Зображення сторінки

husbandry equal to our own.” Those countries, and a considerable part of Quercy, “are cultivated more like gardens than farms. Perhaps they are too much like gardens, from the smallness of properties.”f In those districts the admirable rotation of crops, so long practised in Italy, but at that time generally neglected in France, was already universal. “The rapid succession of crops, the harvest of one being but the signal of sowing immediately for a second,” (the same fact which strikes all observers in the valley of the Rhine) “can scarcely be carried to greater perfection: and this is a point, perhaps, of all others the most essential to good husbandry, when such crops are so justly distributed as we generally find them in these provinces; cleaning and ameliorating ones being made the preparation for such as foul and exhaust.” It must not, however, be supposed, that Arthur Young's testimony on the subject of peasant properties is uniformly favourable. In Lorraine, Champagne, and elsewhere, he finds the agriculture bad, and the small proprietors very miserable, in consequence, as he says, of the extreme subdivision of the land. His opinion is thus summed up :-‘Before I travelled, I conceived that small farms, in property, were very susceptible of good cultivation; and that the occupier of such, having no rent to pay, might be sufficiently at his ease to work improvements, and carry on a vigorous husbandry; but what I have seen in France, has greatly lessened my good opinion of them. In Flanders, I saw excellent husbandry on properties of 30 to 100 acres; but we seldom find here such small patches of property as are common in other provinces. In Alsace, and on the Garonne, that is, on soils of such exuberant fertility as to demand no exertions, some small properties also are well cultivated. In Béarn, I passed through a region of little farmers, whose appearance, neatness, ease, and happiness charmed me; it

* Young, vol. i. p. 357. + Ibid. p. 364. # Ibid. p. 412.

was what property alone could, on a small scale, effect; but these were by no means contemptibly small; they are, as I judged by the distance from house to house, from 40 to 80 acres. Except these, and a very few other instances, I saw nothing respectable on small properties, except a most unremitting industry. Indeed, it is necessary to impress on the reader's mind, that though the husbandry I met with, in a great variety of instances on little properties, was as bad as can be well conceived, yet the industry of the possessors was so conspicuous, and so meritorious, that no commendations would be too great for it. It was sufficient to prove that property in land is, of all others, the most active instigator to severe and incessant labour. And this truth is of such force and extent, that I know no way so sure of carrying tillage to a mountain top, as by permitting the adjoining villagers to acquire it in property; in fact, we see that in the mountains of Languedoc, &c., they have conveyed earth in baskets, on their backs, to form a soil where nature had denied it.” The experience, therefore, of this celebrated agriculturist, and apostle of la grande culture, may be said to be, that the effect of small properties, cultivated by peasant proprietors, is admirable when they are not too small : so small, namely, as not fully to occupy the time and attention of the family; for he often complains, with great apparent reason, of the quantity of idle time which the peasantry had on their hands when the land was in very small portions, notwithstanding the ardour with which they toiled to improve their little patrimony, in every way which their knowledge or ingenuity could suggest. He recommends, accordingly, that a limit of subdivision should be fixed by law; and this is by no means an indefensible proposition in countries, if such there are, where the morcellement, having already gone farther than the state of capital and the nature of the staple articles of cultivation render advisable, still continues progressive. That each peasant should have a patch of land, even in full property, if it is not sufficient to support him in comfort, is a system with all the disadvantages, and scarcely any of the benefits, of small properties; since he must either live in indigence on the produce of his land, or depend as habitually as if he had no landed possessions, on the wages of hired labour: which, besides, if all the holdings surrounding him are of similar dimensions, he has little prospect of finding. The benefits of peasant properties are conditional on their not being too much subdivided ; that is, on their not being required to maintain too many persons, in proportion to the produce that can be raised from them by those persons. The question resolves itself, like most questions respecting the condition of the labouring classes, into one of population. Are small properties a stimulus to undue multiplication, or a check to it?



§ 1. BEFORE examining the influence of peasant properties on the ultimate economical interests of the labouring class, as determined by the increase of population, let us note the points respecting the moral and social influence of that territorial arrangement, which may be looked upon as established, either by the reason of the case, or by the facts and authorities cited in the preceding chapter.

The reader new to the subject must have been struck with the powerful impression made upon all the witnesses to whom I have referred, by what a Swiss statistical writer calls the “almost superhuman industry” of peasant proprietors.” On this point at least, authorities are unanimous. Those who have seen only one country of peasant properties, always think the inhabitants of that country the most industrious in the world. There is as little doubt among observers, with what feature in the condition of the peasantry this preeminent industry is connected. It is “the magic of property” which, in the words of Arthur Young, “turns sand into gold.” The idea of property does not, however, necessarily imply that there should be no rent, any more than that there should be no taxes. It merely implies that the rent should be a fixed charge, not liable to be raised against the possessor by his own improvements, or by the will of a landlord. A tenant at a quit-rent is, to all intents and purposes, a proprietor; a copyholder is not less so than a freeholder. What is wanted is permanent possession on fixed terms. “Give a man the secure possession of a bleak rock, and he will turn it into a garden; give him a nine years lease of a garden, and he will convert it into a desert.”

* “Fast tibermenschliche Fleiss. Der Canton Schaffhausen (ut supra), p. 53. -

The details which have been cited, and those, still more minute, to be found in the same authorities, concerning the habitually elaborate system of cultivation, and the thousand devices of the peasant proprietor for making every superfluous hour and odd moment instrumental to some increase in the future produce and value of the land, will explain what has been said in a previous chapter” respecting the far larger gross produce which, with anything like parity of agricultural knowledge, is obtained, from the same quality of soil, on small farms, at least when they are the property of the cultivator. The treatise on “Flemish Husbandry” is especially instructive respecting the means by which untiring industry does more than outweigh inferiority of resources, imperfection of implements, and ignorance of scientific theories. The peasant cultivation of Flanders and Italy is affirmed to produce heavier crops, in equal circumstances of soil, than the best cultivated districts of Scotland and England. It produces them, no doubt, with an amount of labour which, if paid for by an employer, would make the cost to him more than equivalent to the benefit; but to the peasant it is not cost, it is the devotion of time which he can spare, to a favourite pursuit, if we should not rather say a ruling passion.t

* Supra, Book i. ch. ix. § 4. + Read the graphic description by the historian Michelet, of the feelings of a peasant proprietor towards his land. “Si nous voulons connaitre la pensée intine, la passion, du paysan de France, cela est fort aisé. Promenons-nous le dimanche dans la campagne, uivons-le. Le voilà qui s'en va la-bas devant nous. Il est deux heures; a femme est a vépres; il est endimanché; je réponds qu'il va voir sa maitresse. “Quelle mattresse 1 sa terre. “Je ne dis pas qu'il y aille tout droit. Non, il est libre ce jour-la, il est

« НазадПродовжити »