Зображення сторінки

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 he 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 agricultural 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.

As the result of this enquiry into the direct operation and indirect

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 ol eacii share becomes a debt or burden upon thejand." Consequently the condition oi the agricultural population is retrograde; "each generation is worse oil 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 franca (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 tne 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. Tne facts already cited prove that in respect to Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland, lie assertion is equally wide of the mark; and what has been shown respecting the slow increase of population in franco, 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.

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.* We are not on the present occasion called upon to compare it with the joint ownership of the land by associations of labourers.1

* 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.

"In the worst times," says the historian Michelet (Le Peuple, Ire partie, eh. 1), " the times of universal poverty, when even the rich are poor and obliged to sell, the poor are enabled to buy: no other purchaser presenting himself, the peasant in rags arrives with his piece of gold, and acquires a little bit of land. These moments of disaster in which the peasant was able to buy land at a low price, have always been followed by a sudden gush of prosperity which people could not account for. Towards 1500, for example, when France, exhausted by Louis XI., seemed to be completing its ruin in Italy, the noblesse who went to the wars were obliged to sell: the land, passing into new hands, suddenly began to flourish: men began to labour and to build. This happy moment, in the style of courtly historians, was called the good Louis XII.

"Unhappily it did not last long. Scarcely had the land recovered itself when the tax-collector fell upon it; the wars of religion followed, and seemed to rase everything to the ground; with horrible miseries, dreadful famines, in which mothers devoured their children. Who would believe that the country recovered from this? Scarcely is the war ended, when from the devastated fields, and the cottages still black with the flames, comes forth the hoard of the peasant. He buys; in ten years, France wears a new face; in twenty or thirty, all possessions have doubled and trebled in value. This moment, again baptized by a royal name, is called the good Henry IV. and the great 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 followed 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. [This quotation from Michelet originally came at the end of chapter x, infra, on Means of Abolishing Cottier Tenancy. It was transferred to its present position in the 5th ed. (1802).]

1 [The last two sentences replaced in the 3rd ed. (1852) the concluding sentence of the original text: "Whether and in what these considerations admit of useful application to any of the social questions of our time, will be considered in a future chapter."

The position of peasant proprietors in Germany in more recent decades may be studied in Buchenberger, Agrarwesen, one of the volumes in7Wagner's Lehrbuch der Politischen OeJconomie (1892), §§ 69, 70, 73; Blondel, Etudes sur les Populations Rurales de VAllemagne (1897); and David, Sozialismus and Landwirthschaft (1903). As to whether morcellement is progressing in France, see Gide, Economic Sociale (1905), pp. 429 seq.]



§ 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 the 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 a 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,f "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 an 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 Chateauvieux, J 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

* 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 Augillon, 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.)

f Etudes sur VEconomic Politiqite, 6me essai: De la Condition des Cultivateurs en Toscane.

J Letters from Italy. I quote from Dr. Rigby's translation (p. 22).

« НазадПродовжити »