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the table a dish of fresh meat, but a piece which weighs only a pound or a pound and a half suffices for the whole family, however numerous it may be. It must not be forgotten that the Tuscan peasants generally produce olive oil for their own consumption: they use it not only for lamps, but as seasoning to all the vegetables prepared for the table, which it renders both more savoury and more nutritive. At breakfast their food is bread, and sometimes cheese and fruit; at supper, bread and salad. Their drink is composed of the inferior wine of the country, the vinella or piquette made by fermenting in water the pressed skins of the grapes. They always, however, reserve a little of their best wine for the day when they thresh their corn, and for some festivals which are kept in families. About fifty bottles of vinella per annum and five sacks of wheat (about 1000 pounds of bread) are considered as the supply necessary for a full grown man."
The remarks of Sismondi on the moral influences of this state of society are not less worthy of attention. The rights and obligations of the metayer being fixed by usage, and all taxes and rates being paid by the proprietor, "the metayer has the advantages of landed property without the burthen of defending it. It is the landlord to whom, with the land, belong all its disputes: the tenant lives in peace with all his neighbours; between him and them there is no motive for rivalry or distrust, he preserves a good understanding with them, as well as with his landlord, with the taxcollector, and with the church: he sells little, and buys little; he touches little money, but he seldom has any to pay. The gentle and kindly character of the Tuscans is often spoken of, but without sufficiently remarking the cause which has contributed most to keep up that gentleness; the tenure, by which the entire class of farmers, more than three-fourths of the population, are kept free from almost every occasion for quarrel." The fixity of tenure which the metayer, so long as he fulfils his own obligations, possesses by usage, though not by law, gives him the local attachments, and almost the strong sense of personal interest, characteristic of a proprietor. "The metayer lives on his metairie as on his inheritance, loving it with affection, labouring incessantly to improve it, confiding in the future, and making sure that his land will be tilled after him by his children and his children's children. In fact the majority of metayers live from generation to generation on the same farm; they know it in its details with a minuteness which the feeling of property can alone give. The plots terrassed
up, one above the other, are often not above four feet wide; but there is not one of them, the qualities of which the metayer has not studied. This one is dry, the other is cold and damp: here the soil is deep, there it is a mere crust which hardly covers the rock; wheat thrives best on one, rye on another: here it would be labour wasted to sow Indian corn, elsewhere the soil is unfit for beans and lupins, further off flax will grow admirably, the edge of this brook will be suited for hemp. In this way one learns with surprise from the metayer, that in a space of ten arpents, the soil, the aspect, and the inclination of the ground present greater variety than a rich farmer is generally able to distinguish in a farm of five hundred acres. For the latter knows that he is only a temporary occupant; and moreover, that he must conduct his operations by general rules, and neglect details. But the experienced metayer has had his intelligence so awakened by interest and affection, as to be the best of observers; and with the whole future before him, he thinks not of himself alone, but of his children and grandchildren. Therefore, when he plants an olive, a tree which lasts for centuries, and excavates at the bottom of the hollow in which he plants it a channel to let out the water by which it would be injured, he studies all the strata of the earth which he has to dig out." *
§ 4. I do not offer these quotations as evidence of the intrinsic excellence of the metayer system; but they surely suffice to prove that neither "land miserably cultivated " nor a people in " the most abject poverty" have any necessary connexion with it, and that the unmeasured vituperation lavished upon the system by English writers is grounded on an extremely narrow view of the subject.
* Of the intelligence of this interesting people, M. de Sismondi speaks in the most favourable terms. Few of them can read; but there is often one member of the family destined for the priesthood, who reads to them on winter evenings. Their language differs little from the purest Italian. The taste for improvisation in verse is general. "The peasants of the Vale of Nievole frequent the theatre in summer on festival days, from nine to eleven at night: their admission costs them little more than five French sous [2Jc?.]. Their favourite author is Alfieri; the whole history of theTAtridse is familiar to these people who cannot read, and who seek from that austere poet a relaxation from their rude labours." Unlike most rustics, they find pleasure in the beauty of their country. "In the hills of the vale of Nievole there is in front of every house a threshing-ground, seldom of more than 25 or 30 square fathoms; it is often the only level space in the whole farm; it is at the same time a terrace which commands the plains and the valley, and looks out upon a delightful country. Scarcely ever have I stood still to admire it, without the metayer's coming out to enjoy my admiration, and point out with his finger the beauties which he thought might have escaped my notice."1 I look upon the rural economy of Italy as simply so much additional evidence in favour of small occupations with permanent tenure. It is an example of what can be accomplished by those two elements, even under the disadvantage of the peculiar nature of the metayer contract, in which the motives to exertion on the part of the tenant are only half as strong as if he farmed the land on the same footing of perpetuity at a money-rent, either fixed, or varying according to some rule which would leave to the tenant the whole benefit of his own exertions. The metayer tenure is not one which we should be anxious to introduce where the exigencies of society had not naturally given birth to it; but neither ought we to be eager to abolish it on a mere a priori view of its disadvantages. If the system in Tuscany works as well in practice as it is represented to do, with every appearance of minute knowledge, by so competent an authority as Sismondi; if the mode of living of the people, and the size of farms, have for ages maintained and still maintain themselves * such as they are said to be by him, it were to be regretted that a state of rural well-being so much beyond what is realized in most European countries, should be put to hazard by an attempt to introduce, under the guise of agricultural improvement, a system of money-rents and capitalist farmers. Even where the metayers are poor, and the subdivision great, it is not to be assumed, as of course, that the change would be for the better. The enlargement of farms, and the introduction of what are called agricultural improvements, usually diminish the number of labourers employed on the land; and unless the growth of capital in trade and manufactures affords an opening for the displaced population, or unless there are reclaimable wastes on which they can be located, competition will so reduce wages, that they will probably be worse off as day-labourers than they were as metayers.
Mr. Jones very properly objects against the French Economists of the last century, that in pursuing their favourite object of introducing money-rents, they turned their minds solely to putting farmers in the place of metayers, instead of transforming the existing metayers into farmers; which, as he justly remarks, can scarcely
* "We never," says Sismondi, " find a family of metayers proposing to their landlord to divide the metairie, unless the work is really more than they can do, and they feel assured of retaining the same enjoyments on a smaller piece of ground. We never find several sons all marrying, and forming as many new families: only one marries and undertakes the charge of the household: none of the others marry unless the first is childless, or unless some one of them has the offer of a new metairie." New Principles of Political Economy, bookiii. ch. 5. • **
be effected, unless, to enable the metayers to save and become owners of stock, the proprietors submit for a considerable time to a diminution of income, instead of expecting an increase of it, which has generally been their immediate motive for making the attempt. If this transformation were effected, and no other change made in the metayer's condition; if, preserving all the other rights which usage insures to him. he merely got rid of the landlord's claim to half the produce, paying in lieu of it a moderate fixed rent; he would be so far in a better position than at present, as the whole, instead of only half the fruits of any improvement he made, would now belong to himself; but even so, the benefit would not be without alloy; for a metayer, though not himself a capitalist, has a capitalist for bis partner, and has the use, in Italy at least, of a considerable capital, as is proved by the excellence of the farm buildings: and it is not probable that the landowners would any longer consent to peril their moveable property on the hazards of agricultural enterprise, when assured of a fixed money income without it. Thus would the question stand, even if the change left undisturbed the metayer's virtual fixity of tenure, and converted him, in fact, into a peasant proprietor at a quitrent. But if we suppose him converted into a mere tenant, displaceable at the landlord's will, and liable to have his rent raised by competition to any amount which any unfortunate being in search of subsistence can be found to offer or promise for it; he would lose all the features in his condition which preserve it from being deteriorated; he would be cast down from his present position of a kind of half proprietor of the land, and would sink into a cottier tenant.
§ 1. By the general appellation of cottier tenure I shall designate all cases without exception in which the labourer makes his contract for land without the intervention of a capitalist farmer, and in which the conditions of the contract, especially the amount of rent, are determined not by custom but by competition. The principal European example of this tenure is Ireland, and it is from that country that the term cottier is derived.* By far the greater part of the agricultural population of Ireland might until very lately have been said to bel cottier-tenants; except so far as the Ulster tenant-right constituted an exception. There was, indeed, a numerous class of labourers who (we may presume through the refusal either of proprietors or of tenants in possession to permit any further subdivision) had been unable to obtain even the smallest patch of land as permanent tenants. But, from the deficiency of capital, the custom of paying wages in land was so universal, that even those who worked as casual labourers for the cottiers or for such large farmers as were found in the country, were usually paid not in money, but by permission to cultivate for the season a piece of ground which was generally delivered to them by the farmer ready manured, and was known by the name of conacre. For this they agreed to pay a money rent, often of several pounds an acre, but no money actually passed, the debt being worked out in labour, at a money valuation. The produce, on the cottier system, being divided into two
* In its original acceptation, the word "cottier" designated a class of subtenants, who rent a cottage and an acre or two of land from the small farmers. But the usage of writers has long since stretched the term to include those small farmers themselves, and generally all peasant farmers whose rents are determined by competition.
1 [" May be said to be " in 1st ed. (1848); altered as above in 5th ed. (1862). Similarly the account of the labourers in the following sentences was changed from the present to the past tense.]