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Chap. vi.

of Peasant

BOOK I. agricultural labor, must be measured wholly by the productive powers of the cultivators. Where these Summary cultivate skilfully, they obtain produce to maintain Rents. 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 13, while in England, with an inferior soil and climate (agricultural climate, that is,) the non-agriculturists are to the cultivators as 2 to 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.

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.

of Peasant

I shall not be understood of course, as mean- Book I. Chap. vi. ing to assert, that the presence of a large proportion of non-agriculturists is essential to the existence Summary of democratic institutions: we have abundance of Rents. 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.


Book I.
Chap. vi.


of Peasant


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 world; 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 in

of Peasant

crease from the indefinite augmentation of the fund BOOK I. itself. It is obviously therefore most advantageous Chap. vi. to the proprietors, that their revenues should increase Summary from the increasing produce of the land, and not Rents. 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


BOOK I. a point when they are changed to money rents. Chap. vi. The landlord of cottiers gains a point when they Summary become capitalists; and the sovereign of the ryot of Peasant 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

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