THE MARK IN HOLLAND.
In the sandy region of Holland, the Germanic mark still exists; especially in Drenthe, the hunting demesne of the German emperors, granted by Otho the Great to the bishop of Utrecht, in 943. Surrounded on all sides by marsh and bog, this province formed a kind of island of sand and heath, on which ancestral customs were preserved in their entirety. Even in our day, we find the ancient organization of the Saxon mark; the saxena marka,traces of which are also to be seen in the district of Westerwolde in Groningen, in the whole of Over-Yssel, in the country of Zutphen, in the Veluwe and even in Gooiland, at the gates of Amsterdam,that is, in all parts of the diluvial sandy region which was occupied by the Saxons m the fourth century.
The mark was the whole territory belonging to the tribe, or to a group of families in the tribe. It comprised wood, plain and amble (het houd, het veld en de essch). The name mark was also applied to the wide waste lands surrounding the cultivated land, and forming an uninhabited border destined to serve as frontier. "Civitatibus maxima laus est, quam latissimas circum se vastatis finibus solitudines habere. . . Hoc se fore tutiores arbitrantur, repentinae incursionis timore sublato" (Caesar, de Bello Gallico, vi. 23). The origin of the mark is lost in the obscurity of pre-historic times. When we first come upon it in the Saxon provinces of the Low Countries, individual property had already invaded the primitive community, and from then to our own time the organization has scarcely changed. A share in the mark was called whare; and those who possessed wharen, bore the name of erfgenamen, inheritors, that is, participators in the joint inheritance. The possessors of a whare (gewaardemark genoten) were entitled to send their cattle to graze on the heath of the mark, and to cut turf there for litter or firing.
This collective and undivided property, the mark, was formerly not transmissible by sale or grant. Now, however, the tribunals have decided that it can be alienated like all other landed property. When, in order to divide the property, the mark is sold, the purchase-money is distributed among the co-proprietors, according to the number of wharen or parts that they hold in it. This ancient system, which formerly embraced the whole territory, still comprised in 1828, in Drenthe alone, 160 marken of 126,398 hectares, or about half the province. In 1860 there only remained 43 marken, comprising 32,995 hectares. Even after partition, however, nearly all the territory of the ancient marken remains subject to common pasturage, and 40 per cent, of the total area is not under cultivation. It is interesting to find still intact an ancient agrarian institution much older than the commune(1) or the parish, which, dating from the days when the Germans worshipped Thor and Woden, has resisted alike the feudal system and modern, centralization, and continues its existence, in spite of the text of the Code Civil, just as we see in Italy strong and indestructible fragments of cyclopean substructures jutting out beneath modern monuments.
Formerly the partners in the mark met once a year, on St Peter's day, in a general assembly, holting. They appeared in arms; and no one could absent himself, under pain of a fine. This assembly directed all the details as to the enjoyment of the common property; appointed the works to be executed; imposed pecuniary penalties for the violation of rules, and nominated the officers charged with the executive power, the markenrigter and his assessors. The markenrigter, or head of the mark, was also called the markgraaf, count of the mark or marquis. He, like the count of the dike (dykgraaf), watched over the common interests. It is easy to recognize in these natural associations, founded on the common ownership of land, all the elements of the representative system and the innate habits of self-government, which have been carried across the ocean by the descendants of that same Saxon race, sent forth in times past from the sandy region of Holland, and have given birth to the communes, the counties and the States of North America and Australia. The essential features of the mark organization still subsist. It forms a small administration, supplacing in many respects the commune. It superintends the distribution of water, the keeping up of roads, and the cultivation of common lands, and elects officers to carry out its decisions. They are, however, no longer armed warriors assembling in the holting after sacrificing to Woden, but peaceable proprietors, and pacific cultivators meeting after a good dinner at the common expense. The mound where the holting met (Malenpol), is still visible in Heldermalenveld and at Spoolderberg near Zwolle.
In crossing the vast plains of Drenthe or Over-Yssel, one sees from time to time rising above the level of the heath a large field, generally covered with a heavy crop of rye. It is the portion of the mark devoted to cultivation, the essck,a name which seems to come from an old root that also gave the Latin esca and the German essen, to eat, and here designates the land from which the population derive their sustenance. The essek was formerly the common stock, in which each member of the mark received annually his portion to cultivate, as is clearly proved by Tacitus and Caesar. "Neque quisquam agri modum certum aut fines habet proprios; sed magistratus ac principes in annos singulos gentibus cognationibusque hominum, qui una coierunt, quantum et quo loco visum est, agri attribuunt, atque anno post alio transire cogunt." (Caesar, de Bello Gallico, VI. 22.) During the middle ages, these shares were gradually absorbed in private ownership, but individual property is still far from being freed from the fetters of the primitive community, for all the ancient customs of common cultivation continue to exist. The essch is divided into a great number of parcels. But as there is no road across this vast cultivated field, there is no approach to the several parcels so long as the crops are standing; and there are no boundaries except four large irregu- lar blocks of granite in the four corners. It follows from this arrangement, that all the parcels have to be cropped with the same grain, and must be ploughed, sown and reaped at the same time. For, if a proprietor wished, for instance, to sow a spring cereal when his neighbour had adopted a winter cereal, he could not till his ground or cart his manure without causing material damage, for which he would have to pay compensation, and which would draw on him general ill-feeling.
The triennial rotation is generally followed. The arable is divided into three portions: the winter-essch, sown with winter rye; the Zomer-essch, sown with summer rye; and the brachessch, which formerly lay fallow, but where buckwheat is now grown. The collective body of cultivators is called de boer, that is "the peasant." They meet in full assembly (hagespraak), in the open air under immense oaks of centuries' growth, or in a kind of grassy amphitheatre, in the centre of which the old sacrificial altar of stone is still often standing. The cultivator, who keeps the communal bull, also has charge of the cow-horn, which summons the inhabitants to the assembly, and gives the signal for the various works to be executed in the fields. When all interested are assembled, they deliberate and fix the period for ploughing, sowing and harvest. In this assembly, also, are chosen the four volmagten charged with executive power;with this thoroughly democratic reservation, however, that the kotters, or simple labourers living in a cabin, should nominate two, and the boeren, or cultivators owning horses, should nominate the other two. When the day fixed for harvest arrives, the horn is sounded at daybreak and all set to work. In the evening when the signal to cease is given, everyone is forbidden, under penalty of a fine, to continue cutting the corn. When the sheafs are formed, everyone is bound to arrange them in stacks of eight, in hokken, to dry them and keep them, as much as possible, from the rain. The day for gathering in the harvest is also fixed, after common deliberation. Merry feasts and deep libations celebrate the happy day, which secures to the cultivators the recompense of their rude labours.
The land is then surrendered to common pasturage. Cows are first sent on to it, then sheep, and after that the surface of the soil is turned lightly over, and is soon covered with wild sorrel (rumex acetosella), which the Dutch call schaapsurkel. The name is an appropriate one, for the plant is capital food for sheep, which are very fond of it. On seeing for the first time the esschen of Drenthe, red with the innumerable quantity of these microscopic flowers, one is at a loss to what to attribute the strange colour, for one never expects to see a weed intentionally cultivated, which is everywhere else regarded as a nuisance. At night the sheep are folded on the fields. The Dutch maintain that their country gave birth to this practice, which English agriculture has turned to such good account. Every cultivator has to furnish fence in proportion to his head of cattle. The right of common on the stubble is called klauwengang; and is generally in force. To keep the cattle from the essch, when the crops are still standing, it is surrounded by a rough wall of turf-clods bounded by a ditch (essch-wal). Every one is bound to work at this wall on the day fixed by the assembly; and whoever is more than half-an-hour late, after the horn has summoned the labourers to the work, has to pay fourpence fine.
The village stands at a little distance from the essch. The houses are well built, and kept in admirable repair. They are arranged round a large space (the brink); and raise their white gables under the shadow of old oaks whose majestic crests make one think of the vast forests of Teutach, where the Germans loved to fix their dwellings.
There still exist in Holland a few forests held in common, which are relics of the old forest marken. The chief communal forests of the Veluwe are; the Hoogsoerenschbosch, the Uddelerheegde (492 hectares), the Elspeterbosch (500 hect.), the Gortelscherbosch (800 hect.), the Putterbosch (360 hect.), the Spielderboach (585 hect.), the Speulderbosch (923 hect.), and the Meervelderbosch (700 hect.). The Vierhouterbosch (334 hect.) is now private property. These woods are composed of forest trees with underwood beneath. The forest trees are, for the most part, beech, the two kinds of oak of the country (quercus robur and petiolatus), and the Scotch fir. They do not let these trees obtain a very large development, but cut them after fifty or fifty-five years' growth. The young trees sow themselves; and all are carefully left which have not attained the desired size. For new stocking they trust entirely to nature, and seldom have recourse to planting. The underwood is cut every eleven years. It is of considerable value, as it contains much oak, the bark of which sells at a good price. The inhabitants of the commune are entitled to collect dead wood, leaves and pine cones in the forest.
These forests do not give a very high revenue. The Putterbosch from 1853 to 1863 produced a total of 44,283 florins (a florin = 1s. 8d.), which makes an average of 4,428 florins, or about 12 florins the hectare.
A share in the Spielderbosch, about a thirtieth, produced in the last ten years an average amount of 87 fl. 20 c. in wood, and 46 fl. 33 c. in money, or a total of 133 fl. 53 c., which is hardly more than 7 fl. the hectare. One of these shares was sold some years ago for 2,000 fl.; but now, in consequence of the price of wood, much more is asked. The value was relatively high, even m the middle ages. There were then, probably, old oak trees in the forests. An extract from the register of the Putterbosch shows that a share in this forest was worth 100 forms in 1579; and a share in the Spielderbosch 400 forms. "Op den 3 february 1579 is by de maalen van Putton en Spielderbosch eendragtelyk besloten en overgegeven van nu voortaan onderholden te sullen worden, dat die gemeene macden van Putterbosch ieder hoeve holts die aen geen maelman wesende verkoft vord tot profyt der bosch aan sig te mogen holden voor een hondert gulden ad twintig stuyver hot stuk, ende die maalen van Spielderbosch voor vier hondert gulden."In 1864 a share in the Speulderbosch brought in 155 fl., and a share in the Elspeterbosch, 90 fl. The first share is estimated at 3,600 fl., and the second at 2,200 fl.
The oak underwood for bark (akkermaalshout) of ten years growth, sells at about 200 fl. the hectare, which makes an annual profit of 20 fl. In Drenthe and Over-Yasel, this kind of underwood after ten years sells for 500 fl. the hectare, which makes an annual revenue of over 50 fl.; but in these districts wood is sold dearer than in the Veluwe.
The common woods in the Veluwe are divided into parts, which are more or less numerous and bear various names.
The Gortelscherbosch property is divided into 60 parts called Malen. According to Haasloop Werner, 6,000 trees are felled every year and divided among the co-proprietors.
The Putterbosch is divided into 53 parts (andeelen), 6 of which belong to the forest itself, regarded as a civil person.
The Spielderbosch contains 44 shares, called hoeven, 14 of which belong to the wood. The Speulderbosch contains 120 parts (deelingen), 58½ belonging to the forest. The Elspeterbosch comprises 54 parts, belonging to 25 co-proprietors; and the Uddelerheegde 120 parts, owned by 29 persons. The shares belonging to the forest are sold; and the price, less the expense of replanting, supervision, &c., is divided among the co-proprietors.
The co-proprietors (maalmannen), before taking part in the general assembly (maalspraak), had to pronounce an oath, the ancient formula of which is still preserved in the registers of Gortelschebosch, near Epe. The text of this oath recalls, alike in langnage and spirit, the ancient traditions of Germany: Den eedt der malen.Ick love en sekere dat ick den bus mit al syn ankleven en regten en geregtighoden sal holt ende trauwe wesen, syn regten to scutten und bestal vaer te keeren, ende niet en sal nag am vrienden nag am magen versurgen nag arglist nag om leedt dat anse bus mag schadelick wesen.So waerlick helpe my Gadt!
At Putten they have an old register of the Putterbosch, which begins with the year 1448. It mentions older books which have been lost : it is however shewn that this forest had written customs from far back in the middle ages. De Meester, in a book entitled Aanteekeningen omtrent een par oude veluwsche basschen (Arnhem, 1850), published the deed by which Folkerus granted to the abbey, of Werden, in 855, conformably to the Salic and Frison laws, the wood (saltus) of Uunnilo, the forest (silva) of Horulo, 25 parts (scharen) in the Putterbosch, 60 parts in the wood of Ermelo, and the forests of Burlo, Dalbonlo, Wardlo, Orclo, Legurlo, Ottarloun and Langlo.
The administrative committee of the Putterbosch consists of two holt-rigters, and a gecommitteerde. This committee, nominated by the co-proprietors (maalmannen), manages the forest and directs the division of its produce. In the part of the forest destined to be cut, they make as many equal shares as there are co-proprietors, and then distribute them by lot.
The nature of the ownership of these woods has considerably exercised Dutch jurists. If it were merely common undivided property; a communia bonorum, the proprietors might demand partition, and put an end to the indivisibility. But they seem rather to belong to that class of civil persons, corpora vel callegia licita, which are governed by their own rules and institutions. The supreme court leans to this last opinion. On this ground it is held that the large pasturage, de Hoenweerd, near Hattem, was not mere undivided property of which partition could be demanded, but was an indivisible universitas. In fact, if we glance back to the spirit of ancient German institutions, we must see that they are favourable to the existence of such indivisible common property, for individual ownership of land is of relatively recent origin. In the neighbourhood of the ancient common forests there are many tumuli, covering large urns of clay hardened in the sun, which contain ashes and carbonized bones.
In Holland, we often come upon evidence that the towns are developed out of the mark; for several of them still possess common land, like the town of Thun, in Switzerland, where the drill ground is called the Allmend. The town of Zutphen possesses a magnificent meadow, called Marsch en Helbergen, 150 hectares in extent, on which 668 cattle were turned for pasture. The town of Genemuiden has lost the greater part of its mark, owing to the encroachment of the Zuider Zee. It has still a meadow, de Greente, on which the inhabitants have a right of common pasture for their cattle. Elburg possesses a meadow, het Goar, divided into 612 parts (andeelen), and equal to 308 Kaegras (keep for a cow, the Swiss kuhessen). The towns of Genemuiden, Hattem, Deventer and Steenwyck still possess a remnant of the ancient Allmend, in the large pastures (greente) on which some of the inhabitants, descended from the old families of joint proprietors, are entitled to send a certain number of cows, by virtue of hereditary right, as in the burgh of Lauder in Scotland. It would be easy to collect many other examples on the spot.
1. In every commune of relatively recent formation there are several marken. The commune of Westerhork contains nine, that of Rolde nine, and that of Beilen twelve, and these twelve marken comprised an area of more than 10,000 hectares.