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tor, in whom is virtually (and, as some writers contend, legally also) vested the property in the game upon the land. It is at first sight natural to suppose that these persons looking into the statutebook, and finding an immense string of severe penal restrictions upon the invaders of this property, so much beyond what the protection of other property of the same value is thought to require, it is natural I say to suppose that they should conclude this át least to be free from invasion. Yet it is in point of fact more exposed to it than any other. This may appear perhaps inconsistent with reasonable expectation.
Why is it that the penalties upon smuggling tea, sugar, tobacco, and other taxed articles of general consumption, are more efficient in repressing the offence? Probably, because by paying the duty the article may be had in an honest way. There is a competition between the fair and the unfair dealer, and the superior profit of the latter is more than compensated by his risk of incurring the penalty. But if the importation and sale of tea, sugar, and tobacco, were absolutely prohibited, so that they could only be had of the smuggler, I apprehend no penalties would be sufficient to prevent their introduction and consumption, and that the more severe the penalties, the greater would be the encouragement afforded to the smuggler. He would be assisted in the evasion of penalties by every one except the revenue officer; indeed, nine tenths of the people would be partakers of the crime. Moreover, the law itself would be so generally considered absurd and unjust, that no man of ordinary feeling and understanding could bring himself to enforce it against his neighbour.
Just so of the Game Laws :-so long as Englishmen, of all the men in Europe, are actually prohibited by severe penalties from fairly bringing to open market an article so generally coveted by purcha sers as game, the law practically says nothing more nor less than this, that the article shall be exclusively brought to market by the unfair dealer; who is assisted in the evasion of the penalty by every individual save the lord of the manor; and who moreover excites so much. compassion in all other minds from the absurdity and injustice of the law to which he is exposed, that in nine cases out of ten the offence cannot be prosecuted to conviction. It is obvious too that the higher the penalties, the greater is the encou
ragement arising from all these causes, and the greater the temptation to commit the offence; because, when it succeeds, its remuneration is so much the higher. Whereas were the market fairly open to the honest dealer, and the question were only whether he should sell his commodity at a rate somewhat higher than the dishonest dealer, this difference might easily be compensated by a moderate penalty, which no man would hesitate in enforcing, because it would be considered both just and necessary, and which would therefore be really effectual in repressing the offence. Under this system too nine tenths of the community would be enlisted (as in all other cases) against the dishonest dealer, instead of in his favor. The purveyor, the purchaser, and the consumer, would certainly prefer procuring the same article without risk of a penalty than with it; and the interest of the occupier of the land would be to watch and repress the invader of a property now rendered of some value to him, instead of encouraging them to destroy what was previously an unprofitable nuisance.
From this reasoning I venture to conclude, that there is scarcely any conceivable system of legislation, except that merciful and sapient one which goes by the name of the Game Laws, that could render the proprietors of land insecure in the enjoyments arising out of the possession of game.
I have often contrasted in my mind the relative comfort on the one hand of the Squire sitting in his parlour with an angry brow, and receiving the daily return of spikes, steel traps and spring guns, of attorneys' bills for prosecuting and imprisoning poachers; of petitions from their destitute wives and children, of gamekeepers fettered and fastened to trees by the poachers' wires, or of poachers and keepers maimed and slaughtered together in indiscriminate combats in the dark; and, above all, daily aggravated reports of the increasing hatred to himself, and augmented brutality, profligacy, and ferocity towards each other, of the villagers whose moral and political welfare it is his duty to consult ;-and, on the other hand, the same Squire under an ameliorated system, inviting his friends to walk with him in his woods without fear of endangering their lives, promoting the pecuniary as well as the moral interests of his neighbours and tenants by affording them a profitable article for sale as well as for recreation, securing to himself by the best of all
securities an ample supply for his own amusement, and, by the transfer of the sale of game from the nightly thief to the fair dealer at whose expence it is reared, gradually reclaiming the former to the pursuits of regular industry, and the care of their families, and (allowing time for the change of inveterate habits) seeing a lasting peace established on his property between the rival armies of gamekeepers and poachers—and, above all, resting his own recreation and amusement upon a solid foundation of love and affection, of good order and morality, among his neighbours and dependents,
Finally, with reference to the interests of the landed proprietor, there is one position which appears to me quite conclusive. The supply of game in the market is at present equal to the demand, and is never likely to exceed it; an alteration of the law would not materially increase the demand;-under both systems therefore the quantity sent to market would be nearly the same, and under the amended system a quantity at least equal to the present would be left upon the land,
It follows then as the total result of these positions, that with respect to the quantity sold from the land or retained upon it, an alteration of system would produce but little difference; the principal alteration effected would be in the mode in which the transfer is made it would be taken out of the hands of the rogue and put into those of the honest man; a corrupting, clandestine and disgraceful traffic would be replaced by a fair and open trade. It would be a solecism indeed in politics, if any but the rogues could be losers by such a change, or if the present loss should turn out otherwise than an ultimate gain even to the rogues, both in a moral and pecuniary point of view.
But it has been said, that this scheme for making game a saleable property, is nothing else but a project for increasing the profits of the landed proprietor at the expense of the amusements of the rest of the community. Now this I venture to deny.
The proprietor may now prevent any man from coming upon his land to take game, and does in fact prevent those whose object is merely amusement. It is only the nocturnal depredator whom under the present system he cannot effectually repress. And surely as against him, it is more equitable that whatever trifling profit may accrue from the sale of game, should be enjoyed by
him at whose expense the article is produced and maintained, than by him who has no title to it whatever but theft and robbery. Then as to the probable profits upon game, it is quite idle to suppose t that the value of game will ever so far exceed the value of corn, as to induce cultivators to sacrifice the last for the sake of the first. The tendency of wild animals to multiply will, as at present, produce under reasonable protection a moderate number on the land; and the alteration contended for, would at once give to the owner a fair remuneration for the expense of rearing them and nothing more, and would afford to the rest of society a resource of honest and healthy recreation.
This brings under our notice the second party whose interests are involved in this question—namely, the residents in towns, and commercial or monied men without land, who wish occasionally to indulge in the recreation of sporting, and who I decidedly think ought to be qualified to do so. At present, without the permission of the landed proprietor, which he is not often willing to grant, they cannot enjoy the recreation, and even with permission they transgress the law by carrying a gun. But under an amended system the land-owner or his tenant (if not restricted) might, for a moderate pecuniary consideration, (less than the risk now incurred in taking a day's sport,) permit the townsman to take his recreation and carry off the produce of his amusement. And surely this would be a much more satisfactory footing for all the parties concerned.
There is however still a third party concerned, namely, the small landed proprietor with just what the Game Laws style a qualification to sport, who, having not sufficient land of his own to afford him recreation, trespasses upon that of his neighbours, and is only amenable to a circuitous process for the remedy of the owner. This person would certainly be curtailed in his amusements by any direct protection afforded to game as property, and would be placed upon the same footing with the townsman or monied capitalist. But give me leave to ask, is it not perfectly reasonable that he should be so placed? Unless he can show that the possession of a specific sort of property gives him an equitable title to invade the property of others, there can be but one answer to this question. In fact the privilege he enjoys is a mere remnant
of feudality, which even upon feudal principles is rendered obsolete by the diminution in the value of money.
I have so fully discussed the interests of the purchasers and consumers of game in my two former letters, that it is unnecessary to add any thing here upon that part of the question.
And now, my dear Sir, give me leave to ask if the supporters of the present system have one reasonable motive either of public or private interest for the course they are pursuing? Will they not at length admit that the enormous and admitted evils of the Game Laws are a perfectly gratuitous addition to the vice and misery of their country; and that a perseverance in support of them may justly fall under the same imputation which was affixed by one of our old writers to the character of a common swearer-namely, that he is one who sells the Devil the best pennyworth that he meets with anywhere, and, like the Indians that part with gold for glass beads, endangers his conscience for the lightest trifles imaginable." Nay, the supporter of the Game Laws appears open to a deeper reproach than this; for he endangers the consciences of others, without even getting a glass bead in return; while gold both allegorical and substantial would reward his accession to a more reasonable system.