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offices among themselves all local self-government is over for the year. It is easy to see why local self-government in the village has disappeared. Those whose interest it was to maintain it had fallen too low. To the others it did not much matter. As for the landlords, as Mr. Brodrick says, “all these changes have by no means weakened the squirc, who, on the contrary, is a greater man than ever, relatively to other classes in the village community, since he is no longer jostled by independent yeomen but surrounded by obsequious tenants and labourers." Then, neither the farmer nor the clergyman would be, as a rule, anxious for changes which might introduce what are called " local politics." The land agent is not usually an ardent reformer. The small tradesman has many reasons for not moving in matters of this sort. Meantime the Local Government Board has not encouraged the rehabilitation of the parish, a process which would no doubt give it a great deal of trouble. And while the sphere of self-government in the village has been lessened other popular institutions have also disappeared. Thus, for various ecclesiastical and other reasons, even the old-fashioned choirs, with their flutes and fiddles, the old bellringers, the mummers, the wakes, and fairs, which were the creation of or were supported by the villagers themselves, have gone. They have been superseded by more respectable organisations, and in many places the amusements of the people are more under benevolent and well-intentioned control than ever. No doubt someone must lead in these matters, but there are two ways of leading, and if they would only understand it, a well-planned measure of parish self-government will give persons of authority and influence an admirable opportunity to throw themselves into the common interests of the people on a level with their neighbours instead of falling back on patronage or some form of charity, direct or disguised. The only persons who need be excluded from taking their part will be those who exclude themselves.
Those who are most in authority over our villages might well learn to say with Dr. Arnold: “My great desire is to teach my boys to govern themselves, a much better thing than to govern them well myself.” Where the principle of reasonable popular control can be rought in it will be a great advantage to the working people in the villages. How often, for instance, have schools or village halls been refused by the authorities for the advocacy of some cause of great interest to the labourer, the cause of Trade Unionism, or Cooperation, or the cause of Nonconformity ? How, still more often, have little groups of village folk had to stifle all hope of a public meeting they wished to hold because they knew it was useless to ask for the only available public building in the place. It is here that popular control will be of great avail. I will give an instance of what I mean, which happened quite lately, the sort of thing which is happening every day. A thriving working men's co-operative society in a town is recruiting members and starting branches among the labourers in the country villages round, and it wishes to give a concert and entertainment to its members in each such village. “ At one village," my informant says, “a School Board refused our application for the use of the schoolroom ; but at the next School Board election the villagers made a promise to grant the schoolroom for such purposes in future the condition of giving their votes, and returned members pledged to do so. The same Board controls the schools of two villages and since that election we have given entertainments at both schools. In another village the school is under the clergyman's control, who refuses to allow it to be used by us. We are just opening a branch there, but have no means of giving the people any festivities over it. Thus you see that in the case of buildings, all of which are receiving a lot of public money, a refractory elective board can be dealt with successfully and a refractory clergyman can't.” Then, again, a public body under public control gives at least a fair chance of continuity of public spirited action if people will only look after their own interests. But you may have the most liberal-minded squire or clergyman in one generation, and then a successor who may quarrel with some popular leader, or a new land agent may come and the policy of his predecessor may be reversed.
. Villages have suffered thus again and again, in a way which is quite impossible in the towns,
Now, when we come to look at the existing Parish Vestry we find that its powers “are almost undefined and cverything is done in an irregular manner.” The reformed Vestry of the future will have to meet in the evening, all voters will have an equal voting power, and the chairman will no longer be the clergyman ex-officio, but will be chosen by the Vestry. The Vestry will, as Mr. Goschen indicated, when speaking on his Bill of 1871,“ have those functions which properly belong to the deliberative assembly of the parish,” and it will elect the Parish Council. The official objection to these proposals is that so many of our parishes are too small. The obvious answer is that you must group the very small parishes and townships as has already been done for some School Board united districts. But even a parish of 200 or 300 may perfectly well look after itself in certain well-defined matters. And you cannot sacrifice the welfare of a very large population in moderate-sized parishes to a mechanical argument of this sort. Thus, taking a county at random, in Wiltshire, which has a population of about 250,000, if we omit the towns and larger parishes, we find about 150,000 people in parishes of between 4,000 and 200 inhabitants, and about 10,000 only in parishes below 200. You cannot sacrifice the 150,000 to the 10,000. The Vestry meetings will be just like the township meetings in the country districts in America (they kept the old Teutonic tradition there while we lost it at home), of which Mr. Bryce says, “ No better school of politics can be imagined nor any method of managing local affairs more certain to prevent jobbery and waste, to stimulate vigilance and breed contentment.” This is just as true of the meetings in the Swiss Communes, which maintain such an admirable public spirit among the people. And while the open meeting of the Vestry will be a capital school of training, where men will learn to distinguish between the real leaders and the "windbags,” the Parish Councils will also be centres of great popular interest. When the Bill of 1888 was before the House of Commons a small tradesman in a North-country village wrote to me: " The Local Government Bill will be a great disadvantage to a parish like ours with a population of between 2,000 and 3,000. The School Board has greatly improved the tone of the working men. The working men have begun to think for themselves. If we had the same power in the parish to appoint a local council the parish would be all alive to its duty, but if we only appoint someone to attend the District Council five miles away no working man can take
part in it, and the matter will be treated with indifference. We have plenty of intelligent men who would interest themselves if we as a parish could manage some things for ourselves.” This, I am convinced, is the feeling of hundreds of our village shopkeepers, artisans, and labourers.
One of the most important questions with which these parish bodies will be concerned in some villages will be security of tenure for buildings which serve a public purpose, and in some cases for private dwellings.* Sites for village halls, Nonconformist chapels, libraries, workmen's clubs, co-operative societies, and perhaps for the work of building societies will be required. The village halls will be under the control of the Parish Council, and used both for business and recreation. In them, or annexed to them, will be found the Free Library. And when, through village libraries, books get really among the village folk, we shall get beyond the goody-goody books which, as Jefferies says, but few will read, or the apron-string control which will not lend women “ Adam Bede,” “Mary Barton,” or “Ruth” for fear they should do them harm. Since the Town Holdings Committee reported unanimously in favour of enfranchisement of leases for chapels we may consider it settled that security of tenure will soon be given for all places of worship. As to co-operative societies, Mr. Albert Pell, not a revolutionary reformer, and a man who knows what he is talking about, says, “If there was legislation” (he is not advocating it) "for the compulsory taking of land of parishes or villages I should like to see legislation enabling industrial societies to get hold of freehold for cooperative stores. My experience with regard to these societies is that they are at an enormous disadvantage in England from the inability to get into a village.” Then what has he done in his own case? “The Co-operative Society," he says, “is no longer my tenant; they have become the freeholders of the stores ; they have
* I have used the words freehold or ownership several times, but complete security of tenure at a fixed rent under the local authority is all that is needed. So long as the rent cannot be capriciously altered but only raised, if raised at all, at fixed intervals, and only when there is clear evidence of increase of value from causcs lying outside any action of the occupier, and so long as the tenure is secure, the essential requirements are obtained.
+ Evidence before Small Holdings Committee.
bought them of me. Many of the men joined a building society and are owners of their own houses now.” This was in a manufacturing village, and of course if all landlords would do everywhere as Mr. Pell has done there would be little difficulty. As for the dwellings in agricultural districts, shepherds, carters, and labourers who live on the farms cannot have full security of tenure though their tenure might often be longer than it is. But there are few villages where there is not a small shopkeeper, a blacksmith, a carpenter, a carrier, a wheelwright, or a thrifty labourer who would be delighted to obtain the ownership of his own house with the help of a building or co-operative society, or to rent with complete security of tenure under a local authority. A payment of an extra shilling a week for a term of years over and above what would have been his rent, a sum which many men have been able to save by ready money dealing at the co-operative store, has often made a town working man owner of his own house. No doubt the fact that labourers' cottages are often let at charity rents, to the loss of the landlord, an arrangement not easily altered, but which probably lowers wages, increases the difficulty. But there would be a few men everywhere who would surmount this and other difficulties if they only got the chance. Some persons imagine that the cheapening of the transfer of land and the abolition of entail, as it is called, together with the landlord's own pecuniary interest, must get rid of all obstacles. Nothing can be more untrue. There are dozens of villages where the people will tell you“ he can sell, but he won't ; he wouldn't sell a bit of freehold land for working men to use as they like, not if you offered him 50 or 100 years' purchase.” Or, as the son of a very liberal landlord said to me once, “Suppose your building society cottages found their way into the hands of two or three notorious poachers ?” The argument was assumed to be conclusive and final. An agent of a large landlord, with the complete command of the land in a large industrial district, said plainly, when giving evidence before the Town Holdings Committee, that if leasehold enfranchisement were carried he would let no more leases and that he certainly would not sell freehold, and that, therefore, practically there would be nothing more in future than a month's tenure for anyone in the neighbourhood. To despotic talk of this kind, to