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country of small properties, of nearly uniform value. This must prove very inconvenient, and injurious to the interests of the country.
In giving the foregoing instances of the advantageous position of countries in which a numerous landed proprietary exists, it is by no means the intention of the writer to recommend peasant proprietorship, or a general subdivision of the land into small estates, as a panacea for the evils of Ireland. The grand and simple principle which he wishes to advocate is—Freedom. This is to be obtained by the removal of restrictions, and letting individual interests have free scope for action. With freedom of sale, facility of transfer, and security and simplicity of title, land will be held in large or small portions, as may prove most advantageous for the owners and the community. The locality and nature of the soil will determine the amount of subdivision, by determining the purpose to which it can most profitably be applied. Large estates, with farms managed on the most scientific principles, and whose extent admits the profitable use of machinery, will co-exist with small properties, under garden cultivation by the spade, where persevering industry and economy may compensate for any disadvantage of size. All ranks will be found among the landed proprietary. There will
be estates of all sizes, from the princely demesne of the nobleman down to the freehold of the yeoman farmer and the peasant. The land will not become universally cut up into minute portions, neither will it be unduly accumulated into enormous properties. The tendency to accumulation will exist, but if the natural countervailing tendencies to distribution be allowed to act, no inconvenience will result. Individual interests will determine the amount of subdivision which is most profitable for all.
Even under present circumstances, the judicious landlord finds it his interest to divide his estate into farms of various sizes. Some very interesting evidence was given before the Commissioners on the occupation of land in Ireland, as to the beneficial effects of the intermingling of small and large farms on an estate in Scotland. The witness speaks of " dovetailing” small farms, which he calls “crofts," of four, eight, or ten acres, among farms of thirty, fifty, and up to three hundred acres, and considers that it has effected the happiest results. The “crofters” are labourers, tradesmen, or small shopkeepers, sometimes working at wages for others, sometimes cultivating their own ground. They are able to pay a higher rent for the land than the larger farmers. He also remarks, " that large farmers contribute few or none “ of the smaller products, such as butter, cheese, “ poultry, eggs, pigs, &c.” which are supplied in large quantities by these small crofters ; and he speaks very highly of their industry, economy, and general good conduct.*
Yet whatever disadvantage we may see in the law of compulsory subdivision, it must be admitted that France has greatly improved under it. Inglis remarks on the happiness of the people, giving it as his opinion, “formed with a tolerably “ intimate knowledge, and distinct recollection of “ the lower orders there, that upon the whole, the “ peasantry of France are the happiest peasantry “ of any country in Europe.” He also makes another remark, highly creditable to their character, and which is confirmed by other travellers, in “ re“ cording his belief in the great honesty of the “ French people, who cannot be charged with that “ disposition towards petty theft, which so dis“ graces the people of most other countries.” Is not this honesty attributable to the general diffusion of property? They do not steal from each other, because all have something to be stolen.
Another effect produced, when facilities are afforded for the purchase of land, in small or large portions, according to the wants of the market, is
* Digest of Evidence on Occupation of Land in Ireland, vol. i., page 403.
the high price at which it sells. It becomes in some respects the poor man's savings-bank. The grand object of his ambition, is to become the owner of a few acres of land, by which he may support himself for the remainder of his life. Competition consequently raises the price.
The condition and circumstances of England have been adduced, as an objection to these arguments. The laws affecting real property are similar in England and Ireland. Entails have existed there for centuries, and yet England has prospered. It is not, however, the mere existence of entails which is so injurious ; but the remoter consequences to which the system naturally tends. If the entailed properties were not too large, or too much scattered for individual management; and if the owners were willing to live sufficiently within their income to save a provision for their younger children, instead of encumbering the estate ; little, if any, injury would be sustained. The injurious consequences of the system have been much more strikingly developed in Ireland than in England, where many circumstances have existed, which have hitherto greatly neutralised its effects.
Landed property has always been much more subdivided in England than in Ireland. Whilst there were many very large estates, there was also a numerous body of gentry possessing properties of moderate extent, and a large number of small freeholders corresponding with the peasant-proprietors of other countries. The great number of copyhold estates must also be taken into consideration. The popular cause, in the contest between Charles I. and the Parliament, derived its chief support, not from the inhabitants of the large towns, but from the lesser gentry, in fact, the middle classes in the country; and the result of the contest proves their number and intelligence. The increase in the value of land, which took place during the late war, tempted many of these small proprietors to a more expensive style of living; and when land fell again after the peace, many of them were forced to sell their estates, which were frequently purchased by some of their neighbours. From these and other causes, the number of landed proprietors has diminished; and there is reason to believe that this diminution is still going on. Thus the middle classes are reduced in number ; except in towns, where they are maintained by commercial and manufacturing industry, and by the large amount of capital already accumulated. Still the number of landed proprietors in England is much greater than in Ireland ; and, in some districts, there are even yet remaining many small proprietors, or yeomanfarmers, who cultivate their own estates.