Page images

Sect. 7.


Book I. determined by his contract with the landlord, that Chap. iv.

is, by the rent he pays.

In like manner the amount of rent in such Ryot countries is determined by the amount of wages.

The amount of the produce being decided as before, the landlord's share, the rent, depends upon the contract he makes with the laborer, that is, upon the amount deducted as wages.

The existence and progress of rents under the ryot system is in no degree dependent upon the existence of different qualities of soil, or different returns to the stock and labor employed on each. The sovereign proprietor has the means of enabling a body of laborers to maintain themselves, who without the machinery of the earth with which he supplies them, must starve. This would secure him a share in the produce of their labor, though all the lands were perfectly equal in quality.

Ryot rents may increase from two causes, from an increase of the whole produce, effected by the greater skill, industry, and efficiency of the tenant: or from an increase of the sovereign's proportion of the produce; the produce itself remaining the same, and the tenant's share becoming less.

When the rent increases and the produce remains stationary, the increase indicates no augmentation of public wealth. There has been a transfer of wealth, but no increase of it; and one party is impoverished by the precise amount that another is enriched. But when ryot rents increase because the produce has become larger, the country is enriched by an addition of wealth to the full amount of the increase. Its power of maintaining Book 1, fleets and armies, and all the elements of public

Chap. iv. strength, have been augmented to that extent; there Sect. 7. has been a real increase of wealth, not a mere trans

Ryot fer of what before existed, from one hand to another. Rents. Such an increase too indicates an augmentation of the revenues of the ryots themselves. If the tenth or sixth of the sovereign has doubled, the nine-tenths or five-sixths of the ryot have doubled also.

The increase of rents which is thus seen to go hand in hand with the improvement of the general wealth and strength, is that which alone in the long run can really benefit the landlord. While an increase of produce rents has its source in greater crops, it may go on till the skill of man and the fertility of the earth have reached their maximum, that is, indefinitely. Asiatic tenants, cultivating with their own soil and climate, and the skill and energy of the best European farmers, might create produce much greater than any yet known in that quarter of the globe, and be greatly improving their own revenue while they were paying increased rents to the sovereign. And while the prosperity of the ryots thus kept pace with the increase of rents, the result would be, not merely an increase of the crops on the lands already cultivated, but the rapid spread of cultivation to other lands. A protected and thriving and increasing population would speedily reclaim the rich wastes of Turkey and India, and call back their vanished fertility to the deserted plains of Persia, multiplying at every step both the direct revenue of the sovereign landlord, and his resources in the general wealth of his people. Taking Asia as a whole, such a progress seems visionary, but it is occasionally exhi

Sect. 7.

Book I. bited, on a smaller scale, in a manner which very

disChap. iv.

tinctly proves it possible, and indeed easy on the

greatest'. An increase of rents derived from a staRyot

tionary produce, and a diminution of the ryot's share, are unfortunately more common in Asia, and lead to no such results. In the state in which the ryots usually exist, to decrease their revenue is to injure if not to destroy their efficiency as agents of cultivation. A serious invasion of it is very usually followed, and carried to a certain extent it must be followed, by the desertion of the cultivators and the abandonment of cultivation, and a total cessation of rent. The greediness of eastern rulers ordinarily snatches at the bait of present gain, and overlooks or disregards the very different ultimate consequences which follow the augmenting their landed revenues, from the one, or from the other, of these sources of increase. Hence in a great measure the actual state of Asia, the misery of the people, the poverty and feebleness of the governments. An examination into the nature and effects of ryot rents, receives an almost mournful interest from the conviction, that the political and social institutions of the people of this large division of the earth, are likely for many long ages yet to come, to rest upon them. We cannot unveil the future, but there is little in the character of the Asiatic population, which can tempt us even to speculate upon a time, when that future, with respect to them, will essentially differ from the past and the present.


1 Appendix.



Cottier Rents.


UNDER the head of cottier rents, we may include Book I. all rents contracted to be paid in money, by pea

Chap. v. sant tenants, extracting their own maintenance from Cottier the soil.

They are found to some extent in various countries; but it is in Ireland alone that they exist in such a mass, as palpably to influence the general state of the country. They differ from the other classes of peasant rents in this the most materially; that it is not enough for the tenant to be prepared to give in return for the land which enables him to maintain himself, a part of his labor, as in the case of serf rents, or a definite proportion of the produce, as in the case of metayer or ryot rents. He is bound, whatever the quantity or value of his produce may be, to pay a fixed sum of money to the proprietor. This is a change most difficult to introduce, and very important when introduced. Money payments from the occupiers, are by no means essential, we must recollect, to the rise or progress of rents. Over by far the greater part of the globe such payments have never yet been established. Tenants yielding plentiful rents in produce, may be quite unable, from the infrequency of exchanges, to pay even small sums in money, and the owners of the land may, and do, form an affluent


Book I. body, consuming and distributing a large proportion Chap. v.

of the annual produce of a country, while it is extremely difficult for them to lay their hands on very insignificant sums in cash. Money rents, indeed, are so very rarely paid by peasant cultivators, that where they do exist among them, we may expect to find the power of discharging them founded on peculiar circumstances. In the case of Ireland, it is the neighbourhood of England, and the connection between the two countries, which support the system of money rents paid by the peasantry. From all parts of Ireland, the access, direct or indirect, to the English market, gives the Irish cultivators means of obtaining cash for a portion of their produce. In some districts, it even appears that the rents are paid in money earnt by harvest-work in England; and it is repeatedly stated in the evidence before the Emigration Committee, that, were this resource to fail, the power of paying rents would cease in these districts at once. Were Ireland placed in a remoter part of the world, surrounded by nations not more advanced than herself, and were her cultivators dependent for their means of getting cash on her own internal opportunities of exchange; it seems highly probable, that the landlords would soon be driven by necessity to adopt a system of either labor or produce rents, similar to those which prevail over the large portion of the globe, cultivated by the other classes of peasant tenantry.

Once established, however, the effects of the prevalence of cottier rents among a peasant population are important: some advantageous, some prejudicial.

« PreviousContinue »