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We are not on the present occasion called upon to compare it with the joint ownership of the land by associations of labourers.
partie, ch. 1,)“aux moments de pauvreté universelle, où le riche même est pauvre et vend par force, alors le pauvre se trouve en état d'acheter; nul acquéreur ne se présentant, le paysan en guenilles arrive avec sa pièce d'or, et il acquiert un bout de terre. Ces moments de désastre où le paysan a pu acquérir la terre à bon marché, ont toujours été suivis d'un élan subit de fécondité qu'on ne s'expliquait pas. Vers 1500, par exemple, quand la France épuisée par Louis XI. semble achever sa ruine en Italie, la noblesse qui part est obligée de vendre; la terre, passant à de nouvelles mains, refleurit tout-à-coup; on travaille, on bâtit. Ce beau moment (dans le style de l'histoire monarchique) s'est appelé le bon Louis XII.
“Il dure peu, malheureusement. La terre est à peine remise en bon état, le fisc fond dessus; les guerres de religion arrivent, qui semblent raser tout jusqu'au sol, misères horribles, famines atroces où les mères mangeaient leurs enfants. Qui croirait que le pays se relève de là ? Eh bien, la guerre finit à peine, de ce champ ravagé, de cette chaumière encore noire et brulée, sort l'épargne du paysan. Il achète; en dix ans, la France a changé de face; en vingt ou trente, tous les biens ont doublé, triplé de valeur. Ce moment encore baptisé d'un nom royal, s'appelle le bon Henri IV. et le grand Richelieu.”
Of the third era it is needless again to speak: it was that of the Revolution.
Whoever would study the reverse of the picture, may compare these historic periods, characterized by the dismemberment of large and the construction of small properties, with the wide-spread national suffering which accompanied, and the permanent deterioration of the condition of the labouring classes which fol. lowed, the “clearing” away of small yeomen to make room for large grazing farms, which was the grand economical event of English history during the sixteenth century.
§ 1. From the case in which the produce of land and labour belongs undividedly to the labourer, we proceed to the cases in which it is divided, but between two classes only, the labourers and the landowners; the character of capitalists merging in the one or the other, as the case may be. It is possible indeed to conceive that there might be only two classes of persons to share the produce, and that a class of capitalists might be one of them; the character of labourer and that of landowner being united to form the
other. This might occur in two ways. The labourers, · though owning the land, might let it to a tenant, and work
under him as hired servants. But this arrangement, even in the very rare cases which could give rise to it, would not require any particular discussion, since it would not differ in any material respect from the threefold system of labourers, capitalists, and landlords. The other case is the not uncommon one, in which a peasant proprietor owns and cultivates the land, but raises the little capital required, by 2 mortgage upon it. Neither does this case present any important peculiarity. There is but one person, the peasant himself, who has any right or power of interference in the management. He pays a fixed annuity as interest to a capitalist, as he pays another fixed sum in taxes to the government. Without dwelling further on these cases, we pass to those which present marked features of peculiarity.
When the two parties sharing in the produce are the
labourer or labourers and the landowner, it is not a very material circumstance in the case, which of the two furnishes the stock, or whether, as sometimes happens, they furnish it, in a determinate proportion, between them. The essential difference does not lie in this, but in another circumstance, namely, whether the division of the produce between the two is regulated by custom or by competition. We will begin with the former case; of which the metayer culture is the principal, and in Europe almost the sole, example.
The principle of the metayer system is that the labourer, or peasant, makes his engagement directly with the landowner, and pays, not a fixed rent, either in money or in kind, but a certain proportion of the produce, or rather of what remains of the produce after deducting what is considered necessary to keep up the stock. The proportion is usually, as the name imports, one-half; but in several districts in Italy it is two-thirds. Respecting the supply of stock, the custom varies from place to place; in some places the landlord furnishes the whole, in others half, in others some particular part, as for instance the cattle and seed, the labourer providing the implements.* “This connexion," says Sismondi, speaking chiefly of Tuscany,t “is often the subject of a contract, to define certain services and certain occasional payments to which the metayer binds himself; nevertheless the differences in the obligations of one such contract and another are inconsiderable; usage governs alike all these engagements, and supplies the stipulations which have not been expressed: and the landlord who attempted to depart from usage, who exacted more than his neighbour, who took for the basis of the agreement anything but the equal division of the crops, would render himself so odious, he would be so sure of not obtaining a metayer who was ai. honest man, that the contract of all the metayers may be considered as identical, at least in each province, and never gives rise to any competition among peasants in search of employment, or any offer to cultivate the soil on cheaper terms than one another.” To the same effect Châteauvieux,* speaking of the metayers of Piedmont. “They consider it,” (the farm) “as a patrimony, and never think of renewing the lease, but go on from generation to genera. tion, on the same terms, without writings or registries.”+
* In France, before the Revolution, according to Arthur Young (i. 403) there was great local diversity in this respect. In Champagne, “the landlord commonly finds half the cattle and half the seed, and the metayer, labour, implements, and taxes; but in some districts the landlord bears a share of these. In Roussillon, the landlord pays half the taxes; and in Guienne, from Auch to Fleuran, many landlords pay all. Near Aguillon, on the Garonne, the metayers furnish half the cattle. At Nangis, in the Isle of France, I met with an agreement for the landlord to furnish live stock, implements, harness, and taxes ; the metayer found labour and his own capitation tax: the landlord repaired the house and gates; the metayer the windows: the landlord provided seed the first year, the metayer the last; in the intervening years they supply half and half. In the Bourbonnois the landlord finds all sorts of live stock, yet the metayer sells, changes, and buys at his will; the steward keeping an account of these mutations, for the landlord has half the product of sales, and pays half the purchases." In Piedmont, he says, “ the landlord commonly pays the taxes and repairs the buildings, and the tenant provides cattle, implements, and seed.” (II. 151.)
+ Etudes sur l’Economie Politique, 6me essai : De la Condition des Cultivateurs en Toscane.
§ 2. When the partition of the produce is a matter of fixed usage, not of varying convention, political economy has no laws of distribution to investigate. It has only to consider, as in the case of peasant proprietors, the effects of the system, first, on the condition of the peasantry, morally and physically, and secondly, on the efficiency of the labour. In both these particulars the metayer system has the characteristic advantages of peasant properties, but has them in a less degree. The metayer has less motive to exertion than the peasant proprietor, since only half the fruits of his industry, instead of the whole, are his own. But he has a much stronger motive than a day labourer, who has no other interest in the result than not to be dismissed. If the metayer cannot be turned out except for some violation of his contract, he has a stronger motive to exertion than any tenant-farmer who has not a lease. The metayer is at least his landlord's partner, and a half-sharer in their joint gains. Where, too, the permanence of his tenure is guaranteed by custom, he acquires local attachments, and much of the feelings of a proprietor. I am supposing that this half produce is sufficient to yield him a comfortable support. Whether it is so, depends (in any given state of agriculture) on the degree of subdivision of the land; which depends on the operation of the population principle. A multiplication of people, beyond the number that can be properly supported on the land or taken off by manufactures, is incident even to a peasant proprietary, and of course not less but rather more incident to a metayer population. The tendency, however, which we noticed in the proprietary system, to promote prudence on this point, is in no small degree common to it with the metayer system. There, also, it is a matter of easy and exact calculation whether a family can be supported or not. If it is easy to see whether the owner of the whole produce can increase the production so as to maintain a greater number of persons equally well, it is a not less simple problem whether the owner of half the produce can do so.* There is one check which this
* Letters from Italy. I quote from Dr. Rigby's translation (p. 22.)
+ This virtual fixity of tenure is not however universal even in Italy; and it is to its absence that Sismondi attributes the inferior condition of the metayers in some provinces of Naples, in Lucca, and in the Riviera of Genoa; where the landlords obtain a larger (though still a fixed) share of the produce. In those countries the cultivation is splendid, but the people wretchedly poor. “The same misfortune would probably have befallen the people of - Tuscany if public opinion did not protect the cultivator; but a proprietor would not dare to impose conditions unusual in the country, and even in changing one metayer for another, he alters nothing in the terms of the engagement." [Nouveaux Principes, liv. iii. ch. 5.]
* M. Bastiat affirms that even in France, incontestably the least favourable example of the metayer system, its effect in repressing population is conspicuous.
“Un fait bien constaté, c'est que la tendance à une multiplication désordonnée se manifeste principalement au sein de cette classe d'hommes qui vit de salaires. Cette prévoyance qui retarde les mariages a sur elle peu d'empire, parce que les maux qui résultent de l'excès de concurrence ne lui apparaissent que très-confusément, et dans un lointain en apparence peu redoubtable. C'est