Front Page Titles (by Subject) 356.: THE QUARTERLY REVIEW ON FRENCH AGRICULTURE  MORNING CHRONICLE, 11 JAN., 1847, P. 4 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III
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356.: THE QUARTERLY REVIEW ON FRENCH AGRICULTURE  MORNING CHRONICLE, 11 JAN., 1847, P. 4 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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THE QUARTERLY REVIEW ON FRENCH AGRICULTURE 
For an account of the origin, text, and variants in this second in a series of four leaders responding to the praise of Mounier and Rubichon by Croker in the Quarterly Review, see No. 355. The unheaded first leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A second leading article in reply to the Quarterly Review, on French agriculture, in the Morning Chronicle of 11th January 1847” (MacMinn, p. 67). In the letter to Chadwick quoted in the headnote to No. 355, Mill remarks that the author of the unknown article “will easily detect one error in the second article of the Chronicle, into which the Quarterly reviewer misled me. But it does not touch the main question.” (P. 724.) (The error—corrected in the Principles—was in following Croker, who copied the error from Mounier and Rubichon, p. 101, in estimating the increase in properties that paid land-tax at 60,000 rather than 600,000; see variants e-e, f-f, and g-g.)
we trust that in examining the evidence produced by the Quarterly Review of the dangers which threaten France from the excessive and progressively increasing subdivision of landed property, we shall not be thought to be demanding the attention of English readers to a thing which does not concern them. The question is not of mere local interest. It is not a French, nor solely an Irish question. It is the question, whether the labouring classes of a country are improved or deteriorated in condition by possessing property. For hitherto land is the only property which they have ever been able, as a body, to retain permanently. It is less liable than any other to be lost by vicissitudes; it inspires a stronger attachment, and greater habits of providence; and a much smaller amount of saving is sufficient, when laid out in land, to enable a labouring family to subsist and to be independent. Whoever is interested in the great question of the time, the condition of the labouring classes, is proportionally concerned that false notions on such a subject should not become generally accredited.
aThe reviewer makes an extraordinary slip at the threshold of his subject, in estimating the extent to which the morcellement has actually proceeded. He finds it stated,1 that among nearly five millions and a half of landed proprietors there are 2,600,000 the revenue of whose land, as rated to the land-tax, does not exceed forty shillings, which sum, he very candidly says, should rather be sixty, as the rated value is very much lower than the real value. On this he exclaims, “There already exist in France millions of examples that a propriétaire may be poorer than a peasant. . . . 2,600,000 families, comprising 13,000,000 persons, of each of which families the rated income does not exceed forty shillings, but say sixty shillings, sterling, for the maintenance of five persons—and these are proprietors! The poorest day labourer would earn four times as much.”2 He seems actually to suppose that these small proprietors, like great landlords, live only upon the rent of their land, forgetting that they have its whole produce. He might have known from the very documents he has quoted, and might have guessed if he had not known, that the forty shillings at which the land is rated in the bcollectors’b books are not the gross produce of the little estate, but its net produce, the surplus beyond the expenses of cultivation, which expenses include the subsistence of the cultivators, together with interest on the capital. The reviewer himself shows that the rated revenue of all the landed property of France is about 4 per cent. of its rated value, and does not therefore much exceed a reasonable rent.3 A writer who can mistake this for the whole income of a peasant cultivating his own land, gives the measure of his competency for the subject, and of the degree of attention he has paid to it.
We will now attempt to discover, from the reviewer’s data and those of his authors, what may really be the condition of these 2,600,000 proprietors. As the French Government estimates the land-tax at one tenth of the revenue of the land, families rated at £2 or 50 francs pay, it is to be presumed, five francs. The average of the contribution foncière for all France is 2½ francs per hectare, and in the southern half of the kingdom, which is the most divided, two francs. A hectare being about 2½ English acres, this gives from five to between six and seven acres as the portion of land which falls to the lot of each of the reviewer’s forty-shilling or sixty-shilling freeholders. But it may be said, this is not the average but the maximum of their possessions. We will therefore take another estimate, grounded on official documents, from the reviewer’s authorities, MM. Mounier and Rubichon. “It is hardly credible,” they say, “that there are in France more than four millions of proprietors so poor, that they pay no more than 5f. 95c. [say 6f.] to the contribution foncière.”4 In this case the 5f. 95c. are certainly the average. Six francs of land-tax corresponds to six acres per family on the average of all France, and to seven and a half on that of the southern division, which contains the greatest proportion of small proprietors. A still more favourable result is given by the calculations of M. Lullin de Chateauvieux, a much better authority than these authors, who estimates the average holdings of the 3,900,000 poorest proprietors at eight acres and a half.5 Now, take any one of these computations in a fertile country like France, suppose as bad an agriculture as exists anywhere in Western Europe, and then judge whether a single family, industrious and economical as the French of the poorer classes are, and enjoying the entire produce of from five to eight and a half acres, subject to a payment of only tenpence an acre to the Government, can be otherwise than in a very desirable condition? We do not forget that the land is sometimes mortgaged for part of the purchase money, and the reviewer makes a great cry about the tremendous incumbrances by which the land of France is weighed down; not amounting, however, on his own showing, to forty per cent. on the rental, which we should think is as favourable a return as could be made by any landed aristocracy in Europe. The interest on the mortgages of all France is estimated at twenty-four millions sterling6 for one hundred and fourteen millions of acres—less than five shillings per acre: the owner of from five to eight acres could afford to pay double this amount, and be very well off.
We are aware that this is an average, and that four millions of properties averaging, according to M. de Chateauvieux, eight acres and a-half, imply a great number of proprietors who have less. But there must be a proportional (though not an equal) number who have more; and it must not be supposed that this statement includes the large properties, one of which would be enough to keep up the average against a hundred extremely small ones. No properties are included which pay so much as twenty francs land-tax, corresponding on the average of France to twenty acres, of the south to twenty-five. When it is considered that of the whole soil of France much less than half is in the hands of peasant proprietors, and that this half is not more subdivided than we now see, it will probably be thought that hitherto at least the mischiefs of subdivision have not reached a very formidable height.
But it is not what France now is, so much as what she is becoming that is the material point. Is the morcellement increasing, or likely to increase? The apologists of the French system have never denied that the land in many parts of France is too minutely divided. What they deny is, that it is a growing evil. They assert that the subdivision has reached its height, and that the reunions, by purchase, marriage, and inheritance, now balance the subdivisions. How stands the fact in this respect? Are the small properties tending to become still smaller or not? The reader will be surprised when he finds that, with all their straining, M. Rubichon and his reviewer have failed of proving that the morcellement, in this sense of the term, is making any progress at all.
The reviewer has a curious theory on the subject. He thinks that “on the calculated average of three children to each inheritance,” the piece of land now held by one proprietor must necessarily be divided among three in the next generation, and among nine in that which follows.7 Under what system of landed property could a population increase at this rate, and not be reduced to starvation? But is it a fact that population is anywhere trebled in the space of a generation? We have here blunder within blunder of a very complicated description. In the first place, he should not have said three children to one inheritance, but to two inheritances; for as the French law in questions of property observes that impartial justice between the two sexes in which other laws are so often deficient, the mother’s patrimony is on an average equal to that of the father. In the next place, could not the reviewer have taken the trouble to ascertain at what rate the French population is actually increasing? If he had, he would have found that in the 27 years from 1815 to 1842 it only increased 18 per cent., and during that period with progressively increasing slowness, namely—in the first eleven years 9 per cent., in the next nine years less than 6 per cent., and in the seven years from 1835 to 1842, 3 1/10th per cent. only. c This retardation we must take the liberty of attributing mainly to the prudence and forethought generated in the poorest class by this very subdivision of property.
Instead, therefore, of trebling in a generation, the population increases in that period about 20 per cent.;d and if the growth of towns, and of employments not agricultural, in the same space of time is sufficient to absorb this increase, there needs not be, and will not be, even if the law does its worst, any increase of subdivision. Now, the towns of France have increased, and are increasing, at a rate far exceeding the general increase of the population. We read only the other day in the Siècle, as the result of the census just concluded, that Paris, which in 1832 had only 930,000 inhabitants, has now more than 1,350,000, an increase of nearly fifty per cent. in fourteen years.8 There is every reason then to infer, from these general data, that the morcellement is making no progress.
What facts have M. Rubichon and the Quarterly reviewer to oppose to these? One fact; which at first sight appears a very strong one. Between 1826 and 1835, the number of properties rated to the land-tax exhibited an increase of nearly e60,000e .9 Let us first remark, that f60,000f separate assessments are equivalent only to about g30,000g proprietors, it being the common estimate of French writers, that on the average about two cotes foncières or separate accounts with the land-tax correspond only to a single proprietor. But if the reviewer had hturned a few pages backh10 he would have found a cause iamplyi sufficient to account for a jmuch largerj increase. There were sold between 1826 and 1835 domains of the State to the value of nearly 134 millions of francs, or five and a half millions sterling. The very nature of such a sale implies division. kIf this immense alienation of public lands created no more than the whole of the 60,000 new accounts which were added to the tax-gatherer’s list during the period, we must suppose that they were sold in portions exceeding in average value 2,200 francs, which the state of France renders extremely improbable. There is every probability, therefore, that during those ten years the morcellement on the remaining lands of France diminished, instead of increasing.
A confirmation of this opinion is, that in the ten years preceding those in question the cotes foncières increased in number only 21,000k;11 an alarming proof, according to the reviewer, of the progressive advance of the evil; but, as we suspect, arising from the fact, that during the earlier decennial period a smaller, though still a considerable amount of public domains were alienated.
lWe grant that portions of these lands must have been bought by persons who were already proprietors of other lands in the same commune, in which case no additional cotes foncières would be created, and to that extent the force of our argument is weakened. But against this we have to set the fact, that inl addition to the State lands, a great extent of mcommunalm lands were likewise alienated during the same period: and it is further necessary to subtract all the additions made to the number of cotes foncières by the extension of building, and the natural subdivision of town property, during ten years. nOn the very data, therefore, afforded by our adversaries, we should infer that the subdivision at present, if not receding, is at the worst stationary.
But itn so happens that facts exist more specific and more expressly to the point than any of M. Rubichon’s. A new cadastre, or survey and valuation of lands, has been in progress for some years past. In thirty-seven cantons, taken indiscriminately through France, the operation has been completed; in twenty-one it is nearly complete. In the thirty-seven the cotes foncières, which were 154,266 at the last cadastre (in 1809 and 1810), have only increased by 9,011, being less than 18 per cent. in considerably more than thirty years, while in many of the cantons they have considerably diminished. From this increase is to be subtracted all which is due to the progress of building during the period, as well as to the sale of public and communal lands. In the other twenty-one cantons the number of cotes foncières is not yet published, but the number of parcelles, or separate bits of land, has diminished in the same period; and among these districts is included the greater part of the banlieue of Paris, one of the most minutely divided districts in France, in which the morcellement has actually diminished by no less than 16 per cent. The details may be found in M. Passy’s little work, Des Systèmes de Culture.12 So much for the terrible progress of subdivision.
oLong as this article is, we cannot close ito without noticing one of the most signal instances which the reviewer has exhibited of his incompetency for the subject he treats of. He laments over the extraordinary number of sales of landed property which he says the law of inheritance constantly occasions;13 and indeed the sales of land are shown to have amounted in ten years to no less than one-fourth part of the whole territorial property of France. Now, whatever else this extraordinary amount of sale and purchase may prove, the whole of it is one gigantic argument against the reviewer’s case; for every sale of land which is caused by the law of inheritance must be a sale for the express purpose of preventing subdivision. If land, sold in consequence of an inheritance, is nevertheless subdivided, this cannot be an effect of the law of inheritance; it would only prove that land sells for a higher price when sold in small portions: that is, in other words, that the poor, and even, as the reviewer would have us believe, the very poor, are able to outbid the rich in the land market. This certainly does not prove that the very ppoorp of France are so very poor as these writers try to make out, while it does prove that if so they must be by far the most industrious and economical people on the face of the earth, for whichq, also,q some credit ought surely to be given to the system of peasant properties.a
We need not trouble our readers any further with the Quarterly reviewer; but the state of French agriculture, and the social condition of France, as connected with it, are subjects on which we have much more to say; and we shall take an early opportunity of attempting to show what is really amiss in these matters, and to what causes it is imputable.
[a-a]1045[reprinted in CW, II, 434.7-439.36]
[1 ]Mounier and Rubichon, De l’agriculture en France, Vol. I, p. 101.
[2 ]Croker, “Agriculture in France,” p. 216.
[b-b]MS collector’s [treated as typographical error in this ed.]
[3 ]Ibid., p. 210.
[4 ]Mounier and Rubichon, Vol. I, p. 102.
[5 ]Jacob Frédéric Lullin de Chateauvieux (1772-1841), Voyages agronomiques en France, 2 vols. (Paris: Maison Rustique, 1843), Vol. I, p. 35. Chateauvieux’s estimate is also cited by Croker, p. 211n.
[6 ]Mounier and Rubichon, Vol. I, p. 166; Croker, p. 219.
[7 ]Croker, pp. 212 and 219.
[c]MS [footnote:] These facts are taken from M. Passy. In page 289 of the present work, from a more complete comparison, which includes the results of the last census, the increase of population has been shewn to be even slower than is here represented.
[d]MS [footnote:] Even this is a considerable overstatement. The census of 1806 shewed a population of 29,107,425. In 1846, according to the census of that year, it had only increased to 35,409,486, being an increase of little more than 21½ per cent in forty years. The longest term ever assigned to a generation is thirty years.
[8 ]Unheaded leader, Siècle, 29 Dec., 1846, p. 2.
[e-e]MS more than 600,000; being about six per cent in ten years
[9 ]Both Mounier and Rubichon, Vol. I, p. 101, and Croker, p. 212, give 60,000. In fact, 600,000; see the variant notes.
[h-h]MS consulted his author just ten pages farther on,† [footnote:] †Mounier and Rubichon, Vol. 1, p. 110.
[10 ]Actually the reviewer should have turned not back, but forward to p. 110; see h-h.
[j-j]MS considerable portion of this
[k-k]MS And we are the more inclined to ascribe much of the apparent increase of division to this circumstance, because in the ten years preceding those in question, the cotes foncières increased in number by little more than 200,000
[11 ]Mounier and Rubichon, Vol. I, p. 101.
[l-l]MS [paragraph] In
[n-n]MS All these items must be accurately estimated and deducted, before it can be affirmed with certainty that in the rural districts there was during those years any increased division of landed property at all. And even if there was, increased division does not necessarily imply increased subdivision. Large estates may have been, and we believe were in many instances, divided, but the division may have stopped there. We know of no reason for supposing that small properties were dividedinto others still smaller, or that the average size of the possessions of peasant families was at all diminished. [paragraph] It [last word altered in ink]
[12 ]Des systèmes de culture et de leur influence sur l’économie sociale (Paris: Guillaumin, 1846), pp. 170-4, by Hippolyte Philibert Passy (1793-1880), economist and minister under Louis Philippe. (In his text Passy gives 154,216 as the first figure; in his table he gives 154,266.)
[o-o]MS We cannot leave this part of the subject
[13 ]Croker, p. 213.
[p-p]MS poor [Rom written in margin]
[q-q]-MS [altered in ink]