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too fixed to be at all matters of controversy, and the discussion of which is chiefly of use as pointing out the evils which result, in order that some of their tendencies may be checked.
Of the latter kind, is the great land question, from which Mr. Laing traces the distinctive marks of modern politics throughout the continent. During the last half century the whole land of France has passed from its original possessors, and become divided into small portions belonging to peasant proprietors. This state of things viewed in the abstract has some advantages, but many evils. Both sides of the question are fully stated in this work, but no opinion definitely expressed, as to which on the whole answers best; nor indeed is it a practical question as long as rights of property are respected; and if such rights are violated, we can hardly expect that any system will have a fair trial. England still maintains her large landed proprietors, while the continent has swept them away. It is therefore a question of great interest to trace the various results of such opposite conditions. On abstract grounds there is much to be said in favour of small holdings, but in connexion with other subjects of political interest it is found the parent of great disorder. The middle class is thereby destroyed, and there is no intervening influence between the governing power and the mass of the people; nothing to represent moral and social order as of spontaneous growth, and as the natural condition of man. The bare nakedness of physical force is clearly seen in imperial edicts, which work directly on the private habits of a people, and the foundations of tyranny are most effectually laid if a system of this kind is established. In England the whole people in their various positions and ranks of life appear to go on naturally and easily as if by themselves, only appealing to authority to correct certain crimes, and amend errors of social politics as they are discovered. Government, according to the spirit of our constitution, is a visitorial rather than a direct power; it presupposes inherent laws of moral and social life, and it is only concerned to see those laws carried out. Its power is really the greater for this unseen character of acting through a medium, and not by direct instruments. An English subject does not trace every action of daily life to an act of parliament; he has no government official always at his elbow, backed by the whole force of an imperial army; but he rests securely on abstract principles of justice, and considers it his birthright to have just cause of complaint if such principles are violated with regard to himself, by Kings, Lords, or Commons. This state of things necessarily implies a large and influential class between the governing and the governed, and the recognition of independent interests as the immediate source of all the actions that make up our daily existence. Each individual is thus left free, and only interfered with in case he injures his neighbour. A third class is indeed necessary, under all circumstances, between the supreme power and the people; the question then is really this : shall this third, this middle body, be direct functionaries of government, or shall they be independent agents ? On this depends true liberty. If every change of government affects with galvanic shock the whole fabric of a nation, it cannot be said that the people are free; we require, as it were, springs and buffers, to break the shock which would otherwise go so rudely throughout the whole train of interests. Even the representative power is nothing to the freedom from caprice which independent rights insure to the people themselves. The House of Commons indeed is chiefly of use to preserve this liberty to others, and it is not its province to assume an executive power inconsistent with such rights; yet the whole system of modern Europe, since the almost completed annihilation of the aristocracy and landed interests, is such, that this middle class is composed of paid government officers, whose daily bread depends on the smile of government. It is the Prussian system of functionarism that is the modern bugbear of Europe; it is this we have to resist, and it is this which forms the great point of attack in the book before us. Again and again does Mr. Laing come round to the same point. His honest indignation against this system, which eats away the vitality of human independence, is amusing from its very pertinacity. He abhors and detests a functionary as an evil genius of mankind. He rejects their best offers of assistance, and cares neither for protection from enemies, nor for the education of the poor, nor the stability of government, if supported and encouraged by such means, because he has no confidence in the reality of their discipline, and had rather trust to blind confusion than a hungry and servile array of placemen, servile, that is, to those above them in office, but arrogant enough to the helpless sheep driven about by these civic pastors.
In contrast to such a condition of the public service Mr, Laing appeals to England with almost too free an admiration, picturing in too high colours the prosperity and luxury of our humbler classes. He knows Prussia and France better than England; still, in the main, he is right, though partial in his home knowledge. He also excludes some other considerations that should come into the science of political economy. He is an honest presbyterian, and according to his light gives open expression to a natural shrewdness of observation and a great power of tracing social effects to their causes. His fair and hearty love of justice compels him indeed in many instances to state results and expound views that he but faintly attempts to reconcile with sentiments elsewhere expressed. There is a poverty in his defence of the religious theory adopted by him, and a strength in his frank acknowledgments of the obligations we are under to the Church, that leave an impression by no means hostile towards one who yet totally and radically opposes every vestige of authority to à visible Church. He is consistent, and sublimates his own theories till they amount to a confession of more value to his opponents than his friends : thus he refines true Christian worship to such a spiritual and intellectual service, that he is obliged to throw over Calvin and Luther alike, as, after all, not being Apostles. The æsthetic principle he repudiates to an extent that will gain few admirers, and perhaps only suggest the consideration whether there may not be some truth in his assertion, that there is no mean between his idea of spiritual worship and a tangible belief in a visible Church, called by him indeed popery, but equally applicable to our Church according to his views of faith and practice. He damages moreover the religious argument on the æsthetic principle, by the boldness with which he casts off the influence of the fine arts generally from being of any advantage to the human race. Architecture indeed he professes to admire, but exults in the inferiority of English public buildings. Painting also he thinks good and estimable in its way, where Raphael is the artist : but any general application of taste and external beauty, as tending to elevate the mind, he discards as unworthy of any comparison with the smallest consideration of comfort, or even of being reconcileable with the habits of a people in any high state of civilisation. Music however is Mr. Laing's especial abhorrence : not even Beethoven can find a term of respect from him. The human animal somehow does not seem to thrive,' he says, “ upon the cup of coffee, the pipe of tobacco, the dolce far niente, and a sonata of Beethoven. Even the humble attempt at music in the presbyterian Church of Scotland he condemns, consisting and we cannot say we should much admire it ourselves) of each verse of a psalm being read and then sung without any regard to continuity of tune. Again and again he inveighs against music, and would grant but little occupation for the Hullah system if his social plans were carried out. Now this peculiar obliquity of Mr. Laing's mind arises first from his being a presbyterian, secondly from an innate deadness to any influence from external beauty himself, and thirdly from his hatred of Germans, who are musical, and otherwise given to the fine arts. We might also add that he belongs to a former school of education, when the arts were
only considered as pretty playthings for idle people, but unworthy of practical men.
With this moral deficiency apparent in all that Mr. Laing says, his whole line of argument is generally sound, and his conclusions most valuable. One element indeed is wanting, but he so far gives us the idea of himself feeling this want, of leaving a vacancy in his scheme for something to fill, and of almost sug. gesting the true remedy, that next to the witness of a thorough Churchman we find most truth in him, and this book we suspect will be more referred to by the Church party than by his own fellow-presbyterians.
It is time, however, that we introduce a few definite subjects on which he gives us the benefit of his observations.
The foundation and object of the present work is to trace the effect of subdivision of land on the continent; and first he dwells on the advantages of this system as witnessed in Flanders, where we may look on it as an abstract question, unconnected with any great recent spoliation of Church or nobility, the land having been thus divided for many generations.
The argument in favour of small divisions of land, under peasant-proprietors, is the superior cultivation which is thus induced
Here, in Flanders, from Calais, by St. Omer, to Lisle, Belgium, and Prussia, a route as well known to English travellers as the road from London to York, the division of the land into small estates of working peasant-proprietors is painted upon the face of the country. The whole expanse is like a carpet, divided into small compartments of different shades and hues of green, according to the different crops of which each farmer has a little patch on his little estate. Two different kinds of crop may often be seen on one rig, or bed; and five or six acres together under one kind of crop, are not common. There being no hedges or inclosures, no grass fields for pasture, and no uncultivated corners or patches, the whole country looks like one vast bleach-field, covered with long webs of various colours and shades. The land is evidently divided into very small portions of property. The traveller cannot be mistaken in this observation. Now, as this state of property is of old standing here in Flanders, and not, as in the rest of France, an arrangement of recent date, what have been the results on the material condition of the people, or their agriculture, in the first place, on the amount of constant employment it affords them, on their numbers in proportion to their means of subsistence, on their food, lodging, clothing, on their moral and intellectual character ! The condition of the people here must be the type of that to which the whole of Europe, excepting Great Britain, is tending, and which will be universal on the Continent in a few generations.'—P. 19,
The produce of this system is then described as follows:
· Will any Scotch farmer, “of capital and skill," from the Lothians, venture to say that he has his farm of 200 or 300 acres in such good heart, in such a clean garden-like condition, so free from weeds, and carrying all over it such luxuriant crops, and producing so much food per
acre for man and beast, as an equal number of the acres now before me in this tract of country? Has any farmer in Scotland or England such crops of red clover, lucerne, and other green succession crops, as are now, in spring, being cut, or coming on for being cut, in succession, on these small patches of farms, for the summer stall-leeding of cattle in the house? There are no cattle in the fields, and no pasture-fields for them, in tne ordinary course of husbandry, on these small estates. All are kept indoors, in summer as well as in winter; and all the land, not in grain crops, is under green crops, for their support. The fodder is cut and carried to the cattle, fresh, twice a-day, and the cutting and carrying employs the whole family. This stall-feeding of cattle all summer in-doors, and the saving thereby of the manure, which is the object of it, during six months of the year in which the manure is positively thrown away by our system of pasturage in fields of permanent, or of second or third year's sown grass, is a husbandry scarcely known among our large farmers. It may, indeed, be reasonably doubted if it would be practicable on a large farm. To cut and carry green fodder for half a dozen catile, by the labour of the family, is an operation very different in expense from hiring labour to cut and carry the whole summer fodder of the cattle-stock of a large farm. In gardening and husbandry, and even in trade and manufactures, there are operations which are practicable and profitable on a small scale, but which would not be so on a great scale; and many answer well on a great scale, which would not answer at all in a small way.'— Pp. 20—22.
The question which next occurs after this comparison, is the ultimate purpose of land, and its obligation to support the various classes of a social community as well as to pay rent. If land is only looked upon as paying rent, that land of course which cannot pay rent is left uncultivated, though still it might support a population without that charge upon their labours :
What cannot afford rent to the landlord, and profit to the tenant, as well as a subsistence to the labourer, cannot be taken into cultivation at all, until the better sort of land becomes so scarce that the inferior must be resorted to, and, from the scarcity and consequent dearness of the better, can afford a rent and profit also. This appears to be the glimmering of meaning in the foggy theory of rent given us by our great political economists. They forget that God Almighty did not create the land for the purpose of paying rents to country gentlemen, and profits to gentlemen farmers, but to subsist mankind by their labour upon it; and that a very large proportion of the land of this world, which never could be made to feed the labourers on it, and to yield besides a surplus of produce affording rent and profits to another class, could very well subsist the labourers, and in a comfortable civilised way too, if that were all it had to do. It could produce to them food, fuel, clothing, lodging, or value equivalent to these requirements of civilised subsistence, but could not produce a surplus for rent, and profit, over and above their own civilised subsistence.'— Pp. 25, 26.
Our author's freedom in discussing Caledonian virtue and wisdom is entertaining, and shall tell its own tale to our readers in the following extract :
What a cackling and braying, some furty years ago, at agricultural dinners, farmers' clubs, and county meetings, about Scotch farming! From Thursowater to the river Trent, the land resounded with the praises