ESSAY ON LANDED PROPERTY.
M. De Sismondi devotes a long chapter to an examination of Mr. Loch's book on the improvements made in the domains of the Marquis of Stafford, from which the following extracts are taken.
Many readers will perhaps refuse to believe that it can ever have been proposed as an amelioration of an agricultural system, to get rid of the peasants who made the land of value, and to drive them from their country. The experiment has, however, been made at various times, and in different parts of the British dominions, in England, Scotland, and Ireland.
We think, therefore, that we ought to fix our attention on the calm and methodical exposition which has been made of this great operation of agriculture, the clearing of an estate, by the Person who has executed it on the largest scale, and who was employed by the great lord to whom he was attached, to justify them in the eyes of the public. But it is not this personal cause which occupies us ill analyzing his book; we endeavour to find there the true history of the great revolution to which, at that period, the population of the mountains of Scotland was subjected, by the application of the chresmatistic principles to their cultivation; and we are willing to believe all Mr. Loch affirms as to the humanity with which this was execute, according to the commands of the powerful family whose agent he was.
During the time which has elapsed since the commencement of this century, the nation of the Gaëls, the remains of the ancient Celts, now reduced to 340,000 individuals, has been almost entirely driven from its hearthstones by those whom it regarded as its chiefs, by the lords to whom it had shown, during a long course, of years, an enthusiastic devotion. All the properties which it had cultivated from generation to generation under fixed dues, have been forcibly taken from it; the fields which it tilled have been devoted to the pasturage of sheep, and given up to foreign shepherds; its houses and its villages have been razed, or destroyed by fire, and the mountaineers of the expelled nation have been left no other choice but that of cabins on the sea shore, where they might support their miserable existence by fishing, in sight of the mountains from which they had been driven, or to cross that sea to seek their fortune in the deserts of America.
The author of this work endeavours to prove, and does so successfully, not only that the Marchioness of Stafford only made use of rights which the law recognises as belonging to her, but that in the exercise of them she did not lose sight of the preservation of the existence of her vassals, for which she considered herself responsible. What we consider as worthy of attention in this work, is not that the conduct of a great lady has been more or less skilful, more or less generous; it is the spirit of the legislation which has abolished the ancient limitations of property, established by custom; it is the application of the principle that the proprietor is the best judge of his own interest, and of that of the nation, as far as relates to his property;—it is, in short, a great experiment of the application of chresmatistics to agriculture, and of its results.
The ancestors of the Marchioness of Stafford, as the book of her agent informs us, were sovereigns in the most northerly part of Scotland, over about three quarters of the county of Sutherland. Their possessions were about a million English acres. This extent is larger than that of the department of the Upper Rhine. When the Countess of Sutherland inherited these domains, the population did not exceed 15,000 inhabitants. It cannot be said exactly what was its size in ancient times, but we know that the Gaëls made the south of Scotland tremble, and that battalions of soldiers descended from the mountains, which the exhausted nation would be far from being able to furnish now. Reduced as it was, the population of Sutherland appeared too numerous for its lord, as he no longer required military service. All, in fact, was military in the ancient organization of the country. Only thirty of these gentlemen held immediately under the earls: they were called tacksmen, and the district which was assigned to them to govern and to cultivate was called a tack. The tacksmen were the judges of their peasantry in peace, aud their captains in war; but their obedience was softened by the persuasion that they only formed one family. All called themselves relations of the chief, and bore his name. The income received by the Earl of Sutherland from the tacksmen, and by these from their vassals, was so small that it ought rather to be considered as an acknowledgment of sovereignty than as a rent.
But, on the other hand, every man who was bern on the domains of Sutherland, in every degree of the feudal scale, was bound to lavish his blood and his life in defence of the sovereignty and the honour of the family of which he formed a part.
After the revolution, private wars became in Scotland more rare and less dangerous, and the kings of England, without ever extending their real authority to these distant provinces, wished that at least the power of their great men should appear to be an emanation from their own. They encouraged the raising of family regiments, which they granted to the Scotch lords, combining this new military establishment with the national system of clans. The 93rd regiment was granted to the Earl of Sutherland, and the gentlemen of the county received tacks according to their rank, as part of their pay.
Thus the tenure of the estates lost its ancient character of liberality. They were no longer given as an act of munificence on the part of the chief of the family, but as a pecuniary bargain, by which the Mhoir Fhear Chattaibh, the great man of Sutherland, endeavoured to get something. In fact he required it; he was called to court, and found himself very small amidst the luxury and opulence of London; he felt himself humiliated by the penury with which his nation was proverbially reproached by the English. All his officers, all his tasksmen, were obliged also in their garrisons to compete with the ruinous expenses of England; and at the same time acquired a taste for luxury which they had not known before. They redoubled their efforts to obtain all they could from the cultivator. But at the same time they ceased to encourage the industry of the country; they were no longer content with the tartan and plaid woven in their family, with the claymore forged in their mountains, with the oatcakes which had been their bread; food, drink, clothes, arms, furniture, all began to be furnished by commerce, and no longer by domestic industry; they had very little to offer in return, for their productions were of little value, and scarcely worth carriage. When the chief and his officers required money to procure the objects of luxury which they could no longer do without, it was necessary to produce not for consumption, but to export to sell, and to sell only.
All the local industries disappeared; in a country where scarcely one dry day between two of rain or snow can be reckoned on, there was no longer any profitable work which could be done under cover; the poor man ceased having an occupation for every season of the year for all the members of his family; idleness increased indigence; the population rapidly decreased, but not enough to satisfy those who wished to improve these great domains.
This population was spread pretty equally over the surface of Sutherland. Each valley contained its hamlet, the alluvial land was destined to the cultivation of barley and oats. The mountains. covered with'thick herbage, were given up to the flocks which furnished milk, meat, wool, and leather. All the wants of the population had thus been satisfied, as long as it was content with these rude products.
Between the years 1811 and 1820, the 15,000 inhabitants, forming about 3,000 families, were driven, or according to the softened expression of Mr. Loch, removed from the interior of the county. All their villages were demolished or burnt, and all their fields turned into pasturage. (Improvements, &c., by J Loch, p. 92.) A similar operation was performed nearly simultaneously by the seven or eight other lords who possessed the rest of the county of Sutherland, or an extent of more than 25,000 English acres. Mr. Loch, however, assures us that the Marchioness of Stafford showed much more humanity than any of her neighbours; she occupied herseff with the fate of those she had removed, she offered them a retreat on her own estates; retaking from them 794,000 acres of land, of which they had been in possession from time immemorial, she generously lefL them 6,000, or about two acres to each family.
These 6,000 acres, which were to serve as a refuge for the small tenants, had not been cultivated, and yielded nothing to the proprietor. They have not, however, been conceded gratuitously: they were subject to a medium rent of 2s. 6d. an acre, and there were no leases for more than seven years, with a promise of renewal for another seven years if the land was well cultivated. (Ib. p. 107.)
The 794,000 acres of which the Marchioness of Stafford thus retook possession, have been divided by her agent, Mr. Loch, into twenty-nine great farms, very unequal in extent. Some are larger than the department of the Seine. These farms, destined solely to the pasturage of sheep, are each inhabited by only one family, and as the industry which they introduced into the country is new, they scarcely employ any Scotch, but only farm-servants from England. 131,000 sheep have already taken the place of the brave men who formerly shed their blood in the defence of Mhoir Fhear Chattaibh. (lb. p. 147.) No human voice resounds in the narrow passes of these mountains, formerly distinguished by the combats of an ancient race; no one recalls glorious recollections; the valleys have no hamlets; no accent of joy or grief disturbs these vast solitudes.
We have no doubt that this overthrow of the property, of the habits, of the affections, of the entire existence of a small nation, has prodigiously augmented the fortune of the Countess of Sutherland. But Mr. Loch is desirous of showing that it has also augmented the wealth of the county; that there is more money, more activity, more industry, more of the enjoyments of luxury; that all Sutherland has been from that time in a progressive state of prosperity, after having been stationary during centuries. We believe, indeed, that judging of the state of the county after the principles of the chresmatlstic school, calling that prosperity which it calls by that name, Sutherland has made progress. Many roads of 40 or 50 miles in length cross the whole of the county; bridges of stone and iron have been built at the expense of the countess, dikes and embankments prevent inundations, ports have been opened to commerce, coaches cross the county as far as the small towns built at its extremities; inns and posting-houses have been built by the Marquis of Stafford; and since the year 1820 the exportation of 415,000 lbs. of fine wool show how much wealth it may be expected in time will be sent out of a county which has been made valuable by such an admirable economy of inhabitants, of labour, and of happiness.
Mr. Loch assures us that the lot of these thousands of families exiled from their country, has not been so deplorable as their fears and their regrets predicted. Some, it is true, would hold nothing under her who had driven them from their dwellings. The clan Gunn, or the Mac Hamishes, abandoning the mountains of Kildonan and the valleys of Never and Helmsdale all left the country, and Mr. Loch does not tell us what became of them. But except this tribe, and thirty-two families of Strathbora, which went to America in 1818 and 1819, the others, we are afraid, almost all accepted the lots which the Marchioness of Stafford offered them. Driven to the borders of this immense domain, between the sea and the foot of the mountains, they found land proper for cuhivation, and Mr. Loch affirms what must appear very strange, that it is only in a band half a mile wide, till then uncultivated, that Sutherland can obtain any profit by the cultivation of corn.
Mr. Loch concludes, after enumerating the advantages, that the projects formed by the Marchioness of Stafford to ameliorate her estates in the county of Sutherland have been fully successful. Not only has she obtained great advantages, but she has made the county which depended on her, pass rapidly from barbarism to civilization. If she caused the most grievous anguish to the little nation whose destiny was confided to her, she has opened a more vast field for their industry, and she has endeavoured to soften their regrets by offering them the hope of more ease for the future. We cannot help remarking how much this way of pressing onward the march of civilization resembles what Mehemet All employed at the same time in Egypt; and he also was much celebrated for a time by the chresmatistic school, as the restorer of commerce and of the arts; he also mingled in his own person the rights of sovereignty with those of property; he also judged of the prosperity of the state, not by the security or abundance which its inhabitants enjoyed, but by the activity of traffic, the value of exports, the profits of rents; he also laid down roads, opened canals, raised bridges and dikes. He covered Egypt with the works of art; he attracted there learned men, engineers, operatives; he also, wishing perhaps to do good, had especially in view the increase of his own revenue. In his calculations the lives of men appeared only as cyphers; in his accounts he put them on the same line with bales of cotton, as the Marchioness of Sutherland does with bales of wool. He calculated; but the affections, the recollections, the hopes of the unhappy people he disposed of, are not elements subject to calculation.
Admitting with Mr. Loch, that the marchioness executed her projects with as much humanity as prudence, still we must shudder at the idea that the law, as it is interpreted in England, permits the expulsion of a whole nation from its hearthstones, without providing in any way for its subsistence and its future fate; that the government should, when necessary, have lent the strength of a military force for this expulsion, and that it has done so more than once; that in short, as Mr. Loch allows, other proprietors in the county have not been so humane. “The population of the Gruids on Lochshin,” says he, “was considerable; it does not appear that any lot of ground was assigned to these people, or that they received any compensation at the time of their expulsion, which was effected in the winter of 1818.”
This expulsion of the Gaelic people from their ancient homes is legal, but shall we dare to say that it is just?
It is by a cruel abuse of legal forms, it is by an iniquitous usurpation, that the tacksmen and the occupiers or copyholders, (tenaneiers,) whether of the county of Sutherland. or of the rest of Scotland, are considered as having no right to the land which they have occupied for centuries, and that their former leaders are authorized to violate the contract which united for so many centuries the cultivator with his lord.
The English lawyers have constantly assimilated all political rights to properties, and have defended them under this title. They wished to recognise a property in the Political rights of the lords, as they pretended to see one in the exclusive rights of certain burgesses to elect members of Parliament, or municipal magistrates; as they pretend to see one in the right of the church to its dignities and revenues; forgetting that when functions are instituted for the advantage of the People, to the people belong the funds by which they are remunerated. English lawyers have scarcely been willing to admit that the community, when it makes progress, has had the right to suppress Powers which were burdensome to it; at least they wished that if the functions were suppressed, the remuneration attached to them should be retained. At the same time, instead of giving attention to institutions different from their own, in order to guard equally the interests of all those affected by them, they would consider only the single person who obtained by them a pecuniary profit, and they placed this profit in the same class as the possession of a field, or of a house.
The vast extent of seignorial domains is not a condition peculiar to England. In all the empire of Charlemagne throughout the west, whole provinces have been usurped by warlike chiefs, who obliged the conquered, slaves, and sometimes their companions in arms, to cultivate them for their advantage. In the ninth and tenth centuries, Maine, Anjou, Poitou, were for the counts of those three provinces, three great farms rather than three principalities. Switzerland, which in so many points resembles Scotland, in her lakes and her mountains, in her climate, which so often prostrates the hopes of the labourer, in the character, usages, and habits of her children, was at this period divided among a small number of lords. If the counts of Kyburg, of Leutzburg, of Hapsburgh, and Gruy dres had been protected by English laws, they would have been now precisely in the condition in which the earls of Sutherland were twenty years ago: some of them, perhaps, might have had the same taste for improvements, and many republics would have been driven from the Alps to make room for flocks of sheep. But whatever might have been in its origin the right of the counts, the legislation of the whole of continental Europe has not ceased guaranteeing and ameliorating the condition of the feudatories, of the vassals, of the serfs, strengthening the independence of the peasant, covering him with the buckler of prescription, changing his customs into rights, sheltering him from the exactions of his lord, and by degrees raising his tenures to the rank of properties. The law has given to the Swiss peasant the guarantee of perpetuity, whilst to the Scotch lord it has given this same guarantee in the British empire, and left the peasant in a precarious condition. Compare the two countries, and judge of the two systems.
It must not be forgotten, in fact, that the Highlands of Scotland have never been subjected to the yoke of a foreign invasion, that the feudal system never became the law of the country, 'though the national customs which have been there observed from the most ancient times, have been assimilated to this system adopted in neighbeuring countries.
We cannot hope to find in abarharous nation, which had not the use of writing, authentic documents as to the manner in which those great family associations were formed, known in Scotland by the name of clan, any more than the successive uniting of many clans into one single sovereignty, as in Sutherland. But their name Klaan signifies in Gaelic, children. All their usages, all their reciprocal relations, all their affections, are founded in fact on the tradition which persuades them that they are children of the same family; all their rights, in fact, were those of the children of the same father, on a common patrimony. They were not subject to any other subordination but what the common defence made necessary. The instability of the division of the land did not weaken the rights of property of the great family to which the district where it was established belonged. Such were the public rights of the Celts, as also of the Germans; and among these last, who were organized much more for war than for cultivation, lest the families should become too much attached to the fields which they cultivated, the lots were changed frequently, even annually. All had a right to all among the Scotch, but the field of each one might pass to his neighbour, whether assigned to him by lot, whether extended or restricted according to the power of the family to cultivate it, or that different portions of land were assigned as a reward for services rendered to the country. There is not, indeed, any country in Europe in which may not be found even recent traces of the temporary and variable division of the common domain. In Scotland, it was an object of these divisions and subdivisions of the land to indicate and maintain the subordination of the soldiers to their chief. The great man of each clan exercised, perhaps had usurped from the community, the sole right of making these distributions; he gave to his officers the different tacks of land, and retook them, according as they showed themselves more or less useful in war. But though he could thus reward or punish militarily the members of the clan, he could not in any degree lessen the property of the clan itself. The favoured individual was different, but the obligation of service was always equal. The military magistrates established for the good of all, acquired at last a more or less considerable share of the national domain, without Sutharland ceasing to belong to the men of Sutherland. The tenure of land was always the same; their contribution for public defence, their clues to the lord who led them to battle, and who maintained order among them, were never augmented.
When civilization began to make progress, the lords, with the language and dress of England, began also to adopt the usages and the manner of thinking of the English. They did not understand, or they no longer cared to understand, the national contract of the Celts, and to give it the form used in civilized nations they reduced it to writing; at the same time they granted to their vassals the tacks or portions of land, for a determinate time. Thus they appeared to have conceded much to them, for formerly they could dismiss them at will. It was, on the contrary, an usurpation as to the community, since formerly, when they dismissed them, they must always replace them by others on absolutely the like conditions; whilst when they began to give these lands for rent, they insinuated into the contract that at each renewal of the lease they might make new conditions or increase the dues of their tenants,
By this usurpation, the lords of the Gaelic lands, who properly had the right only to an unchangeable rent on the property of their clan, changed it into an unlimited proprietorship of the domain which paid them this rent. At all events, they were far from foreseeing, or their vassals were far from apprehending, that the day would come when they would take advantage of the renewal of leases, not to increase the dues of the cultivators, but to drive them out. Before forming so barbarous a resolution, the lord must absolutely have ceased to partake of the opinions, the feelings, the Point of honour of his countrymen; he must not only have ceased to believe himself to be their father or their brother, but even to feel himself a Scotchman; a base cupidity must have stifled in him that feeling of consanguinity on which their common ancestors had reckoned, when they entrusted to his good faith the destiny of his people. It is as soon as such a change takes place in the opinions, in the interests, in the respective position of the different members of the community, that the legislator ought to interfere, that the whole nation may not be delivered up to the mercy of a small number of greedy and imprudent men. The question is not to solicit the pity of the lords, but to establish the rights of the Gaelic people; it is to prevent for the future a lord from concluding, according to the principles of the chresmatistic school, that man may be troublesome in human society, that there may be economy, progress, prosperity, in cutting off man from his country; or at least not to allow him to act in conformity with these principles. If the Marchioness of Stafford had a right to replace the people of a province by twenty-nine families of foreigners, and some hundreds of thousands of sheep, no time should be lost, as regards her and all others, in abolishing so odious a right.
It is already a great misfortune for a state to have allowed many small properties to be united in few hands. When one single man possesses a territory which would suffice for many hundred families, his luxury takes the place of their comfort, and the revenues which would have nourished their virtues are dissipated by his follies. But what win become of the state if the proprietor of a province imagines that his interest is in opposition to that of its inhabitants, and that it suits him to replace men with sheep and cattle? It was not for this end that territorial property has been established, or that it is guaranteed by the laws. Nations acknowledged it in the persuasion that it would be useful to those who had nothing, as well as to those who had something; but society is shaken when the rights of property are put in opposition to national rights. An earl has no more right to drive from their homes the inhabitants of his county, than a king to drive out the inhabitants of his kingdom. The most despotic of monarchs, if he made the attempt at this day, would soon learn what it would cost him to go beyond the bounds of his authority. Let the great lords of England take care! The less numerous they are, the more dangerous it would be to them to put themselves in opposition to the nation, and to prefer themselves to her. Let them not say, when the question concerns their own interest, like the agent of the Marchioness of Stafford, “Why in this case should a different rule be adopted from what has been followed in all others? Why should the absolute authority of proprietors over their property be abandoned and sacrificed for the public interest, and from motives which concern the public only?” (Loch, p. 41, note.) If once they believe that they have no need of the people, the people may in their turn think that they have no need of them.
CLEARANCES AND EVICTIONS.
In May, 1845, eighteen families in Glen Calvie gave bond peaceably to leave on the '24th; after which their stock was to be given them, and they might go where they wished. These eighteen families, consisting of ninety-two individuals, supported themselves in comparative comfort, without a pauper among them; they owed no rent, and were ready to pay as much as any one would give for the land, which they and their forefathers had occupied for centuries, but which it seems is now to be turned into a sheep walk.
Behind the church, ill the churchyard, a long kind of booth was erected; the roof formed of tarpauling stretched over poles, the sides closed in with horse-cloths, rugs, blankets, and plaids.
A fire was kindled in the churchyard, round which the poor children clustered. Two cradles, with infants in them, were placed close to the fire, and sheltered round by the dejected-looking mothers. Contrasted with the gloomy dejection of the grown-up and the aged, was the melancholy picture of the poor children playing thoughtlessly round the fire. Of the eighty people who passed the night in the churchyard with most insufficient shelter, twonty-three were children under ten years of age, nine persons were in bad health, ten above sixty years of age; twelve out of the eighteen families have been unable to find places of shelter. With the new Scotch Poor Law in prospect, cottages were everywhere refused to them. Each family had, on an average, about £18 to receive for their stock. This sum is sufficient evidence that they were supporting themselves respectably. It will, however, soon be spent, and in the search for places and employments in the south, it is a moral certainty that most of these unskilled men and their families will be reduced to pauperism. This is the benefit the country derives from such proprietors and factors as have owned and managed this glen.
The course pursued in Sutherlandshire, in turning the whole county into a sheep walk, is impolitic as regards the population, as evidenced by their condition; impolitic as regards the country, as evidenced by its stationary or rather retrograde appearance, and by the unimproved rent roll. What then is the condition of the people and of the county in Caithness, where a totally different system is pursued? The great bulk of the county is let in small farms from £15 to £50 a year rental. Instead of the wretched bothies crowded in clusters, and then some twenty miles without a cottage, which is the characteristic of Sutherlandshire, and scarcely a man to be seen employed; throughout Caithness there is scarcely a bothie to be seen, but every five or six hundred yards there is a good stone cottage, often with a little garden to it, and evidences of comfort about it. The whole land is cultivated, and there is scarcely a field without men and horses in it labouring, and women weeding and stone picking.
In the sheep-farming and clearance county of Sutherland, the annual rental assessed to the property-tax in 1815 was £33,878, in 1842-3 it was £35,567, being an increase of about 1/20 in twenty-seven years. The population in Sutherland in 1801 was 23,117; in 1841, 24,666, or an increase of about 1,500 in forty years. In Caithness, in 1815, the land rental was assessed to the property-tax at £35,469; in 1842-3, the land rent was assessed at £65,869, and the house rent at £10,500. The population in 1801 was one third less than that of Sutherland: in 1841, it was one third more.
I see, the Spectator writes, that the extensive sheep-farms and fishing villages support a larger population than was supported in a chronic state of pauperism raider the tenant and tacksman system.
It is scarcely possible, in three lines, to collect a greater numbor of fallacies, to make more assertions directly contrary to the truth. The “larger population,” where is it? I rode over an “extensive sheep-farm” yesterday. It extends over twenty miles, is in the hands of one man, who employs twenty shepherds, one man to a mile. The “fishing villages;” I have been all round the coast of this country, and I have not seen one fishing village. I have seen sevend collections of wretched huts on he coast, the male population of which migrate to Lewis and Wick to the herring fisheries carried on there, leaving their femilies to subsist on the credit of what they may earn. But not a “fishing village,” where fishing is carried on as a regular trade and means of living, have I seen in one hundred miles of coast. In only two places have I seen a boat of any kind—the people are so wretchedly poor that they have no boats, much less a market or a trade to “support a larger population” than formerly, in “greater comfort,” by their fishing. And their former “chronic state of pauperism;” why, imagination cannot conceive their situation to be worse, a more universal state of “chronic pauperism” than that which now exists. Three fourths of the people, if not actually paupers on the roll, live by begging. They have nothing on earth to do, or that they can do. The bits of land they have will barely supply them with potatoes, and they have to migrate south as day labourers the greater part of the year, in order to pay their rent. It is impossible to conceive, generally, wretchedness more abject than this “greater comfort.”
The system of driving out the people has been here tried without compunction. The population has been destroyed, and there is a starving refuse left behind without any means of employment. The Peasantry have been thinned and thinned till they are almost isolated, and yet they starve. And who prospers by this system? Not the gentry apparently—the landowners—for they are most of them over head and ears in debt. It is, however, manifest that the people and the nation lose by it.
On the evidence before the Commissioners of Poor Law Inquiry, it was stated that W. Donald McDonald, with 30,000 acres, only kept eleven shepherds. The Rev. W. McKenzie, speaking of the clearance system, said, “I am very positive, and have not the least doubt, that the condition of the people has. been very much deteriorated by the change.”
The Rev. W. Findlater, of Duirness, said, that while the population of the parish continues much the same as formerly, the number of paupers on the roll is just about doubled. While the Population were settled in the interior, though they were more liable to be affected by unfavourable seasons, yet from the numbers of sheep and. cattle which they kept, they could generally, by the disposal of part of their stock, purchase the meal requisite for their families. And though they have now the additional resource of fishing, yet, from the nature of the coast and boisterous character of the Western Ocean, it is very precarious; they cannot purchase boats or drifts of lines for white fishing. The Rev. Daniel McKenzie, of Foir, said, “I remember very well the change which took place on removing the small tenants from the interior to the seashore. In my opinion, the people have been decidedly losers by the change. They cannot command the same amount of the comforts of life as they did formerly.”
See a long and very interesting series of letters on the condition of the poor in the highlands of Scotland in the Times, May and June, 1845. Also the debate as reported in the Times of July 4th, 1845.
On the third of April, 1846, Mr. O'Connell entered into an explanation of the causes of the disturbances and crimes of Ireland. He read a mass of evidence to prove that one of the main causes was the clearance system, and mentioned as an appalling fact, that within five years 120,000 persons had been evicted in the county of Tipperary alone. (Not contradicted.)
EXTRACT FROM THE ÉTUDES, vol. ii, p. 169.
Whilst ancient Europe was divided among small free agricultural nations, their prosperity was increasing with wonderful rapidity; cultivation extended from the plains even to the summits of the mountains, all the means of increasing the fertility of the land were successively discovered, all the productions of the soil which could satisfy the tastes of man were, by turn, called into existence; that Campagna of Rome now so desert, made wholesome by the breath of man, was covered with so close a population, that five acres were supposed to be amply sufficient for the support of a family; in spite of frequent wars this population increased continually; as a hive of bees gives out a swarm every year, so it was necessary for every city after the development of one generation to send out a colony; and this colony recommencing social progress after the same principles, with peasant proprietors, and expecting every thing from agriculture, rapidly advanced towards the same prosperity. It was then that the human race spread itself over the face of the earth, and that in reciprocal independence, in the bosom of abundance and of virtues, those nations grew up, whose fate it was, at a later period, to become the sport of politics and of war.
That rural happiness, the picture of which history presents to us in the glorious times of Italy and Greece, is not unknown in our age. Wherever are found peasant proprietors, are also found that ease, that security, that independence, that confidence in the future, which assure at the same time happiness and virtue. The Peasant who does, with his children, all the work on his little inheritance, who neither pays rent to any one above him, nor wages to any one below him, who regulates his production by his consumption, who eats his own corn, drinks his own wine, is clothed with his own flax and wool, cares little about knowing the price of the market; for he has little to sell, and little to buy, and is never ruined by the revolutions of commerce. Far from fearing for the future, it is embellished by his hopes; for he puts out to profit for his children, or for ages to come, every instant which is not required by the labour of the year. Only a few moments, stolen from otherwise lost time, are required to put into the ground the nut which in a hundred years will become a large tree; to hollow out the aqueduct which will drain his field for ever; to form the conduit which will bring him a spring of water; to ameliorate, by constant attention, all the kinds of animals and vegetables by which he is surrounded. This little patrimony is a true savings-bank, always ready to receive his little profits, and usefidly to employ all his leisure moments. The everlasting power of nature makes them fruitful, and returns them to him a hundred fold. The peasant has a strong feeling of the happiness attached to the condition of proprietor. Thus he is always eager to purchase land at any price. He pays for it more than it is worth, more than it will return Perhaps; but what a reason he has to esteem at a high price the advantage of thenceforward always employing his labour advantageously, without being obliged to offer it cheap; to find always his bread when he wants it, without being obliged to buy it dear.
It is Switzerland particularly that must be gone over, that must be studied, to judge of the happiness of peasant proprietors. Switzerland must be known, to be convinced that agriculture, practised by those who gather the fruits of it, suffices to procure great comfort to a very numerous population; great independence of character, the fruit of an independent situation; great exchange of what is consumed, the consequence of the well-being of all the inhabitants, even in a country where the climate is rude, the soil moderately fertile, and where late frosts, and uncertain seasons, often destroy the hopes of the labourer. Whether we pass through the cheerful Emnethal, or bury ourselves in the most distant valleys of the canton of Berne, we cannot see without admiration, without being affected, those wooden houses of the least peasant, so vast, so well closed, so well constructed, so covered with carvings. In the interior every detached chamber of the numerous family opens into large corridors; each room has only one bed, and it is abundantly provided with curtains and with coverings of the whitest linen; furniture, carefully kept, surrounds it; the closets are full of linen; the dairy is large, well ventilated, and exquisitely neat; under the same roof are found previsions of corn, of salt meat, of cheese, and of wood; in the stables are seen the most beautiful cattle in Europe, and the best attended to; the garden is planted with flowers; the men as well as the women are warmly and properly clad—the last preserve with pride their ancient costume, and bear in their countenances the marks of vigour and of health; they are striking from that beauty of feature which becomes the character of a race, when for many generations it has suffered neither from vice nor from want. Let other nations boast of their opulence; Switzerland may always with pride place its peasantry in opposition to it.
The peasant proprietor is, of all cultivators, the one who obtains most from the soil; for it is he who thinks most of the future, as well as being the most enlightened by experience; it is he also who makes the greatest profit of human labour, because dividing his occupations among all the members of the family, he reserves some for every day of the year, so that there is no waste time for any one; of all cultivators he is the happiest; and at the same time, in a given space, laud, without being exhausted, never produces so much food, or employs so many inhabitants as when they are proprietors; lastly, of all cultivators the peasant proprietor is the one who gives most encoursgement to commerce and industry, for he is the richest.
Shall we conclude from this, that all proprietors should also be labourers? No: we take society as it is, with poor and rich, and we believe this variety of its conditions most advantageous to its development