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An essay by Richard Jefferies

After The County Franchise

Title:     After The County Franchise
Author: Richard Jefferies [More Titles by Jefferies]

The money-lender is the man I most fear to see in the villages after the extension of the county franchise--the money-lender both in his private and public capacity, the man who has already taken a grasp of most little towns that have obtained incorporation in some form. Like Shylock he demands what is in his bond: he demands his interest, and that means a pull at every man's purse--every man, rich or poor--who lives within the boundary. Borrowing is almost the ruin of many such little towns; rates rise nearly as high as in cities, and people strive all they can to live anywhere outside the limit. Borrowing is becoming one of the curses of modern life, and a sorrowful day it will be when the first village takes to it. The name changes--now it is a local board, now it is commissioners, sometimes a town council: the practice remains the same. These authorities exist but for one purpose--to borrow money, and as any stick will do to beat a dog with, so any pretence will do to exact the uttermost farthing from the inhabitants. Borrowing boards they are, one and all, and nothing else, from whom no one obtains benefit except the solicitor, the surveyor, the lucky architect, and those who secure a despicable living in the rear of the county court. Nothing could better illustrate the strange supineness of the majority of people than the way in which they pay, pay, pay, and submit to every species of extortion at the hands of these incapable blunderers, without so much as a protest. The system has already penetrated into the smallest of the county towns which groan under the incubus; let us hope, let us labour, that it may not continue its course and enter the villages.

It may reasonably be supposed that when once the extension of the franchise becomes an established fact, some kind of local government will soon follow. At present country districts are either without any local government at all--I mean practically, not theoretically--or else they are ruled without the least shadow of real representation. When men are admitted to vote and come to be enlightened as to the full meaning and force of such rights, it is probable that they will shortly demand the power to arrange their own affairs. They will have something to say as to the administration of the poor-law, over which at present they do not possess the slightest control, and they are not at all unlikely to set up a species of self-government in every separate village. I think, in short, that the parish may become the unit in the future to the disintegration of the artificial divisions drawn to facilitate the poor-law. Such divisions, wherein many parishes of the most diverse description and far apart are thrown together anyhow as the gardener pitches weeds into his basket, have done serious harm in the past. They have injured the sense of personal responsibility, they have created a bureaucracy absolutely without feeling, and they have tended to shift great questions out of sight. The shifting of things out of sight--round the corner--is a vile method of dealing with them. Send your wretched poor miles away into a sort of alien workhouse, and then congratulate yourself that you have tided over the difficulty! But the difficulty has not been got over.

A man who can vote, and who is told--as he certainly will be told--that he bears a part in directing the great affairs of his nation, will ask himself why he should not be capable of managing the little affairs of his own neighbourhood. When he has asked himself this question, it will be the first step towards the downfall of the inhuman poor-law. He will go further and say, 'Why should I not settle these things at home? Why should I not walk up to the village from my house in the country lane, and there and then arrange the business which concerns me? Why should I any longer permit it to be done over my head and without my consent by a body of persons in whom I have no confidence, for they do not represent me--they represent property?'

In his own village the voter will observe the school--his own village then is worthy to possess its own school; possibly he may even remotely have some trifling share in the control of the school if there is a board. If that great interest, the children of the parish, can be administered at home, why not the other and much less important interests? Here may be traced a series of reflections, and a succession of steps by which ultimately the whole system of boards of guardians with their attendant powers, as the rural sanitary authority and so forth, may ultimately be swept away. Government will come again to the village.

Then arises the money-lender, and no time should be lost by those who have the good and the genuine liberty of the countryside at heart in labouring to prevent his entry into the village. Whatsoever constitution the village obtains in future, let us strive to strictly limit the borrowing powers of its council. No borrowing powers at all would be best--government without loans would be almost ideal--if that cannot be accomplished, then at least lay down a stringent regulation putting a firm and impassable limit. Were every one of my way of thinking, government without loans would be imperative. It would be done if it had to be done. Rugged discomfort is preferable to borrowing.

I dread, in a word, lest the follies perpetrated in towns should get into the villages and hamlets, and want to say a word betimes of warning. Imagine a new piece of roadway required, then to get the money let a penny be added to the rates, and the amount produced laid by at interest year after year, till the sum be made up. Better wait a few years and walk half a mile round than borrow the five or six hundred pounds, and have to pay that back and all the interest on it. Shift somehow, do not borrow.

In the discussions upon the agricultural franchise it has been generally assumed that the changes it portends will be shown in momentous State affairs and questions of principle. But perhaps it will be rather in local and home concerns that the alterations will be most apparent. The agricultural labourer voters--and the numerous semi-agricultural voters, not labourers--are more than likely to look at their own parish as well as at the policy of the Foreign Office. Gradually the parish--that is, the village--must become the centre to men who feel at last that they are their own masters. Under some form or other they will take the parish into their own hands, and insist upon their business being managed at home. Some shape of village council must come presently into existence.

Shrewd people are certain to appear upon the scene, pointing out to the cottager that if he desires to rule himself in his own village, he must insist upon one most important point. This is the exclusion of property representation. Instead of property having an overwhelming share, as now, in the direction of affairs, the owner of the largest property must not weigh any heavier in the village council than the wayside cottager. If farmer or landowner sit there he must have one vote only, the same as any other member. The council, if it is to be independent, must represent men and not land in the shape of landowners, or money in the shape of tenant-farmers. Shrewd people will have no difficulty in explaining the meaning of this to the village voters, because they can quote so many familiar instances. There is the Education Act in part defeated by the combination of property, landowners and farmers paying to escape a school-board--a plan temporarily advantageous to them, but of doubtful benefit, possibly injurious, to the parish at large. Leaving that question alone, the fact is patent that the cottager has no share in the government of his school, because land and money have combined. It may be governed very well; still it is not his government, and will serve to illustrate the meaning. There is the board of guardians, nominally elected, really selected, and almost self-appointed. The board of guardians is land and money simply, and in no way whatever represents the people. A favourite principle continually enunciated at the present day is that the persons chiefly concerned should have the management. But the lower classes who are chiefly concerned with poor relief, as a matter of fact, have not the slightest control over that management. Besides the guardians, there is still an upper row, and here the rulers are not even invested with the semblance of representation, for magistrates are not elected, and they are guardians by virtue of their being magistrates. The machinery is thus complete for the defeat of representation and for the despotic control of those who, being principally concerned, ought by all rule and analogy to have the main share of the management. We have seen working men's representatives sit in the House of Commons; did anyone ever see a cottage labourer sit as administrator at the board before which the wretched poor of his own neighbourhood appear for relief?

But it may be asked, Is the village council, then, composed of small proprietors, to sit down and vote away the farmer's or landowner's money without farmer or landowner having so much as a voice in the matter? Certainly not. The idea of village self-government supposes a distinct and separate existence, as it were; the village apart from the farmer or landowner, and the latter apart from the village. At present the money drawn in rates from farmer or landowner is chiefly expended on poor-law purposes. But, as will presently appear, village self-government proposes the entire abolition of the poor-law system, and with it the rates which support it, or at least the heaviest part of them. Therefore, as this money would not be concerned, they could receive no injury, even if they did not sit at the village council at all.

Imagine the village, figuratively speaking, surrounded by a high wall like a girdle, as towns were in ancient times, and so cut off altogether from the large properties surrounding it--on the one hand the village supporting and governing itself, and on the other the large properties equally independent.

The probable result would be a considerable reduction in local burdens on land. A self-supporting and self-governing moral population is the first step towards this relief to land so very desirable in the interest of agriculture.

In practice there must remain certain more or less imperial questions, as lines of through road, police, etc., some of which are already managed by the county authority. As these matters affect the farmer and landowner even more than the cottager, clearly they must expect to contribute to the cost, and can rightly claim a share in the management.

Having advanced so far as a village council, and arrived at the stage of managing their own affairs, having, in fact, emerged from pupilage, next comes a question for the council. We now govern our village ourselves; why should we not possess our village? Why should we not live in our own houses? Why should we not have a little share in the land, as much, at least, as we can pay for? At this moment the village, let us say, consists of a hundred cottages, and perhaps there are another hundred scattered about the parish. Of these three-fourths belong to two or three large landowners, and those who reside in them, however protected by enactment, can never have a sense of complete independence. We should own these cottages, so that the inhabitants might practically pay rent to themselves. We must purchase them, a few at a time; the residents can repurchase from us and so become freeholders. For a purchaser there must be a seller, and here one of the questions of the future appears: Can an owner of this kind of property be permitted to refuse to sell? Must he be compelled to sell?

It is clear that if the village voter thoroughly addresses himself to his home affairs there is room for some remarkable incidents. There is reason now, is there not, to dread the appearance of the money-lender?

About this illustrative parish there lie many hundred acres of good land all belonging to one man, while we, the said village council, do not possess a rood apiece, and our constituents not a square yard. Rightfully we ought to have a share, yet we do not agitate for confiscation. Shall we then say that every owner of land should be obliged to sell a certain fixed percentage--a very small percentage would suffice--upon proffer of a reasonable amount, the proffer being made by those who propose to personally settle on it? Of one thousand acres suppose ten or twenty liable to forcible purchase at a given and moderate price. After all it is not a much more overbearing thing than the taking by railways of land in almost any direction they please, and not nearly so tyrannous, so stupidly tyrannous, as some of the acts of folly committed by local boards in towns. Not long since the newspapers reported a case where a local authority actually ran a main sewer across a gentleman's park, and ventilated it at regular intervals, completely destroying the value of an historic mansion, and utterly ruining a beautiful domain. This was fouling their own nest with a vengeance. They should have cherished that park as one of their chiefest glories, their proudest possession. Parks and woods are daily becoming of almost priceless value to the nation; nothing could be so mad as to destroy these last homes of nature. Just conceive the inordinate folly of marking such a property with sewer ventilators. This is a hundred times more despotic than a proposal that say two per cent. of land should be forcibly purchasable for actual settlement. Even five per cent. would not make an appreciable difference to an estate, though every fraction of the five per cent. were taken up.

For such proposals to have any effect, the transfer of real property must be greatly simplified and cheapened. From time to time, whenever a discussion occurs upon this subject, and there are signs that the glacier-like movements of government will be hastened by public stir, up rises some great lawyer and explains to the world that really nothing could be simpler or cheaper than such transfer. All that can be wished in that direction has been accomplished already; there is not the slightest ground for agitation; every obstruction has been removed, and the machinery is now perfect. He quotes a long list of Acts to demonstrate the progress that has been made, and so winds up a very effective speech. Facts, however, are not in accordance with these gracious words. Here is an instance. A cottage in a village was recently sold for seventy pounds; the costs, legal expenses, parchments, all the antiquated formalities absorbed thirty-two pounds, only three pounds less than half the value of the little property. Could anything be more obviously wrong than such a system.

The difficulties in the way of simplification are created difficulties, entirely artificial, owing their existence to legal ingenuity. How often has the question been asked and never answered: Why should there be any more expense in transferring the ownership of an acre of land than of L100 stock?

The village council coming into contact with this matter is likely to agitate continuously for its rectification, since otherwise its movements will be seriously hampered. If they succeed in obtaining the abolition of these semi-feudal survivals, they will have conferred a substantial benefit upon the community. County franchise would be worth the granting merely to secure this.

Let us take the case for a moment of a labourer at this day and consider his position. What has he before him? He has a hand-to-mouth, nomad existence, ending in the inevitable frozen misery of the workhouse. Men with votes and political power are hardly likely to endure this for many more years, and it is much to be hoped that they will not endure it. A labourer may be never so hard-working, so careful, so sober, and yet let his efforts be what they may, his old age finds him helpless. I am sure there is no class of men among whom may be found so many industrious, plodding, sober folk, economical to the verge of starvation. Their straightforward lives are thrown away. Their sons and daughters, warned by example, go to the cities, and there lose the virtues that rendered their forefathers so admirable even in their wretchedness. It will indeed be a blessing if, as I hope, the outcome of the franchise is the foundation of solid inducements to the countryman to stay in the country. I use the phrase countryman purposely, intending it to include small farmers and small farmers' sons; the latter are likewise driven away from the land year by year as much as the young labourers, and are as serious a loss to it. Did the possibility exist of purchasing a cottage and a plot of ground of moderate size, it is more than probable that the labourer's son would remain in the village, or return to it, and his daughter would come back to the village to be married. We hear how the poor Italian or the poor Swiss leaves his native country for our harder climate, how he works and saves, and by-and-by returns to his village and purchases some corner of earth. This seems a legitimate and worthy object. We do not hear of our own sturdy labourers returning to their village with a pocketful of money and purchasing a plot of ground or a cottage. They do not attempt it, because they know that under present conditions it is nearly impossible. There is no land for them to buy. Why not, when the country is nothing but land? Because the owner of ten thousand acres is by no means obliged to part with the minutest fragment of it. If by chance a stray portion be somewhere for sale, the expenses, the costs, the parchments, the antiquated formalities, the semi-feudal routine delay and possibly prevent transfer altogether. If land were accessible, and the cost of transferring cottage property reduced to reasonable proportions, the labourer would have the soundest of all inducements to practise self-denial in his youth. Cities might attract him temporarily for the advantage of higher wages, but he would put the excess by and ultimately bring it home. Even the married cottager with a family would try his hardest to save a little with such a hope before him.

The existing circumstances deny hope altogether. Neither land nor cottages are to be had, there are no sellers, and the cost of transfer is prohibitive; men are shifted on, they have no security of tenure, they are passed on from farm to farm and can settle nowhere. The competition for a house in some districts is keen to the last degree; it seems as if there were eager crowds waiting for homes. Recently while roaming on the Sussex hills I met an ancient shepherd whose hair was white as snow, though he stood upright enough. I inquired the names of the hills there, and he replied that he did not know; he was a stranger, he had only been moved there lately. How strangely changed are things when a grey-headed shepherd does not know the names of his hills! At a time of life when he ought to have been comfortably settled he had had to shift.

Sentiment is more stubborn than fact. People will face the sternest facts, dire facts, stubborn facts, and stay on in spite of all; but once let sentiment alter and away they troop. So I think that some part of the distaste for farming visible about us is due to change of sentiment--to feeling repelled--as well as to unfruitful years. Men have stood out against weary weather in all ages of agriculture, but lately they have felt hurt and repelled, the sentiment of attachment to home has been rudely torn up, and so now the current sets against farming, though farms are often offered on advantageous terms. In the same way, besides the stubborn facts that drive the labourer from the village and prevent his return to settle, there is a yet more stubborn sentiment repelling him. Made a man of by education--not only of books, but the unconscious education of progressive times--the labourer and his son and daughter have thoughts of independence. To be humbly subservient to the will of those above them, to be docilely obedient, not only to the employer, but to all in some sort of authority, is not attractive to them. Plainly put, the rule of parson and squire, tenant and guardian, is repellent to them in these days. They would rather go away. If they do save money in cities, they do not care to return and settle under the thumb of these their old masters. Besides more attractive facts, the sentiment of independence must be called into existence before the labourer, or, for the matter of that, the small farmer's son, will willingly settle in the village. That sense of independence can only arise when the village governs itself by its own council, irrespective of parson, squire, tenant, or guardian. Towards that end the power to vote is almost certain to drift slowly.

Nothing can be conceived more harshly antagonistic to the feelings of a naturally industrious race of men than the knowledge that as a mass they are looked upon as prospective 'paupers.' I detest this word so much that it is painful to me to write it; I put it between inverted commas as a sort of protest, so that it may appear a hated intruder, and not native to the text. The local government existing at this day in country districts is practically based upon the assumption that every labouring man will one day be a 'pauper,' will one day come to the workhouse. By the workhouse and its board the cottage is governed; the workhouse is the centre, the bureau, the hotel de ville. The venue of local government must be changed before the labourer can feel independent, and it will be changed doubtless as he becomes conscious of the new power he has acquired. Shall the bitterness of the workhouse at last pass away? Let us hope so let us be thankful indeed if the franchise leads to the downfall of those cruel walls. Yet what is the cruelty of cold walls to the cruelty of 'system'? A workhouse in the country is usually situated as nearly as possible in the centre of the Union, it may be miles from the outlying parishes. Thither the worn-out cottager is borne away from the fields, his cronies, his little helps to old age such as the corner where the sun shines, the friend who allows little amenities, to dwindle and die. The workhouse bureau extends its unfeeling hands into every detail of cottage life. No wonder the labourer does not deny himself to save money in order to settle where these things are done. A happy day it will be when the workhouse door is shut and the building sold for materials. A gentleman not long since wrote to me a vindication of his workhouse--I cannot at the moment place my hand on the figures he sent me, but I grant that they were conclusive from his point of view; they were not extravagant, the administration appeared correct. But this is not my point of view at all. Figures are not humanity. The workhouse and the poor-law system are inhuman, debasing, and injurious to the whole country, and the better they are administered, the worse it really is, since it affords a specious pretext for their continuance. What would be the use of a captain assuring his passengers that the ship was well found, plenty of coal in the bunkers, the engines oiled and working smoothly, when they did not want to go to the port for which he was steering? An exact dose of poison may be administered, but what comfort is it to the victim to assure him that it was accurately measured to a minim? What is the value of informing me that the 'paupers' are properly looked after when I do not want any 'paupers'?

But how manage without the poor-law system? There are several ways. There is the insurance method: space will not permit of discussion in this paper, but one fact which speaks volumes may be alluded to. Two large societies exist in this country called the 'Oddfellows' and the 'Foresters'; they number their members by the million; they assist their members not only at home, but all over the world (which is what no poor-law has ever done); they govern themselves by their own laws, and they prosper exceedingly--an honour to the nation. They have solved the difficulty for themselves.

When the village governs itself and takes all matters into its own hands, in time the sentiment of independence may grow up and men begin to work and strive and save, that they may settle at home. It would be a very noble thing indeed if the true English feeling for home life should become the dominant passion of the country once again. By home life I mean that which gathers about a house, however small, standing in its own grounds. Something comes into existence about such a house, an influence, a pervading feeling, like some warm colour softening the whole, tinting the lichen on the wall, even the very smoke-marks on the chimney. It is home, and the men and women born there will never lose the tone it has given them. Such homes are the strength of a land. The emigrant who leaves us for the backwoods hopes to carve out a home for himself there, and we consider that an ambition to be admired. I hope the day will come when some at least of our people may be able to set up homes for themselves in their own country. To-day, if they would live, they must crowd into the city, often to dwell in the midst of hideous squalor, or they must cross the ocean. They would rather endure the squalor, rather say farewell for ever and sail for America, than stay in the village where everyone is master, and none of their class can be independent. The village must be its own master before it becomes popular. County government may be reformed with advantage, but that is not enough, because it must necessarily be too far off. People in the country are scattered, and each little centre is naturally only concerned with itself. A government having its centre at the county town is too far away, and is likely to bear too much resemblance to the boards of guardians and present authorities, to be representative of land and money rather than of men. Progress can only be made in each little centre separately by means of village councils, genuinely representative of the village folk, unswayed by mansion, vicarage, or farm. Then by degrees we may hope to see the re-awakening of English home-life in contradistinction to that unhappy restlessness which drives so many to the cities.

Men will then wake up and work with energy because they will have hope. The slow, plodding manner of the labourer--the dull ways even of the many industrious cottagers--these will disappear, giving place to push and enterprise. Why does a lawyer work as no navvy works? Why does a cabinet minister labour the year through as hard as a miner? Because they have a mental object. So will the labourer work when he has a mental object--to possess a home for himself.

Whenever such homes become numerous and the new life of the country begins to flow, pressure will soon be brought to bear for the removal of the mediaeval law which prevents the use of steam on common roads. Modern as the law is, it is mediaeval in its tendency as much as a law would be for the restriction of steam on the ocean. Suppose a statute compelling all ships to sail, or, if they steamed, not to exceed four miles an hour! One of the greatest drawbacks to agriculture is the cost and difficulty of transit; wheat, flour, and other foods come from America at far less expense in proportion than it takes to send a waggon-load to London. This cost of transit in the United Kingdom will ultimately, one would think, become the question of the day, concerning as it does every individual. Agriculture on a large scale finds it a heavy drawback; to agriculture on a small scale it is often prohibitory. A man may cultivate his two-acre plot and produce vegetables and fruit, but if he cannot get his produce to London (or some great city), the demand for it is small, and the value low in proportion. As settlers increase, as the village becomes its own master, and men pass part at least of their time labouring on their own land, the difficulty will be felt to be a very serious one. Transit they must have, and steam alone can supply it. Engines and cars can be built to run on common roads almost as easily as on rails, and as for danger it is merely the interested outcry of those who deal in horses. There is no danger. Fine smooth roads exist all over the country; they have been kept up from coaching days as if in a prophetic spirit for their future use by steam. Upon these roads engines and cars can travel at a good fair pace, collecting produce, and either delivering it to the through lines of rail, or passing it on from road-train to road-train till it reaches the city. This is a very important matter indeed, for in the future easier and quicker transit will become imperative for agriculture. The impost of extraordinary tithe--the whole system of tithe--again, is doomed when once the country begins to live its new life. Freedom of cultivation is ten times more needful to the small than to the large proprietor.

These changes closely examined lose their threatening aspect, so much so that the marvel is they did not commence fifty years ago instead of waiting till now, and even now to be only potential. What is there in the present condition of agriculture to make farmer or landowner anxious that the existing system of things should continue? Surely nothing; surely every consideration points in favour of moderate change. Those who quote the example of France, and would argue that dissatisfaction must, as there, increase with efforts to allay it, must know full well in their hearts that there is no comparison whatever with France. The two peoples are so entirely different. So little contents our race that the danger is rather the other way, that they will be too easily satisfied. Such changes as I have indicated, when examined closely, are really so mild that in full operation they would scarcely make any difference in the relation of the classes. Such village councils would be very anxious for the existence of the farmer, and for his interests to be respected, for the sufficient reason that they know the value of wages. Perhaps they might even, under certain conditions, become almost too willing partisans of the farmer for their best interests to be served. I can imagine such conditions easily enough, and the possibility of the three sections, labourer, farmer, and owner, becoming more closely welded together than ever. There is far more stolidity to be regretted than revolution to be feared. The danger is lest the new voters should stolidify--crystallize--in tacit league with existing conditions; not lest we should go hop, skip, and jump over Niagara.

A probable result of these changes is an increase in the value of land: if thousands of people should ever really begin to desire it, and to work and save for the object of buying it, analogy would suppose a rise in value. Instead of a loss there would be a gain to the landowner, and I think to the farmer, who would have a larger supply of labour, and possibly a strong posse of supporters at the poll in their men. Instead of division coalescence is more probable. The greater his freedom, the greater his attachment to home, the more settled the labourer, the firmer will become the position of all three classes. The landowner has nothing whatever to fear for his park, his mansion, his privacy, his shooting, or anything else. What is taken will be paid for, and no more will be taken than needful. Parks and woods are becoming of priceless value; we should have to preserve a few landlords if only to have parks and woods. Perfect rights of possession are not at all incompatible with enjoyment by the people. There are domains to be found where people wander at their will, and enjoy themselves as much as they please, and yet the owner retains every right. It is true that there are also numerous parks rigidly closed to the public, demonstrating the folly of the proprietors--square miles of folly. The use of a little compulsion to open them would not be at all deplorable. But it must stop there and not encroach farther. Having obtained the use, be careful not to destroy.

The one great aim I have in all my thoughts is the acquisition of public and the preservation of private liberty. Freedom is the most valuable of all things, and is to be sought with all our powers of mind and hand. Freedom does not mean injustice, but neither will it put up with injustice. A singular misapprehension seems to be widely spread in our time; it is that there are two great criminals, the poor man or 'pauper' and the landlord. At opposite extremes of the scale they are regarded as equally guilty. Every right--the right to vote, the right to live in his native village, the right to be buried decently--is taken from the unhappy poor man or 'pauper.' He is a criminal. To own land is to be guilty of unpardonable sin, nothing is so bad; as criminals are ordered to be searched and everything taken from them, so everything is to be taken from the landowner. The injustice to both is equally evident. Anyone by chance of circumstances, uncontrollable, may be reduced to extreme poverty; how cruel to punish the unfortunate with the loss of civil rights! Anyone by good fortune and labour may acquire wealth, and would naturally wish to purchase land: is he then guilty? In equity both the poor and the rich should enjoy the same civil rights.

Let the new voter then bear in mind above all things the value of individual liberty, and not be too anxious to destroy the liberty of others, an action that invariably recoils. Let him, having obtained his freedom, beware how he surrenders it again either to local influence in the shape of land or money, or to the outside orator who may urge him on for his own ends. Efforts will be made no doubt to use the new voter for the purposes of cliques and fanatics. He can always test the value of their object by the question of wages and food--'How will it affect my wages and food?'--and probably that is the test he will apply. A little knot of resolute and straightforward men should be formed in every village to see that the natural outcome of the franchise is obtained. They can begin as vigilance committees, and will ultimately reach to legal status as councils.

[The end]
Richard Jefferies's essay: After The County Franchise