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Professor Blackie on the' Land Laws.

(From the S.otsman.)

The eighth annual assembly of the Gaelic Society of Inverness took place recently. Professor Blackie discoursed on the depopulation of the Highlands, and a need of a reform of the land laws. On this latter subject he argued that we must buckle ourselves to the readjustment of these laws, and ho contended that by universal admission they were in some respects the worst possible, and directly calculated to keep up rather than to break down the unnatural antagonism of interests between the lords of the land and-the occupiers of the soil to which our present abnormal agrarian condition was mainly attributable. We must, said the Professor, look upon the accumulation of large estates in the hands of a few as an exceptional phenomenon, which a wise legislature will think it a plain duty to counteract rather than to encourage ; and this can easily be done when the duty is once clearly acknowledged, by modifying the law of succession, by rendering illegal all testamentary dispositions of land under whatever guise to persons not yet living, by declaring war, root and branch, against the entail system, by removing without mercy the artificial hindrances which our system of conveyancing lays on the transfer of landed property, by adjusting our laws of land tenure, so as to make them always lean with a kindly partiality to the weaker rather than to the stronger party in the contract, by setting a strict limit to the spouting propensities of idle gentlemanship in every case when it tends to encroach on the industrial use of soil by imposing a swinging tax on all absentee proprietors, as persons who, while they drain the country of its money, make no social return to the district from which they derive their social importance ; and finally, if it should be necessary, by establishing a national fund for assisting small tenants and crofters in favorable situations to buy up their tenant-right and constitute themselves into peasant proprietors with absolute ownership. In the natural course of things, if Britain isnot to be ruined, these changes must come; and it were the wisdom of our aristocracy, than whom as a whole a more respectable body does not exist in Europe, to take the lead in a series of well-calcu-lated reforms tending to give more independence and manhood to the cultivators of the soil, rather than by opposing them to fan the flame of a great agrarian revolution which may break out volcanically, and overwhelm them perhaps at no distant date.

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Professor Blackie on the' Land Laws. Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 19, 8 November 1879

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