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law of succession is producing exactly the opposite effect to what
was predicted in this country. Had parents in France complete
testamentary power, there would not be the same reason for
limiting the number of children. M. Leon Iscot, accordingly,



Auvergne. 427

in his evidence on this subject before the 'Enquete Agricole '
on the Puy-de-D6me, said, ' The number of births in families
has diminished one-half. We must come to liberty of testation.
In countries like England, where testamentary liberty exists,
families have more children.'

Whatever may be thought of the change which is taking
place in France in respect of the numbers of the population, there
is one change of which no other country has equal reason to be
proud. Its agricultural population before the Revolution was
in the last extremity of poverty and misery, their normal condi-
tion was half-starvation ; they could scarcely be said to be clothed,
their appearance in many places was hardly human. No
other country in Europe, taken as a whole, can now show upon
the whole so comfortable, happy, prosperous, and respectable a
peasantry. The persons examined before the ' Enquete Agricole '
on the Puy-de-D6me, a department with many disadvantages
of situation and climate, grumbled about many things, as
landowners and farmers universally do ; but they were unani-
mous on the point that the peasantry and labouring class
were ' better fed, better clothed, and better lodged ' than a
generation ago ; and in all these respects a visible improvement
has taken place, even within the last ten years. You still, it is
true, often see boys and girls in the Puy-de-D6me without
shoes and stockings, but rarely ever otherwise than comfortably
clad in all other respects. The absence of shoes and stockings
is a sign, not of poverty, but of the retention of ancient
custom. In the north of Ireland it is still not uncommon to
see girls on the road in a smart dress and bonnet, and holding
a parasol over their heads, with then- shoes not on their feet,
but in their hands. And in a good many parts of the south of
France a century has made no great change since Adam Smith
wrote, ' Custom has rendered leather shoes a necessary of life
in England. The poorest person of either sex would be
ashamed to appear in public without them. In Scotland,
custom has rendered them a necessary of life to the lowest
order of men, but not to the same order of women, who may,
without any discredit, walk about barefooted. In France, they



428 Auvergne.

are necessaries neither to men nor to women ; the lowest ranks
of both sexes appearing there publicly, without any discredit,
sometimes in wooden shoes, and sometimes barefooted.' That
it is no discredit either to boys and girls in the Puy-de-D6me to
go barefooted, and, on the other hand, that modern fashion is
beginning to creep even into the mountain villages, I saw
evidence the other day in the village of La Tour d' Auvergne,
where children smartly chausses in the latest style were playing
with others without shoes or stockings. The Auvergne
children, one may observe, do play ; they are not, like the
children in Swiss villages, serious little old men and women,
too busy and grave for laughter or play. Children and adults
alike in Auvergne seem for the most part in rude health, though
in the mountains they may sometimes owe more to the air
than to the food, and in some villages cretins are still to be
seen — a consequence, doubtless, of the filthy condition of the
cottages within and without. The horrid malady of cretinisme
has lately been driven from some Swiss valleys by an improve-
ment of the houses. In the Puy-de-D6me this autumn I saw
many instances of a change which is the sm-e precursor of an
elevation of the standard of habitation, namely, the substitution
of tiled for thatched roofs. One hears people say there, indeed,
that this change is no improvement ; that the thatch is not
only cheaper, but warmer in winter, and cooler in summer. It
is, however, a source of constant danger from fire to the whole
village ; and in every country in western Europe the change
from the straw roof to tiles or slates is found to be accompanied
by material progress. M. L. Nadaud puts into the mouth of
an interlocutor in his ' Voyage en Auvergne,' ' You will never
make of an Auvergne village a Flemish village. Climates form
the habits and tastes.' Climate certainly plays a great part
in determining the economic condition of mankind ; and its
agency, along with other physical influences, has been too
generally overlooked by economists in their eagerness to
explain the whole economy of society by reference to the
single assumption of a desire of every one to obtain additional
wealth. But climate did not make the Flemish village. It



Auvergne. 429

grew up by degrees in the middle ages out of liberty, manu-
factures, and markets for village productions. And the fact
that the Auvergne villager is beginning to roof his dwelling
with tiles from another province shows that liberty and
facilities for trade may yet make a Flemish village of the
Auvergne one. Even of the remote and mountainous Cantal,
M. de Lavergne said several years ago, ' The discoveries of
modern civilization have been long unknown in Upper
Auvergne ; its towns are but rude villages, and its rustic
dwellings have but too often the repulsive aspect of extreme
poverty, yet competence and comfort are making their way into
them by degrees.'

A general rise of wages has taken place in Auvergne in the
last fifteen years, but the rise has been very unequal. The
demand for labour has increased much more in some communes
than in others, and, on the other hand, the supply is much
scantier in some than elsewhere. ' In one commune,' says the
Report of the ' Enquete Agricole,' ' there are but four labourers ;
everyone therefore fights for them, and when they work for one
employer, it is impossible for the others to get their work done.'
At Saint-Maude, near Issoire, M. de Saint-Maude stated to the
commission that it was out of the power of large proprietors there
to farm their own land, on account of the scarcity of labour and
its extravagant price. ' The price of a day's labour is from
4 to 5 francs, and a meal besides, with wine. Wages have more
than doubled since 1852. Women, above all, have seen their
wages trebled.'* In another place, however, the rate was shown
to be only 1 fr. 25 cents, in winter, and 2 fr., with food, in
summer ; and in a third, 1 fr. 50 cents., without food, during the
greatest part of the year, with 1 fr. 25 cents., and food, in harvest.
In the autumn of the present year, after the harvest, I found
3 francs a- day the rate in several parts of the Limagne, and
a person from Normandy, who was present when I made some
inquiries on the subject, remarked that this was more than is
paid in that wealthy province — a statement quite in conformity

* Enquete Agricole, Fuy-dc-Bdme, p. 29G.



430



Auvergne.



with M. Yictor Bonnet's statistics.* The assertion of M. de
Saint-Maude respecting the rise of women's wages is likewise in
accordance with a statement of a high authority on French
economics, M. Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, that the pay of women
for agricultural labour has risen more than that of men in recent
years — a fact, he adds, only to be rejoiced at, women having
formerly been much underpaid in comparison with men. With
respect to the relative movement in recent years of agricultural
and town wages in Auvergne, the following figures are taken
from some unpublished statistics, which Mr. Somerset Beaumont,
late M. P. for Wakefield, collected at the close of last year,
showing the comparative rates in agriculture and several other
employments in 1868 and 1873, at Clermont-Ferrand and in its
neighbourhood : —



1868.


fr-
3


c.
17


2


24


3





3





3





3


25


300





150






1873.



Agricultural "Wages, per [ During the harvest,
diem, without food, ( In ordinary seasons,

Masons, .......

Carpenters, ......

Joiners, .......

Locksmiths, ......

Servants, per annum — Men,

,, ,, Women, .



4
2
3
4
3
3
400
200




50
50
50
50
50





The reader will observe that these variations are by no means
in harmony with the old assumption of abstract political
economy, that the diversity of wages in different employments
corresponds to diversities in the nature of the work ; as though
all the poor workmen throughout every country could know
exactly all the differences of wages and work in all occupations,
and choose their own trade accordingly. The wages of carpen-
ters at Clermont were lower in 1868 than those of locksmiths ;



* See Essay, ' Agricultural "Wages in Europe,' supra, p. 3G8.



Auvergne. 431

in 1873 they were much higher, and were so, not because the
nature of either emploj^ment had changed, but simply for the
same reason that agricultural wages had risen in some communes
much more than in others, namely, that the local conditions of
demand and supply had changed.

Among causes both of a rise and of local inequalities in
wages, prices, and the cost of living in Auvergne are its
watering-places, Eoyat, Mont Dore, and La Bourboule, which
may be classed together as constituting a third social and
economic region. Auvergne, as already said, is a land of
contrasts, and the contrast which this third region presents to
the two others already described is worth notice, not only
as contributing to a description of the province, but also as
illustrating the influence of local physical conditions on social
phenomena, and exemplifying the causes which produce distinct
types of human life, character, and pursuit.

One difference which strikes the eye at once between the
watering-place and the two other regions is, that while the
latter display dissimilar social and economic features, yet those
features are in both cases indigenous ; it is the Auvergnat you
see, unlike as he appears in mountain and plain. But the
watering-place, though in Auvergne, is not of it, socially
speaking. You find yourself, on entering it, among Frenchmen
from every part of France, except the province in which it is
situated ; its chief social phenomena are exotic, not native.
The only pervading type of character here is also altogether
unlike the types which the two other regions develop. The
representative man of the Limagne is the spade-husbandman,
wringing the uttermost farthing from his little property ; the
patriarchal head of the pastoral household, the priest, the nun,
the emigrant labourer, are the representatives of the mountain.
But in the watering-place, the only representative character is
the invalid ; the people round you differ in every respect but
one, that they are almost all seeking the cure of some malady.
In the mountain, family sentiment, religion, ancient usage, are
the dominant principles ; in the rich agricultural plain, the



432 Auvergne.

j)aramount object is to make money wherewith to buy land ;
at Royat, Mont Dore, and Bourboule the dominant motive
which determines the occupations of producers and the demand
of consumers is the desire, not of wealth, but of health. But
this desire brings wealth to the watering-place, which thereby
becomes a monetary region in which the cost of living is higher
than in other parts of the province, and is so in conformity
with the main principle governing the diffusion of money
and the movements of prices. The general principle traceable
throughout the immense monetary changes of our time — one
which the assumption that wages and profits are equalized by
competition has led not a few economists to miss — is that the
distribution of the increased currency of the world has followed
the path of local progress, and of the development of local
resources or advantages, of whatever kind. Superior local
advantages for manufactures and trade in one place, for
scenery or amusement in another, for the cure of disease in a
third, cause a relatively large influx of money, and send up the
prices of labour and important commodities above the rates
prevailing in places making inferior progress, or offering no
special attraction to money. Only one classification, as already
said, fits the majority of the visitors to the watering-places of
Auvergne, namely, that they are for the most part invalids ; but
whatever they are, and however they spend their lives, they spend
here in the mass a great sum of money at hotels, and on batljs,
carriages, saddle-horses, sedan-chairs, shops, the casino, &e. ;
and as their numbers yearly increase, local prices rise. Not
many years ago, Eoyat, Mont Dore, and Bourboule were three
villages of no reputation, with village prices. Bourboule, in
particular, was then a mere hamlet of the meanest order ;
now the visitor forgets the old hamlet in a cluster of new
hotels, and . villas, with rows of smart little shops, which
disappear at the close of the season. Bourboule was mentioned
in guide-books not long ago as having from seventy to eighty
visitors in the season ; this autumn it had several thousands,
most of whom remained for several weeks. There were members



Auvergne. 433

of the National Assembly, authors, country gentlemen, Parisians,
provincial townspeople, military men, ecclesiastics, besides a
multitude of nondescript young gentlemen and ladies. Eminent
above all was a writer of European fame, M. Leonce de
Lavergne, especially entitled to mention here, not only as
having described the rural economy of both the Limagne and
the mountains of Auvergne, but also as having foretold the
growth of its watering-places in one of the celebrated works by
which he is best known to most English readers, ' L'Economie
Rurale de la France.' In his own country he has long held a
high place, both in the world of letters and in the political
world, having formerly occupied a considerable post in M.
Guizot's government, and being now one of the most influential
and respected members of the National Assembly, although the
infirmity of his health has prevented his taking a conspicuous
part in its public proceedings. His presence at Bourboule this
autumn may be instanced as an example of the operation of the
physical causes which are giving both wealth and celebrity to
places formerly as poor as unknown, and changing the scale of
prices in proportion. The charge for pension this autumn at
Bourboule was from twelve to fifteen francs a-day, according
to the length of the stay — a rate, perhaps, not immoderate,
considering that it included wine, but one which would have
seemed incredible a few years ago. At Clermont-Ferrand,
the passing and uncovenanted stranger still pays only four
francs for an excellent dinner in the principal hotels, with
wine and fruit unlimited. Clermont, indeed, with the other
chief towns of the Puy-de-D6me, might fairly be classed
together as constituting a fourth region with distinct social
and economic phenomena : one indication of this being that,
close as are the commercial and other relations between the
towns of the Lirdagne and the surrounding plain, the villagers
in the latter generally regard the townspeople with a feeling
approaching to hostility. It was, however, the aim of this
essay to sketch only some of the most striking and distinctive
social and economic features of a province as yet little known
in those respects in England ; and its towns, though not with-

2 F



434 Auvergne.

out peculiar characteristics, seem hardly to call for a special
description. The sketch which has heen given of the phenomena
of the rest of the province may suffice to illustrate the import-
ance of taking account, in economic investigations, of physical
geography and environment, and the necessary fallaciousness
of a theory which professes to account for the division of lahour
in every country, the amount and distribution of its wealth, and
the movements of money and prices, by deductions from the
principle of pecuniary interest.

What do we learn respecting the real division of employ-
ments in Auvergne, the motives which determine it, the
distribution of landed property and other wealth, the scale of
wages and prices, from the assumption that every individual
pursues his pecuniary interest to the uttermost ? Is it simply
the desire of pecuniary gain which makes one Auvergnat a
porter at Lyons, another a priest at Clermont, and the sisters
of both perhaps nuns, while an elder brother of each has the
whole family property ? In one only of the three regions
described is pecuniary interest the dominant principle ; and
even in that region there are inequalities of wages and profits,
with other economic phenomena utterly at variance with doc-
trines which, by a curious combination of blunders, have
been called by some writers 'economic laws.' The faith of a
school of English economists removes mountains. In France,
where labour moves from place to place, and from agriculture
to other employments, much more freely than in England,
mountains certainly do not prevent the migration of labour.
Yet even in France the migration by no means takes place on
such a scale, or with such facility, as nearly to equalize wages ;
and in the places from which it is greatest, the department of
the Creuse and the province of Auvergne, the main cause is
not pecuniary interest. The younger brother in Auvergne
goes from his home to a distant city in obedience to traditional
family sentiments; and the peasant goes from the Creuse to
Paris as a mason, not because he has calculated the difference
of earnings in the two places, and in different employments (for
he could make more in many cases by remaining at home),



Auverg7ie. 435

but because his father went to Paris before him, and his
comrades do so around him. The relation of the economic
phenomena of society to its moral, intellectual, and political
condition is undreamt of by the old school of economists.
Even in the case of men, it is manifestly vain to look for an
explanation of the causes which determine the economic
condition either of individuals or of classes, without reference
to laws, customs, moral and religious sentiment; how much
more is it so in the case of women ? Let me adduce one
instance, showing how, even in the smallest details, the
economic structure of society, as regards the occupations and
earnings of women, is influenced by moral and other causes,
quite apart from individual pecuniary interest. At a hotel
in Clermont-Ferrand, in which, as is commonly the case in
large French hotels, a man does the work of housemaid, a
Swiss visitor remarked to me lately, that you will rarely find
perfect cleanliness and neatness where such is the case ; yet in
France, he added, * it is a necessary evil. A young or good-
looking housemaid has no chance of keeping her character
in a French hotel; in Switzerland she is as safe as in a
church.' I answered that possibly she might be as safe in
the mountains of Auvergne as of Switzerland ; for climate
is certainly one of the causes which produce a difference in
this respect between French and Swiss morals. Other causes,
too, might be assigned, but I refer here to the moral difference
in question only as exhibiting the influence of moral causes on
the economic structure of society down to the minutest details.

There is another subject on which the social and economic
phenomena of Auvergne may be seen to throw considerable
light, namely, the mode in which diversities of human character
and life are produced, and the real origin of differences of
national character, customs, and condition, which are vulgarly
attributed to difference of race — that is to say, to ancestral
and inherited differences of physical and mental constitution.
Greater differences of human life, motive, and pursuit are to
be found in parts of the province of Auvergne, a few miles
from each other — in adjacent districts of mountain and plain.



436 Auvergne.

for example — than some which are often pointed to between
Frenchman and Englishman as the consequences of an original
difference of race. The people of every country like to be told
that they possess an inherent superiority to every other, and
the doctrine of race flatters every race and every nation. The
Englishman, the Frenchman, the German, the Spaniard, the
Jew, above all the Chinaman, each thinks himself of a superior
race. When we descend from nations to smaller divisions
of mankind, to provinces for example, the same claim is com-
monly set up by each to superiority over the other divisions.
An Auvergnat lately asked me if I did not observe that the
Auvergnats were a finer and more vigorous race than the rest
of Frenchmen, and the question reminded me that a Comtois
once asked me the very same question in favour of the men
of his own province, la Franche Comte. Divide provinces
into departments or counties, and one finds that county pride
can soar quite as high as provincial or national pride. Descend
further from counties to yet smaller divisions, to villages
for instance, and you will find neighbouring villages in Ger-
many with a profound contempt for each other, and an exalted
consciousness of their own hereditary superiority. Take still
minuter groups, and you may discover in every country many
thousands of families, in all ranks of life, the members of
each of which believe that they come of a better stock, and
possess finer natural qualities than their neighbours. From the
family come down to the individual, and the real root of the
popular doctrine of race in all its forms is reached, being no
other than individual conceit. The doctrine of race not only
does not solve the problems which really arise respecting
national diversities of character, career, and condition, but
prevents those problems from being even raised. And it is
impossible to acquit a dogmatic school of economists of all
blame in respect of the ignorance of ascertainable causes of
social diversities which the vulgar theory of race exhibits.
The method of abstract reasoning from crude assumption, in
place of careful investigation of economic phenomena and their
causes, has prevented the discovery of a mass of evidence



Auvergne. 437

respecting the real origin of differences in tlie aims, qualities,
and circumstances of mankind in different countries and
situations, such as the mountain and the plain of Auvergne,
for example, upon which a true theory of the causes of the
diversities commonly attributed to race, might have been
built.



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Online LibraryT. E. Cliffe (Thomas Edward Cliffe) LeslieEssays in political economy → online text (page 40 of 41)