« НазадПродовжити »
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 inclosed, 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 :* “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 a nine years' lease of a garden, 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. "Taket 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 well-built, tight, and comfortable farming cottages, built of stone, and covered with tiles ; each having its little garden, inclosed by clipt thorn-hedges, with plenty of peach and other fruit trees, 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 inclosed, with grass borders mown and neatly kept around the corn-fields, with gates to pass from one inclosure 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? 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 much in the hands of little 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.”+ The same district is still a seat of manufactures, and a country of small proprietors, and is now, whether we judge from 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."I These countries and a considerable part of Quercy, “are cultivated more like gar
dens than farms. Perhaps they are too much like gardens, from the smallness of properties."* In those districts the admirable rotation of crops, so long practiced 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 must strike 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 preparation for such as foul and exhaust."
It must not, however, be supposed, that Arthur Young's testimony on the subject of peasant properties is uniformly favorable. In Lorraine, Champagne, and elsewhere, he
miserable, in consequence, as he says, of the extreme subdivision of the land. His opinion is thus summed up:t“ Before I travelled, I conceived that small farms, in property, were very susceptible of good cultivation; and that the occupier of such, having 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 small patches 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
* Young, vol. i. p. 364.
+ Ibid. p. 412
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 well be 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 labor. 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 la 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 time 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 ardor with which they toiled to improve their little patrimony in every way which their knowledge or ingenuity 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 the morcellement, 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 VOL. I.
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 in indigence on the produce of his land, or depend as habitually if he had no landed possessions, on the wages of hired labor; which, beside, if all the lands surrounding him are held in a similar manner, he has little prospect of finding. The benefits of peasant properties are conditional upon their not being too much subdivided; that is, upon 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, like most questions respecting the condition of the laboring 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 laboring 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 propri