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generation to generation, on the same terms, without writings or registries," *
§ 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
* 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.
greater number of persons equally well, it is not a less simple problem whether the owner of half the produce can do so.* There is one check which this system seems to offer, over and above those held out even by the proprietary system; there is a landlord, who may exert a controlling power, by refusing his consent to a subdivision. I do not, however, attach great importance to this check, because the farm may be loaded with superfluous hands without being subdivided; and because, so long as the increase of hands increases the gross produce, which is almost always the case, the landlord, who receives half the produce, is an immediate gainer, the inconvenience falling only on the labourers. The landlord is no doubt liable in the end to suffer from their poverty, by being forced to make advances to them, especially in bad seasons; and a foresight of this ultimate inconvenience may operate beneficially on such landlords as prefer future security to present profit.
The characteristic disadvantage of the metayer system is very fairly stated by Adam Smith. After pointing out that metayers "have a plain interest that the whole produce should be as great as possible, in order that their own proportion may be so," he continues,f " it could never, however, be the interest of this species of cultivators to lay out, in the further improvement of the land, any part of the little stock which they might save from their own share of the produce, because the lord who laid out nothing was to get one-half of whatever it produced. The tithe, which is but a tenth of the produce, is found to be a very great hindrance to improvement. A tax, therefore, which amounted to one-half, must have been an
* M. Bastiat affirms that even in France, incontestably the least favourable example of the metayer system, its effect in repressing population is conspicuous.
"It is a well-ascertained fact 'hat the tendency to excessive multiplication is chiefly manifested in the class who live on wages. Over these the forethought which retards marriages has little operation, because the evils which flow from excessive competition appear to them only very confusedly, and at a considerable distance. It is, therefore, the most advantageous condition of a people to be so organized as to contain no regular class of labourers for hire. In metayer countries, marriages are principally determined by the demands of cultivation; they increase when, from whatever cause, the metairies offer vacancies injurious to production; they diminish when the places are filled up. A fact easily ascertained, the proportion between the size of the farm and the number of hands, operates like forethought, and with greater effect. We find, accordingly, that when nothing occurs to make an opening for a superfluous population, numbers remain stationary: as is seen in our southern departments." Considerations sur le Metayage, "Journal des Economises for February 1846. [The description of Bastiat as "a high authority among French political economists" was omitted from the 3rd^ed. (1852).]'
t Wealth of Nations, book iii. ch. 2,
effectual bar to it. It might be the interest of a metayer to make the land produce as much as could be brought out of it by means of the stock furnished by the proprietor; but it could never be his interest to mix any part of his own with it. In France, where five parts out of six of the whole kingdom are said to be still occupied by this species of cultivators, the proprietors complain that their metayers take every opportunity of employing the master's cattle rather in carriage than in cultivation; because in the one case they get the whole profits to themselves, in the other they share them with their landlord." It is indeed implied in the very nature of the tenure that all improvements which require expenditure of capital must be made with the capital of the landlord. This, however, is essentially the case even in England, whenever the farmers are tenaiits-at-will: or (if Arthur Young is right) even on a " nine years' lease." If the landlord is willing to provide capital for improvements, the metayer has the strongest interest in promoting them, since half the benefit of them will accrue to himself. As however the perpetuity of tenure which, in the case we are discussing, he enjoys by custom, renders his consent a necessary condition; the spirit of routine, and dislike of innovation, characteristic of an agricultural people when not corrected by education, are no doubt, as the advocates of the system seem to admit, a serious hindrance to improvement.
§ 3. The metayer system has met with no mercy from English authorities. "There is not one word to be said in favour of the practice," says Arthur Young,* and a "thousand arguments that might be used against it. The hard plea of necessity can alone be urged in its favour; the poverty of the farmers being so great, that the landlord must stock the farm, or it could not be stocked at all: this is a most cruel burden to a proprietor, who is thus obliged to run much of the hazard of farming in the most dangerous of all methods, that of trusting his property absolutely in the hands of people who are generally ignorant, many careless, and some undoubtedly wicked. ... In this most miserable of all the modes of letting land, the defrauded landlord receives a contemptible rent; the farmer is in the lowest state of poverty; the land is miserably cultivated; and the nation suffers as severely as the parties themselves. . . . Wherever f this system prevails, it may be taken for granted that a useless and miserable population is found. . . . * Travels, vol. i. pp. 404-5. f Ibid- vol« & 151-3.
Wherever the country (that I saw) is poor and unwatered, in the Milanese, it is in the hands of metayers; they are almost always in debt to their landlord for seed or food, and "their condition is more wretched than that of a day labourer. . . . There * are but few districts" (in Italy) "where lands are let to the occupying tenant at a money-rent; but wherever it is found, their crops are greater; a clear proof of the imbecility of the metaying system." "Wherever it" (the metayer system) "has been adopted," says Mr. M'Culloch,t "it has put a stop to all improvement, and has reduced the cultivators to the most abject poverty." Mr. Jones J shares the common opinion, and quotes Turgot and Destutt-Tracy in support of it. The impression, however, of all these writers (notwithstanding Arthur Young's occasional references to Italy) seems to be chiefly derived from France, and France before the Eevolution.§ Now the situation of French metayers under the old regime by no means represents the typical form of the contract. It is essential to that form that the proprietor pays all the taxes. But in France the exemption of the noblesse from direct taxation had led the Government to throw the whole burthen of their everincreasing fiscal exactions upon the occupiers: and it is to these exactions that Turgot ascribed the extreme wretchedness of the metayers: a wretchedness in some cases so excessive, that in Limousin and Angoumois (the provinces which he administered) they had seldom more, according to him, after deducting all burthens, than from twenty-five to thirty livres (20 to 24 shillings) per head for their whole annual consumption: "je ne dis pas en argent, mais en comptant tout ce qu'ils consomment en nature sur ce qu'ils ont recolte." || When we add that they had not the virtual fixity
* Travels, vol. ii. 217.
f Principles of Political Economy, 3rd. ed. p. 471.
t Essay on the Distribution of Wealth, pp. 102-4. [Peasant Rents, pp. 90-92.]
§ M. de Tracy is partially an exception, inasmuch as his experience reaches lower down than the revolutionary period; but he admits (as Mr. Jones has himself stated in another place) that he is acquainted only with a limited district, of great subdivision and unfertile soil.
M. Passy is of opinion, that a French peasantry must be in indigence and the country badly cultivated on a metayer system, because the proportion of the produce claimable by the landlord is too high; it being only in more favourable climates that any land, not of the most exuberant fertility, can pay half its gross produce in rent, and leave enough to peasant farmers to enable them to grow successfully the more expensive and valuable products of agriculture. (Systemes de Culture, p. 35.) This is an objection only to a particular numerical proportion, which is indeed the common one, but is not essential to the system.
jj See the "Memoire sur la Surcharge des Impositions qu'eprouvait la Generalite de Limoges, adresse au Conseil d'Etat en 1706," pp. 260-304 of the fourth volume of Turgot's Works. The occasional engagements of landlords of tenure of the metayers of Italy ("in Limousin," says Arthur Young,* "the metayers are considered as little better than menial servants, removable at pleasure, and obliged to conform in all things to the will of the landlords,") it is evident that their case affords no argument against the metayer system in its better form. A population who could call nothing their own, who, like the Irish cottiers, could not in any contingency be worse off, had nothing to restrain them from multiplying, and subdividing the land, until stopped by actual starvation.
We shall find a very different picture, by the most accurate authorities, of the metayer cultivation of Italy. In the first place, as to subdivision. In Lombardy, according to Chateauvieux,t there are few farms which exceed fifty acres, and few which have less than ten. These farms are all occupied by metayers at half profit. They invariably display "an extent J and a richness in buildings rarely known in any other country in Europe." Their plan " affords the greatest room with the least extent of building; is best adapted to arrange and secure the crop; and is, at the same time, the most economical, and the least exposed to accidents by fire." The courtyard "exhibits a whole so regular and commodious, and a system of such care and good order, that our dirty and ill-arranged farms can convey no adequate idea of." The same description applies to Piedmont. The rotation of crops is excellent. "I should think § no country can bring so large a portion of its produce to market as Piedmont." Though the soil is not naturally very fertile, "the number of cities is prodigiously great." The agriculture must, therefore, be eminently favourable to the net as well as to the gross produce of the land. "Each plough works thirty-two acres in the season. . . . Nothing can be more perfect or neater than the hoeing and moulding up the maize, when in full growth, by a single plough, with a pair of oxen, without injury to a single plant, while all the weeds are effectually destroyed." So much for agricultural skill. "Nothing can be so excellent as the crop which precedes and that which follows it." The wheat " is thrashed by a cylinder, drawn by a horse, and guided by a boy, while the labourers
(as mentioned by Arthur Young) to pay a part of the taxes, were, according to
t Letters from Italy, translated by Rigby, p. 16..