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the equal distribution of property among children, the prejudice in many quarters against making a will, the rise and fall of fortunes, and the constant changes in the value of real estate. But one cause is probably more potential than all. Almost every man who buys real estate, buys, builds, or improves, not so much with a simple view to his own comfort, as with an eye to what it will sell for when he has done making his improvements. Many men build very extensively, calculating upon this and this alone. They are not architects, not builders, not even capitalists; but they build largely on credit, simply to wait as tenants for a rise in price, and then sell. Of course, the larger and more expensive the house, the larger the hope and expectation of gain.
“All such,” he adds, are mere speculators. Their plans succeed often enough to encourage others who fancy they have skill and taste to imitate. Many of these aspirants for fortune lose thousands, but their disasters are soon forgotten. Such men, says some one, build houses far in advance of their real means and situation in life, and cities improve and towns spring up, beautiful to look upon, but too often they are not the abode of content and happiness. They might be, if each man built an humble home, just such as he could afford to hold through all the vicissitudes of business—such a home as his widow could afford to own, free from debt, and live in, without pecuniary care, after he was gone-such a home as any one of his children might reasonably hope to be able to keep up, without in
convenience or ostentation. We all see how families scatter; but this is one chief cause of the scattering --that men buy houses, or build them about as a soldier builds his tent, for a night. Houses, farms, and furniture, are bought on credit, kept on mortgage, and sold at a loss or gain, as the case may be, at five minutes' notice, because it was a part of the purchaser's original plan to hold the property only for an advantageous opportunity of disposing of it.”
The same writer thinks that, in “nine cases out of ten, it is cheaper to buy than to build, because dealing in houses and lands requires a skill and a capital which the majority of men do not possess. It is, moreover, far more comfortable, because it is free from the cares and annoyances of being engaged in matters very complicated, aside from a man’s regular business, and because he can generally select such a residence as suits his wants, and means, and convenience. In Europe, the happiest homes are those which, having been built for the present convenience of the father, have been merely altered so as to make them 'correspond with the present condition of the son or grandson, or more remote descendant, as the case may be-greatly changed by time, and mellowed and softened by its graver tints, or decayed and nibbled into by its old tooth, or enlarged piece by piece, and generation by generation, irregularly it may be, but with a strict eye to comfort and convenience, and corresponding with the growing wealth of an accumulating and prudent family. In this country, we live too fast in the first generation to have many such houses as these - homesteads built comfortably within a man's income, in which he can and does live more liberally than he cares to appear to livehouses in which, if times should change, he or his children could live consistently and without meanness, on half his present expenditure.
“Another great reason why houses change hands so often, and are so little homes for those who possess them, is the practice of living too hopefully into the future, and without regard to future exigencies, living with too much sail in proportion to ballast. It is for every man to think what he desires in this matter. Many do not desire homes in the sense that I have described. They prefer to live on the wing, and in a splendor above their real means. With such it is better to rent, and quite absurd to build. It is even worse—it is mocking their children to build a house so splendid that none of them will be able to keep it up. Better the humblest cabin, respected and loved as the dear old home of childhood, the shelter of a father's gray hairs, the centre of a hundred happy gatherings round a mother's knees, the refuge uninvaded by all enemies save the last, and where even he is so serenely met and welcomed as to be robbed of his sting, and to have his enmity destroyed.”
In England, the passion for owning land may be said to be hereditary among all classes. With the titled and rich, who are able to gratify it, it has produced some remarkable results. The great landholders are now comparatively few in number. I have seen them variously computed at from 30,000
to 40,000, who hold landed property yielding an annual rent of not less than $500, the number rapidly diminishing as the annual rent increases. The incomes of the wealthiest range from $100,000 to $1,500,000 per annum. A hundred years ago the landholders of England were numbered at 230,000, which number has ever since been rapidly diminishing by the purchase of the lands belonging to the thriftless and wasteful, by the more prudent and wealthy.
The Marquis of Bredalbane rides from his house a hundred miles in a straight line to the sea, on his own property. The Duke of Sutherland owns the entire county of that name, stretching across Scotland from sea to sea.
The Duke of Devonshire, besides his other estates, owns 96,000 acres in the county of Derby. The Duke of Richmond has 40,000 acres at Goodwood, and 300,000 at Gordon Castle. The Duke of Norfolk's park in Sussex, is fifteen miles in circuit. An agriculturist recently bought the island of Lewis, in the Hebrides, containing 500,000 acres.
These vast domains are constantly growing larger. The great estates are absorbing the smaller freeholds as opportunity offers. The great landholders never sell.
Wherever slavery has cursed the soil of this country by its presence, the same process of absorption has been going on. Mr. Clay, of Alabama, gives the following gloomy picture
“I can show you, with sorrow, in the older portions of Alabama, and in my native county of Madison, the sad me
morials of the artless and exhausting culture of cotton. Our small planters, after taking the cream off their lands, unable to restore them by rest, manures, or otherwise, are going further West and South, in search of other virgin lands, which they may and will despoil and impoverish in like manner. Our wealthier planters, with greater means and no more skill, are buying out their poorer neighbors, extending their plantations, and adding to their slave force. The wealthy few, who are able to live on smaller profits, and to give their blasted fields some rest, are thus pushing off the many who are merely independent.
Of the $20,000,000 annually realized from the sales of the cotton crop of Alabama, nearly all not expended in supporting the producers is re-invested in land and negroes. Thus the white population has decreased, and the slave increased almost pari passu in several counties of our State. In 1825, Madison County cast about 3,000 votes; now, she cannot cast exceeding 2,300. In traversing that county one will discover numerous farm houses, once the abode of intelligent and industrious freemen, now occupied by slaves, or tenantless, deserted, and dilapidated; he will observe fields once fertile, now unfenced, abandoned, and covered with those evil harbingers, foxtail and broomsedge; he will see the moss growing on the mouldering walls, of once thrifty villages, and will find one only master grasps the whole domain that once furnished happy homes for a dozen white families. Indeed, a country in its infancy, where fifty years ago scarce a forest tree had been felled by the axe of the pioneer, is already exhibiting the painful signs of sepility and decay apparent in Virginia and the Carolinas.”
Among English owners are many men of the highest intellectual powers and attainments, of the highest social position, and of the most refined cul