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1862b Econ/Evol/Race/Sun


Matthew, P. The greatest national evil. Farmer’s Magazine, Ser. 3 Vol 22 (1862, Jul-Dec), p.218-20

(Article dated July 21)
Matthew recaps the reasons for why the British land tenancy system is “evil”. He also repeats his claim that he predicted the Irish Potato Famine in his book Emigration Fields. He repeats his claims that the taxation of tiles and timber is wrong (and he refers back to On Naval Timber for previous arguments on this).

In a remarkable footnote, Matthew considers the behaviour of the British “landlord-legislator” class to be the result of natural selection gone wrong on their erstwhile superior Teutonic ancestral stock:
“The providence of race is here exemplified in a remarkable manner. The Teuton, a variety of man, the most provident of all, and of which most of our landlord legislators consist, has been cultivated by natural selection in the inclement north to look out well for himself and family, whether by foul or fair means, as a necessary of existence. This has become instinctive in the race, and continued in our present aristocracy even under change of circumstances. We notice similar instances of retained instinct in many other varieties of organic life. Of course this natural instinct in our landlord legislators renders it necessary for the other classes, if they have the remotest right to the name of British freemen, to meet this disposition in a similar spirit — unless indeed they are to rank as white slaves.”

Later on, Matthew adds the infamous “window tax” to his list of bad taxes, and goes on to write about his views on sunlight as a vital force for progressive evolution:
“This tax, along with that upon glass, while it greatly interfered with the architectural elegance of our dwellings, was highly calculated to lower the vis vitae, and interfere with the development physically as well as mentally. The advance or development in organic life, the onward progress of being, from primal time, appears to be connected with or the result of an increase of light upon the earth’s surface, the stimulus of the direct rays of the Sun, owing to a gradual diminution or clearing away of cloud. This last again is naturally accounted for by less evaporation in consequence of diminished bottom heat, from a gradual refrigeration and thickening of the earth’s crust, which a visible change in volcanic action since the period immediately succeeding the carboniferous era (ancient volcanic emissions being by longitudinal cracks, modern by raised up craters — chimney-top escape valves), and the vast vegetable deposits of the carboniferous era itself not repeated to any great amount, go to prove. In this light tax we have landlord legislation combating with progressive nature. It has been actually found that uterine foetal development in dark apartments is often defective, producing deformities and monstrosities, as if the type of organic life was changing, going back to a lower grade.”

At the end, Matthew notes: “In my theory of the “Origin of Species,” I pointed out the variation-power of organic life, moulding it in accommodation to circumstances”.

Finally, there is a characteristically colourful metaphor regarding land tenure: “Say that a council of demons had been called together, burning with, envious rancour against humanity, to legislate for the British people, could they have legislated more noxiously, more impiously, or contrived a worse land tenure?”

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