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on their own work, and when they want any horse-work done, either I or some other farmer can easily spare them a team for a day or two, charging the usual price. Some of the larger tenant farmers are, in fact, only too glad to earn a few shillings in this way from the class below them ; hence, they have the wages I pay them for their own maintenance, and the little income made from their few acres, and their cows and pigs and poultry is used either for increasing their own stock or in buying a cow to let out to others, which latter sort of investment they prefer to the Government savings bank. Their holdings cost them far less in rent than they would do had any local authority put the machinery of the law in force for obliging me to supply them with land; but after recounting all this pleasant picture, I must also make known my misgivings. Nearly all of these men exist really on my wages. I have continued farming and improving my land for the last twelve years, with the main object of keeping them employed. If my farms were now let to a tenant, he would, under present circumstances, simply keep a couple or three lads in the house. He would pay them about £13 a year each, and from sunrise to sunset they would be at their master's service. My farms, instead of paying me a moderate profit, as they did some years ago, are beginning to show balances on the wrong side, let alone all rent. I have planted as much land as is suitable for the purpose. I have drained even more than I ought to have done. The landowners in many of the parishes around have had their farms thrown on their hands. Some of them have not had the courage to lay out money on re-roofing the houses, and thus do away with the thatch, which is totally unsuited to the present state of agriculture, seeing that it obliges the tenants to grow wheat. These landowners have consequently proved the truth of an ugly fact, which I have for many years foretold would some day be made apparent. They have proved that uncultivated land in a moist country is more valuable to the owner than cultivated. I have mentioned the decrease in population in the parishes around. How is that caused ? It is caused entirely by so many farms being without a tenant, and consequently no labour employed. An auctioneer is called in every spring, and he sells the feed of every field for the summer months. The amount realised has been, in every case for some years past, more than the rent that any farmer could possibly pay. I will give instances. I know a farm within a few miles of this place; I believe the acreage is about 160 acres of fairly serviceable tillage and grassland, and about 100 acres of moorland, of small value. It was in the hands of a tenant eight years ago, whose rent was £160. The farm was sold and the tenant left. The summer keep on that farm has been sold every spring for seven years. One man has been employed, at 6s. per week, for the summer months only; his duties being to repair fences, and to go round the farm twice a day to see that the cattle do not stray from their own field to fields belonging to others. The rest of his time is his own. The gross price made has varied from £250 to £340 per annum. All the tillage land has laid itself down to grass. The meadows are full of weeds, but, nevertheless, still productive; the moorland is, of course, as good as ever. The last time I visited the farm a wild rabbit was running about on the remaining portion of the thatched roof of the dwelling-house. The buildings are all falling to pieces. The land has probably already deteriorated as much as it is likely to do. Some of the grass land is excellent sheep ground, and if stocked with sheep every year it may increase in value rather than diminish further. I will give another instance. A clergyman near here has a glebe of 120 acres. He has done his duty well, both as a clergyman and a glebe farmer. He farmed his land very well for twentyfive years, and employed, on the average, four men. He had a slight paralytic stroke about three years ago, and has since then been debilitated. The Rectory is the only house fit for a tenant, and, of course, he must keep that himself; so he retains about 15 acres of garden, orchard, and meadow land, and lets the rest by auction every spring. When he farmed it all, he calculated on its being worth to him about £120 to £130, including the advantage of everything supplied to the house. He has received at least £190 per annum, on the average, for the last three years; but the only employment is a man for less than half his time. Of course he has to pay the outgoings in rates and taxes, which may amount to £15 or £20 a year; but in exchange for this he has enough land in hand to keep a small dairy, together with a good orchard and garden. These are two instances, and I could multiply them almost indefinitely. Five years ago I bought one of these deserted farms. It had been deserted for four years, and the tillage land had coated itself with wild grasses. This farm had been in the hands of one family for a hundred years, and the last tenant only left because of some slight disagreement with his landlord. It then fell into the hands of mortgagees, who were afraid to let it on lease at less than the interest on the mortgage, as this would have injured their chance of selling. When I bought it, I made up my mind to bring it into cultivation again. I felt sure that much of the land was really good, and the rest very improvable. I have been more than satisfied. The farm is a better one than I thought. I have laid out £2,000 upon it, mostly in new buildings, and I include in that sum the first year's cultivation, which was spent in little more than weed-destroying. In one year—1884–I made a profit, but the profit in that year was not more than the rent and interest of money should amount to. In that year I sold my cattle at half as much again as they are now worth. If I were to sell my cattle now, I should have a heavy loss, over and above rent and interest this year. I had to make a decision. I was employing twelve men, and I knew that I must, sooner or later, send a lot of them away, and greatly reduce my tillage. I thought it better to let the men leave while there was some other work for them to go to. A new railway had been commenced a few miles away, and I gave some of them notice to leave in August, giving them ample time to find other places, and promising them some piece-work during the winter if they could not suit themselves elsewhere. My speech on that occasion, which was reported by the editor of one of our local papers, who was present, has been copied from one paper to another from Lands End to John o' Groat's House, and now I hear it is running its course in the United States. I repeat it here, as it explains the position in a few words. The following account is copied from the Devon and Exeter Gazette of the 29th August:
THE PRICE OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCE. Disch ARGE OF DEvoNSHIRE LABOURERs. . The kitchen of Ellacott Farm, in the parish of Bratton Clovelly, was on Saturday the scene of a very unpleasant agricultural incident. Ellacott is an outlying farm of over 400 acres, which in 1882 was purchased at a low figure by Mr. W. J. Harris, of Halwill Manor. The old tenant left in 1879 because the then proprietor would not effect certain improvements. For the next three years the farm was let back to grass, and little if any labour was expended upon it. When Mr. Harris became the owner he decided to farm the estate himself after the usual manner—a fair proportion to be devoted to tillage. Twelve hands were employed, some moorland was brought into cultivation with good results, £1,500 was expended upon new buildings, and it was upon this farm Mr. Harris put up the silo which gained the silver medal of the Royal Society. The crops on the whole have been satisfactory, and the cattle have thriven. Mr. Harris would have been content had the system of farming yielded a profit of £250 a year, and so have permitted the payment of a very small interest upon the money expended in the purchase and subsequent improvements. But in only one year has there been any profit, and although the crops this year—except the turnips—are good for the season, the balance at the end of the current twelve months will be on the wrong side. At an adjoining farm the owners have given up tillage, the whole estate is in grass, and the annual lettings produce a good rent, the only deductions being on account of rates and the wages of one man who is kept to look after the stock. Seeing this, and remembering the low prices obtainable for farm produce, Mr. Harris has decided to turn most of his tillage fields into grass, and to get rid of half his men, and so save the money he now spends in paying them their wages. On Saturday afternoon the labourers met in the kitchen of the farmhouse to hear Mr. Harris' decision, and to listen to his reasons for dispensing with their services. The labourers were a good lot of men, most of them married, and two or three of them have long families. The notice comes into operation at Michaelmas. Mr. Harris, in the course of his observations said: I have called you together to tell you what you have doubtless expected to hear for some time past. It is that I shall be compelled to dispense with the services of at least half your number. The cause is not far to seek, and if I recapitulate the history of this farm for the last four years, it will I trust, be a matter of enlightenment to you and to others who may read what I now tell you. When I. bought this place in 1882 it had lain waste for four years, not on account of its barrenness, but on account of the then owners finding it more profitable, as a matter of income, to let every field by auction for its summer keep than to employ any labour upon it. Ten years ago it was considered to be one of the best corn-growing farms in this neighbourhood, and the family that rented it had been its tenants for nearly 100 years. I bought it with a view to bring it into cultivation again, and to make it into a really good farm. With your help I have done it. On the whole I have had excellent crops, and even this year, were it not for the failure of the turnip crop, I should have little to complain of on account of the produce of the land. I have employed on the average 12 men at good wages, and I have improved the farm amazingly, but the prices of all agricultural produce have gone back so far that it would be unprofitable to continue its cultivation. I therefore intend to keep the land, which is in grass, as a summer run, and to bring the rest of the ground into the same state as quickly as possible. Had it not been for the severe fall in prices I should have been overjoyed, both for my sake and yours, to have kept the farm in tillage. There is no man in England who takes a greater pleasure in farming than I do, and this pleasure is certainly increased by the knowledge that the employment of your labour contributes to your well-being and to the good of the country. You must not, therefore, blame me, but you must blame the policy of your country, which allows the produce of other countries to come to these markets, and, without paying a single farthing of taxation, to undersell the heavily-taxed produce of the British farmer. You will be told by certain politicians that any help to British agriculture would simply go into the landowner's pocket. That entirely depends on how the help is given. Help which raised the price of corn and encouraged the tillage of land would first produce a great demand for your labour. Then it would give the tenant a better chance, and lastly, the landowner might get some benefit; but I would have you remember one or two facts which can be incontestably substantiated. During the time of Protection in this country the rents of agricultural land were lower than they are to-day, according to Board of Trade returns. The reason was this, that although in those days the produce of a certain quantity of land was at least 30 per cent. more than it is now, the landlord only got a rental amounting to one-third or one-fourth part of its produce value, the rest being shared by the tenants and labourers. Now, with the land producing 30 per cent. less than it did then, the landowner often gets two-thirds of the value, because labour is not required where land is left in grass, and the tenant and labourers can both be dispensed with. The converting of land to grass is in favour of the landowner, and against tenants and labourers, and you find it out this day. You cannot expect me to face a certain loss in order to continue your wages. The economists who come and preach to you from the Free Trade school of the Cobden Club will tell you that you only have to seek labour in some other locality and in some other business. I sincerely trust you may succeed in this ; but I cannot imagine that a system which obliges workmen to be constantly changing their occupations and their homes can be acceptable to them in the end, and that is what the policy of England is now bringing about. I intend to make the change as easy as I can for you. Those who are without any tie to this place must shift for themselves or apply to the Cobden Club of London to advise them. To those who are more tied to the place I will endeavour to find some winter piece-work, which will help them to tide through the cold weather, and will complete the improvement of the estate, but it can't go on for long. You will be told that if you assisted the views of Mr. Harris you would have to pay more for your bread. Possibly you would. Even if I did not advocate a duty on imported wheat there would be others who would do so. The largest duty I have heard proposed might raise the price about 6d. per bushel. Among those before me there is not one man who consumes more than eight bushels in a year; that would amount to just about 4s. a year, or 1d. per week of extra expense. If this duty were collected by the Government on all imports other than raw materials in like proportion, and a premium of say 10s. or 15s. an acre were given on the tillage of agricultural land to all the tenant farmers, it would put 2s. per week of extra wages into your pockets. It would settle the Irish difficulty. It would save the tenants from ruin; and it would put me in this position, that instead of having to give you notice to leave I should be building cottages for more labourers to live in, and thus draw labour from the overcrowded towns. You now have the whole power in your hands. We landlords and tenants are nowhere in a general election. It is your votes which will carry candidates. If you think I have any knowledge—if you consider that I have the good of the working classes at heart, listen to my words. So far as the landowner is concerned, I simply claim common justice for him. If the nation is going to put the tenants in such a position as to pay their rents with ease, some of us would not object to a Court of Appeal which should oblige bad landlords to do as much as good landlords are willing to do. We don't wish to interfere with freedom of contract while things remain as they are, but if Parliament should give a great boon to the agriculture of the country, it has a right to provide some saving clause which shall absolutely prevent too large a proportion of the benefit going to landowners. You will be told by roving politicians, who will come among you in any numbers when an election is near, that if the foreigner can produce at present prices the English farmer also can. He cannot do so if he maintain the fertility of his land at the same time. Our competitors abroad exhaust one piece of land with successive corn crops, and then go to another piece, while the lapse of years returns fertility to the exhausted land. They take everything off and put nothing back. If such a system were allowed in this country we should ruin the soil for our children. Moreover, many of our foreign competitors pay for the labour in paper, or debased coin, and the labourer, who thinks he is getting the wages that you receive, is really only receiving half the value, calculated in our money. You are paid in gold; they are paid in paper. If you come down to their terms you must work for 6d. where you now get 1s. If you wish to bring English wages down to their level it can soon be done—in fact, we are already going down the hill. What is occurring between you and me today will occur before long between every farmer in England and his labourers, and I hope you will have the good sense to see what it is leading the country to. By making a stand in favour of fair play for British agriculture you will help the workmen in the towns. They may have to pay a trifle more for their food, but it will be far more than made good by extra wages, and they will be sure of their food under any circumstances, which they cannot be while we are so dependent on other countries.—After sitting in silence for a few moments the labourers left without saying a word. When Mr. Harris drove away the men were standing in a knot in the court-yard discussing their prospects for the winter.
People who are not conversant with agriculture seem to think that farmers who cannot make it pay to grow corn can grow cattle and make a certain profit. There is no greater mistake. A large, permanent stock of sheep and cattle requires tillage just as much as any other system of farming. To rear cattle from the time they are born to the time they are saleable as good stores takes two, and more often three winters. Straw, corn, and roots are all necessary. When all the straw, corn, and hay are consumed at home, as they ought to be, the price at which the cattle are sold marks the value of the corn grown. The price of cattle at the present time barely pays for the labour of rearing them, let alone their food. My intention with regard to Ellacott farm is still to keep up the tillage for another year, but to a much smaller extent