The Foundation Of Social Justice
Patrick Edward Dove
The following is taken from Patrick Edward Dove's book
The Theory of Human Progression (1850). The life sketch of
him in the Dictionary of National Biography says of it: "The
main principle is that all progress is conditioned by the
development of true knowledge; it maintains the doctrines of liberty
and equality and argues that rent ought to belong to the nation. It
thus anticipates Mr. George who praised it at a public meeting at
Glasgow (British Daily Mail, 19th December 1884). [Arthur W.
Patrick Edward Dove was born at Lasswade, near Edinburgh,
in 1815. As a young man he travelled widely, and lived for a time in
Paris and London. About 1840 he came into the family property in
Ayrshire, and lived there until 1848, when an unfortunate investment
deprived him of most of his fortune. Shortly after this he married
and went to live at Darmstadt, in Germany, where he studied, wrote,
and lectured. In 1850, the same year in which Herbert Spencer's Social
Statics appeared, enunciating similar conclusions, Dove
published his Theory of Human Progression and Natural
Probability of a Reign of Justice. It was the first part of a
work entitled The Science of Politics, of which the second
part, The Elements of Political Science, appeared in 1854.
The first part was acclaimed by Thomas Carlyle, Sir William
Hamilton, Professor Blackie, and Senator Charles Sumner who
circulated many copies in the United States, but it never secured
general public attention. A second edition, edited by Mr. Alexander
Harvey, was published in New York in 1895, and subsequently an
excellent abridgment by Miss Julia Kellogg was published by Isaac H.
Blanchard & Co., New York and reprinted by the Robert
Schalkenbach Foundation, New York. The second part had even less
attention, and is now exceedingly scarce. After publishing his book
Dove lived for a time in Edinburgh, and later in Glasgow. He wrote
extensively on economic, religious and philosophic subjects, and
interested himself in military science. In 1860 he was stricken with
paralysis and went to Natal in a vain search for health. Returning
to Scotland, he died in 1873 and was buried in the Grange Cemetery
THE QUESTION is upon what terms, or according to what system, must
the earth be possessed by the successive generations that succeed each
other on the surface of the globe? The conditions given are -- First,
That the earth is the common property of the race; Second,
That whatever an individual produces by his own labor (whether it be a
new object. made out of many materials, or a new value given by labor
to an object whose form, locality, etc., may be changed) is the
private property of that individual, and he may dispose of it as he
pleases, provided he does not interfere with his fellows; Third,
The earth is the perpetual common property of the race, and each
succeeding generation has a full title to a free earth. One generation
cannot encumber a succeeding generation.
And the condition required is, such a system as shall secure to the
successive individuals of the race their share of the common property,
and the opportunity without interference of making as much private
property as their skill, industry, and enterprise would enable them to
The scheme that appears to present itself most naturally is the
general division of the soil, portioning it out to the inhabitants
according to their number. Such appears to be the only system that
suggests itself to most minds, if we may judge from the objections
brought forward against an equalization of property.
Men must go forward, never backward. To speak of a division of lands
in England is absurd. Such a division would be as useless as it is
improbable. But it is more than useless -- it is unjust; and unjust,
not to the present so-called proprietors, but to the human beings who
are continually being born into the world, and who have exactly the
same natural right to a portion that their predecessors have.
The actual division of the soil need never be anticipated, nor would
such a division be just, if the divided portions were made the
property (legally, for they could never be so morally) of individuals.
If, then, successive generations of men cannot have their fractional
share of the actual soil (including mines, etc.) how can the division
of the advantages of the natural earth be effected?
By the division of its annual value or rent; that is, by making the
rent of the soil the common property of the nation. That is (as the
taxation is the common property of the State), by taking the whole of
the taxes out of the rents of the soil, and thereby abolishing all
other kinds of taxation whatever. And thus all industry would be
absolutely emancipated from every burden, and every man would reap
such natural reward as his skill, industry, or enterprise rendered
legitimately his, according to the natural law of free competition.
This we maintain to be the only theory that will satisfy the
requirements of the problem of natural property. And the question now
is: how can the division of the rent be effected? An actual division
of the rent -- that is, the payment of so much money to each
individual -- would be attended with, perhaps insuperable
inconveniences; neither is such an actual division requisite, every
requirement being capable of fulfillment without it.
We now apply this solution to England. England forms a State: that
is, a community acting through public servants for the administration
of justice, etc. In the actual condition of England, many things are
at present unjust; and the right of the Government to tax and make
laws for those who are excluded from representation is at all events
questionable. However, we shall make a few remarks on England as she
is, and on England as she ought to be; that is, as she would be were
the rules of equity reduced to practical operation.
1st. The State has alienated the lands to private individuals called
proprietors, and the vast majority of Englishmen are born to their
labor, minus their share of the taxation.
2nd. This taxation of labor has introduced vast system of restriction
on trades and industry. Instead of a perfectly free trade with all the
world, England has adopted a revenue system that most materially
diminishes both the amount of trade and its profit. And, instead of a
perfectly free internal industry, England has adopted an excise that
is as vexatious in its operation as can well be conceived. Both the
customs and excise laws, and every other tax on industry, have arisen
from the alienation of the soil from the state: and had the soil not
been alienated, no tax whatever would have been requisite; and were
the soil resumed (as it undoubtedly ought to be), every tax of every
kind and character, save the common rent of the soil, might at once be
abolished, with the whole army of collectors, revenue-officers,
cruisers, coast-guards, excisemen, etc., etc.
3rd. Taxation can only be on land or labor. (By land we mean the
natural earth, not merely the agricultural soil. These are the two
radical elements that can be subjected to taxation, capital being
originally derived from one or the other. Capital is only hoarded
labor or hoarded rent; and as all capital must be derived from the one
source or the other, all taxation of capital is only taxation of land
or of labor. Consequently all taxation of whatever kind is; first,
taxation of labor -- that is, a deduction from the natural
remuneration which God intended the laborer to derive from his
exertions: or second, taxation of land -- that is, the appropriation
of the current value of the natural earth to the expenses of the
Now, labor is essentially private property, and land is not
essentially private property, but, on the contrary, is the common
inheritance of every generation of mankind. Where the land is taxed no
man is taxed, not does the taxation oil and interfere in any way
whatever with the progress of human industry. On the contrary, the
taxation of land, rightly directed, might be made to advance the
condition of the country to a high degree of prosperity.
4th. For the expenses of a State there must be a revenue, and this
revenue must be derived from the taxation of labor, or from the rent
of the lands. There is no other alternative: either the rents of the
soil must be devoted to the common expenses of the State, or the labor
of individuals must be interfered with: and restrictions,
supervisions, prohibitions, etc., must be called into existence, to
facilitate the collection of the revenue.
The political history of landed property in England appears to have
been as follows: --
1st. The lands were accorded by the king to persons who were to
undertake the military service of the kingdom.
2nd. The performance of this military service was the condition on
which individuals held the national land.
3rd. The lands were at first held for life, and afterwards were made
4th. The military service was abolished by the law, and a standing
5th. This standing army was paid by the king.
6th. The king, having abolished the military services of the
individuals who held the national land, resorted to the taxation of
articles of consumption for the payment of the army.
The lands of England, therefore, instead of being held on condition
of performing the military service of the kingdom, became the property
of the individuals who held them, and thus the State of England lost
the lands of England. And the military service of the kingdom, instead
of being performed by those individuals who held the national land,
was henceforth (after the reign of Charles II) to be paid for by the
general taxation of the inhabitants of the country.
Therefore the present system of taxation, and the national debt, the
interest of which is procured by the forcible taxation of the general
inhabitants of England, are both due to the alienation of the lands
from the State, inasmuch as the national debt (incurred for war
expenses) would have been a debt upon the lands, and not a debt upon
the people of England. If, therefore, the legislature had a right to
abolish the military services of those who held the national land, and
thereby to impose on the general community all the liabilities of the
military service of the kingdom, the legislature has the same right to
abolish the general taxation of the community, and to allocate to
those who hold the land all the expenses that have been incurred. and
that are still incurred, for the war charges of the kingdom.
The alienation of the land from the State, and its conversion into
private property, was the first grand step that laid the foundation of
the modern system of society in England -- a system that presents
enormous wealth in the hands of a few aristocrats, who neither labor
nor even pay taxes in proportion to those who do labor; and a vast
population laboring for a bare subsistence, or reduced sometimes by
millions to the condition of pauperism.
So long as this system is allowed to continue it appears (from the
constitution of the earth, and of man's powers to extract from it a
maintenance) an absolute impossibility that pauperism should be
obliterated inasmuch as the burden of taxation necessarily falls on
labor, and more especially as the value of labor is necessarily
diminished wherevcr thcre is a soil allocated to an aristocracy.
The abolition of the military tenures, however, did not complete the
great evolution by which the lands of England have been transformed
into the property of a few thousand aristocrats. That evolution
consisted of three great facts.
1st. The allocation of the church lands to individual proprietors.
2nd. The abolition of military tenure, and the substitution of the
taxation of articles of consumption, in other words, of the taxation
3rd. The enclosure of the common lands, whereby vast numbers of the
peasantry were ruined, deprived of their legal rights, which were
quite as valid as the entails of the aristocracy, and, being separated
from the land, were sent to propagate pauperism in the towns and
And though the manufactures of England, taking an
expansion altogether unprecedented in the history of the world, were
able to consume the redundant population, the time must come when the
rate of increase will diminish, when the population shall find no
maintenance either in the towns or in the country, and social changes
attended with a more equitable distribution of the sources of wealth
will result in spite of all that men can do to prevent them.
No truth appears to be more satisfactorily and more generally borne
out by the history of modern Europe than that the progression of men
in the matter of liberty "is from a diversity of privileges
towards an equality of rights"; that is, that the past progress
has been all in this direction since the maximum of diversity
prevailed in the aspect of individual lord and individual serf. And if
this be the case, it cannot be an unreasonable conclusion that if
sufficient time be allowed for the evolution, the progress of change
will continue to go on till some ultimate condition is evolved. And
that ultimate condition can only be at the point where diversity of
privilege disappears and every individual in the State is legally
entitled to identically the same political functions. Diversities of
office there may be, and there must be, but diversity of rights there
cannot be without injustice.
Such, then, is the theoretic ultimatum that satisfies the reason with
regard to its equity, and such is the historic ultimatum that the
reason infers from the past history of mankind. Such, then, is the
point towards which societies are progressing; and when that point is
reached the ultimatum of equity is achieved and the present course of
historical evolution is complete.
 We have no hesitation whatever in predicting that all civilized
communities must ultimately abolish all revenue restrictions on
industry, and draw the whole taxation from the rents of the soil. And
this because the rents of the soil are the common produce of the whole
labor of a community.
 Political economists have insisted much on the
small matters that affect the value of labor. By far the most
important is the mode in which the soil is distributed. Wherever there
is a free soil labor maintains its value. Wherever the soil is in the
hands of a few proprietors
labor necessarily undergoes
depreciation. In fact, it is the disposition of the land that
determines the value of labor. If men could get the land to labor on
they would manufacture only for a remuneration that afforded more
profit than God has attached to the cultivation of the earth. Where
they cannot get the land to labor on they are starved into working for
a bare subsistence. There is only one reason why the labor of England,
Ireland and Scotland is of so little marketable value, and that reason
is the present disposition of the soil. Were the soil disposed of
according to the laws of equity there cannot he the least doubt that
the labor of the laboring classes would at once rise to at least
double its present value.