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population stationary, the national loss from open-field farming was comparatively unimportant. When improved methods and increased resources were commanded by farmers, and when scarcity trode more and more closely on the heels of harvest, the need for change became imperative. A quantity of the arable land was wasted in innumerable footpaths and in balks which perennially harboured twitch. All the occupiers were bound by rigid customary rules, compelled to treat all kinds of soil alike, constrained to cultivate the same crops, obliged to keep time with one another in all the operations of husbandry. Without the agreement of a large body of ignorant and suspicious occupiers, no change could be introduced. It spelt financial ruin if any member of the community grew turnips on arable land which was pastured in common from August to February; he grew them at his own cost for the benefit of his neighbours. The strips of land were too narrow to admit of crossploughing or cross-harrowing. Drainage was practically impossible, for, if one man drained or water-furrowed his land or scoured his courses, his neighbour's negligence stopped his outfalls. It was to carry off the water by the only means available in open-fields that the land was heaped into high ridges, from the top of which the rain washed the richness into the water-logged furrows. The land was, to the eye of the modern farmer, generally foul; if one occupier tilled his strip cleanly, he was at the mercy of a slovenly neighbour; the fallow left its triennial heritage of nettles, docks, and thistles. The farmbuildings were gathered together in the village, often at
distance of two miles from the land. As each man's strips lay scattered over each of the open-fields, he wasted his day in visiting the different parts of his holding, and his expenses of manuring, reaping, carting, and horse-keeping were swollen by the remoteness of the different parts of his occupation. Vexatious rights hindered proper cultivation. One man might have the right to turn his plough on his neighbour's land, and the victim must wait his neighbour's pleasure, or risk the damage to his crops. There was no room for enterprise or initiative; the pace was set by the laggards.
On the meadows attention was rarely paid to the quality of the grass or to the drainage of the land, because the man who benefited for four months grudged the cost of improving the land for his neighbours during the rest of the year. The same obstacle hindered any attempt to improve the commons, which were pimpled with moleheaps and ant-hills, or pitted with wet patches where nothing grew but rushes. Fettered by the common rights of pasture which the partners enjoyed over the whole of the arable land, and therefore unable to provide winterkeep, farmers were forced to stock the commons too soon, too late, and too hard. Ill-fed all the year round, halfstarved during the winter, compelled to travel long distances for food, the live stock deteriorated in quality and dwindled in size. The scab was rarely absent from the crowded common fold, or the rot from the ill-drained ploughland or pasture. No individual could attempt to improve his flock or his herd, when all the sheep and cattle of the village grazed together on the same commons. Breeding degenerated into the promiscuous intercourse of nobody's son with everybody's daughter.
This is no imaginary picture of the general features of open-field farming. It defies contradiction. In face of these and other practical objections to the ancient system, it could not be maintained when once the nation became hard pressed for food. It was driven out of use by a superior implement for the production of bread and meat. Every advance in agricultural science and every addition
Ꮎ to agricultural resources only accentuated its inferiority. Its disappearance was due to causes similar to those which substituted spinning and weaving factories for the domestic industries of isolated cottages. The two movements were simultaneous and interdependent. So long as Northern Europe was the only granary from which a supplementary supply of grain could be drawn, the corn area was simultaneously affected by similar climatic conditions. A deficient harvest in England generally meant a shortage also in France and Germany. This country was, in the main, dependent on home produce, and must have been so whatever fiscal policy it pursued. In time of war these ordinary conditions were accentuated. During the later years of the Napoleonic struggle, when the population had doubled, England was practically cut off from foreign supplies by the cost of transport, which at war risks sometimes amounted to 50s. a quarter. If the open-field system had been maintained, or if the country had waited for the partners in village farms to adopt improved practices, the nation must have been of necessity starved into surrender.
This side of the question is practically omitted by Mr Hammond. Having magnified the prevalence of the old system, ignored its defects, and established to his own satisfaction that the majority of the occupiers of openfield farms were owners, his task is comparatively easy. Enclosures are selfish tyranny; their results are the wholesale reduction of peasant proprietors to the position of landless labourers, whose degradation is completed by the infamous administration of a barbarous Poor Law. With much that Mr Hammond has to say on these points no one who is conversant with rural history can fail to sympathise. But here again there are so many exaggera
. tions, prejudices and omissions that the book defeats its own object. In a very limited space, it is only possible to make the briefest reference to a few salient features.
The ordinary procedure, by which open-fields and commons were enclosed, opened with a petition presented to Parliament by persons locally interested. The petition was signed by the lord of the manor or principalland-owner, the tithe-owner, and other claimants. On this petition, by leave of the House of Commons, a Bill was introduced, read twice, and referred to a Committee which might consist of the whole House or of selected members. The Committee, after hearing evidence, reported that the standing orders had or had not been complied with ; that the allegations were or were not true; that the parties had or had not consented. On their report the Bill was either rejected, or read a third time and sent to the Lords. There the process was repeated; if the Bill passed, it received the Royal assent. When the Bill became an Act, the Commissioners named in it arrived at the village, heard and decided the claims of the persons interested, and made their award, distributing the property in separate ownership among those who had established their titles, with due regard to the quality, quantity, and contiguity' of the land. Even if it is assumed that Parliamentary Committees, largely composed of landed proprietors, were always disinterested on questions affecting land, the procedure was open to grave abuses. Vol. 216.-No. 431,
That those abuses were most felt by small claimants may also be admitted. Mr Hammond naturally makes the most of them. He deals at length with the case of King's Sedgmoor, and it may be worth while to examine the selected instance.
It can hardly be denied that the condition of Bridgewater Marsh, of which King's Sedgmoor formed a part, justified some attempt at improvement. Billingsley describes its state in his · Agricultural Survey of Somersetshire' (1797). He says that the tide flows up the River Parret, 'frequently penning the land-floods over the moor and meadows adjoining; so that near 30,000 acres of fine land are frequently overflown for a considerable time together, rendering the herbage unwholesome for the cattle, and the air unhealthy to the inhabitants.' Mr Hammond, though he quotes from Billingsley, omits this passage. He treats the project of drainage and enclosure merely as a device to satisfy Lord Bolingbroke's creditors out of the profits of the improvement. In his view, the Bill of 1775 was promoted by Henry St John, Bolingbroke's brother. He may be right. But Billingsley explicitly states that the introduction of the measure in 1775 was due to Mr Allen, then Member of Parliament for Bridgewater.' Be this as it may, George Selwyn, as Chairman of the Committee, and as a friend of Bully' Bolingbroke, reported in favour of the Bill. The most
• conscientious man in the House in questions of this kind' (writes Selwyn), “Sir F. Drake, ... told me that nothing could be so right as the enclosure.' Mr Hammond's case would have been more complete if the intrigue on behalf of Bully' had succeeded. But it failed, for the House
' rejected the Bill.
The project was revived with better success in 1790. The following year the Bill passed, and the land was drained and allotted in separate ownership to those claimants who established their titles. Mr Hammond ridicules Billingsley's suggestion that the cause of truth is better served by private conversations than by publick meetings.' His comments suggest that the consents of the commoners were unfairly obtained. Another possible explanation is that, in the interval from 1775 to 1791, the commoners profited by the recent example of the successful drainage and enclosure of the adjacent Brent
Marsh. To this improvement Mr Hammond does not allude. Yet Billingsley, earlier in the same chapter from which he quotes, says of it: Scarcely a farmer can now be found who does not possess a considerable landed property; and many whose fathers lived in idleness and sloth on the precarious support of a few halfstarved cows, or a few limping geese, are now in affluence. ... Disorders of the body, to which the stagnant waters heretofore subjected them, are now scarcely known; and the inhabitants for the most part arrive at a good old age.' Billingsley speaks in the passage quoted above of farmers becoming possessed of landed property. The fact is confirmed by evidence all over the country, though it is not referred to by Mr Hammond. The number of small owners of land was rather increased than decreased by enclosures. From 1760 to 1810 they were a growing, not a dwindling class. During the Napoleonic war, many owners were tempted by the price of land to sell their estates, and either carry the capital into trade or employ it in hiring larger areas as tenant farmers. Of those who remained, the majority were ruined by the disastrous collapse of farming from 1812 to 1836. Men who had charged their estates with any incumbrances were speedily ruined; those whose land remained free from mortgages, jointures, or charges, struggled longer. But, in many instances, they were, after 1813, crushed out of existence by the Poor Rates, which, as they employed no labour but their own, brought them no compensation by lowering wages.
The classes who suffered most from enclosures were open-field farmers who had no permanent independent interest in the land they cultivated, and tenants of cottages to which land or common rights were attached. In these cases no claim was allowed, because their title was directly derived from the land-owner whose tenants they were. Both classes were thus reduced to the position of hired labourers. Great suffering was the result. Here again no one familiar with rural life in the period 1760 to 1832 can withhold his sympathy from much that Mr Hammond writes. But the question which our forefathers had to decide was whether the few should suffer or the many starve. Social historians may