SUMMARY OF PEASANT RENTS.
Influence of Rent on Wages.
One important fact must strike us forcibly on looking back on the collective body of those primary or peasant rents, which we have been tracing, in their various forms, over the surface of the globe. It is their constant and very intimate connection with the wages of labor.
In this respect the serf, the metayer, the ryot, the cottier, are alike: the terms on which they can obtain the spot of ground they cultivate, exercise an active and predominant influence, in determining the reward they shall receive for their personal exertions; or, in other words, their real wages. We should take a very false view of the causes which regulate the amount of their earnings, if we merely calculated the quantity of capital in existence at any given time, and then attempted to compute their share of it by a survey of their numbers. As they produce their own wages, all the circumstances which affect either their powers of production, or their share of the produce, must be taken into the estimate. And among these, principally, those circumstances, which we have seen distinguish one set of peasant tenantry from another. The mode in which their rent is paid, whether in labor, produce, or money : the effects of time and usage in softening, or exaggerating, or modifying, the original form or results of their contract: all these things, and their combined effects, must be carefully examined, and well considered, before we can expect to understand what it is which limits the wages of the peasant, and fixes the standard of his condition and enjoyments.
While, then, the position of a large proportion of the population of the earth continues to be what it has ever yet been, such as to oblige them to extract their own food with their own hands from its bosom; the form and condition of peasant tenures, and the nature and amount of the rents paid under them, will necessarily exercise a leading influence on the condition of the laboring classes, and on the real wages of their labor.
Influence of Peasant Rents on Agricultural Production.
The next remarkable effect, common to all the forms of peasant rents, is their influence in preventing the full developement of the productive powers of the earth.
If we observe the difference which exists in the productiveness of the industry of different bodies of men, in any of the various departments of human exertion, we shall find that difference to depend, almost wholly, on two circumstances: first, on the quantity of contrivance used in applying manual labor: secondly, on the extent to which the mere physical exertions of men's hands are assisted by the accumulated results of past labor: in other words, on the different quantities of skill, knowledge, and capital, brought to the task of production. A difference in these, occasions all the difference between the productive powers of a body of savages, and those of an equal body of English agriculturists or manufacturers: and it occasions also the less striking differences, which exist between the productive powers of the various bodies of men, who occupy gradations between these two extremes.
When the earth is cultivated under a system of peasant rents, the task of directing agriculture, and of providing what is necessary to assist its operations, is either thrown wholly upon the peasants, as in the case of ryot and cottier rents, or divided between them and their landlords, as in the case of serf and metayer rents. In neither of these cases is the efficiency of agricultural industry likely to be carried as far as it might be. Poverty, and the constant fatigues of laborious exertion, put both science, and the means of assisting his industry by the accumulation of capital, out of the reach of the peasant. And when the landlords have once succeeded in getting rid in part of the burthen of cultivation, and have formed a body of peasant tenantry, it is in vain to hope for much steady superintendance or assistance from them. The fixed and secure nature of their property, and the influence which it gives them in the early stages of society over the cultivating class, that is, over the great majority of the nation, lead to the formation of feelings and habits, inconsistent with a detailed attention to the conduct of cultivation; while they very rarely possess the power and the temper steadily to accumulate the means of assisting the industry employed on their estates. Some skill, and some capital, must be found among the very rudest cultivators: but the most efficient direction of labor, and the accumulation and contrivance of the means to endow it with the greatest attainable power, seem to be the peculiar province, the appointed task, of a race of men, capitalists, distinct from both laborers and landlords, more capable of intellectual efforts than the lower, more willing to bring such efforts to bear on the improvement of the powers of industry, than the higher, of those classes. On the peculiar functions of this third class of men in society, and of the various effects moral, economical, and political, produced by the multiplication of their numbers and their means, we shall hereafter have to treat. Their absence from the task of cultivation, which is common to all the wide classes of peasant tenures, prevents that perfect developement of the resources of the earth, which their skill, their contrivance, and the power they exercise by the employment of accumulated resources, do and can alone effect.
Small Numbers of the Non-agricultural Classes.
Resulting from this imperfect developement of the powers of the earth, will be found a stunted growth of the classes of society unconnected with the soil. It is obvious, that the relative numbers of those persons who can be maintained without agricultural labor, must be measured wholly by the productive powers of the cultivators. Where these cultivate skilfully, they obtain produce to maintain themselves and many others; where they cultivate less skilfully, they obtain produce sufficient to maintain themselves and a smaller number of others. The relative numbers of the non-agricultural classes will never be so great, therefore, where the resources of the earth are developed with deficient or moderate skill and power, as they are when these resources are developed more perfectly. In France and Italy, the agriculture of the peasant tenantry is good when compared with that of similar classes elsewhere, and the soil and climate are, on the whole, excellent; yet the number of non-agriculturists is in France only as 1 to 2, in Italy as 4 to 18, while in England, with an inferior soil and climate (agricultural climate, that is,) the non-agriculturists are to the cultivators as 2 to 1.(1) The relative numbers and influence of the non-agricultural classes powerfully affect, as we have had occasion before to remark, the social and political circumstances of different countries, and, indeed, mainly decide what materials each country shall possess, for the formation of those mixed constitutions in which the power of the crown, and of a landed aristocracy, are balanced and controlled by the influence of numbers, and of property freed from all dependance on the soil.
I shall not be understood of course, as meaning to assert, that the presence of a large proportion of non-agriculturists is essential to the existence of democratic institutions: we have abundance of instances to the contrary. But when a powerful aristocracy already exists on the soil, as where peasant rents prevail, it needs must; then the efficient introduction of democratic elements into the constitution, depends almost entirely upon the numbers and property of the non-agricultural classes. The indirect influence of peasant tenures therefore, in limiting the numbers of the non-agricultural classes, must be reckoned among the most important of the political results of those tenures.
Identity of the Interests of Landlords with those of
their Tenantry and the Community.
A little attention is sufficient to shew, that under all the forms of peasant tenures, the interests of the landlords are indissolubly connected with those of their tenantry and of the community at large. The interest of the state obviously is, that the resources of its territory should be fully developed by a class of cultivators free, rich, and prosperous, and therefore equal to the task. The interest of the tenant must ever be to increase the produce of the land, on which produce he feeds, to shake off the shackles of servile dependence: and to attain that form of holding which leaves him most completely his own master, and presents the fewest obstructions to his accumulation of property.
The interests of the landed proprietor concur with these interests of the state and the tenantry.
There is indeed a method by which his revenue may be increased, neither beneficial to the community, nor advantageous to the tenant; that is, by encroaching on the tenant's share of the produce, while the produce itself remains unaltered. But this is a limited and miserable resource, which contains within itself the principles of a speedy stoppage and failure. That full developement of the productive powers of a territory, which is essential to the progressive rise of the proprietor's income, can never be forwarded by the increasing penury of the cultivators. While the peasant is the agent or principal instrument of production, the agriculture of a country can never thrive with his deepening depression. If the waste plains of Asia, and the forests of Eastern Europe, are ever to produce to their proprietors a revenue at all like what similar quantities of land yield in the better cultivated parts of the worla; it is not by increasing the penury of the race of peasantry by which are now loosely occupied, that such a result will be brought about. Their increased misery can only stay the spread of cultivation and diminish its powers. The miserable scantiness of the produce of a great part of the earth, is visibly mainly owing to the actual poverty and degradation of the peasant cultivators. But the real interest of the proprietors never can be to snatch a small gain from a dwindling fund, which at every invasion of theirs is less likely to be augmented, when they might ensure a progressive increase from the indefinite augmentation of the fund itself. It is obviously therefore most advantageous to the proprietors, that their revenues should increase from the increasing produce of the land, and not from the decreasing means of its cultivators; and so far their interest is clearly the same with that of the state and the peasantry.
And further, it is no less the interest of the landlords, than it is that of other classes in the state, that the ruder and more oppressive forms of his contract with his tenant should gradually be exchanged for others, more consistent with the social and political welfare of the cultivators. The landlord who receives labor rents must be a farmer himself: the landlord of the metayer must support most of the burthens of cultivation, and share in all its hazards ; the landlord of the cottier must be exposed to frequent losses from the failure of the means of his tenantry, and after a certain point in their depression, to considerable danger from their desperation. All the advantages incident to the position of a landed proprietor, are only reaped in their best shape, when his income is fixed, and (extraordinary casualties excepted) certain; when he is free from any share in the burthens and hazards of cultivation; when with the progress of national improvement his property has its utmost powers of production brought into full play, by a race of tenants possessed of intellect and means equal to the task. The receiver of labor rents therefore, gains a point when they are changed to produce rents; the receiver of produce rents from a metayer gains a point when they are changed to money rents. The landlord of cottiers gains a point when they become capitalists; and the sovereign of the ryot cultivators gains a point when the produce due from them can be commuted for fixed payments in money. There is no one step in the prosperous career of a peasant tenantry, of any description, at which the interests of the landlords are not best promoted by their prosperity: and that in spite of the admitted possibility of a stinted gain to the proprietors, founded on the increasing penury of the cultivators.
On the Causes of the long Duration of the Systems of Primary or Peasant Rents.
Perhaps in an enquiry into the nature and effects of the different systems of peasant rents. the most interesting tract in the whole line of investigation, is that in which we seek to discover the causes which have kept them permanent and unchanged, over a large part of the earth, through a long succession of ages.
The interests of the state, of the proprietors, of the tenantry themselves, are all advanced by the progressive changes which in prosperous communities successively take place in the mode of cultivating the soil. And yet in spite of the ordinary tendency of human institutions to change, and of the numerous interests which in this instance combine to make change desirable, ages have travelled past, and a great portion of the earth's surface is still tilled by races of peasantry, holding the land by tenures and on conditions similar to those imposed upon the persons in whose hands the task of cultivation was first placed. Such are the serfs of the east, the metayers who cover the west of Europe, and the ryots who occupy the whole of Asia.
When we look at those countries in which peasant rents have at any time prevailed, and observe their actual condition with reference to past, or probable changes, those rents shew themselves in four unequal masses. From the first division, they have already passed; spontaneous changes, gradually brought about, in slow succession, have obliterated all marks of the earlier and ruder forms of holding. A race of capitalists providing the stock advancing the wages of labor, and paying fixed money rents, have taken entire possession of the task of cultivation, from which the proprietors are completely extricated. The portion of the earth's surface on which this has taken place is small. lt comprises England, the greater part of Scotland, a part of the kingdom of the Netherlands, and spots in France, Italy, Spain, and Germany. In another part of the globe, we see the causes which have elsewhere produced the changes just referred to, still actually at work, but their results yet incomplete. Without any deliberate purpose on the part of any class, changes are quietly and silently taking place, through which the agricultural population are advancing to a position similar to that of the English farmers and laborers. This process may be observed in the west of Germany: there the serfs have for some ages been going through a sluggish process of transmutation into leibeigeners, hereditary tenants with fixed labor rents, and not chained to the soil. The leibeigeners are slowly assuming the character of meyers, subject to an unalterable produce rent; a very few steps in advance will range the meyer by the side of the English copyholder; and then all the substantial effects of their former condition, as tenants paying labor rents, will have disappeared.
There is this material difference, however, between the past state of England, and the present state of Germany. In England, the tenants who on the disuse of the labor of the serf tenantry, took charge of the cultivation of the domains of the proprietors, were found on the land; they were yeomen. In Germany, the tenants of the domains are offsets from the non-agricultural population, and their capital has been accumulated in employments distinct from agriculture. In England, the source from which the new tenantry proceeded, was large, and their spread rapid. In Germany, the source is smaller, and the creation of such a tenantry must be the work of a much longer period. But the change has been slow in both countries. Cultivation by the labor of the manerial tenants was very long before it finally disappeared from England: the legal obligation to perform such labor has glided out of sight almost within memory. So too in those parts of Germany in which the progress of the relations between the proprietors and the tenantry is left to take its own course, it seems highly probable that a very long period will yet elapse before labor rents wholly disappear. Spontaneous changes in the habits of nations usually take place slowly, and occupy ages in their progress.
Gradual alterations in the mode of holding and cultivating land, occupied by a peasant tenantry, are not confined to the countries in which labor rents prevail: metayers have, in some districts, given place to capitalist tenants, and in others are to be found in a state of transition; owning part of the capital, paying sometimes a fixed quantity of produce, sometimes a money rent, and preparing, evidently, to take upon themselves all the burthens and hazards of cultivation.
The two divisions of rents which we have just noticed, comprise, jointly, but a small portion of the earth. In them, as we have seen, a movement in advance of the cultivators themselves has taken place, which has proceeded from the insensible improvement of their condition, and has ended in one, and is likely to end in the other, in an alteration in the form of rents. But in that greater portion of the earth which remains to be noticed, there has been no spontaneous movement in advance, and there is no tendency to insensible change to be perceived. Yet in a small division of that larger portion very rapid alterations are in progress, in a different manner, and from a different cause. And this constitutes a third division of peasant rents, when classed with reference to their tendencies to change.
In the Eastern part of Europe, the people have never reached the means, or even the wish, of elevating their condition: the mode of cultivation and the relations between the proprietors and their tenantry, might, apparently, as far as the exertions of the cultivators themselves are concerned, have continued unchanged while the earth lasts.
But, in these countries, the intellect and knowledge of the higher classes are far in advance of the apathy, and stationary ignorance, of the lower. The landed proprietors have been able to contrast the condition of their country and their property, with the state of more improved nations, and have become animated by a zealous desire of altering the condition of the peasantry, and the mode of conducting agriculture. This common spirit has produced, and is daily producing, a variety of changes; differing in detail with the actual circumstances of different districts, but having two common objects; namely, the elevation of the character and circumstances of the present peasant cultivators, and the improvement of agriculture on the domains held by the proprietors. We have already seen, that the ultimate results of these various changes are yet problematical; that whatever they may be, a long period of time will probably elapse, before they are fully developed.
Abstracting, however, altogether from the three districts we have been considering, namely, that in which peasant rents have been actually superseded, that from which they are slowly disappearing, and that from which an attempt is making forcibly to expel them; there still remains a large fourth district: a vast unbroken mass, which no movement from within, and no influence from without, have yet brought to give signs of approaching change.
As the attention is naturally more caught by what is stirring and in motion, than by things of greater magnitude and importance which are inert and stationary, the countries in which alterations in the mode of conducting agriculture are in progress, attract observation much more readily than those which really present a more curious and interesting phenomenon; those in which the forms of occupying the soil first adopted, and the systems and relations of society founded on them, still prevail; in which the face of society has undergone for centuries as little alteration as the face of nature, and men seem as unchangeable as the regions they inhabit. The Ryots throughout Asia, and the peasants in a very considerable portion of Europe, are precisely what they have ever been. In spite of the fluctuations natural to all human institutions, and of the obvious disadvantages of their systems of cultivation, still they endure, and are likely to endure, unless some general movement takes place on the part of the higher classes, dragging the lower from their apathy and poverty; or some insensible improvement of their condition, enables the lower classes themselves to begin a forward progress.
Efforts of the higher classes, to introduce forcibly improvements into the condition of the lower, are little likely ever to become general and systematic, over any great proportion of the earth's surface. To suppose a general diffusion of political knowledge and philosophy, dispelling everywhere the sluggish dreams of selfishness, may be a pleasing reverie, but can hardly afford any ground for rational anticipation. The proprietors of the serfs of Eastern Europe have made, it is true, vigorous efforts, but they were stimulated by the intolerable burthens and embarrassments which the old system brought upon themselves, and nothing short of such a stimulus would make such efforts general. The Italian or Spanish nobles shew no symptoms of being roused to take the lead in altering the terms on which their estates are used: even the French noblesse, before the revolution, were quite passive under the evils and losses which the condition of their metayer tenantry made common. The native princes of Asia are little likely to be reformers in the agricultural economy of their country. see how little the Anglo-Indian government has effected in this respect.
But if the higher classes are little likely to display general activity as reformers, then, as the foundation of future improvements in the circumstances of the cultivators of a large part of the world, there remain only such alterations for the better, as may insensibly take place in the condition of the lower classes: such benefits as they may win for themselves amidst the silent lapse of time and every day events.
If this is seen, it must be perceived at once, that the actual state of penury and misery, which makes the cultivators helpless, and keeps them destitute, is the great obstacle to the commencement of national improvement; the heavy weight which keeps stationary the wealth and number and civilization of a very large part of the earth. I believe this, indeed, to be only one case of a general truth, with which, in our future progress, we shall become more familiar, that the degradation and abject poverty of the lower classes, can never be found in combination with national wealth, and political strength. But when the lower classes exist in the character of peasant cultivators, this is more strikingly true than elsewhere. In poor countries, of which the non-agricultural population bears a very small proportion to the husbandmen, it is usually in vain to expect, that the additional capital and skill necessary to effect great national improvements in cultivation, can be generated any where but on the land itself, and among its actual occupiers. If once, therefore, the peasantry are so far reduced in their circumstances and character, as to have neither the means, nor, after a time, the wish or hope, to acquire property and improve their condition; the state of agricultural production, and the relative numbers of the non-agricultural. and other classes must be nearly stationary; and, under such circumstances, all plans for the advancement of agriculture, and improvement of the condition of the peasants, which are not founded on the principle that the means of the cultivator are to be, in the first place, enlarged, prove, almost necessarily, abortive. Laws which confer upon him political rights and security, are in themselves a mere dead letter, while poverty weighs him down, and keeps him fast in his position. The French metayers had long ceased to be subject to the arbitrary power of the proprietors: their persons and properties were, with some exceptions, as secure as those of any class in France; yet their condition, and the character of their cultivation were, at best, stationary, and, in some districts, certainly declining. It was the one great object of the French economists, to substitute for this class of cultivators, capitalists paying money rents, and the fault of their plans, for accomplishing their purpose, was this, that instead of recommending measures for the general transformation of the metayers themselves into capitalists, they founded all their hopes of effecting the change they thought so all important, on the removal of the metayers, and the gradual spread of capitalists, from the districts in which they had already established themselves. This was a process, which could only have gone on at all under a very favourable state of the markets for agricultural produce, and which, it will be clear, must have taken ages to complete, if we consider the small part of France occupied by capitalists, and the very large proportion of her surface tilled by metayers. The transformation of the metayers themselves was less difficult, but it was opposed by the moral obstacle we are speaking of, which forms the real impediment to the progress of improvement, under all the forms of peasant rent. It required a distinct sacrifice of immediate income, on the part of the proprietors or the government. The metayers were oppressed by taxes, more than by rent: the share of the landlord in the produce had never been increased; but the exactions of government from the tenant's portion, had reduced him to the state of misery which Turgot describes. To enable the cultivators then to amend their circumstances, to accumulate, and ultimately to change their form of holding, it was necessary to begin by lightening the actual pressure on them: to effect this, either the government must have remitted part of its taxes, or the proprietors have consented to pay part of them, and to relinquish thus a part of their own revenue. On the side of the state, public necessity, partly real, and partly assumed by ministers who did not foresee to what point they were driving the population; on the part of the proprietors, what Turgot is pleased to call the illusions of self interest ill understood, prevented such a remission of the burthens of the peasantry as might have enabled them to make a start in advance: they continued therefore poor, inefficient, stationary; and the agricultural resources of the state were stunted and stopt in their growth with the peasantry. In spite of the miseries of that revolution, through which the freedom of the cultivators from their ancient oppressions has been earnt, the revenues of the body of agriculturists have so increased, that France consumes more than three times the quantity of manufactured commodities she did before the revolution, and her non agricultural population has doubled. These facts tell at once how much sire lost in strength and wealth, by the feebleness of the agricultural efforts of the peasantry under the old regime. But convulsions like that which in France destroyed the relations between landlord and tenant, and converted a large portion of the metayers into small proprietors, are not to be counted on in the ordinary course of human affairs; and when once either the exactions of landlords, or of the state, or indeed any other circumstances, have reduced a peasant ten an try to penury, the same difficulty constantly opposes itself to the commencement of improvement. No one is willing to make, no one ordinarily thinks of making, a direct sacrifice of revenue, for the purpose of augmenting their actual means; and nothing short of that will enable them to start. In India, the Anglo-Indian government have been creditably ready to give more security and more civil rights to their Indian subjects than they before enjoyed; but when it became a question of direct sacrifice of revenue, notwithstanding the clearest conviction in their own minds, that the population would be increased, cultivation improved, and the wealth and resources of their territories rapidly multiplied, still the exigencies of the government would not permit them to remit the actual rents to the amount of 25 per cent., or 15 per cent., even to ensure all these confessed ulterior advantages; and therefore they concluded that the state of cultivation, and the poverty of the tenantry must continue as they were.(2)
From the same causes, the posterity of the emancipated serfs of eastern Europe are shut out from the possibility of forming a body of capitalist tenants, fitted to take charge of the cultivation of the domains of the proprietors. Personal freedom, hereditary pos session of their allotments, rights and privileges in abundance, the landlords and sovereigns are willing to grant; and it would be extravagant to say these grants are worth nothing: but that which is necessary to enable the peasants to profit by their new position, that is, an immediate relaxation of the pressure upon them, an increase of their revenue, proceeding from a direct sacrifice of income on the part of either the crown or the landlord, is something much more difficult to be accomplished. In Prussia, the rent charge fixed upon the serf, now constituted a proprietor, forms, as we have seen, one of the heaviest rents known in Europe. And among the various schemes for improving the condition of the peasantry, afloat in the east of Europe, I know but of one, that of the Livonian nobility, in which a direct sacrifice of revenue on the part of the landlords is contemplated as the basis of the expected amelioration.(3)
It is unquestionably the actual penury of the peasants, and the little which has been done to enable them to take the first steps to emerge from it, which have, in a great measure, frustrated all the hopes of augmented wealth and improved civilization, which have been entertained by the benevolent reformers of the north. It is this too, which has been the cause of the apathy with which the peasant has received the gift of political rights, and which has made the various boons bestowed upon him almost nominal.
Abstracting then from the efforts of landlords or governments, and looking at the whole extent of that part of the globe which is at present languishing under the inefficient efforts of a depressed peasant tenantry, it appears that when once their circumstances have become reduced and their poverty extreme, nothing but a relaxation of the terms of their contract with the landlord, or a diminution of the burthens imposed by the state, can give them an opportunity of making that first movement in advance which must be the initiative of their new career. The difficulty of procuring such a relaxation, arising often from the necessities or the blindness, more rarely from the pure selfishness, of the landlords or sovereigns, is the real cause of the stagnation and inefficiency of the art of agriculhire, and of the duration of the present forms of holding over a great part of the world. In the hands of a peasantry thoroughly depressed, cultivation may spread, but its powers will not increase; the people may multiply, but the relative numbers of the nonagricultural classes will not become much greater; and abstracting from the increase of gross numbers, the wealth and strength of the population, and the elements of political institutions, undergo no alteration.
Such then, is the miserable cause which has maintained the rude forms of primitive holding so long and so extensively unchanged, and which seems unhappily to promise them a long period of future dominion, over too many wide districts of the earth.
We may observe on some small spots, of which England is one, the effects of a different system. Agriculture is further advanced towards perfection, and hence arises a capacity of supporting much more numerous non-agricultural classes, which afford abundant and excellent materials for a balanced form of government; hence too, intellect, knowledge, leisure, and all the indications and elements of high civilization multiplied and concentrated. Were the whole of the earth's surface cultivated with like efficiency, how different would be the aggregate of the commercial means, political institutions, the intellect and civilization of the inhabitants of our planet!
The advancing wealth of a body of peasantry does not, however, always lead either to the permanent improvement of their own condition, or to an alteration in the constituent elements of society, or in the degree of its civilization. A rapid increase of the numbers of the cultivators, and after a time a peasantry equally poor as at first, and more numerous, are sometimes the result of an augmentation of the revenues of a peasant tenantry. More than one favorable circumstance must concur, to make the commencement of their prosperity a basis for a general advance of the nation, and for the progressive augmentation of its various elements of its strength and civilization. What those circumstances are, we shall have hereafter to observe, when examining the causes, which at different stages, and in different positions of society, promote or retard improved habits in the body of the people. At present it is enough if we see, that the long endurance and stationary state of peasant tenures over a great part of the world, are mainly attributable to the state of poverty in which the cultivators have so long found themselves :a state of poverty, which while it lasts, effectually prevents any movements in advance from originating with the peasants themselves, and which can only be relieved by such sacrifices on the part of other classes, as they are rarely able and willing to make.
While we have been reviewing the different classes of peasant rents, those facts have been studiously dwelt upon and reproduced, which shew that improvement in the efficiency of agriculture, followed by an increase of the territorial produce of a country, and consequently of its general wealth and strength, is the foundation on which a permanent and progressive increase in the revenues of the landed proprietors can best sustain itself.
Strange opinions as to a necessary opposition between the interests of the proprietors of the soil, and those of the rest of the community and of the state, have lately been current. The fallacy of these it was thought would be more easily and more distinctly exposed by a simple exposition of facts, as they exist in the world around us, than by following those who have promulgated such opinions, into a labyrinth of abstract argument. The dogmas alluded to are sufficiently familiar to all readers of later writers on Political Economy. Their substance and their spirit may be collected from the following passages. "The capacity of a country to support and employ laborers, is in no degree dependent on advantageousness of situation, richness of soil, or extent of territory."(4) "It appears, therefore~ that in the earliest stages of society, and where only the best lands are cultivated, no rent is ever paid. The landlords, as such, do not begin to share in the produce of the soil until it becomes necessary to cultivate lands of an inferior degree of fertility, or to apply capital to the superior lands with a diminishing return. Whenever this is the case, rent begins to be paid; and it continues to increase according as cultivation is extended over poorer soils; and diminishes according as those poorer soils are thrown out of cultivation."(5) "An increase of rent is not, therefore, as is very generally supposed, occasioned by improvements in agriculture, or by an increase in the fertility of the soil. It results entirely from the necessity of resorting, as population increases, to soils of a decreasing degree of fertility. Rent varies in an inverse proportion to the amount of produce obtained by means of the capital and labor employed in cultivation, that is, it increases when the profits of agricultural labor diminish, and diminishes when they increase."(6) "The rise of rent is always the effect of the increasing wealth of the country, and of the difficulty of providing for its augmented population. It is a symptom, but it is never a cause of wealth."(7) "Nothing can raise rent, but a demand for new land of an inferior quality, or some cause, which shall occasion an alteration in the relative fertility of the land already under cultivation."(8) "The interest of the landlord is always opposed to that of the consumer and manufacturer."(9) "The dealings between the landlord and the public are not like dealings in trade, whereby both the seller and the buyer may equally be said to gain, but the loss is wholly on one side, and the gain wholly on the other."(10) "Rent then is a creation of value, but not a creation of wealth; it adds nothing to the resources of a country, it does not enable it to maintain fleets and armies; for the country would have a greater disposeable fund if its lands were of a better quality, and it could employ the same capital without generating a rent. It must then be admitted, that Mr. Sismondi and Mr. Buchanan, for both their opinions were substantially the same, were correct, when they considered rent as a value purely nominal, and as forming no addition to the national wealth, but merely as a transfer of value, advantageous only to the landlords, and proportionably injurious to the consumer."(11)
The utter fallacy of these opinions, when applied to any class of peasant rents, has been shewn separately for each class in the course of the remarks which have already been made: viz, for labor rents, at p. 61., for metayers, at p. 105., for ryots, at p. 140., and for cottier rents at p. 153.
But let us for a moment picture to ourselves the effects of an address, by a philosopher of this school, to an assembly composed of sovereign proprietors of territories occupied by ryots, and of the landholders of countries cultivated by serfs, metayers, or cottiers. He would assure them, from Mr. Macculloch, that the extent and richness of the tracts of country they might own, affected in no degree their power of supporting and employing an industrious population: that in the earliest stages of society (being those with which they are the most familiar) no rents are ever paid: that they only begin to be paid when it becomes necessary to cultivate lands of an inferior degree of fertility. He would further inform the landholders, that no improvements of their income could ever by possibility originate in improvements in agriculture, or in an increased fertility of the soil. He would tell them too, that every augmentation of their rental must result entirely from the necessity of resorting, as population increased, to soils of a decreasing degree of fertility. That the decrepitude of agriculture, and the prosperity of the owners of the land, advanced always hand in hand; that their revenues must vary always in an inverse proportion to the amount of produce obtained by means of the capital and labor employed in cultivation, and that their rents, therefore, would increase as the profits of agricultural labor diminished, and would diminish as the profits of agricultural labor increased.
The teacher might next take Mr. Ricardo's for his text-book, and after enforcing his dogmas from this parent source, he might proceed farther with his revelations, and expound to his audience, that their interests as landlords were always opposed to those of the non-agricultural classes of the community, that the increase of their share of the produce of the soil was a creation of value but not a creation of wealth; that such an increase added nothing to the general stock of riches, nothing to the common resources of the state, nothing to its ability to maintain its public establishments.
We may imagine surely the amazement of the listening circle of landholders of various description.. They would know that they were surrounded, as their forefathers had been, by a peasant population yielding a part of their produce or their labor, as a tribute for the use of the ground from which they raised their food, and to which they must cling or die. The lords of the soil would feel therefore, that their revenue, as landed proprietors, owed neither its origin nor its continuance to the existence of gradations in the qualities of land. They would know that, as far as their experience had gone, with improvements in agriculture, and with the increase of the fertility of the soil, the amount of produce which formed their annual rents had steadily increased, and they would have found that they became wealthier as the labor of their peasant tenantry produced more from the earth, and that they became poorer as it produced less. It would be impossible for them to doubt, that their power of giving employment and support to a population of laboring cultivators, depended mainly on the quantity and quality of the land at their disposal. They could not shut their eyes to the physical fact, that increasing produce converted into increased rents, constituted a fresh creation of material riches. They could only feel bewildered, when they were told, that in the case of such an increase, though there might be a creation of value, there could not be a creation of wealth. They must be aware that the distribution of their revenue was the direct source of the maintenance of the greater part of the non-agricultural classes of the population amidst which they lived; they could not hear, without astonishment, that the increase of their revenue was a misfortune to those classes. Finally, observing that in ryot monarchies the fleets and armies of the state were wholly maintained from the rents of the sovereign proprietor, and that in serf and metayer countries, rents always contributed more or less to similar purposes; they would listen with amazement to the doctrine, that the increase of the territorial revenues of a state, added in no case any thing to its public strength, or to its ability to maintain its military establishments.
It is difficult to imagine, that among a circle full of such recollections our lecturer would make converts. His audience would be apt to believe, that the philosopher they were listening to must have fallen from some other planet: that the scene of his experience must have differed widely from the scenes of theirs, and that it was quite impossible, the various propositions he was endeavouring to impress upon them, could have been derived from a review of the facts with which they were daily familiar.
In truth, it is not easy to read any of the productions of this school .of writers, without seeing, that their system as to rent, is derived exclusively from an examination of the class of farmers' rents. And this class (however interesting to us as Englishmen) has already been stated not to extend itself over one-hundredth part of the cultivated surface of the earth. We shall presently, in examining that particular division of rents, have occasion to shew, that the writers we have been quoting and their followers, have been not less hasty and erroneous in deducing principles from the narrow class of facts before their minds, than they have been rash in attempting to apply those principles to the explanation of the phenomena connected with rent, over that vast portion of the surface of the globe to which their facts are obviously and utterly inapplicable.
We leave now then those primitive tenures, which decide the lot of that large portion of the human race, which produces its own food with its own hands from the soil, and turn to trace the revenues of the landed proprietors when another class of agriculturists have taken possession of the task of cultivation, on terms different in themselves and affected in their variations by different causes.
1. In England too, a larger number of animals are kept for pleasure, and a variety of purposes unconnected with cultivation: the power of feeding these must be reckoned, when we are calculating the efficiency of her agriculture.
2. See Buchanan's edition of Smith, Appendix, p. 66.
3. In that instance, the tenant who before owed half his labor to the landlord, is protected against the demand of more than two days in the week, or one third.
4. Macculloch's Principles of Political Economy, p. 327.
5. Ibid. p. 282.
6. Ibid. p. 269.
7. Ricardo's Political Economy, 2nd Edit. p. 62.
8. Ibid. p. 518.
9. Ibid. p. 428.
10. Ibid. p. 424.
11. Ibid. 2nd Edit. p. 501.