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the most savage and rapacious brigands, | labor of the serf. But the peculiarity in in all probability, whom the world has the service was that its amount is invaria
The conquest of the Slavs bly fixed. I have never seen any single was always followed by the establishment instance, even in the earliest times, of the of a bishop with a chapter, who were or- slave proper - i.e., of a person whose dinarily endowed with the fourth at least services could be demanded at the disof the lands previously possessed by the cretion of his owner, and who received a conquered tribe. It further became the bare subsistence as the equivalent of his duty of the vanquished to cultivate the labor. Some disadvantages belonged to estate of their ecclesiastical superiors, the condition of a serf. He was disabled and very soon the obligation of paying from quitting the place of his birth and tithes on the residue of their possessions nurture, except by the payment of an anwas imposed upon those enforced con- nual tax, known as chivage. He could verts. In return for these serious liabil. not rise from his rank, or bear arms in ities, the Slavs were baptized. But they the national militia, or enter the Church, had an awkward habit of frequently re- or take religious orders, unless he were lapsing into paganism, and thereupon of formally manumitted, and even then it rising in arms against the holy men who appears that the stain of his origin rehad planted these establishments in their mained a disability. The marriage of his midst.
daughter was permitted only on the pay, The earliest evidence which we have, ment of a fine, a custom which continued, other than can be collected from Domes in some places at least, till the civil wars day, a document which, strange to say, has of the fifteenth century. He could, we never been interpreted, is that which is so are told, maintain no action for civil abundant in the middle of the thirteenth wrongs against his lord, though he could century. The social condition of England for personal injuries. But, on the other at that period is wholly unlike anything hand, he possessed land, and could not be which has existed elsewhere, and yet it ejected from his holding, except by the has, in some particulars, survived to the judgment of the manor court, in which the present time. The largest and most im- freeholders sat as jurymen. He was tied portant district of the parish or manor to the soil, but he was not nearly so belonged to the lord. But every one else badly off as his descendant was, under in the parish possessed house and land, the old law of parochial settlement. He along with valuable rights of common, so could not bear arms in the militia, but he valuable indeed that the actual amount of sat on the jury of the manor, when land in the possession of the freeholders Offences were tried, and the peace was and serfs gives but little idea as to the preserved; and, in an indirect way, the distribution of such comforts as the time possession of arms was not denied him. and the circumstances allowed. I do not He could serve in the king's private mean to say that these extensive com- army, that body of picked and drilled men mons existed in all parishes, but I have who won the great victories of the hunnever found, in the records of many thou- dred years'. war. We are expressly insands among such parishes or manors, formed that some of the most consideraevidence to the effect that all the land in ble captains in the armies of Edward III. any place was enclosed and held in sever- rose from the condition of serfage to that alty.
of knighthood. Everybody paid rent. The lord was It was a special feature in English tenunder certain liabilities to the over-lord, ure that the liabilities of the tenant were or the king in case he were a tenant of fixed. The assessments on which the the crown, the freeholders and serfs to subsidies were granted to the crown in their superior. Sometimes, it is true, the the days of the first Edward were unal rent was a service, as was the military tered in the times immediately preceding obligation of the knight, the religious the great civil war of the seventeenti offices of the monastery or chantry, the century, except to be lowered in amount The rents of freeholder and serf, and the set the crown on Edward IV.'s head. farms of the towns, were equally un. England was nearly the only country in changed and unchangeable. At some which wool was produced. The quality, early period, of which there is no record, though varied, was poor, the sheep small the labor rents of the serf were exchanged not much more than thirty pounds in for fixed money payments, and after the weight and the fleece light. But, on great rise in the cost of labor which oc- the other hand, it was almost the only curs in the last half of the fourteenth European country in which the peace was century, an attempt to revise the bargain, kept and property was generally respect: and to exact labor instead of the commu- ed, because every one had property which tation, led to the Peasants' War, which could be plundered; and it is worth not very nearly overset the government. ing that even after agriculture was gener. Thenceforward no attempt was made to ally abandoned by the wealthier classes, enforce labor, though the money commu- sheep-farming was still practised. I tation continued to be an important source should know as much about the value of of income to the lord at least for a hun wool in the fifteenth and sixteenth as I dred and fifty years after the insurrection do about in the fourteenth, were it not of Tyler. In time, and by some process for the fact that the bailiff generally of which the particulars are lost, the labor almost invariably — transmits the wool to rents of the peasant were merged in the his lord, who traffics in this part of the ordinary dues of the copyholder. The produce himself, and, unfortunately, has fee farm rents of the freeholders still sur- rarely left the record of his bargains. vive, and are perbaps the best illustration The universal practice of agriculture which could be given of the rise in the broke down under the losses which the rent of land, for assuredly when they population suffered by the plague. The were first imposed they represented what price of labor was doubled, and the profits would be called in modern language the of such agriculture as was carried on by full letting value of the tenancy.
hired labor were reduced to zero. DeThere was, however, another particular spite the efforts of the legislature, the in wbich it seems that England was en- rise in the rate of wages was permanent. tirely unlike other countries. Everybody The fifteenth and the first quarter of the cultivated land, from the king to the peas- sixteenth centuries constitute a period of ant, and the capital of the great landown- almost unchanging plenty, for there are ers was far more valuable than their es- not above seven or eight dear years tates. Everybody was interested in during the whole time. But the price of keeping the peace, for the nobles in those labor was relatively very high, though the days had that kind of stake in the country price of food was remarkably low. Only which is most of all reputed to restrain in the eastern counties, especially in Nor. recklessness: movable property in agri- folk, did the great landowners continue cultural stock. Nor was the English to practise agriculture on their own accustom of primogeniture burdensome at count. But Norfolk had a very extensive that time, for the younger son entered on coasting and continental trade in barley that part of his ancestor's inheritance and malt. It was by this kind of trade which consisted of farm stock. It is very that Fastolf accumulated such great seldom that one hears, even in the most wealth, though no doubt the beginning of violent times, of serious injury done to his opulence was obtained from French property. The domestic accounts of the plunder. The Pastons, too, were everyfifteenth century give no hint of the furi- where, and it is worth noting that much ous struggle which was carried on by the of this trade was carried on by the women pobles of the rival factions. The battles of eastern England, for they are continuseem in general to have been fought out ally represented as bargaining for the sale in desolate or uncultivated places. The of their produce with Londoners, Dutchexcesses of Margaret's northern army, as men, and Germans. it could not be restrained from plunder, Short leases to tenant farmers are
found before the period when the change owner stipulates to make good all losses in agriculture on the large scale was bepond a certain amount in the live effected. In such cases the term is gen- stock of the tenant, long after the stock erally from seven to ten years, and the has become the tenant's property. It is tenant rents, stock, live and dead, along almost superfluous to say that in the trawith the land, paying in addition to the dition of this practice has lain the comrent on the acreage a rent on the cattle munity of interest between landlord and and sheep, the amount of this rent vary. tenant, which has made the most absurd ing with the risks which the owner ran. system of land tenure ever heard of at If he took all risks, as he sometimes did, all workable; that it is in the absence of live stock was let at about one-fifth of its any such compacts or arrangements that value, but generally the tenant agrees to sensible people can see the real cause of restore the stock or its equivalent at the the Irish land difficulty, and the peril end of the term. Rents were generally which the machinery of government runs paid in money; but sometimes, especially from Irish disaffection, and that this in the eastern counties, they are paid partnership having been weakened by in kind, and the country gentry and their various causes in England, the English wives receive corn rents long before the land system is beginning to break down, statute of Elizabeth saved the revenues when it is brought face to face with seriof corporations by enacting that a third of ous difficulties, arising from a new and the annual sum payable by lessees, should unexpected series of facts. Nor is it be received in quantities of wheat and likely that for a very long period the mass malt, to be reckoned in money at market of English housekeepers will endure a prices. But the stock and land lease does system under which, by the machinery of not last long. I have come across no a wholly artificial monopoly, they are conbailiff or rent-collector's account where strained to purchase a site on which to the schedule of the tenants' liabilities in- live, by the surrender of the capital which cludes the rent of stock during the reign they have put into buildings, especially of Henry VII. (1485-1509). They are as it is their demand for sites which has common enough during the first three given the land all the value which it pósquarters of the fifteenth century. The sesses, and as soon it is seen that the reason is plain. The tenant farmers be- existence of this kind of tenure is the came opulent. They founded those fam-principal cause why the laboring classes ilies which, less than two centuries after, are depressed and demoralized. Whence became the Puritan gentry of the second the facts will come, which always, in Encivil war, and subsequently, some of them, gland at least, make change in bad laws the nobles of the Restoration.
or evil customs inevitable and complete, The English landowner always had a is not yet clear, but the change must genuine partnership with his tenant. He come, and the change will be thorough. always does all repairs. I have never The danger is that when the monstrous seen an exception to this rule. When the claims, which fanatics on the side of proplandowner possesses houses in a town, he erty in land make, are refuted by the invariably keeps the tenement which he logic of facts, other fallacies, even more has always built in habitable condition. dangerous, because more general, may Thus New College has always had con- influence masses of men against those siderable house property in Oxford, and who have fleeced their fellow-countrymen. its accounts have all passed through my It will, perhaps, need all the efforts of a hands. To the maintenance of such rational political economy to property, the tenant did not contribute a common sense and practical wisdom from penny. Everything, even to new hinges the discredit of a reputed alliance with or latches to the doors, and panels to the selfish and stupid interests. Still it must casements, is supplied at the landlords' be admitted, and that gladly, that the charges. The very millstones in a mill wiser men among the landowners, and of are bought or replaced by the owner. both parties too, are beginning to see Drainage, ditching, planting, as well as how grave the situation is, and are disrepairing homesteads and farm-buildings, cerning that there are occasions in which are the landlord's duty, and constantly faction is to be stilled in the presence of form a very serious deduction from the a great emergency. credit side of the landowner's rent. Not It does not appear that much use was infrequently the partnership goes further, made of entails in the period intervening for I have occasionally seen leases or between the enactment of the statute De draughts of leases, in which the land- | Donis, and the outbreak of the civil wars, when we are told the practice became to the year 1582, when the law provided general, in order to avoid the conse that one-third of the old rents should be quences of forfeiture. Entails, I believe, paid in wheat and malt at market prices. were originally permitted by statute in This celebrated statute simply enforced order to enable the principal lords to that which had long been practised locally, create a body of military tenants whose the payment, namely, of rents in kind. estate should be limited to heirs-male. The Cambridge colleges, which seem to The ground on which I conclude that have copied the practice of the East Anentails of great estates were rare are glian landowners, early made contracts many, but I chiefly rely on the fact that for supply in anticipation of the harvest, occupancies in the fifteenth century are and when the epoch of high prices was invariably for terms of years, a kind of fairly set in, strove to obviate some of the tenancy which the possessor of an en- loss by stipulating that their tenants tailed estate was originally disabled from should supply them with corn at nominal granting, or at least which the next ten- prices in lieu of a portion of their rent. ant in tail was not bound to respect. As yet, however, there is no law of ecoThe practice of landowners at this time nomical rent, that, namely, which is deterwas to parcel out their estates which they mined by a strict competition between let for such terms in quantities varying occupiers. The beginnings of such a from twenty-four acres to eight of arable system are detected only when the landland, and to join to such land small por- owner took a fine on renewals, a custom tions of good pasture. Very often the which meant in the first instance a small same person occupies two or more of gratuity at the time when a fresh lease these parcels, and occupies them for was granted, and was subsequently develterms beginning at different periods. He oped into a practice under which, at a is, therefore, a continuous tenant, and period long previous to the determination free from the risk of absolute eviction. of the lease, a fresh bargain was entered Such an incident, however, as eviction was into for its prolongation. very rare under the old customs of En- There is nothing which gives a clearer gland. There are hundreds of English proof of the great public spirit and anxfarmers who have occupied the same land iety for the general good of her people, for many generations.
which marks the character of Elizabeth, The fifteenth century was the golden than the attempts which she makes to age of mediæval agriculture., Crops were obviate the distress of high prices among plentiful prices were low, labor was rela- her people. She first sets to work to tively well paid, and the value of land rose reform the currency, and to assist or rapidly, though rents were on the whole lighten the misery which the base money stationary. During the greater part of of Henry and Edward had inflicted on this period, the return on the purchase of the people, especially on the poorer land was only five per cent., or even less. classes. She says, and she may be beThe farmers gradually became purchasers lieved in this at least, that the restoration of land, and, as I have stated, were the of the old standard was a serious drain on progenitors of those Puritan gentry who her resources, for Elizabeth never lied to came to the front in the latter part of her own subjects, and never indeed lied Elizabeth's reign, and fought the long to anybody when it was certain that she battle with the Stuarts from the day when would be detected. She strove to regulate Cecil put out the new book of rates to the prices and wages in the interest of her summons of the Long Parliament. The people, vainly it is true, and mischievo distress of the sixteenth century was felt ously, but by expedients which the intelliby those whose principal source of reve- gence of her age believed to be efficient nue was ancient rents, and by the laboring and wise. She even contemplated, as classes, whose wages did not increase may be learned from a draft proclamation, with the price of provisions and the con- never issued but contained in the reveniences of life, for while rents re- markable, perhaps unique collection of mained stationary, prices were generally Elizabeth's proclamations in the Bodtrebled between the middle of Henry leian Library a collection which probVIII.'s reign-say 1530 — and the fifth ably belonged to the Cecils — the restorayear of Elizabeth, a period of little more tion of the currency to the weight at which ihan thirty years. Thus, for instance, the it stood in the middle of Edward IV.'s income of Corpus Christi College, in Ox- reign, when the unit contained half as ford, hardly varied from the date of its much silver again as it had in Henry foundation, or rather its earliest accounts, I VIII.'s coinage, but forebore to issue thé
proclamation, probably because it would which rises and falls by competition have seriously disturbed all contracts in among intending occupiers of land, is the interest of creditors. England has first discerned in the reign of James I. had three great sovereigns : Henry II., There is no trace of improvement in the Edward I., and Elizabeth ; but the last of arts of agriculture during the times of these, if one considers the unparallelled the Plantagenet and Tudor sovereigns. difficulties of her position, the exceedingly Some attention was paid to selection in scanty means which were at her com- breeds of sheep, for rams always bear high mand, the success with which her efforts prices, a sign that such a selection was were crowned, and the persistent devo- practised. But in the many thousand action which she showed to what she be-counts which I have read of farm produce lieved to be the public good, was the and agriculture, dated from the thirteenth greatest and best person who has ever to the sixteenth century, I have only met worn the English crown.
with one instance in which an attempt The two great complaints of Elizabeth's was made to improve seeds, and this is an reign, as regards the land question at importation into Norfolk, in the middle of least, were the practice of enclosures, and the fifteenth century, of some seed oats the prevalence of sheep-farming. The from France. But in James I.'s reign, appropriation of common land, and com- after the Dutch had, in 1609, practically plaint thereupon, is heard of as far back secured their independence from Spain, as the fifteenth century, when land being that industrious people began to practise dear and profits large, there was every agriculture with great assiduity and sucmotive to extend the area of cultivation. cess. They are the real originators of But in the reign of Elizabeth, the practice modern agriculture, the people to whom was far less open to check than at an ear- civilization owes more than to any other. lier period, for the land thieves of the Their first attempts were made with roots, earlier period were in dread of a popula- and they soon produced those familiar tion which seldom hesitated to deal with products, the carrot and turnip plants, grievances by open resistance, while the which have effected so prodigious a necessities and the insecurity of Eliza- change in agriculture, but were wholly beth's government rendered the mainte- unknown in the centuries preceding the nance of the peace an object of extreme seventeenth. The discovery and use of solicitude, and justified in some degree these roots rendered it possible to keep the severity with which disturbances were far larger quantities of stock, to get land quelled. It is absurd to criticise the pro- into better condition, and to bring a larger ceedings of Elizabeth's courts of justice, breadth under culture. By enabling the when they had to put down the wanton, people to supply themselves gradually senseless, and ruinous rebellion of the with fresh meat all the year round, and northern earls, by the maxims of milder by being used as food for man as well as times. The extension of sheep-farming for animals, these two roots were the was partly due to the destruction of capi- means by which the two most serious of tal by the riotous practices of Henry endemic diseases in England, scurvy and Vill., by the unparallelled greediness of leprosy, were mastered and finally extin. Edward VI.'s guardians, the worst men guished. And as land became a more perhaps who ever managed English af- profitable source of income, the traditional fairs, and by the unlucky alliances of rents, where they had not been fixed by Mary Tudor, partly to the fact that En- unalterable custom, and therefore could gland was very poor in the last half of the not be raised without inflicting a wrong, sixteenth century, and the most obvious rose by competition, and a new system of expedient of poor agriculturists is cattle-tenancies was introduced. farming and especially sheep-breeding, The seventeenth century was on the The market too was good. The whole of whole unprosperous to the agriculturist, western Europe was convulsed by the for the price of food was very high on an religious wars, and sheep are very de average throughout it. The seasons were fenceless creatures, and very eatable. As unpropitious and the crops deficient; but, before, that country which could give its owing to the introduction of those agrisubjects the greatest amount of domestic cultural improvements of which mention peace, and freedom from violence, was is made above, the population increased. sure to have the largest flock of sheep, Nor was agriculture indebted alone to the and to supply the rest of the world with adoption of results derived from foreign wool.
enterprise. The cost of iron and iron The modern farmer's rent, i.c., the rent| tools was a serious difficulty in mediæval