Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

studies have not been attractive to them; it has been
held that such inquiries are fraught with danger to
the cultivator. I believe this to be an error, and I
trust to show that it is such.” (p. 105.)
Beginning with a quotation from Arthur Young
(p. 13), the author of the “Essai” lays down the fact
of the infinite superiority of the soil of France over
that of England; not content with a general asser-
tion, we have a comparison of the most elaborate kind
set before us, proving that, tract for tract, zone for
zone, the French possess the advantage of a better
fundamental element of production. Then their
climate is confessedly preferable; and in descanting
upon this happy difference in their favour, M.
Lavergne obviously finds a secret “dédommagement”
for our superiority on some other points. But although

the French sun can ripen the ear of corn, can mature

all kinds of fruit, and bring to perfection many other precious products—wine, olives, silk, oil, hemp, flax, and the like—nevertheless, as has been remarked already, the one thing needful to “high farming” is wanting. The French eat but little meat, for want of more cattle and flocks and swine; and they lack manure wherewith to grow thirty and even forty tons of food to the acre, as we manage to do, in favourable years, with our swedes and mangolds. This matter of meat and manure is, in truth, a revolving circle, wherein the great difficulty consists in seizing the departing point. M. Lavergne maintains that if the farmers occupying cold, moist mountainous tracts in France (of which he indicates no small number) Would grow artificial grasses, turnips, carrots, mangolds, and such sort of crops, instead of slaving, as

:

they do, to extract miserably scanty crops of rye and oats, they could very soon rear animals for food. Animals would yield “engrais,” or “dressing,” bring capital to the farm, invigorate the labourer, and cause the land to revive under generous treatment. How to begin is the problem, and of course M. Lavergne is at no loss to prescribe the means. Capital must be invited to co-operate more liberally with labour. He would persuade the owners of capital to embark in scientific farming, commencing by degrees, and would engage to justify the enter. prise by its results if properly conducted. But here we come upon the discussion concerning “large and small cultivation,” for no change can be thought of in the rural economy of France without fully exploring that thorny question. M. Lavergne has, we think, set it very fairly before his readers, and in a vein of investigation which strikes us as somewhat original. And in the first place our author disputes the fact, or at least denies the extent, of the extravagant subdivision of land in France. We will give his own words:—

“All the world is familiar with the celebrated calculation, giving eleven millions and a half as the number of ‘cotes' (taxable properties in houses and lands); but so they are, likewise, with the delusive nature of this calculation, as demonstrated by the researches of M. Passy. Not only does it happen that an individual contributor often pays several ‘cotes,’ which in itself suffices to invalidate the general proposition itself; but, furthermore, town habitations equally count as ‘cotes,’ thus diminishing the actual total of rural proprietors to five, or at most to six millions.” (p. 109.)

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

“Now,” says M. Lavergne, “of the whole eleven millions and a-half alluded to as representing the numerical amount of properties, town and country inclusive, half a million, only, possess parcels of the value of one hundred francs, or four pounds; five

millions and a-half own parcels of the value of five

francs each, two millions at from five to ten francs, three millions at from ten to fifty francs, six hundred thousand from fifty to a hundred francs. But the sum of the land possessed by these eleven millions, consisting of lots all ranging under the value of one hundred francs, reaches only one-third of the entire surface under cultivation.” [Pasture and woods being included, we presume.] “Remains, then, twothirds of it in the hands of four hundred thousand proprietors; deducting one hundred thousand for

such owners as possess town lots, this gives an

average extent of eighty hectares to each, or two
hundred English acres.”
M. Lavergne next endeavours to establish a cor-
respondence between this section of the French
people and our middle-class and second-class gentry
taken together. Granting that the annual value of
land is greater in England, acre for acre, still, he con-
tends, the disproportion is less than is usually sup-
posed. He sets the share of the soil possessed by
our largest proprietors against that of the eleven
millions who own a third of all France; and main-
tains that two-thirds in each country are possessed
by a class of owners differing from each other far
less widely than it has been the habit to represent
them. In France, he says–
“Estates comprising an extent of 500, 1000, and

2000 hectares are far from rare, whilst properties even of 25,000 francs to 100,000 francs a year value, and beyond it, are not unknown. A thousand landlords in each of our departments might be found, on a level, as to landed property, with the secondary class of English country landlords, which is the one most diffused among them. It is true, we have, proportionably speaking, fewer, and they are planted amidst small neighbours; whilst the English gentry live under the shadow of huge aristocratic fiefs. It is only under this aspect—i.e., the proportional amount —that it can fairly be affirmed that property is more concentrated in England than in France.” (p. 111.)

After exhibiting this view of the actual distribution of the surface, M. Lavergne examines the evidence in favour of large farms, the advantages of which it has recently become so much the fashion to extol ; we regret that we must restrict our extracts in reference to this most vital question, as between “large and little culture” (to translate it literally). The author has treated it with a rare impartiality, and our readers will find many valuable facts arranged in a manner to leave the solution easier than has yet seemed to be attainable. Solution, in the sense of decided preference, however, it is not easy to arrive at. But we can, more distinctly than before we perused this chapter, appreciate the bearings of particular circumstances in determining when large cultivation should prevail, and the converse. M. Lavergne is clearly a partizan of neither. His accurate acquaintance with the whole condition of French husbandry, together with his practical familiarity with various other forms of industrial life, enable him to steer clear of dogmatic

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

generalization, and even inspire him with a certain
dislike of such as indulge in it. We subjoin a few
of his comments on this head.
“In the same degree as people exaggerate the
amount of concentration in England, do they overrate
the effect of large estates upon the progress of
agriculture. Large properties do not necessarily
imply large culture. The most considerable of them
are not unfrequently split up into small holdings;”
what matters it, indeed, though one man do possess
10,000 hectares, if they be broken down into 200
farms of 50 hectares each? . . . . We have seen
that, in the United Kingdom, two categories prevail;
large, and moderate estates. The first class of pro-
perties occupying, then, a third of the soil, and part
of this being distributed into small lots, or tenantcies,
it is obvious that large culture obtains upon no more
than one quarter of the whole land. Now is it true
that this one quarter is farmed in the highest and
most skilful style? I suspect not. . . . . The richest
districts of England are those of Lancashire, Lincoln-
shire, Leicester, Worcester, and Warwickshire; and
here a mixed proportion as to culture subsists. In
one of the most fertile of these, viz., Lancashire, it is
the mean, or possibly even the small, culture which
preponderates. Taken as a general fact, it may fairly
be affirmed that the best farmed land in the kingdom,
Ireland included, is not that belonging to the largest
occupants.” (p. 114.)

“In France, again,” continues M. Lavergne, “two

* See the account of the Marquis of Lansdowne's estates in Kerry, of about 100,000 acres, full of sheep walks and bare rock. There Were, till lately, 3000 farms upon this 1 (p. 449).

« AnteriorContinuar »