« НазадПродовжити »
sant pioperties. Among the testimonies which he cites respecting their effect on agriculture, I select the following.
"Reicbensperger, himself an inhabitant of that part ofPrussia where the land is the most subdivided, has published a long and very elaborate work to show the admirable consequences of a system of freeholds in land. He expresses a very decided opinion that not only are the gross products of any given number of acres held and cultivated by small or peasant proprietors, greater than the gross products of an equal number of acres held by a few great proprietors, and cultivated by tenant farmers, but that the net products of the former, after deducting all the expenses of cultivation, are also greater than the net products of the latter. . . . He mentions one fact which seems to prove that the fertility of the land in countries where the properties are small, must be rapidly increasing. He says that the price of the land which is divided into small properties in the Prussian Rhine provinces, is much higher, and has been rising much more rapidly, than the price of land on the great estates. He and Professor Rau both say that this rise in the price of the small estates would have ruined the more recent purchasers, unless the productiveness of the small estates had increased in at least an equal proportion; and as the small proprietors have been gradually becoming more and more prosperous notwithstanding the increasing prices they have paid for their land, he argues, with apparent justness, that this would seem to show that not only the gross profits of the small estates, but the nst profits also, have been gradually increasing, and that the net profits per acre, of land, when farmed by small proprietors, are greater than the net profits per acre of land farmed by a great proprietor. He says, with seeming truth, that the increasing price of land in the small estates cannot be the mere effect of competition, or it would have diminished the profits and the prosperity of the small proprietors, and that this result has not followed the rise.
"Albrecht Thaer, another celebrated
German writer on the different systems of agriculture, in one of his later works (Principles of Rational Agriculture) expresses his decided conviction, that the net produce of land is greater when farmed oy small proprietors than when farmed by great proprietors or theii tenants. . . . This opinion of Thaer is all the more remarkable, as, during the early part of his life, he was very strongly in favour of the English system of great estates and great farms."
Mr. Kay adds, from his own observation, "The peasant farming of Prussia, Saxony, Holland, and Switzerland is the most perfect and economical farming I have ever witnessed in any country."*
§ 5. But the most decisive example in opposition to the English prejudice against cultivation by peasant proprietors, is the case of Belgium. The soil is originally one of the worst in Europe. "The provinces," says Mr. M'Culloch,t "of West and East Flanders, and Hainault, form a farstretching plain, of which the luxuriant vegetation indicates the indefatigable care and labour bestowed upon its cultivation; for the natural soil consists almost wholly of barren sand, and its great fertility is entirely the result of very skilful management and judicious application of various manures.'' There exists a carefully prepared and comprehensive treatise on Flemish Husbandry, in the Farmer's Series of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. The writer observes,! that the Flemish agriculturists " seem to want nothing but a space to work upon: whatever be the quality or texture of the soil, in time they will make it produce something. The sand in the Campine can be compared to nothing but the sands on the sea-shore, which they probably were originally. It is highly interesting to follow step by step the progress of improvement. Here you see a cottage and rude cow-shed erected on a spot of the most unpromising aspect. The loose white sand blown into irre
* Kay, i. 116-8.
t Geographical Dictionary, art.Belgium,* % Pp. 11-14
gnlar mounds is only kept together by the roots of the heath: a small spot only is levelled and surrounded by a ditch: part of this is covered with young broom, part is planted with potatoes, and perhaps a small patch of diminutive clover may show itself:" but manures, both solid and liquid, are collecting, "and this is the nucleus from which, in a few years, a little farm will spread around. ... If there is no manure at hand, the only thing that can be sown, on pure sand, at first, is broom: this grows in the most barren soils; in three years it is fit to cut, and produces Some return in fagots for the bakers and brickmakers. The leaves which have fallen have somewhat enriched the soil, and the fibres of the roots have given a certain degree of compactness. It may now be ploughed and sown with buckwheat, or even with rye without manure. By the time this is reaped, some manure may have been collected, and a regular course of cropping may begin. As soon as clover and potatoes enable the farmer to keep cows and make manure, the improvement goes on rapidly; in a few years the soil undergoes a complete change: it becomes mellow and retentive of moisture, and enriched by the vegetable matter afforded by the decomposition of the roots of clover and other plants. . . . After the land has been gradually brought into a good state, and is cultivated in a regular manner, there appears much less difference between the soils which have been originally good, and those which have been made so by labour and industry. At least the crops in both appear more nearly alike at harvest, than is the case in soils of different qualities in other countries. This is a great proof of tho excellency of the Flemish system; for it shows that the land is in a constant state of improvement, and that the deficiency of the soil is compensated by greater attention to tillage and manuring, especially the latter."
The people who labour thus intensely, because labouring for themselves, have practised for centuries those principles of rotation of crops and economy of manures, which in England are counted
among modern discoveries: and even now the superiority of their agriculture, as a whole, to that of England, is admitted by competent judges. "The cultivation of a poor light soil, or a moderate soil," says the writer last quoted,* "is generally superior in Flanders to that of the most improved farms of the same kind in Britain. We surpass the Flemish farmer greatly in capital, in varied implements of tillage, in the choice and breeding of cattle and sheep," (though, according to the same authority.t they are much "before us in the feeding of their cows,") "and the British farmer is in general a man of superior education to the Flemish peasant. But in the minute attention to the qualities of the soil, in the management and application of manures of different kinds, in the judicious succession of crops, and especia ly in the economy of land, so that every part of it shall be in a constant state of production, we have still something to learn from the Flemings," and not from an instructed and enterprising Fleming here and there, but from the general practice.
Much of the most highly cultivated part of the country consists of peasant properties, managed by the proprietors, always either wholly or partly by spade industry "When the land is cultivated entirely by the spade, and no horses are kept, a cow is kept for every three acres of land, and entirely fed on artificial grasses and roots. This mode of cultivation is principally adopted in the Waes district, where properties are very small. All the labour is done by the different members of the family;" children soon beginning "to assist in various minute operations, according to their age and strength, such as weeding, hoeing, feeding the cows. If they can raise rye and wheat enough to make their bread, and potatoes, turnips, carrots, and clover, for the cows, they do well; and the produce of the sale of their rape-seed, their flax, their hemp, and their butter, after deducting the expense of manure purchased, which
* Flemith Husbandry', p. 3.
t Ibid. p. 13.
X Ibid., pp. 73 et seq.
is always considerable, gives them a very good profit. Suppose the whole extent of the land to be six acres, which is not an uncommon occupation, and which one man can manage;" then (after describing the cultivation), "if a man with his wife and three young children are considered as equal to three and a half grown up men, the family will require thirty-nine bushels of grain, forty-nine bushels of potatoes, a fat hog, and the butter and milk of one cow: an acre and a half of land will produce the grain and potatoes, and allow some corn to finish the fattening of the hog, which has the extra buttermilk: another acre in clover, carrots, and potatoes, together with the stubble turnips, will more than feed the cow; consequently two and a half acres of land is sufficient to feed this family, and the produce of the other three and a half may be sold to pay the rent or the interest of purchase-money, wear and tear of implements, extra manure, and clothes for the family. But these acres are the most profitable on the farm, for the hemp, flax, and colza are included; and by having another acre in clover and roots, a second cow can be kept, and its produce sold. We have, therefore, a solution of the problem, how a family can live and thrive on six acres of moderate land." After showing by calculation that this extent of land can be cultivated in the most perfect manner by the family without any aid from hired labour, the writer continues, "In a farm of ten acres entirely cultivated by the spade, the addition of a man and a woman to the members of the family will render all the operations more easy; and with a horse and cart to carry out the manure, and bring home the produce, and occasionally draw the harrows, fifteen acres may be very well cultivated. . . . Thus it will be seen," (this is the result of some pages of details and calculations,*) "that by spade husbandry, an industrious man with a small capital, occupying only fifteen acres of good light land, may not only live and bring up a family, paying a good rent, but may accumulate a considerable sum in the course • Flemith Htislandry, p. 81.
of his life.'' But the indefatigable industry by which he accomplishes this, and of which so large a portion is expended not in the mere cultivation, but m the improvement, for a distant return, of the soil itself—has that industry no connexion with not paying rent? Could it exist, without presupposing, at least, a virtually permanent tenure?
As to their mode of living, "the Flemish farmers and labourers live much more economically than the same class in England: they seldom eat meat, except on Sundnys and in harvest: buttermilk and potatoes with brown bread is their daily food." It is on this kind of evidence that English travellers, as they hurry through Enrope, pronounce the peasantry of every Continental country poor and miserable, its agricultural and social system a failure, and the English the only regime under which labourers are well off. It is, truly enough, the only regime under which labourers, whether well off or not, never attempt to be better. So little are English labourers accustomed to consider it possible that a labourer should not spend all he earns, that they habitually mistake the signs of economy for those of poverty. Observe the true interpretation of the phenomena.
"Accordingly they are gradually acquiring capital, and their great ambition is to nave land of their own. They eagerly seize every opportunity of purchasing a small farm, and the price is so raised by competition, that land pays little more than two per cent interest for the purchase money. Large properties gradually disappear, and are divided into small portions, which sell at a high rate. But the wealth and industry of the population is continually increasing, being rather diffused through the masses than accumulated in individuals."
With facts like these, known and accessible, it is not a little surprising to find the case of Flanders referred to not in recommendation of peasant properties, but as a warning against them; on no better ground than a presumptive excess of population, inferred from the distress which existed among the jeawintry of Brabant and East Flanders in the disastrous year 1846-47. The evidence which I have cited from a writer conversant with the subject, and having no economical theory to support, shows that the distress, whatever may have been its severity, arose i'rom no insufficiency in these little properties to supply abundantly, in any ordinary circumstances, the wants of all whom they have to maintain. It arose from the essential condition to which those are subject who employ land of their own in growing their own food, namely, that the vicissitudes of the seasons must be borne by themselves, and cannot, as in the t:ase of large farmers, be shifted from them to the consumer. When we remember the season of 1846, a partial failure of all kinds of grain, and an almost total one of the potato, h is no wonder that in so unusual a calamity the produce of six acres, half of them sown with flax, hemp, or oil seeds, should fall short of a year's provision for a family. But we are not to contrast the distressed Flemish peasant with an English capitalist who farms several hundred acres of land. If the peasant were an Englishman, he would not be that capitalist, but a day-labourer under a capitalist. And is there no distress, in times of dearth, among day-labourers? Was there none, that year, in countries where small proprietors and small farmers are unknown? I am aware of no reason for believing that the distress was greater in Belgium, than corresponds to the proportional extent of the failure of crops compared with other countries.*
§ 6. The evidence of the beneficial operation of peasant properties in the Channel Islands is of so decisive a character, that I cannot help adding to the numerous citations already made,
* As muchofthedistresslatelycomplained of in Belgium, as partakes in any degree of a permanent character, appears to be almost confined to the portion of the population who carry on manufacturing labour, either by itself or in conjunction with agricultural; and to be occasioned by a diminished demand for Belgic manufactures.
To the preceding testimonies respecting Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium, may
part of a description of the economical condition of those islands, by a writer who combines personal observation with an attentive study of the information afforded by others. Mr. William Thornton, in his "Plea for Peasant Proprietors," a book which by the excellence both of its materials and of its execution, deserves to be regarded as the standard work on that side of the question, speaks of the island of Guernsey in the following terms: "Not even in England is nearly so large a quantity of produce sent to market from a tract of such limited extent. This of itself might prove that the cultivators must be far removed above poverty, for being absolute owners of all the produce raised by them, they of course sell only what they do not themselves require. But the satisfactoriness of their condition is apparent to every observer. 'The happiest community,' says Mr. Hill, 'which it has ever been my lot to fall in with, is to be found in this little island of Guernsey.' 'No matter,' says Sir George Head, 'to what point the traveller may choose to bend his way, comfort everywhere prevails.' What most surprises the English visitor in his first walk or drive beyond the bounds of St. Peter's Port, is the appearance of the habitations with which the landscape is thickly studded. Many of them are such as in his own country would belong to persons of middle rank; but he is puzzled to guess what sort of people live in the others, which, though in general not large enough for farmers, are almost invariably much too good in every respect for
day labourers Literally, in the
whole island, with the exception of a few fishermen's huts, there is not one so mean as to be likened to the ordinary habitation of an English farm labourer. 'Look,' says a late Bailiff of
be added the following from Niebuhr, re specting the Roman Campr-gna. In a letter from Tivoli, he says, "Wherever you find hereditary farmers, or small proprietors, there you also find industry and honesty. I believe that a man who would employ a large fortune in establishing small freeholds might put an end to robbery in the mountain districts."—L\fe and Letters of Nicbukr, vol. ii. p. 119.
Guernsey, Mr. De L'Isle Brock, 'at the hovels of the English, and compare them with the cottages of our peasantry.' .... Beggars are utterly unknown Pauperism, able-bodied
pauperism at least, is nearly as rare as mendicancy. The Savings Banks accounts also bear witness to the general abundance enjoyed by the labouring classes of Guernsey. In the year 1841, there were in England, out of a population of nearly fifteen millions, less than 700,000 depositors, or one in every twenty persons, and the average amount of the deposits was 301. In Guernsey, in the same year, out of a population of 26,000 the number of depositors was 1920, and the average amount of the deposits 401."* The evidence as to Jersey and Alderney is of a similar character.
Of the efficiency and productiveness of agriculture on the small properties of the Channel Islands, Mr. Thornton produces ample evidence, the result of which he sums up as follows: "Thus it appears that in the two principal Channel Islands, the agricultural population is, in the one twice, and in the other, three times, as dense as in Britain, there being in the latter country only one cultivator to twenty-two acres of cultivated land, while in Jersey there is one to eleven, and in Guernsey one to seven acres. Yet the agriculture of these islands maintains, besides cultivators, non-agricultural populations, respectively four and five times as dense as that of Britain. This difference does not arise from any superiority of soil or climate possessed by the Channel Islands, for the former is naturally rather poor, and the latter is not better than in the southern counties of England. It is owing entirely to the assiduous care of the farmers, and to the abundant use of manure."t "In the year 1837," he sayB in another place,} " the average yield of wheat in the large farms of England was only twenty-one bushels, and the highest average for any one county was no .more than twenty-six bushels. The
* A Plea for Peasant Proprietor!. By "William Thomas Thornton, pp. 99—104.
t Ibid. p. 33.
t Ibid. p. D.
highest average since claimed for the whole of England, is thirty bushels. In Jersey, where the average size of farms is only sixteen acres, the average produce of wheat per acre was stated by Inglis in 1834 to be thirty-six bushels; but it is proved by official tables to have been forty bushels in the five years ending with 1833. In Guernsey, where farms are still smaller, four quarters per acre, according to Inglis, is considered a good, but still a very common crop." "Thirty shillings* an acre would be thought in England a very fair rent for middling land; but in the Channel Islands, it is only very inferior land that would not let for at least 41."
§ 7. It is from France, that impressions unfavourable to peasant properties are generally drawn; it is in France that the system is so often asserted to have brought forth its fruit in the most wretched possible agriculture, and to be rapidly reducing, if not to have already reduced, the peasantry, by subdivision of land, to the verge of starvation. It is difficult to account for the general prevalence of impressions so much the reverse of truth. The agriculture of France was wretched, and the peasantry in great indigence, before the Revolution. At that time they were not, so universally as at present, landed proprietors. There were, however, considerable districts of France where the land, even then, was to a great extent the property of the peasantry, and among these were many of the most conspicuous exceptions to the general bad agriculture and to the general poverty. An authority, on this point, not to be disputed, is Arthur Young, the inveterate enemy of small farms, the coryphaeus of the modern English school of agriculturists; who yet, travelling over nearly the whole of France in 1787, 1788, and 1789, when he finds remarkable excellence of cultivation, never hesitates to ascribe it to peasant property. "Leaving Sauve," says he,f
* A Plea for Peasant Proprietors, p. 32. t Arthur Young's Travels in France, vol. i. p. 50.