« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
impression that Russia and Prussia possessed the power to supply an unlimited quantity of corn.” He returned, after a tour of 6000 miles, convinced that this power has been greatly over-rated, at least for a long period to come, and that the inhabitants neither possess the skill, the knowledge, nor the means of injuring the British farmer in their present state. He describes the Russian plough as an implement worth, in the British market, from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. ; the harrow as a number of slabs of the fir-tree, with the spurs or branches left on, about fifteen inches long, the slabs fastened to crossbars at the end with a withe—their value not above Is. 6d. to 28.; and the waggon as adapted for a donkey on a common road-value from 50s. to £5—but to this two or three horses or oxen are attached abreast. He also states that “the land is chiefly cultivated by women, children, or old men"—that it is not an unusual sight to see one hundred women at plough, within a very short distance of each other, without hat, cap, shoes, or stockings—their only covering being a loose kind of blue smock frock, with a string to draw it round the waist and above the breast.
The able-bodied men in Russia are chiefly engaged as soldiers and as servants to their lords, or they work as mechanics in towns. Consequently the lands look poverty-stricken and neglected, and would require an immense outlay to improve them, besides the difficulties in the way of climate:—one month of the year being divided into spring and autumn, four months into extreme heat of summer, and seven months of severe winter, during which the earth is closed against all cultivation. From this it may easily be inferred that the crops cannot be heavy; the staple crop, rye, yielding, on an average, “from 21 to 3 corn, that is to say, from 2 to 3 times the seed sown;" and as the crop he saw was said to be the best they had had for twenty years,“ my decided opinion was that 8 to 12 bushels per acre would top the average of many seasons.” Wheat, barley, and oats yielded in the same proportion. Mr Salter was offered land at Kief, understood to be the richest soil in Russia, at 4s. an acre, and as many serfs as he liked "for £7 or £8 per annum, boarding themselves. In my opinion that was not so wondrous cheap; I would rather have given an English labourer £21, and should have got money by the exchange." Russians work only 240 days, the rest being either saints-days or Sundays. The driving to market the crops above described may appear no great matter, yet the roads are universally so bad, that three horses at least are required to draw what one could have done on a common road. When near Riga, he writes, “To give some idea of the badness of the roads, and the difti culty of transit, we had ten horses attached to a diligence with six people in it, for nearly 250 miles of the journey, which was nearly all the time in deep sand.”
Fortunately matters are described as much better in Prussia, some of the soil being fertile, “especially along the banks of the Vistula." The farmers in the neighbourhood of the Baltic ports are very intelligent men, and much better farmers than their Russian and Polish neighbours; those of the southern districts, however, were said to be suffering from poverty, ignorance, and indolent habits, and living in wretched hovels. Mr Salter states that land in the neighbourhood of Dantzic had increased in value nearly 100 per cent. within the last 12 years; and he describes minutely the in-comings and out-goings on a well managed property within nine miles of that port, consisting of 3125 acres, and where the general average of the cottages is good-much better in many cases than those of Norfolk, and the cottagers are better off in their living than the generality of English labourers. The total value of produce of all kinds, including wood sold,
£1840 1 0 Charges against the above, including interest at 4 per cent. on the value of the estate,
1330 0 0
Leaving a balance of
£510 1 0 for tenants' profits, for himself and family to live upon,
all little incidental, market, and other expenses, and interest of floating capital, -being a profit of about 3s. 3d. per acre.
The home farm consisted of 1200 acres, the live stock and implements on which were worth £1543, and from a detailed statement regarding its management,
appears that after deducting interest at 4 per cent. on its value, being the rent, or £445 : 14s., there was still left a balance of £191 : 16 : 3d. for the tenant to live on. It is added, that the same kind of farm would be worth, to rent in England, £1260. But the conclusion he draws from the whole is, " that instead of labour being cheaper in Prussia (when paid in produce) it is considerably dearerland, however, being of considerably less value."
On visiting Denmark, which was decidedly the best country in his route, Mr Salter was surprised to find pasture land letting at from 40s. to 50s. per English acre upon ten years' leases, and that where the tenants were allowed to mow, from 60s. to 70s., and in some few instances, near towns, even 80s. per acre. From the severity of the winter, which lasts about six months, all cattle are housed and kept alive upon dry food, which occasions a great demand for hay and straw. In the neighbourhood of Keil small farms let at from 20s. to 258. per acre; larger farms, from 18s. to 20s. Holstein is altogether a very fertile district, let at high rents, and, for the country, also taxed high, from 4s., 6s., to 8s. per acre (no rent charge or poor rate), especially from Keil to Luttemberg and Prietz Ploen, on the road to Lubec, though the soil is very inferior the rest of the way.
We have never met with any one who professed alarm at the probable importations of grain from Sweden, neither does our idea of the country improve by Mr Salter's account of it, so we need not burden our pages with his remarks. We have already given the spirit and substance of his notes ; and we now confidently ask, has he not effectually dissipated the idea of overwhelming importations from the Baltic? Yes, as completely as Professor Johnston has laid the bugbear of America !
Though we do not for a moment suppose that a single farm or a single acre in Great Britain will be thrown permanently out of cultivation, by importations at a price that would not remunerate the home-grower; yet, we believe that either a considerable reduction of the money-value of land must take place, or the adoption of a generally improved system of cultivation, sufficient to counterbalance the fall in price that has lately occurred, and may probably continue. The first alternative is by no means desirable, on many accounts besides the interest of the owners, while it may easily be proved that, in 99 cases out of the 100, the second, if only judiciously gone about, will be discovered to be an amply sufficient remedy. We had written so far, when there was put into our hands a pamphlet directly bearing on the latter point, by Mr Talbot, M.P., for Glamorganshire.* In a very clear and business-like manner, Mr Talbot details the mode of management formerly followed at Penrin Castle farm, which is the common system in the neighbourhood. Then, after describing the evils of that system, or the miserable results obtained from it, even under protection, he classifies numerous tables, exhibiting at a glance the numbers and values of the different kinds of stock, formerly and now kept on the farm ; also the quantities of grain raised each succeeding year under the new mode, progressively increasing. Statements are also given of the gross receipts and expenditure on the farm for ten years, being the last five years of the old system with the first five years of the new, showing the balance under both applicable to the payment of rent and tithes, and interest of capital employed. Under the old, this balance amounted to £110 per annum, and under the new to £428, notwithstanding that in the first two years of it there was a positive loss. The whole extent of the farm is 380 imperial acres, of which 250 are arable, and 130 permanent pasture rather thickly wooded. The capital invested is given at £2514, being at the rate of £6 : 12s. an acre. We mention this before coming to the receipts and expenditure for crop 1849, which, notwithstanding free trade, leaves a balance for rent, tithe, &c., of £680, when it should be recollected that the most the farm was ever let for was £240, and which was found too high. But after all Mr Talbot is not satisfied, as he then gives a table to show if prices had not fallen, or, in other words, if he had still had the power to put his hands into the pockets of the operatives of England, he would have had £1110 in place of £680. Oh, for shame, Mr Talbot ! He grumbles, too, that the working stock on his farm has diminished in value, and commends this simple fact to the attention of those logicians who maintain that the permanent reduction of prices of agricultural produce is not a tenant's question, “ for that a corresponding reduction in rent would set all things straight.” It seems to be in Mr Talbot's view for the interest of tenants not only to pay a rent of £300 in place of £200 a-year, but also that the greater the sum necessary to stock a farm so much the more beneficial for the occupier. However, we must not press Mr Talbot too hard, seeing he admits, though most reluctantly, that he will be able to continue "to cultivate his farm with wheat at 40s." He dolefully concludes thus—“As a landlord I can never expect to improve the value of the land, and as an occupier I must be contented to conduct a hazardous business with but a trifling chance of profit.” We would now only recommend Mr Talbot's shrewd and intelligent Scotch bailiff, who has obtained for him the "trifling" profits mentioned above, to set his active brains once more to work, and try and discover some new mode to satisfy his rather insatiable master; for he may consider it
Remarks on the advantages of the East Lothian system of farming, as compared with the system commonly pursued in the vicinity of Swansea ; addressed to the members of the Swansea Farmers' Club, by the President, C. R. M. Talbot, Esq., M.P. London: H. G. Bohn. 1850.
certain that a tax for the benefit of the wealthiest class in Britain will never again be submitted to by the people of England.
But it may be said, though this plan of improved cultivation may do very well in some backward situations, what is to become of those districts, such as the Lothians of Scotland, where the best of farming is already practised? We answer, that there the rent is a very different matter from what it is in most of the English counties. Lord Kinnaird's now celebrated farm of Mill Hill, in Forfarshire, is higher rented than Mr Talbot's by 150 per cent., while the average of the parish of Dunbar in East Lothian, is fully £4 per imperial acre, or betwixt 500 and 600 per cent. higher. Now, if nothing else can be done, we say that here is an ample fund capable of supplying all deficiencies. But we utterly deny that even in East Lothian the land is generally farmed nearly so well as it might be. No one can pass through it even by the North British Railway, without being struck by the contrast that farm presents to farm, often field to field. Did landlords and tenants properly understand their relative position and faithfully discharge their relative duties, this would not be; but as long as the system exists of feeding a farm at the beginning of a lease, and scourging it before it comes to a close, matters can hardly be better. The land is not for one-third of the period of a 19 or 21 years lease, attempted to be kept at the highest degree of fertility. Every intelligent farmer knows that it requires, on the great proportion of soils, years after years of continued outlay and expenditure before they can be brought into the highest and most profitable state of cultivation. The first half of a lease is generally spent in bringing the land into this condition, the last half in undoing it. No rules, or regulations, or modes of cropping can prevent it. All may be and are kept to the letter, but broken in spirit. The capital and skill of the tenant farmer must be recognised by lawas a marketablecommodity, separate and distinct from the freehold on which it may be expended, before we can look for any great change. We confess we have no great hopes of seeing this brought about until considerable suffering has been felt by both landlords and tenants. Notwithstanding the evidence taken before a select committee of the House of Commons, and their report; the discussions in Parliament on Mr Pusey's landlord and tenant bill, which is simply a permissive measure, show too clearly the ignorance that yet exists in high places on this all important question. The self-interest of parties will by and by find it out. Hitherto deteriorated farms have let about as readily as those in better order; condition has not yet occupied that place in the estimate of value, to which the lower price of produce is destined to raise it. That it has not done so sooner is mainly owing to the strange hallucination entertained so long by many that an act of Parliament could render a whole profession prosperous and happy.
No delusion has been more industriously circulated, than that the expenses of cultivation in Britain are so enormous, as entirely to preclude the idea of the British husbandman successfully competing with those in America or in any of the nations of Europe. Nothing can be more erroneous: the principal difference betwixt Britain and other countries consists in the money-value of land, or the amount of rent that farmers are willing to pay for its use. In no other country is grain brought to market at less cost than here; always, however, excluding rent which is
simply a matter of bargain between two parties, and with which the public have no concern. Now what are the expenses of raising agricultural produce or carrying through a given rotation on an acre, or any other known quantity of land, and what is the value of the average returns therefrom? Few questions apparently so simple as this have been the subject of greater controversy. It is a matter in which it is scarcely · possible to find two practical men who will give exactly the same replies. If they enter into details they are sure to differ; yet everybody knows an acre to be but a small and well-defined extent of measure, and one would think that the general amount of expenses incurred, and the average value of the returns obtained, would be easily ascertained and calculated. But the truth is, that both expenses and returns vary on every farm, and on the same farm are never two years exactly alike. Besides, few farmers are disposed to give a bona fide statement from their books, as to what these are on the average of years; for, should a handsome profit be shown, the chances are they would be immediately told that their rent was too low; and were a loss exhibited, the reply would be, either that they paid too much rent, or that they were bad farmers and did not understand their business. Rent is simply the excess of the value of the produce of land after deducting all the expenses of cultivation. No land of itself will produce a crop of wheat, or anything beyond a scanty herbage; it must first be properly tilled and manured, and have that seed sown of which a crop is wished to be grown. These operations it is the duty of the occupier or tenant to perform; and though the result is much influenced by the nature of the soil
, its situation, and climate, as well as by the season being favourable, yet in any given number of years the amount of produce reaped, is mainly dependent on the management of the person who directs the proceedings. His skill and intelligence are shown by the value of the surplus produce left after paying expenses, or the amount of the fund he may have realised available for profit or rent. Different individuals take different plans to obtain this surplus; one is content with a small produce, if obtained at a small expense_another calculates that by a large outlay he will have still larger crops, and by this means an increased fund for profit or rent. Intelligent and enterprising farmers affirm that on the great majority of soils the latter is the true plan, or the one most likely to succeed, if judiciously gone about. The principal objection to it is, that it requires years after years of patient outlay before the returns become sufficiently remunerative, when the lease may be drawing to a close, and few choose to have their farms in high condition then, from the great probability of their being called on to pay rent on their own capital and skill. But whether this is correct or not, the different items which enter into, and form the bulk of the account of farming expenditure, are themselves mainly dependent on the price of farm produce. The statements of the Scotch farmers, who gave their evidence before the committee of the House of Commons on agricultural distress in 1836, clearly show this. It does not signify which of them is taken; but we will begin with that of Mr Howden, Lawhead, East Lothian, a gentleman well known and much respected. He gave in a note of the gross produce, and also of the rent and expenses of his farms of Lawhead and Traprain for the three years 1832-33-34.