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interested in the success of the crop, never refuses to make an advance upon it, which the land promises to repay with interest. It is by these advances, and by the hope thus in- 1 spired, that the rich proprietors Oi land have gradually perfected the whole rural economy of Italy. It is to them that it owes the numerous systems of irrigation which water its soil, as also the establishment of the terrace culture on the hills: gradual but permanent improvements, which common peasants, for want of means, could never have effected, and which could never have been accomplished by the farmers, nor by the great proprietors who let their estates at fixed rents, because they are not sufficiently interested. Thus the interested system forms of itself that alliance between the rich proprietor, whose means provide for the improvement of the culture, and the metayer, whose care and labours are directed, by a common interest, to make the most of these advances."
But the testimony most favourable to the system is that of Sismondi, which has the advantage of being specific, and from accurate knowledge; his information being not that of a traveller, but that of a resident proprietor, intimately acquainted with rural life. His statements apply to Tuscany generally, and more particularly to the Val di Nievole, in which his own property lay, and which is not within the supposed privileged circle immediately round Florence. It is one of the districts in which the size of farms appears to be the smallest. The following is his description of the dwellings and mode of life of the metayers of that district.*
"The house, built of good walls with lime and mortar, has always at least one story, sometimes two, above the ground floor. On the ground floor are generally the kitchen, a cowhouse for twohorned cattle, and the storehouse, which takes its name, tinaia, from the iarge vats (tint) in which the wine is put to ferment, without any pressing:
• From his Sixth Essay, formerly referred to.
it is there also that the metayer locks up his casks, his oil, and his grain. Almost always there is also a shed supported against the house, where he can work under cover to mend his tools, or chop forage for his cattle. On the first and second stories are two, three, and often four bedrooms. The largest and most airy of these is generally destined by the metayer, in the months of May and June, to the bringing up of silkworms. Great chests to contain clothes and linen, and some wooden chairs, are the chief furniture of the chambers; but a newly-married wife always brings with her a wardrobe of walnut wood. The beds are uncurtained and unroofed, but on each of them, besides a good paillasse filled with the elastic straw of the maize plant, there are one or two mattresses of wool, or, among the poorest, of tow, a good blanket, sheets of strong hempen cloth, and on the best bed of the family a coverlet of silk padding, which is spread on festival days. The only fireplace is in the kitchen; and there also is the great wooden table where the family dines, and the benches; the great chest which serves at once for keeping the bread and other provisions, and for kneading; a tolerably complete though cheap assortment of pans, dishes, and earthenware plates: one or two metal lamps, a steelyard, and at least two copper pitchers for drawing and holding water. The linen and the working clothes of the family have all b3en spun by the women of the house. The clothes, both of men and of women, are of the stuff called mezza lana when thick, mola when thin, and made of a coarse thread of hemp or tow, filled up with cotton or wool; it is dried by the same women by whom it was spun. It would hardly be believed what a quantity of cloth and of mezza lana the peasant women aie able to accumulate by assiduous industry; how many sheets there are in the store; what a number of shirts, jackets, trowsers, petticoats, and gowns are possessed by every member of the family. By way of example I add in a note the inventory of the peasant family best known to me: it is neither one of the richest nor of the poorest, and lives happily by its industry on half the produce of less than ten arpents of land.* The young women had a marriage portion of fifty crowns, twenty paid down, and the rest by instalments of two every year. The Tuscan crown is worth six francs [4s. I0d]. The commonest marriage portion of a peasant girl in the other parts of Tuscany, where the metairies are larger, is 100 crowns, 600 francs."
Is this poverty, or consistent with poverty? When a common, M. de bismondi even says the common, marriage portion of a metayer's daughter is 241. English money, equivalent to at least 502. in Italy and in that rank of life; when one whose dowry is only half that amount, has the wardrobe described, which is represented by Siemondi as a fair average; the class must be fully comparable, in general condition, to a large proportion even of capitalist farmers in other countries; and incomparably above the daylabourers of any country, except a new colony, or the United States. Very little can be inferred, against such evidence, from a traveller's impression of the poor quality of their food. Its inexpensive character may be rather the effect of economy than of necessity. Costly feeding is not the favourite luxury of a southern people; their diet in all classes is principally vegetable, and no peasantry on the Continent has the superstition of the English labourer respecting white
* Inventory of the trousseau of Jane, daughter of Yatente Papini, on hermarriage with Giovacchino Landi, the 29th of April 1835, at Porta Vecchia, near Pescia:
"28 shifts, 7 best dresses (of particular fabrics of silk), 7 dresses of printed cotton, 2 winter working dresses (mezza lana), 3 summer working dresses and petticoats (mold), 3 white petticoats, 5 aprons of print ed linen, 1 of black silk, 1 of black merinos, 9 coloured working aprons (mola), 4 white, 8 coloured, and 3 silk, handkerchiefs, 2 embroidered veils and one of tulle, 3 towels, 14 pairs of stockings, 2 hats (one of felt, the other of fine straw) ; 2 cameos set in gold, 2 golden earrings, 1 chaplet with two Roman silver crowns, 1 coral necklace with its cross of gold. . . . All the richer married women of the class have, besides, the veste di seta, the great holiday dress, which they only wear four or five times in their lives."
bread. But the nourishment of the Tuscan peasants, according to Sismondi, "is wholesome and various: its basis is an excellent wheaten bread, brown, but pure from bran and from all mixture.'' In the bad season, they take but two meals a day: at ten in the morning they eat their pollenta, at the beginning of the night their soup, and after it bread with a relish of some sort (companatico). In summer they have three meals, at eight, at one, and in the evening; but the fire is lighted only once a day, for dinner, which consists of soup, and a dish of salt meat or dried fish, or haricots, or greens, which are eaten with bread. Salt meat enters in a very small quantity into this diet, for it is reckoned that forty poimds of salt pork per head suffice amply for a year's provision; twice a week a small piece of it is put into the soup. On Sundays they have always on the table a dish of fresh meat, but a piece which weighs only a pound or a pound and a half suffices for the whole family, however numerous it may be. It must not be forgotten that the Tuscan peasants generally produce olive oil for their own consumption: they use it not only for lamps, but as seasoning to all the vegetables prepared for the table, which it renders both more savoury and more nutritive. At breakfast their food is bread, and sometimes cheese and fruit; at supper, bread and salad. Their drink is composed of the inferior wine of the country, the vineUa or piquette made by fermenting in water the pressed skins of the grapes. They always, however, reserve a little of their best wine for the day when they thresh their corn, and for some festivals which are kept in families. About fifty bottles of vineUa per annum, and five sacks of wheat (about 1000 pounds of bread) are considered as the supply necessary for a full grown man."
The remarks of Sismondi on the moral influences of this state of society are not less worthy of attention. The rights and obligations of the metayer being fixed by usage, and all taxes and rates being paid by the proprietor, "the metayer has the advantages of landed property without the burthen of defending it. It is the landlord to whom, with the land, belong all its disputes: the tenant lives in peace with all his neighbours; between him and them there is no motive for rivality or distrust, he preserves a good understanding with them, as well as with his landlord, with the taxcollector, and with the church: he sells little, and buys little ; he touches little money, but he seldom has any to pay. The gentle and kindly character of the Tuscans is often spoken of, but without sufficiently remarking the cause which has contributed most to keep up that gentleness; the tenure, by which the entire class of farmers, more than three-fourths of the population, are kept free from almost every occasion for quarrel." The fixity of tenure which the metayer, so long as he fulfils Lis own obligations, possesses by usage, though not by law, gives him the local attachments, and almost the strong sense of personal interest, characteristic of a proprietor. "The metayer lives on his metairie as on his inheritance, loving it with affection, labouring incessantly to improve it, confiding in tho future, and making sure that his land will be tilled after him by his children and his children's children. In fact, the majority of metayers live from generation to generation on the same farm; they know it in its details with a minuteness which the feeling of property can alone give. The plots terrassed up, one above the other, are often not above four feet wide; but there is not one of them, the qualities of which the metayer has not studied. This one is dry, that other is cold and damp: here the soil is deep, there it is a mere crust which hardly covers the rock; wheat thrives best on one, rye on another here it would be labour wasted to sow Indian corn, elsewhere the soil is unfit for beans and lupins, further off flax will grow admirably, the edge of this brook will be suited for hemp. In this way one learns with surprise from the metayer, that in a space of ten aipeote, the soil, the aspect, and
the inclination of the ground present greater variety than a rich farmer is generally able to distinguish in a farm of five hundred acres. For the latter knows that he is only a temporary occupant; and moreover, that he must conduct his operations by general rules, and neglect details. But the experienced metayer has had his intelligence so awakened by interest and affection, as to be the best of observers; and with the whole future before him,, he thinks not of himself alone, but of his children and grandchildren. Therefore, when he plants an olive, a tree which lasts for centuries, and excavates at the bottom of the hollow in which he plants it, a channel to let out the water by which it would be injured, he studies all the strata of the earth which he has to dig out.' '*
§ 4. I do not offer these quotations as evidence of the intrinsic excellence of the metayer system; but they surely suffice to prove that neither "land miserably cultivated" nor a people in "the most abject poverty," have any necessary connexion with it, and that the unmeasured vituperation lavished upon the system by English writers, is grounded on an
* Of the intelligence of this interesting people, M. de Sismondi speaks in the most favourable terms. Few of them can read; but there is often one member of the family destined for the priesthood, who reads to them on winter evenings. Their language differs little from the purest Italian. The taste for improvisation in verse is general. "The peasants of the Vale of Nievole frequent the theatre in summer on festival days, from nine to eleven at night: their admission costs them little more than five French sous [2^]. Their favourite author is Alfieri; the whole history of the Atridce is familiar to these people who cannot read, and who seek from that austere poet a relaxation from their rude labours." Unlike most rustics, they find pleasure in the beauty of their country. *' In the hills of the vale of Nievole there is in front of every house a threshing-ground, seldom of more than 25 or 30 square fathoms; it is often the only level space in the whole farm: it is at the same time a terrace which commands the plains and the valley, and looksout upon a delightful country. Scarcely ever have I stood still to admire it, without the metayer's coming out to enjoy my admiration, and point out with his finger the beauties which he thought might have escaped my notice."
extremely narrow view of the subject. I look upon the rural economy of Italy as simply so much additional evidence in favour of small occupations with permanent tenure. It is an example of what can be aecomplished by those two elements, even under the disadvantage of the peculiar nature of the metayer contract, in which the motives to exertion on the part of the tenant are only half as strong as if he farmed the land on the same footing of perpetuity at a money-rent, cither fixed, or varying according to some rule which would leave to the tenant the whole benefit of his own exertions. The metayer tenure is not one which we should be anxious to introduce where the exigencies of society had not naturally given birth to it; but neither ought wc to be eager to abolish it on a mere a priori view of its disadvantages. If the system in Tuscany works as well in practice as it is represented to do, with every appearance of minute knowledge, by so competent an authority as Sismondi; if the mode of living of the people, and the size of farms, have for ages maintained and still maintain themselves* such as they are said to be by him, it were to be regretted that a state of rural well-being so much beyond what is realised in most European countries, should be put to hazard by an attempt to introduce, under the guise of agricultural improvement, a system of money-rents and capitalist farmers. Even where the metayers are poor, and the subdivision great, it is not to be assumed as of course, that the change would be for the better. The enlargement of farms, and the introduction of what are called agricultural improvements, usually diminish the
* u We never," says Sismondi, "find a family of metayers proposing to their landlord to divide the metairie, unless the work is really more than they can do, and they feel assured of retaining the same enjoyments on a smaller piece of ground. We never find several sons all marrying, and forming as many new families: only one marries and undertakes the charge of the household: none of the others marry unless the first is childless, or unless some one of them has the offer of a new metairie." New Principle* of Political Economy, book iii. ch. 4.
number of labourers employed on the land; and unless the growth of capital in trade and manufactures affords an opening for the displaced population, or unless there are reclaimable wastes on which they can he located, competition will so reduce wages, that they will probably be worse off as day labourers than they were as metayers.
Mr. Jones very properly objectj against the French Economists of the last century, that in pursuing their favourite object of introducing moneyrents, they turned their minds solely to putting farmers in the place of metayers, instead of transforming the existing metayers into farmers; which, as he justly remarks, can scarcely bo effected, unless, to enable the metayers to save and become owners of stock, the proprietors submit for a considerable time to a diminution of income, instead of expecting an increase of it, which has generally been their immediate motive for making the attempt. If this transformation were effected, and no other change made in the metayer's condition; if, preserving all the other rights which usage ensures to him, he merely got rid of the landlord's claim to half the produce, paying in lieu of it a moderate fixed rent; he would be so far in a better position than at present, as the whole, instead of only half the fruits of any improvement he made, would now belong to himself; but even so, the benefit would not be without alloy; for a metayer, though not himself a capitalist, has a capitalist for his partner, and has the use, in Italy at least, of a considerable capital, as is proved by the excellence of the farm buildings: and it is not probable that the landowners would any longer consent to peril their moveable property on the hazards of agricultural enterprise, when assured of a fixed money income without it. Thus would the question stand, even if the change left undisturbed the metayer's virtual fixity of tenure, and converted him, in fact, into a peasant proprietor at a quit rent. But if we suppose him converted into a mere tenant, displaceable at the landlord's will, and liable to have his rent raised by competition to any amount which any unfortunate being in search of subsistence can be found to offer or promise for it; he would lose all the features in his condition which preserve it from being
deteriorated: he would be cast down from his present position of a kind of half proprietor of the land, and would sink into a cottier tenant.
§ 1. By the general appellation of cottier tenure, 1 shall designate all cases without exception, in which the labourer makes his contract for land without the intervention of a capitalist farmer, and in which the conditions of the contract, especially the amount of rent, are determined not by custom but by competition. The principal European example of this tenure is Ireland, and it is from that country that the term cottier is derived.* By far the greater part of the agricultural population of Ireland might until very lately have been said to be cottier-tenant*; except so far as the Ulster tenantright constituted an exception. There was, indeed, a numerous class of labourers who (we may presume through the refusal either of proprietors or of tenants in possession to permit any further subdivision) had been unable to obtain even the smallest patch of land as permanent tenants. But, from the deficiency of capital, the custom of paying wages in land was so universal, that even those who worked as casual labourers for the cottiers or for such larger farmers as were found in the country, were usually paid not in money, but by permission to cultivate for the season a piece of ground, which was generally delivered to them by the farmer ready manured, and was known by the name
* In its original acceptation, the word "cottier" designated a class ot* sub-tenants, who rent a cottage and an acre or two of land from the small farmers. But the usage of writers has long since stretched the term to include those small farmers themselves, and generally all peasant farmers whose rents are determined by competition.
of conacre. For this they agreed to pay a money rent, often of several pounds an acre, but no money actually passed, the debt being worked out in labour, at a money valuation.
The produce, on the cottier system, being divided into two portions, rent, and the remuneration of the labourer; the one is evidently determined by the other. The labourer has whatever the landlord does not take: the condition of the labourer depends on the amount of rent. But rent, being regulated by competition, depends upon the relation between the demand for land, and the supply of it. The demand for land depends on the number of competitors, and the competitors are the whole rural population. The effect, therefore, of this tenure, is to bring the principle of population to act directly on the land, and not, as in England, on capital. Rent, in this state of things, depends on the proportion between population and land. As the land is a fixed quantity, while population has an unlimited power of increase; unless something checks that increase, the competition for land soon forces up rent to the highest point consistent with keeping the population alive. The effects, theretore, of cottier tenure depend on the extent to which the capacity of population to increase is controlled, either by custom, by individual prudence, or by starvation and disease.
It would be an exaggeration to affirm, that cottier tenancy is .absolutely incompatible with a prosperous condition of the labouring class. If we could suppose it to exist among a