Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

ment and the means of subsistence at the hands of others. It is the condition of this class that the philanthropist is especially interested in, because this is preëminently the dependent class. The economist should be equally interested because just here comes the real strain in the distri. bution of the products of industry. How, for example, if we group employer and employed in one great “wages" class, can we properly reach the subjects of strikes and trades unions? Are we not, most unnecessarily and in most undeserved contempt of popular speech, slurring over and obliterating the natural and obvious distinction which points us the way to the right discussion of some of the most important questions of distribution, when we speak of the wages of a cotton manufacturer; wages stipulated by no one, due from no one, and, if paid at all, paid by the accidental consumer of the product ?

If employers do not belong in the wages class, no more do those who are neither employers nor employed; who having command of the agencies and instrumentalities of production sufficient for their own labor, take a most important part, indeed, in the production of wealth; but, own. ing the entire product, have no concern whatever with the distribution of wealth, and hence nothing to do with wages.

We thus exclude the whole body of peasant proprietors, who in many countries constitute the bulk of the population, and are, taking the whole world together, undoubtedly more numerous than any other single class which we shall have occasion to characterize. These persons, cultivating their own land with their own labor only, or perhaps with that of their wives and minor children (having no separate rights or interests recognized by the law of the land, and hence capable of making no demand, as laborers, for any portion of the product), create in the aggregate a vast amount of wealth, but it is wealth not distributed. Each such peasant proprietor owns the entire product of his land (subject only to the claims of the government for

contribution, which claims, being legal and not economica in their nature, cannot be recognized in an economical treatise), to be consumed for the subsistence of himself and family and the increase of his own stock, or to be exchanged at his pleasure for the products of others. Such wealth, therefore, is not subject to distribution, and hence we clearly must exclude this body of laborers from the wages class.

In England the peasant proprietor does not exist. Forty years ago Prof. Jones' wrote “In parts of England and Wales, though the race is fast vanishing, there may be seen specimens of our first division of laborers, unhired by any one, occupiers of the soil, tilling it with their own hands." :

The “specimens” have by this time all disappeared except possibly from Westmoreland and Cumberland, counties characterized by comparatively small estates. But while the condition of large landed properties, cultivated by hired agricultural laborers, is almost universal in Eng. land and Scotland, one cannot cross the narrow seas in any direction without coming upon a condition very different.' To the west, Ireland furnishes an example of which we shall speak in connection with another class of producers; while, before one reaches the coast of France, he finds in the “ Channel Islands," a part of the British empire but retaining their own laws regulating the descent of landed property, a body of peasant proprietors who have furnished the advocates of that system of cultivation with some of their most valued illustrations. In France the principle of “partible succession," introduced by the Revolution, has created a vast number of small properties, estimated at between four and five and a half millions.

1 " Whose Essay on the distribution of Wealth (or rather Rent) is a copious repertory of valuable facts on the landed tenure of different countries."-J. S. Mill, Pol. Econ., I. 297.

• Pol. Econ., p. 15.

1"You have no other peasantry like that of England. You have no other country in which it is entirely divorced from the land. There is no other country in the world where you will not find men turning up the furrow in their own freehold."-Cobdon, Speeches, II, 116.

“In Germany a revolution of the same nature, though not of the same magnitude, has been effected in a more regular manner. The benefits of landed property have been imparted progressively to a numerous and prosperous class of cultivators by the abolition of feudal superiorities, by the restriction of entails and special destination of property, by the deliberate division of estates between the landlord and the occupier, on a basis, if not always equitable to the former, at least patriotic in its motives and happy in its results, and by the operation of rules of succession reproducing in some instances and in others adopting with various modifications, the maxims of the French Code."

In Italy, under the principle of partible succession, somewhat modified, and through sale of church lands and the dismemberment of feudal estates subject to communal rights; and in Russia, through the emancipation of the serfs and their investiture with portions of the estates to which they formerly belonged, we have a large and increasing portion of the soil cultivated by its owners, working for themselves and by themselves, receiving the whole produce of the soil, subject only to deduction through taxation.

But it is not only the peasant proprietor of Europe, the “farmer” of America, who must be excluded from the wages class on the ground that he is not dependent on another for employment. In the same class economically, 80 far as the principles of distribution are concerned, are large bodies of mechanical laborers, artisans, who having possession of the agencies and instrumentalities of pro

• Address of Lord Napier and Ettrick. Soc. Sc. Transactions, 1872.

duction, are enabled to produce wealth by their own labor, without the consent of any person, the product being all their own and hence not subject to distribution, though presumably in great part exchanged for the prodụcts, especially the agricultural products, of others. These persons, again, receive no wages, are not hired. They are no more the employed than they are the employers ; indeed they are neither. Distribution has nothing to do with them.

Adam Smith recognized this class. “It sometimes happens,” he says, “ that a single independent workman has stock enough both to purchase the materials of his work and to maintain himself till it be completed. He is both master and workman, and enjoys the whole produce of his labor.

I do not, for the present, say that the condition of this class is better or worse than that of the wages class, but only that the two classes stand in different economical relations, and should be treated separately. The self-employed laborer has still to seek his market, and if the market fail him he may suffer or starve like the wage laborer; but it is a market for his product that he seeks, not for his labor; and in the pregnant fact that he has possession of the agencies and instrumentalities of production, and may work in his place without the leave or help of any, is found an abundant reason for preserving the distinction expressed above.

Closely allied to the peasant proprietor in many respect economically, though differing widely in others, and not the less distinctly to be excluded from the wages class, are those tenants, whether known as ryots in Asia or metayers in Europe, who have, whether by law or by imperative custom, a recognized right to the cultivation of soil which they do not own, upon the payment of a fixed share of the produce. The wealth thus produced is, indeed, un. like that produced by the classes previously described, subject to distribution, inasmuch as the owner of the soil is here entitled to participate in the results of the industry; but the tenant's share is still in no sense wages. He is not of the employed class; he is not dependent on the will of another for the opportunity to labor; he has a right to work on that particular body of land and to enjoy the fruits of his labor, subject only to the due payment of the share of the product going to the landlord-be the same an individual or the state. And this is equally true whether the right of the tenant to remain in occupancy is one fixed by law, or only by a custom which is so distinct and imperative as to give a practical assurance of permanency. And it is equally true whether the amount of rent be fixed by law, or by a custom which the owner so far respects as to put it out of his disposition to undertake to raise it.

1 Wealth of Nations, I. 69.

The metayer system, under which the landowner receives a definite share of the produce, originally one-half, as the term implies, but varying in present usage from one-half to two-thirds, according to local law or custom, once prevailed throughout the western division of Continental Europe, Italy, France, and Spain. In France,

1 " In Tuscany," writes Sismondi, and the remark holds true of most parts of Italy where the metayer system prevails, “public opinion protects the cultivator. A proprietor would not dare to im. pose conditions unusual in the country, and even in changing one metayer for another he alters nothing of the rent.”

“In this country (England) the cultivator of the soil and the owner of the soil are, as a rule, different persons ; in other countries they are, as a rule, the same; or where they are not the same the owner of the soil rather occupies the position of a perpetual lessor or mortgagee than that of a landlord whose contracts with his tenants are constantly liable to revision.”—Prof. Rogers' Pol. Econ., p. 151.

? Prof. Jones finds the origin of the metayer system of Western Europe, in Greece, from which it was adopted by the Romans, and in. troduced into Italy first, and France and Spain afterwards. Prof. Rogers finds that the metayer system was introduced quite generally

« НазадПродовжити »