Зображення сторінки

it is evident that their case affords no argument against the metayer system in its better form. . A population who could call nothing their own—who, like the Irish cottiers, could not in any contingency be worse off—had nothing to restrain them from multiplying, and subdividing the land, until stopped by actual starvation. We shall find a very different picture, by the most accurate authorities, of the metayer cultivation of Italy. In the first place, as to subdivision. In Lombardy,according to Châteauvieux*, there are few farms which exceed sixty acres, and few which have less than ten. These farms are all occupied by metayers at half profit. They invariably display “an extentfandarichnessin buildings rarely known in any other country in Europe.” Their plan “affords the greatest room with the least extent of building; is best adapted to arrange and secure the crop; and is, at the same time, the most economical, and the least exposed to accidents by fire.” The court-yard “exhibits a whole so regular and commodious, and a system of such care and good order, that our dirty and ill-arranged farms can convey no adequate idea of.” The same description applies to Piedmont. The rotation of crops is excellent. “I should think; no country can bring so large a portion of its produce to market as Piedmont.” Though the soil is not naturally very fertile, “the number of cities is prodigiously great.” The agriculture must, therefore, be eminently favourable to the net as well as to the gross produce of the land. “Each plough works thirty-two acres in the season. . . . Nothing can be more perfect or neater than the hoeing and moulding up the maize, when in full growth, by a single plough, with a pair of oxen, without injury to a “single plant, while all the weeds are effectually destroyed.” So much for agricultural skill. “Nothing can be so excellent as the crop which precedes and that which follows it.” The wheat “is thrashed by a cylinder,

* Letters from Italy, translated by Rigby, 16

p. 16. # Ibid. pp. 19, 20. Ibid., pp. 24–31.

drawn by a horse, and guided by a boy, while the labourers turn over the straw with forks. This process lasts nearl a fortnight: it is quick and economical, and completely gets out the grain. . . . . In no part of the world are the economy and the management of the land better understood than in Piedmont, and this explains the phenomenon of its great population and immense export of provisions.” All this under metayer cultivation. Of the valley of the Arno, in its whole extent, both above and below Florence, the same writer thus speaks;* —“Forests of olive-trees covered the lower parts of the mountains, and by their foliage concealed an infinite number of small farms, which peopled these parts of the mountains: chestnut-trees raised their heads on the higher slopes, their healthy verdure contrasting with the pale tint of the olive-trees, and spreading a brightness over this amphitheatre. The road was bordered on each side with villagehouses, not more than a hundred paces from each other. . . . . They are placed at a little distance from the road, and separated from it by a wall, and a terrace of some feet in extent. On the wall are commonly placed many vases of antique forms, in which flowers, aloes, and young orange-trees are growing. The house itself is completely covered with vines. . . . . . Before these houses we saw groups of peasant females dressed in white linen, silk corsets, and straw hats ornamented with flowers. . . These houses being so near each other, it is evident that the land annexed to them must be small, and that property, in these valleys, must be very much divided; the extent of these domains being from three to ten acres. The land lies round the houses, and is divided into fields by small canals, or rows of trees, Some of which are mulberry-trees, but the greatest number poplars, the leaves of which are eaten by the cattle. Each tree supports a vine. . . . . . These divisions, arrayed in oblong squares, are large enough to be cultivated by a plough without wheels, * Pp. 73–9.

and a pair of oxen. There is a pair of oxen between ten or twelve of the farmers; they employ them successively in the cultivation of all the farms. . . . . Almost every farm’maintains a well-looking horse, which goes in a small two-wheeled cart, neatly made, and painted red; they serve for all the purposes of draught for the farm, and and also to convey the farmer's daughters to mass and to balls. Thus, on holidays, hundreds of these little carts are seen flying in all directions, carrying the young women, decorated with flowers and ribbons.” This is not a picture of poverty; and so far as agriculture is concerned, it effectually redeems metayer cultivation, as existing in these countries, from the reproaches of English writers; but with respect to the condition of the cultivators, Châteauvieux's testimony is, in some points, not so favourable. “It iso neither the natural fertility of the soil, nor the abundance which strikes the eye of the traveller, which constitute the well-being of its inhabitants. It is the number of individuals, among whom the total produce is divided, which fixes the portion that each is enabled to enjoy. Here it is very small. I have thus far, indeed, exhibited a delightful country, well watered, fertile, and covered with a rpetual vegetation; I have shown it ivided into countless inclosures, which, like so many beds in a garden, display a thousand varying productions; I have shown, that to all these inclosures are attached well-built houses, clothed with vines, and decorated with flowers; but, on entering them, we find a total want of all the conveniences of life, a table more than frugal, and a general appearance of privation.” Is not Châteauvieux here unconsciously contrasting the condition of the metayers with that of the farmers of other countries, when the proper standard with which to comare it is that of the agricultural day. labourers? Arthur Young says, “I was assured that these metayers are (especially near * Pp. 73–6. ! Travels, vol. ii, p. 156,

Florence) much at their ease; that on holidays they are dressed remarkably well, and not without objects of luxury, as silver, gold, and silk: and live well, on plenty of bread, wine, and legumes. In some instances this may possibly be the case, but the general fact is contrary. It is absurd to think that metayers, upon such a farm as is cultivated by a pair of oxen, can live at their ease; and a clear proof of their poverty is this, that the landlord, who provides half the live stock, is often obliged to lend the peasant money to procure his half. . . . . . The metayers, not in the vicinity of the city, are so poor, that landlords even lend them corn to eat: their food is black bread, made of a mixture with vetches; and their drink is very little wine, mixed with water, and called aquarolle; meat on Sundays only; their dress very ordinary.” Mr. Jones admits the superior comfort of the metayers near Florence, and attributes it partly to straw-plaiting, by which the women of the peasantry can earn, according to Châteauvieux, * from fifteen to twenty pence a-day. But even this fact tells in favour of the metayer system; for in those parts of England in which either straw-plaiting or lace-making is carried on by the women and children of the labouring class, as in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, the condition of the class is not better, but rather worse than elsewhere, the wages of agricultural labour being depressed by a full equivalent. In spite of Châteauvieux's statement respecting the poverty of the metayers, his opinion, in respect to Italy at least, is given in favour of the system. “It occupies; and constantly interests the proprietors, which is never the case with great proprietors who lease their estates at fixed rents. It establishes a community of interests, and relations of kindness between the proprietors and the metayers; a kindness which I have often witnessed, and from which result great advantages in the moral condition of society. . The proprietor, under this system, always * Ietters from Italy, p. 75. f Ibid. pp. 295-6.

interested in the success of the crop, never refuses to make an advance upon it, which the land promises to repay with interest. It is by these advances, and by the hope thus in

spired, that the rich proprietors oil

land have gradually perfected the whole rural economy of Italy. It is to them that it owes the numerous systems of irrigation which water its soil, as also the establishment of the terrace culture on the hills: gradual but permanent improvements, which common peasants, for want of means, could never have effected, and which could never have been accomplished by the farmers, nor by the great roprietors who let their estates at #. rents, because they are not sufficiently interested. Thus the interested system forms of itself that alliance between the rich proprietor, whose means provide for the improvement of the culture, and the metayer, whose care and labours are directed, by a common interest, to make the most of these advances.”, But the testimony most favourable to the system is that of Sismondi, which has the advantage of being specific, and from accurate knowledge; his information being not that of a traveller, but that of a resident proprietor, intimately acquainted with rural life. His statements apply to Tuscany generally, and more particularly to the Val di Nievole, in which his own property lay, and which is not within the supposed privileged circle immediately round Florence. It is one of the districts in which the size of farms appears to be the smallest. The following is his description of the dwellings and mode of life of the metayers of that district.* “The house, built of good walls with lime and mortar, has always at least one story, sometimes two, above the ground floor. On the ground floor are generally the kitchen, a cowhouse for twohorned cattle, and the storehouse, which takes its name, tinaia, from the iarge vats (tini) in which the wine is put to ferment, without any pressing:

* From his Sixth Essay, formerly referred to.

it is there also that the metayer locks up his casks, his oil, and his grain. Almost always there is also a shed supported against the house, where he can work under cover to mend his tools, or chop forage for his cattle. On the first and second stories are two, three, and often four bedrooms. The largest and most airy of these is generally destined by the metayer, in the months of May and June, to the bringing up of silkworms. Great chests to contain clothes and linen, and some wooden chairs, are the chief furniture of the chambers; but a newly-married wife always brings with her a wardrobe of walnut wood. The beds are uncurtained and unroofed, but on each of them, besides a good paillasse filled with the elastic straw of the maize plant, there are one or two mattresses of wool, or, among the poorest, of tow, a good blanket, sheets of strong hempen cloth, and on the best bed of the family a coverlet of silk padding, which is spread on festival days. The only fireplace is in the kitchen; and there also is the great wooden table where the family dines, and the benches; the great chest which serves at once for keeping the bread and other provisions, and for kneading; a to; complete though cheap assortment of pans, dishes, and earthenware plates: one or two metal lamps, a steelyard, and at least two copper pitchers for drawing and holding water. The linen and the working clothes of the family have all b2en spun by the women of the house. The i. both of men and of women, are of the stuff called mezza lama when thick, mola when thin, and made of a coarse thread of hemp or tow, filled up with cotton or wool; it is dried by the same women by whom it was spun. It would hardly be believed what a quantity of cloth and of mezza lana the easant women are able to accumuate by assiduous industry; how many sheets there are in the store; what a number of shirts, jackets, trowsers, petticoats, and gowns are possessed by every member of the family. By way of example I add in a note the inventory of the peasant family best known to me: it is neither one of the richest nor of the poorest, and lives happily by its industry on half the produce of less than ten arpents of land.* The young women had a marriage portion of fifty crowns, twenty paid down, and the rest by instalments of two every year. The Tuscan crown is worth six francs [4s. 10d.]. The commonest marriage portion of a peasant girl in the other parts of Tuscany, where the metairies are larger, is 100 crowns, 600 francs.” Is this poverty, or consistent with overty? When a common, M. de Sismondi even says the common, marriage portion of a metayer's daughter is 24!. English money, equivalent to at least 50l. in Italy and in that rank of life; when one whose dowry is only half that amount, has the wardrobe described, which is represented by Sismondi as a fair average; the class must be fully comparable, in general condition, to a large proportion even of capitalist farmers in other countries; and incomparably above the daylabourers of any country, except a new colony, or the United States. Very little can be inferred, against such evidence, from a traveller's impression of the poor quality of their food. . Its inexpensive character may be rather the effect of economy than of necessity. Costly feeding is not the favourite luxury of a southern people; their diet in all classes is principally vegetable, and no peasantry on the Continent has the superstition of the English labourer respecting white

[ocr errors]

* Inventory of the trousseau of Jane, daughter of Valente Papini, on her marriage with Giovacchino Landi, the 29th of April 1835, at Porta Vecchia, near Pescia:

“28 shifts, 7 best dresses (of particular fabrics of silk), 7 dresses of printed cotton, 2 winter working dresses (mezza lana), 3 summer working dresses and petticoats (mola), 3 white petticoats, 5 aprons of printed linen, 1 of black silk, 1 of black merinos, 9 coloured working aprons (mola), 4 white, 8 coloured, and 3 silk, handkerchiefs, 2 embroidered veils and one of tulle, 3 towels, 14 pairs of stockings, 2 hats (one of felt, the other of fine straw) ; 2 cameos set in gold, 2 olden earrings, 1 chaplet with two Roman rolver crowns, 1 coral necklace with its cross 3f gold. . . . All the richer married women of the class have, besides, the veste di seta, the great holiday dress, which they only wear four or five times in their lives.”

bread. But the nourishment of the Tuscan peasants, according to Sismondi, “is wholesome and various: its basis is an excellent wheaten bread, brown, but pure from bran and from all mixture.” In the bad season, they take but two meals a day: at ten in the morning they eat their pollenta, at the beginning of the night their soup, and after it bread with a relish of some sort (companatico). In summer they have three meals, at eight, at one, and in the evening; but the fire is lighted only once a day, for dinner, which consists of soup, and a dish of salt meat or dried fish, or haricots, or greens, which are eaten with bread. Salt meat enters in a very small quantity into this diet, for it is reckoned that forty pounds of salt pork per head suffice amply for a year's provision; twice a week a small piece of it is put into the soup. On Sundays they have always on the table a dish of fresh meat, but a piece which weighs only a ound or a pound and a half suffices or the whole family, however numerous it may be. It must not be forgotten that the Tuscan peasants generally produce olive oil for their own consumption: they use it not only for lamps, but as seasoning to all the vegetables prepared for the table, which it renders both more savoury and more nutritive. At breakfast their food is bread, and sometimes cheese and fruit; at supper, bread and salad. Their drink is composed of the inferior wine of the country, the vinella or piquette made by fermenting in water the pressed skins of the grapes. They always, however, reserve a little of their best wine for the day when they thresh their corn, and for some festivals which are kept in families. About fifty bottles of vinella per annum, and five sacks of wheat (about 1000 pounds of bread) are considered as the supply necessary for a full grown man.” he remarks of Sismondi on the moral influences of this state of society are not less worthy of attention. The rights and obligations of the metayer being fixed by usage, and all taxes and rates being paid by the proprietor, "the metayer has the advantages of landed property without the burthen of defending it. It is the landlord to whom, with the land, belong all its disputes: the tenant lives in peace with all his neighbours; between him and them there is no motive for rivality or distrust, he preserves a good understanding with them, as well as with his landlord, with the taxcollector, and with the church : he sells little, and buys little ; he touches little money, but he seldom has any to pay. The gentle and kindly character of the Tuscans is often spoken of, but without sufficiently remarking the cause which has contributed most to keep up that gentleness; the tenure, by which the entire class of farmers, more than three-fourths of the population, are kept free from almost every occasion for quarrel.” The fixity of tenure which the metayer, so long as he fulfils his own obligations, possesses by usage, though not by law, gives him the local attachments, and almost the strong sense of personal interest, characteristic of a proprietor. “The metayer lives on his metairie as on his inheritance, loving it with affection, labouring incessantly to improve it, confiding in the future, and making sure that his land will be tilled after him by his children and his children's children. In fact, the majority of metayers live from generation to generation on the same farm; they know it in its details with a minuteness which the feeling of property can alone give. The plots terrassed up, one above the other, are often not above four feet wide; but there is not one of them, the qualities of which the metayer has not studied. This one is dry, that other is cold and damp : here the soil is deep, there it is a mere crust which hardly covers the rock; wheat thrives best on one, rye on another: here it would be labour wasted to sow Indian corn, elsewhere the soil is unfit for beans and lupins, further off flax will grow admirably, the edge of this brook will be suited for hemp. In this way one learns with surprise from the metayer, that in a space of ten arpents, the soil, the aspect, and

the inclination of the ground oresent greater variety than a rich farmer is generally able to distinguish in a farm of five hundred acres. For the latter knows that he is only a temporary occupant; and moreover, that he must conduct his operations by general rules, and neglect details. But the experienced metayer has had his intelligence so awakened by interest and affection, as to be the best of observers; and with the whole future before him, he thinks not of himself alone, but of his children and grandchildren. Therefore, when he plants an olive, a tree which lasts for centuries, and excavates at the bottom of the hollow in which he plants it, a channel to let out the water by which it would be injured, he studies all the strata of the earth which he has to dig out.”

§ 4. I do not offer these quotations as evidence of the intrinsic excellence of the metayer system; but they surely suffice to prove that neither “land miserably cultivated” In Or a people in “the most abject poverty,” have any necessary connexion with it, and that the unmeasured wituperation lavished upon the system by English writers, is grounded on an

* Of the intelligence of this interesting people, M. de Sismondi speaks in the most favourable terms. Few of them can read ; but there is often one member of the family destined for the priesthood, who reads to them on winter evenings. Their language differs little from the purest Italian. The taste for improvisation in verse is general. “The peasants of the Vale of Nievole frequent the theatre in summer on festival days, from nine to eleven at night: their admission costs them little more than five French sous [2}d]. Their favourite author is Alfieri; the whole history of the Atridae is familiar to these people who cannot read, and who seek from that austere poet a relaxation: from their rude labours.” Unlike most rustics, they find pleasure in the beauty of their country. “In the hills of the vale of Nievole there is in front of every house a threshing-ground, seldom of more than 25 or 30 square fathoms; it is often the only level space in the whole farm : it is at the same time a terrace which commands the plains and the valley, and looks out upon a delightful country. Scarcely ever have I stood still to admire it, without the metayer's coming out to enjoy my admiration, and point out with his finger the beauties which he thought might have escaped my notice.”

« НазадПродовжити »