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keep as a housekeeper and cook, and his children soon bring in
more than they take out of the family till. Nevertheless,
Eoscher properly rejects the doctrine of a ' wages-fund,' deter-
mining, by its proportion to the number of labourers, the-
' average ' rate of wages. His arguments on the subject are,
however, hardly the strongest that may be advanced, and, like
several English writers, he ascribes the first refutation of the
doctrine in this country to Mr. Longe, whose essay in its original
shape contained no real disproof of the doctrine, while it was
not itself free from fallacy. The true refutation is, that there is
no such mobility of capital and labour as would make all the
sums expendible in wages practically one fund, and the actual
rates of wages are determined by different conditions in different
cases — for example, by competition, by combination, by mono-
poly, and sometimes by the liberality of employers — so that the
aggregate amount of wages is simply the sum of all th&
particular amounts, and the effect, not the cause, of the actual
rates. Mr. Longe's essay, like Single-speech Hamilton's
discourse, produced an effect beyond its desert. Had Hamilton
made a great number of good speeches they might have all been
forgotten, for people seldom remember much about anyone ; but
a single oration was a surprise, and left an impression. Much
of Mr. Longe's criticism of Mr. Mill was erroneous. There is,
no doubt, an element of truth in the argument put forward by
Eoscher long before Mr. Longe, that the capital of the employer
is not the ultimate source of wages, but only an immediate fund
out of which an advance is made, afterwards replaced by the
buyers of the commodities produced. Eoscher might hava
added, indeed, that the immediate fund is often not the
employer's own capital, but borrowed by him on the credit his
sales obtain for him. Yet there remains an important truth in
Mr. Mill's proposition, that the funds out of which wages are
paid must generally exist before commodities are made, not to
say sold. The workmen cannot wait for their wages till the
commodities are sold ; they may never, indeed, be sold at all,



Boscher^s ^Principles of Political Economij.'' 99

and the employers may be ruined, although workmen have been
paid their wages in full. The accumulation, then, of capital on
a great scale, either by employers themselves or by lenders, is
a pre-requisite to the hire of labour on a great scale. Roscher's
tone towards Mr. Mill in this work, it may be observed, is
sometimes complimentary and sometimes rather the reverse,
the only English economist of whom he speaks contemptuously
in it being Mr. H. D. Macleod ; though in his ' History of
Political Economy in Germany' all Eicardo's followers are
slightingly mentioned.

The generalisation which Roscher makes with respect to the
successive part played by each of the three great productive
agencies — nature, labour, and capital — well deserves the reader's
reflection. The history of the economic development of society,
he says, divides itself into three periods. In the earliest, nature
is the predominant element, affording subsistence almost sponta-
neously to a scanty population. In the second period, human
labour is the chief agency: handicrafts multiply, guilds are
established, and a respectable and solid middle class is formed.
In the third period, capital predominates, machinery prevails
over the manual workman, and the middle class may decline,
and colossal wealth be confronted by abject misery. One
cannot but admit, in reference to this generalisation, that the
disappearance of the small independent craftsman is a deplorable
feature of our present industrial economy, even if the condition
of the common labourer at the bottom of the scale be less
miserable now than it was under an earlier economy ; nor does
co-operation at present hold out much hoj)e of a remedy.

The historical information and illustrations with which the
pages of the book abound may interest many minds to which
ordinary economic discussions are repulsive. It should, however,
be known that, although a complete work in itself, Roscher's
' Principles of Political Economy ' forms part of a more compre-
hensive scheme. In the preface to the first edition, its author
announced that the * Grundlagen der National okonomie,' or
' Principles of Political Economy,' asMr.Lalor translates it, was in-
tended as the first part of a complete 'System derA^'olkswii-thschaft,'

H 2



100 Foscher^s ' Princij)Ies of Political Econowij.''

containing three other parts. Of these, the second, ' National-
okonomik des Ackerbaues,' has long since been published in
Germany. Mr. Alfred Marshall's lectures, and Mr. Joseph
Nicholson's essay on Machinery and Wages, afford evidence
that a generation of economists is rising who can dispense
with the aid of translation to acquaint themselves with German
works ; but there must always be a large class of readers in
this country as well as in America who require it : and Mr.
Lalor would enhance the obligation he has already laid them
under by translating also the ' Nationalokonomik des Acker-
baues.' It is full of historical learning relating to the history
of landed property, and of rural economy in England as well
as on the Continent. A fact which English economists should
take to heart is, that the only historical treatise on the subject,
in relation to England, accessible in the English language, was
written by a German (Nasse, of Bonn), not an Englishman,
and translated, not by a political economist, but by a cavalry
officer, Colonel Guvry.



XII.

LEONCE DE LAVERGNE.*

Last year one of the most remarkable Frenchmen of the age
that has just closed — for both in England and France a new
and more democratic age has begun — passed away almost
without remark in this country, although he had peculiar
claims to a place in the memory of Englishmen. The name
of Leonce de Lavergne was, indeed, better known in England
in the days of the Second Empire than during the decade
following its collapse, notwithstanding that in the former period
he was excluded from public life, while in the latter the curtain
which the Empire had drawn over political genius was lifted,
and M. de Lavergne was a considerable person in the political
world. A younger generation, however, had grown up, and
many Englishmen who saw the name Lavergne recur in
accounts of French parliamentary proceedings and political
parties, were unaware that he had lived, as it were, two previous
lives, first, as a rising politician in the reign of Louis Philippe,
and afterwards as a distinguished author and economist. Four
political epochs — the reign of Louis Philippe, the Second Re-
public, the Second Empire, and the Third Republic — may be
said to have been represented, though in different ways, in
M. de Lavergne's career. Two of these epochs were, indeed,
for him periods of seclusion and, politically speaking, of
obscurity ; yet, indirectly, they exercised a powerful influence
over the directions of his energies and the tenor of his thoughts.
In the preface to the first edition of his ' Essay on the Rural
Economy of England' he said: 'Je m'adresse surtout a ceux

* Fortn'ujhtly Review, February Ist, ISbl.



,102 Leonce de Lavergne.

qui, comme moi, se sont tournes vers la vie rurale, apres avoir
essaye d'autres carrieres, et par degout des revolutions de notre
temps.' Eepugnance alike to revolution and to despotism not
only turned him from politics to country life, but deeply
coloured his views of rural economy. His whole career might
be shown to throw an instructive light on the part that sur-
rounding social conditions on the one hand, and individual
powers and bent on the other, play in determining the pursuits,
ruling ideas, and achievements of men of unusual capacity.
But the object of this memoir is simply to lay before the reader
some account of M. de Lavergne's life, conversation, and work,
by one who had the privilege of peculiar opportunities for
observation.

Louis Gabriel Leonce de Lavergne was born at Bergerac, in
the Department of Dordogne, in 1809, and was educated for
the legal profession, but made literature as well as law an early
pursuit. He was a frequent contributor to the ' Revue du
Midi,' and in 1838 was nominated Professeur de Litterature a
la Faculte de Montpellier, but declined the chair. After prac-
tising for a short time at the Bar, he took office under M. Guizot,
as Sous-Directeur au Ministere des affaires etrangeres, and won
the entire confidence and warm friendship of his illustrious
chief. In 1846 he was elected a member of the Chamber of
Deputies, and was soon regarded as one of the most promising
of the younger French statesmen. The Revolution of 1848 sent
him back to private life and to letters and philosophy. In 1850
he accepted the Professorship of Rural Economy in the Institut
National Agronomique ; but one of the first measures of the
Imperial Government was to suppress that Institute, in order to
deprive him, and others whose politics were obnoxious, of their
chairs. Special missions, by way of temporary compensation,
were offered to the deprived professors. In his zeal for the
improvement of French agriculture, which had become his most
engrossing object, M. de Lavergne undertook to report on
Agricultural Credit in England and Germany. In 1851 he had
visited the Great Exhibition and made a tour through Great
Britain, and he came again in 1852 and 1853. In 1854 his



Leonce de Lavergne. 103

famous ' Essai siir I'Agriculture de I'Angleterre, de I'Ecosse, et
de I'Irlande,' was published. In 1855 he was elected member
of the Institute of France. In 1857 he issued a volume entitled

* L'Agriculture et la Population.' In 1860 his great work,

* Economie Eurale de la France depuis 1789/ appeared. Two
later works, ' Les Assemblees Provinciales sous Louis XVI.' and
*Les Economistes Francais du Dix-Huitieme Siecle,' brought
him additional celebrity. He was the author also of various
essays in the ' Revue des Deux-Mondes ' and the ' Journal des
Economistes,' and of contributions to the Transactions of the
Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, which attracted much
attention. In 1865 he was elected President of La Societe
Centrale de I'Agriculture, being now looked up to on all sides
as the highest authority in France on all subjects connected
with rural economy. It is pleasing to find a French official
concerned in the administration of the domains of the State
speaking, in one of the Reports of the Enquete Agricole, of

* mon illustre maitre, M. de Lavergne,' at a time when it could
little conduce to the advantage of a functionary of the Govern-
ment to profess admiration for an avowed adherent to the
Orleanist party, least of all one whose writings had made him
an object of especial disfavour in high quarters. Of the public
career of M. de Lavergne, after the fall of the Second Empire,
something will be said hereafter. To realise what manner of
man he was, he should be seen and heard, as it were, in private
life and retirement.

The controversy carried on in England in the decade 1860-
1870 respecting the comparative merits of la petite and la grande
propriete, and la petite and la grande culture, deeply interested
M. de Lavergne, and having seen an essay of my own on the
subject, he invited me to visit him at his country-house in the
Department of La Creuse, in Central France. I met him,
however, first in Grermany, in the summer of 1868. He was
already suffering from a gouty affection of the joints, which
made the later years of his life a painful struggle between mind
and matter, and he walked with difficulty. His frame was
large ; his face lighted by intellect and strongly expressive of



104 Leonce de Lavergne.

kindness ; his manner, while unaffected and gentle, had a
natural dignity — one felt oneself in the company of one of the
true upper ten thousand of the human race. There was a
solidity of judgment, combined with a play of wit, in his con-
versation that brought to my recollection the observation of Sir
Thomas Overbury, nearly three centuries ago, on the character
of the Frenchmen of that age : ' For the most part they are all
imagination and no judgment ; but those that prove solid excel.'*
A solid Frenchman is rarer than a solid Englishman ; but when
a Frenchman is solid, he excels now as he did in the days of Sir
Thomas Overbury, because he adds imagination and brilliancy
to good sense. M. de Lavergne was a thorough Frenchman,
but he had also sober qualities, uncommon in France. The
infirmity of most Frenchmen is that they give way too easily to
passion ; while the Englishman maintains his self-control, and
has therefore time for second thoughts and circumspection.
Lavergne had the calm of an Englishman.

At our first meeting, M. de Lavergne spoke of his regard and
respect for England and English institutions, adding with a smile
that his wife, who was present, accused him of Anglomania, and
that he in turn charged her with Anglophobia, a charge which
Madame de Lavergne did not repel. She was a person of a
character and cast of thought unlike his ; but they were
devotedly attached to each other and inseparable, their dif-
ferences of opinion only making their society more interesting,,
and never bordering upon discord. Passages in Lavergne's
' Economie Eurale de I'Angleterre ' had left on my mind an
idea that some great English landowners had been careful to
show him the bright side of England, and of the English land
system in particular. He replied to a hint to that effect that,
on the contrary, he had declined invitations and letters of
introduction in order to see things with his own eyes, but a
curious thing had happened in one case. He had gone to see
a famous ducal residence and estate, and on arriving at the



♦ Observations on the State of Fiance under Henrtj IV., 1609; Haii. Misc.,
riii. 379.



Leonce de Lavergne. 105

railway station found to his surprise one of the duke's carriages
waiting for him. The duke, he was told, was absent, but had
given orders that he should be shown every attention, and taken
wherever he wished to go. Supposing that some common friend
had spoken of his intended visit, and that it would seem ungra-
cious to decline, he accepted the offered civility, and saw more-
than he could have done had he been left to his own lights.
In the end it turned out that there had been a mistake ; the
duke had given orders about a foreign visitor, and the servants
had taken the first foreigner they met at the station.

It was Lavergne's practice, when visiting any new locality,
and one which he told me had been very useful to him in his
toui-s in Great Britain and France, with a view to a description
of their rural scenery, to survey the siuTOundiug country from
some commanding height. He seemed to have the eye, at once
of a general, a sportsman, an agricultural expert, and an artist,
seizing immediately all the main features of a landscape in every
aspect. We were not far from the Rhine, and looking down on
it from an eminence, he observed, one day, alluding to a passage
in Michelet's picture of France : ' Like Michelet, I fear to look
at the heroic Ehine ; not, however,' as Michelet says, ' because
a lotus-tree grows on its banks, leading me to forget my native
land, but because it makes a Frenchman now think of his native
land with anxiety and apprehension. I dread a war for the
Ehine. It woidd be either victory for Grermany or victory
for the Second Empire, and it is hard to say which of the
two would be the more injurious to France in the end. Either,
moreover, must result in a permanent increase of European
armaments, already the curse of our age.'

In the autumn of the same year I was M. de Lavergne's
guest at Peyrusse, on the brow of a mountain glen formed by
the river Taurion, or Thorion, in one of the most desolate
districts of La Creuse, where he had, through his wife, an
extensive though not a very profitable estate, mostly in forests,
from which immense quantities of wood were annually sold at
Limoges, chiefly for use as fuel in the manufacture of porcelam.
In his invitation Lavergne had spoken of his residence as ' notre



106 Leonce cle Lavergne.

ermitage,' and thougli lie did not lead quite the life of a hermit,
since Madame de Lavergne shared his seclusion, and he had a
household of servants, no hennit could have desired a wilder
solitude. One might wander for hours through his woods with-
out seeing a living creature — unless, perhaps, a serpent, or a
she-wolf and her young. On the desert hills in the neighbour-
hood one might meet a hergere tending a few lean animals, but
the masculine termination, berger, was unknown. The able-
bodied men of the department were working as masons in great
towns, especially Paris, where the public expenditure on building
was enormous, and almost all outdoor work was done by women.
One day we drove to a village on a mountain some miles from
Peyrusse, where we saw a few women and children ; but not a
human being was visible on the road or from it, going or
returning. ' L'empire, c'est la paix : Solitudinem faciunt,
pacem appellant,' said Lavergne. The pubKc expenditure in
Paris averaged more than £^0,000,000 a-year, draining both
money and labour from the rural districts, while, at the same
time, the army carried off a percentage of the rustic youth. I
remarked that La Creuse owed to the Empire, at any rate, the
residence of Lavergne himself for a good part of the year ; for
were the Orleanist dynasty restored, his political occultation
would cease, and he would be resident chiefly in Paris. He
replied that the Emperor's policy was to make himself the only
conspicuous figure in France, and to allow no lesser light, how-
ever faint, to be visible. Napoleonic ambition had always been
of the kind denounced in Bacon's essay : ' He that seeketh to
be eminent among able men hath a great task, but that is ever
good for the public. But he that plots to be the only figure
among ciphers is the decay of a whole age.' Lavergne added,
however, that he had no personal reason to dislike the Empire,
iov the peaceful retirement of Peyrusse had great charms for
him, and now more than ever, since his health had become far
from robust. There had been a time, indeed, when his own
farm had been more than a mere amusement. During the
scare at the Eed Spectre, conjured up to frighten the French
nation into regarding Louis Napoleon as the saviour of society,



Leoncc de Lavcrgne. 107

-nil business in many parts of France had been suspended.
X/avergne's own wood could find no market, his tenants could
pay only in produce which was unsaleable, and a property he
had in the South remitted no income. The want, both of local
markets and of cheap communication with distant markets, he
continued, which resulted mainly from the monarchical system
of concentrating the public expenditure (introduced by Louis
XIV., and followed under the Empire), was the principal cause
of the perpetuation of the mediaeval tenure of metayage. The
soil must be made to grow, not the crops for which it might be
best adapted, but the necessaries of life for both owner and
cultivator — who, accordingly, divided its produce in kind.
Lavergne waged an incessant war against the Imperial finance.
Both the excessive amount of the public expenditure and its
-unequal distribution were constantly pointed at in his works as
the main obstacles to the economic progress of the Departments
of France remote from the capital. He was regarded, accordingly,
with an evil eye at the Tuilleries as a rancorous enemy, but there
was nothing personal in his antagonism. His motive was not
antipathy to the Emperor, but sympathy with the peasant, as
the real saviour of French society. ' Dans toutes nos grandes
crises historiques,' he eloquently urged, 'le paysan francais, si
bien personnifie par Jacques Bonhomme, a toujours fini par nous
tirer d'affaire. ... Si les autres classes de la societe francaise,
riches, bourgeois, artisans de villes, valaient pour leurs roles
ce que Jacques Bouhomme vaut pour le sien, ce n'est pas
I'Angleterre, c'est la France qui serait depuis longtemps le
premier peuple de I'univers.'*

Much as M. de Lavergne detested the Imperial system of
government, a singularly mild temper and sweet disposition
made him incapable of personal resentment, and he never spoke
of Louis Napoleon with bitterness. When I applied some
strong epithets to the perfidious Coup d'Etat and the cruelties
that followed it, he said calmly, correcting one of my adjec-
tives, ' Non, il n'est pas mechant, il est grand menteur. Voila



* L" Agriculture et la Population, 2nd ed., 342-3.



108 Leonce de Lavergne.

tout.' Of the falsehood pervading the administration througli-
out all its ramifications, he gave curious instances. I inquired
about Prince * * *, ambassador at the court of * * *. ' He is
no more a prince than you or I,' was the answer ; ' indeed, even
less, for it has never been proved in a court of law that I am
not a prince, and I presume it has never been proved that you
are not.' In reference to the Coup d'Etat, he repeated an ex-
pression which he had used in Germany, ' Les Anglais sont
tres indiscrets,' and gave an instance affecting himself. On
the very day of it (December 2, 1851), he had paid a visit at
the house of a neighbour and political friend in Paris, where
he met an English lady, the wife of an English author of great
celebrity, herself well known in the literary and social worlds
of both London and Paris. Everyone spoke out, as he sup-
posed, in confidence and perfect security. To his dismay, a
few days afterwards, he saw an account of the visit in a great
London journal. ' Cela pouvait precisement m'envoyer a
Cayenne.' Anyone on whom suspicion fell of being hostile ta
Louis Napoleon's proceedings or plans was liable to be trans-
ported to Cayenne without form of trial. In this instance, how-
ever, M. de Lavergne appears to have been so far mistaken, that
no breach of confidence or discretion was actually committed by
the English lady. Her letter, as a recent reference to the file
of the journal in question has satisfied me, was not written
for publication, and was cautiously expressed ; nor was there
reason, at the moment at which she described what had passed,
to suppose that a mere allusion to M. de Lavergne, in such a
way as to identify him, could expose him to danger. The
letter was written on the evening of December 2, when some
arrests of eminent persons had been made, but before any mas-
sacres in the streets or deportations to Cayenne had taken place.
It found its way into the ' Times ' of December 6, 1851, under
the heading ' The following are extracts from a lady's letter.'
' Paris, Tuesday evening, December 2. At about twenty
minutes past one o'clock I set forth with Miss B., attended by
my two servants on foot. Finding, however, tliat carriages
passed "through the Faubourg St. Houore, we took a remise^



Leonce de Lavcrgne. 109

^nd drove to tlie house of M. de F., near the Madeleine, and
went in and found Madame de T. and M. de L. M. de T. was
gone out to confer with other members of the Assembly on the
occurrences of the morning. M. R., ConmJUr (TEfaf, joined
us, and related some facts, of which the following are tlie prin-
cipal.' [The arrests of Lamoriciere, Changarnier, and other
generals, are described, and some other particulars given.] ' At
eleven o'clock all was hushed, and so ended a day pregnant
with disquiet and sinister auguries which assuredly have seldom
been better warranted, for so monstrous an exercise of brute force
on the part of the executive has few precedents in history.'
Seeing this letter in the Times a week afterwards, when the
streets were red with the blood of peaceful citizens, when men
were hourly disappearing to be seen no more, and all Paris was
-quaking, it was natural that Lavergne should have been startled
at an allusion to himself as having been in disaffected company.
But the writer of the letter could hardly have foreseen such
ground for alarm. It is even possible that its publication did
more good than harm to M. de Lavergne. The persons carried
off to Cayenne were of inferior note, and Louis Napoleon was
by no means desirous of raising an outcry from the English
press. Looking at all the circumstances, there seems no reason
for withholding the name of Mrs. Grote as the English lady of
whom Lavergne spoke.

This, however, was only a single instance of English indis-



Online LibraryT. E. Cliffe (Thomas Edward Cliffe) LeslieEssays in political economy → online text (page 10 of 41)