Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin.

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in the mouth of a French gardener who himself comes
from the model marais of Troyes.

And while people in London continue to pay almost
all the year round twopence for a lettuce (very often im-
ported from Paris), they have at Chicago and Boston
those unique establishments in the world where lettuces
are grown in immense greenhouses with the aid of
electric light ; and we must not forget that although
the discovery of " electric " growth is European (it is
due to Siemens), it was at the Cornell University that it
was proved by a series of experiments that electric
light is an admirable aid for forwarding the growth of
the green parts of the plant.

In short, America, which formerly took the lead in
bringing " extensive " agriculture to perfection, now
takes the lead in " intensive," or forced, agriculture as
well. In this adaptability lies the real force of American

* IS Horticulture dans les cinq Parties du Monde. Paris, 1895.



The doctrine of Malthus Progress in wheat-growing East Flanders
Jersey Potato crops, past and present Irrigation Major Hallet'i
experiments Planted wheat.

FEW books have exercised so pernicious an influence
upon the general development of economic thought as
Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population exer-
cised for three consecutive generations. It appeared at
the right time, like all books which have had any in-
fluence at all, and it summed up ideas already current
in the minds of the wealth-possessing minority. It was
precisely when the ideas of equality and liberty,
awakened by the French and American revolutions,
were still permeating the minds of the poor, while the
richer classes had become tired of their amateur excur-
sions into the same domains, that Malthus came to
assert, in reply to Godwin, that no equality is possible ;
that the poverty of the many is not due to institutions,
but is a natural law. Population, he wrote, grows too
rapidly and the new-comers find no room at the feast of
nature ; and that law cannot be altered by any change
of institutions. He thus gave to the rich a kind of
scientific argument against the ideas of equality ; and
we know that though all dominion is based upon
force, force itself begins to totter as soon as it is no
longer supported by a firm belief in its own rightf ulness.



As to the poorer classes who always resent the influ-
ence of ideas circulating at a given time amid the
wealthier classes it deprived them of the very hope of
improvement ; it made them sceptical as to the promises-
of the social reformers; and to this day the most ad-
vanced reformers entertain doubts as to the possibility
of satisfying the needs of all, in case there should be
a claim for their satisfaction, and a temporary welfare
of the labourers resulted in a sudden increase of

Science, down to the present day, remains permeated
with Malthus's teachings. Political economy continues*
to base its reasoning upon a tacit admission of the im-
possibility of rapidly increasing the productive powers
of a nation, and of thus giving satisfaction to all wants.
That postulate stands, undiscussed, in the background
of whatever political economy, classical or socialist, has
to say about exchange value, wages, sale of labour
force, rent, exchange, and consumption. Political
economy never rises above the hypothesis of a limited
and insufficient supply of the necessaries of life; it takes it
for granted. And all theories connected with political
economy retain the same erroneous principle. Nearly
all socialists, too, admit the postulate. Nay, even in
biology (so deeply interwoven now with sociology) we
have recently seen the theory of variability of species
borrowing a quite unexpected support from its having
been connected by Darwin and Wallace with Malthus's
fundamental idea, that the natural resources must in-
evitably fail to supply the means of existence for the
rapidly multiplying animals and plants. In short, we
may say that Malthus's theory, by shaping into a pseudo-
scientific form the secret desires of the wealth-possessing
classes, became the foundation of a whole system of
practical philosophy, which permeates the minds of both
the educated and uneducated, and reacts (as practical


philosophy always does) upon the theoretical philosophy
of our century.

True, the formidable growth of the productive powers
of man in the industrial field, since he tamed steam
and electricity, has somewhat shaken Malthus's doctrine.
Industrial wealth has grown at a rate which no possible
increase of population could attain, and it can grow with
still greater speed. But agriculture is still considered a
stronghold of the Malthusian pseudo-philosophy. The
recent achievements of agriculture and horticulture are
not sufficiently well known ; and while our gardeners
defy climate and latitude, acclimatise sub-tropical plants,
raise several crops a year instead of one, and themselves
make the soil they want for each special culture, the
economists nevertheless continue saying that the surface
of the soil is limited, and still more its productive
powers ; they still maintain that a population which
should double each thirty years would soon be con-
fronted by a lack of the necessaries of life!

A few data to illustrate what can be obtained from
the soil were given in the preceding chapter. But the
deeper one goes into the subject the more new and strik-
ing data does he discover, and the more Malthus's fears
appear groundless.

To begin with an instance taken from culture in the
open field namely, that of wheat we come upon the
following interesting fact While we are so often told
that wheat-growing does not pay, and England conse-
quently reduces from year to year the area of its wheat
fields, the French peasants steadily increase the area
under wheat, and the greatest increase is due to those
peasant families which themselves cultivate the land
they own. Since the end of the last century they have
nearly doubled both the area under wheat, as well as the
returns from each acre, so as to increase almost fourfold



the amount of wheat grown in France.* At the same
time the population has only increased by 41 per cent.,
so that the ratio of increase of the wheat crop has been
six times greater than the ratio of increase of popula-
tion, although agriculture has been hampered all the
time by a series of serious obstacles taxation, military
service, poverty of the peasantry, and even, up to 1884,
a severe prohibition of all sorts of association among
the peasants. It must also be remarked that during
the same hundred years, and even within the last fifty
years, market-gardening, fruit-culture and culture for
industrial purposes have immensely developed in France,
so that there would be no exaggeration in saying that
the French obtain now from their soil at least six or
seven times more than they obtained a hundred years
ago. The " means of existence " drawn from the soil
have thus grown about fifteen times quicker than the

But the ratio of progress in agriculture is still better
seen from the rise of the standard of requirement as
regards cultivation of land. Some thirty years ago the
French considered a crop quite good when it yielded
twenty-two bushels to the acre ; but with the same soil
the present requirement is at least thirty-three bushels,
while in the best soils the crop is good only when it
yields from forty-three to forty-eight bushels, and occa-
sionally the product is as much as fifty-five bushels to the
acre.t There are whole countries Hesse, for example

* The researches of Tisserand may be summed up as follows :



Acres under

Average crop
in bushels
per acre.

Wheat crop in
















t Grandeau, Etudes agronoiniques, 2 e sdrie. Paris, 1888.


which are satisfied only when the average crop attains
thirty-seven bushels ; while the experimental farms of
Central France produce from year to year, over large
areas, forty-one bushels to the acre, and a number of
farms in Northern France regularly yield, year after
year, from fifty-five to sixty-eight bushels to the acre.
Occasionally even so much as eighty bushels have been
obtained upon limited areas under special care.* In
fact, Prof. Grandeau considers it proved that by com-
bining a series of such operations as the selection of
seeds, sowing in rows, and proper manuring, the crops
can be largely increased over the best present average,
while the cost of production can be reduced by 50 per
cent, by the use of inexpensive machinery ; to say
nothing of costly machines like the steam digger, or the
pulverisers which make the soil required for each special
culture. They are now occasionally resorted to here
and there, and they surely will come into general use as
soon as humanity feels the need of largely increasing its
agricultural product.

When we bear in mind the very unfavourable con-
ditions in which agriculture stands now all over the
world, we must not expect to find considerable progress
in its methods realised over wide regions ; we must be
satisfied with noting the advance accomplished in sepa-
rate, especially favoured spots, where, for one cause or
another, the tribute levied upon the agriculturist was
not so heavy as to stop all possibility of progress.

One such example may be seen in the district of Saf-
felare in East Flanders. On a territory of 37,000 acres,
all taken, a population of 30,000 inhabitants, all peasants,
not only finds its food, but manages, moreover, to keep

* Risler, Physiologie et Culture du Ble. Paris, 1886. Taking the
whole of the wheat crop in France, we see that the following progress
has been realised. In 1872-1881 the average crop was 14-8 quintaux per
hectare. In 1882-1890 it attained 16-9 quintaux per hectare. Increase
by 14 per cent, in ten years (Prof. C. V. Garola, Les Cereales Y p. 70 seq.\.


no less than 10,720 horned cattle, 3800 sheep, 1815
horses and 6550 swine, to grow flax, and to export
various agricultural produce.*

Another illustration of this sort may be taken from
the Channel Islands, whose inhabitants have happily
not known the blessings of Roman law and landlord-
ism, as they still live under the common law of Nor-
mandy. The small island of Jersey, eight miles long
and less than six miles wide, still remains a land of open-
field culture ; but, although it comprises only 28,707
acres, rocks included, it nourishes a population of about
two inhabitants to each acre, or 1300 inhabitants to the
square mile, and there is not one writer on agriculture
who, after having paid a visit to this island, does not
praise the well-being of the Jersey peasants and the
admirable results which they obtain in their small farms
of from five to twenty acres, very often less than five
acres by means of a rational and intensive culture.

Most of my readers will probably be astonished to
learn that the soil of Jersey, which consists of decom-
posed granite, with no organic matter in it, is not at all
of astonishing fertility, and that its climate, though
more sunny than the climate of these isles, offers many
drawbacks on account of the small amount of sun-heat
during the summer and of the cold winds in spring.
But so it is in reality, and at the beginning of this
century the inhabitants of Jersey lived chiefly on im-
ported food. (See Appendix J.) The successes
accomplished lately in Jersey are entirely due to the
amount of labour which a dense population is putting
in the land ; to a system of land-tenure, land -transfer-
ence and inheritance very different from those which
prevail elsewhere ; to freedom from State taxation ; and
to the fact that communal institutions have been main-
tained down to quite a recent period, while a number

* O. de Kerchove de Denterghen, La petite Culture den Flandres beiges
Gand, 1878.


of communal habits and customs of mutual support,
derived therefrom, are alive to the present time. As to
the fertility of the soil, it is made partly by the sea-weeds
gathered free on the sea-coast, but chiefly at Blaydon-
on-Tyne, out of all sorts of refuse inclusive of bones
shipped from Plevna and mummies of cats shipped from

It is well known that for the last thirty years the
Jersey peasants and farmers have been growing early
potatoes on a great scale, and that in this line they
have attained most satisfactory results. Their chief aim
being to have the potatoes out as early as possible,
when they fetch at the Jersey Weigh-Bridge as much
as 17 and 20 the ton, the digging out of potatoes
begins, in the best sheltered places, as early as the
first days of May, or even at the end of April. Quite
a system of potato-culture, beginning with the selection
of tubers, the arrangements for making them germinate,
the selection of properly sheltered and well situated
plots of ground, the choice of proper manure, and end-
ing with the box in which the potatoes germinate and
which has so many other useful applications, quite a
system of culture has been worked out in the island
for that purpose by the collective intelligence of the

In the last weeks of May and in June, when the
export is at its height, quite a fleet of steamers runs
between this small island and various ports of Eng-
land and Scotland. Every day eight to ten steamers

* One could not insist too much on the collective character of the
development of that branch of husbandry. In many places of the south
coast early potatoes can also be grown to say nothing of Cornwall and
South Devon, where potatoes are obtained by separate labourers in small
quantities as early as they are obtained in Jersey. But so long as this
culture remains the work of isolated growers, its results must necessarily
be inferior to what the Jersey peasants obtain through their collective
experience. For the technical details concerning potato-culture in Jersey,
see a paper by a Jersey grower, in the Journal of Horticulture t zand and May, 1890.


enter the harbour of St. Heller, and in twenty-four
hours they are loaded with potatoes and steer for
London, Southampton, Liverpool, Newcastle, and Scot-
land. From 50,000 to 60,000 tons of potatoes, valued
at from 260,000 to 500,000, according to the year,
are thus exported every summer; and, if the local con-
sumption be taken into account, we have at least
60,000 to 70,000 tons that are obtained, although no
more than from 6500 to 7500 acres are given to all
potato crops, early and late early potatoes, as is well
known, never giving as heavy crops as the later ones,
Ten to eleven tons per acre is thus the average, while
in this country the average is only six tons per acre.

As soon as the potatoes are out the second crop of
mangold or of " three months' wheat " (a special variety
of rapidly growing wheat) is sown. Not one day is
lost in putting it in. The potato-field may consist of
one or two acres only, but as soon as one-fourth part
of it is cleared of the potatoes it is sown with the second
crop. One may thus see a small field divided into four
plots, three of which are sown with wheat at five or
six days' distance from each other, while on the fourth
plot the potatoes are being dug out

The admirable condition of the meadows x and the
grazing land in the Channel Islands has often been
described, and although the aggregate area which is
given in Jersey to green crops, grasses under rotation,
and permanent pasture both for hay and grazing is
less than 11,000 acres, they keep in Jersey over 12,300
head of cattle and over 2300 horses solely used for
agriculture and breeding.

Moreover, about 100 bulls and 1600 cows and heifers
are exported every year,* so that by this time, as was
remarked in an American paper, there are more Jersey
cows in America than in Jersey Island. Jersey milk

* See Appendix J.


and butter have a wide renown, as also the pears which
are grown in the open air, but each of which is protected
on the tree by a separate cap, and still more the fruit
and vegetables which are grown in the hothouses. In
a word, it will suffice to say that on the whole they ob-
tain agricultural produce to the value of 50 to each
acre of the aggregate surface of the island.

Fifty pounds' worth of agricultural produce from
each acre of the land is sufficiently good. But the more
we study the modern achievements of agriculture the
more we see that the limits of productivity of the soil
are not attained, even in Jersey. New horizons are
continually. unveiled. For the last fifty years science
especially chemistry and mechanical skill have been
widening and extending the industrial powers of man
upon organic and inorganic dead matter. Prodigies
have been achieved in that direction. Now comes the
turn of similar achievements with living plants. Hu-
man skill in the treatment of living matter, and science
in its branch dealing with living organisms step in
with the intention of doing for the art of food-growing
what mechanical and chemical skill have done in the
art of fashioning and shaping metals, wood and dead
fibres of plants. Almost every new year brings some
new, often unexpected improvement in the art of agri-
culture, which for so many centuries had been dormant.

We just saw that while the average potato crop in
the country is six tons per acre, in Jersey it is nearly
twice as big. But Mr. Knight, whose name is well
known to every horticulturist in this country, has once
dug out of his fields no less than 1284 bushels of po-
tatoes, or thirty-four tons and nine cwts. in weight, on
one single acre ; and at a recent competition in Minne-
sota 1 1 20 bushels, or thirty tons, could be ascertained
as having been grown on one acre.

These are undoubtedly extraordinary crops, but quite


recently the French Professor Aimd Girard undertook
a series of experiments in order to find out the best
conditions for growing potatoes in his country.* He did
not care for show-crops obtained by means of extrava-
gant manuring, but carefully studied all conditions : the
best variety, the depth of tilling and planting, the dis-
tance between the plants. Then he entered into
correspondence with some 350 growers in different parts
of France, advised them by letters, and finally induced
them to experiment. Strictly following his instructions,
several of his correspondents made experiments on a
small scale, and they obtained instead of the three tons
which they were accustomed to grow such crops as
would correspond to twenty and thirty-six tons to the
acre.t Moreover, ninety growers experimented on
fields more than one-quarter of an acre in size, and more
than twenty growers made their experiments on larger
areas of from three to twenty-eight acres. The result
was that none of them obtained less than twelve tons to
the acre, while some obtained twenty tons, and the
average was, for the no growers, fourteen and a half
tons per acre.

However, industry requires still heavier crops.
Potatoes are largely used in Germany and Belgium
for distilleries; consequently, the distillery owners try
to obtain the greatest possible amounts of starch from the
acre. Extensive experiments have lately been made
for that purpose in Germany, and the crops were : nine
tons per acre for the poor sorts, fourteen tons for the
better ones, and thirty- two and four- tenths tons for the
best varieties of potatoes.

Three tons to the acre and more than thirty tons to
the acre are thus the ascertained limits ; and one neces-
sarily asks oneself: Which of the two requires less

* See the Annales agronomiques for 1892 and 1893 ; also Journal ftci
Economistes, feVrier, 1893, P- 2I 5-
t Fifty to ninety tons per hectare.


labour in tilling, planting, cultivating and digging, and
less expenditure in manure thirty tons grown on ten
acres, or the same thirty tons grown on one acre or
two ? If labour is of no consideration, while every penny
spent in seeds and manure is of great importance, as is
unhappily very often the case with the peasant he will
perforce choose the first method But is it the most
economic ?

Again, I just mentioned that in the Saffelare dis-
trict and Jersey they succeed in keeping one head of
ihorned cattle to each acre of green crops, meadows
and pasture land, while elsewhere two or three acres
are required for the same purpose. But better results
still can be obtained by means of irrigation, either with
sewage or even with pure water. In England, farmers
are contented with one and a half and two tons of hay
per acre, and in the part of Flanders just mentioned,
two and a half tons of hay to the acre are considered a
fair crop. But on the irrigated fields of the Vosges, the
Vaucluse, etc., in France, six tons of dry hay become the
rule, even upon ungrateful soil ; and this means consider-
ably more than the annual food of one milch cow (which
can be taken at a little less than five tons) grown on each
acre. All taken, the results of irrigation have proved
so satisfactory in France that during the years 1862-82
no less than 1,355,000 acres of meadows have been
irrigated,* which means that the annual meat-food of at
least 1,500,000 full-grown persons, or mpre, has been
added to the yearly income of the country ; home-grown,
not imported. In fact, in the valley of the Seine, the
value of the land was doubled by irrigation ; in the
Sadne valley it was increased five times, and ten times
in certain landes of Britanny.t

* Barral in journal d' Agriculture pratique, 2 fevrier, 1889 ; Boitel,
Herbages et Prairies naturelles, Paris, 1887.

f The increase of the crops due to irrigation is most instructive. In
the most unproductive Sologne, irrigation has increased the hay cro/


The example of the Campine district, in Belgium,
is classical. It was a most unproductive territory mere
sand from the sea, blown into irregular mounds which
were only kept together by the roots of the heath ;
the acre of it used to be sold, not rented, at from 55. to
73. (15 to 20 francs per hectare). But now it is capable,
thanks to the work of the Flemish peasants and to
irrigation, to produce the food of one milch cow per
acre the dung of the cattle being utilised for further

The irrigated meadows round Milan are another well-
known example. Nearly 22,000 acres are irrigated there
with water derived from the sewers of the city, and they
yield crops of from eight to ten tons of hay as a rule ;
occasionally some separate meadows will yield the fabu-
lous amount fabulous to-day, but no longer fabulous
to-morrow of eighteen tons of hay per acre, that is,
the food of nearly four cows to the acre, and nine times
the yield of good meadows in this country.* However,
English readers need not go so far as Milan for ascer-
taining the results of irrigation by sewer water. They
have several such examples in this country, in the
experiments of Sir John Lawes, and especially at Craig-
entinny, near Edinburgh, where, to use Ronna's words,
" the growth of rye grass is so activated that it attains
its full development in one year instead of in three to
four years. Sown in August, it gives a first crop in
autumn, and then, beginning with next spring, a crop
of four tons to the acre is taken every month; which

from two tons per hectare (two and a half acres) to eight tons ; in the
Vendee, from four tons of bad hay to ten tons of excellent hay. In the
Ain, M. Puris, having spent 19,000 francs for irrigating ninety-two and
a half hectares (about 2 IDS. per acre), obtained an increase of 207 tons
of excellent hay. In the south of France, a net increase of over four
bushels of wheat per acre is easily obtained by irrigation; while for
market-gardening the increase was found to attain 30 to 40 per acre.
(See H. Sagnier, "Irrigation," in BarraPs Dictionnaire d: Agriculture,
vol. Hi., p. 339.)

* Dictionnaire d? Agriculture, same article. See also Appendix I.


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Online LibraryPetr Alekseevich KropotkinFields, factories, and workshops; or, Industry combined with agriculture and brain work with manual work → online text (page 8 of 22)