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instances errs rather on the side of excess than defect. Among those who, from the hovels in which they live, and the herbs and roots which constitute their diet, are mistaken by travellers for proofs and specimens of general indigence, there are numbers who have hoards in leathern bags, consisting of sums in five-franc pieces, which they keep by them perhaps for a whole generation, unless brought out to be expended in their most cherished gratification —the purchase of land. If there is a moral inconvenience attached to a state of society in which the peasantry have land, it is the danger of their being too careful of their pecuniary concerns-; of its making them crafty, and "calculating" in the objectionable sense. The French peasant is no simple countryman, no downright "peasant of the Danube:"* both in fact and in fiction he is now "the crafty peasant." That is the stage which he has reached in the progressive development which the constitution of things has imposed on human intelligence and human emancipation. But some excess in this direction is a small and a passing evil compared with recklessness and improvidence in the labouring classes, and a cheap price to pay for the inestimable worth of the virtue of self-dependence, as the general characteristic of a people: a virtue which is one of the first conditions of excellence in a human character—the stock on which if the other virtues are not grafted, they have seldom any firm root; a quality indispensable in the case of a labouring class, even to any tolerable degree of physical comfort; and by which the peasantry of France, and of most European countries of peasant proprietors, are distinguished beyond any other labouring population.
§ 4. Is it likely, that a state of economical relations so conducive to frugality and prudence in every other respect, should be prejudicial to it in the cardinal point of increase of population? That it is so, is the opinion expressed by most of those English political e conomists who have written anything about the matter. Mr. •See the celebrated fable of La Fontaine.
M'Culloch's opinion is well known. Mr. Jones affirms,* that a "peasant population, raising their own wages from the soil and consuming them in kind, are universally acted upon very feebly by internal checks, or by motives disposing them to restraint. The consequence is, that unless some external cause, quite independent of their will, forces such peasant cultivators to slacken their rate of increase, they will, in a limited territory, very rapidly approach a state of want and penury, and will be stopped at last only by the physical impossibility of procuring subsistence." He elsewhere f speaks of such a peasantry as "exactly in the condition in which the animal disposition to increase their numbers is checked by the fewest of those balancing motives and desires which regulate the increase of superior ranks or more civilized people." The "causes of this peculiarity" Mr. Jones promised to point out in a subsequent work, which never made its appearance. I am totally unablo to conjecture from what theory of human nature, and of the motives which influence human conduct, he would have derived them. Arthur Young assumes the same "peculiarity" as a fact; but, though not much in the habit of qualifying his opinions, he does not push his doctrine to so violent an extreme as Mr. Jones; having, as we have seen, himself testified to various instances in which peasant populations, such as Mr. Jones speaks of, were not tending to "a state of want and penury," and were in no danger whatever of coming in contact with "physical impossibility of procuring subsistence.
That there should be discrepancy of experience on this matter, is easily to be accounted for. Whether the labouring people live by land or by wages, they have always hitherto multiplied up to the limit set by their habitual standard of comfort. When that standard was low, not exceeding a scanty subsistence, the size of properties, as well as the rate of wages,
* Etta) on the Dtitribution of IFealtk, p. 146.
t Ibid. p. CS.
has been kept down to what would barely support life. Extremely low ideas of what is necessary for subsistence, are perfectly compatible with peasant properties; and if a people have always been used to poverty, and habit has reconciled them to it, there will be over-population, and excessive subdivision of land. But this is not to the purpose. The true question is, supposing a peasantry to possess land not insufficient but sufficient for their comfortable support, are they more, or less, likely to fall from this state of comfort through improvident multiplication, than if they were living in an equally comfortable manner as hired labourers? All a priori considerations are in favour of their being less likely. The dependence of wages on population is a matter of speculation and discussion. That wages would fall if population were much increased is often a matter of real doubt, and always a thing which requires some exercise of the thinking faculty for its intelligent recognition. But every peasant can satisfy himself from evidence -which he can fully appreciate, whether his piece of land can be made to support several families in the same comfort in which it supports one. Few people like to leave to their children a worse lot in life than their own. The parent who has land to leave, is perfectly able to judge whether the children can live upon it or not: but people who are supported by wages, see no reason why their sons should be unable to support themselves in the same way, and trust accordingly to chance. "In even the most useful and necessary arts and manufactures," says Mr. Laing,* "the demand for labourers is not a seen, known, steady, and appreciable demand: but it is so in husbandry," under small properties. "The labour to be done, the subsistence that labour will produce out of his portion of land, are seen and known elements in a man's calculation upon his means of subsistence. Can his square of land, or can it not, subsist a family? Can he marry or not? are questions which every man can answer without delay, doubt, or speculation. • Nota qf a Traveller, p. 46.
It is the depending on chance, where judgment has nothing clearly set before it, that causes reckless, improvident marriages in the lower, as in the higher classes, and produces among us the evilsof over-population; and chance necessarily enters into every man's calculations, when certainty is removed altogether; as it is, where certain subsistence is, by our distribution of property, the lot of but a small portion instead of about two-thirds of the people."
There never has been a writer more keenly sensible of the evils brought upon the labouring classes by excess of population, than Sismondi, and this is one of the grounds of his earnest advocacy of peasant" properties. He had ample opportunity, in more countries than one, for judging of their effect on population. Let us see his testimony. "In the countries in which cultivation by small proprietors still continues, population increases regularly and rapidly until it has attained its natural limits; that is to say, inheritances continue to be divided and subivided among several sons, as long as, by an increase of labour, each family can extract an equal income from a smaller portion of land. A father who possessed a vast extent of natural pasture, divides it among his sons, and they turn jt into fields and meadows; his sons divide it among their sons, who abolish fallows: each improvement in agricultural knowledge admits of another step in the subdivision of property. But there is no danger lest the proprietor should bring up his children to make beggars of them. He knows exactly what inheritance he has to leave them; he knows that the law will divide it equally among them; he sees the limit beyond which this division would make them descend from the rank which he has himself filled, and a just family pride, common to the peasant and to the nobleman, makes him abstain from summoning into life, children for whom he cannot properly provide. If more are born, at least they do not marry, or they agree among themselves, which of several brothers shall perpetuate the family. It is not found that in the Swiss Cantons, the patrimonies of the peasants are ever so divided as to reduce them below an honourable competence; though the habit of foreign service, by opening to the children a career indefinite and uncalculable, sometimes calls forth a superabundant population." *
There is similar testimony respect ing Norway. Though there is no law or custom of primogeniture, and no manufactures to take off a surplus population, the subdivision of property is not carried to an injurious extent. "The division of the land among children," says Mr. Laing,f "appears not, during the thousand years it has been in operation, to have had the effect of reducing the landed properties to the minimum size that will barely support human existence. I have counted from five-and-twenty to forty cows upon farms, and that in a country in which the farmer must, for at least seven months in the year, have winter provender and houses provided for all the cattle. It is evident that some cause or other, operating on aggregation of landed property, counteracts the dividing effects of partition among children. That cause can be no other than what I have long conjectured would be effective in such a social arrangement; viz. that in a country where land is held, not in tenancy merely, as in Ireland, but in full ownership, its aggregation by the deaths of co-heirs, and by the marriages of the female heirs among the body of landholders, will balance its subdivision by the equal succession of children. The whole mass of property will, I conceive, be found in such a state of society to consist of as many estates of the class of 1000J., as many of 1002., as many of 102., a year, at one period as at another." That this should happen, supposes diffused through society a very efficacious prudential check to population: and it is reasonable to give part of the credit of this prudential restraint to the peculiar adaptation of the peasant-proprietary system for fostering it.
* Noitveaux Principet, Book iii. ch. 3.
"In some parts of Switzerland," says Mr. Kay,* "as in the canton of Argovie for instance, a peasant never marries before he attains the age of twenty-five years, and «enerally much later in life; and in that canton the women very seldom marry before they have attained the age of thirty. . . . Nor do the division of land and the cheapness of the mode of conveying it from one man to another, encourage the providence of the labourers of the rural districts only.. They act in the same manner, though perhaps in a less degree, upon the labourers of the smaller towns. In the smaller provincial towns it is customary for a labourer to own a small plot of ground outside the town. This plot he cultivates in the evening as his kitchen garden. He raises in it vegetables and fruits for the use of his family during the winter. After his day's work is over, he and his family repair to the garden for a short time, which they spend in planting, sowing, weeding, or preparing for sowing, a harvest, according to the season. The desire to become possessed of one of these gardens operates very strongly in strengthening prudential habits and in restraining improvident marriages. Some of the manufacturers in the canton of Argovie told me that a townsman was seldom contented until he had bought a garden, or a garden and house, and that the town labourers generally deferred their marriages for some years, in order to save enough to purchase either one or both of these luxuries."
The same writer shows by statistical evidence f that in Prussia the average age of marriage is not only much later than in England, but "is gradually becoming later than it was formerly,' while at the same time "fewer illegitimate children are born in Prussia than in any other of the European countries." "Wherever I travelled," says Mr. Kay,f "in North Germany and Switzerland, I was assured by all that the desire to obtain land, which was felt by all the peasants, was acting as
* Vol. I. pp. 67-9.
the strongest possible check upon tmdue increase of population."*
In Flanders, according to Mr. Fauche, the British Consul at Ostend,f "farmer's sons and those who have the means to become farmers will delay their marriage until they get possession of a farm." Once a farmer, the next object is to become a proprietor. "The first thing a Dane does with his savings," says Mr. Browne, the Consul at Copenhagen,J "is to purchase a clock, then a horse and cow, which he hires out, and which pays a good interest. Then his ambition is to become a petty proprietor, and this class of persons is better off than any in Denmark. Indeed, I know of no people in any country who have more easily within their reach all that is really necessary for life than this class, which is very large in comparison with that of labourers."
But the experience which most decidedly contradicts the asserted tendency of peasant proprietorship to produce excess of population, is the case of France. In that country the experiment is not tried in the most favourable circumstances, a large proportion of the properties being too small. The number of landed proprietors in France is not exactly ascertained, but on no estimate does it fall much short of five millions; which, on the lowest calculation of the number 'of persons of a family (and for France
* The Prussian minister of statistics, in a work (Condition of tJie People in Prtissia) which I am obliged to quote at second hand from Mr. Kay, after proving by figures the great and progressive increase of the consumption of food and clothing per head of the population, from which he justly infers a corresponding increase of the productiveness of agriculture, continues: " The division of estates has, since 1831, proceeded more and more throughout the country. There are now many more small independent proprietors than formerly. Yet, however many complaints of pauperism are heard among the dependent labourers, we never hear it complained that pauperism is increasing among the peasant proprietors."— Kay, i. 262-6.
t In a communication to the Commissioners of Poor Law Enquiry, p. 640 of their Foreign Communications, Appendix F to their Firat Report.
t Ibid. 268.
it ought to be a low calculation), shows much more than half the population as either possessing, or entitled to inherit, landed property. A majority of the properties are so small as not to afford a subsistence to the proprietors, of whom, according to some computations, as many as three millions are obliged to eke out their means of support either by working for hire, or by taking additional land, generally on metayer tenure. When the property possessed is not sufficient to relieve the possessor from dependence on wages, the condition of a proprietor loses much of its characteristic efficacy as a check to over-population: and if the prediction so often made in Eng land had been realized, and France had become a "pauper warren," the experiment would have proved nothing against the tendencies of the same system of agricultural economy in other circumstances. But what is the fact? That the rate of increase of the French population is the slowest in Europe. During the generation which the Revolution raised from the extreme of hopeless wretchedness to sudden abundance, a great increase of population took place. But a generation has grown up, which, having been born in improved circumstances, has not learnt to be miserable; and upon them the spirit of thrift operates most conspicuously, in keeping the increase of population within the increase of national wealth. In a table, drawn up by Professor Rau,* of the
* The following is the table (see p. 168 of the Belgian translation of Air. Rau's large work):
rate of annual increase of the populations of various countries, that of France, from 1817 to 1827, is stated at per cent, that of England during a similar decennial period being 1^ annually, and that of the United States nearly 3. According to the official returns as analyzed by M. Legoyt,* the increase of the population, which from 1801 to 1806 was at the rate of 1*28 per cent annually, averaged only 0 47 per cent from 1806 to 1831; from 1831 to 1836 it averaged 060 per cent; from 1836 to 1841, 0'41 per cent, and from 1841 to 1846, 0'68 per
•Tonnes, ho adds, is not entitled to implicit confidence.
The following table given by M. Quetelet (On Man and the Development of his Faculties, vol. i. ch. 7), also on the au'hority of Ray, contains additional matter, ind differs in some items from the preceding, probably from the author's having taken, in those cases, an average of different years:
Rhenish Prussia.... 1*33
Austria 1 '30
Netherlands ...... 0'94
A very carefully prepared statement, by M. Legoyt, in the Journal dee Economutes for May 1847, which brings up the results for France to the census of the pre
cent.f At the censas of 1851 the rate of annual increase shown was only 1'08 per cent in the five years, or 0"21 annually; and at the census of 1856 only 0'71 per cent in five years, or 0'14 annually; so, that, in the words of M. de Lavergne, "population has almost ceased to increase in France "% Even this slow increase is wholly the effect of a diminution of deaths; the number of births not increasing at all, while the proportion of the births to the population is constantly diminishing.! This slow growth of the numbers of the people, while
ceding year 1S46, is summed up in the following table:
* Journal det Economistes for March and May 1847. t M. Legoyt is of opinion that the population was understated in 1841. and the increase between that time and 1846 consequently overstated, and that the real increase during the whole period was something intermediate between the last two averages, or not much more than one in two hundred.
X Journal des JLconomistca for February 1847. In the Journal for January 1865, M. Legoyt gives some of the numbers slightly altered, and, I presume, corrected. The series of percentages is 1*28, 0*31, 0*69, 0 60, 0*41, 0*69, 0-22, and 0-20. The last census, that of 1861, shows a slight reaction, the percentage, independently of the newly acquired departments, being 0*32. 5 The following are the numbers given by M. Legoyt: From 1824 to 1828 annual number of births 981,914, being 1 in 32-30 of the population. „ 1829 to 1833 „ „ 965,444, „ 1 in 34-00 „ „
„ 1834 to 1838 „ „ 972,993, „ 1 in 34*39 „ „
„ 1839 to 1843 „ „ 970,617, „ 1 in 35*27 „ „
„ 1644 & 1845 „ „ 983,573, „ 1 in 35*58 „ „
In the last two years the births, according to M. Legoyt, were swelled by the effects of aconsiderable immigration. "This diminution of births," he observes, " while there is acoti* stant, though not a rapid increase both of population and of marriages, can only be attributed to the progress of prudence and forethought in families. It was a foreseen consequence of our civil and social institutions, which, producing a dally increasing subdivision of fortunes.