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may run a race of cheapness to ruin a new candidate, but as soon as he has established his footing they come to terms with him. When, therefore, a business of real public importance can only be carried on advantageously upon so large a scale as to render the liberty of competition almost illusory, it is an unthrifty dispensation of the public resources that several costly sets of arrangements should be kept up for the purpose of rendering to the community I this one service. It is much better to I treat it at once as a public function; and if it be not such as the government itself could beneficially undertake, it should be made over entire to the company or association which will perform jt on the best terms for the public. In the case of railways, for example, no one can desire to see the enormous waste of capital and land (not to speak of increased nuisance) involved in the construction of a second railway to connect the same places already united by an existing one; while the two would not do the work better than it could be done by one, and after a short time would probably be amalgamated. Only one such line ought to be permitted, but'the control over that line never ought to be parted with by the State, unless on a temporary concession, as in France; and the vested right which Parliament has allowed to be acquired by the existing companies, like all other proprietary rights which are opposed to public utility, is morally valid only as a claim to compensation.
§ 4. The question between the large and the small systems of production as applied to agriculture—between large and small farming, the arande and the petite culture—stands, m many respects, on different grounds from the general question between great and small industrial establishments. In its social aspects, and as an element in the Distribution of Wealth, this question will occupy us hereafter: but even as a question of production, the superiority of the large system in agriculture is by no means so clearly established as in manufactures.
I have already remarked, that the operations of agriculture are little susceptible of benefit from the division of labour. There is but little separation of employments even on the largest farms. The same persons may not in general attend to the live stock, to the marketing, and to the cultivation of the soil; but much beyond that primary and simple classification the subdivision is not carried. The combination of labour of which agriculture is susceptible, is chiefly that which Mr. Wakefield terms Simple Co-operation; several persons nelping one another in the same work, at the same time and place. But I confess it seems to me that this able writer attributes more importance to that kind of co-operation, in reference to agriculture properly so called, than it deserves. None of the common farming operations require much of it. There is no particular advantage in setting a great number of people to work together in ploughing or digging or sowing the same field, or even in mowing or reaping it unless time presses. A single family can generally supply all the combination of labour necessary for these purposes. And in the works in which an union of many efforts is really needed, there is seldom found any impracticability in obtaining it where farms are small.
The waste of productive power by subdivision of the land often amounts to a great evil, but this applies chiefly to a subdivision so minute, that the cultivators have not enough land to occupy their time. Up to that point the same principles which recommend large manufactories are applicable to agriculture. For the greatest productive efficiency, it is generally desirable (though even this proposition must be received with qualifications) that no family who have any land, should have less than they could cultivate, or than will fully employ their cattle and tools. These, however, are not the dimensions of large farms, but of what are reckoned in England very small ones. The large farmer has some advantage in the article of buildings. It does not cost so much to house a great number of cattle in one building, as to lodge them equally well in several buildings. There is also some advantage in implements. A small farmer is not so likely to possess expensive instruments. But the principal agricultural implements, even when of the best construction, are not expensive. It may not answer to a small farmer to own a threshing machine, for the small quantity of corn he has to thresh; but there is no reason why such a machine should not in every neighbourhood be owned in common, or provided by some person to whom the others pay a consideration for its use; especially as, when worked by steam, they are so constructed as to be moveable.* The large farmer can make some saving in cost of carriage. There is nearly as much trouble in carrying a small portion of produce to market, as a much greater produce; in bringing home a small, as a much larger quantity of manures, and articles of daily consumption. There is also the greater cheapness of buying things in large quantities. These various advantages must count for something, but it does not seem that they ought to count for very much. In England for some generations, there has been little experience of small farms; but in Ireland the experience has been ample, not merely under the worst but under the best management: and the highest Irish authorities may be cited in opposition to the opinion which on this subject commonly prevails in England. Mr. Blacker, for example, one of the most experienced agriculturists and successful improvers in the North of Ireland, whose experience was chiefly in the best cultivated, which are also the most minutely divided parts of the country, was of opinion, that tenants holding farms not exceeding from five
* The observations in the text may hereafter require some degree of mollification from inventions such as the steam plough anil the reaping machine. The effect, however, of these improvements on the relative advantages of large and small farms, will not depend on the efficiency of the instruments, but on their costliness. I see no reason to expect that this will be such as to make them inaccessible to small farmers, or combinations of small farmers.
to eight or ten acres, could live t fortably, and pay as high a rent as any large farmer whatever. "I am firmly persuaded" (he says,*) "that the small farmer who holds his own plough and digs his own ground, if he follows a proper rotation of crops, and feeds his cattle in the house, can undersell the large farmer, or in other words can pay a rent which the other cannot afford: and in this I am confirmed by the opinion of many practical men who have well considered the subject. . . . The English farmer of 700 to 800 acres is a kind of man approaching to what is known by the name of a gentleman farmer. He must have hishorse to ride, and his gig, and perhaps an overseer to attend to his labourers ; he certainly cannot superintend himself the labour going on in a farm of 800 acres" After a few other remarks, he adds, "Besides all these drawbacks, which the small farmer knows little about, there is the great expense of carting out the manure from the homestead to such a great distance, and again carting home the crop. A single horse will consume the produce of more land than would feed a small farmer and his wife and two children. And what is more than all, the large farmer says to his labourers, 170 to your work; but when the small farmer has occasion to hire them, he says, come; the intelligent reader will, I dare say, understand the difference."
One of the objections most urged against small farms is, that they do not and cannot maintain, proportionally to their extent, so great a number of cattle as large farms, and that this occasions such a deficiency of manure, that a soil much subdivided must always be impoverished. It will be found, however, that subdivision only produces this effect when it throws the land into the hands of cullivators so poor as not to possess the amount of live stock suitable to the size of their farms. A small farm and a badly stocked farm are not synonymous. To make the comparison fairly, we must suppose the same
* PrizeEstay on the Management of Landed Property in Ireland, by "W il,iam Blacker, Ksq. (1887.) p. 23.
amount of capital .which is possessed by the large farmers to be disseminated among the small ones. When this condition, or even any approach to it, exists, and when stall feeding is practised (and stall feeding now begins to he considered good economy even on large farms), experience, far from bearing out the assertion that small farming is unfavourable to the multiplication of cattle, conclusively establishes the very reverse. The abundance of cattle, and copious use of manure, on the small farms of Flanders, are the most striking features in that Flemish agriculture which is the admiration of all competent judges, whether in England or on the Continent.*
* " The number of beasts fed on a farm of which the whole is arable land," (says the elaborate and intelligent treatise on Flemish Husbandry, from personal observation and the best sources, published in the Library of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge,) "is surprising to those who are not acquainted with the mode in which the food is prepared for the cattle. A beast for every three acres of land is a common proportion, and in very small occupations where much spade husbandry is used, the proportion is still greater. After comparing the accounts given in a variety of places and situations of the average quantity of milk which a cow gives when fed in the stall, the result is, that it greatly exceeds that of our . best dairy farms, and the quantity of butter made from a given quantity of milk is also greater. It appears astonishing that the occupier of only ten or twelve acres of light arable land should be able to maintain four or five cows, but the fact is notorious in the Waes country." (pp. 59, 60.)
This subject is treated very intelligently in the work of M. Passy, On Systems of CuU titation and their Influence on Social Economy, one of the most impartial discussions, as between the two systems, which has yet appeared in France .
"Without doubt it is England that, on an equal surface, feeds the greatest number of animals; Holland and some parts of Lombard}' can alone vie with her in this respect: but is this a consequence of the mode of cultivation, and have not climate and local situation a share in producing it? Of this I think there can be no doubt. In fact, whatever may have been said, wherever large and small cultivation meet in the same place, the latter, though it cannot support as many sheep, possesses, all things considered* the greatest quantity of manure-producing animals.
"In Belgium, for example, the two provinces of smallest farms are Antwerp and East Flanders, and they possess on an average for every 100 hectares (260 acres) of cultivated land, 74 horned cattle and 14 sheep.
The disadvantage, when disadvantage there is, of small, or rather of peasant farming, as compared with capitalist farming, must chiefly consist in inferiority of skill and knowledge; hut it is not true, as a general fact, that such inferiority exists. Countries of small farms and peasant farming, Flanders and Italy, had a good agriculture many generations before England, and theirs is still, as a whole, probably the best agriculture in the world. The empirical skill, which is the effect of daily and close observation, peasant farmers often possess in an eminent degree. The traditional knowledge, for example, of the culture of the vine, possessed by the peasantry of the
The two provinces where we find the large farms are Namur and Hainaut, and they average, for every 100 hectares of cultivated ground, only 30 horned cattle and 45 sheep. Reckoning, as is the custom, ten sheep 8l equal to one head of horned cattle, we find in the first case, the equivalent of 7G beast, to maintain the fecundity of the soil; in the latter case less than 35, a difference which must be called enormous. (See the statistical documents published by the Minister of the Interior.) The abundance of animals, in the parts of Belgium which are most subdivided, is nearly as great as in England. Calculating the number in England in proportion only to the cultivated ground, there are for each 100 hectares, 65 horned cattle and nearly 260 sheep, together equal to 91 of the former, being only an excess of 15. It should besides be remembered, that in Belgium stall feeding being continued nearly the whole year, hardly any of the manure its lost, while in England, grazing in the open fields diminishes considerably the quantity which can be completely utilized.
"Again, in the Department of the Nord, the arrondissements which have the smallest farms support the greatest quantity of animals. While the arrondissements of Lille and Hazebrouck, besides a greater number of horses, maintain the equivalent of 52 and 40 head of horned cattle, those of Dunkirk and Avesnes, where the farms are larger, produce the equivalent of only 44 and 40 head. (See the statistics of France published by the Minister of Commerce )
** A similar examination extended to other portions of France would yield similar results. In the immediate neighbourhood of towns, no doubt, the small farmers, having no difficulty in purchasing manure, do not maintain animals: but, as a general rule, the kind of cultivation which takes most out of the ground must be that which isobligedtobe most active in renewing its fertility. Assuredly the small farms cannot have numerous flocks of sheep, and this is an inconvenience; but they support more horned cattle than the countries where the best wines are produced, is extraordinary. There is no doubt an absence of science, or at least of theory; and to some extent a deficiency of the spirit of improvement, so far as relates to the introduction of new processes. There is also a want of means to make experiments, which can seldom be made with advantage except by rich proprietors or capitalists. As for those systematic improvements which operate on a large tract of country at once (such as great works of draining or irrigation) or which for any other reason do really require large numbers of workmen combining their labour, these are not in general to be expected from small farmers, or even small proprietors; though combination among them for such purposes is by no means unexampled, and will become more common as their intelligence is more developed.
Against these disadvantages is to be placed, where the tenure of land is of the requisite kind, an ardour of industry absolutely unexampled in any other condition of agriculture. This is a subject on which the testimony of competent witnesses is unanimous. The working of the petite culture cannot be fairly judged where the small cultivator is merely a tenant, and not even a tenant on fixed conditions, but (as
large farms. To do so is a necessity the.y cannot escape from, in any country where the demands of consumers require their existence: if they could not fulfil this condition, they must perish.
"The following are particulars, the exactness of which is fully attested by the excellence of the work from which I extract them, the statisticsof thecommuneof Vensat (department of Puy de Dome), lately published by Dr. Jusseraud, mayor of the commune. They are the more valuable, as they throw full light on the nature of the changes which the extension of small farming has, in that district, produced in the number and kind of animals by whose manure the productiveness of the soil is kept up and increased. The commune consists of 1612 hectares, divided into 4600 parcelle*, owned by 691 proprietors, and of this extent 1466 hectares are under cultivation. In 1790, seventeen farms occupied two-thirds of the whole, and twenty others the remainder. Since then the land has been much divided, and the subdivision is now extreme. "What has been the effect on the quantity of cattle? A considerable increase. In 1790 there were
until lately in Ireland) at a nominal rent greater than can be paid, and therefore practically at a varying rent always amounting to the utmost that can be paid. To understand the subject, it must be studied where the cultivator is the proprietor, or at least a metayer with a permanent tenure; where the labour he exerts to increase the produce and value of the land avails wholly, or at least partly, to his own benefit and that of his descendants. In another division of our subject, we shall discuss at some length the important subject of tenures of land, and I defer till then any citation of evidence on the marvellous industry of peasant proprietors. It may suffice here to appeal to the immense amount of gross produce which, even without a permanent tenure, English labourers generally obtain from their little allotments; a produce beyond comparison greater than a large farmer extracts, or would find it his interest to extract, from the same piece of land.
And this I take to be the true reason why large cultivation is generally most advantageous as a mere investment for profit. Land occupied by a large farmer is not, in one sense of the word, farmed so highly. There is not nearly so much labour expended on it.
only about 300 horned cattle, and from 1S0O to 2000 sheep; there are now 676 ot the former and only 633 of the latter. Thus 1300 sheep have been replaced by 376 oxen and cows, and (all things taken into account) the quantity of manure has increased in the ratio of 490 to 729, or more than 48 per cent, not to mention that the animals being now stronger and better fed, yield a much greater contribution than formerly to the fertilization of the ground.
"Such is the testimony of facts on the point. It is not true, then, that small farming feeds fewer animals than large; on the contrary, local circumstances being the same, it feeds a greater number: and this is only what might have been presumed; for, requiring more from the soil, H is obliged to take greater pains for keeping up its productiveness. All the other reproaches cast upon small farming, when collated one by one with facts justly appreciated, will be seen to be no better founded, and to have been made only because the countries compared with one another were differently situated in respect to the general causes of agricultural prosperity." (pp. 116-120.)
This is not on account of any economy arising from combination of labour, but because, by employing less, a greater return is obtained in proportion to the outlay. It does not answer to any one to pay others for exerting all the labour which the peasant, or even the allotment holder, gladly undergoes when the fruits are to be wholly reaped by himself. This labour, however, is not unproductive; it all adds to the gross produce. With anything like equality of skill and knowledge, the large farmer does not obtain nearly so much from the soil as the small proprietor, or the small farmer with adequate motives to exertion: but though his returns are less, the labour is less in a still greater degree, and as whatever labour he employs must be paid for, it does not suit his purpose to employ more.
But although the gross produce of the land is greatest, other things being the same, under small cultivation, and although, therefore, a country is able on that system to support a larger aggregate population, it is generally assumed by English writers that what is termed the net produce, that is, the surplus after feeding the cultivators, must be smaller; that therefore, the population disposable for all other purposes, for manufactures, for commerce and navigation, for national defence, for the promotion of knowledge, for the liberal professions, for the various functions of government, for the arts and literature, all of which are dependent on this surplus for their existence as occupations, must be less numerous; and that the nation, therefore, (waving all question as to the condition of the actual cultivators,) must be inferior in the principal elements of national power, and in many of those of general well-being. This, however, has been taken for granted much too readily. Undoubtedly, the non-agricultural population will bear a less ratio to the agricultural, under small than under large cultivation. But that it will be less numerous absolutely, is by no means a consequence. If the total population, agricultural and non-agricultural, is greater, the non-agricultural
portion may be more numerous in itself, and may yet be a smaller proportion of the whole. If the gross produce is larger, the net produce may be larger, and yet bear a smaller ratio to the gross produce. Yet even Mr. Wakefield sometimes appears to confound these distinct ideas. In France it is computed that two-thirds of the whole population are agricultural. In England, at most, one-third. Hence Mr. Wakefield infers, that "as in France only three people are supported by the labour of two cultivators, while in England the labour of two cultivators supports six people, English agriculture is twice as productive as French agriculture," owing to the superior efficiency of large farming through combination of labour. But in the first place the facts themselves are overstated. The labour of two persons in England does not quite support six people, for there is not a little food imported from foreign countries, and from Ireland. In France, too, the labour of two cultivators does much more than supply the food of three persons. It provides the three persons, and occasionally foreigners, with flax, hemp, and to a certain extent with silk, oils, tobacco, and latterly sugar, which in England are wholly obtained from abroad; nearly all the timber used in France is of home growth, nearly all which is used in England is imported; the principal fuel of France is procured and brought to market by persons reckoned among agriculturists, in England by persons not so reckoned. I do not take into calculation hides and wool, these products being common to both countries, nor wine or brandy produced for home consumption, since England has a corresponding production of beer and spirits; but England has no material export of either article, and a great importation of the last, while France supplies wines and spirits to the whole world. I say nothing of fruit, eggs, and such minor articles of agricultural produce, in which the export trade of France is enormous. But, not to lay undue stress on these abatements, we will take the statement as it stands. Suppose that