Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

power, that of making an entail !

But men will always be mending; and when a lawgiver ventures to tamper with the laws of nature, he hazards much mischief. We have a pregnant instance above, of an attempt to mend the laws of God in many absurd regulations for the poor ; and that the law authorising entails is another instance of the same kind, will be evident from what follows.

The mischievous effects of English entails were soon discovered : they occafioned such injustice and oppression, that even the judges ventured to relieve the nation from them, by an artificial form, termed fine and recovery. And yet, though no moderate man would defire more power over his estate than he has by common law, the legislature of Scotland enabled every land-proprietor to fetter his estate for ever; to tyrannize over his heirs; and to reduce their property to a shadow, by prohibiting them to alien, and by prohibiting them to contract debt were it even to redeem them from death or slavery. Thus many a man, fonder of his estate than of his wife and children, grudges the use of it to his natural heirs, reducing them to

the

a

the state of mere liferenters. Behold the consequences. A number of noblemen and gentlemen among us, lie in wait for every parcel of land that comes to market. Intent upon aggrandizing their family, or rather their estate which is the favourite object, they secure every purchase by an entail; and the same course will be followed, till no land be left to be purchased. Thus every entailed estate in Scotland becomes in effect a mortmain, admitting additions without end, but absolutely barring alienation ; and if the legislature interpose not, the period is not distant, when all the land in Scotland will be locked

up by entails, and withdrawn from com

a

merce.

a

The purpose of the present essay, is to set before our legislature, coolly and impartially, the destructive effects of a Scotch entail. I am not so fanguine as to hope, that men,

who convert means into an end and avariciously covet land for its own fake, will be prevailed upon to regard, either the interest of their country or of their pofterity : but I would gladly hope, that. the legislature may be roused to give at

tention

tention to a national object of no flight importance.

I begin with effects of a private or domestic nature. To the poffeffor, an entail is a constant source of discontent, by subverting that liberty and independence, which all men covet with respect to their goods as well as their persons. What can be more vexatious to a proprietor of a great land-estate, than to be barred from the most laudable acts, suitable provisions for example to a wife or children ? not to mention numberless acts of benevolence, that endear individuals to each other, and sweeten society. A great proportion of the land in Scotland is in such a state, that by laying out a thousand pounds or so, an intelligent proprietor may add a hundred pounds yearly to his rent-roll. But an entail effectually bars that improvement: it affords the proprietor no credit ; and supposing him to have the command of money independent of the estate, he will be ill-fated if he have not means to employ it more profitably for his own interest. An entail, at the same time, is no better than a trap for an improvident pof-, feflor : to avoid altogether the contracting

debt,

2

debt, is impracticable; and if a young man be guided more by pleasure than by prudence, which commonly is the case of young men ; a vigilant and rapacious substitute, taking advantage of a forfeiting clause, turns him out of possession, and delivers him over to want and mifery.

I beg indulgence for introducing a case, which though particular, may frequently happen. A gentleman, who has a familyfeat finely situated, but in the state of nature, is tempted to lay out great sums upon improvements and embellishments, having a numerous issue to benefit by his operations. They all fail; and a stranger, perhaps his enemy, becomes the heir of entail. Fond however of his darling feat, he is willing to preserve all entire, upon procuring to his heirs a reasonable sum for his improvements; which is refused. Averse to lay waste the work of his own hands, he restricts his demand to the real value of the growing timber-- All in vain. Provoked at the obstinacy of the heir of entail, he cuts down every tree, difinantles the place; and with a fad heart abandons his beloved habitation. In a bare country VOL. IV.

like

a

3 K

like Scotland, is it not cruel to deter proprietors by an entail, from improving their land and embellishing their familyseats? Is it not still more cruel, to force a proprietor, who has no heir of his own blood, to lay all wafte, instead of leaving behind him a monument of his taste and industry!

But an entail is productive of consequences still more difmal, even with refpect to heirs. A young man upon

whom the family-estate is entailed without any power reserved to the father, is not commonly obsequious to advice, nor patiently submissive to the fatigues of education ; he abandons himself to pleasure, and indulges his passions without control. In one word, there is no situation more subverfive of morals, than that of a young man, bred up from infancy in the certainty of inheriting an opulent fortune.

The condition of the other children, daughters especially, is commonly deplorable. The proprietor of a large entailed estate, leaves at his death children who have acquired a taste for sumptuous liring. The fons drop off one by one, and a number of daughters remain, with a

scanty

« AnteriorContinuar »