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the share that falls to the landlord increases, and that which
falls to the laborer diminishes, as more land is brought under cul-

Not one of these results is sustained by observation. The
facts alleged in the previous chapter in regard to the con-
dition of savage nations, and of civilized peoples in the earlier
stase, show us that the thinly-settled countries are those in
which continual poverty prevails, and frequent famines occur.
In the first and the second points, therefore, the theory diverges
widelv from the facts.

On the third point — the increasing share of the landlord, as
distinguished from an increasing amount — the theory is equally


at fault. With the growth of society in numbers, in intelligence,
in the efficiency of its workers, the landlord obtains a continually
increasing amount, but a continually decreasing share. His
third falls to a fourth of the produce, but the fourth is more
than the third was; the fourth becomes a fifth, but the
actual amount is still increased. Adam Smith pointed this out
as the difference between the times when feudal bondage existed
in Europe and the whole crop fell to the landlord, and his own
day when the landlord took a third or a fourth part of the pro-
duce, but got three or four times as much as the whole had once
amounted to.

Mr. Malthus showed from official returns that in England the
landlord iu his day took but a fifth of the crop in rent, and yet
got a larger quantity than in previous ages when his share had
been one-fourth, one-third, or even two-fifths. We have it on
equally high authority that between 1790 and 1833 the amount
got by the landlord had doubled, while the improved condition
of the laborer showed that the increase had not been at his ex-
pense. Mr. Senior says that the improvements in England
between 1776 and 1836 had " more than doubled the wages of
labor and nearly trebled the value of land."

These results are not open to question ; they have been reached by
competent statists, all of thein of the school of Ricardo.

The official figures in regard to France show that of the gross
produce of the culture of the soil, 35, 37, 43, 60 and 60 per
cent., had been paid as the cost of cultivation at the dates 1700,
1760, 1788, 1813 and 1840, and that the yearly sum that fell to
each family engaged in agriculture at each date was 135, 126,
161, 400 and 500 francs respectively. Comparing these figures
with the price of bread at each date, we find that the people of
France had not much over half enough to eat under Louis XIV. ;
about two-thirds of enough under Louis XV. ; three-fourths
under Louis XVI., and more than enough under the Empire.
The minister D'Argenson in 1753, a year of no special scarcity,
says: "Men die around us like flies and are reduced to eat
grass." The Duke of Orleans brought a loaf of fern bread to


the Royal Council, and placing it before the King, his brother,
said : " Sire, see what your subjects live upon!" The returns to
labor in France are by no means what they ought to be even
now. France is more fertile than England, yet two-thirds of
the French people are engaged in producing food for the nation,
against one-third of the English ; and with all, the latter are
better fed and more prosperous generally. Furthermore, one-
sixth of the soil of France is covered with forests ; one-twenty-
fourth of England. If Mr. Ricardo be right, this should mean
that the pressure of population has not yet brought the French
nation to the cultivation of the poorer soils, and that the acre-
age under tillage yields a larger average of bushels than in
England. But notoriously the reverse of this is true. And if
we compare department with department, it is found that the
most populous parts of France are also those in which the yield
per acre and the consumption of food per head are both greater,
and the quality of the food better, than in the others.

§ 99. The study of the early history of land-tenures, begun
since 31r. E-icardo's time, it is now admitted by English scholars,
discredits his assumption that all the facts known to us can be
traced back to the competition for the use of the soil. Such
competition is quite modern in its origin. In former times land
was not held by individuals, but by associated groups, bound
together by kinship and by immemorial custom. The whole
group held the soil in common as an inalienable possession, and
assigned parts of it to single families for their use. While cus-
tom defined the rights of these families and prevented all intru-
sion upon them, custom also debarred the family from disposing
of those rights. Where some chief or lord of the manor pos-
sessed a claim upon the services of the rest of its tenants, the
kind and amount of this also were fixed by custom ; and where
a violent change of lordship overthrew existing customs, others
of equal rigidity quickly grew up in their stead, and were
quietly assumed to have held from time immemorial. No
market for land, and consequently no competition for its pos-
session existed among the actual cultivators. Only the ex-


tinction of these tenures in common, and the enclosure of the
lands, created individual ownership in the modern sense, and
with it competitive rents. Down to quite recent times the rent
of land even in England was fixed by custom, not by competi-
tion, and much of it is still so held. But English economists,
following Adam Smith and Ricardo, have always assumed that
competitive are the only true rents, just as English lawyers
have assumed that all customary rights are usurpations on the
rights of the lord of the manor. Both opinions had their
excuse in the almost if not quite universal ignorance of the
historical fact; both have doue great mischief to the common
people, by fostering the notion that the traditional customary
rights of the people to the land could be set aside without

" These tenures afford confirmation of the doubts suggested in Sir
Henry Maine's Village Communities respecting the historical truth of the
economic theory of the origin of rent. Early land-rents were not com-
petitive rents; they were not at all in conformity with Mr. Ricardo's
doctrine ; they bore, for the most part, no relation to the fertility of the
soil, or its vicinity to market, if there was any market at all. . . . Each
manor was, as it were, a separate territory, inhabited by a distinct com-
munity. There was no competition for the tenure of farms from without;
and within the manor the sole regulators of rent were the arbitrary will
of the lord, and custom. The rent of the villein was at first, in theory at
least, an arbitrary rent; in its next stage it was a customary rent, in
labor or produce ; in a third stage it became commuted into a money-
rent, based on a valuation of the customary service or payments in kind.
In the book before us [Blount's Tenures of Land] we have many exam-
ples of the customary rent in labor and in kind, and of the commuted
money-rent ; but there is not a single example of a competitive rent.
Competitive rents only began with enclosures and the disruption of the
old manorial community ; and customary rents survive to this day in
many a manor, in defiance of economic theory" ( The Athenecum, 1874).

The only early instance of a rent not fixed by custom is that provided
for in one of the old Irish laws, in which a member of one group, be-
coming an outcast, becomes the tenant of another. Of such a tenant as
large a rent as could be exacted, might be justly demanded; but of a
member of the sept itself only a fair (i. e., a customary) rent could be

§ 100. Mr. Ricardo is wrong in his very first premise. " The


elements of value to" the first settlers of a new country " are
not the resources that are capable of development through in-
dustry and enterprise, but those which offer the readiest supply
of the necessaries of life" (J. H. Burton). They do not begin
with the best soil, and afterwards proceed to that which is worse,
however natural and reasonable it may seem to assume that they
do so. The best soil is usually not known to them as such ;
even if it were, it is nearly always inaccessible to them. Through
its very wealth, it is not unusually covered with timber, whose
clearance is impossible to them. More commonly it is marshy,
and requires what would be to them a vast expenditure of labor
to drain it. It lies in the lower parts of the country, to which
the aqueous circulation has been for ages carrying down the
richest elements of the soil. It is infested with malarias, bred
of vegetable decay. It is utterly devoid of those natural facili-
ties for defence, which in most situations are imperiously neces-
sary to the settler.

The progress of civilization in all ages, therefore, has been
from the thin and poor soils high up the rivers to the richer
soils that lie nearer their mouths. The retrogression of civiliza-
tion has been the abandonment of the richer soils and the re-
treat up the hillsides to those that are lighter and less fertile.

The next chapter gives the historical proofs of these facts, and of the
true law of settlement.

The great means that has enabled men to pass from the poorer

soils to the richer is the power of cooperation that increases with

the growth of numbers, unless some artificial obstacle has been

interposed to prevent it. The sudden decline of numbers, or the

diminution of the power of association, has had the effect of

driving men back from the land that richly repays the labor

expended upon it, to the soil that furnishes natural drainage,

that can be ploughed with a crooked sapling and harrowed with a

thorny bush. The labor expended upon such soil is slightly

repaid; the crop reaped is therefore dear; but necessity has no




The National Economy of Land (continued): How the
Earth was Occupied.

§ 101. The historical refutation of Mr. Ricardo's theory,
which is presented by the history of the settlement of the various
countries of the earth, was first given to the world by Mr. H. C.
Carey in his book The Past, the Present and the Future (1848).
It is worthy of study, not only as a refutation of a dismal theory
of the destiny of mankind, but for the light it casts upon the
economic side of the world's history, and indirectly upon other
sides also. It might be easily and fairly elaborated into an
economical history of the earth, for that history is nothing but
the story of man's conquest of nature's resistance and the pro-
gressive mastery of her manifold utilities.

Finding that the whole ease as regards Europe and Asia could be re-
stated from later authorities, chiefly English, we have taken compara-
tively few of the details from Mr. Carey. In regard to America, we have
followed his lead more fully.

The question being one of the tenure of land and its effects
upon the well-being of the people, we will confine ourselves to
those people who live or lived under such a tenure. This ex-
cludes barbarous and nomadic tribes generally and restricts the
inquiry to the Shemitic and Indo-Germanic races, and to their
precursors in civilization, the people of China and the Hamitic
nations of Egypt and the Euphrates valley.

§ 102. China comes first, as it presents the least-developed
and therefore the most ancient type of civilization. . That its
language has no grammatical cohesion and its polity no organic
unity are related facts. In the earliest ages its people were con-
fined to the mountainous provinces of the interior, where the
soil is generally thin and invariably light and porous, aud easily
cultivated. Here was the ancient capital Hien-Vang, once an
illustrious and splendid city, that emperors expended their wealth


in adorning; now an insignificant village. Here was the home
of the ancient sages Fo-hi and Con-fu-tze, who gave to Chinese
civilization its hard and formal tone. Not till about the becin-
niug of the third century B. c. were the middle provinces be-
tween the mountains and the plain — now the seat of the tea-
culture — annexed to the kingdom. Then as numbers grew, the
people spread down into the plains along the seashore, occupy-
ing rather than conquering them. Their superiority to the
mountain provinces in agricultural wealth is unquestioned; but
the great rivers that have long enriched them with the spoils
of the mountains are a source of great danger. Had they been
occupied by numbers insufficient to resist the inundations, the
colonies would have been swept away. In this lowland the
great cities of modern China have grown up in comparatively
recent times, entirely eclipsing the ancient cities of the interior.

See Pauthier's Chine, on Description Historique . . . d'aprla des
Documents Chinois, Paris, 1S39 (Pages 6, 7, 215, 221).

§ 103. Egypt is one of the few very fertile regions of the
earth that at a very early date was settled and became the
theatre of a vigorous civilization. But it is no exception to the
rule. The oldest traces of civilization — as native traditions
would lead us to expect — are to be found in Upper Egypt,
where the country borders on Nubia. At a later date, popula-
tion poured down into the rich plain of the Delta, as possibly
they had previously poured out of barren, rocky Nubia into
the region about Thebes. The two regions are carefully dis-
tinguished by the Egyptians themselves; in the title of the
sovereigns down to the Ptolemies, Upper Egypt is put first ; in
the double crown they wore, the white crown of the former rises
above the red one of the latter. The valley of the Nile in
Upper Egypt is devoid of rain; it is rich, but narrow and in-
capable of extension or improvement by art ; in the Delta rain
falls frequently, the valley is broad and rich, and the construc-
tion of canals added greatly to its wealth. It is a purely allu-
vial formation ; the waves of the Mediterranean once washed
the rocks on which the pyramids stand. In the earliest ages


the soil of the Delta was no doubt much less accessible than at
present, and we hear of great works of drainage being under-
taken by the early kings. " It is to the junction of the two
arms of the Nile, by a nest of canals, that Egypt is indebted for
its fertility" (Bunsen). " They say that in the time of Menes,
all Egypt, except the Thebaid, was a morass, and that no part
of the land now existing below Lake Myris was then above
water. To this place from the sea is seven days' journey by the
river" (Herodotus). "The Ethiopians say that the Egyptians
are a colony led out from among them by Osiris; and that
Egypt was formerly no part of the continent, but a sea at the
beginning of the world ; but that afterwards it was made land
by the river Nile" (Diodorus Siculus). The date of the rise
of towns in Lower Egypt was known to the Hebrews. The
country was the granary of the nations from the earliest times
known to us, feeding its vast and dense population most abun-
dantly and dispensing its grain to the needy and thinly-settled
regions in its vicinity. All this wealth it brings from the interior
of the continent, the primitive seats of the race. " All Egypt,"
says Herodotus, " is the gift of the Nile." Since the decline
of the population and of the power of association under Moham-
medan despotism, the desert has encroached upon the valley,
and the fertility of the country has been greatly diminished
through the decay of the canals and other works of irrigation.
§ 104. The original seat of the Shemitic race, and indeed of
the human race after the flood, was in the mountainous high-
lands of Armenia. When at last their growing numbers poured
into Mesopotamia and the plains of Shinar, their first instinct
was to secure their safety by the erection of an artificial moun-
tain, "whose top should reach unto heaven." When we find
the Shemites in possession of this region some ages later, it is
the kingdom of Elam, perched on the highlands on the eastern
side of the valley of the great rivers, that is dominant. As
numbers grew there arose the great empire of Nineveh. Nine-
veh, whose site was a high plain at the foot of the mountain
rauges, raised considerably above the river's bank and exposed


to the action of the drought, but free from floods ^and> .evidently

preferred to richer lands because of this singo advantage!-

Not until after centuries of empire and its conquest by the
Medes, did it give place to Babylon, situated far down the
valley in fertile lands that the growth of population had made
accessible to cultivation.

Empire of Nineveh b. c. 1440-625. An Akkadian empire, with its
capital situated at the head of the Persian Gulf, and whose people proba-
bly came over from Arabia, seems to have preceded Nineveh.

In other places occupied by the Shemitic races similar sites
are chosen as preferable. Moab, " the desired land," is a cluster
of limestone hills east of the Dead Sea. Amnion chooses the
high plateaus farther up the Jordan. Ishmael spreads over the
rocky and stony peninsula of Arabia. The children of Esau
take the border land of the desert, and find the Horites or
mountaineers already in possession. The Israelites get as their
long-expected inheritance the rocky strip on both sides the
Jordan, — with the caution that it is a hill-country, not an
Egypt where they might water the soil with their foot. Among
the people they must drive out before them, the Amorites or
Highlanders are the strongest, and are led by the King of
Bashan, whose long-deserted upland country still abounds in
strange monuments of its early greatness. We have frequent
notice in later Jewish history of the extension of culture to un-
occupied districts in the plains, by enterprising rulers, — and the
consequent rise of new cities like Samaria and Jezreel in the
most fertile parts of the country. Only the Philistines and
Phenicians on the west were able to do what the Babylonians
did in the east. Their high civilization and gift of social
- organization enabled them to settle in the lowlands by the sea
and extend their commerce upon its waters.

§ 105. The great Aryan or In do-Germanic race, that com-
prises nearly all the civilized peoples of modern history, has
been traced to its primitive home among the mountain ranges
that form the western limit of the Chinese empire, and the
dry, elevated tabledands that lie west of them. In this part


of -the world.. cur common, grains and our domestic animals are

native. . ■ ... . • . •

The Sanscrit and the Zend branches of the race were for a time
united. After their separation, the former branch, on its way
to occupy the valley of the Ganges, remained for a long period in
the Holy Land and the Land of the Sacred Singers, two elevated
and comparatively barren districts at the foot of the Himalayehs.
Here the Vedas were composed. When the pressure of popula-
tion upon subsistence forced them to seek a larger and more
fertile home, they conquered or expelled the aboriginal peoples
of the Punjaub and the Northwest Provinces, establishing in
the latter in course of time that fully developed caste system,
which we erroneously ascribed to all India. The far more
fertile plains of Bengal were left to the aborigines, whom they
drove out of the higher plateau on which Delhi and all the
ancient cities of the Sanscrit race have their sites. Brahmans
who we,nt down to Bengal at the suit of native princes, were
regarded as degraded, and lost the right of intermarriage. Not
until well on in the Christian Middle Ages was the Hindoo
element in Bengal strong enough to set up its own social and
religious system even in a very modified form, and when the
Mohammedans conquered Bengal they found a great work still
to be done in bringing the soil under culture by drainage and
embankments. The connection between the density of uumbers
and man's power over nature in Bengal is seen in the fact that
after the famine of 1770 had all but decimated the people,
whole districts relapsed into jungle, and the villages had a hard
fioht to hold their own agaiust the forest and its wild beasts. A
British regiment marched 120 miles in 1780 through a dense
forest, where once every acre had been under cultivation, and
the post route in 1789 took a circuit of 50 miles to connect two
towns a few miles from each other. Even in our own times the
Santals of the hill country continue to settle in Bengal in great
numbers, finding abundauce of good land there, and paying
much less rent for it than in their own over-populated mountain
districts. When the English began to build railroads in India
no Bengali workmen were to be had, because after thousands of


years of continuous occupation every native that chose could
have a farm of his own, and therefore did not choose to work
for wages; but in the still earlier settled districts of the Santals
and other hill-tribes, where the soil is thin and sandy, the con-
tractors found it easy to hire laborers.

The Santals seem to have been the race that the Aryans drove out of
the North-west Provinces. Their traditions describe them as first " clothed
by the Great Mountain," and as coming down into India from the higher
valleys of the Bramapootra in the eastern Himalayas (as the Sanskrit
race from the Western) when their primitive home became too strait for
them. They have begun to people Bengal itself, leaving in the west
meagre land that requires to be manured and irrigated, and yields only
one crop a year — yet rents at nine shillings an acre — to settle on " excellent
lands in the eastern districts, yielding two crops a year for the trouble of
turning up the soil," and renting for seven or eight shillings.

Of the adjacent island of Ceylon Gov. Ward writes : "There must once
have been a large population on the west side of the island in the neigh-
borhood of Manaar and Aripo; the causes which prompted the selection
of this barren coast probably determined the choice of Anuradhapura as
the seat of government; other causes equally obscure drove back this
teeming population (leaving everywhere traces of its industry and skill)
to the neighborhood of Pollinarna, where its second capital was founded;
that like the first is now a wilderness; and nothing remains to bespeak
its ancient magnificence save the long line of tanks that unite it with
Tamblegam Bay and Trincomalee."

§ 106. The Persian race were associated with the Sanskrit
until religious dissensions rent them asunder. They then re-
traced their steps northward and occupied the sites of the
ancient kingdoms of Bactria, Persia and Media. Persia is
divided between a dry salty plain devoid of water, and an exten-
sive mountainous region interrupted by patches of comparative
fertility. But " the whole appearance of the country was dry,
stony and sterile " (Rawlinson). " The livery of the land is
constantly brown or gray; water is scanty; plains and mountains
are equally destitute of wood " (Frazer's Khorasan). Herodotus
describes it as " a scanty and rugged land." The most ancient
cities indicate by their sites the course of settlement The
ancient capital Pasargadae was built in an open space far in
among these mountains; Persepolis, its successor, in a similar


space nearer the plain. Such was the territory selected by this
brave and powerful people and made the subject of continual
struggles with foreigners.

The related tribe of the Medes were also highlanders, occupy-
ing the plateau that skirts the valley of the Tigris on the east.
Their country was divided between two districts, the one made
up of lofty mountain ridges, the other an elevated plain mostly
a flat sandy desert, incapable of sustaining more than a scanty
and sparse population. The best region lies between the desert
and the mountains, and cannot be called fertile, though it is
fairly productive and would support a large settled population.

§ 107. North-west of Iran runs the range of the Caucasus,
the gate of passage from Asia to Europe, the boundary between
the sacred laud of Iran and the outland of Turan. Every
people in passing seems to have left a fragment as a colony in
this mountain range or the adjacent hill-spurs. Its valleys seem

Online LibraryRobert Ellis ThompsonSocial science and national economy → online text (page 9 of 38)