Зображення сторінки

there must be a proportional (though not an equal) number who have more ; and it must not be supposed that this statement includes the large properties, one of which would be enough to keep up the average against a hundred extremely small ones. No properties are included which pay so much as twenty francs land-tax, corresponding on the average of France to twenty acres—on that of the south to twenty-five. When it is considered that of the whole soil of France only a third * is in the hands of peasant proprietors, and that this third is not more subdivided than we now see, it will probably be thought that hitherto at least, the mischiefs of subdivision have not reached a very formidable height.

[Facts of a less conjectural character than the above have been afforded by the researches of M. de Lavergne. Of five millions of small rural proprietors, three millions, at least, according to that high authority, pay less than ten francs of taxes, and possess, on an average, only one hectare (2} acres). Two millions pay from ten to fifty francs, and possess, on an average, six hectares, or fifteen acres. These last, says M. de Lavergne, “enjoy sometimes a real affluence. Their properties are divided by inheritance; but many of them are continually making new acquisitions by purchase, and on the whole their tendency is more to rise than to descend in the scale of wealth.” Respecting the amount of debts with which the peasant properties are encumbered, the facts are highly and unexpectedly favourable. By the latest authentic returns, the average indebtedness of the entire landed property of France, does not, according to M. de Lavergne, exceed one-tenth of the value; and in the case of rural property, it is only half that average, or one-twentieth. The burthen of interest he estimates, not at 40 per cent on the rental, but at 10 per cent only; and even this, he thinks, would now be an overstatement, “car les dernières crises ont amené une tendance générale vers une liquidation.” AJ

But it is not what France now is, so much as what she is becoming, that is the material point. Is the morcellement increasing, or likely to increase? The apologists of the French system have never denied that the land in many parts of France is too minutely di.. vided. What they deny is, that this is a growing evil. They assert that the subdivision has reached its height, and that the reunions, by purchase, marriage, and inheritance, now balance the subdivisions. How stands the fact in this respect ? Are the small properties tend

* Lavergne, Economie Rurale de la France, pp. 23 and 51.

† Pp. 451-454.

[ocr errors]

ing to become still smaller, or not? The reader will be surprised when he finds that, with all their straining, M. Rubichon and his reviewer have failed of proving that the morcellement, in this sense of the term, is making any progress at all.

The reviewer has a curious theory on the subject. He thinks that “on the calculated average of three children to each inheritance,” the piece of land now held by one proprietor must necessarily be divided among three in the next generation, and among nine in that which follows. Under what system of landed property could a population increase at this rate, and not be reduced to starvation ? But is it a fact that population is anywhere trebled in the space of a generation ? We have here blunder within blunder of a very complicated description. In the first place, he should not have said three children to one inheritance, but to two inheritances; for as the French law in questions of property observes that impartial justice between the two sexes in which other laws are so often deficient, the mother's patrimony is on an average equal to that of the father. In the next place, could not the reviewer have taken the trouble to ascertain at what rate the French population is actually increasing ? If he had, he would have found that in the 27 years from 1815 to 1842 it only increased 18 per cent, and during that period with progressively increasing slowness, namely, in the first eleven years 9 per cent, in the next nine years less than 6 per cent, and in the seven years from 1835 to 1842, 3 oth per cent only. * This retardation we must take the liberty of attributing mainly to the prudence and forethought generated in the poorest class by this very subdivision of property.

Instead, therefore, of trebling in a generation, the population in. creased in that period about 20 per cent; and if the growth of towns, and of employments not agricultural, in the same space of time, is sufficient to absorb this increase, there needs not be, and will not be, even if the law does its worst, any increase of subdivision. Now, the towns of France have increased, and are increasing, at a rate far exceeding the general increase of the population. We read only the other day in the Siècle, as the result of the census just concluded,



* These facts are taken from M. Passy. We may now add, in the ten years from 1847 to 1856 not quite 14 per cent. Between 1851 and 1856 the increase in all France was not equal to that of Paris. Nearly all the poorer departments had diminished in population. See the Journal des Economistes for February, 1857.

that Paris, which in 1832 had only 930,000 inhabitants, had in 1846 more than 1,350,000, an increase of nearly fifty per cent in fourteen years.* There is every reason, then, to infer, from these general data, that the morcellement is making no progress.

What facts have M. Rubichon and the Quarterly reviewer to oppose to these? One fact; which at first sight appears a very strong one. Between 1826 and 1835, the number of properties rated to the land-tax exhibited an increase of more than 600,000; being about six per cent in ten years. Let us first remark, that 600,000 separate assessments are equivalent only to about 300,000 proprietors; it being the common estimate of French writers, that on the average about two côtes foncières, or separate accounts with the land-tax, correspond only to a single proprietor. But if the reviewer had consulted his author just ten pages further on,t he would have found a cause sufficient to account for a considerable portion of this increase. There were sold between 1826 and 1835 domains of the State, to the value of nearly 134 millions of francs, or five and a half millions sterling. The very nature of such a sale implies division. And we are the more inclined to ascribe much of the apparent in. crease of division to this circumstance, because in the ten years preceding those in question, the côtes foncières increased in number by little more than 200,000; an alarming proof, according to the reviewer, of the progressive advance of the evil; but, as we suspect, arising partly from the fact, that during the earlier decennial period a smaller, though still a considerable, amount of public domains were alienated.

In addition to the State lands, a great extent of Communal lands were likewise alienated during the same period : and it is fur: ther necessary to subtract all the additions made to the number of côtes foncières by the extension of building, and by the natural subdivision of town property, during ten years. All these items must be accurately estimated and deducted, before it can be affirmed with certainty that in the rural districts there was during those years any increased division of landed property at all. And even if there was, increased division does not necessarily imply increased subdivision.

* In 1856 the department of the Seine, which consists almost entirely of Paris, had risen to 1,727,000 inhabitants ; while Lyons, Marseilles, St. Etienne, Bordeaux and Nantes (or at least the departments containing them) had largely increased in population.

+ Mounier and Rubichon, vol. i. p. 110.

Large estates may have been, and we believe were, in many instances, divided, but the division may have stopped there. We know of no reason for supposing that small properties were divided into others still smaller, or that the average size of the possessions of peasant families was at all diminished.

It so happens that facts exist, more specific and more expressly to the point than any of M. Rubichon’s. A new. cadastre, or survey and valuation of lands, has been in progress for some years past. In thirty-seven cantons, taken indiscriminately through France, the operation has been completed; in twenty-one it is nearly complete. In the thirty-seven, the côtes foncières, which were 154,266 at the last cadastre (in 1809 and 1810), have only increased by 9011, being less than 18 per cent in considerably more than thirty years, while in many of the cantons they have considerably diminished. From this increase is to be subtracted all which is due to the progress of building during the period, as well as to the sale of public and conmunal lands. In the other twenty-one cantons the number of côtes

foncières is not yet published, but the number of parcelles, or separate bits of land, has diminished in the same period; and among those districts is included the greater part of the banlieue of Paris, one of the most minutely divided districts in France, in which the morcellement has actually diminished by no less than 16 per cent. The details may be found in M. Passy's little work, “ Des Systèmes de Culture.” So much for the terrible progress of subdivision.

We cannot leave this part of the subject without noticing one of the most signal instances which the reviewer has exhibited of his incompetency for the subject he treats of. He laments over the extraordinary number of sales of landed property which he says the law of inheritance constantly occasions; and indeed the sales of land are shown to have amounted in ten years to no less than one-fourth part of the whole territorial property of France. Now, whatever else this extraordinary amount of sale and purchase may prove, the whole .of it is one gigantic argument against the reviewer's case ; for every sale of land which is caused by the law of inheritance must be a sale for the express purpose of preventing subdivision. If land, sold in consequence of an inheritance, is nevertheless subdivided, this cannot be an effect of the law of inheritance; it would only prove that land seils for a higher price when sold in small portions : that is, in other words, that the poor, and even as the reviewer would have us be.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

lieve, the very poor, are able to outbid the rich in the land market. This certainly does not prove that the very poor of France are so very poor as these writers try to make out, while it does prove that, if so, they must be by far the most industrious and economical peo. ple on the face of the earth, for which some credit ought surely to be given to the system of peasant properties.


We have shown that the four millions of landowners in France who can be reckoned among peasant proprietors, those whose holdings fall short of twenty acres, are computed by one of the best authorities to possess on the average eight and a half English acres each, and from no authentic documents can the average be brought much below that amount; a fact wholly incompatible with their being in the state approaching to starvation in which M. Rubichon and his reviewer represent them to be. It is equally certain that if there is bad agriculture on these small estates, it is from some other cause than their smallness. Farms of this size are consistent with agriculture equal to any on the face of the earth.

We shall now, however, touch upon another kind of morcellement, which does amount to a serious inconvenience, and wherever it exists must have a strong tendency to keep agriculture in a low state. This is the subdivision, not of the land of the country among many proprietors, but of the land of each proprietor into many detached pieces, or parcelles, as they are technically designated. This incon. venience has been experienced in other countries besides France, as in the canton of Zurich, in the Palatinate, and (as respects holdings, though not properties) in Ireland. In France it is carried to so great an excess, that the number of parcelles is ten times the number of côtes foncières ; and as there are supposed to be twice as many côtes foncières as proprietors, the curious fact is disclosed, that on the average of France the estate of every landowner consists of twenty fragments in twenty different places. The consequences are a suh. ject of general and increasing complaint. Great loss of time and labour ; waste of cultivable soil in boundaries and paths; the inacces. sibility of many parcelles without trespassing on other properties ; endless disputes and frequent litigation—are enumerated among the evils : and it is evident what obstacles the small size and dispersed position of the parcelles, and their intermixture with those of other

« НазадПродовжити »