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and historian of the system, places the limit of the “Small properties" at fifteen acres, above which they are classed as propriétés moyennes in his lists, and the word “peasant proprietors ” has a well-established meaning as a translation of petites propriétés. Therefore, “holdings on an average of seventy to eighty acres,” where the “owners drive about in well-appointed wagonettes,” and are, “as an average, capitalists of from £800. to £1,000," is a description of a class entirely beside the question. Arthur Young, indeed, says, “Such men can and do succeed, because the size of their farms renders decent agriculture possible.” The Fortnightly writer goes on to mention that “within the last fifty years, vast numbers of day-labourers” (the phrase is sufficiently vague) “have transformed themselves into owners of from fifty to seventy acres.” Wages in France are sufficiently low, according to the reports of some of the English Consuls, in Blue Books 1885–6–7,-two and three francs, with food, but this only for a small part of the year. Celibacy is extremely rare, and a labourer must, indeed, be a phoenix who can purchase from fifty to seventy acres out of half-a-crown a day, and feed his wife and children. Moreover, De Foville repeatedly observes that France may be divided into three equal parts, that of these the large properties are, though slowly, splitting up, and the small increasing in number, while the moyennes propriétés remain stationary. What then has become of the vast numbers supposed to be added to this category. The “pulverization ” of the land, which even De Foville allows to be taking place in certain parts of France (there are 12,600,000. plots under fifteen acres in the country), is not, he considers, dangerous, because many belong to the same owner. This, however, only indicates, according to Lafargue, “the excessive dispersion and entangling together of the tiny morsels” (sometimes down to a quarter of an acre in size), often over the whole of a commune, and, perhaps, a couple of miles or more apart, rendering all proper cultivation impossible, while the jealousy of le voisin prevents common action in drainage, &c., and requires a ruinous amount of time in going from one to another, and transporting a plough or a cart. In some places near a town a placard is described, announcing with pride, “a piece of ground to be sold, with four trees,” vaunting itself over the lot alongside, which cannot possess the trees, because the code forbids them to be planted at less than six feet from your neighbour, and the whole width of the “estate ’’ is not above twelve feet. The Chinese ideal quoted by Alfred de Musset must here be well in sight, where on each side “on entend le voisin se moucher.” The high value of land, considered as a symptom of prosperity by the writer of the article, is, according to the English economists, from the time of Arthur Young, only a proof that the French peasant has, till now, had no other mode of investing his savings, which are buried in land, out of which it is impossible to get a decent interest for the money spent. I was chatting one day with a group of dirty old women sitting in the middle of the street (there was no wheel traffic to interrupt us), at their doors in a small town of the Limagne, one of the richest portions of France. The beautiful old stone houses of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with carvings, mouldings, and coats of arms, had belonged to the old nobles of the district, and the present owners were huddled and encamped—it could not be called inhabiting—amongst the relics of past grandeur, pell-mell, without any furniture, simply using them as shelter. One room was entirely filled up by an enormous cask. My friends were all landed proprietors, living on their revenues, but, in these cases, were obliged to stay at home, too old for labour. Their stories were much the same. One of them told me she had two sons; “nous leur avons donné à chacun le pain et le win,” i.e. a bit of corn-land and a vineyard, which was evidently the regulation döt. She and her husband, being unable to work themselves, were evidently at the mercy of their sons' cold charity, a peasant King Lear and his wife, and she intimated that a sou would be agreeable. Here there was no rent paid for either house or land, which last was most productive (except so far as the interest on mortgages nearly universal on all these small properties is a real rent), yet the result was squalid misery. Will Ireland show a better record 2 There was no idea of the possibility of seeking for other work elsewhere, or of emigrating. To live on the land was the only future possible in their eyes, as in Ireland at the present moment. Land, however, is becoming less popular in these bad times as an investment, and has gone down in value 40 per cent. in French Lorraine, and from 20 to 33 per cent. in other corn-growing districts; while the rush to the great towns from the country is as great or greater than in England, because the land is found not to be able to support the dwellers upon it. How, indeed, can the peasant proprietor be considered as prosperous, when out of eight million French proprietors, three million are on the pauper roll, and, therefore, exempt from personal taxation, says Lecouteux, Professor of Rural Economy at the Institut. The law of entail is strict in France, and the State cannot distrain for taxes so as to impair the rights of the next heir. In Prussia, the number of peasant heads of families exempted in the same way from direct taxation, because their receipts were
less than 9s. 7d. a week, £25 a year, was 7,000,000 in 1882, i.e. 83 per cent. of the whole number of proprietors, according to Dr. Geffachen; while Professor Wölcher, a well-known authority, declares that “the English labourer is far better off in food, clothing and comforts than the peasant proprietors of France, Germany, &c.” Peasant proprietors are looked upon with favour in France, not because they are prosperous or enlightened, but because they are a conservative element in the country, and valuable as a make-weight against the Socialism of the great towns. In the triste crise, the terrible épreuve, which de Foville declares agriculture in France is. undergoing, the discontent as well as the misery is increasing among the peasant proprietors, as is shown by the Consular Reports 1887, and it has yet to be seen how they will behave under the strain. It seems a strange time to choose for inaugurating the system in Ireland, with a poor soil, a bad climate, and none of the habits of thrift and industry which have enabled the French peasant hitherto to exist even in so low a state of civilization and comfort. NotE.—The English Consuls from all parts of France, whose evidence was given in the Times of September 16, report that “farmers are going from bad to worse in the country. France, they say, imports 8,000,000 quarters yearly to feed its population, and in spite of the protective duties, wheat cannot now be grown at a profit. Live stock are lower in price than last year, and the rent question is coming to the front for those not owners.” “The whole French wheat crop only averages sixteen bushels to the acre; the little farmer, with his primitive spade-work and tiny patches, has littlechance in the great cereal competition of the world.” “Corn, in spite of protection, cannot be grown at a profit,” repeats one after another. “live stock has fallen since 1885, and is sold cheaper at every fair. Market-gardening and fruit-growing have been tried since the grapes failed, and in consequence the price of fruit and vegetables has gone down to half in some districts.” “If they were farmers of large farms instead of owners of small ones, they might by better tillage and the use of laboursaving appliances, increase their returns; but peasant proprietors cannot do this ; their farming is slovenly and wasteful of labour, and the returns half what they might be.” An American report says that those districts where the farms are too small to admit the purchase of machines cannot now export corn, and the trade is passing to the
States where larger farms are found. In California farms of 3,000 acres are spoken. of with the magnificent hyberbole that a furrow takes a day in turning.
F. P. VERNEY.
THE battle of words, and often of absolutely useless or dangerously hurtful words, that rages over the length and breadth of the land while Parliament is in recess, may possibly instruct the public as to the waste of time that takes place in that branch of the Legislature which apparently has the monopoly of useless talk. But this battle also teaches the high value that some speakers set on statements absolutely inconsistent with fact; although it is obvious that in many cases no other statements could be made that would damage the enemy. We have seen vapouring and despairing Gladstonians hard at work in the creation of mists and clouds to dull the political horizon. Landlubbers at sea tremble at the lowering and threatening appearance of fog-banks, as they roll up ; but the experienced seaman knows only too well the difference of the signs of a gale from those of a fog, and he knows well that, with cautious navigation, he fears no fog; and that, when once the vapours are dissipated, he pursues his voyage with speed and safety. Happily, the Unionist Party easily distinguishes the signs of the political horizon, and does not for one moment mistake mere rhetorical fogs for political storms. Mr. Whitmore's timely and able article on the Legislative work of the Session will dispel a great mist which Mr. Gladstone would fain see strike terror into Tory hearts, when he deliberately told the British public that seven months of arduous work in the present Parliament had resulted only in “the absolute stoppage of the work, the great work, of beneficial legislation.” It is, therefore, the deliberate opinion of Mr. Gladstone that the Irish Land, the Coal Mines Regulation, the Merchandise Marks, the Labourers Allotments, the Truck, the Crofters' Amendment, the Scotch Criminal Law Procedure, the Police Enfranchisement, the First Offenders, and a host of minor Acts, are all of them the reverse of beneficial. It so happens, however, that each of these Acts has been warmly supported by the classes and interests affected by it. Mr. Gladstone says such Acts are not beneficial ; we must get what consolation we can out of the fact that these Acts have been accepted as beneficial by the Parnellites, miners and mine-owners, traders and manufacturers, agricultural labourers, working men of all kinds, crofters, Scotch lawyers, policemen, Cornishmen, and those interested in the reform of our criminal population. In this article, however, I would wish to supplement Mr. Whitmore's useful account of the legislative work of the Session, by Some account of the administrative work that has been accomplished or set on foot. Those acquainted with our great mercantile and manufacturing centres are well aware of a growing inclination among men of substance and intelligence, to whatever political party they may belong, to cry “A plague on both your Houses"; and to pray for a period of rest and quiet, and of calm, steady administration. They want no heroic remedies for imaginary evils, and, above all, no creation of national or religious antipathies, for they are sick “nigh unto death " of wild theoretical politics. They claim, and they will claim with irresistible effect, a period of quiet practical administration. Now, although we have had much hysterical vituperation, in one breath, of that legislative work during the past Session the very achievement of which was denied in the next breath; though we may condense, with, as it were, true Irish logic, these wild criticisms in the phrase, “the tyrannous legislation of a barren Session,” still in regard to administrative work, Mr. Gladstone and his followers preserve a discreet silence. And yet of at least equal importance to the legislative is the administrative work done under the stimulus and control of Parliament, by its committee, the Government. In this province there is an excellent record of work done or put in train, in regard to Finance and Home, Colonial, and Foreign Affairs. In all of these branches the present Administration has set on foot improvements of a highly judicious, and done acts of a highly practical and useful character. Improved administration, however, although the highest and most useful work in which a Government can concern itself, is, at the same time, that form of beneficial energy and action which least attracts the notice or the appreciation of the general public. Typical of these unnoticed small beginnings of useful improvements are the cautious Budget proposals. The notable reform in the tobacco duty put a stop to a charge which, without doubt, gave the consumer either less tobacco or worse tobacco for his money. A reduction of 1d. in that most injurious of taxes, the income tax, will, before the financial year is out, be more than justified by a buoyancy in revenue yields. The alterations of the stamp duties is excellent in direction, and will do, in its degree, substantial good to shippers; while the transference of the carriage tax to roads is a most wise concession to the proper guiding fiscal principle of adjusting the burden on to the shoulders of those whom it benefits.