« PreviousContinue »
Empire. The descendants of the ancient colonists degenerated into a state of prædial servitude; which has been changed, rather than alleviated, by the system of cultivation at present general in Italy. In consequence of this the population is very considerable, not inferior in proportion to that of England. The land is divided into small portions : its extreme fertility, the delightful climate in which it is placed, and the minuteness of its culture, produce abundance of food. The cultivator divides the produce in certain settled proportions with the owner of the soil. In unfavourable seasons the owner advances food to the cultivator, the consumption of whose family is more than equal to his share of the produce: this is repaid in kind in favourable years; but the cultivator is almost always in debt, and in this manner the owner of the soil is taxed to the relief of indigence. In most parts of Italy this takes place between the owner and the tenant, without the intervention of the State. But in Lucca the required advances in times of difficulty are made by the public bank of the State*. This is the case in the most fertile soils : the uncertainty of some of the crops, the vines for instance, renders the peasant still more dependent than the inhabitant of the mountains, whose ordinary food being the chesnut, which requires little more than the labour of gathering, leaves him at leisure to travel in the harvest to the fertile and insalubrious plains of the Tuscan maremmå or the Campagna of Rome, and by the wages of labour to gain a more secure and constant income. But the failure of the crop of chesnuts, and unproductive seasons, drive the inhabitants of the mountains into the cities, which are then filled with mendicity in its most disgust+ ing features. The general sale of the ecclesiastical property has not changed the condition of the cultivators of the soil : they are tenants to lay-owners, under the same terms that they were originally to the elergy. But the State is now compelled to take on itself the charge of the poor, and its administration is perhaps subject to equal abuses. The Congregazione di Carita'at Milan has under its superintendance a variety of charitable establishments, and the disposal of large revenues. The Government of Florence, about 1817, commenced a systematic manufacturing establishment for the employment of the poor, which, in a country where it has not to compete with capital and machinery, may not perhaps entirely fail, although this is doubted by intelligent persons residing on the spot. Add to this, voluntary collections in the churches and
of this system,
* Sismondi de l'Agriculture Toscane, p. 112.
from house to house, applied to domiciliary 'relief, which are customary in every city and large town in Italy
From Dr. Bright's Travels in Lower Hungary*, we learn that Maria Theresa, wishing to ameliorate the condition of the peasants, by rendering their services definite instead of indefinite, promulgated a law, called the “Urbarium.”, The leading principle of this arrangement is, that for a certain quantity of land, supposed to be equal to the maintenance of the peasant and his family, the average of which is about thirty-eight English acres, sixteen to twenty of which must be arable, the peasant is compelled to perform a hundred and four days labour ; but owing to the remnant of feudal manners, the controul the lords still retain, and the necessity of performing some other indefinite services still unabolished, the real number of days labour which they obtain from their tenants is not less than two hundred. Under this arrangement the peasants possess, in some estates, half the cultivated land. They are ignorant and barbarous to an extreme, and in times of famine are reduced to the most urgent distress.
The only amelioration really effected has been in some particular districts, particularly in one called the Muriäkos, where the feudal services,
* Pages 113, 114,434, 474.
owing to particular circumstances, have been changed into free rents, not much unlike what are called rent-charges in the English law.
In Russia *, the Empress Catherine displayed unwearied attention in ameliorating the condition of the boors, or lowest order : of those belonging to the Crown, the abrock or rent is fixed; and as they are sure it will not be raised, they are more industrious. The peasants belonging to the nobles have their rent regulated by their means of getting money : thus it becomes not á rent for land, but' downright tax on industry. Each male peasant is obliged to labour three days in each week for his proprietor. If a slave exercise any trade which brings in more money than agricultural labour, he pays a higher abrock. The aged and infirm are provided with food, and raiment, and lodging, at their owners' expense : such as prefer casual charity to the miserable pittance they receive from their master, are frequently furnished with passports, and allowed to seek their fortune.
"he state of the peasantry in Polandt is in a great degree similar to that of the peasants in Russia. They are all serfs or slaves, and the value of an estate is not estimated so much from its extent, as from the number of its peasants,
* Extracts from Heber's Notes in Clarke's Travels. + Coxe's Travels, vol. i. p. 131, 132, 133.
who are transferred from one master to another, like so many head of cattle.
But as aristocratical has always shown itself less favourable to individual liberty than monarchical government, there have been fewer laws made for their emancipation than under the Russian and Austrian monarchies. Those nobles who adopted this liberal policy seem to have found their account in it, politically as well as humanely speaking.
“In Ireland,” says a correspondent of Mr. Gisborne (Duties of Men, vol. ii. p. 98), “ we have no Poor Laws. Every Sunday a collection is made from the whole congregation, as with you from communicants ; and the money is given to a list of poor, agreed on by the Minister and Churchwardens : these poor are parishioners of the establishment. The number of our rich absentées must greatly lessen public and private contributions for the poor. In particular cases our Clergy recommend, and the rich give in proportion to the distress, without regard to religious denominations."
Mr. Duncan thus sums up the result of his inquiries into the subject of the Poor in Ireland : « The Wealth of Ireland is less diffused than that of England ; the great opulent proprietors are rarely resident on their estates. The middle class is proportionably small, and ill educated. The