Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

value to coin, which is therefore not current alike in all times and in all places; but the real value remains invariable, and the provident man, who gets rid as soon as he can of the drossy piece, hoards up the good silver. Thus merit will not procure the same consideration universally. But what then? the title to this consideration is the same, and will be found alike in every circumstance by those who are wise and virtuous themselves. If it is not owned by such as are otherwise, nothing is however taken from us; we have no reason to complain. They considered us for a rank which we had ; for our de nomination, not for our intrinsic value. We have that rank, that denomination no longer; and they consider us no longer; they admire in us what we admire not in ourselves. If they learn to neglect, let us learn to pity them. Their assiduity was importunate; let us not complain of the ease which this change procures us; let us rather apprehend the return of that rank and that power, which, like a sunny day, would bring back these little insects, and make them swarm once more about us. I know how apt we are, under specious pretences, to disguise our weaknesses and our vices, and how often we succeed, not only in deceiving the world, but even in deceiving ourselves. An inclination to do good is inseparable from a virtuous mind, and, therefore, the man who cannot bear with patience the loss of that rank and power which he enjoyed, may be willing to attribute his regrets to the impossibility which he supposes himself reduced to of satisfying this inclination. But let such an one know that a wise man contents himself with doing as much good as his situation allows him to do; that there is no situation wherein we may not do a great deal; and that, when we are deprived of greater power to do more good, we escape at the same time the temptation of doing some evil.

The inconveniences which we have mentioned carry nothing along with them difficult to be borne by a wise and virtuous man; and those which remained to be mentioned, contempt and ignominy, can never fall to his lot. It is impossible that he who reverences himself should be despised by others, and how can ignominy affect the man who collects all his strength within himself, who appeals from the judgment of the multitude to another tribunal, and lives independent of mankind and of the accidents of life? Cato lost the election of prætor, and that of consul; but is any one blind enough to truth to imagine that these repulses reflected any disgrace on him? The dignity of those two magistracies would have been increased by his wearing them. They suffered, not Cato.

[blocks in formation]

Ignominy can take no hold on virtue; for virtue is in

every

condition the same, and challenges the same respect. We applaud the world when she prospers, and when she falls into adversity we applaud her. Like the temples of the gods, she is venerable even in her ruins. After this, must it not appear a degree of madness to defer one moment acquiring the only arms capable of defending us against the attacks which at every moment we are exposed to ? Our being miserable, or not miserable, when we fall into misfortunes, depends on the manner in which we have enjoyed prosperity. If we have applied ourselves betimes to the study of wisdom, and to the practice of virtue, these evils become indifferent; but if we have neglected to do so they become necessary. In one case they are evils, in the other they are remedies for greater evils than themselves. Zeno rejoiced that a shipwreck had thrown him on the Athenian coast, and he owed to the loss of his fortune the acquisition which he made of virtue, of wisdom, of immortality. There are good and bad airs for the mind, as well as for the body. Prosperity often irritates our chronical distempers, and leaves no hopes of finding any specific but in adversity. In such cases banishment is like change of air, and the evils we suffer are like rough medicines applied to inveterate diseases. What Anacharsis said of the vine may aptly enough be said of prosperity. She bears the three grapes of drunkenness, of pleasure, and of sorrow: and happy it is if the last can cure the mischief which the former work. When afflictions fail to have their due effect, the case is desperate. They are the last remedy which indulgent Providence uses : and, if they fail, we must languish and die in misery and contempt. Vain men! how seldom do we know what to wish or to pray for? When we pray against misfortunes, and when we fear them most we want them most. It was for this reason that Pythagoras forbid his disciples to ask any thing in particular of God. The shortest and the best prayer

which we can address to Him, who knows our wants, ad our ignorance in asking, is this:--Thy will be done.

258.–COTTIER RENTS.

PROFESSOR JONES. [The Reverend Richard Jones is Professor of Political Economy at the noble establishment of the East India Company at Haileybury, for the education of their civil officers. Mr. Jones was the successor of Malthus. His great talents, his extensive and varied knowledge, and the practical character of his understanding, eminently fit him for a teacher in this difficult science. His principal work is an octavo volume, published in 1831, on · The Distribution of Wealth ;' in which the subject of rent is treated, not as a metaphysical theory, but with a careful examination of all the various systems prevailing in the world, by which revenue is derived from land. Our extract is taken from this work.)

Under the head of Cottier Rents, we may include all rents contracted to be paid in money, by peasant tenants, extracting their own maintenance from the soil.

They are found to some extent in various countries ; but it is in Ireland alone that they exist in such a mass, as palpably to influence the general state of the country. They differ from the other classes of peasant rents in this the most materially; that it is not enough for the tenant to be prepared to give in return, for the land which enables him to maintain himself, a part of his labour, as in the case of serf rents, or a definite proportion of the produce, as in the case of metayer or ryot rents. He is bound, whatever the quantity or value of his produce may be, to pay a fixed sum of money to the proprietor *. This is a change most difficult to introduce, and very important when introduced. Money payments from the occupiers, are by no means essential, we must recollect, to the rise or progress of rents. Over by far the greater part of the globe such payments have never yet been established. Tenants yielding plentiful rents in produce may be quite unable, from the infrequency of exchanges, to pay even small sums in money, and the owners of the land may, and do, form an affluent body, consuming and distributing a large proportion of the

* An engagement essentially pertaining to the nature of capital, by one who is not a capitalist.--Ed.

annual produce of a country, while it is extremely difficult for them to lay their hands on very insignificant sums in cash. Money rents, indeed, are so very rarely paid by peasant cultivators, that where they do exist among them, we may expect to find the power of discharging them founded on peculiar circumstances. In the case of Ireland, it is the neighbourhood of England, and the connection between the two countries, which supports the system of money rents paid by the peasantry. From all parts of Ireland, the access, direct or indirect, to the English market gives the Irish cultivators means of obtaining cash for a portion of their produce. In some districts, it even appears that the rents are paid in money earned by harvest-work in England; and it is repeatedly stated in the evidence before the Emigration Committee, that were this resource to fail, the power of paying rents would cease in these districts at once. Were Ireland placed in a remoter part of the world, surrounded by nations not more advanced than herself, and were her cultivators dependent for their means of getting cash on her own internal opportunities of exchange, it seems highly probable, that the landlords would soon be driven by necessity to adopt a system of either labour or produce rents, similar to those which prevail over the large portion of the globe cultivated by the other classes of peasant tenantry.

Once established, however, the effects of the prevalence of cottier rents among a peasant population are important; some advantageous, some prejudicial. In estimating them, we labour under the great disadvantage of having to form our general conclusions from a view of a single instance, that of Ireland. Did we know nothing of labour rents but what we collect from one country, Hungary for instance, how very

deficient would have been our notions of their characteristics. The disadvantages of cottier rents may be ranged under three heads. First, the want of any external check to assist in repressing the increase of the peasant population beyond the bounds of an easy subsistence. Secondly, the want of any protection to their interests, from the influence of usage and prescription in determining the amount of their payments. And, thirdly, the absence of that obvious and direct common interest, between the owners and the occupiers of the soil, which, under the other systems of peasant rents, secure to the tenants the forbearance and assistance of their landlords when calamity overtakes them.

The first, and certainly the most important disadvantage of cottier rents, is the absence of those external checks (common to every other class of peasant rents) which assist in repressing the effects of the disposition found in all peasant cultivators to increase up to the limits of a very scanty subsistence.

To explain this, we must, to a slight extent, anticipate the subject of population. It shall be as shortly as possible. We know that men's animal power of increase is such, as to admit of a very rapid replenishing of the districts they inhabit. When their numbers are as great as their territory will support in plenty, if the effects of such a power of increase are not diminished, their condition must get worse. If, however, the effects of their animal power of multiplication are diminished, this must happen, either from internal causes or motives, indisposing them to its full exercise, or from external causes acting independently of their will. But a peasant population, raising their own wages from the soil, and consuming them in kind, whatever may be the form of their rents, are universally acted upon very feebly by internal checks, or by motives disposing them to restraint. The causes of this peculiarity we shall have hereafter to point out. The consequence is, that unless some external cause, quite independent of this will, forces such peasant cultivators to slacken their rate of in. crease, they will, in a limited territory, whatever be the form of their rents, very rapidly approach a state of want and penury, and will be stopped at last only by the physical impossibility of procuring subsist

Where labour or metayer rents prevail, such external causes of repression are found in the interests and interference of the landlords: where ryot rents are established, in the vices and mismanagement of the government: where cottier rents prevail, no such external causes exist, and the unchecked disposition of the people leads to a multiplication which ends in wretchedness. Cottier rents, then, evidently differ for the worse in this respect from serf and metayer rents. It is not meant of course that serfs and metayers do not increase till their numbers and wants would alone place them very much at the mercy

of the proprietors, but the obvious interest of those proprietors leads them to refuse their assent to the further division of the soil, and so to withhold the means of settling more families, long before the earth becomes thronged with a multitudinous tenantry, to which it can barely yield subsistence. The Russian or Hungarian noble wants no

ence.

« AnteriorContinuar »