Chap. 2: The Discouragement of Agriculture

Chap. 2: The Discouragement of Agriculture After the Fall of the Roman Empire

1 The Western Roman empire was defeated by the Germans and Scythians.

  • It created confusions which lasted for many centuries.
  • The violence of the barbarians interrupted the commerce between the towns and the countryside.
    • The towns were deserted and the countryside was left uncultivated.
  • Western Europe enjoyed opulence under the Roman empire.
    • But it sunk into the lowest state of poverty and barbarism.
    • The chiefs of those nations acquired or usurped most of the lands to themselves.
      • Most of the lands were uncultivated.
        • But all of them had a proprietor.
        • All of them were engrossed mostly by a few great proprietors.

2 This original great engrossing of uncultivated lands might have been but a transitory evil.

  • They might soon have been divided and broken into small parcels either by:
    • succession or
      • The law of primogeniture hindered them from being divided by succession.
    • alienation.
      • The introduction of entails prevented them from being broken into small parcels by alienation.

3 When land, like movables, is the only means subsistence and enjoyment, the natural law of succession divides it among all the children.

  • The enjoyments of all the children are supposed equally dear to the father.
  • This natural law of succession took place among the Romans.
    • In the inheritance of lands, the Romans made no distinction between:
      • elder and younger and
      • male and female,
        • just as we currently do not make distinction in the distribution of movables.
  • When land was considered as a means for subsistence, power and protection, it was thought better for it to descend undivided to one.
  • In those disorderly times, every great landlord was a petty prince.
    • His tenants were his subjects.
      • He was their judge and legislator in peace and their leader in war.
      • He made war according to his own discretion.
  • The security and protection of a landed estate depended on its size.
    • To divide it was to ruin it.
    • To expose every part of it was to allow it to be swallowed up by its neighbours.
  • The law of primogeniture came to take place in the succession of landed estates.
  • In the same way, the succession of monarchies came about gradually and not always at their first institution.
    • The monarchy’s power and security must descend entirely to one of the children so that it would not be weakened by division.
    • Some general rule must determine which child will be preferred.
  • This rule is not based on doubtful personal merit, but on some plain and undisputable difference.
    • The only indisputable difference is sex and age.
      • The male is universally preferred to the female.
      • With all other things are equal, the elder everywhere takes place of the younger.
    • Hence the origin of the right of primogeniture and lineal succession.

4 Laws frequently continue enforced long after the reasonable circumstances which created them have passed.

  • Presently in Europe, the proprietor of a single acre is as secure of his possession as the proprietor of 100,000 acres.
  • The right of primogeniture is still respected.
    • Of all institutions, it is the fittest to support the pride of family distinctions.
    • It is still likely to endure for many centuries.
    • In every other respect, it runs most contrary to the real interest of a big family.
      • Because it grants a right which beggars all the rest of the children to enrich one child.

5 Entails are the natural consequences of the law of primogeniture.

  • They were introduced to preserve a lineal succession established by the law of primogeniture.
  • Entails hinder any part of the original estate from being carried out of the line by gift, devise, or alienation by the folly or misfortune of any of its successive owners.
    • They were unknown to the Romans.
  • Neither their substitutions nor fideicommisses* resemble entails.
    • Some French lawyers used such ancient language in the modern institution.

* [only heirs can inherit the estate]

6 When great landed estates were principalities, entails might be reasonable.

  • Like the fundamental laws of some monarchies, they aim to prevent one man from endangering the security of thousands.
    • But this is most absurd in present-day Europe where all estates are secured by national laws.
  • Entails are founded on the most absurd of all suppositions:
    • That every successive generation does not have an equal right to the earth and its possessions.
    • That the property of the present generation should be restrained and regulated according to the fancy of those who died 500 years ago.
  • Entails are still respected in most of Europe, particularly in countries where noble birth is a necessary qualification for civil or military honours.
    • Entails are thought necessary to maintain the exclusive privilege and honour of the nobility.
    • The nobility usurped this unjust advantage over other citizens.
    • It is thought reasonable that the nobility should have another advantage called entails to prevent their poverty.
      • Their poverty would render the honour of the country ridiculous.
  • English common law is said to abhor perpetuities.
    • Perpetuitues are more restricted in England than in any other European monarchy.
  • In Scotland, more than 1/5, perhaps more than 1/3 of its lands are under strict entail.

7 Great tracts of uncultivated land were engrossed by particular families in this way.

  • Such lands were prevented from being divided again forever as much as possible.
  • A great proprietor is seldom a great improver.
  • In the disorderly times which created those barbarous institutions, the great proprietor was employed in:
    • defending his own territories
    • extending his jurisdiction and authority over his neighbours
  • He did not have time to cultivate and improve the land.
    • When law and order was established and afforded him this leisure, he often did not have the inclination nor the needed abilities.
  • He frequently had no stock to improve his lands because his expences frequently exceeded his revenue.
    • If he was an economist, he generally found it more profitable to use his savings on new purchases than in improving his old estate.
  • To improve land with profit, like all other commercial projects, requires an exact attention to small savings and small gains.
    • A man born to a great fortune is seldom capable of this attention, even though he may be naturally frugal.
      • He would rather focus on ornaments which please his fancy than on profits which he has little need for.
      • Since infancy, he was accustomed to be anxious about the elegance of his dress, equipage, house, and furniture.
      • This habit naturally follows him when he thinks of improving land.
      • He embellishes perhaps 400-500 acres near his house, at 10 times the cost of the land after all his improvements.
      • He finds that if he improved his whole estate in the same way, he would be bankrupt before he finished 10% of it.
  • There are still some great estates in the United Kingdom which have continued without interruption in the hands of the same family since feudal times.
    • Compare the present condition of those estates with the possessions of the small proprietors near them, and you will see how unfavourable such extensive property is to improvement.

8 “If little improvement was to be expected from such great proprietors, still less was to be hoped for from those who occupied the land under them.”

  • In ancient Europe, the occupiers of land were all tenants at will.
    • They were almost all slaves.
    • But their slavery was milder than that of the ancient Greeks and Romans, or even of our West Indian colonies.
    • They belonged more directly to the land than to their master.
    • They could be sold with it, but not separately.
    • They could marry, provided it was with the consent of their master.
      • The master could not dissolve the marriage by selling the man and wife to different persons.
      • If he maimed or murdered any of them, he was liable to some small penalty.
    • They could not acquire property.
      • Whatever they acquired was acquired to their master.
      • He could take it from them at pleasure.
      • Whatever cultivation and improvement could be done by such slaves was properly carried on by their master at his expence and for his benefit.
      • The seed, the cattle, and the instruments of husbandry were all his.
      • Such slaves could acquire only their daily maintenance.
    • This kind of slavery still exists in Russia, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, and other parts of Germany.
      • It was only abolished in the western and south-western Europe.

Land Improvement from Slavery
9  But if great improvements are seldom expected from great proprietors, they are the least expected from slaves.

  • All ages and nations demonstrate that the work done by slaves is in the end the dearest of any.
    • Although it appears to cost only their maintenance,
  • A person who cannot own property can be only interested in eating as much and working as little as possible.
    • Any work beyond what is sufficient for his own maintenance can be squeezed out of him by violence only, and not by his own interest.
  • In ancient Italy, corn cultivation degenerated.
    • Pliny and Columella remarked that it became unprofitable when it was managed by slaves.
  • In ancient Greece in the time of Aristotle, it was not much better.
    • The ideal republic in the laws of Plato requires a territory of boundless extent and fertility, like the plains of Babylon.
      • It needs to maintain 5,000 idle men, which is the number of warriors supposedly needed for its defence, together with their women and servants.

10 The pride of man makes him love to domineer.

  • Nothing mortifies him than to be obliged to condescend to persuade his inferiors.
  • He will prefer the service of slaves to that of freemen, wherever it is allowed:
    • by law and
    • by the nature of the work.
  • Tobacco and sugar planting can afford the expence of slave-cultivation.
    • Corn planting currently cannot afford slaves.
  • In the English colonies which principally grow corn, most of the work is done by freemen.
  • The late resolution of the Quakers in Pennsylvania to free all their negro slaves shows that their slaves were not very numerous.
    • If slaves made any big part of their property, such a resolution could never have been accepted.
  • In our sugar colonies, on the contrary, all the work is done by slaves.
  • In our tobacco colonies, much of the work is done by slaves.
  • The profits of a sugar plantation in our West Indian colonies are much greater than the profits of any other cultivation in Europe or America.
    • The profits of a tobacco plantation are inferior to those of sugar but superior to those of corn.
    • Both sugar and tobacco can afford slave-cultivation.
    • But sugar can afford it better than tobacco.
  • There are more negroes in our sugar colonies than in our tobacco colonies.

11 A species of farmers known in France currently as Metayers gradually succeeded the ancient slaves.

  • They are called Coloni Partiarii in Latin.
    • They were so long in disuse in England that I know no English name for them at present.
  • The proprietor furnished them with the whole stock needed for cultivating the farm.
    • After setting aside what was necessary for keeping up the stock, the produce was divided equally between the proprietor and the farmer.
    • The whole stock was returned to the proprietor when the farmer quit or was turned out of the farm.

12  Land occupied by such tenants is cultivated at the expence of the proprietor in the same way as when it was occupied by slaves, but with one very essential difference.

  • Such tenants, being freemen, are capable of acquiring property.
    • They have a proportion of the produce of the land.
    • They are interested to make the whole produce as great as possible so that their own proportion would be also great.
  • A slave who can acquire nothing consults his own ease by making the land produce as little as possible over his own maintenance.
  • Slavery was encouraged by the king partly because of this advantage and partly because of his jealousy of the great lords, until slavery became inconvenient.
  • That tenure in villanage gradually wore out in most of Europe.
  • The time and manner of the abolition of slavery is one of the most obscure points in modern history.
    • The Church of Rome claims great merit in it.
    • As early as the 12th century, Alexander II published a bull for the general emancipation of slaves.
      • But it was more of a pious exhortation than a law which required exact obedience from the faithful.
  • Slavery continued almost universally until it was gradually abolished by the joint interests of the proprietor and the sovereign.
  • A villain, enfranchised and allowed possess land without his own stock, could only cultivate it with the stock given by the landlord.
    • Such person must have been a Metayer.

13 It could never be the interest even of Metayers to use any of their little stock to improve the land.

  • Because the lord who spent nothing would get half of whatever it produced.
  • The tithe is 10% of the produce.
    • It is a very great hindrance to improvement.
  • A tax of 50% must have been an effectual bar to improvement.
  • It might be a Metayer’s interest to make the land produce as much as possible using the stock furnished by the proprietor.
    • But it could never be his interest to mix his own stock with it.
  • Metayers still occupy 83% of France.
    • The proprietors complain that the Metayers take every opportunity of using the master’s cattle in transportation than in cultivation.
      • In transportation, they get the whole profits to themselves,
      • In cultivation, they share them with their landlord.
  • In some parts of Scotland, tenants like Metayers are called steel-bow tenants.
    • Chief Baron Gilbert and Doctor Blackstone says those ancient English tenants were more bailiffs of the landlord than farmers and were probably of the same kind.

14 This kind of tenancy was very slowly succeeded by farmers who cultivated land with their own stock.

  • They paid a rent to the landlord.
  • When such farmers lease for a number of years, they may find it for their interest to use their capital to improve the farm.
    • They may expect to recover it with a large profit before the expiration of the lease.
  • The possession by such farmers was extremely precarious for a long time.
    • It is still is so in many parts of Europe.
    • A new purchaser can legally remove them from their lease before the expiration of their term.
      • In England, even the fictitious action of a common recovery can remove them.
    • If they were removed illegally by their master’s violence, they could seek redress extremely imperfectly.
      • It did not always reinstate their possession of the land.
      • It gave them damages which never amounted to the real loss.
  • Of all the Europe countries, the yeomanry was always most respected in England.
  • Ejectment was invented only in the 14th of Henry VII.
    • It enabled the tenant to recover damages and possession
    • The tenant’s claim is not necessarily concluded by the uncertain decision of a single court.
  • Ejectment was such an effectual a remedy that, in the modern practice, landlords sue in the name of the tenant, using the writ of ejectment for land possession.
  • The landlord seldom uses the writ of right or the writ of entry, which are the actions for a landlord.
  • In England the security of the tenant is equal to the security of the proprietor.
  • A lease for life of 40 shillings a year is a freehold.
    • It entitles the lessee to vote for a member of parliament.
  • Most of the yeomanry have this kind of freeholds.
    • This makes them respectable to their landlords due to the political consideration given to them.
  • I believe only England allows the tenant to build on unleased land, trusting the honour of his landlord not to take advantage of the improvement.
  • “Those laws and customs so favourable to the yeomanry have perhaps contributed more to the present grandeur of England than all their boasted regulations of commerce taken together.”


15 The law which secures the longest leases against successors of every kind is peculiar to Great Britain.

  • It was introduced into Scotland in 1449 as a law of James II.
    • Its beneficial influence, however, was much obstructed by entails.
  • The heirs of entail were frequently restrained from giving leases for more than one year.
    • A recent act of parliament has somewhat slackened their fetters, though they are still much too narrow.
  • In Scotland, no leasehold gives a vote for a member of parliament.
    • The yeomanry are less respectable to their landlords than in England.

16 In other parts of Europe, after it was found convenient to secure tenants against heirs and purchasers, the term of their security was limited to a very short period.

  • In France, it was limited to nine years from the start of the lease.
    • It was recently extended to 27 years.
      • This period is still too short to encourage the tenant to make important improvements.
  • The proprietors of land were anciently the legislators of Europe.
    • The laws relating to land were all calculated for what they supposed was the proprietor’s interest.
    • They imagined that it was for his interest that no lease granted by any of his predecessors should hinder him from enjoying the full value of his land for many years.
  • “Avarice and injustice are always short-sighted.”
    • They did not foresee how much this regulation must obstruct improvement and hurt the real interest of the landlord in the long-run.

17 Aside from paying the rent, the farmers were anciently bound to perform many services to the landlord.

  • These services were seldom specified in the lease nor regulated by any precise rule.
  • These services were almost entirely arbitrary
  • They subjected the tenant to many vexations.
  • In Scotland, the abolition of all services not precisely stipulated in the lease very much improved the condition of their yeomanry within a few years.

18 The yeomanry were bound to public services which were not less arbitrary than the private ones.

  • One of the services is to build and maintain the high roads.
  • It still exists everywhere with different degrees of oppression in different countries.
  • When the king’s troops, household, or officers passed through the countryside, the yeomanry were bound to provide them with horses, carriages, and provisions, at a price regulated by the purveyor.
  • I believe Great Britain is the only European monarchy where the oppression of purveyance has been abolished.
    • It still exists in France and Germany.

19 The yeomanry were subject to public taxes which were as irregular and oppressive as those services.

  • The ancient lords were extremely unwilling to give any monetary aid to their sovereign.
    • They easily allowed him to tax their own tenants.
    • They could not foresee how much this affected their own revenue in the end.
  • The taille still subsists in France and may serve as an example of those ancient taxes.
    • It is a tax on the supposed profits of the farmer, which they estimate by the stock that he has on the farm.
      • It is his interest to appear to have as little and employ as little as possible in its cultivation, and none in its improvement.
      • Should a French farmer accumulate any stock, the taille will almost prohibit it from ever being employed on the land.
    • This tax is supposed to:
      • dishonour whoever is subject to it
      • degrade such person below the rank of a gentleman and even that of a burgher [bourgeoisie]
    • No gentleman or any burgher who has stock, will submit to this degradation.
    • Whoever rents lands becomes subject to the taille.
    • This tax hinders stock from being used in improving land.
      • It drives away other stock from it.
  • The ancient tenths and fifteenths, so usual in England in the past were taxes of the same kind as the taille.

20 “Under all these discouragements, little improvement could be expected from the occupiers of land.”

  • They improved land under great disadvantages.
  • The farmer became like a merchant who trades with borrowed money.
  • The proprietor, on the other hand, was like a merchant who trades with his own money.
  • With equally good conduct, the farmer’s stock always improves land more slowly than the merchant’s stock, because the loan’s large interest eats up the farmer’s profits.
    • With equally good conduct, the lands cultivated by the farmer are improved  more slowly than those cultivated by the proprietor.
      • Because the rent payments eat up much of the produce.
    • Had the farmer been the proprietor, he might have employed these payments to further improve the land.
  • A farmer is inferior to a proprietor.
    • Through most of Europe, the yeomanry are regarded as inferior even to tradesmen and mechanics.
    • In all of Europe, they are inferior to the great merchants and master manufacturers.
  • Men with big stocks seldom quit the superior for an inferior station.
    • Even presently in Europe, little stock is likely to go to the improvement of land through farming.
    • Of all countries, Great Britain has the most stock going into improvement.
      • Some of its great farming stocks have been generally acquired by fanning the trade of farming stocks acquired most slowly.
  • After small proprietors, rich and great farmers are the principal improvers in every country.
    • There are perhaps more of them in England than in any other European monarchy.
    • In the republican governments of Holland and Berne in Switzerland, farmers are not inferior to those of England.

21 Europe’s ancient policy was unfavourable to the improvement and cultivation of land by the proprietor or the farmer because of:

  1. The universal prohibition of corn exportation without a special licence
  2. The restraints laid on the inland commerce of corn and almost every other farm produce caused by:
    1. The absurd laws against engrossers, regrators, and forestallers
    2. The privileges of fairs and markets
  • Ancient Italy was naturally the most fertile European country.
    • It was the seat of the greatest empire in the world.
    • Its cultivation was obstructed by:
      • The prohibition of corn exportation
      • Some encouragement to the importation of foreign corn
  • Such restraints on the inland commerce of corn with the general prohibition of its exportation must have discouraged the cultivation of less fertile and less favourably circumstanced countries.

Words: 3,653

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