Зображення сторінки

which irrigation is carried on in these glens and valleys shows a spirit of exertion and cooperation(I request particular attention to this point) “ to which the latter can show nothing similar. Hay being the principal winter support of live stock, and both it and corn, as well as potatoes, liable, from the shallow soil and powerful reflection of sunshine from the rocks, to be burnt and withered up, the greatest exertions are made to bring water from the head of each glen, along such a level as will give the command of it to each farmer at the head of his fields. This is done by leading it in wooden troughs (the half of a tree roughly scooped) from the highest perennial stream among the hills, through woods, across ravines, along the rocky, often perpendicular, sides of the glens, and from this main trough giving a lateral one to each farmer in passing the head of his farm. He distributes this supply by movable troughs among his fields; and at this season waters each rig successively with scoops like those used by bleachers in watering cloth, laying his trough between every two rigs. One would not believe, without seeing it, how very large an extent of land is traversed expeditiously by these artificial showers. The extent of the main troughs is very great. In one glen I walked ten miles, and found it troughed on both sides; on one, the chain is continued down the main valley for forty miles. Those may be bad farmers who do such things; but they are not indolent, nor ignorant of the principle of working in concert, and keeping up establishments for common benefit. They are, undoubtedly, in these respects, far in advance of any community of cottars in our Highland glens. They feel as proprietors, who receive the advantage of their own exertions. The excellent state of the roads and bridges is another proof that the country is inhabited by people who have a common interest to keep under repair. There are no tolls.”

“ It is, I am aware, a favorite and constant observation of our agricultural writers, that these small proprietors make the worst farmers. It may be so; but a population may be in a wretched condition, although their country is very well farmed; or they may be happy, although bad cultivators. Good farming is a phrase composed of two words which have no more application to the happiness or well-being of a people than good weaving or good iron-founding. That the human powers should be well applied, and not misapplied, in the production of grain, or iron, or clothing, is, no doubt, an object of great importance; but the happiness or wellbeing of a people does not entirely depend upon it. It has more effect on their numbers than on their condition. The producer of grain who is working for himself only, who is owner of his land, and has not a third of its produce to pay as rent, can afford to be a worse farmer by one third, than a tenant, and is, notwithstanding, in a preferable condition. Our agricultural writers tell us, indeed, that laborers in agriculture are much better off as farm-servants than they would be as small proprietors. We have only the master's word for this. Ask the servant. The colonists told us the same thing of their slaves. If property is a good and desirable thing, I suspect that the smallest quantity of it is good and desirable ; and that the state of society in which it is most widely diffused is the best constituted."*

On the effects of peasant proprietorship on the Continent generally, the same writer expresses himself as follows:t

“If we listen to the large farmer, the scientific agriculturist, the” [English] “political economist, good farming must perish with large farms; the very idea that good farming can exist, unless on large farms cultivated with great capital, they hold to be absurd. Draining, manuring, economi

* Laing's Journal of a Residence in Norway, pp. 36—40.
+ Notes of a Traveller, pp. 299 et seqq.

cal arrangement, cleaning the land, regular rotations, valuable stock and implements, all belong exclusively to large farms, worked by large capital, and by hired labor. This reads very well; but if we raise our eyes from their books to their fields, and coolly compare what we see in the best districts farmed in large farms, with what we see in the best districts farmed in small farms, we see, and there is no blinking the fact, better crops on the ground in Flanders, East Friesland, Holstein, in short, on the whole line of the arable land of equal quality of the Continent, from the Sound to Calais, than we see on the line of British coast opposite to this line, and in the same latitudes, from the Frith of Forth all round to Dover. Minute labor on small portions of arable ground gives evidently, in equal soils and climate, a superior productiveness, where these small portions belong in property, as in Flanders, Holland, Friesland, and Ditmarsch in Holstein, to the farmer. It is not pretended by our agricultural writers, that our large farmers even in Berwickshire, Roxburghshire, or the Lothians, approach to the garden-like cultivation, attention to manures, drainage, and clean state of the land, or in productiveness from a small space of soil not originally rich, which distinguish the small farmers of Flanders, or their system. In the bestfarmed parish in Scotland or England, more land is wasted in the corners and borders of the fields of large farms, in the roads through them, unnecessarily wide because they are bad, and bad because they are wide, in neglected commons, waste spots, useless belts and clumps of sorry trees, and such unproductive areas, as would maintain the poor of the parish, if they were all laid together and cultivated. But large capital applied to farming is of course only applied to the very best of the soils of a country. It cannot touch the small unproductive spots which require more time and labor to fertilize them than is consistent with a quick return of capital. But although hired time and labor cannot be VOL. I.


applied beneficially to such cultivation, the owner's own time and labor may. He is working for no higher returns at first from his land than a bare living. But in the course of generations, fertility and value are produced ; a better living, and even very improved processes of husbandry, are attained. Furrow draining, stall feeding all summer, liquid manures, are universal in the husbandry of the small farms of Flanders, Lombardy, Switzerland. Our most improving districts under large farms are but beginning to adopt them. Dairy husbandry even, and the manufacture of the largest cheeses by the coöperation of many small farmers,* the mutual assurance of property against fire and hail-storms, by the coöperation of small farmers—the most scientific and expensive of all agricultural operations in modern times, the manufacture of beet-root sugar,—the supply of the European markets with flax and hemp, by the husbandry of small farmers, the abundance of legumes, fruits, poultry, in the usual diet even of the lowest classes abroad, and the total want of such variety at the tables even of our middle classes, and this variety and abundance essentially connected with the husbandry of small farmers, all these are features in the occupation of a country by small proprietor-farmers, which must make the inquirer pause before he admits the dogma of our land doctors at home, that large farms worked by hired labor and great capital, can alone bring out the greatest productiveness of the soil, and furnish the greatest supply of the necessaries and conveniences of life to the inhabitants of a country.”

* The manner in which the Swiss peasants combine to carry on cheesemaking by their united capital deserves to be noted. “Each parish in Switzerland hires a man, generally from the district of Gruyère in the canton of Freyburg, to take care of the herd, and make the cheese. One cheeseman, one pressman or assistant, and one cowherd, are considered necessary for every forty cows. The owners of the cows get credit each of them, in a book daily, for the quantity of milk given by each cow. The cheeseman and his assistants milk the cows, put the milk all together, and make cheese of it, and at the end of the season each owner receives the weight of cheese proportionable to the quantity of milk his cows have delivered. By this coöperative plan, instead of the small-sized unmarketable cheeses only, which each could produce out of his three or four cows' milk, he has the same weight in large marketable cheese superior in quality, because made by people who attend to no other business. The cheeseman and his assistants are paid so much per head of the cows, in money or in cheese, or sometimes they hire the cows, and pay the owners in money or cheese." Notes of a Traveller, p. 351. A similar system exists in the French Jura. One of the most remarkable points in this interesting case of combination of labor, is the confidence which it supposes, and which experience must justify, in the integrity of the persons employed.

$ 4. Among the many flourishing regions of Germany in which peasant properties prevail, I select the Palatinate, for the advantage of quoting, from an English source, the results of recent personal observation of its agriculture and its people. Mr. Howitt, a writer, whose habit it is to see all English objects and English socialities en beau, and who, in treating of the Rhenish peasantry, certainly does not underrate the rudeness of their implements and the inferiority of their ploughing, nevertheless shows that under the invigorating influence of the feelings of proprietorship, they make up for the imperfections of their apparatus by the intensity of their application. « The peasant harrows and clears his land till it is in the nicest order, and it is admirable to see the crops which he obtains."* " The peasantst are the great and ever-present objects of country life. They are the great population of the country, because they themselves are the possessors. This country is, in fact, for the most part, in the hands of the people. It is parcelled out among the multitude. . . . . The peasants are not, as with us, for the most part, totally cut off from property in the soil they cultivate, totally dependent on the labor afforded by others—they are themselves the proprie

* Rural and Domestic Life of Germany, p. 27.

† Ibid., p. 40.

« НазадПродовжити »