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THE LAWS OF LAND.*
MR M'CULLOCH's book introduces us to a question much debated in this age of class jealousy. As soon as we open it, we are straightway environed with " a barbarous noise of owls and cuckoos, asses, apes, and dogs," amid whose jargon of phrases rises loudest and most frequent the cry of " mercial principles." It is a great grievance, it seems, that land should not be disposed of according to "commercial principles;" that hill and holt, and moor and dale, should not pass from seller to buyer with the same readiness as candles and calicoes. Truly we have enough, and more than enough, of these same commercial principles in all walks of thought. Even the pulpit is not free from them. Politics are positively smothered with them. Ethical science, with the shallowisms of Paley and Bentham round her neck, struggles feebly with them. The book-keeper is abroad every where, with an indestructible faith in double entry. The Spirit of the Age wears a pen behind his ear, and sits on a high stool with three legs. That the prevailing commercial principles should have been so long excluded from the absolute possession of our laws of land, and that those laws should have preserved to a time like this so much of their feudal character, is a notable proof of the adaptation of the laws to the general requirements of the community, and of the steadiness of that social system which is so essentially linked to the maintenance of these laws.
The cry of complaint to which we have above alluded, is inspired by many diverse motives. As Mr Cochrane's ragged followers flocked to Trafalgar Square to denounce the incometax, so many a man takes up the shout against the law of primogeniture and entail, as tying up lands and restricting their sale, who never had the wherewithal to purchase a single acre if all broad England was in the market. On the other hand, the purse-proud citizen, sore that ready money is not yet quite at the top of the tree, and that he does not receive the same consideration at St James's as in Change Alley, delights to have some grievance whereon he can vent his spleen; and really, in some stolid instances, persuades himself that he is kept out of the land which his gold could buy, through the agency of aristocratical laws, as if George Robins had been a mythical personage, or the advertisements of Farebrother, Clark, and Lye were a mockery and delusion.
* A Treatise on the Succession to Property vacant by Death. By J. R. M'CULLOCH, Esq. London: Longmans, 1848.
VOL. LXIV.-NO. CCCXCIII.