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the peasantry or the small farmers obtaining land. He said. that he had not concealed from his relations the impression which this strange and sad contrast had made on his mind, upon his return to England after a long absence of many years. But the moment we began to discuss the remedy, then his mind seemed to be filled with a dread of the French system, and he began to inveigh against the impossibility of such a system working well, or producing anything but ruin. Now, I have never been an advocate for the French system, which divides nearly all the land which a man possesses at his death among his children, and of this I shall have more to say hereafter.

But what I want to impress strongly on my readers is that it is simply ridiculous to declaim in this ignorant way against the French system. I will prove by abundance of evidence that even this extreme system is producing an ever-increasing prosperity even in France, where as yet the peasants and small farmers are almost wholly uneducated. But independently of all this, and putting this evidence aside, these cavillers are ignorant of the fact that some of the most richly cultivated countries in Europe, such as the prosperous agricultural cantons of Switzerland, the splendidly cultivated Rhine provinces of Prussia, other provinces of Germany, and the rich provinces of Holland and Belgium, have the same Land Laws as France, are subject to the same system of subdivision on an owner's death, are cultivated by small yeomen farmers and peasant proprietors; but that the vast difference, the great fact which makes their landowning classes so much more prosperous even than those of France, is that their farmers and peasants are welleducated, intelligent men, while the French small farmers and peasant proprietors are, owing to the selfishness and fear of former arbitrary rulers, sunk in a condition of ignorance which must be seen and studied to be believed.

As I have over and over again said, I am thoroughly opposed to the French system of Land Laws. It has always seemed to me that it errs as much in one direction as our

laws do in the other. Our laws seek to prevent subdivision, whether it is expedient or not; the French system seeks to force subdivision, whether it is expedient or not.

But I believe that our system is infinitely more prejudicial to the yeomen and peasant classes than the French system, and that I will presently show.

My belief is that the principle of the "Edict for the Better Cultivation of the Land," which was promulgated in Prussia in 1811, and mainly brought about the free trade in land now existing in that country, is the right principle. The Edict allows the owner to give, sell, or devise his land, or any part of it, to any one he pleases, but it does not allow him to tie it up by any instrument, so as to prevent its being sold after his death. The land is always saleable; it is always changing hands. Some estates subdivide, some increase in size; and the consequence is that, while there are a considerable number of large estates, there are vast numbers of yeomen farmers, peasants, and market gardeners who own and cultivate their own land. If an owner cannot make his farming pay, or finds a more prosperous career open to him, or becomes bankrupt, or for any other reason wishes to enter into some other business, he sells to some one who has capital and enterprise and knowledge enough to make the land a profitable investment. never tied up in the hands of men who have neither the The land is capital nor the industry to cultivate it properly.1

It is a system of this kind, and not the French or the English system, that I am in favour of. But, inasmuch as I am convinced that the French system of excessive subdivision is better for the yeomen farmers and the peasants than ours, and inasmuch as this system is constantly put forward as the bugbear and stumbling-block of those who would reform our Land Laws, I propose, first of all, and before describing what has been accomplished in Germany by real free trade in land, to explain-first, what the French system actually is; and, secondly, what this system has accomplished for the French 1 See note at the end of this letter.

yeomen farmers and peasants, even in spite of their extraordinary ignorance and want of education. First, then, what is this French system of Land Laws which is now in force in France, in the Rhine provinces, in the largest and richest of the Swiss cantons, in Holland, in Belgium, and in a great part of Italy?

The French law is this: the Article 745 of the Code Napoleon provides for the equal division of property among all the children, without distinction of sex. In default of children, the succession reverts to brothers, sisters, and their children; and, in default of these, to other relations in the order pointed out by the code.

Provisions are made by Article 756 for natural children. and by Article 767 for the wife.

A landowner is not obliged to leave the whole of his estate to be thus divided equally, if he desires otherwise. The French law permits him, if he so wishes, to bequeath by his will, to whomsoever he may nominate, one-fourth of his land if he has three children, one-third if he has two children, and one-half if he has only one child. Or, in other words, to quote Mr. Cliffe Leslie's article in "Systems of Land Tenure in various Countries:" "The French law of succession limits the parental powers of testamentary disposition over property to a part equal to one child's share, and divides the remainder among the children equally.”

Land cannot, under the French law, be tied up and made unsaleable after the owner's death. The next successors to it may sell it to whomsoever they please.

No marriage settlements like those which our law allows, and which often keep an estate out of the market, and make it impossible to sell any portion of it, however expedient it may be to do so, are permitted by the French law ; but the law protects the wife's marriage portion, whether such portion consists of land or money, as long as her husband lives, by stringent provisions, and after his death it becomes her own absolutely.

Secondly, let us shortly consider what effect this law has


had upon the division of the land in France, and upon the size of the estates. In considering this question, it must be remembered that, before the great French Revolution of 1789, there were a great number of small yeomen and peasant proprietors in France over the whole face of the country.

Owing to the exactions of the nobles, and to the right which the nobles had to force the peasants to do various kinds of work upon the great estates, without any reward, and at times when their labour and carts and horses were wanted on their own land, and to the right which the law gave the nobles in many cases to force the peasants to contribute to their wealth and extravagance, the yeomen and peasant proprietors of those days were in a condition, as Arthur Young has shown us, which was sufficient to make any one despair of any real amelioration of their state without some great change of the whole structure of society.

The great Revolution came. The feudal system was destroyed. The oppressive rights of the nobles were swept away for ever, and the present system of Land Laws was established. What has been the effect?

The land in France is now chiefly occupied by small proprietors. According to the best and most recent calculations that have been made by M. de Lavergne in his "Economie Rurale de la France" (last edition), there are now 50,000 proprietors, each possessing an average of 300 hectares, 500,000 with an average of 30, and 5,000,000 with an average of 3. A hectare of land is nearly equal to two acres and a half. Putting, therefore, the French measurements into nearly equivalent English values, it appears, according to M. de Lavergne, that 50,000 proprietors possess each an average of 750 acres ; 500,000, an average of 75 acres; 5.000,000, of 71⁄2 acres.

Turning to the reports of Her Majesty's Representatives respecting the tenure of land in the several countries of Europe, published as lately as 1869, we find that Mr. West, reporting upon the tenure of land in France, says that landed property is thus divided, properties averaging 600

acres, 50,000; properties averaging 60 acres, 2,500,000; properties averaging 6 acres, 5,000,000. M. de Lavergne is, however, the best and safest authority upon this subject. He is a Membre de l'Institut, and has devoted many years to the most careful examination of all questions connected with the rural economy of France; and the fourth edition of his celebrated work on this subject has only recently appeared.

But even his estimate is only an approximation to the truth. It seems very probable that among the number of the smaller proprietors many have been reckoned several times, owing to their having plots in different communes. And besides this, another fact must be borne in mind—viz., that a great portion of the land of France is devoted to the culture of the vine, for which very small properties and manual labour are peculiarly appropriate. In these districts the average size of the small properties is much less than in the agricultural districts.

But still another and much more important fact to be considered is, that according to the testimony of all the best-informed writers upon this subject, and especially of Mr. Thornton in his "Plea for Peasant Proprietors "—an admirable essay on this subject, which received the special praise and approval of our great political economist, Mr. Mill, and which has now reached a second edition—that a considerable number of the small properties which are grouped under the grand total of 5,000,000 are small plots, many of them only small kitchen or market gardens, and many others only a field for a cow or a beast of burden. The owners of all these latter small portions of course do not earn their livelihood by the cultivation of these small plots only. They labour, as our peasants do, on the properties of the larger landowners for weekly wages, and Mr. Inglis, in his "Switzerland and the South of France," vol. ii. page 269, says, "I am inclined to assert that, upon the whole, the French peasantry are the happiest of any country in Europe." And Mr. Thornton in his "Plea," &c., quot

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