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integral part of the military strength of the State. They were doubtless an inferior and degraded caste, but their slavery seems to have been one of the least onerous varieties of serfdom. Slavery appears in far more frightful colours among the Romans, during the period in which the Roman aristocracy was gorging itself with the plunder of a newly conquered world. The Romans were a cruel people, and the worthless nobles sported with the lives of their myriads of slaves with the same reckless prodigality with which they squan. any other part of their ill-ac|. possessions. . Yet, slavery is ivested of one of its worst features when it is compatible with hope: enfranchisement was easy and common : enfranchised slaves obtained at once the full rights of citizens, and instances were frequent of their acquiring not only riches, but latterly even honours. By the progress of milder legislation under the Emperors, much of the protection of law was thrown round the slave, he became capable of possessing property, and the evil altogether assumed a considerably gentler aspect. Until, however, slavery assumes the mitigated form of villenage, in which not only the slaves have property and legal rights, but their § are more or less limited by usage, and they partly labour for their own benefit; their condition is seldom such as to produce a rapid growth either of population or of production.
§ 2. So long as slave countries are underpeopled in proportion to their cultivable land, the labour of the slaves, under any tolerable management, produces much more than is sufficient for their support; especially as the great amount of superintendence which their labour requires, preventing the dispersion of the population, ensures some of the advantages of combined labour. Hence, in a good soil and climate, and with reasonable care of his own interests, the owner of many slaves has the means of being rich. The influence, however, of such a state of society on production, is perfectly well understood. It is a truism to
assert, that labour extorted by fear ol punishment is inefficient and unproductive. It is true that in some circumstances, human beings can be driven by the lash to attempt, and even to accomplish, things which they would not have undertaken for any payment, which it could have been worth while to an employer to offer them. And it is likely that productive operations which require much combination of labour, o production of sugar for example, would not have taken place so soon in the American colonies, if slavery had not existed to keep masses of labour together. There are also savage tribes so averse from regular industry, that industrial life is scarcely able to introduce itself among them until they are either conquered and made slaves of, or become conquerors and make others so. But after allowing the full value of these considerations, it remains certain that slavery is incompatible with any high state of the arts of life, and any great efficiency of labour. For all products which require much skill, slave countries are usually dependent on foreigners. Hopeless slavery effectually brutifies the intellect; and intelligence in the slaves, though often encouraged in the ancient world and in the East, is in a more advanced state of society a source of so much danger and an object of so much dread to the masters, that in some of the States of America it is a highly penal offence to teach a slave to read. All processes carried on by slave labour are conducted in the rudest and most unimproved manner. And even the animal strength of the slave is, on an average, not half exerted. The unproductiveness and wastefulness of the industrial system in the Slave States is instructively displayed in the valuable writings of Mr. Olmsted. The mildest form of slavery is certainly the condition of the serf, who is attached to the soil, supports himself from his allot. ment, and works a certain number of days in the week for his lord. Yet there is but one opinion on the extreme inefficiency of serf labour. The following passage is from Professor Jones,” whose Essay on the Distribution of Wealth (or rather on Rent), is a copious repertory of valuable facts on the landed tenures of different countries. “The Russians, or rather those German writers who have observed the manners and habits of Russia, state some strong facts on this point. Two Middlesex mowers, they say, will mow in a day as much grass as six Russian serfs, and in spite of the dearness of provisions in England and their cheapness in Russia, the mowing a quantity of hay which would cost an English farmer half a copeck, will cost a Russion proprietor three or four copecks.: The Prussian counsellor of state, Jacob, is considered to have proved, that in Russia, where everything is cheap, the labour of a serf is doubly as expensive as that of a labourer in England. M. Schmalz gives a startling account of the unproductiveness of serf labour in Prussia, from his own knowledge and observation.f. In Austria, it is distinctly stated, that the labour of a serf is equal to only one-third of that of a free hired labourer. This calculation, made in an able work on agriculture (with some extracts from which I have been favoured), is applied to the practical purpose of deciding on the number of labourers necessary to cultivate an estate of a given magnitude. Sopalpable, indeed, are the ill effects of }. rents on the industry of the agricultural population, that in Austria itself, where proposals of changes of any kind "do not readily make their way, schemes and plans for the commutation of labour rents are as popular as in the more stirring German provinces of the North.”S What is wanting in the quality of the labour itself, is not made up by any excellence in the direction and * Essay on the Distribution of Wealth and on the Sources of Taration. By the Rev. Itichard Jones. Page 50. f “Schmalz, Economie Politique, French translation, vol. i. p. 66.” + Vol. ii. p. 107. § The Hungarian revolutionary government, during its brief existence, bestowed on that country one of the greatest benefits it
could receive, and one which the tyranny that succeeded has not dared to take away:
superintendence. As the same writer* remarks, the landed proprietors “are necessarily, in their character of cultivators of their own domains, the only guides and directors of the industry of the agricultural population,” since there can be no intermediate class of capitalist farmers where the labourers are the property of the lord. Great landowners are everywhere an idle class, or if they labour at all, addict themselves only to the more exciting kinds of exertion ; that lion's share which superiors always reserve for themselves. “It would,” as Mr. Jones observes, “be hopeless and irrational to expect, that a race of noble proprietors, fenced round with privileges and dignity, and attracted to military and political pursuits by the advantages and habits of their station, should ever become attentive cultivators as a body.” Even in England, if the cultivation of every estate depended upon its proprietor, any one can judge what would be the result. There would be a few cases of great science and energy, and numerous individual instances of moderate success, but the general state of agriculture would be contemptible.
§ 3. Whether the proprietors them. selves would lose by the emancipation of their slaves, is a different question from the comparative effectiveness of free and slave labour to the community. There has been much discussion of this question as an abstract thesis; as if it could possibly admit of any universal solution. Whether slavery or free labour is most profitable to the employer, depends on the wages of tho free labourer. These, again, depend on the numbers of the labouring population, compared with the capital and the land. Hired labour is generally so much more efficient than slave labour, that the employer can pay a considerably greater value in wages, than the maintenance of his slaves cost him before, and yet be a gainer it freed the peasantry from what remained of the bondage of serfdom, the labour rents; decreeing compensation to the landlords at the expense of the state, and not at that of
the liberated peasants. * Jones, pp. 53, 54,
by the change: but he cannot do this without limit. The decline of serfdom in Europe, and its extinction in the Western nations, were doubtless hastened by the changes which the growth of population must have made in the pecuniary interests of the master. As opulation pressed harder upon the and, without any improvement in agriculture, the maintenance of the serfs necessarily became more costly, and their labour less valuable. With the rate of wages such as it is in Ireland, or in England (where, in proportion to its efficiency, labour is quite as cheap as in Ireland), no one can for a moment imagine that slavery could be profitable. If the Irish peasantry were slaves, their masters would be as willing, as their landlords now are, to pay large sums merely to get rid of them. In the rich and underpeopled soil of the West India islands, there is just as little doubt that the balance of profits between free, and slave labour was greatly on the side of slavery, and that the compensation granted to the slaveowners for its abolition was not more, perhaps even less, than an equivalent for their loss. More needs not be said here on a cause so completely judged and decided as that of slavery. Its demerits are no longer a question requiring argu: ment; though the temper of mind manifested by the larger part of the influential classes in Great Britain respecting the struggle now, taking place in America, shows how grievously the feelings of the present generation of Englishmen, on this subject, have fallen behind the positive acts of the
generation which preceded them. That the sons of the deliverers of the West
Indian Negroes should see with complacency, and encourage by their sympathies, the foundation of a great and powerful military commonwealth, pool by its principles and driven y its strongest interests to be the armed propagator of slavery through every region of the earth into which its power can penetrate, discloses a mental state in the leading portion of our higher and middle classes, which it is melancholy to see, and will be a lasting blot in English history. Fortunately they have stopped short of actually aiding, otherwise than by words, the nefarious enterprise to which they have not been ashamed of wishing success; and it is now probable that at the expense of the best blood of the Free States, but to their immeasurable elevation in mental and moral worth, the curse of slavery will be cast out from the great American republic, to find its last temporary refuge in Brazil and Cuba. No European country, except Spain alone, any longer participates in the enormity. Even serfage has now ceased to have a legal existence in Europe: Denmark has the honour of being the first Continental nation which imitated England in liberating its colonial slaves; and the abolition of slavery was one of the earliest acts of the heroic and calumniated Provisional Government of France. The Dutch Government was not long behind, and its colonies and dependencies are now, I believe, without exception, free from actual slavery: though forced labour for the public authorities is still a re. cognised institution in Java, soon, we may hope, to be exchanged for complete personal freedom.
OF PEASANT PROPRIEToRs.
§ 1. IN, the régime of peasant properties, as in that of slavery, the whole produce belongs to a single owner, and the distinction of rent, profits, and wages, does not exist. In all other respects, the two states of society are the extreme opposites of each other. The one is the state of greatest oppression and degradation to the labouring class. The other is that in which they are the most uncontrolled arbiters of their own lot. The advantage, however, of small properties in land, is one of the most disputed questions in the * of political economy. On the Continent, though there are some dissentients from the prevailing opinion, the benefit of having a numerous proprietary population exists in the minds of most eople in the form of an axiom. But É. authorities are either unaware of the judgment of Continental agriculfurists, or are content to put it aside, on the plea of their having no experience of large properties in favourable circumstances: the advantage of large properties being only felt where there are also large farms; and as this, in arable districts, implies a greater accumulation of capital than usually exists on the Continent, the great Continental estates, except in the case of grazing farms, are mostly let out for cultivation in small portions. There is some truth in this; but the argument admits of being retorted; for if the Continent knows little, by experience, of cultivation on a large scale and by large capital, the generality of English writers are no better acquainted practically with peasant proprietors, and have almost always the most erroneous ideas of their social condition and mode of life. Yet the old traditions even of England are on the same side with the general opinion of the Continent. The “yeomanry” who were vaunted as the glory of England while they existed,
and have been so much mourned over since they disappeared, were either small proprietors or small farmers, and if they were mostly the last, the character they bore for sturdy independence is the more noticeable. There is a part of England, unfortunately a very small part, where peasant proprietors are still common; for such are the “statesmen” of Cumberland and Westmoreland, though they pay, I believe, generally if not universally, certain customary dues, which, being fixed, no more affect their character of proprietors than the land-tax does. There is but one voice, among those acquainted with the country, on the admirable ef. fects of this tenure of land in those counties. No other agricultural population in England could have furnished the originals of Wordsworth's peasantry.*
* In Mr. Wordsworth's little descriptive work on the scenery of the Lakes, he speaks of the upper part of the dales as having been for centuries “a perfect republic of shepherds and agriculturists, proprietors. for the most part, of the lands which they occupied and cultivated. The plough of each man was confined to the maintenance of his own family, or to the occasional accommodation of his neighbour. Two or three cows furnished each family with milk and cheese. The chapel was the only edifice that presided over these dwellings, the supreme head of this pure commonwealth ; the members of which existed in the midst of a powerful empire, like an ideal society, or an organized community, whose constitution had been imposed and regulated by the mountains which protected it. Neither high-born nobleman, knight, nor esquire was here; but many of these humble sons of the hills had a consciousness that the land which they walked over and tilled had for more than five hundred years been possessed by men of their name and blood. . . . Corn was grown in these vales sufficient upon each estate to furnish bread for each family, no more. The storms and moisture of the climate induced them to sprinkle their upland property with outhouses of native stone, as places of shelter for their sheep, where, in tempestuous weather, food was distributed to them. Every family spun from its own flock the wool with which it was clothed; a
The general system, however, of English cultivation, affording no experience to render the nature and operation of peasant properties familiar, and Englishmen being in general profoundly ignorant of the agricultural economy of other countries, the very idea of peasant proprietors is strange to the English mind, and does not easily find access to it. Even the forms of language stand in the way: the familiar designation for owners of land being “landlords,” a term to which “tenants” is always understood as a correlative. When, at the time of the famine, the suggestion of peasant properties as a means of Irish improvement found its way into parliamentary and newspaper discussions, there were writers of pretension to whom the word “proprietor” was so far from conveying any distinct idea, that they mistook the small holdings of Irish cottier tenants for peasant properties. The subject being so little understood, I think it important, before entering into the theory of it, to do something towards showing how the case stands as to matter of fact; by exhibiting, at greater length than would otherwise be admissible, some of the testimony which exists respecting the state of cultivation, and the comfort and happiness of the cultivators, in those countries and parts of countries, in which the greater part of the land has neither landlord nor farmer, other than the labourer who tills the soil.
§ 2. I lay no stress on the condition of North America, where, as is well known, the land, wherever free from the curse of slavery, is almost universally owned by the same person who holds the plough. A country combining the natural fertility of America with the knowledge and arts
weaver was here and there found among them, and the rest of their wants was supplied by the produce of the yarn, which they iarded and spun in their own houses, and arried to market either under their arms, or more frequently on packhorses, a small train taking their way weekly down the valley, or over the mountains, to the most commodious town.”—A Description of the Seenery of the Lakes in the North of England, 3rd edit. pp 50 to 53 and 63 to 65.
of modern Europe, is so peculiarly circumstanced, that scarcely anything, except insecurity of property or a ty. rannical government, could materially impair the prosperity of the industrious classes. I might, with Sismondi, insist more strongly on the case of ancient Italy, especially Latium, that Campagna which then swarmed with inhabitants in the very regions which under a contrary régime have become uninhabitable from malaria. But I prefer taking the evidence of the same writer on things known to him by personal observation. “It is especially Switzerland,” says M. de Sismondi, “which should be trayersed and studied to judge of the happiness of peasant proprietors. It is from Switzerland we learn that agriculture practised by the very persons who enjoy its fruits, suffices to procure great comfort for a very numerous population; a great independence of character, arising from independence of position; a great commerce of consumption, the result of the easy circumstances of all the inhabitants, even in a country whose climateis rude, whose soil is but moderately fertile, and where late frosts and inconstancy of seasons often blight the hopes of the cultivator. It is impossible to see without admiration those timber houses of the poorest peasant, so vast, so well closed in, so covered with carvings. In the interior, spacious corridors separate the different chambers of the numerous family; each chamber has but one bed, which is abundantly furnished with curtains, bedclothes, and the whitest linen; carefully kept furniture surrounds it; the wardrobes are filled with linen; the dairy is vast, well aired, and of exquisite cleanness; under the same roof is a great provision of corn, salt meat, cheese and wood; in the cow-houses are the finest and most carefully tended cattle in Europe; the garden is planted with flowers, both men and women are cleanly and warmly clad, the wo. men preserve with pride their ancient costume; all carry in their faces the impress of health and strength. Let other nations boast of their opulence,