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Northern Wisconsin Agricultural and Mechanical Association / Transactions of the Northern Wisconsin Agricultural and Mechanical Association, including a full report of the industrial convention held at Neenah, Wisconsin, February, 1886. Together with proceedings of the Association for 1884, to January 1, '86
Vol. XI (1886)

Bright, C. M.
Taxation,   pp. 273-306 PDF (6.8 MB)

Page 283

growth is no less surprising than the growth of the country
itself. This is the great question which we, as a people,
have some day got to meet. It is a question, that, more than
the tariff, more than wages, for it, and it alone, involves the
question of wages, more than any other economic considera-
tion, has to do with the future well-being of our increasing
millions. It is the same question here that it is in Europe.
It matters little whether a country has a protective tariff, or
a revenue tariff, or free trade, if ninety per cent. of its peo-
ple pay the other ten per cent. a tribute for the use of the
land, that country will be distressed. Its laboring class will
be unemployed, and wages will be low. It may try this
remedy and try that, and effect no change for the better.
There is no disputing the fact that the tendency in this
country is towards large and constantly increasing estates
in land. It has always been so, but never to such a degree
as during the past two decades, during which time the pub-
lic domain has been so rapidly swallowed up. With the
opportunity to get free farms gone, the price of land is
bound to rise. Wealthy men are ready to invest in property
that has a rising value. The result is natural. They invest
in land. The price goes up. The public domain is to-day
practically exhausted. It has been used up at the rate of
twenty millions of acres a year for the past twenty years. To-
day it does not exceed five millions of acres of good farming
lands open to the homesteader; and the virgin acres of the
western states and territories, held by railroad corporations
and speculative syndicates are rapidly increasing in price.
It requires more capital than most home-seekers in the west
have to buy, improve and get a first crop from a quarter
section of this land. If, while land was free, the tenant
farming system has become established upon our soil, what
will it be now that the chance for free farms is forever
The census in 1880 was the first that ever dealt with the
subject of agricultural tenures. It showed that, while there
were less than three millions farmers who own the farms they
cultivate, there were over one million tenant farmers in the
country. This number is supposed to have increased to

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