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apt to answer to the landholders, that their reproach is but miserable cant, so long as the laws prohibit the agents of the monied interest from legal means of procuring that to which they themselves have an equitable claim, whenever a superfluity of it exists in the market." It will require some ingenuity to shew that any persons can be "legitimate consumers" of a commodity to which another class of persons have equitably an exclusive right. If it be true, that "a stranger has no more right to the wild animals bred and fed on the property and at the expence of another, than he has to the tame animals in his poultry yard," how can it be correct, to say that by the laws which secure to the owner his undoubted property, three fourths of a community are debarred from a privilege to which they have an equitable claim?" Our author admits also that no one can entitle himself to the possession, either of the wild or tame animals reared at the cost of another, except by agreement or purchase. Will it, therefore, be contended that a man has a right to certain articles, merely because the possession of them would not be unsuitable to his situation in life, and he can afford to buy them at a reasonable price, while the rightful owner refuses to sell them? If the landed proprietor be as really the owner of the game reared on his premises, as of the poultry in his yard, would it not be as unjust to force him to sell the former, as the latter? Every "agreement must of course be mutual, and every valid "purchase" supposes a voluntary seller. On the principles then laid down by the author, how is the monied man more justified in tempting the poor to take game that belongs to another, than he would be in inciting them to steal any particular kind of fruit or vegetable growing on his land, which he could procure by no other means, and of which he might imagine himself " the legitimate consumer ?”
2 P. 11.
* P. 11.
It is difficult also to conceive, according to the author's own principles, what " equitable claim" the monied class can derive from a "superfluity existing in the market."' For his main object is to trace the existence of game in the market, to the temptations held out by these persons, whom he alleges to be unjustly prevented from purchasing it at its proper value. The purchaser, therefore, is here made to derive his right from the superfluity which he himself creates. He is first to entice others to break the laws, and then to take advantage of their transgression, under the pretext, that now the game is brought into the market it would be absurd not to purchase it!
Inconclusive, however, as the reasoning of "The Coun try Gentleman " appears, when directed generally against the Game Laws, the alterations which he proposes, subject to modifications, are well deserving of attention. These are 1st, That game may be legally exposed to sale; 2dly, That owners and occupiers of more than thirty or forty acres of land may, under certain restrictions, take and kill game on their own occupations; 3dly, That qualified persons shall not sport upon preserved and enclosed land (after notice to abstain) under a penalty of five pounds.
I. It cannot be supposed that merely to legalize the sale of game, without any regulations as to the parties who shall be allowed to sell it, would prevent its illegal seizure. For if it might enable the fair trader in game to sell it below the price which it, at present, produces, it would, on the other hand, diminish the risks incurred by the poacher. He would no longer have reason to fear the public exposure to sale of the produce of his nocturnal exertions; and would not be compelled to dispose of it through the circuitous medium that now enhances its price. It is well known that the game is usually bought of the parties, who
1 See P. 17.
actually take it at a comparatively trifling sum; and if all restraints should be taken off from the sale, there can be little doubt that the poacher would be able to undersell the dealer who should regularly breed game for the market. Our author apprehends that the price would be so reduced by legalizing the sale, that a partridge would be no dearer than a rabbit, or a hare and pheasant than a duck or fowl; but even supposing this the case, the depredator would obtain higher prices than he is able to command under the present system. So far then would "the simple expedient of legalizing the sale in open market" be from "preventing the evil," as confidently anticipated by the author, that it would have an immediate tendency to increase it.
But could the sale of game be so regulated that no one but the actual breeder of it, or persons possessed of landed property, or licensed dealers purchasing immediately from them, should be allowed to sell, it would give all the advantage contended for, without danger. For since at present, though by illegal means, game is always to be obtained by any one willing to pay the price at which it can be brought to market, it would be much better to sanction a fair, than to permit a clandestine traffic. For this purpose, it should be rendered necessary for every person desirous of dealing in game, to procure a licence, not as proposed by "the country gentleman" from the stamp office, but from the magistrates assembled at the general or petty sessions. Because if a licence could be obtained as a matter of course from the stamp office, by the payment of the fee, it might become the protection of the most notorious poacher who could afford thus to place his illgotten plunder under the shelter of the law. Were the discretion left to the magistrates, their local knowledge
would enable them to decide on the character of the applicant, while they might be accountable for an unjust refusal to grant a permission, as in the case of ale-houses at present. The game should also be subject to seizure unless in its transit from a qualified person or licensed vendor, evidenced by some document; and such regulations should be enforced by penalties. By this means, considerable advantage would be derived to the revenue: the poacher would no longer so readily find a market for his spoils, and the encouragement offered to increase the breed of every description of game would rather extend than abridge the pleasures of the sportsman.
2. The second expedient proposed by "the country gentleman," is, it will be remembered, that the owners and cccupiers of more than a certain number of acres of land, may, under certain restrictions, take and kill game upon the premises which they occupy. There is not perhaps so much necessity for a regulation of this kind, as, at first sight, may appear. It is true that the game are supported immediately at the expence of the occupier, and not of the landlord; but this circumstance is perfectly understood by both parties, at the time of the letting, and the terms agreed on proceed on the supposition of the loss arising from the game. It is not, therefore, correct to say, with "the country gentleman," "that unless he (the occupier) receives an equivalent for it, either by abatement of rent upon agreement, or by permission to take and dispose of it, he is certainly an injured man." For the former is, in reality, the case at present; at the letting the right of the landlord is perfectly understood, and the farm is taken, subject to the inconvenience resulting from the game. In some leases, covenants are introduced providing for an abatement in the rent, in case the wild animals on the estate multiply beyond
a specific number. No injustice, therefore, is done to the tenant. It may however be confessed that, in some circum-.. stances, both parties may sustain inconvenience, from the present restrictions. The landlord might be desirous of ob taining a higher rent by renouncing to the tenant his right to the game, a right which he himself, unless under special exceptions and reservations or permission, cannot enjoy. Persons of monied interest might be anxious to take a quantity of the land for the express purpose of sporting over it; and it seems hard, that, in these cases, the parties. are precluded from making their own bargain; and the owner of the soil, when he lets it, is precluded from deriving any benefit from the transfer of a right which he can no longer exercise. The law, in this case, framed with a peculiar view to his protection, becomes, in fact, the source of loss to the proprietor of the land. This part, therefore, of the plan proposed by our author does not appear liable to objection; especially if the occupier be required to take out a licence to sell previous to sporting, not, as in the case of selling game, at the discretion of the magistrates, but as a matter of course from the stamp office.
There is besides one class of individuals who are more aggrieved than either landlords or tenants, by the present system; those who possess freehold estates of less than £100 per annum which they retain in their own hands, and, though absolute owners of the land, are deprived of the right of destroying a single head of game, though their crops may sustain the greatest injuries from its increase. There is, therefore, a right in existence which every one is prohibited from enjoying; the owner for want of a qualification, and every qualified man by the exclusive property of another in the soil. The only objection to permitting all freeholders to take game on their property, is the probable diminution of game by the increase of the number of persons at liberty to destroy it. But this would be over