Territorial WealthMarch 27, 2022
The riches proceeding from land should be the first to engage the attention of an economist or a legislator. They are the most necessary of all, because it is from the ground that our subsistence is derived; because they furnish the materials for every other kind of labour; and lastly, because, in preparation, they constantly employ the half, often much more than the half, of all the nation.
The class of people who cultivate the ground are particularly valuable for bodily qualities fitted to make excellent soldiers, and for mental qualities fitted to make good citizens. The happiness of a rural population is also more easily provided for than that of a city population; the progress of this kind of wealth is more easily followed; and government is more culpable when it allows agriculture to decay, because it almost always lies in the power of government to make it flourish.
The annual revenue of land, or the annual crop, is decomposed, as we observed above, in the following manner. One part of the fruits, produced by labour, is destined to pay the proprietor for the assistance which the earth has given to the labour of men, and also for the interest of all the capital successively employed to improve the soil. This portion alone is called the net revenue.
Another part of the fruits replaces what has been consumed in executing the labour to which the crop is due, the seed, and all the cultivator’s advances. Economists call this portion the resumption. Another part remains for a profit to the person who directed the labours of the ground= it is proportionate to his industry and the capital advanced by him. Government likewise takes a share of all those fruits, and by various imposts diminishes the proprietor’s rent, the cultivator’s profit, and the day-labourer’s wages, in order to form a revenue for another class of persons. Nor do the fruits distributed among the workmen, the superintendent of the labour, and the proprietor, entirely remain with them in kind= after having kept a portion requisite for their subsistence, the whole then equally part with what remains, in exchange for objects produced by the industry of towns; and it is by means of this exchange, that all other classes of the nation are supplied with food.
The net revenue of territorial produce is considered to be that portion which remains with proprietors after the expenses of cultivation have been paid. Proprietors frequently imagine that a system of cultivation is the better, the higher those rents are= what concerns the nation, however, what should engage the economist’s undivided attention, is the gross produce, or the total amount of the crop; by which subsistence is provided for the whole nation, and the comfort of all classes is secured. The former comprehends but the revenue of the rich and idle; the latter farther comprehends the revenue of all such as labour, or cause their capital to labour.
But a gradual increase of the gross produce may itself be the consequence of a state of suffering, - if the population, growing too numerous, can no longer find a sufficient recompense in the wages of labour, and if, struggling without protection against the proprietors of land, to whom limitation of number gives all the advantage of a monopoly, that population is reduced to purchase, by excessive labour, so small an augmentation of produce, as to leave it constantly depressed by want, There is no department of political economy which ought not to be judged in its relation to the happiness of the people in general; and a system of social order is always bad when the greater part of the population suffers under it.
Commercial wealth is augmented and distributed by exchange; and even the produce of the ground, so soon as it is gathered in, belongs likewise to commerce. Territorial wealth, on the other hand, is created by means of permanent contacts. With regard to it, the economist’s attention should first be directed to the progress of cultivation= next to the mode in which the produce of the harvest is distributed among those who contribute to its growth; and lastly, to the nature of those rights which belong to the proprietors of land, and to the effects resulting from an alienation of their property.
The progress of social order, the additional security, the protection which government holds out to the rights of all, together with the increase of population, induce the cultivator to entrust to the ground, for a longer or shorter period, the labour which constitutes his wealth. In the timorous condition of barbarianism, he will not, at his own expense, increase the value of an immovable possession, which perhaps he may be forced to abandon at a moment’s warning. But in the security of complete civilization, he regards his immovable possessions as more completely safe than any other kind of wealth. In the deserts of Arabia and Tartary; in the savannahs of America, before civilization has begun; in the pastures of the Campagna di Roma, or the Capitanata de la Pouille, after it has ended, men are contented with the natural fruits of the ground, with grass for their cattle to browse; and if those vast deserts yet retain any value, they owe it less to the slight labour by which the proprietor has inclosed them, than to the labour by which the herdsman has multiplied the oxen and sheep which feed upon them.
When the population of such deserts has begun to increase, and an agricultural life to succeed that of shepherds, men still abstain from committing to the ground any labour whose fruit they cannot gather till after many years have elapsed. The husbandman tills, to reap in the following season; the course of a twelvemonth is sufficient to give back all his advances. The earth which he has sown, far from gaining a durable value by his labour, is, for a time, impoverished by the fruits it has born. Instead of seeking to improve it by more judicious cultivation, he gives it back to the desert for repose, and next year tills another portion. The custom of fallowing, a remnant of this half savage mode of agriculture, continues to our own time, in more than three-fourths of Europe.
But when population and wealth have at last increased so as to make every kind of labour easy, and when social order inspires security enough to induce the husbandman to fix his labour in the ground, and transmit it with the soil to his descendants, improvement altogether changes the appearance of the earth. Then are formed those plantations of gardens, orchards, vineyards, the enjoyment of which is destined for a late posterity; then are dug those canals for draining or irrigation, which diffuse fertility; then arise upon the hills those hanging terraces, which characterized the agriculture of ancient Canaan. A quick rotation of crops of a different nature reanimates, instead of exhausting, the strength of the soil; and a numerous population lives on a space, which, according to the primitive system, would hardly have supported a few scores of sheep.
The trade or the manufactures of a country, are not to be called prosperous, because a small number of merchants have amassed immense fortunes in it. On the contrary, their extraordinary profits almost always testify against the general prosperity of the country. So likewise, in counties abandoned to pasturage, the profits realized by some rich proprietors ought not to be regarded as indicating a judicious system of agriculture. Some individuals, it is true, grow rich; but the nation, which the land should maintain, or the food which should support it, are no where to be found. It is not even certain that the net produce of the land may not diminish, in proportion as its agriculture yields a more abundant produce, and a greater number of citizens live on its fruits; just as we see the net produce of money, or its interest, diminish in proportion as a country becomes more commercial, and contains more capital.
The first proprietors of land were doubtless themselves cultivators, and executed all kinds of field labour, with their children and servants. To these, in ancient times, were added slaves; the continual state of war, which exists among semi-barbarous societies, having introduced slavery at the remotest era. The stronger found it more convenient to procure workmen by the abuse of victory than by bargain. Yet so long as the head of each family laboured along with his children and slaves, the condition of the latter was less wretched; the master felt himself to be of the same nature with his servant; he experienced the same wants and the same fatigue; he desired the same pleasures, and knew, by experience, that he would obtain little work from a man whom he fed badly. Such was the patriarchal mode of cultivation, that of the golden days of Italy and Greece; such is that of free America; such appears to be that of Africa, in its interior; and such, finally, but without slavery, and therefore with still more domestic comfort, is that of Switzerland, where the peasant proprietor is happier than in any other country of the world.
Among the states of antiquity, the farms under cultivation were small; and the number of freemen labouring in the fields, always greatly surpassed that of slaves. The former had a full enjoyment of their persons and the fruits of their labour; the latter, degraded rather than unhappy, like the ox, man’s companion, which interest teaches him to spare, seldom experienced suffering, want still more rarely. The head of each family alone receiving the total crop, did not distinguish the rent from the profit or the wages; with the excess of what he wanted for food, he procured the produce of the town in exchange, and this excess supported all other classes of the nation.
But the progress of wealth, of luxury, and idleness, in all the states of antiquity, substituted the servile for the patriarchal mode of cultivation. The population lost much in happiness and number by this change; the earth gained little in productiveness. The Roman proprietors extending their patrimonies by the confiscated territories of vanquished states; the Greeks by wealth acquired from trade,first abandoned manual labour, and soon afterwards, despised it. Fixing their residence in towns, they entrusted the management of their estates to stewards and inspectors of slaves; and from that period, the condition of most part of the country population became intolerable. Labour, which once been a point of communion betwixt the two ranks of society, now became a barrier of separation; contempt and severity succeeded to affectionate care; punishments were multiplied as they came to be inflicted by inferiors, and as the death of one or several slaves did not lessen the steward’s wealth.
Slaves who were ill-fed, ill-teated, ill-recompensed, could not fail to lose all interest in their master’s affairs, and almost all understanding. Far from attending to their business with affection, they felt a secret joy every time they saw their oppressors’ wealth diminished, or his hopes deceived. The study of science, accompanied with habits of observation, certainly advanced the theory of agriculture= but its practice, at the same time, rapidly declined; a fact, which all the agricultural writers of antiquity lament.
The cultivation of land was entirely divested of all that intelligence, affection, and zeal, which had once hastened its success. The revenues were smaller, the expenses greater; and from that period, it became an object to save labour, more than to augment its produce. Slaves, after having driven every free cultivator from the fields, were themselves rapidly decreasing in number. During the decline of the Roman empire, the population of Italy was not less reduced than that of the Agro Romano is in our days; while, at the same time, it had sunk into the that degree of wretchedness and penury. The cultivation of the colonies situated on the Mexican Gulf was founded, in like manner, on the baneful system of slavery. it has, in like manner, consumed the population, debased the human species, and deteriorated the system of agriculture. The negro trade has of course filled up those voids, which the barbarity of planters annually produced in the agricultural population; and doubtless, under a system of culture, such that the man who labours is constantly reduced below the necessaries of life, and the man who does not labour keeps all for himself, the net produce has always been considerable; but the gross produce, with which alone the nation is concerned, has uniformly been inferior to what would have arisen from any other system of cultivation, whilst the condition of more than seven-eighths of the population has continued to be miserable.
The invasions of the Roman empire, by the barbarians, introduced new manners, and, with them, new systems of cultivation. The conqueror, who had now become proprietor, being much less allured by the enjoyments of luxury, had need of men still more than of wealth. He had ceased to dwell in towns, he had established himself in the country; and his castle formed a little principality, which he wished to be able to defend by his own strength, and thus he felt the necessity of acquiring the affection of such as depended on him. A relaxation of the social bond, and the independence of great proprietors, produced the same effects without the limits of the ancient Roman empire as within. From the epoch of its downfall, masters in every part of Europe began to improve the condition of their dependents; and this return to humanity produced the natural effect; it rapidly increased the population, the wealth, and the happiness of rural labourers.
Different expedients were resorted to for giving slaves and cultivators an interest in life, a property, and an affection for the place of their nativity, as well as for its lord. Adopted by various states, these expedients produced the most decisive influence on territorial wealth and population. In Italy, and part of France and Spain, and probably in most part of the former Roman empire, the master shared the land among his vassals, and agreed with them to share the crops in a raw state. This is cultivation for half produce. In Hungary, Poland, Bohemia, and all that portion of Germany occupied by Slavonic tribes, the master much more rarely enfranchised his slaves. Keeping them always under an absolute dependence, as serfs attached to the soil, he gave them, however, one half of his land, reserving the other to himself. He wished to share, not the fruits of their labour, but their labour itself, and therefore he obliged them to work for him two, three, and in Transylvania, four days of each week. This is cultivation by corvees. In Russia, and several provinces of France and England, masters likewise distributed their lands among vassals; but, instead of wishing to participate either in the lands or the harvests, they imposed a fixed capitation. Such was the abundance of uncultivated land always ready to be cleared, that, in the eyes of those proprietors, the only difference in the condition of agricultural families was the number of workmen included in them. To capitation was always joined the obligation of personal service, and the vassal’s continuance in a servile state. Yet, according as the laws watched more or less strictly over the subject’s liberty, cultivation upon this principle raised the husbandman to a condition more or less comfortable. In Russia, he never escaped from servitude of the soil; in England, by an easy transition, he arrived at the rank of farmer.
The system of cultivation by metayers, or cultivation at half produce, is perhaps one of the best inventions of the middle ages. It contributes, more than any thing else, to diffuse happiness among the lower classes, to raise land to a high state of culture, and accumulate a great quantity of wealth upon it. It is the most natural, the easiest, and most advantageous step for exalting the slave to the condition of a freeman, for opening his understanding, teaching him economy and temperance, and placing in his hands a property which he will not abuse. According to this system, the peasant is supposed to have no capital, or scarcely any, but he receives the land sown and fully stocked; he takes the charge of continuing every operation, of keeping his farm in the same state of culture, of delivering to his master the half of each crop; and, when the lease expires, of returning the land under seed, the folds furnished, the vines propped, and every thing, in short, in the same state of completeness as it was when he received it.
A metayer finds himself delivered from all those cares which, in other counties, weigh heavily on the lower class of the people. He pays no direct tax, his master alone is charged with it; he pays no money-rent, and therefore he is not called to sell or to buy, except for his own domestic purposes. The term, at which the farmer has to pay his taxes or his rent, does not press the metayer; or constrain him to sell before the season, at a low price, the crop which rewards his industry. He needs but little capital, because he is not a dealer in produce; the fundamental advances have been made once for all by his master; and as to the daily labour, he performs it himself with his family; for cultivation upon this principle brings constantly along with it a great division of the land, or what is called cultivation on the small scale.
Under this system, the peasant has an interest in the property, as if it were his own; without the anxieties of wealth, he finds in his farm every enjoyment, with which nature’s liberality rewards the labour of man. His industry, his economy, the development of his understanding, regularly increase his little stock. In good years, he enjoys a kind of opulence; he is not entirely excluded from the feast of nature which he prepares; his labour is directed according to the dictates of his own prudence, and the plants that his children may gather the fruit. The high state of culture to be found in the finest parts of Italy, above all of Tuscany, where the lands are generally managed in this way. the accumulation of an immense capital upon the soil= the invention of many judicious rotations, and industrious processes, which an intelligent, observing spirit alone could have deduced from the operations of nature; the collection of a numerous population, upon a space very limited and naturally barren, shows plainly enough that this mode of cultivation is as profitable to the land itself as to the peasant, and that, if it imparts most happiness to the lower class who live by the labour of their hands, it also draws from the ground the most abundant produce, and scatters it with most profusion among men.
But whenever a country arrives at complete civilization, whenever the property and safety of individuals are sufficiently protected, the usual population increases beyond what husbandry can employ; the extent of land is limited, the population is not so. A great number of families are brought up on one farm, and sent away by some accidental cause; penury compels them to offer their services to some proprietor, for a recompence smaller than what is given to such as are actually employed. Labourers outbid each other, and at length go so far as to content themselves with the most niggardly subsistence, with a portion barely sufficient in good years, and which in bad years leaves them a prey to famine. This foolish species of competition has reduced the peasantry on the coast of Genoa, in the republic of Lucca, in several provinces of the kingdom of Naples, to content themselves with a third of the crop, in place of a half. In a magnificent country, which nature has enriched with all her gifts; which art has adorned with all its luxury; which annually gives forth a most abundant harvest - the numerous class that produce the fruits of the ground never taste the corn which is reaped or the wine which is pressed, by their labour, and struggle continually with famine. The same misfortune would probably have happened to the people of Tuscany, if public opinion had not guarded the farmer; but there no proprietor dares to impose terms unusual in the country, and when he changes one metayer for another, he changes no article of the primitive contact. So soon, however, as public opinion becomes necessary for the maintenance of public prosperity, it ought, in strict propriety, to be sanctioned by law. Whenever vacant lands are no longer to be found, proprietors of the soil come to exercise a kind of monopoly against the rest of the nation; and wherever monopoly exists, the legislature ought to interpose, lest they who enjoy may also abuse it.
Cultivation by corvees was very far from being as happy an invention. No doubt it gave to the peasantry a kind of property, an interest in life; but it reduced them to see their domestic economy disturbed every moment, by the vexatious demands of a landlord or his stewards. The peasant could not perform the operations of his husbandry at the day fixed upon; the landlord’s work must always be done before his own; the rainy days constantly fell to the share of the weaker party. Under this system, the labourer performs every service for his master with repugnance, without care for its success, without affection, and without reward. In the landlord’s fields, he works as badly as he can without incurring punishment. The steward, on the other hand, declares it absolutely necessary that corporal penalties be employed; and the infliction of them is abandoned to his own discretion. Servitude of the soil has nominally been abolished in several countries, which have adopted the system of cultivation by corvees; but so long as this general system of agriculture is in force, there cannot be any liberty for the peasant. And although the abolition of servitude has given vassals a property and right, which the landlord did not formerly acknowledge, it has hardly at all bettered their conditions. They are as constantly thwarted and disturbed in their own operations as before; they work quite as ill during the landlord’s day’s; they are quite as miserable within their huts; and the master, who had been flattered with hopes that the abolition of slavery would increase his revenue, has derived no advantage from it. On the contrary, he is ever an object of hatred and distrust to his vassals; and social order, threatened so incessantly, cannot be maintained except by violent means.
The ground of the metayer’s contract is every way the same, as that of a contract with the cultivator by corvees. The landlord in Hungary, as in Italy. has given up his land to the peasant, on condition of receiving half its fruits in return. In both countries, the other half has been reckoned sufficient for supporting the cultivator, and repaying his advances. A single error in political economy has rendered what is highly advantageous for one of these countries disastrous for the other. The Hungarian has not inspired the labourer with any interest in his own industry. by sharing the land and the days of the week, he has made an enemy of the man, who should have been his coadjutor. The labour is performed without zeal or intelligence; the master’s share, inferior to what it would have been according to the other system, is collected with fear; the peasant’s share is so reduced, that he lives in constant penury; and some of the most fertile counties in the world have already been for ages doomed to this state of wretchedness and oppression.
But the legislator’s interference, which we claimed for the metayer, has, in some of the countries cultivated by corvees, actually taken place in favour of the vassal, peasant, or serf. In the German provinces of the Austrian monarchy, contracts between the landlord and peasant are, by law, made irrevocable, and most of the corvees have been changed into a fixed and perpetual rent of money, or of fruits in a raw state. By this means, the peasant has acquired a true property in his house and land= only, it continues to be charged with rents, and some feudal services. Still farther to protect the peasantry from being afterwards oppressed or gradually expelled from their properties, by the opulent lords living among them, the law does not allow any noble to buy a vassal’s land; or, if he does buy any, he is obliged to sell it, on the same conditions, to some other family of peasants; so that the property of the nobles can never increase, or the agricultural population diminish.
These regulations of the Austrian government in behalf of an order, which, if left to itself, must needs be oppressed, are almost sufficient to redeem the errors of its general system, by this increase of happiness to the subject, and of stability to the system itself. In a country deprived of liberty, where the finances have at all times been wretchedly administered, where wars are eternal - and still disastrous, obstinacy there being always joined with incapacity; the great mass of the population, composed almost wholly of peasant-proprietors living in easy circumstances, have been rendered happy; and this mass of subjects, feeling their own happiness, and dreading every change, have mocked all the projects of revolution or of conquest directed against their country, the government of which is so little able to defend itself.
The system of cultivating land by capitation, could be adopted only among a people scarcely emerged from barbarism. It is, in fact, nearly a modern farm-lease, the parties to which, in fixing the rent, pay no regard to the greater or smaller extent of the ground, to its comparative fertility or barrenness, to the improvements which labour has already made it undergo. Be the nature of those circumstances what it may, each proprietor of a whole Russian province pays thirty roubles yearly to the lord of it. Doubtless when the capitation was imposed, all those circumstances were equal; there was more fertile land for each than each could cultivate, and no part of it had yet been improved by labour.
In free counties, capitation is looked upon as a degrading tax, because it recalls the idea of servitude. It was, indeed, originally always accompanied with servitude of the soil. The peasant always depended on the good pleasure of his master; in executing their mutual contact, no law afforded him protection; he was always liable to be ejected, carried off, sold, stript of all the property amassed by his industry; and thus the kind of authority to which he was subject incessantly reminded him, that, whatever he saved, he took from himself to give it to his master; that every effort on his part was useless, every invention dangerous, every improvement contrary to his interest, and finally, that every sort of study but aggravated his wretchedness by more clearly informing him of his condition.
Even in Russia, however, the disinterestedness of some noble families, who for several generations have not changed the capitation, has inspired the peasantry with confidence sufficient to reanimate their industry, to infuse a taste for labour and economy, and sometimes even to permit their realizing very large fortunes which, however, always depend on the master’s good pleasure. But in countries where servitude of the soil has been gradually abolished, the capitation has become a fixed rent; united most frequently to personal services, and sometimes reduced to mere feudal rights, as the system, by degrees, varied from its primitive uniformity. Such was the tenure by villanage in France, by copy-hold in England, the origin of nearly all the property possessed by peasants cultivating their own heritages. On the other hand, such contracts helped to produce the notion of farm-leases, which, in the wealthiest countries of Europe, have succeeded every other kind of convention between proprietor and cultivator.
By a farm-lease, the proprietor yields his land, and nothing more, to the cultivator; and demands an invariable rent for it; whilst the farmer undertakes to direct and to execute all the labour by himself; to furnish the cattle, the implements, and the funds of agriculture; to sell his produce, and to pay his taxes. The farmer takes upon him all the cares and all the gains of his agriculture; he teats it as a commercial speculation, from which he expects a profit proportionate to the capital employed in it.
At the time when slavery was abolished, the system of farms could not be immediately established= freedmen could not yet undertake such important engagements, nor were they able to advance the labour of a year, much less that of several years, for putting the farm in a proper condition. The master, on giving them their liberty, would have been obliged to give them also an establishment; to furnish them with cattle, instruments of tillage, seed and food for a year; and after all these advances, the farm would still have been a burdensome concern for the owner, because by his contract he had renounced the profit of good years on condition that his farmer should warrant him against bad years; but the farmer who had nothing could warrant nothing, and the master would have given up his good crops without any return.
The first farmers were mere labourers; they executed most of the agricultural operations with their own hands; they adjusted their enterprises to the strength of their families; and as the proprietor reposed little confidence in their management, he used to regulate their procedure by numerous obligatory clauses; he limited their leases to a few years, and kept them in a continual state of dependence. During the last century, farmers, particularly in England, have risen to rank and importance. Political writers and legislators have uniformly viewed them with a favourable eye; their leases have ceased to be limited in time to a small number of years, and hence farmers have issued from a more elevated class of society. With large capitals, they have taken farms of a larger size; more extensive knowledge, and a better education have enabled them to teat agriculture as a science= They have applied to it several important discoveries in chemistry and natural history; they have also in some degree united the habits of the merchant with those of the cultivator. The hope of a larger profit has induced them to make larger advances; they have renounced that parsimony which originates in want, and stands in direct opposition to enlightened economy; they have calculated and recorded the result of their operations with greater regularity, and this practice has furnished better opportunities of profiting by their own experience.
On the other hand, farmers from this time have ceased to be labourers; and below them has of course been formed a class of men of toil, who, being entrusted with supporting the whole nation by their labour, are the real peasants, the truly essential part of the population. The peasantry, strengthened by the kind of labour most natural to man, are perpetually required for recruiting all the other classes; it is they who must defend the country in a case of need; whom it most concerns us to attach to the soil where they were born; and policy itself would invite every government to render their lot happy, even though humanity did not command it.
When the system of small farms has been compared, as is often done, with that of great farms, it has not been sufficiently considered that the latter, by taking the direction of his labour out of the peasant’s hands, reduces him to a condition greatly more unhappy than almost any other system of cultivation. In truth, hinds performing all the labours of agriculture, under the command of a rich farmer, are not only more dependent than metayers, but even than serfs, who pay their capitation or their service. The latter, whatever vexations they experience, have at least a hope, a property, and a heritage to leave their children. But the hind has no participation in property, nothing to hope from the fertility of the toil or the propitiousness of the season; he plants not for his children; he entrusts not to the ground the labour of his young years, to reap the fruit of it, with interest, in his old age. He lives each week on the wages of the last. Ever exposed to the want of work by derangements in his master’s fortune; ever ready to feel the extremes of want, from sickness, accident, or even the approaches of old age, he runs all the risks of ruin without enjoying any of the chances of fortune. Economy in his situation is scarcely probable; but though he should succeed in collecting a little capital, the suppression of all intermediate ranks hinders him from putting it to use. The distance between his lot and that of an extensive farmer, is too great for being passed over; whereas, in the system of cultivation on the small scale, a labourer may succeed, by his little economy, in acquiring a small farm or a small metairie; from this he may pass to a greater, and from that to every thing. The same causes have suppressed all the intermediate stages in other departments of industry. A gulf lies between the day-labourer and every enterprise of manufacture or trade, as well as farming; and the lower classes have now lost that help which sustained them in a former period of civilization. Parish aids, which are secured to the day-labourer, increase his dependence. In such a state of suffering and disquietude, it is not easy to preserve the feeling of human dignity, or the love of freedom; and thus at the highest point of modern civilization, the system of agriculture approximates to that of those corrupt periods of ancient civilization, when the whole labour of the field was performed by slaves.
The state of Ireland, and the convulsions to which that unhappy country is continually exposed, show clearly enough how important it is for the repose and security of the rich themselves, that the agricultural class, which forms the great majority of a nation, should enjoy conveniences, hope, and happiness. The Irish peasants are ready to revolt, and plunge their country into the horrors of civil war; they live each in a miserable hut, on the produce of a few beds of potatoes, and the milk of a cow; more unhappy, at the present day, than the cottagers of England, though possessing a small property, of which the latter are destitute. In return for their allotted portion of ground, they merely engage to work by the day, at a fixed wage, on the farm where they live; but their competition with each other has forced them to be satisfied with a wage of the lowest possible kind. A similar competition will act likewise against the English cottagers. There is no equality of strength between the day-labourer, who is starving, and the farmer, who does not even lose the revenue of his ground, by suppressing some of his habitual operations; and hence the result of such a struggle between the two classes, is constantly a sacrifice of the class which is poorer, more numerous, and better entitled to the protection of law.
Rich proprietors generally find that for themselves large farms are more advantageous than small ones. The small farmer rarely employs a capital sufficient even for his little cultivation; himself is always so near to ruin, that he must begin by ruining the ground. And certainly, in counties where the different systems of cultivation are practically set in opposition to each other, it is granted that land is ruined by letting it on lease, and reimproved by cultivating it with servants or metayers. It is not, therefore, small farms, but metairies, which ought to be compared with large farms. Cultivation on the great scale, spares much time which is lost in the other way; it causes a greater mass of work to be performed in the same time, by a given number of men; it tends, above all, to procure from the employment of great capitals the profit formerly procured from the employment of numerous workmen; it introduces the use of expensive instruments, which abridge and facilitate the labour of man. It invents machines, in which the wind, the fall of water, the expansion of steam, are substituted for the power of limbs; it makes animals execute the work formerly executed by men. It hunts the latter from trade to trade, and concludes by rendering their existence useless. Any saving of human strength is a prodigious advantage, in a colony, where the supernumerary population may always be advantageously employed. Humanity justly solicits the employment of machines to aid the labour of the negroes, who cannot perform what is required of them, and who used to be incessantly recruited by an infamous commerce. But in a country where population is already too abundant, the dismissal of more than half the field-labourers is a serious misfortune, particularly at a time when a similar improvement in machinery causes the dismissal of more than half the manufacturing population of towns. The nation is nothing else but the union of all the individuals who compose it, and the progress of its wealth is illusory, when obtained at the price of general wretchedness and morality.
Whilst, in England, the peasantry are hastening to destruction, their condition is improving in France; they are gathering strength, and without abandoning manual labour, they enjoy a kind of affluence; they unfold their minds, and adopt, though slowly, the discoveries of science. But in France, the peasants are mostly proprietors= the number of those who cultivate their own lands prodigiously increased in the revolution; and to this cause must be attributed the rapid progress which agriculture is making in that country, in spite of a long war and heavy contributions. Perhaps England might partly obtain a similar advantage, if these vast commons were shared among her cottagers, to whom the charm of property would thus be restored.
The most industrious provinces of France are, at this time, experiencing the unlooked - for effects of dividing property among its true cultivators; we mean the distribution of great farms among the contiguous peasantry, by a great number or particular contacts. A large proprietor now rarely gives his farm to be cultivated by a single person; he finds it infinitely more advantageous, at present, to share his domain among a number of neighbouring peasants, each of whom takes as much land as is requisite to occupy him all the year. No doubt, the peasant will generally sacrifice the land which he farms, to that which is his property; but both those portions are cultivated with the ardour which a direct interest excites in the labourer and with the intelligence which is developed in him, now that his lord can no longer oppress him. The agricultural classes are as happy as the political circumstances of a country, loved with enthusiasm, permit them to be.
To conclude our review of the systems, by which territorial wealth is incessantly renewed, we ought yet to bestow a moment of attention on the system of emphyteuses or perpetual farms, the most suitable of all when government has grants of land to make.
In other systems of cultivation, the agriculturist acquires all the fruit of his annual advances, but he can never be sure of profiting from those irredeemable advances by which a perpetual value is added to land, from drainings, plantations, and breaking up of the soil. Proprietors, of themselves, are seldom enabled to make such advances. If they sell the land, the purchaser, in order to acquire it, must surrender that very capital, with which he might have made those improvements. The lease of emphyteusis or plantation, which is the proper meaning of the word, was thus a very useful invention, as by it the cultivator engaged to break up a desert, on condition of acquiring the dominium utile of it for ever, whilst the proprietor reserved for himself an invariable rent to represent the dominium directum. No expedient could more happily combine, in the same individual, affection for property, with zeal for cultivation; or more usefully employ, in improving land, the capital destined to break it up. Although this kind of lease is known in England under the name of freehold for many lives; and though it is even of great importance in this kingdom, as the right of voting in county elections depends upon it, its beneficial influence has chiefly been experienced in Italy, where it is named livello. In the latter country, it has restored to the most brilliant state of cultivation whole provinces, which had been allowed to run waste. It cannot, however, become a universal mode of cultivation, because it deprives the direct proprietor of all the enjoyment of property, exposing him to all the inconveniences, with none of the advantages, in the condition of the capitalist; and because the father of a family can never be looked upon as prudent or economical, when he thus alienates his property for ever, without at least retaining the disposal of the price to be received in exchange for it.
For re-producing territorial wealth, it is sufficient, in general, that the use of the ground be transmitted to the industrious man, who may turn it to advantage, whilst the property of it continues with the rich man, who has no longer the same incitements or the same fitness for labour, and who thinks only of enjoyment.
The national interest, however. sometimes also requires that property itself shall pass into hands likely to make a better use of it. It is not for themselves alone that the rich elicit the fruits of the earth; it is for the whole nation; and if, by a derangement in their fortune, they suspend the productive power of the country, it concerns the whole nation to put their property under different managers.
Personal interest is sufficient to bring about this transmission, provided the law offers no obstacle.
When a soldier comes to inherit a machine for making stockings, he does not keep it long; in his hands, the machine is useless for himself and the nation; in the hands of a stocking-maker it would be productive, both for the nation and the individual. Both feel this; and a bargain is soon struck. The soldier receives money, which he well knows how to employ; the stocking-maker receives possession of his frame, and production recommences. Most of our European laws respecting immovable property, are like a law made to hinder the soldier from parting with the frame, of whose use he is ignorant.
The value of land cannot be unfolded, except by employing a capital sufficient to procure the accumulation of that labour which improves it. Hence, it is essential to the very existence of a nation that its land be always in the hands of those who can devote capital to its cultivation. If it were not in any case allowed to sell a workman’s implement, it would not, certainly, at least, be forbidden to make new ones for the use of new workmen; but new lands cannot be made, and so often as the law prevents the alienation of an estate by one that cannot use it, so often does it suspend the most essential of all productions.
The systems of cultivation, which we have now glanced over in review, certainly cause the earth to produce, by the hands of temporary cultivators, when the permanent advances have been made; but they absolutely discourage such cultivators from making those permanent advances which, as they give a perpetual value to property, cannot be laid out except by those with whom that property is destined to continue. Legislators in general, altogether occupied with preventing the alienation of immovables, and preserving great fortunes in great families, have dreaded lest such an alienation might clandestinely be brought about by a lease, for a long term, and without return. They have eagerly attempted to defend the rights of proprietors against proprietors themselves; they have guided that class of people by forfeits and resolutory clauses; they have fixed upon a short term for farm leases; they seem continually repeating to the cultivator= “This land, on which you work, is not yours; acquire not too much affection for it; make no advances which you might run the risk of losing; improve the present moment, if you can, but think not of the future; above all, beware of labouring for posterity.”
Besides, independently of legislative errors, it belongs to the very nature of a farm lease never to allow the farmer to take as much interest in the land as its proprietor. It is enough that this lease must have an end, to induce the farmer, as this end approaches, to care less about his fields, and to cease laying out money for improving them. The metayer, with smaller power, at least never fears to improve the land committed to him as much as possible; because the conditions of his lease are invariable, and he is never dismissed except for bad behaviour. The farmer, again, is liable to be dismissed directly in consequence of his good management. The more he has improved his farm, the more will his landlord, at renewing the lease, be disposed to require an augmentation of rent; and, besides, as part nf the advances laid out by the cultivator, on the ground, create a perpetual value, it is neither just nor natural that they should be made by one whose interest is merely temporary. The farmer will carefully attend to the fields and meadows, which, in a few years, are to give him back all his advances; but he will plant few orchards; few high forests in the north; few vineyards in the south; he will make few canals for navigation, irrigation, or draining; he will transport little soil from one place to another; he will clear little ground; he will execute, in short, few of those works which are most conducive to the public interest, because they found the wealth of posterity.
None of those labours, on which the increase of the whole national subsistence depends, can be undertaken, save by a proprietor, rich in movable capital. It is not the preservation of great fortunes that concerns the nation, but the union of territorial fortunes with circulating ones. The fields do not flourish in the hands of those who have already too much wealth to watch over them, but in the hands of those who have enough of money to bring them into value. Territorial legislation ought, therefore, without ceasing, to strive that movable capital be united with fixed; property which we call personal with property which we call real. Legislation, over almost all the world, has striven to do quite the contrary.
And first, it were always for the national advantage, and favourable to the increase of its production, that the proprietor, whenever his fortune is embarrassed, should sell his property, instead of borrowing on it; yet, on the contrary, facilities have been held out to him for borrowing, rather than for sale. A particular system of law has been created for territorial debts; marked differences have been established between real and personal property; the rank of creditors on land has been regulated according to their date, whilst an absolute equality prevails among creditors of all dates, who claim only on movable property. And thus thousands of law-suits have been created, interminable difficulties have been started, and the time is almost come when half the lands of Europe are possessed by a people who far from possessing the power to dispose of a capital that might increase their productiveness, on the contrary, are debtors by a pretty large capital, which they cannot extract from those funds. Hence those embarrassed proprietors have incessantly had recourse to ruinous expedients not to put money on their lands, but to take it off; to borrow of their farmers, to diminish the funds of cultivation, to sell their woods, and deteriorate their estates. If the law had given no preference to territorial creditors; if, on the other hand it had given as much facility to a creditor for selling an immovable property, as for making seizure of a movable one; especially, if, in protecting personal liberty, sacrificed too slightly, it had permitted lands to be sold as often as it now permits the debtor to be put in prison - most old debts would be extinguished, and those immovable possessions, which ought to support the nation, would be in the hands of such as could force them, by capital and labour, to furnish the means of subsistence.
But the props lent to the pride of family by entails, fideicommissa, primogenitures, and the laws invented to hinder families in a ruinous condition from selling their property, have still further impeded the development of agriculture and industry. The legislator aimed at fixing fortune in great families= he has fixed beggary and want in them. On pretext of securing the patrimony of children, he has forbidden the heir of entail to sell or borrow with a sufficient security to his creditors; but he could not hinder him from going to ruin, and overwhelming himself with clamorous debts. In that case, even the care of his honour, the feeling of justice, and his own security, oblige him to employ all the resources of his mind, all his industry in destroying his patrimony, that he may obtain the disposal of what law has reserved to his heir. Whatever produce he can detach from the ground without replacing it, whatever advance he can dispense with laying out, is, in his eyes, just so much profit; and Europe has come to see the proprietors of noble estates, almost everywhere, the enemies of their property. At the same time, if the legislator’s object was the preservation of families, he has failed in this object; because entails condemn all the sons of a rich family to idleness; the elder out of pride, the younger out of inability. The system has proscribed all from industry, the sole mean of increasing property; whilst it leaves them subject to all human chances, which never cease to attack whatever is ancient, and which must always, in the end, destroy whatever opulence is not renewed.
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