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santry of Brabant and East Flanders in the disastrous year 1846-47. The evidence which I have cited from a writer conversant with the subject, and having no economical theory to support, shows that the distress, whatever may have been its severity, arose from no insufficiency in these little properties to supply abundantly, in any ordinary circumstances, the wants of all whom they have to maintain. It arose from the essential condition to which those are subject who employ land of their own in growing their own food, namely, that the vicissitudes of the seasons must be borne by themselves, and cannot, as in the case of large farmers, be shifted from them to the consumer. When we remember the season of 1846, a partial failure of all kinds of grain, and an almost total one of the potato, it is no wonder that in so unusual a calamity the produce of six acres, half of them sown with flax, hemp, or oil seeds, should fall short of a year's provision for a family. But we are not to contrast the distressed Flemish peasant with an English capitalist who farms several hundred acres of land. If the peasant were an Englishman, he would not be that capitalist, but a day-labourer under a capitalist. And is there no distress, in times of dearth, among day-labourers? Was there none, that year, in countries where small proprietors and small farmers are unknown 2 I am aware of no reason for believing that the distress was greater in Belgium, than corresponds to the proportional extent of the failure of crops compared with other countries.*
§ 6. The evidence of the beneficial operation of peasant properties in the Channel Islands is of so decisive a character, that I cannot help adding to the numerous citations already made,
* As much of the distress lately complained of in Belgium, as partakes in any degree of a permanent character, appears to be almost confined to the portion of the population who carry on manufacturing labour, either by itself or in conjunction with agricultural; and to be occasioned by a diminished demand for Belgic manufactures.
To the preceding testimonies respecting Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium, may
part of a description of the economical condition of those islands, by a writer who combines personal observation with an attentive study of the information afforded by others. . Mr. William Thornton, in his “Plea for Peasant Proprietors,” a book which by the excellence both of its materials and of its execution, deserves to be regarded as the standard work on that side of the question, speaks of the island of Guernsey in the following terms: “Not even in England is nearly so large a quantity of produce sent to market from a tract of such limited extent. This of itself might prove that the cultivators must be far removed above poverty, for being absolute owners of all the produce raised by them, they of course sell only what they do not themselves require. But the satisfactoriness of their condition is apparent to every observer. ‘The happiest community,' says Mr. Hill, ‘which it has ever been my lot to fall in with, is to be found in this little island of Guernsey.” “No matter,’ says Sir George Head, “to what point the traveller may choose to bend his way, comfort everywhere prevails.' What most surprises the English wisitor in his first walk or drive beyond the bounds of St. Peter's Port, is the appearance of the habitations with which the landscape is thickly studded. Many of them are such as in his own country would belong to persons of middle rank; but he is puzzled to guess what sort of people live in the others, which, though in general not large enough for farmers, are almost invariably much too good in every respect for day labourers. . . . . . Literally, in the whole island, with the exception of a few fishermen's huts, there is not one so mean as to be likened to the ordinary habitation of an English farm labourer. ‘Look,” says a late Bailiff of
be added the following from Niebuhr, re specting the Roman Campagna. In a letter from Tivoli, he says, “Wherever you find hereditary farmers, or small proprietors, there you also find industry and honesty. I believe that a man who would employ a large fortune in establishing small freeholds might put an end to robbery in the mountain districts.”—Life and Letters of Niebuhr, vol. ii. p. 149.
Guernsey, Mr. De L'Isle Brock, “at the hovels of the English, and compare them with the cottages of our peasantry.' . . . . Beggars are utterly unknown. . . . . . Pauperism, able-bodied pauperism at least, is nearly as rare as mendicancy. The Savings Banks accounts also bear witness to the general abundance enjoyed by the labouring classes of Guernsey. In the year 1841, there were in England, out of a population of nearly fifteen millions, less than 700,000 depositors, or one in every twenty persons, and the average amount of the deposits was 30l. In Guernsey, in the same year, out of a population of 26,000 the number of depositors was 1920, and the average amount of the deposits 40l.”* The evidence as to Jersey and Alderney is of a similar character. Of the efficiency and productiveness of agriculture on the small properties of the Channel Islands, Mr. Thornton produces ample evidence, the result of which he sums up as follows: “Thus it appears that in the two principal Channel Islands, the agricultural population is, in the one twice, and in the other, three times, as dense as in Britain, there being in the latter country only one cultivator to twenty-two acres of cultivated land, while in Jersey there is one to eleven, and in Guernsey one to seven acres. Yet the agriculture of these islands maintains, besides cultivators, non-agricultural populations, respectively four and five times as dense as that of Britain. This difference does not arise from any superiority of soil or climate possessed by the Channel Islands, for the former is naturally rather poor, and the latter is not better than in the southern counties of England. It is owing entirely to the assiduous care of the farmers, and to the abundant use of manure.”f “In the year 1837,” he says in another place,; “the average yield of wheat in the large farms of England was only twenty-one bushels, and the highest average for any one county was no more than twenty-six bushels. The
* A Plea for Peasant Proprietors. By William Thomas Thornton, pp. 99–104.
f Ibid. p. 38.
$ Ibid, p. 9.
highest average since claimed for the whole of England, is thirty bushels In Jersey, where the average size of farmsis only sixteen acres, the average po of wheat per acre was stated
y Inglis in 1834 to be thirty-six bushels; but it is proved by official tables to have been forty bushels in the five years ending with 1833. In Guernsey, where farms are still smaller, four quarters per acre, according to Inglis, is considered a good, but still a very common crop.” “Thirty shillings” an acre would be thought in England a very fair rent for middling land; but in the Channel Islands, it is only very inferior land that would not let for at least 4l.”
§ 7. It is from France, that impressions unfavourable to peasant properties are generally drawn; it is in France that the system is so often asserted to have brought forth its fruit in the most wretched possible agriculture, and to be rapidly reducing, if not to have already reduced, the peasantry, by subdivision of land, to the verge of starvation. It is difficult to account for the general prevalence of impressions so much the reverse of truth. The agriculture of France was wretched, and the peasantry in great indigence, before the Revolution. At that time they were not, so universally as at present, landed proprietors. There were, however, considerable districts of France where the land, even then, was to a great extent the property of the peasantry, and among these were many of the most conspicuous exceptions to the general bad agriculture and to the general poverty. An authority, on this point, not to be disputed, is Arthur Young, the inveterate enemy of small farms, the coryphaeus of the modern English school of agriculturists; who yet, travelling over nearly the whole of France in 1787, 1788, and 1789, when he finds remarkable excellence of cultivation, never hesitates to ascribe it to peasant property. “Ileaving Sauve,” says he,t
* A Plea for Peasant Proprietors, p. 32.
f Arthur Young's Travels in France, vol. i. p. 50.
“I was much struck with a large tract of land, seemingly nothing but huge rocks; yet most of it enclosed and planted with the most industrious attention. Every man has an olive, a mulberry, an almond, or a peach tree, and vines scattered among them; so that the whole ground is covered with the oddest mixture of these plants and bulging rocks, that can be conceived. The inhabitants of this village deserve encouragement for their industry; and if I were a French minister they should have it. They would soon turn all the deserts around them into gardens. Such a knot of active husbandmen, who turn their rocks into scenes of fertility, because I suppose their own, would do the same by the wastes, if animated by the same omnipotent principle.” Again: “Walk to Rossendal,” (near Dunkirk) “where M. le Brun has an improvement on the Dunes, which he very obligingly showed me. Between the town and that place is a great number of neat little houses, built each with its garden, and one or two fields enclosed, of most wretched blowing dune sand, naturally as white as snow, but improved by industry. The magic of property turns sand to gold.” And again :f. “Going out of Gange, I was surprised to find by far the greatest exertion in irrigation which I had yet seen in France; and then passed by some steep mountains, highly cultivated in terraces. Much watering at St. Lawrence. The scenery very interesting to a farmer. From Gange, to the mountain of rough ground which I crossed, the ride has been the most interesting which I have taken in France; the efforts of industry the most vigorous; the animation the most lively. An activity has been here, that has swept away all difficulties before it, and has clothed the very rocks with verdure. It would be a disgrace to common sense to ask the cause; the enjoyment of property must have done it. Give a man the secure possession of a bleak rock, and he will turn it into a garden; give him
* Arthur Young's Travels in France, vol. i. p. 88. f Ibid. p. 51.
a nine years lease of a galden, and he will convert it into a desert.” In his description of the country at the foot of the Western Pyrenees, he speaks no longer from surmise, but from knowledge. “Takeo the road to Moneng, and come presently to a scene which was so new to me in France, that I could hardly believe my own eyes. A succession of many wellbuilt, tight, and comfortable farming cottages built of stone and covered with tiles; each having its little garden, enclosed by clipt thorn-hedges, with plenty of peach and other, fruittrees, some fine oaks scattered in the hedges, and young trees nursed up with so much care, that nothing but the fostering attention of the owner could effect anything like it. To every house belongs a farm, perfectly well enclosed, with grass borders mown and neatly kept around the corn-fields, with gates to pass from one enclosure to another. There are some parts of England (where small yeomen still remain) that resemble this country of Béarn; but we have very little that is equal to what I have seen in this ride of twelve miles from Pau to Moneng. It is all in the hands of little proprietors, without the farms being so small as to occasion a vicious and miserable population. An air of neatness, warmth, and comfort breathes over the whole. It is visible in their new-built houses and stables; in their little gardens; in their hedges; in the courts before their doors; even in the coops for their poultry, and the sties for their hogs. A peasant does not think of rendering his pig comfortable, if his own happiness hang by the thread of a nine years' lease. We are now in Béarn, within a few miles of the cradle of Henry IV. Do they inherit these blessings from that good prince 2 The benignant genius of that good monarch seems to reign still over the country; each peasant has the fowl in the pot.” He frequently notices the excellence of the agriculture of French Flanders, where the farms “are all small, and
Arthur Young's Travels in France, Wol. 1,
much in the handsoflittle proprietors.” In the Pays de Caux, also a country of small properties, the agriculture was miserable; of which his explanation was, that it “is a manufacturing country, and farming is but a secondary pursuit to the cotton fabric, which spreads over the whole of it.”f The same district is still a seat of manufactures, and a country of small pro#." and is now, whether we judge rom the appearance of the crops or from the official returns, one of the best cultivated in France. In “Flanders, Alsace, and part of Artois, as well as on the banks of the Garonne, France possesses a husbandry equal to our own.”f Those countries, and a considerable part of Quercy, “are cultivated more like gardens than farms. Perhaps they are too much like gardens, #. the smallness of properties.”$ In those districts the admirable rotation of crops, so long practised in Italy, but at that time generally neglected in France, was already universal. “The rapid succession of crops, the harvest of one being but the signal of sowing immediately for a second,” (the same fact which strikes all observers in the valley of the Rhine,) “can scarcely be carried to greater perfection: and this is a point, perhaps, of all others the most essential to good husbandry, when such crops are so justly distributed as we generally find them in these provinces; cleaning and ameliorating ones being made the reparation for such as foul and ex}. It must not, however, be supposed that Arthur Young's testimony on the subject of peasant properties is uniformly favourable. In Lorraine, Champagne, and elsewhere, he finds the agriculture bad, and the small proprietors very miserable, in consequence, as he says, of the extreme subdivision of the land. His opinion is thus summed up:||—“Before I travelled, I conceived that small farms, in property, were very susceptible of good cultivation; ...' that the occupier of such, having * Young, pp. 322—4.
# Ibid. p. 325. # Ibid. vol. i. p. 357. § Ibid. p. 304. | Ibid. p. 412.
no rent to pay, might be sufficiently at his ease to work improvements, and carry on a vigorous husbandry; but what I have seen in France, has greatly lessened my good opinion of them. In Flanders, I saw excellent husbandry on properties of 30 to 100 acres; but we seldom find here such smallpatches of property as are common in other provinces. In Alsace, and on the Garonne, that is, on soils of such exuberant fertility as to demand no exertions, some small properties also are well cultivated. In Béarn, I passed through a region of little farmers, whose appearance, neatness, ease, and happiness charmed me; it was what property alone could, on a small scale, effect; but these were by no means contemptibly small; they are, as I judged by the distance from house to house, from 40 to 80 acres. Except these, and a very few other instances, I saw nothing respectable on small properties, except a most unremitting industry. Indeed, it is necessary to impress on the reader's mind, that though the husbandry I met with, in a great variety of instances on little properties, was as bad as can be well conceived, yet the industry of the possessors was so conspicuous, and so meritorious, that no commendations would be too great for it. It was sufficient to prove that property in land is, of all others, the most active instigator to severe and incessant labour. And this truth is of such force and extent, that I know no way so sure of carrying tillage to a mountain top, as by permitting, the adjoining villagers to acquire it in property; in fact, we see that in the mountains of Languedoc, &c., they have conveyed earth in baskets, on their backs, to form a soil where nature had denied it.” The experience, therefore, of this celebrated agriculturist, and apostle of the grande culture, may be said to be, that the effect of small properties, cultivated by peasant proprietors, is admirable when they are not too small: so small, namely, as not fully to occupy the timé and attention of the family; for he often complains, with great apparent reason, of the quantity of idle time which the peasantry had on their hands when the land was in very small portions, notwithstanding the ardour with which they toiled to improve their little patrimony, in every way which their knowledge oringenuity could suggest. He recommends, accordingly, that a limit of subdivision should be fixed by law; and this is by no means an indefensible proposition in countries, if such there are, where division, having already gone farther than the state of capital and the nature of the staple articles of cultivation render advisable, still continues progressive. That each peasant should have a patch of land, even in full property, if it is not sufficient to support him in comfort, is a system with all the disadvantages, and scarcely
any of the benefits, of small properties; since he must either live ir. o: on the produce of his land, or depend as habitually as if he had no landed Ossessions, on the wages of hired abour: which, besides, if all the holdings surrounding him are of similar dimensions, he i. little prospect of finding. The benefits of peasant properties are conditional on their not being too much subdivided; that is, on their not being required to maintain too many persons, in proportion to the produce that can be raised from them by those persons. The question resolves itself, }. most questions respecting the condition of the labouring classes, into one of population. Are small properties a stimulus to undue multiplication, or a check to it?
CONTINUATION OF THE SAME SUBJECT.
§ 1. BEFORE examining the influence of peasant properties on the ultimate economical interests of the labouring class, as determined by the increase of population, let us note the points respecting the moral and social influence of that territorial arrangement, which may be looked upon as established, either by the reason of the case, or by the facts and authorities cited in the preceding chapter.
The reader new to the subject must have been struck with the powerful impression made upon all the witnesses to whom I have referred, by what a Swiss statistical writer calls the “almost superhuman industry” of peasant proprietors.” On this point, at least, authorities are unanimous. Those who have seen only one country of peasant properties, always think the inhabitants of that country the most industrious in the world. There is as little doubt among observers, with
* * Canton Schaffhausen (before quoted), 53.
what feature in the condition of the peasantry this pre-eminent industry is connected. It is “the magic of proW. which, in the words of Arthur oung, “turns sand into gold.” The idea of property does not, however, necessarily imply that there should be no rent, any more than that there should be no taxes. It merely implies that the rent should be a fixed charge, not liable to be raised against the possessor by his own improvements, or by the will of a landlord. A tenant at a quit-rentis, to all intents and purposes, a proprietor; a copyholder is not less so than a freeholder. What is wanted is permanent possession on fixed terms. “Give a man the secure possession of a bleak rock, and he will turn it into a garden; give him a nine years' lease of a garden, and he will convert it into a desert.” The details which have been cited, and those, still more minute, to be found in the same authorities, concerning the habitually elaborate sys