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properly the villici or managers was abandoned, and the lands given up in some measure to the discretion of an inferior class' of slaves. The immediate consequence was such a deficiency in the produce, Roman that some strange and unknown cause was supposed to be enfeebling the fecundity of the earth itself. Among even the more eminent Romans, while some talked of a long continued unwholesomeness in the seasons, others were inclined to a superstitious belief, that the world was waxing old, and its powers decaying: that the exuberant crops reaped by their forefathers had been the produce of its youthful strength; and that the sterility which then afflicted it was a symptom of its decrepitude. Columella saw more distinctly the real cause of the falling off; he describes in a passage which has been often quoted, the malpractices of the slaves on those distant farms, which it was not easy for the proprietor often to visit; and though himself an indignant advocate for the more general practice of agriculture, as the most liberal and useful of arts, he concludes by recommending that all such estates should be let. "Ita fit ut et actor et familia peccent, et ager sæpius infametur: quare talis generis prædium, si, ut dixi, domini præsentiâ cariturum est, censeo locandum3."
A race of tenants then gradually acquired possession of the surface of Italy and the provinces. They were of various classes, but the coloni partiarii
4 Col. Book I. chap. i. Rem rusticam pessimo cuique servorum, velut carnifici, noxæ dedimus, quam majorum nostrorum optimus quisque optimè tractaverit.
5 Col. Book I. chap. i.
6 Col. Lib. I. chap. vii,
Book I. or medietarii, metayers, seem always to have been Chap. iii. favorites, and the terms on which they cultivated to have appeared the most just and expedient. Pliny, having tried, it seems, some other form of contract with his tenantry, and finding it answer ill, announces in one of his letters his determination to adopt the metayer system as the best remedy. "The only remedy," he says, "I can think of is, not to reserve my rent in money but in kind (partibus), and to place some of my servants to overlook the tillage, and to take care of my share of the produce, as indeed there is no sort of revenue more just than that, which is regulated by the soil, the climate, and the seasons1."
The system thus praised, ultimately prevailed throughout the provinces of the empire; and in the western part of Europe, was never wholly extirpated by the convulsions which accompanied its downfall. In many instances indeed the first violence of the barbarians put to flight all regular industry, and into the wilderness which they created they were obliged to introduce labor rents and a race of serfs. The feudal system too, and the numerous body of arrière vassals it gave birth to, changed the occupation of much of the country. But still, thick as the darkness was, which covered for a time the remains of Roman civilization, its effects were never wholly lost. The language, the customs,
1 Plin. Epist. Book IX. 37. It appears from another letter that the most expensive stock supplied to the tenantry by the proprietors consisted of the slaves.
the laws of the provincials still survived, and strug. Book I. ling at last into influence they communicated much of their character to that mixed race which has arisen in western Europe: in different degrees in 'different countries, but enough in all the principal kingdoms to distinguish their inhabitants broadly from the more primitive race to the eastward of the Rhine.
The class of metayers was probably never any where wholly destroyed, and as time softened the character of the conquerors, and introduced some degree of confidence and security into their relations with the subject cultivators, industry began to return to its old employments. It was always an object gained by the landlord, if he could substitute a produce rent, and a tenant whom he could trust with the whole task of cultivation, for a rude serf like the German or Slavonic boor, whose labor he could rely on, only while he himself enforced and superintended it. Metayers therefore spread themselves: the domain lands of the proprietors fell generally into their hands, and they re-acquired that general, though not complete, possession of the agriculture of western Europe, which we see them in a great measure still retaining.
On Metayer Rents in France.
THE province of Gaul was violently affected in all its social relations, by the various irruptions and final predominance of the barbarians. The gra- Metayers.
BOOK I. dual establishment of feudal tenures, and the introduction of serfs and labor rents, were two of the most important effects of the change of masters. The number and species of feudal tenures, were multiplied to a strange extent in France by the practice of subinfeudation; which had been checked in England, but prevailed widely on the continent. The seignoral rights, and the rents and services to which they gave rise, were ranged by the French lawyers under 300 heads, the subdivisions of which they state to be infinite1.
Some of these multiplied rights no doubt were engrafted on the more simple relation of the serfs to their landlords; for as the feudal system became familiar to the people, the notions and phraseology to which it gave birth, extended themselves to a multitude of relations and objects, quite foreign to the original aim of the system itself. Thus on the continent annuities in money or corn were granted as feuds, and occasionally even the use of sums of money, and in England the copyholder, whom we can distinctly trace to the villein or slave, was admitted to swear fealty and do homage to his lord much in the manner of the military tenants; a practice which still continues. Thus also, those admitted to degrees at our Universities do feudal homage to the Vice-Chancellor. By a similar abuse of feudal forms, some of the serfs in France no doubt ranked at
1 Dict. de Finance, Vol. II. p. 115. 2 Hargreave and Butler's Notes Sect. 300. Note on Tenants in common.
on Coke upon Littleton.
last amongst the manorial tenantry of the Seigneur, Book I. and their relation was considered to be a feudal one.
But besides the serfs thus gradually assimilated to vassals, there were other serfs whose state of slavery was as distinct and undisguised as that of the Russian cultivators is now: they existed for some time in considerable numbers, and continued to exist in several provinces up to the era of the revolution. We will say something of these before we proceed to the metayers. They were found on the estates of the crown, of lay individuals, and of ecclesiastics, under the name of mainmortables, which was used indifferently with that of serf, and appears to have been considered synonymous with it. They were attached to the soil, and if they escaped from it, were restored by the interference of the tribunals to their owners, to whom their persons and those of their posterity belonged. They were incapable of transmitting property: if they acquired any, their owners might seize it at their death: the exercise of this right was in full vigor, and some startling instances led Louis XVI. to make a feeble attempt at a partial emancipation. Proprietors, exercising their droit de suite, as it was called, had forced the reluctant tribunals of the king to deliver into their hands the property of deceased citizens who had been long settled as respectable inhabitants in different towns of France, some even in Paris itself; but who were proved to have been originally serfs on the estates of the claimants. The contrast between the condition of these poor people and that of the rest of the population, became then too strong to be endured;
Chap. iii. Sect. 4.