were 'of use neither to him who made them nor to him who sold them, nor even to him who bought them.' To simplify life by abolishing irrational and unnecessary expenditure would increase our health and happiness, and would perhaps enable us to hold our own against the races of the East, who in truth have as much to teach us as they have learnt from us. A gradual assimilation in the modes of life of all civilised countries is to be expected. There will be no more hermit kingdoms. The Asiatic will have more wants; the European and American must be content with fewer. The chief danger to the white man arises from his arrogant contempt for other races, a contempt which in America is mixed with fear and hatred, and which has provoked fear and hatred in return. Europeans have recently enjoyed an unfair advantage over their rivals, which they have abused without the slightest regard for justice and fair play. This advantage will not be theirs in the future: they will have to compete on equal terms with nations schooled by adversity and winnowed by the hard struggle for existence. Victory will go to the races which are best equipped for that kind of competition; and it may well be that a modified caste system, such as prevails in India and prevailed till lately in Europe, may prove to have a greater survival value than either democracy, which pulverises society into individuals and collects them again into mobs, or socialism, which in its present form desires to keep the whole population as nearly as possible on the same level. An English poet has given his opinion that fifty years of Europe · are better than a cycle of Cathay. But the future may show that the European is a good sprinter and a bad stayer. It is better to be a hare than a tortoise; but it is better to be a live tortoise than a dead hare.




1. A History of the English Agricultural Labourer. By

Dr W. Hasbach. Translated by Ruth Kenyon. Second

impression. P. S. King, 1920. 2. The Village Labourer, 1760-1832. By J. L. and

Barbara Hammond. New edition. Longmans, 1920. 3. A History of the English Agricultural Labourer, 1870

1920. By F. E. Green. P. S. King, 1920.

AGRICULTURE has troubles peculiar to itself. But its greatest difficulty is one that it shares with other industries. It is labour. Yet it would be fatal to think that the agricultural problem is, in this respect, identical with the industrial problem, or to attempt to apply to both exactly the same solutions. The cultivation of the soil is the oldest of our industries, and those who pursue it as their ancestral calling have, in the course of centuries, developed habits of mind that survive from generation to generation. No such complications affect our factories. They are comparatively recent growths. Of the methods of production that they have supplanted little, if anything, survives. With the extinction of the domestic handicraftsmen disappeared the ideals, customs, and traditions of their trades. In the case of cultivators of the soil it is different. The agricultural worker of to-day is a wage-earner, a hired labourer. The system under which he toils is altered. But he tills the same soil by the same processes under the same seasons. At heart he retains the native instincts, ideals, and traditions of the peasant of the 18th century, who was either a small farmer, or not exclusively dependent for his home and his livelihood on the sale of his labour on the land at competitive wages.

In that direction may perhaps lie the path to contentment and stability. An interest in the land that he cultivates or in the produce that he raises, rather than successive increases in weekly wages, may prove the truer remedy for his unrest.

From the three books, whose titles head these pages, may be gathered a continuous history of the agricultural worker from the earliest times to the present day. The sympathies of the three writers are strongly, sometimes passionately, enlisted on the side of the cultivator of the soil. It is not surprising that this should be so. From the standpoint of the 20th century there are chapters in the story which can scarcely be read without indignation. The rack and the dungeon of the Tudors are to us not more inconceivable than the callous inhumanity of the criminal law in the days of the Regent. The best, and the worst, that can be said for these instruments of brutality is that they did not outrage the public opinion of the time. Agricultural workers were not singled out for special treatment. It is the general atmosphere and contemporary standards of a period that monographs on particular branches of historical inquiry are apt to ignore. In consequence they often tend to lose perspective and to become political pamphlets. None of the three books altogether escapes this danger. The picture that they paint is too uniformly gloomy to be an entirely faithful representation of the facts. Cases of harshness and oppression do not tell the whole story. Myriads of acts of fair-play and justice, of human sympathy and neighbourly friendliness, which are not recorded in history, and do not appear on the face of legal documents, must be taken into account before we can form any accurate estimate of rural conditions.

From the 15th century onwards an agricultural and economic change had been in slow but continuous progress. It was the passage from the occupation of the land by groups of occupiers in common to its occupation by individuals. Operating by the enclosure of commonfields and the commons which were their adjuncts, it gradually transformed the mediæval peasant into the tenant farmer and agricultural labourer of to-day. By 1815 the process was practically completed under the pressure of industrial expansion, the growth of new urban centres, and, during the French wars, the menace of famine. Inelastic, adapted only to a stationary population, village farms offered little employment to surplus numbers. Close, self-supporting communities, they produced scanty food beyond the immediate needs of the occupiers themselves. Large tracts of land were withdrawn from their most productive use. Meanwhile, the cry for food rose more and more loudly from new industrial centres, and, at a later stage, was swollen by the panic-stricken clamour of a nation at war.

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free play could be given to modern methods of production, new resources and improvements had been tested by farmers which promised to supply, and did in fact supply, the national demand for bread and meat. In these considerations lies the economic justification for enclosures.

It would be beside the present purpose to weigh the national advantages against the national losses consequent on the change, or to consider whether action, taken with Parliamentary sanction and under the existing law, was in each individual case morally justified. But it must be remembered that enclosure did not necessarily mean any transfer of ownership. The immediate effect was often to increase rather than to diminish the number of owners. What it did was to change the subject-matter of the property, and to make the change compulsory. There is no novelty in the blessed word'-compulsion. The general principle of enclosure was to recognise the claims of all occupiers of land and commoners who could establish a permanent independent right. Thus a freeholder, or an owner of a cottage to which common rights were attached, received a compact block of land estimated to be of the same value as his bundle of scattered strips in the common fields or his common rights of user. On the other hand, the claims of those occupiers whose title was only temporary and 'derivative were not admitted. Thus tenants of land or of privileged cottages received no allotment.

The importance of the point justifies one illustration. In 1767, 988 acres of common fields and commons were enclosed at Steeple Aston in Oxfordshire.* The award sets out, not only the area allotted to each owner, but the area which each had previously owned in the common fields. Land was allotted to the 23 persons who established their legal claims. The following are instances. The Rector, who owned 12} yardlands of glebe in the common fields, received, in lieu, 188} acres. Sir C. Cottrell-Dormer owned .33 yardlands and 4 “oddlands" and commons thereto belonging. He

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* Quoted by W. H. R. Curtler, "The Enclosure and Redistribution of our Land' (1920), pp. 318–19,

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was allotted 63 acres, 1 rood, 29 perches. Lucy Buswell, ' in lieu of 4 yardlands and commons thereto belonging,' received 84 acres, 1 rood, 6 perches. Robert George, 'in lieu of 1 yardland and commons belonging,' received 21 acres, 3 roods, 21 poles. John Clary, in lieu of 1/8 yardland and commons belonging,' was allotted 3 acres, 1 rood, 4 poles. Eliza Davis, 'in lieu of 24 yardlands with commons belonging,' received 53 acres, 2 roods, 7 poles. Other illustrations from similar awards might be added. Perhaps the Return of the Enclosure Commissioners given in their annual Report for 1876, may be also quoted.* Between the years 1845–75, 590,000 acres

enclosed. They were divided among *25,930 persons . . . 620 lords of manors received, on an average, 44]

, acres each; 21,810 common-right owners received, on an average, 24 acres each ; 3500 purchasers (of land sold to pay the expenses of enclosure) received, on an average, 10 acres each.' Abundant evidence exists to prove that, under the Enclosure Acts, a very large area of land was distributed among a great number of small owners in compact blocks. If the owners could have been protected against themselves in the enjoyment of their properties, and if larger provision had been made for cases in which the exercise of common rights rested on no legal basis, the social and moral injury done by enclosures might have been removed or very greatly mitigated.

The concluding stages of the agricultural change were reached at a most difficult crisis. In many parts of the country, even without enclosures, the old rural organisation must probably have broken down under the declining fertility of the land, and the disappearance of the domestic handicrafts and local industries which were migrating to the new industrial centres of the North. In the South and West of England, the heritage of this transfer of industry was the creation of an unemployed population which forced down the wages of agricultural labour. Everywhere, manufacture and agriculture were simultaneously reorganised on those commercial lines which facilitated increased production at reduced cost. Farming ceased to be a subsistence and became a trade. The united effect of the two reorganisations was to

* Ibid. p. 261.

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