« НазадПродовжити »
by the change: but he cannot do this without limit. The decline of serfdom in Europe, and its extinction in the Western nations, were doubtless hastened by the changes which the growth of population must have made in the pecuniary interests of the master. As population pressed harder upon the land, without any improvement in agriculture, the maintenance of the serfs necessarily became more costly, and their labour less valuable. With the rate of wages such as it is in Ireland, or in England (where, in proportion to its.efficiency, labour is quite as cheap as in Ireland), no one can for a moment imagine that slavery could be profitable. If the Irish peasantry were slaves, their masters would be as willing, as their landlords now are, to pay large sums merely to get rid of them. In the rich and underpeopled soil of the West India islands, there is just as little doubt that the balance of profits between free and slave labour was greatly on the side of slavery, and that the compensation granted to the slaveowners for its abolition was not more, perhaps even less, than an equivalent for their loss.
More needs not be said here on a cause so completely judged and decided as that of slavery. Its demerits are no longer a question requiring argument; though the temper of mind manifested by the larger part of the influential classes in Great Britain respecting the struggle now taking place in America, shows how grievously -the feelings of the present generation of Englishmen, on this subject, have fallen behind the positive acts of the generation which preceded them. That the sons of the deliverers of the West
Indian Negroes should see with complacency, and encourage by their sympathies, the foundation of a great and powerful military commonwealth, pledged by its principles and driven by its strongest interests to be the armed propagator of slavery through every region of the earth into which its power can penetrate, discloses a mental state in the leading portion of our higher and middle classes, which it is melancholy to see, and will be a lasting blot in English history. Fortunately they have stopped short of actually aiding, otherwise than by words, the nefarious enterprise to which they have not been ashamed of wishing success; and it is now probable that at the expense of the best blood of the Free States, but to their immeasurable elevation in mental and moral worth, the curse of slavery will be cast out from the great American republic, to find its last temporary refuge in Brazil and Cuba. No European country, except Spain alone, any longer participates in the enormity. Even serfage has now ceased to have a legal existence in Europe: Denmark has the honour of being the first Continental nation which imitated England in liberating its colonial slaves; and the abolition of slavery was one of the earliest acts of the heroic and calumniated Provisional Government of France. The Dutch Government was not long behind, and its colonies and dependencies are now, I believe, without exception, free from actual slavery: though forced labour for the public authorities is still a recognised institution in Java, soon, we may hope, to be exchanged for complete personal freedom.
OF PEASANT PROPRIETORS.
§ 1. In the regime of peasant properties, as in that of slavery, the whole produce belongs to a single owner, and the distinction of rent, profits, and wages, does not exist. In all other respects, the two states of society are the extreme opposites of each other. The one is the state of greatest oppression and degradation to the labouring class. The other is that in which they are the most uncontrolled arbiters of their own lot.
The advantage, however, of small properties in land, is one of the most disputed questions in the range of political economy. On the Continent, though there are some dissentients from the prevailing opinion, the benefit of having a numerous proprietary population exists in the minds of most people in the form of an axiom. But English authorities are either unaware of the judgment of Continental agriculturists, or are content to put it aside, on tho plea of their having no experience of Large properties in favourable circumstances: the advantage of large properties being only felt where there are also large farms; and as this, in arable districts, implies a greater accumulation of capital than usually exists on the Continent, the great Continental estates, except in the case of grazing farms, are mostly let out for cultivation in small portions. There is some truth in this; but the argument admits of being retorted; for if the Continent knows little, by experience, of cultivation on a large scale and by large capital, the generality of English writers are no better acquainted practically with peasant proprietors, and have almost always the most erroneous ideas of their social condition and mode of life. Yet the old traditions even of England are on the same side with the genera) opinion of the Continent. The "yeomanry" who were vaunted as the glory of England while they existed,
and have been so much mourned over since they disappeared, were either small proprietors or small farmers, and if they were mostly the last, the character they bore for sturdy independence is the more noticeable. There is a part of England, unfortunately a very small part, where peasant proprietors are still common; for such are the "statesmen" of Cumberland and Westmoreland, though they pay, I believe, generally if not universally, certain customary dues, which, being fixed, no more affect their character of proprietors than the land-tax does. There ic but one voice, among those acquainted with the country, on the admirable effects of this tenure of land in those counties. No other agricultural population in England could have furnished the originals of Wordsworth's peasantry.*
* In Mr. Wordsworth's little descriptive work on the scenery of the Lakes, he speaks of the upper part of the dales as having been for centuries "a perfect republic of shepherds and agriculturists, proprietors, for the most part, of the lands which they occupied and cultivated. The plough of each man was confined to the maintenance of his own family, or to the occasional accommodation of his neighbour. Two or three cows furnished each family with milk and cheese. The chapel was the only edifice that presided over these dwellings, the supreme head of this pure commonwealth ; the members of which existed in the midst of a powerful empire, like an ideal society, or an organized community, whose constitution had been imposed and regulated by the mountains which protected it. Keither high-born nobleman, knight, nor esquire was here; but many of these humble sons of the hills had a consciousness that the land which they walked over and tilled had for more than five hundred years been possessed by men of their name and blood. . . . Corn was grown in these valus sufficient upon each estate to furnish bread for each family; no more. The storms and moisture of the climate induced them to sprinkle their upland property with outhouses of native stone, as places of shelter for their sheep, where, in tempestuous weather, food was distributed to them. Every family spun from its own flock the wool with which it was clothed i &
The general system, however, of English cultivation, affording no experience to render the nature and operation of peasant properties familiar, and Englishmen beingin general profoundly ignorant of the agricultural economy of other countries, the very idea of peasant proprietors is strange to the English mind, and does not easily find access to it. Even the forms of language stand in the way: the familiar designation for owners of land being "landlords," a term to which "tenants" is always understood as a correlative. When, at the time of the famine, the suggestion of peasant properties as a means of Irish improvement found its way into parliamentary and newspaper discussions, there were writers of pretension to whom the word "proprietor" was so far from conveying any distinct idea, that they mistook the small holdings of Irish cottier tenants for peasant properties. The subject being so little understood, I think it important, before entering into the theory of it, to do something towards showing how the case stands as to matter of fact; by exhibiting, at greater length than would otherwise be admissible, some of the testimony which exists respecting the state of cultivation, and the comfort and happiness of the cultivators, in those countries and parts of countries, in which the greater part of the land has neither landlord nor farmer, other than the labourer who tills the soil.
§ 2. I lay no stress on the condition of North America, where, as is well known, the land, wherever free from the curse of slavery, is almost universally owned by the same person who holds the plough. A country combining the natural fertility of America with the knowledge and arts
weaver was here and there found among them, and the rest of their wants was supplied by the produce of the yarn, which they carded and spun in their own houses, and carried to market either under their arms, or more frequently on packhorses, a small train taking their way weekly down the valley, or over the mountains, to the most commodious town."—A Detcription of the Scenery of the Luke* in the A'orth of England, 3rd edit. pp. S0 to 63 and 63 to 65.
of modern Europe, is so peculiarly circumstanced, that scarcely anything, except insecurity of property or a tyrannical government, could materially impair the prosperity of the industrious classes. 1 might, with Sismondi, insist more strongly on the case of ancient Italy, 'especially Latium, that Campagna which then swarmed with inhabitants in the very regions which under a contrary regime have become uninhabitable from malaria. But I prefer taking the evidence of the same writer on things known to him by personal observation.
"It is especially Switzerland," says M. de Sismondi, "which should be traversed and studied to judge of the happiness of peasant proprietors. It is from Switzerland we learn that agriculture practised by the very persons who enjoy its fruits, suffices to procure great comfort for a very numerous population; a great independence of character, arising from independence of position; a great commerce of consumption, the result of the easy circumstances of all the inhabitants, even in a country whose climate is rude, whose soil is but moderately fertile, and where late frosts and inconstancy of seasons often blight the hopes of the cultivator. It is impossible to see without admiration those timber houses of the poorest peasant, so vast, so well closed in, so covered with carvings. In the interior, spacious corridors separate the different chambers of the numerous family; each chamber has but one bed, which is abundantly furnished with curtains, bedclothes, and the whitest linen; carefully kept furniture surrounds it; the wardrobes are filled with linen; the dairy is vast, well aired, and of exquisite cleanness; under the same roof is a great provision of corn, salt meat, cheese and wood; in the cow-houses are the finest and most carefully tended cattle in Europe; the garden is planted with flowers, both men and women are cleanly and warmly clad, the women preserve with pride their ancient costume; all carry in their faces the impress of health and strength. Let other nations boast of their opulence, Switzerland may always point with pride to her peasants."*
The same eminent writer thus expresses his opinions on peasant proprietorship in general.
"Wherever we find peasant proprietors, we also find the comfort, security, confidence in the future, and independence, which assure at once happiness and virtue. The peasant who with his children does all the work of his little inheritance, who pays no rent to any one above him, nor wages to any one below, who regulates his production by his consumption, who eats his own corn, drinks his own wine, is clothed in his own hemp and wool, cares little for the prices of the market; for he has little to sell and little to buy, and is never ruined by revulsions of trade. Instead of fearing for the future, he sees it in the coloura of hope; for he employs every moment not required by the labours of the year, on something profitable to his children and to future generations. A few minutes' work suffices him to plant the seed which in a hundred yeare will be a large tree, to dig the channel which will conduct to him a spring of fresh water, to improve by cares often repeated, but stolen from odd times, all the species of animals andvegetableswhich surround him. His little patrimony is a true savings bank, always ready to receive all his little gains and utilize all his moments of leisure. The ever-acting power of nature returns them a hundred-fold. The peasant has a lively sense of the happiness attached to the condition of a proprietor. Accordingly he is always eager to buy land at any price. He pays more for it than its value, more perhaps than it will bring him in; but is he not right in estimating highly the advantage of having always an advantageous investment for his labour, without underbidding in the wagesmarket—of being always able to find bread, without the necessity of buying it at a scarcity price?
"The peasant proprietor is of all cultivators the one who gets most from the soil, for he is the one who thinks * Studui in Political Economy. Essay III.
most of the future, and who has been most instructed by experience. He is also the one who employs the human powers to most advantage, because dividing his occupations among all the members of his family, he reserves some for every day of the year, so that nobody is ever out of work. Of all cultivators he is the happiest, and at the same time the land nowhere occupies, and feeds amply without becoming exhausted, so many inhabitants as where they are proprietors. Finally, of all cultivators the peasant proprietor is the one who gives most encouragement to commerce and manufactures, because he is the richest."•
This picture of unwearied assiduity, and what may be called affectionate interest in the land, is borne out in regard to the more intelligent Cantons of Switzerland by English observers. "In walking anywhere in the neighbourhood of Zurich," says Mr. Inglis, "in looking to the right or to the left, one is struck with the extraordinary industry of the inhabitants; and if wo learn that a proprietor here has a re. turn of ten per cent, we are inclined to say, 'he deserves it.' I speak at present of country labour, though I
* And in another work (New Principles of Political Economy, book ill. cbap. 3) he says, "When we traverse nearly the whole of Switzerland, and several provinces of France, Italy, and Germany, we need never ask, in looking at any piece of land, if it belongs to a peasant proprietor or to a farmer. Thfr intelligent care, the enjoyments provided for the labourer, the adornment which the country has received from his hands, are clear indications of the former. It is true an oppressive government may destroy the comfort and brutify the intelligence which should be the result of property; taxation may abstract the best produce of the fields, the insolence of government officers may disturb the security of the peasant, the impossibility of obtaining justice against a powerful neighbour may sow discouragement in his mind, and in the fine country which has been given back to the administration of the King of Sardinia, the proprif tor, equally with the day-labourer, wears th*. livery of indigence." He was here speaking of Savoy, where the peasants were generally proprietors, and, according to authentic accounts, extremely miserable. But, as M. de Sismondi continues, "it is in vain to observe only one of the rules of political economy; it cannot by itself suffice to produce good; but at least it diminishes evil.'*
believe that in every kind of trade also, the people of Zurich are remarkable for their assiduity; but in the industry they show in the cultivation of their land I may safely say they are unrivalled. When I used to open my casement between four and five in the morning to look out upon the lake and the distant Alps, I saw the labourer in the fields; and when I returned from an evening walk, long after sunset, as late, perhaps, as halfpast eight, there was the labourer, mowing his grass, or tying up his vines. ... It is impossible to look at a field, a garden, a hedging, scarcely even a tree, a flower, or a vegetable, without perceiving proofs of the extreme care and industry that are bestowed upon the cultivation of the soil. If, for example, a path leads through or by the side of a field of grain, the corn is not, as in England, permitted to hang over the path, exposed to be
Eulled or trodden down by every passery; it is everywhere bounded by a fence, stakes are placed at intervals of about a yard, and, about two or three feet from the ground, boughs of trees are passed longitudinally along. If you look into a field towards evening, where there are large beds of cauliflower or cabbage, you will find that every single plant has been watered. In the gardens, which around Zurich are extremely large, the most punctilious care is evinced in every production that grows. The vegetables are planted with seemingly mathematical accuracy; not a single weed is to be seen, not a single stone. Plants are not earthed up as with us, but are planted in a small hollow, into each of which a little manure is put, and each plant is watered daily. Where seeds are sown, the earth directly above is broken into the finest powder; every shrub, every flower is tied to a stake, and where there is wall-fruit, a trellice is erected against the wall, to which the boughs are fastened, and there is not a single thing that has not its appropriate resting place."*
* Switzerland, the South of France, and the Fyreneei in 1830. By H. D.Inglis. Vol. i. ch. 2
Of one of the remote valleys of the High Alps the same writer thus expresses himself:*—
"In the whole of the Engadine the land belongs to the peasantry, who, like the inhabitants of every other place where this state of things exist,, vary greatly in the extent of their possessions. . . . Generally speaking, an Engadine peasant lives entirely upon the produce of his land, with the exception of the few articles of foreign growth required in his family, such as coffee, sugar, and wine. Flax is grown, prepared, spun, and woven, without ever leaving his house. He has also his own wool, which is converted intoa blue coat without passing through the hands of either the dyer or the tailor. The country is incapable of greater cultivation than it has received. All has been done for it that industry and an extreme love of gain can devise. There is not a foot of waste land in the Engadine, the lowest part of which is not much lower than the top of Snowdon. Wherever grass will grow, there it is; wherever a rock will hear a blade, verdure is seen upon it; wherever an ear of rye will ripen, there it is to be found. Barley and oats have also their appropriate spots; and wherever it is possible to ripen a little patch of wheat, the cultivation of it is attempted. In no country in Europe will be found so few poor as in the Engadine. In the village of Suss, which contains about six hundred inhabitants, there is not a single individual who has not wherewithal to live comfortably, not a single individual who is indebted to others for one morsel that he eats."
Notwithstanding the general prosperity of the Swiss peasantry, this total absence of pauperism, and (it may almost be said) of poverty, cannot be predicated of the whole country; the largest and richest canton, that of Berne, being an example of the con trary; for although, in the parts of it which are occupied by peasant proprietors, their industry is as remarkable and their ease and comfort as conspicuous as elsewhere, the canton is • Ibid. oh. 8 and 10.