« НазадПродовжити »
large numbers of workmen combining their labour, these are not in general to be expected from small farmers, or even small proprietors, though combination among them for such purposes is by no means unexampled, and will become more common as their intelligence is more developed. Against these disadvantages is to be placed, where the tenure of land is of the requisite kind, an ardour of industry absolutely unexampled in any other condition of agriculture. This is a subject on which the testimony of competent witnesses is unanimous. The working of the petite culture cannot be fairly judged where the small cultivator is merely a tenant, and not even a tenant on fixed conditions, but (as until lately in Ireland) at a nominal rent greater than can be paid, and therefore practically at a varying rent always amounting to the utmost that can be paid. To understand the subject, it must be studied where the cultivator is the proprietor, or at least a métayer with a permanent tenure; where the labour he exerts to increase the produce and value of the land avails wholly, or at least partly, to his own benefit and that of his descendants. In another division of our subject, we shall discuss at some length the important subject of tenures of land, and I defer till then any citation of evidence on the marvellous industry of peasant proprietors. It may suffice here to appeal to the immense amount of gross produce which, even without a permanent tenure, English labourers generally obtain from their little allotments; a produce beyond comparison greater than a large farmer extracts, or would find it his interest to extract, from the same piece of land. And this I take to be the true reason why large cultivation is generally most advantageous as a mere investment for profit. Land occupied by a large farmer is not, in one sense of the word, farmed so highly. There is not nearly so much labour expended on it. This is not on account of any economy arising from combination of labour, but because, by employing less, a greater return is obtained in proportion to the outlay. It does not answer to any one to pay others for exerting all the labour which the peasant, or even the allotment holder, gladly undergoes when the fruits are to be wholly reaped by himself. This labour, however, is not unproductive; it all adds to the gross produce. With anything like equality of skill and knowledge, the large farmer does not obtain nearly so much from the soil as the small proprietor, or the small farmer with adequate motives to exertion: but though his returns are less, the labour is less in a still greater degree, and as whatever labour he employs must be paid for, it does not suit his purpose to employ more. But although the gross produce of the land is greatest, catteris paribus, under small cultivation, and although, therefore, a country is able on that system to support a larger aggregate population, it is generally assumed by English writers that what is termed the net produce, that is, the surplus after feeding the cultivators, must be smaller; that therefore, the population disposable for all other purposes, for manufactures, for commerce and navigation, for national defence, for the promotion of knowledge, for the liberal professions, for the various functions of government, for the arts and literature, all of which are dependent on this surplus for their existence as occupations, must be less numerous; and that the nation, therefore, (waving all question as to the condition of the actual cultivators,) must be inferior in the principal elements of national power, and in many of those of general well-being. This, however, has been taken for granted much too readily. Undoubtedly, the non-agricultural population will bear a less ratio to the agricultural, under small than under large cultivation. But that it will be less numerous absolutely, is by no means a consequence. If the total population, agricultural and non-agricultural, is greater, the non-agricultural portion may be more numerous in itself, and may yet be a smaller proportion of the whole. If the gross produce is larger, the net produce may be larger, and yet bear a smaller ratio to the gross produce. Yet even Mr. Wakefield sometimes appears to confound these distinct ideas. In France it is computed that two-thirds of the whole population are agricultural. In England, at most, one-third. Hence Mr. Wakefield infers, that “as in France only three people are supported by the labour of two cultivators, while in England the labour of two cultivators supports six people, English agriculture is twice as productive as French agriculture,” owing to the superior efficiency of large farming through combination of labour. But in the first place, the facts themselves are overstated. The labour of two persons in England does not quite support six people, for there is not a little food imported from foreign countries, and from Ireland. In France, too, the labour of two cultivators does much more than supply the food of three persons. It provides the three persons, and occasionally foreigners, with flax, hemp, and to a certain extent with silk, oils, tobacco, and latterly sugar, which in England are wholly obtained from abroad; nearly all the timber used in France is of home growth, nearly all which is used in England is imported; the principal fuel of France is procured and brought to market by persons reckoned among agriculturists, in England by persons not so reckoned. I do not take into calculation hides and wool, these products being common to both countries, nor wine or brandy produced for home consumption, since England has a corresponding production of beer and spirits; but England has no material export of either article, and a great importation of the last, while France supplies wines and spirits to the whole world. I say nothing of fruit, eggs, and such minor exportable articles of agricultural produce. But, not to lay undue stress on these abatements, we will take the statement as it stands. Suppose that two persons, in England, do bond fide produce the food of six, while in France, for the same purpose, the labour of four is requisite. Does it follow that England must have a larger surplus for the support of a non-agricultural population ? No ; but merely that she can devote two-thirds of her whole produce to the purpose, instead of one-third. Suppose the produce to be twice as great, and the one-third will amount to as much as the two-thirds. The fact might be, that owing to the greater quantity of labour employed on the French system, the same land would produce food for twelve persons which on the English system would only produce it for six: and if this were so, which would be quite consistent with the conditions of the hypothesis, then although the food for twelve was produced by the labour of eight, while the six were fed by the labour of only two, there would be the same number of hands disposable for other employment in the one country as in the other. I am not contending that the fact is so. I know that the gross produce per acre in France as a whole (though not in its most improved districts) averages much less than in England, and that, in proportion to the extent and fertility of the two countries, England has, in the sense we are now speaking of, much the largest disposable population. But the disproportion certainly is not to be measured by Mr. Wakefield's simple criterion. As well might it be said that agricultural labour in the United States, where, by a late census, four families in every five appeared to be engaged in agriculture, must be still more inefficient than in France. The inferiority of French cultivation (which, taking the country as a whole, must be allowed to be real, though much exaggerated,) is probably more owing to the lower general average of industrial skill and energy in that country, than to any special cause: and even if partly the effect of minute subdivision, it does not prove that small farming is disadvantageous, but only (what is undoubtedly the fact) that farms in France are very frequently too small, and, what is worse, broken up into an almost incredible number of patches or parcelles, most inconveniently dispersed and parted from one another. As a question, not of gross, but of net produce, the comparative merits of the grande and the petite culture, especially when the small farmer is also the proprietor, cannot be looked upon as decided. It is a question on which good judges at present differ. The current of English opinion is in favour of large farms: on the Continent, the weight of authority seems to be on the other side. Professor Rau, of Heidelberg, the author of one of the most comprehensive and elaborate of extant treatises on political economy, and who has that large acquaintance with facts and authorities on his own subject, which generally characterises his countrymen, lays it down as a settled truth, that small or moderatesized farms yield not only a larger gross but a larger net produce : though, he adds, it is desirable there should be
ments que le développement de la petite culture a, dans le pays dont il s'agit, apportés au nombre et à l'espèce des animaux dont le produit en engrais soutient et accroît la fertilité des terres. Dans la commune de Vensat, qui comprend 1612 hectares divisés en 4600 parcelles appartenant à 591 propriétaires, le territoire exploité se compose de 1466 hectares. Or, en 1790, 17 fermes en occupaient les deux tiers et 20 autres tout le reste. Depuis lors, les cultures se sont morcelées, et maintenant leur petitesse est extrême. Quelle a été l'influence du changement sur la quantité des animaux ! Une augmentation considérable. En 1790, la commune ne possédait qu'environ 300 bêtes à cornes, et de 1800 à 2000 bêtes à laine ; aujourd'hui elle compte 676 des premières, et 533 seulement des secondes. Ainsi pour remplacer 1300 moutons elle a acquis 376 bœufs et vaches, et tout compensé, la somme des engrais s'est accrue dans la proportion de 490 à 729, ou de plus de 48 pour cent. Et encore est-il à remarquer que, plus forts et mieux nourris à présent, les animaux contribuent bien davantage à entretenir la fertilité des terreS.
** Voilà ce que les faits nous apprennent sur ce point : il n'est donc pas vrai que la petite culture ne nourrisse pas autant d'animaux que les autres ; loin de là, à conditions locales pareilles, c'est elle qui en possède le plus, et il ne devait pas être difficile de le présumer ; car, du moment où c'est elle qui demande le plus aux terres, il faut bien qu'elle leur donne des soins d'autant plus réparateurs qu'elle en exige davantage. Que l'on prenne un à un les autres reproches ; qu'on les examine à la clarté de faits bien appréciés, on s'appercevra bientôt qu'ils ne sauraient être mieux fondés, et qu'ils n'ont été formulés que parce qu'on a comparé l'état des cultures dans des contrées où les causes de la prospérité agricole n'agissaient pas avec la même énergie.'' (pp. 116-120.)