Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

categories likewise appear—middling sized, and great estates. In the former, small cultivation predominates, and these generally exhibit the greatest advance in agricultural aptitude and knowledge. Such is the case in the ‘Département du Nord,' and of the ‘Bas Rhin,' and indeed in the richest cantons of other departments. With us, division of the land is a means of developing improvement. This results from the national habit of thought. Similar causes produce the like results in other countries; in Belgium, Rhenish Prussia, in Upper Italy, and even in Norway.” (p. 115.) “In all countries, with the single exception of Great Britain, overgrown estates have done more mischief than good to agriculture.” After assigning the reasons of this, the author adds, “Still, for all that has been advanced, I am ready to admit that the state of landed property in England is more favourable to agricultural prosperity than that of France. It is simply the exaggeration employed on this topic that I have striven to dispel.” (p. 116.) We must now take leave of this important chapter, with the remark that, after all, there can be no practical utility in proving to the French people the disadvantages of “la petite culture;” since the subdivision and possession of land is among the most unassailable of their national predilections, and is, moreover, linked with that passion for “equality” which, naturally enough, grew out of the intolerable abuse of its opposite down to 1789. We are indeed not disinclined to believe, with M. Lavergne, that where small cultivation is accompanied by capital adequate to keep the land, whatever be its extent, “in heart,” there will be found, if not the maximum of profit, the highest average of comfort, content, and independence among the inhabitants. (See page 114, where the condition of things in the island of Jersey is described.) In districts where the above-named condition is wanting, of course the cultivators must be poor, degraded, and embarrassed. Such as these must either learn to exchange their labour for money wages, or remain at the bottom of the scale. M. Lavergne should begin by preaching to them the expediency of such an industrial revolution, and perhaps capital might presently be induced to unite in its achievement. Englishmen have lived so long under an unchanged constitution of things, in connexion with land, that they commonly go through life with very little inquiry into the practical operation of their laws and customs, or the rights of privileged classes. A foreigner, on the contrary, takes note of every cluster of causes and effects which comes before him, and if he happen to have a philosophic turn of mind (such as M. Lavergne possesses), he endeavours to “map out,” as it were, the ramifications of this or that principle throughout the political constitution of the nation which he is studying. He does not hesitate boldly to handle and dissect laws and customs which, to English minds, are consecrated by antiquity, and regarded as inseparable from national prosperity. Sometimes they obtain from the author of the “Essai" unqualified approval—often disapproval; but in every instance the opinions are sustained by reasons, delivered with the unmistakeable accents of a love of truth and a genuine attachment to the social interests of mankind. We cannot resist making

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

one extract (from the chapter on the Tenure of Property) terminating a brief notice respecting the law of inheritance, and the liberty of bequest, so different in our respective countries. “Should the period ever arrive in France when it might be granted to the head of a family to exercise more freely the right of bequeathing his property— or should we think fit to restrict by laws the unlimited distribution of personal property now practised in cases of intestacy—let us hope that considerations tending to favour the formation of large properties will not be suffered to enter into the question. Large estates have not been cut up or absorbed by law in France, but by the revolution; and not only is their reconstruction by artificial methods impracticable, but, the course things have taken considered, it is extremely doubtful whether it could serve any useful end.” (p. 123.) The chapter “On the Constitution of Cultivation” (a clumsy phrase enough in English, but still one not easy to render less so) is short, treating in great part of the same subject as the one on “La Proprieté.” And the same oscillation is here observable in the author's mind as is apparent during his comparison of the two modes of culture (great and small) in the previous chapter. The prodigious results of our skilled farming on a great scale naturally excite his professional sympathies; yet anon the deep-seated feeling which belongs to a Frenchman inclines him to regard small occupations with partiality. “Small cultivation (he remarks), as well as small properties, are more congenial to our habits. Fortunes being more divided among us than amongst the English, it is expedient to keep the quantity of land occupied, on a suitable level with the amount of capital available for its culture. . . . . ” (p. 133.) “There are districts of my country with which I am familiar, where small culture is a curse; others which I could name flourish under it, and would not prosper if farmed on the contrary system.” (p. 134.) It is, to say the truth, a hard matter to discover how much of change, or of imitation of England, M. Lavergne would wish to bring about in the agricultural system of his own country, seeing that he so thoughtfully and impartially scans the actual merits of the latter, taking into account national circumstances, together with the inveterate attachment of the French to certain social principles. His work reminds us of nothing so much, in fact, as of a person playing three-handed whist with a “dummy” as partner. The author plays, of course, both “hands,” and, as a professor of agronomic science is bound to do, tries to “win the trick” with bold, enterprizing play. “Dummy,” on the other hand, holds a “strong suit” in “social equality,” as well as some other good cards; for example, “individual independence,” “models of honest industry,” “perfection of small cultivation” (admitted by the author, as we have seen), as exhibited in Flanders, amongst French vine dressers, and the like. Thus, although M. Lavergne is strongly impelled by the predominant passion of the day to recommend the pursuit of agricultural wealth—destined, in its turn, to engender the multiplication of the comforts and advantages of civilization—he nevertheless makes “dummy” play his game with so much effect as to preserve C

himself from one-sided advocacy; and accordingly, we find him disposed to prescribe none but mode. rate and practicable improvements in the rural economy of his own nation. These prescriptions, if we comprehend the author's leanings justly, would consist of the following leading ingredients, mixed and employed with discrimination, 1. The cultivation of green and root crops wherever possible. 2. He would have more care bestowed upon the breeding of sheep and cattle, and would discontinue the employment of oxen and cows in tillage, as a mistaken economy. 3. He would adapt the choice of the products to the nature of the soil and local character of the district (see pp. 134, 135). 4. He would persuade the owners of land whose capital is insufficient, to hand it over to the cultivation of those who have more, taking rent for the use of it; changing the relations between capital and labour most advantageously, on such parcels of land as represent the mean ratio between large and small occupations. The French cultivator being forced, under the actual condition of things, to provide the whole apparatus of farming, he is under the necessity of borrowing capital. If an English tenant farmer were thus situated, it would be equally necessary for him also to borrow. But in England the “Squire” furnishes so large a portion of the matter of farm capital, in the form of buildings, repairs, fencing, draining, and the like, that the farmer can apply all his own money to positive cultivation. As a precedent for the transfusion of cultivating proprietors into tenant farmers, M. Lavergne recounts, in a brief but most pertinent manner, the gradual change which the

« AnteriorContinuar »