HERSCHEL on the Study of Natural Philosophy. Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia, No. 14, p. 67.We have thus pointed out to us, as the great, and indeed only ultimate source of our knowledge of nature and its laws, EXPERIENCE; by which we mean, not the experience of one man only, or of one generation, but the accumulated experience of all mankind in all ages, registered in books or recorded by tradition. But experience may be acquired in two ways: either, first, by noticing facts as they occur, without any attempt to influence the frequency of their occurrence, or to vary the circumstances under which they occur; this is OBSERVATION: or, secondly, by putting in action causes and agents over which we have control, and purposely varying their combinations, and noticing what effects take place; this is EXPERIMENT. To these two sources we must look as the fountains of all natural science. It is not intended, however, by thus distinguishing observation from experiment, to place them in any kind of contrast. Essentially they are much alike, and differ rather in degree than in kind; so that, perhaps, the terms passive and active observation might better express their distinction; but it is, nevertheless, highly important to mark the different states of mind in inquiries carried on by their respective aids, as well as their different effects in promoting the progress of science. In the former, we sit still and listen to a tale, told us, perhaps obscurely, piecemeal, and at long intervals of time, with our attention more or less awake. It is only by after-rumination that we gather its full import; and often, when the opportunity is gone by, we have to regret that our attention was not more particularly directed to some point which, at the time, appeared of little moment, but of which we at length appreciate the importance. In the litter, on the other hand, we cross-examine our witness, and by comparing one part of his evidence with the other, while he is yet before us, and reasoning upon it in his presence, are enabled to put pointed and searching questions, the answer to which may at once enable us to make up our minds. Accordingly it has been found invariably, that in those departments of physics where the phenomena are beyond our control, or into which experimental enquiry, from other causes, has not been carried, the progress of knowledge has been slow, uncertain, and irregular; while in such as admit of experiment, and in which mankind have agreed to its adoption, it has been rapid, sure, and steady.
Narrative of a visit to Brazil, Chili, Peru and the Sandwich Island, during the Years 1821 and 1822, by Charles Farquhar Mathison, Esq. p. 449. The King then is a complete autocratall power, all property, all persons are at his disposal: the chiefs receive grants of land from him, which they divide and let out again in lots to their dependants, who cultivate it for the use of the chief, reserving a portion for their own subsistence. The cultivators are not paid for their labour, nor, on the other hand, do they pay a regular rent for the land. They are expected to send presents of pigs, poultry, tarrow, and other provisions, to the chief, from time to time, together with any little sums of money which they may have acquired in trade, or any other property which it may suit the fancy or the convenience of the great man to take. This arbitrary system is a sad hindrance to the prosperity of the tenant; for if he is disposed to be industrious, and bring his land into good cultivation, or raise a good breed of live stock, and becomes rich in possessions, the chief is soon informed of it, and the property is seized for his use, whilst the farmer loses the fruit of all his labours. This state of things, as between the King and his chiefs, is little more than theoretical; but as between the chiefs and their dependants, it exists mischievously in practice: hence the great stimulus to industry being removed, the people live and vegetate, without making any exertions beyond what the command of the chief and the care of their own subsistence force upon them. One day in a week, or a fortnight, as occasion may require, the tenants are required to work upon the private estate of the chief. I have seen hundreds--men, women, and children, at once employed in this way on the tarrow plantations: all hands turn out, for they assist each other in a body, and thus get through the work with greater expedition and ease. When a kanaka, or tenant, refuses to obey the order of his chief, the most severe and summary punishment is inflicted on him, namely, confiscation of his property. An instance in point happened to occur while I was staying at Why-aronah. Coxe had given orders to some hundreds of his people to repair to the woods by an appointed day to cut sandal-wood. The whole obeyed except one man who had the folly and hardihood to refuse. Upon this, his house was set fire to, and burnt to the ground on the very day: still he refused to go. The next process was to seize his possessions, and turn his wife and family off the estate; which would inevitably have been done, if he had not allowed discretion to take the place of valour, and made a timely submission, to prevent this extremity. It has been before said, that no compensation is made to the labourers for their work, except a small grant of land. This, however, does not prevent the chief, if kindly disposed, from distributing supplies of maros, tappers, cloth, &c. gratuitously among them. I have heard that Krimakoo once distributed no less than three thousand blankets among his people. The King exercises absolute dominion over the sea as well as over the land; and in the same way lets out the right of fishery along the coast to his chiefs.
Ibid. p. 382.At six o'clock we reached a small village about a mile from the sea-shore, and easily obtained a tolerable hut to pass the night in: it belonged to an English sailor, who had established himself here. He received us with great civility, and killed a pig for our supper, which, when baked, together with tarrow-root, furnished a very excellent repast.
Ibid. p. 383.The English sailor informed me that all the land in his neighbourhood belonged to Krimakoo, the King's Minister, familiarly called Billy Pitt, who had given him sixty acres. On part of .this he made a tarrow-plantation, which afforded the means of living; but the rest, he said, was useless. He seemed wretchedly poor; wore an old shirt and trowsers, more ragged and dirty than can be well conceived, and was so disfigured by a thick black beard of several weeks growth, that he was really far more savage looking than any of the islanders.
Without placing much dependence upon the statement of this poor fellow, I was still interested by what he told me, and pitied the abject condition of dependence upon savages, to which he was now reduced. Among other causes of. complaint, he inveighed bitterly and with truth against the tyranny of the chiefs, who claim a right to possess all private property which is acquired upon their estates, and seize every thing belonging to the poorer classes for which they feel an inclination. He said that whenever an industrious person brought more land into cultivation than was necessary for his subsistence, or reared a good breed of pigs and poultry, the chief, on hearing of it, had no hesitation in making the property his own. This takes place, independent of the customary presents and tribute; even every dollar obtained by traffic with strangers must be given up, on pain of the chief's displeasure. Europeans are subject to the same oppression. and from this general insecurity of private property, arises in a great degree the absence of much industry or improvement, both among them and the native peasantry.
Ibid. p. 412.On the evening of the same day, I bade adieu to Governor Coxe, as he was styled, and went to visit an American sailor, who had been established upwards of five years in this island, and cultivated a small farm belonging to that chief. His property consisted of a few acres of tarrow-plantations, in the midst of a fine orchard of bread-fruit and other trees, with pasturage for a large herd of goats; and these, in addition to some pigs and poultry, rendered him rich in the eyes of all his neighbours. His cottage was well built, and being furnished with matting, we passed the night very comfortably in it. He liked his situation altogether, and thought it very preferable to a seaman's life; but complained, nevertheless, of the insecure tenure by which property is held in this country. He told me, as others had done, that he was afraid of making any improvements, and putting more land into cultivation, lest his prosperity should excite the cupidity of the chief, who would not hesitate, if he chose it, to appropriate the whole to himself. As it was, he had to bear every sort of petty exaction, according to the caprices of the chief, on the instigations of his advisers, and only retained possession of his property by acceding to every demand, and propitiating with continual presents, the favour of the great man.
Ibid. p. 427.Menini was supposed to be worth thirty or forty thousand dollars, amassed during a residence of thirty years in the country: but he held his property by rather a feeble tenure, namely, the King's good will and pleasure; and might at any moment be deprived of it, without the possibility of obtaining redress.
Emigration Report of June 1827, p. 397.Are you aware of the terms upon which land is now granted to settlers in the colony of New South Wales?I understand there has been an alteration lately; that alteration I am not aware of.
The present system is, that a price is placed upon the land as wild land; for example, 200,000 acres would be valued at 18d. an acre, that would make the total grant of the value of £15,000.; then, upon that £15,000., five per cent. would be charged at the end of seven years, redeem able at any time at. a certain number of years' purchase; consequently, for such a grant as you contemplate, a rent of £750. a year would be demanded, which rent would be redeemable at any time by payment of the capital of £1 5,000.; at the same time, it is not the custom to make grants larger than 10,000 acres.
Travels from Vienna through Lower Hungary, by Richard Bright, M.D. p. 114.But, if the landlord have reason to be little satisfied, still less can the peasant be supposed to rejoice in his situation. It can never be well, to make the great and actually necessary part of society,the labouring class,dependant on the chances of a good or bad harvest for its existence. A man of capital can bear, for a year or two years, the failure of his crops; but, let a cold east wind blow for one night,--let a hail storm descend, or let a river overflow its banks,and the peasant, who has nothing but his field, starves or becomes a burthen to his Lord. Of this I have seen actual proof, not only in the wine districts of Hungary, in which the uncertainty of the crop is extreme, but in some of its richest plains, where I have known the peasantry, full three months before gathering in, humbly supplicating the landlords to advance them corn on the faith of the coming harvest. These are evils always liable to occur, supposing the peasant were allowed to cultivate his lands without interruption. But is this the case? The Lord can legally claim only one hundred and four days' labour from each in the year; yet who can restrain him if he demand more? There are a multiplicity of pretexts under which he can make such demands, and be supported in them. The administration of justice is, in a great degree, vested in his own hands. There are many little faults for which a peasant becomes liable to be punished with blows and fines, but which he is often permitted to commute for labour. In fact, these things happen so frequently, and other extorted days of labour which the peasant fears to refuse, occur so often, that I remember, when in conversation with a very intelligent Director, I was estimating the labour of each peasant at 104 days,he immediately corrected me, and said I might double it. If, however, the Lord, or his head servants, have too much feeling of propriety to transgress against the strictness of the law, they can at any time call upon the peasants to serve them for pay; and that, not at the usual wages of a servant, but about one-third as much, according to an assessed rate of labour. Add to all this, the services due to the government, remember, too, that cases occur in which a peasant is obliged to be six weeks from his home, with his horses and cart, carrying imperial stores to the frontier,and then judge whether he is permitted to cultivate, without interruption, the land which he receives, as the only return for his labour.
Burnet's View of the Present State of Poland, p. 85. When a young peasant marries, his lord assigns him a certain quantity of land, sufficient for the maintenance of himself and family in the poor manner in which they are accustomed to live. Should the family be numerous, some little addition is made to the grant. At the same time, the young couple obtain also a few cattle, as a cow or two, with steers to plow their land. These are fed in the stubble, or in the open places of the woods, as the season admits. The master also provides them with a cottage, with implements of husbandry, in short, with all their little moveable property. In consideration of these grants, the peasant is obliged to make a return to the landholder of one half of his labour; that is, he works three days in the week for his lord, and three for himself. If any of his cattle die, they are replaced by the master; a circumstance which renders him negligent of his little herd, as the death or loss of some of them is a frequent occurrence. When a farmer rents a farm, the villages situated on it, with their inhabitants, are considered as included in the contract; and the farmer derives a right to the same proportion of the labour of the peasants for the cultivation of that farm, as by the condition of their tenure they are bound to yield the lord. If an estate be sold, the peasants are likewise transferred, of course, with the soil, to a new master, subject to the same conditions as before. The Polish boors, therefore, are still slaves; and relatively to their political existence, absolutely subject to the will of their lords, as in all the barbarism of the feudal times. They are not privileged to quit the soil, except in a few instances of complete enfranchisement; and if they were, the privilege, for the most part, would be merely nominal: for whither should they go? They may retire, indeed, into the recesses of the forest, where it is possible they may not be traced; and it is probable, that in times past many resorted to this expedient to escape from the cruelties of a tyrannical master. To fly from a mild master would be obviously against their interest. To quit the territory of one grandee for that of another, must commonly, if not always, have been impracticable: for what landholder would choose to admit a fugitive peasant, and thus encourage a spirit of revolt? Again, it is not in their power, from the circumstances of their condition, to sell their labour indifferently to this or that master; and if such obstacles did not oppose, the very extent of the Polish farms, and the consequent want of a second contiguous employer, would suffice in most cases to preclude a change of masters.
It is said that a few of the peasants improve the little stock which is committed to their management, accumulating some small property; but their conduct is far more frequently marked by carelessness and a want of forecast. Instances, however, of this accumulation, begin to multiply: for one effect of the partition has been, that the peasants are less liable to be plundered. Generally speaking, it does not appear that this allowance of land and cattle either is, or designed to be, more than enough for their scanty maintenance. I was once on a short journey with a nobleman, when we stopped to bait at the farm-house of a village, which I have before mentioned as a common custom in Poland. The peasants got intelligence of the presence of their lord, and assembled in a body of twenty or thirty, to prefer a petition to him. I was never more struck with the appearance of these poor wretches, and the contrast of their condition with that of their master. I stood at a distance, and perceived that he did not yield to their supplication. When he had dismissed them, I had the curiosity to enquire the object of their petition; and he replied, that they had begged for an increased allowance of land, on the plea that what they had was insufficient for their support. He added, "I did not grant it them, because their present allotment is the usual quantity; and as it has sufficed hitherto, so it will for the time to come. Besides, (said he,) if I give them more, I well know that it will not, in reality, better their circumstances."
Poland does not furnish a man of more humanity that the one who rejected this apparently reasonable petition; but it must be allowed that he had good reasons for what he did. Those degraded and wretched beings, instead of hoarding the small surplus of their absolute necessities, are almost universally accustomed to expend it in that abominable spirit, which they call achnaps. It is incredible what quantities of this pernicious liquor are drunk, both by the peasant men and women. I have been told, that a woman will frequently drink a pint, and even more, at a sitting, and that too in no great length of time. I have myself often seen one of these poor women led home between two men, so intoxicated as to be unable to stand. There can be no question, that the excessive use of this whiskey (were it not to libel whiskey thus to style it) ought to be enumerated among the chief proximate causes of the deficient population of Poland. It is indeed so considered by the Poles; and the Count Zamoyski has lately established a porter brewery in Galitzia, in the hope of checking eventually so hurtful a habit, by the substitution of that wholesome beverage.
The first time I saw any of these withered creatures, was at Dantzic. I was prepared, by printed accounts, to expect a sight of singular wretchedness; but I shrunk involuntarily from the contemplation of the reality; and my feelings could not be consoled by the instantaneous and inevitable reflection, that I was then in a region which contains millions of miserable beings of the description of those before me. Some involuntary exclamation of surprize mixed with compassion escaped me. A thoughtless and a feelingless person (which are about the same things) was standing by. "Oh sir! (says he) you will find plenty of such people as these in Poland; and you may strike them and kick them, or do what you please with them, and they will never resist you; they dare not." Thus, this gentleman, by the manner in which he spoke, seemed to think it a sort of privilege, that they had among them a set of beings on whom they may vent with impunity the exuberance of their spite, and gratify every fitful burst of capricious passion. Far be it from me, to ascribe the feelings of this man to the more cultivated and humanized Poles; but such incidental and thoughtless expressions betray but too sensibly the general state of feeling which exists in regard to these oppressed men.
Some few of the boors are found about every large mansion. They are employed by the domestics in the most dirty menial offices. These have never any beds (however mean) provided them; so that in the summer-nights, they sleep like dogs, in any hole or corner they can find, always without undressing. But the winter's cold drives them into the hall, where they commonly crouch close to the stoves which are stationed there. Here, too, several of the domestics spread their pallets, and take up their night's abode. Frequently, as I have retired to my room after supper, I have stumbled over a boor sleeping at the foot of the stairsa curious and a melancholy spectacle! to see these poor creatures, in all their unmitigated wretchedness, lodging in the halls of palaces!
In giving orders or directions of any sort to these torpid beings, though the sentiment of the speaker be not disgraced by the slightest admixture of unkind feeling, it is customary to address them in a certain smart and striking manner; as if to stimulate their stupid senses into sufficient action to prompt the performance of the most ordinary offices. There is no circumstance more deplorable in slavery than that dead-palsy of the faculties, which bereaves its possessor even of the comfort of hope; or capacitates him only to hope that he may live without torment, and mope out his existence in joyless apathy! If to a contiguous person you give utterance to any compassionating remark, you are commonly answered with the most indifferent air imaginable, "It is very true; but they are used to it;" something in the same way, I have thought, as eels are used to skinning alive.
Ibid. p. 84.Their diet is very scanty; they have rarely any animal food. Even at the inns, in the interior of Poland, which are not situated in a pretty good town, scarcely any thing is to be procured. Their best things are their milk and poor cheese, were they in sufficient abundance; but the principal article of their diet is their coarse rye-bread above mentioned, and which I have sometimes attempted in vain to swallow.
Ibid. p. 102.Till the reign of Casimir the Great, about the middle of the fourteenth century, the Polish nobles exercised over their peasants the uncontrouled power of life and death. No magistrate, not even the King himself, had authority to punish or restrain barbarities which outraged humanity. If an act of brutal cruelty were committed by one grandee on the slave of another, he was then liable to be called to an account by the possessor, as the violator of his property, not as the perpetrator of crime. This barbarous power in the nobles over the condition and lives of the boors, even Casimir was forced to recognize in the year 1866. Yet Casimir had a soul which felt for their hard lot, and he earnestly endeavoured to mitigate its severity. The peasants, finding him their friend, would often go to him with complaints of the injuries they received. "What! (says he with indignation on these occasions) have you neither stones nor bludgeons with which to defend yourselves ?"
Casimir was the first who ventured to prescribe a fine for the murder of a peasant. And, as it had been the custom, on the death of a peasant, for the master to seize his trifling effects, he also enacted, that on his decease his next heir should inherit; and that if his master should plunder him, or dishonour his wife or daughter, he should be permitted to remove whithersoever he pleased. He even decreed, that a peasant should be privileged to bear arms as a soldier, and be considered as a freeman.
These humane regulations, however, were ill observed in the sequel; for of what avail are laws, if authority be wanting to enforce obedience? There is an ancient Polish maxim, "That no slave can carry on any process against his master;" and hence the law regarding the inheritance of property was rendered nugatory. Nor could the fine for murder be often levied, by reason of the accumulation of evidence required for the conviction of a noble. Yet these were the only attempts to better the condition of the boors, till the year 1768, when a decree passed by which the murder of a peasant was rendered a capital crime. But even this enactment was a mere mockery of justice: for to prove the fact of murder, a concurrence of circumstances was made necessary, which could rarely have been found to co-exist. The murderer was not only to be taken in the fact! but that fact was required to be proved by the testimony of two gentlemen, or four peasants! These insignificant edicts, rendered inefficient by the power of custom, were not the only obstacles to the elevation of the peasantry to the rank of men. There existed, in the Polish laws, numerous and positive ordinances, as though expressly designed to perpetuate slavery. Among these, the most oppressive seems to have been that which empowered the nobles to erect summary tribunals, subject to no appeals, by which they inflicted whatever penalties they thought proper on delinquents, or those whom they chose to consider as delinquents. The penalties for elopement from their villages were peculiarly severe; which proves at once the grievousness of their oppression, and the existence of frequent attempts to escape.
Ibid. p. 110.Whoever casts his eye but for a moment on the miserable boors of Poland, will instantly feel, that ages must elapse before they can be raised to the rank of civilized beings. If met in the winter's snow, they appear like herds of savage beasts rather than companies of men; but with the melancholy difference of being totally destitute of that wild activity which characterises savage nature. Their coarse mantles; their shrunk and squalid forms: their dirty, matted hair; their dull, moping looks, and lifeless movements; all combine to form an image which uickens humanity, and makes the heart recoil even from its own horrid sympathy!
Ibid. p. 105.Some endeavours have been likewise made by individuals to abolish the slavery of the boors. In the year 1760, the Chancellor Zamoyski enfranchised six villages in the palatinate of Masovia. This experiment has been much vaunted by Mr. Coxe as having been attended with all the good effects desired; and he asserts that the Chancellor had, in consequence, enfranchised the peasants on all his estates. Both of these assertions ate false. I enquired particularly of the son, the present Count Zamoyski, respecting those six villages, and was grieved to learn, that the experiment had completely failed. The Count said, that within a few years he had sold the estate, as it was situated in the Prussian division, with which he had now no concern. He added, I was also glad to get rid of it, from the trouble the peasants gave me. These degraded beings, on receiving their freedom, were overjoyed, it seems, at they knew not what. Having no distinct comprehension of what freedom meant, but merely a rude notion that they may now do what they liked, they ran into every species of excess and extravagance which their circumstances admitted. Drunkenness, instead of being occasional, became almost perpetual; riot and disorder usurped the place of quietness and industry; the necessary labour suspended, the lands were worse cultivated than before; and the small rents required of them they were often unable to pay. Yet what does all this prove? that slavery is better than freedom for a large portion of mankind? horrible inference! But it proves decisively, what has been often proved before, that we may be too precipitate in our plans of reform; and that misguided benevolence may frequently do mischief, while it seeks only to diffuse good.
In all instances of failure relative to the proposed benefit of human beings, the great danger is, lest we should relax in our efforts, and conclude that to be impossible, which, in fact, our deficient wisdom only had prevented us from effecting.
Ibid. p. 109.The present Count Zamoyski, son of the late Chancellor, in no wise disheartened by his father's miscarriage, continues to meditate extensive plans of improvement relative to his own peasantry. But he is now aware that he must proceed with caution, and not by attempting too much, end in doing nothing. He designs to emancipate the whole of his vassals gradually; to give them slight privileges at first, and to encourage them with the hope of more, on condition of proper conduct. In short, his principle is to retain the power of reward and punishment completely in his own hands, that he may be able to stimulate to industry by the hope of new favours, and to restrain from misconduct by the threatened forfeiture of those already conceded; till their state, gradually ameliorated, shall render it safe to give them entire freedom, and to leave their conduct to be regulated by the general operation of the laws.
Ibid. p. 121.The cultivation of the soil in Poland, in the manner it is there conducted, is attended with little trouble and expence; indeed, far less than it ought to be. We no where see more than a ploughman with his plough and a single pair of small bullocks, not bigger than English steers, to produce a fallow. There is scarcely such a thing as manure to be seen, and the produce is proportionally small.
Ibid. p. 124.The territory of a nobleman, the extent of which I had an opportunity of ascertaining with some exactness, is about five thousand square miles; which produces an income of about 100,000 ducats, or £50,000. sterling: this gives only £50. a year for every twenty square miles.
State of the Poor from the Conquest to the Reformation, by Sir F. M. Eden, Bart. Vol. I--Of the domestic comforts enjoyed by the great body of the people, in the periods immediately subsequent to the Conquest, we may form a tolerable estimate, notwithstanding the great deficiency of evidence to mark the manners of private life, from considering the information afforded us by historians concerning their political situation. If we except the baronial proprietors of land, and their vassals the free tenants and socmen, the rest of the nation, for a long time after this era, seems to have been involved in a state of servitude, which, though qualified as to its effects, was uniform in its principle, that none who had unhappily been born in, or had fallen into, bondage, could acquire an absolute right to any species of property.(1)
The condition, however, of the people, who were thus. debarred from tasting the first of social blessings, was not, in other respects, equally abject and miserable: those, denominated villeins in gross, were at the absolute disposal of their lord; and were transferable by deed, sale, or conveyance, from one owner to another. They were principally employed in menial services about the house, and were so numerous as to form a considerable branch of English commerce. An author, who lived in the reign of Henry the Second, informs us, that such a number of them was exported to Ireland, that the market there was absolutely glutted; and another declares, that from the reign of King William the First to that of King John, there was scarcely a cottage in Scotland that did not possess an English slave. These were probably the captives taken in the predatory inroads on the borders: there can be little doubt but that the English retaliated on their neighbours, and made slaves of such of their Scotch prisoners as could not pay for their ransom. In the various accounts of the marauding expeditions of the moss-troopers of Cumberland, men are often mentioned as the principal part of the booty they brought back.
Villeins regardant were those who were annexed to manors, and bound to perform the most servile offices of agricultural labour, which was originally unlimited, both with regard to its quality and its duration. They however were sometimes permitted to occupy small portions of land to sustain themselves and their families, but were removable at the lord's pleasure, and were liable to be sold, with the soil to which they belonged; from which they might also at any time be severed. I have made this distinction between villeins in gross, and villeins regardant, as it is laid down by our lawyers and historians. It may, however, I think, be doubted, whether the difference in their condition was more than nominal. The villein regardant seems to have been occasionally employed as a domestic, as well as an agricultural slave: and although he was generally indulged by his lord in the use of a few acres of land, he was liable to be called upon to perform every species of work, however painful or degrading. Other ranks of men, equally servile and dependent, are noticed in ancient records; particularly the Bordarli, who, in consideration of their being permitted to occupy a small cottage, were bound to provide poultry, eggs, and other articles of diet for the lord's table: and the Cottarii, or Coterelli, who appear to have been much on the same footing with villeins regardant, being `employed in the trades of smith, carpenter, and other handicraft arts necessary in the country; in which they had been instructed at the expence of their masters, and for whose benefit they pursued their several occupations.
After the Conquest, various causes co-operated not only to prevent the introduction of a new stock, but also to extinguish the ancient race of villeins. As it was the custom of enslaving captives taken in war, that was probably the foundation, and certainly the support, for many ages, of this not more iniquitous than impolitic system; so it seems that the disuse of the ancient practice of converting captivity into slavery, led the way to its ultimate abolition: and, although history is silent on the subject, I should imagine, that, after the introduction of the Norman line, no Englishman could be a slave, unless by birth or confession. These were the only sources of supply; but they continued, for a long time, sufficiently copious to involve the labouring classes of the community in a bondage, that was marked by every essential ingredient of slavery.
Ibid. p. 18.Between the Conquest and the reign of Edward the Third, there arose a middle class of men, who, although they did not immediately acquire the full power of bartering their labour to the best bidder, were, yet not subjected to the imperious caprices of a master, and the unconditional services of personal bondage. Of this description were the servile tenants of manors, who, although they were permitted to occupy small portions of land for their own use, were required, at stated periods of the year, to attend to the cultivation of the demesnes of their lords. Previous to the reigns of Henry the Third, and Edward the First, they are not much noticed in ancient records; but in the period immediately subsequent, on every occasion, when it became important for the lord to inquire into the state of his manors and their appendages, the value of his arable and pasture land, the number of his parks, his fish-ponds, his mills, and his mansion-houses, were not more minutely investigated, than the number and condition of his servile tenants, and the extent and nature of the services they were bound to perform. It was extremely essential for him to ascertain whether that part of his estate, which he retained in his own hands, could be cultivated without the intervention of free labourers: and hence we may see the necessity, why a baron, on acquiring a fee, either by purchase or inheritance, and the king's escheators, on a forfeiture accruing to the crown, seldom failed to obtain full information relative to manorial rights, by means of an inquisition, composed, in the latter instance, of freeholders of the county, and in the former, most usually, of the principal tenants of the manor.
It is from the inquests thus taken, that we can, perhaps, obtain the best possible evidence relative to the ancient state of agriculture in England. They often describe, very particularly, the quantity of arable, of pasture, and of meadow in a manor; the times at which the various operations of husbandry were carried on; the duty of agricultural servants; their diet; the customs in harvest; and many other particulars highly illustrative of the rural economy of ancient times. From such records, it appears, that, before the reign of Edward the First, the condition of villeins was greatly meliorated; and that, instead of being obliged to perform every mean and servile office, that the arbitrary will of the lord required, they had, at length, acquired a tenure in lands, on oondltion of rendering services, which were either certain in their natureas to reap the lord's corn, or cleanse his fish-pond; or limited in their durationas to harrow two days in the year, or to employ three days in carting the lord's timber.
A tenant by villenage, thus circumstanced, was no longer a villein. He was indeed bound to perform certain stipulated work for his lord, generally at sowing-time and harvest, the only seasons which, in the rude state of agriculture, were much attended to: but, at other times of the year, he was at liberty to exercise his industry for his own benefit. As early as the year 1257, a servile tenant, if employed before Midsummer, received wages: and in Edward the First's reign, he was permitted, instead of working himself, to provide a labourer for the lord; from which it is obvious, that he must have sometimes possessed the means of hiring one: and, as it is not natural to suppose, that a tenant by villenage had any power of hiring the pure villein, (who, we have seen, was annexed either to the land, or the person of his lord,) labourers, who were thus hired by servile cultivators, it is probable, were either tenants by villenage, who could assist their neighbours on the spare days, in which they were not bound to work for their lord; or free labourers, who existed (although perhaps not in great numbers) long before the parliamentary notice taken of them in the Statute of Labourers, passed in 1350.
Treatyse on Surveyinge (said to have been "compyled sometyrne by Master Fitzherbarde,"' p. 49 of reprint). Sir Anthony Fitzherbert lived in the reign of Henry the Eighth. This Treatise on Surveying is assigned to him on strong evidence, and clearly it was published in 1523, about his time; it shews that even then, barely more than 300 years ago, there were predial slaves in England in sufficient numbers to form a marked feature in the composition of the community.
Item inquirendum est de customariis videlicet quot sunt customarii et quantum terre quilibet customarius teneat, quas operationes, et quas consuetudines facit, et quantum valent opera et consuetudines cuiuslibet customarii per se annum, et quantum redditum de redditu. assise per annum preter opera et consuetudines, et qui possunt talliari ad voluntatem domini et qui non.
It is to be inquered of customary tenantes, that is to wytte, howe many there be, and how moch land every tenaunt holdeth, and what werkes and customs ho doth, and what the werkes and customs be worth of every tenaunt by itself, and how moche rent by the yeare, above his werkes and customes he doth pay, and which of them may taxe their landes at the wyll of the lorde and whiche nat. Customarye tenauntes are those that hold theyr landes of their lord by copye of courte role, after the custome of the manour. And there may be many tenauntes within the same manor, that have no copies, and yet holde by lyke custome and seruyce at the wyll of the lorde. And in myne opinion it began soone after the conquest, when William conquerour had conquered the realme, he rewarded all those that came with hym, in his viage royall, according to their degree. And to honourable men he gave lordshyppes, maners, landes, and tenementes, with all the inhabytantes, men and women dwellyng in the satne, to do with them at their pleasure.
And those honourable men thought, that they must needes have servantes and tenantes, and theyr landes occupyed with tyllage. Wherefore they pardoned the inhabytantes of their lyues, and caused them to do al maner of servyce, that was to be done, were it never so wyle, and caused them to occupie their landes and tenementes in tyliage, and toke of them suche rentes customes and services, as it pleased them to have. And also took all their goodes and cattell at all tymis at their plesure, and called them their bondmen, and sythe that tyme many noblemen both spirituall and temporall, of their godly disposition have made to divers of the said bondmen manumissions, and granted them freedom and libertie, and set to them their landes and tenementes to occupy after dyvers maner of rentes, customes and servyces, the whiche is used in dyuers places unto this day. Howe be it in some places, the boundmen contynue as yet, the which me semeth is the greatest Inconuenience that now is suffered by the lawe, that is to haue any christen man bounden to an other, and to haue the rule of his body, landes and goodes that his wife, children, and seruantes haue laboured for all theyr lyfe tyme to be so taken, like as and it were extorcion or bribery. And many tymes by coulour thereof, there be many freemen taken as bondmen, and their landes, and goodes taken from them, so that they shall not be able to sue for remedy, to proue themselfe fre of blode. And that is moste commonly where the freemen have the same name as the bondemen, or that his auncesters, of whome he is comen, was manumysed before his byrthe. In such case there can nat be to great a punyshment. For as me semeth, there shulde be no man bounde, but to God, and to his kynge, and prince ouer hym: Quia deus non facit exceptionem personarum, for God maketh no exception of any person. Wherefore it were a charitable dede to euery nobleman both spirituall, and temporall, to do as they wolde be done by, and that is to manumyse them that be bond, and to make them fre of body and blode, reseruing to them theyr rentes, customes, and seruices of olde tyme due and accustomed, wherein they may get the prayers of the partie, and remyssion of theyr offences, as in the gospell. Eadem mesura, qua metiti, fueritis, metietur vobis.
The Latin words which head this extract, are part of a statute of Edward the First; but Fitzherbert, or the author, be he who he may, does not mention in his comment that any part of it relates to obsolete usages or laws. Do not therefore the words et qui possunt talliari ad voluntatern domini et qui non indicate that this class of tenaritry were tallaged or taxed by those in whose estate they lived, till their race became extinct?
Müller treat, the Periaeci as tributary communities, as a sort of inferior allies, and denies that their condition ever approached that of individual personal dependence: their condition, he says, "never had the slightest resemblance to that of bondage," (see Tuffnell and Lewis, p. 30). It strikes me, as it seems to have done Gaettling, (see his Aristotle; p. 465.) that if this is meant to apply to the Grecian Periaeci generally, it is going rather too far. The Periaeci appear to have been every where natives reduced by foreign invaders to a state of subjection less servile in some districts than in others, but very like bondage in many. Aristotle must have seen them in such a state when he intimates that they may very well occupy the place of the , he prefers as cultivators. See note to page 80 of text. See too Gaettling's Aristotle, p. 473."Urbs quaovis autem Cretensium suos habebat Pericecos indigenas quidem sed bello victos, qui agrum ceteris colebant: nec tamen anus us uti licuit nec gymnasiis. Id ex institutione Minois supererat, ut auctor est Aristoteles."
Gaettling on the other hand is of opinions that this class of people, neither slaves or freemen, but invested with something of an intermediate character, existed in the Dorian states alone; and he says distinctly that they were not to be found among the Ionians, see Arist. Pol. by Gaettling, p.464. "Fundata erat autem haec dorica constitutio duabus maxime rebus: diverso moderatae multitudinis jure et magistratuum descripta dignitate. Nam quum civitates Ionicae originis nomisi liberos novissent et servos qui civitatem constituerent, apud Dorienses medium quoddam genus inter liberos (Spartanos) et servos (Helotes) reperiebatur, Pesiaecorum nomine insignitum" Surely this is a mistake, and one which would lead to considerable misapprehension as to the mode in which the early communities of Greece, Tonian as well as Dorian, were originally constituted. Wherever a conquest took place, there a class was established under some name or other, consisting of the conquered natives, and ranking neither as citizens or slaves. Such a class existed as we have seen among the Ionian inhabitants of Attica. The fact seems to be, that although this order in the state may be traced almost every where in Greece, still it was in the Dorian states alone that its presence and functions were necessary to support the very peculiar institutions established by the conquerors. Elsewhere it might disappear or be transformed, as in Attica, without the event's affecting the constitution of the state.
Travels in France, by Arthur Young, Esq. Vol. II. p. 151.The predominant feature in the farms of Piedmont is metayers, nearly upon the same system which I have described and condemned, in treating of the husbandry of France. The landlord commonly pays the taxes and repairs the buildings, and the tenant provides cattle, implements, and seed; they divide the produce. Wherever this system prevails, it may be taken for granted that a useless and miserable population is found. The poverty of the farmers is the origin of it; they cannot stock the farms, pay taxes, and rent in money, and, therefore, must divide the produce in order to divide the burthen. There is reason to believe that this was entirely the system in every part of Europe; it is gradually going out every where; and in Piedmont is giving way to great farms, whose occupiers pay a money rent. I was for sometime deceived in going from Nice to Turin, and believed that more of the farms were larger than is really the case, which resulted from many small ones being collected into one home-stead. That belonging to the Prince of Carignan, at Bilia Bruna, has the appearance of being very considerable; but, on inquiry, I found it in the hands of seven families of metayers. In the mountains, from Nice to Racconis, however, they are small; but many properties, as in the mountains of France and Spain.
The Caval. de Capra, member of the Agrarian Society, assured me, that the union of farms was the ruin of Piedmont, and the effect of luxury; that the metayers were dismissed and driven away, and the fields every where depopulated. I demanded how the country came to have the appearance of immense cultivation, and looked rather like a garden than a farm, all the way from Coni? He replied, that I should see things otherwise in passing to Milan: that the rice culture was supported by great farms, and that large tracts of country were reduced to a desert. Are they then uncultivated? No; they are very well cultivated; but the people all gone, or become miserable. We hear the same story in every country that is improving: while the produce is eaten up by a superfluity of idle hands, there is population on the spot; but it is useless population: the improvement banishes these drones to towns, where they become useful in trade and manufactures, and yield a market to that land, to which they were before only a burthen. No country can be really flourishing unless this take place; nor can there be any where a flourishing and wealthy race of farmers, able to give money rents, but by the destruction of metaying. Does any one imagine that England `would be more rich and more populous if her farmers were turned into metayers? Ridiculous. The intendant of Bissatti added another argument against great farms; namely, that of their being laid to grass more than small ones; surely this is a leading circumstance in their favour; for grass is the last and. greatest improvement of Piedmont; and that arrangement of the soil which occasions most to be in grass, is the most beneficial. Their meadows are amongst the finest and most productive in the world. What is their arable? It yields crops of five or six times the seed only. To change such amble to such grass, is, doubtless, the highest degree of improvement. View France and her metayersView England and her farmers; and then draw your conclusions.
Wherever the country (that I saw) is poor and unwatered, in the Milanese, it is in the hands of metayers. At Mozzata the Count de Castiglioni shewed me the rent book his intendant (steward) keeps, and it is a curious explanation of the system which prevails. In some hundred pages I saw very few names without a large balance of debt due to him, and brought from the book of the preceding year: they pay by so many moggii of all the different grains, at the price of the year: so many heads of poultry; so much labour; so much hay; and so much straw, &c. But there is, in most of their accounts, on the debtor's side, a variety of articles, beside those of regular rent: so much corn, of all sorts, borrowed of the landlord, for seed or food, when the poor man has none: the same thing is common in France, wherever metaying takes place. All this proves the extreme poverty, and even misery, of these little farmers; and shews, that their condition is more wretched than that of a day labourer. They are much too numerous; three being calculated to live on one hundred pertichi, and all fully employed by labouring, and cropping the land incessantly with the spade, for a produce unequal to the payment of any thing to the landlord, after feeding themselves and their cattle as they ought to be fed; hence the universal distress of the country.
Ibid. p. 155.Estates in Bologna are very generally let to middlemen, who re-let them to the farmers at half produce, by which means the proprietor receives little more than one half of what he might do on a better system, with a peasantry in a better situation. The whole country is at half produce; the farmer supplies implements, cattle, and sheep, and half the seed; the proprietor repairs.
Ibid. pp. 155-56--Letting lands, at money rent, is but new in Tuscany; and it is strange to say, that Sig. Paoletti, a very practical writer, declares against it. A farm in Tuscany is called a podere: and such a number of them as are placed under the management of a factor, is called fattoria. His business is to see that the lands are managed according to the lease, and that the landlord has his fair half. These farms are not often larger than for a pair of oxen, and eight to twelve people in one house; some 100 pertichi (this measure is to the acre, as about 25 to 38), and two pair of oxen, with twenty people. I was assured that these metayers are (especially near Florence) much at their ease; that on holydays they are dressed remarkably well, and not without objects of luxury, as silver, gold, and silk; and live well, on plenty of bread, wine, and legumes. In some instances this may possibly be the case, but the general fact is contrary. It is absurd to think that metayers, upon such a farm as is cultivated by a pair of oxen, can be at their ease; and a clear proof of their poverty is this, that the landlord, who provides half the live stock, is often obliged to lend the peasant money to enable him to procure his half; but they hire farms with very little money, which is the old story of France, &c.; and indeed poverty and miserable agriculture are the sure attendants upon this way of letting land. The metayers, not in the vicinity of the city, are so poor, that landlords even lend them corn to eat: their food is black bread, made of a mixture with vetches; and their drink is very little wine, mixed with water, and called aquarolle; meat on Sundays only; their dress very ordinary.
Ibid. p. 157.In the mountains of Modena there are many peasant proprietors, but not in the plain. A great evil here, as in other parts of Lombardy, is the practice of the great lords, and the possessors of lands in mortmain letting to middle men, who re-let to metayers; under which tenure are all the lands of the dutchy.
Ibid. p. 158.--Appearances from Reggio to Parma are much inferior to those from Modena to Reggio; the fences not so neat; nor the houses so well built, white, or clean. All here metayers; the proprietor supplies the cattle, half the seed, and pays the taxes; the peasant provides the utensils. In the whole dutchies of Parma and Piacenza, and indeed almost every where else, the farms must be very small; the practices I have elsewhere noted, of the digging the, land for beans, and working it up with a superfluity of labour, evidently shew it: the swarms of people in all the markets announce the same fact; at Piacenza, I saw men, whose only business was to bring a small bag of apples, about a peck; one man brought a turkey, and not a fine one. What a waste of time and labour, for a stout fellow to be thus employed.
Travels in Switzerland, by W. Coxe, Vol. III. p. Another cause of their wretchedness proceeds from the present state of property. Few of the peasants are landholders; as from the continual oppression under which the people have groaned for above these two last centuries, the freeholds have gradually fallen into the hands of the nobles and Grisons, the latter of whom are supposed to possess half the estates in the Valteline. The tenants who take farms do not pay their rent in money, but in kind; a strong proof of general poverty. The peasant is at all the costs of cultivation, and delivers near half the produce to the landholder. The remaining portion would ill compensate his labour and expence, if he was not in some measure befriended by the fertility of the soil. The ground seldom lies fallow, and the richest parts of the valley produce two crops. The first crop is wheat, rye, or spelt, half of which is delivered to the proprietor; the second crop is generally millet, buck-wheat, maize, or Turkey corn, which is the principal nourishment of the common people: the chief part of this crop belongs to the peasant, and enables him in a plentiful year to support his family with some degree of comfort. The peasants who inhabit the districts which yield wine are the most wretched: for the trouble and charge of rearing the vines, of gathering and pressing the grapes, is very considerable; and they are so very apt to consume the share of liquor allotted to them in intoxication, that, were it not for the grain intermixed with the vines, they and their families would be left almost entirely destitute of subsistence.
Besides the business of agriculture, some of the peasants attend to the cultivation of silk. For this purpose they receive the eggs from the landholder, rear the silkworm; and are entitled to half the silk. This employment is not unprofitable; for although the rearing of the silkworms is attended with much trouble, and requires great caution, yet as the occupation is generally entrusted to the women, it does not take the men from their work.
With all the advantages, however, derived from the fertility of the soil, and the variety of its productions, the peasants cannot, without the utmost difficulty, and a constant exertion, maintain their families; and they are always reduced to the greatest distress, whenever the season is unfavourable to agriculture.
To the causes of penury among the lower classes above enumerated, may be added the natural indolence of the people, and their tendency to superstition which takes them from their labour. Upon the whole, I have not, in the course of my travels, seen any peasantry, except in Poland, so comfortless as the inferior inhabitants of this valley. They enjoy indeed one great advantage over the Poles, in not being the absolute property of the landholder, and transferable, like cattle. They are therefore at liberty to live where they chuse, to quit their country, and seek a better condition in other regions; a relief to which distress often compels them to have recourse.
Ibid. p. 143.--The cottages of the peasants, which are built of stone, are large, but gloomy, generally without glass windows: I entered several, and was every where disgusted with an uniform appearance of dirt and poverty. The peasants are mostly covered with rags, and the children have usually an unhealthy look, which arises from their wretched manner of living. Such a scarcity of provisions has been occasioned by last year's drought, that the poor inhabitants have been reduced to the most extreme necessity. The price of bread was unavoidably raised so high, that in many parts the peasants could not purchase it; and their only food was for some time a kind of paste, made by pounding the hulls and stones of the grapes which had been pressed for wine, and mixing it with a little meal. Famine, added to their oppressed situation, reduced the inhabitants to the lowest condition of human misery, and numbers perished from absolute want.
Gilly's Narrative and Researches among the Vaudois, &c. p. 129.The other cottages we entered were of a very inferior order, and had but few of those little comforts, with which in England we desire to see the poorest supplied, and it was quite astonishing to compare the very rude and insufficient accommodations of these people, with their civility and information. In their mode of living, or I might almost say, herding together, under a roof, which is barely weather proof, they are far behind our own peasantry, but in mental advancement they are just as far beyond them. Most of them have a few roods of land, which they can call their own property, varying in extent, from about a quarter of an acre and upwards, and they have the means of providing themselves with fuel, from the abundance of wood upon the mountains.
The tenure, upon which land is hired, requires that the occupier should pay to the proprietor half the produce of corn and wine in kind, and half the value of the hay. The indifferent corn-land yields about five fold, and the best twelve fold. They seldom suffer the ground to lie fallow, and the most general course is, wheat for two years. and maize the third. The land is well manured from time to time, and the corn is usually sown in August or September, and cut in June. In the vale of San Giovanni, and in a few other productive spots, hay is cut three times in the year.
Ibid. p. 128.On a crate suspended from the ceiling, we counted fourteen large blacic loaves, Bread is an unusual luxury among them, but the owner of this cottage was of a condition something above the generality.
VIII. Note on Ryot Rents.
Cal. Tod's services in Rajast'han were most distinguished. His elaborate work is a valuable contribution to the literature of his country. Had I found that the facts collected by such a person really contradicted the opinions I have arrived at (in common, however, with the majority of those who have considered the subject), I should have been most ready to have re-examined those opinions, and perhaps to have abandoned them. But the conclusions which Col. Tod has drawn from his facts, seem to me to require considerable modification before they can be reconciled with the past and present condition of the rest of India, or indeed of Rajast'han itself as he depicts it. The Colonel thinks, that the relations between the princes of Rajast'han and their nobles are similar to those which existed, between the feudal nobility of Europe and their sovereigns; and that the ryots have an interest in the soil, which he calls a freehold interest: and this he magnifies and dwells on, with all the partiality of a man, who feels a good natured pleasure in exalting the institutions of his favorite Rajpoots.
The question to be discussed is, whether there is any thing in the facts produced by Col. Tod or others, to contradict the notion adopted in the text, that the soil of India belongs to the sovereign and to the sovereign alone, and that the occupiers have never, practically, any other character than that of his tenantry, except in sonic small districts, which form acknowledged exceptions to a general rule. The mere existence of a feudal nobility, so far from being inconsistent with the proprietary right of the sovereign, strongly confirms it. It is the one essential characteristic of a feudal system, that the land should be granted by the sovereign, and on certain conditions. In Europe the right of resumption slid out of the hands of the monarchs by imperceptible degrees. In Rajast'han it has never escaped them at all. Only a century and a half' ago, so miserably unstable was the claim of subject nobles even to the temporary possession of any particular spot, that they were in the habit of changing their lands every three years. " So late as the reign of Mana Singram (10 generations ago,) the fiefs of Mewar were actually moveable, and little more than a century and a half has passed since this practice ceased. Thus, a Rahtore would shift with family, chattels and retainers, from the north into the wilds of Chuppun, while the Suktawut, relieved, would occupy the plains at the foot of the Aravulli, or a Chondawut would exchange his abode on the banks of the Chumbul with a Pramara or Chohan from the Table Mountain, the eastern boundary of Mewar. "Such changes" (Mr. Tod says in a note,) "were triennial, and as I have heard the Prince himself say, so interwoven with their customs was this rule, that it caused no dissatisfaction: but of this we may be allowed at least to doubt. It was a perfect check to the imbibing of local attachment; and the prohibition against erecting forts for refuge or defiance, prevented its growth if acquired. It produced the object intended, obedience to the Prince, and unity against the restless Mogul".Tod's Rajast'han, p. 164.
Even now their rights remain much on the same footing. In Europe, the necessity of ad mission by the sovereign, the fine paid by the heir, and the renewal of homage and fealty, kept alive the recollection at least, of the past rights of the sovereign. In Rajast'han, an actual resumption takes place by the Rajah on the death of every chief: and is conducted in such a manner, as very impressively to exhibit the existing claims of the monarch, and the entire (legal) dependence of all derivative interests on his will. "On the demise of a chief, the prince immediately sends a party, termed the zubti (sequestrator), consisting of a civil officer and a few soldiers, who take possession of the state (quere, estate) in the prince's name. The heir sends his prayer to court to be installed in the property, offering the proper relief. This paid, the chief is invited to repair to the presence, when he performs homage, and makes protestations of service and fealty; he receives a fresh grant, and the inauguration terminates by the prince girding him with a sword, in the old forms of chivalry. It is an imposing ceremony, performed in a full assembly of the court, and one of the few which has never been relinquished. The fine paid, and the brand buckled to his side, a steed, turban, plume, and dress of honour given to the chief, the investiture is complete; the sequestrator returns to court, and the chief to his estate, to receive the vows and congratulations of his vassals."Tod's Rajast'han, p. 158. After these extracts, it can hardly be necessary to state, that the doctrine as to the proprietary rights of the sovereign is not weakened by the `condition of the noble Rajpoots. It would be a curious subject, were this the place for it, to trace the peculiar causes which have led the sovereigns of Rajast'han, to delegate, in a great measure, the military defence of their frontiers to chieftains so nearly resembling our feudal barons. Those causes may be partially discerned in the ties of blood which connect the sovereign and chiefs with their tribesin the mountainous character of their fortressesin their being constantly liable to hostile incursionsand in their almost perpetual state of defensive war. We should, I think, after fairly examining the causes and results of the Rajpoot system, find much more reason to wonder, that the rights of the sovereign to the soil have not oftener generated such a system, than to conclude from its existence in Rajast'han that there are no such proprietary rights.
I cannot quit the feudal part of the question, without warmly recommending Col. Tod's book to the general reader, and to the student of history, and of man. The system of modified dependence on the chief for military services, as established in this part of India, has produced a resemblance to the state of Europe at a certain period of the progress of feuds, which is most striking, interesting and, instructive. That resemblance may be traced in the tenures and laws of the Rajpootsin the mixed political results of theseboth good and eviland in the moral, and we may almost say poetical characteristics of the populationin the deep and enthusiastic feeling which accompany their notions of fealtyin the emulous courage, the desperate fidelity of the noblesand in many lofty and romantic traits of manners worthy to have sprung out of the very bosom of chivalry, and extending their influence to the dark beauties of the Zenana, as well as to their warrior kindred. High born dames in distress, still there, as they once did in Europe, send their tokens to selected champions, who whether invested with sovereign power, or occupying a less distinguished station, are equally bound to speed to their aid, under the penalty of being stigmatized for ever as cravens and dishonored. Col. Tod, himself, can boast an honor (well deserved by zealous devotion and disinterested services,) which many a preux chevalier would have joyfully dared a thousand deaths to obtain, that of being the chosen friend and champion of more than one princess, whose regal, and indeed celestial, descents make the longest genealogies of Europe look mean.
The next question arising out of Col. Tod's book is this. Are the ryots in Rajast'han practically, as he conceives them to be, freeholders in any sense in which an English proprietor is called the freeholder of the land he owns? I began in the text by remarking, that the ryot has very generally a recognized right to the hereditary occupation of his plot of ground, while he pays the rent demanded of him: and the question is, whether that right in Rajast'han practically amounts to a proprietary right or not. Now a distinction before suggested in the text, seems to afford the only real criterion which can enable us to determine this question fairly. Is the ryot at rack-rent? has he, or has he not, a beneficial interest in the soil? can he obtain money for that interest by sale? can he make a landlord's rent of it? To give a cultivator an hereditary interest at a variable rack-rent, and then to call his right to till, a freehold right, would clearly be little better than mockery. To subject such a person to the payment of more than a rack-rent, to leave him no adequate remuneration for his personal toil, and still to call him a freehold proprietor, would be something more bitter than mere mockery. To establish by law, and enforce cruelly in practice, fines and punishments to avenge his running away from his freehold, and refusing to cultivate it for the benefit of his hard task master, would be to convert him into a predial slave: and this, although a very natural consequence of the mode of establishing such freehold rights would make the names of proprietor and owner almost ridiculous.
The use of the criterion here pointed out, is made very palpable by Sir T. Munro in a "Minute on the State of the Country and on the Condition of the People," dated the 31st of December, 1824. "Had the public assessment, as pretended, ever been, as in the books of their sages, only a sixth or a fifth, or even only a fourth of the gross produce, the payment of a fixed share in kind, and all the expensive machinery requisite for its supervision, never could have been wanted. The simple plan of a money assessment might have been at once resorted to, in the full confidence that the revenue would every year, in good or bad seasons, be easily and punctually paid. No person who knows any thing of India revenue can believe that the Rayet, if his fixed assessment were only a fifth or a fourth of the gross produce, would not every year, whether the season were good or bad, pay it without difficulty; and not only do this, but prosper under it beyond what he has ever done at any former period. Had such a moderate assessment ever been established, it would undoubtedly have been paid in money, because there would have beeu no reason for continuing the expensive process of making collections in kind. It was because the assessment was not moderate, that assessments in kind were introduced or continued: for a money rent equivalent to the amount could not have been realized one year with another. The Hindoo Governments seem to have often wished that land should be both an hereditary and a saleable property; but they could not bring themselves to adopt the only practicable mode of ejecting it, a low assessment.Life of Munro, Vol. III. p. 881.
Ibid. p. 886."Rayets sometimes have a landlord's rent; for it is evident that whenever they so far improve their land as to derive from it more than the ordinary profit of stock, the excess is landlord's rent; but they are never sure of long enjoying this advantage, as they are constantly liable to be deprived of it by injudicious over assessment. While this state of insecurity exists, no body of substantial landholders can ever arise; nor can the country improve, or the revenue rest on any solid foundation. In order to make the land generally saleable, to encourage the Rayets to improve it, and to regard it as a permanent hereditary property, the assessment must be fixed, and more moderate in general than it now is; and above all, so clearly defined as not to be liable to increase from ignorance or caprice."
Ibid. p. 839."The land of the Baramahl will probably in time all become saleable, even under its present assessment; but private landed property is of slow growth in countries where it has not previously existed, and where the Government revenue is nearly half the produce; and we must not expect that it can be hastened by regulations or forms of settlement, or by any other way than by adhering steadily to a limited assessment, and lowering it wherever, after full experience, it may still in particular places be found too high. By pursuing this course, or, in other words, by following what is now called the Rayetwar system, we shall see no sudden change or improvement. The progress of landed property will be slow, but we may look with confidence to its ultimate and general establishment.
Ibid. p. 344."If we wish to make the lands of the Rayets yield them a landlord's rent, we have only to lower and fix the assessment, all then in time have the great body of the Rayets possessing landed properties, yielding a landlord's rent, but small in extent."
Ibid. p. 352."It may be said that Government having set a limit upon its demand upon the Zemindar, he will also set a limit to his demand upon the Rayet, and leave him the full produce of every improvement, and thus enable him to render his land a valuable property. But we have no reason to suppose that this will be the case, either from the practice of the new Zemindars during the twenty years they have existed, or from that of the old Zemindars during a succession of generations. In old Zemindarries, whether held by the Rajaha of the Circars, or the Poligars of the more southern provinces, which have from a distant period been held at a low and fixed peshcush, no indulgence has been shown to the Rayets, no bound has been set to the demand upon them. The demand has risen with improvement, according to the custom of the country, and the land of the Rayet has no saleable value; we ought not, therefore, to be surprised that in the new Zemindarries, whose assessment is so much higher, the result has been equally unfavourable to the Rayets. The new Zemindarries will, by division among heirs and failures in their payments, break up into portions of one or two villages; but this will not better the condition of the Rayet. It will not fix the rent of the land, nor render it a valuable property; it will merely convert one large Zemindarry into several small Zemindarries or Mootahs, and Mootabs of a kind of much more injurious than those of the Baramahl to the Rayets; because, in the Baramahl, the assessment of the Rayets' land had previously been fixed by survey, while in the new Zemindarries of the Circars it had been left undefined. The little will in time share the fate of the great Zemindarries; they will be divided, and fail, and finally revert to Government; and the Rayets, after this long and circuitous course, will again become what they originally were, the immediate tenants of Government; and Government will then have it in its power to survey their lands, to lower and fix the assessment upon them, and to lay the foundation of landed property in the lande of the Rayets, where alone, in order to be successful, it must be laid."
Yet with all these views of the difficulty of establishing private property in land, Sir Thomas Munro declares the ryot to be the true proprietor, possessing all that is not claimed by the sovereign as revenue. This, he says, while rejecting the proprietary claims of the Zemindars; which he thinks unduly magnified.--"But the Rayet is the real proprietor, for whatever land does not belong to the sovereign belongs to him. The demand for public revenue, according as it is high or low in different places, and at different times, affects his share; but whether it leaves him only the bare profit of his stock, or a small surplus beyond it as landlord's rent, he is still the true proprietor, and possesses all that is not claimed by the sovereign as revenue."Vol. III, p. 840. I must refer the reader to the Minute itself for Sir T. Munro's account of the beneficial proprietary rights actually subsisting in Canara, and of certain similar but subordinate and imperfect rights existing elsewhere. To comprehend the real condition of southern India, it would be necessary to understand these well. The plan of such a work as this will not allow me to dilate on them.
Taking, then, the fact here established by Sir T. Munro, that in spite of the hereditary claims of the ryot, it is extremely difficult to discern, or even establish a real beneficial landlord's interest among the cultivators, while the assessment is high and variable, let us apply this to Rajast'han, and to the statements of Col. Tod as to the Ryot freeholders of Mewar. Let us examine, first, the relation between the subordinate chiefs and their immediate vassals. The chiefs, it will be remembered, represent the sovereign on their estates. The vassals of Deogurh sent to the British resident a long complaint of their chief, to which Col. Tod often refers. The following are some articles. "To each Rajpoot's house a churras, or hide of land was attached, this he has "resumed." "Ten or twelve villages established by his Puttaets he has resumed, and left their families to starve." While complaining of being driven from their land, it will be observed that the proceeding is called by themselves a resumption. "When Deogurh was established, at the same time were our allotments: as his patrimony, so our patrimony: our rights and privileges in his family are the same as his in the family of the presence (the sovereign)."Tod, p. 199.
Now if these last passages express, as I suspect they do, the extent and ground of their claims; we know how to interpret them. If their interest in the soil was similar to that of the chief in his estate, it was a grant from the sovereign on certain conditions; resumable at pleasure, although practically rarely resumed.
Let us next examine the more direct relation between the sovereign and the cultivators on his domain. The following decree is headed Privileges and Immunities granted to the Printers of Calico and Inhabitants of the Town of great Akola in Mewar. "Maharana Bheem Sing commanding. Whereas the village has been abandoned, from the assignments levied by the garrison of Mandelgurh, and it being demanded of its populations how it could again be rendered prosperous; they unanimously replied, `not to exact beyond the dues and contributions `established of yore; to erect the pillar promising never to exact above half the produce of the crops, or to molest the persons of those who thus paid their dues.'" Tod, p. 206.
I leave the reader to determine if this is the language of a ruler dealing with a body of acknowledged freeholders, or of an Indian owner of ryot land, promising to moderate his demands for the future.
But the most curious specimen of the actual condition of the ryots of Rajast'han, is to be found in the account of the management of Zalim Singh, the Regent of Kotah. This chief was the real sovereign of Kotah; though administering its affairs in the name of a rajah fainean. His administration was considered singularly prudent and vigorous; he is called by Col. Ted, the Nestor of India, and is spoken of by Sir John Malcolm much in the same spirit. The following is an extract from Sir John's "Central India." "One of the principal of the Rajpoot rulers of central India, Zalim Singh, has a revenue "system, which, like that of his government, is entirely suited to his personal character. He manages a kingdom like a farm, he is the banker who makes the advances to the cultivators, as well as the ruler to whom they pay revenue: and his terms of interest are as high, as those of the most sordid money brokers. This places the cultivators much in his power, and to increase this dependence he has belonging to himself several thousand plough, with hired laborers, who are not only employed in recovering waste lands, but sent on the instant to till those fields which the peasantry object to cultivate, from deeming the rent too high."Malcolm's Cent. India, Vol. II. p. 62.
Truly after reading these extracts, it is difficult to believe, that the cultivators of Rajast'han are in a much more elevated condition, than those of southern India; among whom Sir Thomas Munro perceived, that it would be a very slow and difficult process to establish landed property and beneficial interests; although he recognized in them the proprietors of all not claimed by the sovereign as revenue.
But there is a position of Col. Tod's which yet remains to be noticed.He cites the institutes of Menu, to prove that lands throughout India, belongs to him who first clears the wood and tills it; and this quotation derives rather more importance than would otherwise belong to it, from the fact that the passage relating to the sovereign's right to the soil, which is quoted in the text from Colebrooke's translation of the digest of Hindoo law, has been suspected of having been forged by the natives employed to compile that digest, in order to flatter some supposed prepossessions of those who employed them. I, however, still believe, that the law as translated by Mr. Colebrooke, whether. genuine or not, very accurately represents the practical management of the soil of India for many ages.
He, (says Col. Tod, speaking of the ryot,) has nature and Menu in support of his claim, and can quote the text, alike compulsory on prince and peasant. "Cultivated land is the property of him who cut away the wood, or who cleared and tilled it." The following is the text as it stands in Haughton's edition of Menu:
On Judicature and Law, Private and Criminal, and on the Commercial and servile Classes .Haughton, p. 298.
44. Sages who know former times, consider this earth (Prit'hivi) as the wife of King Prithu; and thus they pronounce cultivated land to be the property of him, who cut away the wood, or who cleared and tilled it; and the antelope, of the first hunter who mortally wounded it.
Now had this passage been found in a part of the cede relating to landed property, it would at least have carried with it the authority of Menu. In that case I should have had to recall to the reader's recollection the small value which Sir T. Munro's experience led him to attach to the sayings of the ancient Indian sages, when questions arise as to the actual law or past practice of India [see back, p. (37.)] But, in truth, the passage is found in a very different part of the code; a slight further examination will convince the reader, that this mythological sage was speaking of far other matters: and that Col. Tod has fallen into a mistake, at which we must he allowed to smile.
Menu is in fact deciding to whom the children shall belong, born of an adulterous intercourse between a married woman and her paramour. "Learn now that excellent law universally salutary, which was declared, concerning issue, by great and good sages formerly born," and illustrating this in his own allegorical fashion, he compares the earth to the lady; and declares, that he who received her virgin charms should be the owner of all the progeny she might produce, under any circumstances, however strong, of detected or permitted faithlessness; and that as cultivated ground belonged to him who first tilled it, and the antelope to the first hunter who mortally wounded it, so "men who have no marital property in women, but sow in the fields owned by others, may raise up fruit to the husband, but the procreator can have no advantage from it."
This subject Menu pursues from 81 p. 291 to 55 p. 295. of Haughton, and follows up his illustration by putting a variety of cases which I certainly shall not quote, but which once read, will effectually (I should think) prevent any person's again referring to this passage, as a grave authority for the laws relating to landed property in India.
When deliberately speaking of the rights of the sovereign, the code uses a language in complete unison with the actual usages of the country. "If land be injured by the fault of the farmer himself, as if he fails to sow it in due time, he shall be fined ten times as much as the king's share of the crop that might otherwise have been raised: but only five times as much if it was the fault of his servants without his knowledge."On Judicature and Law, 248, p. 259 of Haughton's Translation.
The same imperfect right, however, to hereditary occupation, while the demands of the sovereign are satisfied, which is every where conceded to the ryots, is also still conceded in some parts of India (not in all) to the first reclaimer of waste or deserted ground.
Extracts from a firmaun of the Emperor Aurenzebe, A. D. 1608, published by Mr. Patton in his Principles of Asiatic Monarchies. The firmaun consists of instructions to the government collectors.
p. 343." In a place where neither asher nor kheraj (mowezzeff) are yet settled upon agriculture, they shall act as directed in the law. In case of kheraj (mowezzeff), they shall settle for such a rate, that the ryots may not be ruined by the lands; and they shall not, on any account, exact beyond (the value of) half of the produce, notwithstanding any (particular) ability to pay more. In a place where (one or the other) is fixed, they shall take what has been agreed for, provided that in kheraj (mowezzeff) it does not exceed the half (of the produce in money), that the ryots may not be ruined: but if (what is settled appear to be too much) they shall reduce the former kheraj to what shall be found proportionable to their ability; however, if the capacity exceeds the settlement, they shall not take more."
p. 340." They must shew the ryots every kind of favour and indulgence; inquire into their circumstances; and endeavour, by wholesome regulations and wise administration, to engage them, with hearty good will, to labour towards the increase of agriculture; so that no lands may be neglected that are capable of cultivation.
From the commencement of the year they shall, as far as they are able, acquire information of the circumstances of every husbandman, whether they are employed in cultivation, or have neglected it: then, those who have the ability, they shall excite and encourage to cultivate their lands; and if they require indulgence in any particular instances, let it be granted them; but if, upon examination, it shall be found, that some who have the ability, and are assisted with water, nevertheless have neglected to cultivate their lands, they shall admonish, and threaten, and use force and stripes."
Yet in this and in another firmaun, also published by Mr. Patton, Aurenzebe speaks very tenderly of the rights of the cultivators as proprietors, and is clearly anxious to substitute a milder mode of management for the one actually in use.
The case was much worse with the ryots when the Mogul government was broken up.
Indian Recreations by the Rev. W. Tennant, Vol. III. pp. 18890." This aspect of the native governments merits the greater notice, because it forms not an accidental or temporary feature in their character, but a permanent state of society. It is a maxim among the native politicians, to regard their "State as continually at war." Hence their military chiefs are not permitted for a moment to indulge the habits of civil life; nor do they experience the shelter of a house for many years successively. Their camps are not broken up; nor, except during a march, are their tents ever struck. The intervals of foreign hostility are occupied in the collection of revenue; a measure, which in India is generally executed by a military force, and is more fertile in extensive bloodshed and barbarity, as well as in the varied scenes of distress, than an actual campaign against an avowed enemy.
The refractory Zemindars, (as they are denominated) upon whom the troops are let loose, betake themselves, on their approach, to a neighbouring mud fort; one of which is erected for protection, in the vicinity of almost every village. There the inhabitants endeavour to secure themselves, their cattle, and effects, till they are compelled by force or famine to submit. The garrison is then razed to the foundation, and the village burnt, to expiate a delinquency, too frequently occasioned solely by the iniquitous exactions of government itself.
In these military executions, some of the peasantry are destroyed; some fall victims to famine thus artificially created, and not a few are sold, with their wives and children, to defray their arrears to the treasury, or to discharge the aggravated burdens imposed by the land-holders. Such as survive, betake themselves to the woods, till the departure of their oppressors encourages them to revisit their smoking habitations, and to repair their ruins. Thus harrassed by the injustice and barbarity of their rulers, the peasantry lose all sense of right and wrong; from want, they are forced to become robbers in their turn, and to provoke, by their fraud or violence, a repetition of the same enormities against the next annual visitation of the army."
The fixing the poor ryot to the hereditary task of cultivation, was evidently, under even the best of such governments, a great gain to the sovereign, and a miserable privilege to him.
Buchanan's Edit. Smith's Wealth of Nations, Vol. I App. p. 86."Mr. Place, to whom the management of the jaghire, that surrounds the presidency of Madras, was committed, when describing a certain species of tenant, observes, that by granting them the lands to them and their heirs for ever, as long as they continued in obedience to the Circar, and paid all just dues, he was enabled to convert the most stubborn soil and thickest "jingle into fertile villages."
The same sentiments were expressed by Colonel Munro, who had the charge of several districts. He saw clearly, that the high assessment on the land checked agriculture and population; and on this account, he strongly recommended to government a remission of the tribute. His views were admitted to be just; but the public necessities were pleaded as an apology for a tax, the effect of which it appears is to keep back the cultivation of the country."It is the high assessment on the land," the members of the board of revenue observe, "which Colonel Munro justly considers the chief check to population. Were it not for the pressure of this heavy rent, population, he thinks, ought to increase even faster than in America; because the climate is more favourable, and there are but tracts of good land unoccupied, which may be ploughed at once, without the labour or expence of clearing away forests, as there is above three millions of acres of this kind in the ceded districts. He is of opinion that a great increase of population, and consequently of land revenue, might be expected in the course of twenty-five years, from the operation of the remission. But a remission to a few zemindars, he apprehends, would not remedy the evil, nor remove the weight which at present depresses population.
"Under the system proposed, Colonel Munro conceives, that cultivation and population would increase so much, that, in the course of twenty-five years, lands formerly cultivated, amounting to star pagodas 5,55,962, would be relieved and occupied, together with a considerable portion of waste, never before cultivated. The extension of cultivation, however, would not make the farms larger, and thereby facilitate collection. The enlargement of farms or estates is at present prevented by the want of property; hereafter it would be prevented by its division.
"This is the outline of Colonel Munro's plan, which is not less applicable to all the districts as yet unsettled, than to the ceded districts; and, if the exigencies of government allowed of such a sacrifice as a remission of the present standard rents, to the extent of 25 per cent, or even of 15 per cent, we should consider the measure highly advisable, and calculated to produce great ulterior advantages. Indeed, it would be absurd to dispute, that the less we take from the cultivator of the produce of his labour, the more flourishing will be his condition."
"But, if the exigencies of government do not permit them to make so great a sacrifice; if they cannot at once confer the boon of private property, they must be content to establish a private interest in the soil, as effectually as they can under the farming system. If they cannot afford to give up a share of the landlord's rent, they must be indulgent landlords." See Report of Select Committee, Appendix.
For examples of the rate at which population and produce have increased under mild government, I must refer the reader to accounts of Col. Read's administration of the Mysore, Sir Thomas Munro's of the ceded districts, and to Sir John Malcolm's picture of the rapid revival of central India, after the destruction of the Mahratta sway. I find that extracts would swell this Appendix too much.
93. Note. for Dixame read Daxme.
174. Note. for 66. read 86.
211 21. for as unlimited read a limited.
1. Litt. §177. This was also the case in Scotland: "Na bondman may buy or purches his libertie with his awin proper guile. or geirbecause all the cattell and gudes of all bond-men are understand to be in the power and dominion of the maister: swa that without consent of his maister, he may not redeme himself out of bondsge with his awin "proper denires or money.'See the Regiam Majestatem; or the Auld Lewes of Scotland, Buke II. Chap. 12.