiled at all, and who even leave them not what would be allowed for the maintenance of slaves who would be expected to work, but what hardly suffices to keep them from dying of want.

When grazing on land had been found more remunerative than tillage, and the people consequently became too numerous, the superfluous multitudes, who were now no longer wanted under the new state of things, were mercilessly cleared off the lands by wholesale evictions to make room for the brute beast, which paid better. Such of the evicted as had the means left to take themselves away were forced to fly for refuge as exiles into almost every land; and the thousands who could not leave were coolly passed on through hunger and starvation to premature graves.

Let anyone who wishes visit this Diocese and see with his own eyes the vast and boundless extent of the fairest land in Europe that has been ruthlessly depopulated since the commencement of the present century, and which is now abandoned to a loneliness and solitude more depressing than that of the prairie or the wilderness. Thus has this land system actually exercised the power of life and death on a vast scale, for which there is no parallel even in the dark records of slavery.

But the attention of the civilised world is now steadily fixed on the cruel and degrading bondage in which it still holds a nation enslaved, and therefore its doom is inevitably sealed. ...

The Landlord the Greatest Burden on the Land.
The land is a commodity that strictly belongs to this class. It is limited in extent, and no human power can enlarge or extend its area. The competition for it is excessive, the competitors struggling for its attainment -- not for the purpose of satisfying a taste for the fine arts, or to gratify a passion for the rare or beautiful, but to secure a necessary means of existence: for they must live on and by the land, or they cannot live at all. The owner, therefore, of that land can put on it any rent he pleases, and the poor people competing for it have no choice but to accept his terms or die in a ditch or a poorhouse. Under the present system of Land Tenure, the owners are not only enabled, but actually exact for the use of the land the last shilling the tenant is able to pay, leaving him only what is barely sufficient to keep him from dying.

Mr. Mill, who is the highest of all authorities on this subject, thus writes on the letting of land as it is actually carried out in Ireland: "With individual exceptions (some of them very honourable ones) the owners of Irish estates do nothing for the land but drain it of its produce. What has been epigrammatically said in the discussions on 'peculiar burdens' is literally true when applied to them, that the greatest 'burden' on the land is the landlords. Returning nothing to the soil, they consume its whole produce, minus the potatoes strictly necessary to keep the inhabitants from dying of famine." ... Read the whole letter

Henry George: The Land for the People (1889 speech)
We claim that the land of Ireland, like the land of every country, cannot justly belong to any class, whether that class be large or small; but that the land of Ireland, like the land of every other country, justly belongs in usufruct to the whole people of that country equally, and that no man and no class of men can have any just right in the land that is not equally shared by all others.

We say that all the social difficulties we see here, all the social difficulties that exist in England or Scotland, all the social difficulties that are growing up in the United States--

  • the lowness of wages,
  • the scarcity of employment,
  • the fact that though labor is the producer of wealth, yet everywhere the laboring class is the poor class
--are all due to one great primary wrong, that wrong which makes the natural element necessary to all, the natural element that was made by the Creator for the use of all, the property of some of the people, that great wrong that in every civilized country disinherited the mass of men of the bounty of their Creator. What we aim at is not the increase in the number of a privileged class, not making some thousands of earth owners into some more thousands. No, no; what we aim at is to secure the natural and God-given right to the humblest in the community--to secure to every child born in Ireland, or in any other country, his natural right to the equal use of his native land.  Read the whole speech

Albert Jay Nock — Henry George: Unorthodox American

Ireland at that time was front-page news on every paper printed in the English language. Parnell and Dillon crossed the ocean, spoke in sixty-two American cities, addressed the House of Representatives, and took away a great fund of American dollars wherewith to fight the battles of the rack-rented Irish tenant. They were followed by the best man in the movement, Michael Davitt, who came over late in 1880 to tend the fire that Parnell and Dillon had kindled. George met him and got him “under conviction,” as the revivalists say, and then wrote a pamphlet entitled “The Irish Land Question; what it involves, and how alone it can be settled.

From that moment Henry George was, in the good sense of the term, a made man. The pamphlet was a masterpiece of polemics, a call to action, and a prophecy, all in one. Published simultaneously in America and England, it had an immense success. George was amazed at the space it got in the Eastern papers. “The astonishing thing,” he wrote, “is the goodness of the comments... I am getting famous, if I am not making money.” It is hard to see how a man who had ever done a day’s work on a newspaper could write in that unimaginative way. With Irish influence as strong as it was on the Eastern seaboard, and with every Irishman sitting up nights to curse the hated Sassenach landlords and their puppet government, how could the newspaper comments not be good? The Eastern papers simply knew which side their bread was buttered on.

A rabble of charmed and vociferous Irish closed around the simple-hearted pamphleteer, probably not troubling themselves much about his philosophy of the Irish land question, but nevertheless all for him. He was against the government and against the landlords, and that was enough. In this they were like the vast majority of readers who were led to peck at Progress and Poverty because they had heard that the book voiced their discontent; probably not five per cent of them read it through, or were able to understand what they did read, but they were all for it nevertheless, and all for glorifying Henry George. The American branch of the Land League immediately put George on the lecture platform, and when the Irish troubles culminated in the imprisonment of Davitt, Dillon, Parnell, and O’Kelly, an Irish newspaper published in New York sent him to the seat of war as a correspondent.

He reached Dublin, dogged by secret service men, and gave a public lecture with such effect that his audience went fairly wild. He wrote a friend that he had “the hardest work possible” to keep the crowd from unharnessing his cab-horse and dragging his carriage through the streets to his hotel. His reports to the Irish World got wide distribution. ...read the whole article

Karl Williams:  Social Justice In Australia: ADVANCED KIT

"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child, for what is man's lifetime without the memory of past events woven with those of earlier times?" - Cicero (106 - 43 BC), Roman orator, statesman and man of letters

One of the main reasons for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire was economic. It had been eaten from within by that very malaise that curses us today: the appropriation of the land on the part of a powerful, politically empowered elite to the exclusion of the rest. The result was inevitable. Who wants to fight for land he does not own? Certainly not the slaves who were doing the donkey work to support the landowners of the decaying Roman Empire.

When the barbarian tribes began to turn into civilised nations, they realised that the privilege of controlling land had to be counterweighted by extra duties like the costs of administration, defence and the social services (education, health, hostelry etc.).

Hence Feudalism. This social system, which lasted about seven centuries (far longer than either capitalism or socialism) consisted in an exchange of services between king, nobility, the Church and the people. Who did what?

The king was the nominal owner of the land. This provided him with an independent income, which allowed him (occasionally her) to govern. The nobility were the actual occupiers of the various duchies, counties etc. They controlled the land by taking part of the rent as personal/family income and spending the rest in the services of defence, administration and justice. The Church also occupied large tracts of land, taking part of the rent for the upkeep of its monasteries and spending the rest in the social services: education, health, hostelry etc.

The people supported the system by working, mostly agriculturally.  ...

What broke the equilibrium was the nobility. Conventional history books gloat over the English barons demanding "freedom" from king John by forcing him to append his seal to the famous Magna Charta. What they don't explain is the type of freedom demanded. It was freedom from duty, i.e. from spending the excess rent on administration and defence.

In time, the nobility of other countries followed suit, but administration and defence costs remained, gradually becoming the responsibility of the king. Increasingly it was the people who had to pay for such, by means of increasing taxation.

Things deteriorated, but not too much while the social services remained in the hands of Church bureaucracy. A dramatic slide for the worse occurred when the king, unable to get sufficient income, had to start selling his land to the nobility, the only people who had the money to buy it.

The trend continued. Henry VIII of England having run out of land of his own, confiscated Church lands while the nobility began the process of enclosing more and more common land which forced the people either to work in the large estates for bare subsistence or to starve outside them.

Slavery, shown the door during the first millennium, re-entered through the window during the second. There exist in fact two ways of unjustly appropriating the work of others: either considering a human being as private property, or preventing him from accessing land and its natural resources, forcing the landless to work for whatever conditions dictated to them by the exclusive holders of land. Philosophically it is possible to distinguish between the two forms of slavery. For those at the receiving end it makes little difference.

The process of enclosure was completed towards the end of the 18th century. The landless, expelled from the commons where they had sought refuge, had no choice but to pour into the cities, which at the time were experiencing the Industrial Revolution.

Conventional historians are only too ready to blame the Industrial Revolution for the appalling social conditions of the workers, but keep silent about the more plausible interpretation that it was the Industrial Revolution which had actually saved those poor wretches from starvation, however unwittingly.
"None ought to be lords or landlords over another, but the earth is free for every son and daughter of mankind to live free upon." - Gerard Winstanley, (1609? - 1660?) A leader of the 17th century Diggers movement
"The Irish Famine of '46 is example and proof. The corn crops were sufficient to feed the island. But the landlords would have their rents in spite of famine and in defiance of fever. They took the whole harvest and left hunger to those who raised it. Had the people of Ireland been the landlords of Ireland, not a human creature would have died of hunger, nor the failure of the potato been considered a matter of any consequence." - James Fintan Lalor, (1807 - 49), Irish patriot

The accursed social conditions of workers during the Industrial Revolution naturally prompted many inquiries - in those days, the connection between the enclosures and the Dickensian conditions in the cities was much more apparent. ...

Europe had serfdom. America, a younger land, saw traditional slavery instituted afresh. Why were the African slaves not sent to Europe? - because Europe was already full of such! H.M. Government indeed began enthusiastically to transport its "surplus" population to Australia. The land there was "free" in the sense that the militarily weak Aborigines could be rendered landless with a few musket shots, much as the American Indians would a few decades later.

At the time when Don Bosco was gathering his stray waifs thrown onto the streets of Turin by the same policy of forced landlessness, the blight struck the Irish potato, sole crop of the landless there. Eight million of them, expelled from their ancestral lands for the benefit of a couple of a hundred absentee landlords, were being rack-rented to the point of either starvation or emigration. Meanwhile, Ireland remained a net food exporter!

The Irish and later the Italians, both militarily weak, crossed the Atlantic. The British, militarily strong, and thrown out of America three generations earlier, found their opportunity in Africa. They enclosed the land and forced the indigenous people to work for them exactly along the same pattern as their English and Scottish landowner forebears had done before. But they had another problem: a surplus industrial production that the impoverished Britons could not buy for lack of purchasing power. So what did they do? They went to "open up" China, Korea and Japan, which reacted with Oriental swiftness and cunning deception, filibuster and well-struck murderous blows.

The American Civil War of 1861-65 dramatically exposed the difference between the two forms of slavery. The economic victors were the militarily defeated Confederates, who found that hired labour was a great deal cheaper than having to feed, clothe, shelter and cure slaves. ...   Read the entire article

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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper