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Artificial manures and machinery had here come into use ; and if the culture could hardly be described as high farming, the land was clean and very productive. The cordial relations of “ bailleur” and “preneur,” or owner and métayer, testified to the satisfactoriness of the arrangement.
Not to be outdone by their rustic neighbours, the artizans of the Berrichon capital have, with few exceptions, become freeholders also. Suburban Châteauroux has, indeed, been appropriated by this class: the brand-new cottages and semi-detached villas on the outskirts of the town representing the thrift of the mechanic—an instance of self-help and sobriety hardly equalled throughout France. The houses were not only built for, but by their owners, in spare moments—another fact illustrating the innate economy of the French working man.
In purely agricultural districts of the Indre, land has quadrupled in value within the last forty or fifty years; near the towns, of course, the rise has been much higher.
Poitou is described by Arthur Young as an unimproved, poor, and ugly country. It seems to want communication, demand and activity of all kinds.". The ancient province of Poitou comprises La Vendée; but if we turn to the three carefully drawn maps appended to the original edition of the French Travels, we find the very name, so conspicuous a few years later, omitted altogether. Such a blank need not astonish us. “Who had so much as heard of La Vendée before 1793 ?” asks a French historian of the Vendean war. “ Was it a province, a river, a mountain ? Was it in Anjou, Brittany, or Poitou ? " Nobody knew, and, till the outbreak of the insurrection, nobody cared to inquire. Only one road traversed the entire countrythat from Nantes to La Rochelle-and on the creation of a department, it was found absolutely necessary to build a town as chef-lieu, none of sufficient importance existing. Waste, brushwood, heath and morass, with here and there patches of rye and buckwheat, occupied the place of the fertile fields and rich pastures that now rejoice the eye of the traveller in Bas Poitou. The transformation of recent years is startling enough. On the occasion of my first visit to this province fifteen years ago, it was necessary to cross the great Vendean Plaine, from Poitou to Bressuire, by diligence; since that period, railways have intersected the country in all directions, even the out-of-the-way
little town of Fontenay-le-Comte, so precious to the archæologist, has its branch line, whilst schools, railway stations, and other buildings of public utility have risen in all directions. Niort, chef-lieu of the Deux Sèvres, part of the ancient Bocage, and scene of the most terrible guerilla warfare of the Blancs and the Bleus, now possesses a railway station worthy of a capital. It may be briefly described as a town of 22,000 and odd souls, without a beggar. No rags, dirt, or vagrancy meet the eye in these clean, wide, airy streets. The Vendean costume still prevails, and whilst all is primitive, rustic, and provincial, evidences are here of immense and rapid progress. The immediate entourage of the town is one vast fruit and vegetable garden, the property of peasant owners. Melons, tomatoes, and peaches ripen in the sun, purple grapes cluster yellow walls, and luxuriant vegetation on all sides testifies to a highly favoured climate and soil. The produce of these market gardens is renowned throughout France. Two hundred acres are given up to the culture of the onion only.
La Vendée is a region of large tenant farms, and one visited by me in the neighbourhood of Niort may be accepted as a fair sample of the rest. The occupation consisted of four hundred and fifty acres, let on lease precisely as in England. For sixtyfive years it had been held by members of the same family—a fact speaking volumes for both owner and tenant. It had consisted in part of waste, let at a nominal rent to begin with, the sum being raised as the land increased in value. Mule-rearing for Spain is one of the chief resources of La Vendée, and we were shown upwards of forty young mules of great beauty, vary. ing in value from £30 to £80. The entire stock of the farm numbered seventy head of mules, horses, cows, and oxen, sixty sheep, besides pigs and poultry. Vineyards cover a tract of 30,000 hectares in this department, but here, as in many other places, the phylloxera had wrought entire ruin, only the blackened stocks remaining. The tenant farmer I name, as is almost universally the case, owned a small portion of land. Very likely, had inquiry gone back a generation or two, we should have found métayage the beginning of this prosperous family, their steppingstone from the condition of day-labourer to that of capitalist.
Much larger holdings than the one just described exist in this part of France, and if the traveller takes a south-westerly direc
tion from Niort to the sea coast, he will see a succession of large walled-in farmsteads recalling the moated granges of the Isle of Wight, the size and extent of the buildings attesting the importance of the occupation.
Of Languedoc Arthur Young writes in a very different strain. The picture, indeed, drawn by him of peasant owners round about Sauve and Ganges, in the department of the Gard, may well bear comparison with the traveller's experiences to-day.
“An activity has been here,” he writes, “ that has swept away all difficulties before it, and has clothed the very rocks with verdure. It would be an insult to common sense to ask the
The enjoyment of property must have done it. Give a man the secure possession of a black rock and he will turn it into a garden."
Here it is necessary to put in a word of explanation. Our author sets down one-third of French territory as belonging to the peasant at the time he wrote. This is one of the few errors of a very exact writer. In reality only a fourth of the soil belonged to the people before the Revolution, their little holdings having been acquired by means of incredible laboriousness and privation. The origin and development of peasant property throughout France can only be touched upon here. We must go very far back, farther even than the enfranchisement of the serfs by Louis Hutin, in order to trace the progressive transfer of land.
The Crusades, especially that of St. Bernard, brought about a veritable revolution in the matter of land tenure. The seigneurs, impoverished by all kinds of extravagance, then sold portions of property, not only to rich bourgeois and ecclesiastics, but to their own serfs, for the purpose of furnishing the necessary equipment. Many nobles thus succeeded in procuring ransom, forfeiting patrimony for their soul's good. The small owner by little and little contrived to better his position, and in the Etats Généraux of 1481, summoned by the great Anne of France, for the first time we find free peasants taking part in a legislative assembly. The Tiers Etat as a political body already existed.
1 See H. Martin's “Histoire de France," vol. iii., p. 268, et seq., “ Les Serfs transformés en roturiers," and vol. vii., p. 190, “ Etats Généraux."
In the words of a living authority lately quoted, peasant property, far from being a device invented all of a piece and carried by force of law, dates from a period long anterior to the Revolution. In some places the number of small parcels of land has hardly changed from early times. The sale of church lands had by no means the effects attributed to it. About onethird of these consisted of forest, which was added to the state, another third consisted of buildings and town property, the remaining third, consisting of land, was sold in the lots actually existing without being divided at all, and the purchasers were for the most part well-to-do bourgeois.
These observations have seemed appropriate, as much confusion still exists on the subject among ourselves. That peasant property is the direct creation of the Revolution appears to be the generally accepted theory in England. Had Arthur Young's travels been read here with the attention paid to them by our French neighbours, such an error would have been cleared up
The Gard, of which our traveller gives so glowing a description, is by no means one of the most favoured departments. The phylloxera and the silkworm pest have greatly affected the prosperity of both town and country, yet the stranger halting at Le Vigan, or making his way thence to Millau in the Aveyron, finds himself amid a condition of things usually regarded as Utopian—a cheerful, well-dressed, self-supporting population, vagrancy unknown, and a distribution of well-being perhaps without a parallel in any part of Europe. Again and again will occur to his mind the famous passage with which Virgil concludes his second Georgic, that beautiful picture of pastoral happiness, which if imaginary in old Roman days, is so often realized in the rural France of our own.
Next Arthur Young visits the Landes on his way to Bordeaux. Here extraordinary changes have taken place within the last twenty years; what then must be the transformation wrought during the course of a century ? Plantations, the sinking of wells, drainage, and irrigation, are fast fixing the unstable sands, making fruitful the marsh, and creating a healthful climate and fertile soil. Early in the present century the land
? M. H. Baudrillart, “ Contemporary Review," May, 1886.
here was sold " au son de la voix; "1 in other words, the accepted standard of measurement was the compass of human lungs. The stretch of ground reached by a man's voice sold for a few francs. Crops are now replacing the scant herbage of the salt marsh, and the familiar characteristic of the landscape, the shepherd's stilts, are already almost a thing of the past. The échasse, or in patois, chanque, a word dating from the English occupation, and derived by some authorities from “shank,” is naturally discarded as the morass is transformed into solid ground. Six hundred thousand hectares of Landes planted with sea-pines produce resin to the annual value of fifteen million francs.
This noble tree, the pinus maritima, is here achieving a climatic revolution similar to the changes effected by the febrifugal Eucalyptus in the once fever-stricken plains of Algeria. The cork-tree, or chêne-liège, has proved equally effective. Many arid tracts are now covered with magnificent forests of recent growth, not only affording a source of revenue, but transforming the aspect and climatic conditions of the country. Only an inconsiderable proportion of the Landes remains in its former state.
Arthur Young's second journey takes him through Brittany and Anjou. Here also advance has been so rapid within our own time that the traveller revisiting these provinces finds his notes of ten or fifteen years ago utterly at fault.
· Landes—landes-landes (wastes, wastes, wastes), country possessing nothing but privilege and poverty," such is the verdict passed by the Suffolk squire on Brittany in 1788. The privileges were swept away with a stroke of the pen twelve months later; the poverty, though an evil not to be so summarily dealt with, has gradually given way to a happier state of things Of no French province can the economist now write more hopefully.
Were I to renew my acquaintance with the friendly tenant farmers of Nozay in the Loire Inférieure, described by me elsewhere, or the hospitable freeholders of Hennebont in the Mor. bihan, I should without doubt find many changes for the better. The sabots into which the bare feet of both master and men, mistress and maids, were thrust a few years ago, have been
See E. Réclus, “ Géographie de la France."