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tory. Were there only one establishment, it could make lower charges, consistently with obtaining the rate of profit now realized. But would it do so ? Even if it did not, the community in the aggregate would still be a gainer; since the shareholders are a part of the community, and they would obtain higher profits while the consumers paid only the same. It is, however, an error to suppose that the prices are ever permanently kept down by the competition of these companies. Where competitors are so few, they always end by agreeing not to compete. They may run a race of cheapness to ruin a new candidate, but as soon as he has established his footing they come to terms with him. When, therefore, a business of real public importance can only be carried on advantageously upon so large a scale as to render the liberty of competition almost illusory, it is an unthrifty dispensation of the public resources that several costly sets of arrangements should be kept up for the purpose of rendering to the community this one service. It is much better to treat it at once as a public function; and if it be not such as the government itself could beneficially undertake, it should be made over entire to the company or association which will perform it on the best terms for the public. In the case of railways, for example, no one can desire to see the enormous waste of capital and land (not to speak of increased nuisance) involved in the construction of a second railway to connect the same places already united by an existing one; while the two would not do the work better than it could be done by one, and after a short time would probably be amalgamated. Only one such line ought to be permitted, but the control over that line never ought to be parted with by the State, unless on a temporary concession, as in France; and the vested right which Parliament has allowed to be acquired by the existing companies, like all other proprietary rights which are opposed to public utility, is morally valid only as a claim to compensation.
§ 4. The question between the large and the small systems of production as applied to agriculture—between large and small farming, the grande and the petite culture, stands, in many respects, on different grounds from the general question between great and small industrial establishments. In its social aspect, and as an element in the Distribution of Wealth, this question will occupy us hereafter : but even as a question of production, the superiority of the large system in agriculture is by no means so clearly established as in manufactures.
I have already remarked, that the operations of agriculture are little susceptible of benefit from the division of labour. There is but little separation of employments even on the largest farm. The same persons may not in general attend to the live stock, to the marketing, and to the cultivation of the soil ; but much beyond that primary and simple classification the subdivision is not carried. The combination of labour of which agriculture is susceptible, is chiefly that which Mr. Wakefield terms Simple Co-operation; several persons helping one another in the same work, at the same time and place. But I confess it seems to me that this able writer attributes more importance to that kind of co-operation, in reference to agriculture properly so called, than it deserves. None of the common farming operations require much of it. There is no particular advantage in setting a great number of people to work together in ploughing or digging or sowing the same field, or even in mowing or reaping it unless time presses. A single family can generally supply all the combination of labour necessary for these purposes. And in the works in which an union of many efforts is really needed, there is seldom found any impracticability in obtaining it where farms are small.
The waste of productive power by subdivision of the land often amounts to a great evil, but this applies chiefly to a subdivision so minute, that the cultivators have not enough land to occupy their time. Up to that point the same principles which recommend large manufactories are
applicable to agriculture. For the greatest productive efficiency, it is generally desirable (though even this proposition must be received with qualifications) that no family who have any land, should have less than they could cultivate, or than will fully employ their cattle and tools. These, however, are not the dimensions of large farms, but of what are reckoned in England very small ones. The large farmer has some advantage in the article of buildings. It does not cost so much to house a great number of cattle in one building, as to lodge them equally well in several buildings. There is also some advantage in implements. A small farmer is not so likely to possess expensive instruments. But the principal agricultural implements, even when of the best construction, are not expensive. It may not answer to a small farmer to own a threshing machine, for the small quantity of corn he has to thresh ; but there is no reason why such a machine should not in every neighbourhood be owned in common, or provided by some person to whom the others pay a consideration for its use; especially as, when worked by steam, they are so constructed as to be moveable.* The large farmer can make some saving in cost of carriage. There is nearly as much trouble in carrying a small portion of produce to market, as a much greater produce; in bringing home a small, as a much larger quantity of manure, and articles of daily consumption. There is also the greater cheapness of buying things in large quantities. These various advantages must count for something, but it does not seem that they ought to count for very much. In England, for some generations, there has been little experience of small farms; but in Ireland the experience has been ample, not merely under the worst but under the best management; and the highest Irish
* The observations in the text may hereafter require some degree of modification from inventions such as the steam plough and the reaping machine. The effect, however, of these improvements on the relative advantages of large and small farms, will not depend on the efficiency of the instruments, but on their costliness. I see no reason to expect that this will be such as to make them inaccessible to small farmers, or combinations of small farmers.
authorities may be cited in opposition to the opinion which on this subject commonly prevails in England. Mr. Blacker, for example, one of the most experienced agriculturists and successful improvers in the North of Ireland, whose experience was chiefly in the best cultivated, which are also the most minutely divided parts of the country, was of opinion, that tenants holding farms not exceeding from five to eight or ten acres, could live comfortably and pay as high a rent as any large farmer whatever. “I am firmly persuaded,” (he says, *) “ that the small farmer who holds his own plough and digs his own ground, if he follows a proper rotation of crops, and feeds his cattle in the house, can undersell the large farmer, or in other words can pay a rent which the other cannot afford; and in this I am confirmed by the opinion of many practical men who have well considered the subject. . . The English farmer of 700 to 800 acres is a kind of man approaching to what is known by the name of a gentleman farmer. He must have his horse to ride, and his gig, and perhaps an overseer to attend to his labourers; he certainly cannot superintend himself the labour going on in a farm of 800 acres.” After a few other remarks, he adds, “ Besides all these drawbacks, which the small farmer knows little about, there is the great expense of carting out the manure from the homestead to such a great distance, and again carting home the crop. A single horse will consume the produce of more land than would feed a small farmer and his wife and two children. And what is more than all, the large farmer says to his labourers, go to your work; but when the small farrner has occasion to hire them, he says, come; the intelligent reader will, I dare say, understand the difference.”
One of the objections most urged against small farms is, that they do not and cannot maintain, proportionally to their extent, so great a number of cattle as large farms, and that this occasions such a deficiency of manure, that a soil
* Prize Essay on the Management of Landed Property in Ireland, by Wil. liam Blacker, Esg. (1837,) p. 23.
much subdivided must always be impoverished. It will be found, however, that subdivision only produces this effect when it throws the land into the hands of cultivators so poor as not to possess the amount of live stock suitable to the size of their farms. A small farm and a badly stocked farm are not synonymous. To make the comparison fairly, we must suppose the same amount of capital which is possessed by the large farmers to be disseminated among the small ones. When this condition, or even any approach to it, exists, and when stall feeding is practised (and stall feeding now begins to be considered good economy even on large farms), experience, far from bearing out the assertion that small farming is unfavourable to the multiplication of cattle, conclusively establishes the very reverse. The abundance of cattle, and copious use of manure, on the small farms of Flanders, are the most striking features in that Flemish agriculture which is the admiration of all competent judges, whether in England or on the Continent.*
* “The number of beasts fed on a farm of which the whole is arable land,” (says the elaborate and intelligent treatise on Flemish Husbandry, from personal observation and the best sources, published in the Library of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge,)“is surprising to those who are not acquainted with the mode in which the food is prepared for the cattle. A beast for every three acres of land is a common proportion, and in very small occupations where much spade husbandry is used, the proportion is still greater. After comparing the accounts given in a variety of places and situations of the average quantity of milk which a cow gives when fed in the stall, the result is, that it greatly exceeds that of our best dairy farms, and the quantity of butter made from a given quantity of milk is also greater. It appears astonishing that the occupier of only ten or twelve acres of light arable land should be able to maintain four or five cows, but the fact is notorious in the Waes country.” (pp. 59, 60.)
This subject is treated very intelligently in the work of M. Passy, “Des Systêmes de Culture et de leur Influence sur l'Economie Sociale," one of the most impartial discussions, as between the two systems, which has yet appeared in France.
“Sans nul doute, c'est l'Angleterre qui, à superficie égale, nourrit le plus d'animaux; la Hollande et quelques parties de la Lombardie pourraient seules lui disputer cet avantage: mais est-ce là un résultat des formes de l'exploitation, et des circonstances de climat et de situation locale ne concourent-elles pas à le produire ? C'est, à notre avis, ce qui ne saurait être contesté. En effet, quoiqu'on en ait dit, partout où la grande et la petite culture ce rencontrent