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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 prospects of which, in respect to population, 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 population. As yet, however, it must be remembered 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 gradual 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 and employ a considerable portion of the annual increase of population.
§ 5. But even where peasant properties are accompanied by 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 proprietors. As might be expected from their admirable intelligence in things relating to their occupation, the Flemish peasantry have long learnt this lesson. "The habit of not dividing properties," says Dr. Ran,* "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 part 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,"f 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 proprietors. 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."
ries and conveniences which the labourer is enabled 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 increased in an equal degree; and that in this instance as well as in France, the morcellement of the land, even when excessive, has been compatible with a strengthening of the prudential checks to population.
* Page 334 of the Brussels translation. He cites as an authority, Schwerz, Landwirthschaftliche Mittheilungen, i. 185.
f One of the important papers which have appeared in the Journal des Economistes, the organ of the principal political economists of France, and doing great and increasing honour to their knowledge and ability. M. Passy's essay has been reprinted separately as a pamphlet.
"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 jparcelles 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 cotes foncieres, are the Nord, the Somme, the Pas de Calais, the Seine Inferieure, 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 cultivated, in France.
Undue subdivision, and excessive smallness of holdings, are undoubtedly a prevalent evil in some countries of peasant 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 proposed the same measure to the Estates 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: 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* Economie Rurale de la France, p. 455.
f 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.
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 morcellernent, is one of the most groundless of real or pretended panies.*
If peasant properties have any effect in promoting subdivision beyond the degree which corresponds to the agricultural practices of the country, and which is customary on its large estates, the cause must lie in one of the salutary influences of the system; the eminent degree in which it promotes providence on the part of those who, not being yet peasant proprietors, hope to become so. In England, where the labourer has no investment for his savings but the savings bank, and no position to which he can rise by any exercise of economy, except perhaps that of a petty shopkeeper, with its chances of bankruptcy, there is nothing at all resembling the intense spirit of thrift which takes possession of one who, from being a day labourer, can raise himself by saving to the condition of a landed proprietor. According to almost all authorities, the real cause of the morcellement is the higher price which can be obtained for land by selling it to the peasantry, as an investment for their small accumulations, than by disposing of it entire to some rich purchaser who has no object but to live on its income without improving it. The hope of obtaining such an investment is the most powerful of inducements, to those who are without land, to practise the industry, frugality, and self-restraint, on which their success in this object of ambition is dependent.
* 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 in former works, had thought worthy of praise, argues that "although the land 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. On this question, as well as on that of the morcellement, so far as regards France, additional facts and observations, brought up to a later date, will be found in the Appendix.
As the result of this enquiry into the direct operation and indirect influences of peasant properties, I conceive it to be established, that there is no necessary connexion between this form of landed property and an imperfect state of the arts of production; that it is favourable in quite as many respects as it is unfavourable, to the most effective use of the powers of the soil; that no other existing state of agricultural economy has so beneficial an effect on the industry, the intelligence, the frugality, and prudence of the population, nor tends on the whole so much to discourage an improvident increase of their numbers; and that no existing state, therefore, is on the whole so favourable, both to their moral and their physical welfare. Compared with the English system of cultivation by hired labour, it must be regarded as eminently beneficial to the labouring class.*
* French history strikingly confirms these conclusions. Three times during the course of ages the peasantry have been purchasers of land; and these times immediately preceded the three principal eras of French agricultural prosperity.
"Aux temps les plus mauvais," says the historian Michelet, (Le Peuple, Ire