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the strongest possible check upon undue increase of population.”* In Flanders, according to Mr. Fauche, the British Consul at Ostend,+ “farmer's sons and those who have the means to become farmers will delay their marriage until they get possession of a farm.” Once a farmer, the next object is to become a proprietor. “The first thing a Dane does with his savings,” says Mr. Browne, the Consul at Copenhagen, “is to purchase a clock, then a horse and cow, which he hires out, and which pays a good interest. Then his ambition is to become a petty, proprietor, and this class of persons is better off than any in Denmark. Indeed, I know of no people in any country who have more easily within their reach all that is really necessary for life than this class, which is very large in comparison with that of labourers.” But the experience which most decidedly contradicts the asserted tendency of peasant proprietorship to produce excess of population, is the case of France. In that country the experiment is not tried in the most favourable circumstances, a large proportion of the properties being too small. The number of landed proprietors in France is not exactly ascertained, but on no estimate does it fall much short of five millions; which, on the lowest calculation of the number of persons of a family (and for France
* The Prussian minister of statistics, in a work (Condition of the People in Prussia) which I am obliged to quote at second hand from Mr. Kay, after proving by figures the great and progressive increase of the consumption of food and clothing per head of the population, from which he justly infers a corresponding increase of the productiveness of agriculture, continues: “The division of estates has, since 1831, proceeded more and more throughout the country. There are now many more small independent proprietors than formerly. Yet, however many complaints of pauperism are heard among the dependent labourers, we never hear it complained that pauperism is increasing among the peasant proprietors.”— Kay, i. 262-6. f In a communication to the Commissioners of Poor Law Enquiry, p. 640 of their Foreign Communications, Appendix F to their First Report. t Ibid. 268. P. E.
it ought to be a low calculation), shows much more than half the population as either possessing, or entitled to inherit, landed property. A majority of the properties are so small as not to ... a subsistence to the proprietors, of whom, according to some computations, as many as three millions are obliged to eke out their means of support either by working for hire, or by taking additional land, generally on metayer tenure. When the property possessed is not sufficient to relieve the possessor from dependence on wages, the condition of a proprietor loses much of its characteristic efficacy as a check to over-population: and if the prediction so often made in Eng land had been realized, and France had become a “pauper warren,” the experiment would have proved nothing against the tendencies of the same system of agricultural economy in other circumstances. But what is the fact? That the rate of increase of the French population is the slowest in Europe. During the generation which the Revolution raised from the extreme of hopeless wretchedness to sudden abundance, a great increase of population took place. But a generation has grown up, which, having been born in improved circumstances, has not learnt to be miserable; and upon them the spirit of thrift operates most conspicuously, in keeping the increase of population within the increase of national wealth. In a table, drawn up by Professor Rau, * of the
* The following is the table (see p. 168 of
the Belgian translation of Mr. Rau's large work): Per cent.
rate of annual increase of the populations of various countries, that of France, from 1817 to 1827, is stated at for per cent, that of England during a similar decennial period being 11%; annually, and that of the United States nearly 3. According to the official returns as analyzed by M. Legoyt,” the increage of the population, which from 1801 to 1806 was at the rate of 128 per cent annually, averaged only 0.47 per cent from 1806 to 1831; from 1831 to 1836 it averaged 0-60 per cent; from 1836 to 1841, 0:41 per cent, and from 1841 to 1846, 0.68 per
Jonnès, he adds, is not entitled to implicit
- Per cent.
A very carefully prepared statement, by M. Legoyt, in the Journal des Economistes for May 1847, which brings up the results for France to the census of the pre
* Journal des Economistes for March and May 1847.
f M. Legoyt is of opinion that the population was understated in 1841, and the increase "between that time and 1846 consequently overstated, and that the real increase during tthe whole period was something intermediate between the last two averages, or not much more than one in two hundred.
f Journal des Economistes for February 1847. In the Journal for January 1865, M. !Legoyt gives some of the numbers slightly altered, and, I presume, corrected. The series of percentages is 1:28, 0.31, 0-69, 0-60, 0:41, 0-68, 022, and 0.20. The last census, that of 1861, shows a slight reaction, the percentage, independently of the newly acquired departments, being 0-32.
§ The following are the numbers given by M. Legoyt :
From 1824 to 1828 annual number of births 981,914, being 1 in 32:30 of the population. ,, 1829 to 1833 py 1 in 34'00
ontine last two years the births, according to M. Legoyt, were swelled by the effects of a considerable immigration. “This diminution of births,” he observes, “w.ile there is a coalstant, though not a rapid increase both of population and of marriages, can only be attributed (to the progress of prudence and forethought in families. It was a foreseen consequence of ‘our civil and social institutions, which, producing a daily increasing subdivision of fortunes,
capital increases much more rapidly, has caused a noticeable improvement in the condition of the labouring class. The circumstances of that portion of the class who are landed proprietors are not easily ascertained with precision, being of course extremely variable : but the mere labourers, who derived no direct benefit from the changes in landed property which took place at the Revolution, have unquestionably much improved in condition since that period.* Dr. Rau testifies
to a similar fact in the case of another country in which the subdivision of the land is probably excessive, the Palatinate.*
I am not aware of a single authentio instance which supports the assertion that rapid multiptication is promoted by peasant properties. Instances may undoubtedly be cited of its not being prevented by them, and one of the principal of these is Belgium; the rospects of which, in respect to popuation, are at present a matter of considerable uncertainty. Belgium has the most rapidly increasing population on the Continent; and when the circumstances of the country require, as they must soon do, that this rapidity should be checked, there will be a considerable strength of existing habit to be broken through. One of the unfavourable circumstances is the great power possessed over the minds of the people by the Catholic priesthood, whose influence is everywhere strongly exerted against restraining o As yet, however, it must reineinbered that the indefatigable industry and great agricultural skill of the people have rendered the existing rapidity of increase practically innocuous; the great number of large estates still undivided affording by their adual dismemberment, a resource for the necessary augmentation of the gross produce; and there are, besides, many large manufacturing towns, and mining and coal districts, which attract wnd employ a considerable portion of the annual increase of population.
both landed and moveable, call forth in our
found in the important work of M. Léollee
§ 5. But even where peasant properties are accompanied o an exceSS of numbers, this evil is not necessarily attended with the additional economical disadvantage of too great a subdivision of the land. It does not follow because landed property is minutely divided, that farms will be so. As large properties are perfectly compatible with small farms, so are small properties with farms of an adequate size; and a subdivision of occupancy is not an inevitable consequence of even undue multiplication among peasant
o: As might be expected rom their admirable intelligence in things relating to their occupation, the Flemish peasantry have long learnt this lesson. “The habit of not divid. ing properties,” says Dr. Rau,” “and the opinion that this is advantageous, have been so completely preserved in Flanders, that even now, when a peasant dies leaving several children, they do not think of dividing his patrimony, though it be neither entailed nor settled in trust; they prefer selling it entire, and sharing the proceeds, considering it as a jewel which loses its value when it is divided.” That the same feeling must prevail widely even in France, is shown by the great frequency of sales of land, amounting in ten years to a fourth port of the whole soil of the country; and M. Passy, in his tract “On the Changes in the Agricultural Condition of the Department of the Eure since the year 1800,"+ states other facts tending to the same conclusion. “The example,” says he, “of this department attests that there does not exist, as some writers have imagined, between the distribution of property and that of cultivation, a connexion which tends invincibly to assimilate them. In no portion of it have changes of ownership had a perceptible influence on the size of holdings. While, in districts of small farming, lands belonging to the same owner are ordinarily distributed among many tenants, so neither is it uncommon, in places where the grande culture prevails, for the same farmer to rent the lands of several roprietors. In the plains of Vexin, in particular, many active and rich cultivators do not content themselves with a single farm; others add to the lands of their principal holding, all those in the neighbourhood which they are able to hire, and in this manner make up a total extent which in some cases reaches or exceeds two hundred hectares” (five hundred English acres). “The more the estates are dismembered, the more frequent do this sort of arrangements become; and as they conduce to the interest of all concerned, it is probable that time will confirm them.” “In some places,” says M. de Lavergne,” “in the neighbourhood of Paris, for example, where the advantages of the grande culture become evident, the size of farms tends to increase, several farms are thrown together into one, and farmers enlarge their holdings by renting parcelles from a number of different proprietors. Elsewhere farms as well as properties of too great extent, tend to division. Cultivation spontaneously finds out the organization which suits it best.” It is a striking fact, stated by the same eminent writer;f that the departments which have the greatest number of small separate accounts with the taxcollector, are the Nord, the Somme, the Pas de Calais, the Seine Inférieure, the Aisne, and the Oise; all of them among the richest and best cultivated, and the first-mentioned of them the very richest and best cultiwated, in France. Undue subdivision, and excessive smallness of holdings, are undoubtedly a prevalent evil in some countries of easant proprietors, and particularly in parts of Germany and France. The governments of Bavaria and Nassau have thought it necessary to impose a legal limit to subdivision, and the Prussian Government unsuccessfully roposed the same measure to the £states of its Rhenish Provinces. But I do not think it will anywhere be found that the petite culture is the system of the peasants, and the grande culture that of the great landlords:
quality. “It is now considerably better than about forty years ago, when the poorer class obtained less flesh-meat and puddings, and no cheese, butter, and the like.” (p. 20.) “Such an increase of wages” (adds the Professor) “which must be estimated not in money, but in the quantity of necessaries
- and conveniences which the labourer is ena
bled to procure, is, by universal admission, a proof that the mass of capital must have increased.” It proves not only this, but also that the labouring population has not inereased in an equal degree ; and that, in this 2nstance as well as in France, the division of the land, even when excessive, has been compatible with a strengthening of the prudential checks to population,
* Page 331 of the Brussels translation. He cites as an authority, Schwerz, Papers on Agriculture, i. 185.
f One of the many important papers which have appeared in the Journal des Economistes, the organ of the principal political economists of Frances, and doing great and increasing honour to their knowledge and ability. M. Passy's essay has been reprinted separately as a pamphlet.
on the contrary, wherever the small properties are divided among too many proprietors, I believe it to be true that the large properties also are par. celled out, among too many farmers, and that the cause is the same in both cases, a backward state of capital, skill, and agricultural enterprise. There is reason to believe that the subdivision in France is not more excessive than is accounted for by this cause; that it is diminishing, not increasing; and that the terror expressed in some quarters at the progress of the morcellement, is one of the most groundless of real or pretended panics.” If peasant properties have any effect in promoting subdivision beyond the degree which corresponds to the agri
* Rural Economy of France, p. 455.
ł P. 117. See, for facts of a similar tendency, pp. 141,250, and other passages of the same important treatise; which, on the other hand, equally abounds with evidence of the mischievous effect of subdivision when too minute, or when the nature of the soil and of its products is not suitable to it.
* Mr. Laing, in his latest publication “observations on the social and Political State of the European People in 1848 and 1849,” a book devoted to the glorification of England, and the disparagement of everything elsewhere which others, or even he himself informer works, had thought wortot of praise, argues that “although the lan itself is not divided and subdivided” on the death of the proprietor, “the value of the land is, and with effects almost as prejudicial to social progress. The value of each share becomes a debt or burden upon the land.” Consequently the condition of the agricultural population is retrograde; “each generation is worse off than the preceding one, although the land is neither less nor more divided, nor worse cultivated.” And this he gives as the explanation of the great indebtedness of the small landed proprietors in France (pp. 97-9). If these statements were correct, they would invalidate all which Mr. Laing affirmed so positively in other writings, and repeats in this, respecting the peculiar efficacy of the possession of land in preventing over-population. But he is entirely mistaken as to the matter of fact. In the only country of which he speaks from actual residence, Norway, he does not pretend that the condition of the peasant proprietors is deteriorating. The facts already cited prove that in respect to Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland, the assertion is equally wide of the mark; and what has been shown respecting the slow increase of population in France, demonstrates that if the condition of the French peasantry was deteriorating, it could not be from the cause supposed by Mr. Laing. The truth I believe to be that in every country without exception, in which peasant properties prevail, the condition of the people is improving, the produce of the land and even its fertility increasing, and from the larger surplus which remains after feeding the agricultural classes, the towns are augmenting both in population and in the well-being of their inhabitants.