The Slave Trade
Henry Charles Carey
How Freedom Grows in Northern Germany.
Local action has always, to a considerable extent, existed in Germany. For a time, there was a tendency to the centralization of power in the hands of Austria, but the growth of Prussia at the north has produced counter attraction, and there is from day to day an increasing tendency toward decentralization, local activity, and freedom.
It is now but little more than seventy years since the Elector of Hesse sold large numbers of his poor subjects to the government of England to aid it in establishing unlimited control over the people of this country. About the same period, Frederick of Prussia had his emissaries everywhere employed in seizing men of proper size for his grenadier regiments and so hot was the pursuit, that it was dangerous for a man of any nation, or however free, if of six feet high, to place himself within their reach. The people were slaves, badly fed, badly clothed, and badly lodged, and their rulers were tyrants. The language of the higher classes was French, German being then regarded as coarse and vulgar, fit only for the serf. German literature was then only struggling into existence. Of the mechanic arts, little was known, and the people were almost exclusively agricultural, while the machinery used in agriculture was of the rudest kind. Commerce at home was very small, and abroad it was limited to the export of the rude products of the field, to be exchanged for the luxuries of London or Paris required for the use of the higher orders of society.
Thirty years later, the slave trade furnished cargoes to many, if not most, of the vessels that traded between this country and Germany. Men, women, and children were brought out and sold for terms of years, at the close of which they became free, and many of the, most respectable people in the Middle States are descended from indented German servants.
The last half century has, however, been marked by the adoption of measures tending to the complete establishment of the mechanic arts throughout Germany, and to the growth of places for the performance of local exchanges. The change commenced during the period of the continental system; but, at the close of the war, the manufacturing establishments of the country were, to a great extent, swept away, and the raw material of cloth was again compelled to travel to a distance in search of the spindle and the loom, the export of which from England, as well as of colliers and artisans, was, as the reader has seen, prohibited. But very few years, however, elapsed before it became evident that the people were becoming poorer, and the land becoming exhausted, and then it was that were commenced the smaller Unions for the purpose of bringing the loom to take its natural place by the side of the plough and the harrow. Step by step they grew in size and strength, until, in 1835, only twenty years after the battle of Waterloo, was formed the Zoll-Verein, or great German Union, under which the internal commerce was rendered almost entirely free, while the external one was subjected to certain restraints, having for their object to cause the artisan to come and place himself where food and wool were cheap, in accordance with the doctrines of Adam Smith.
In 1825, Germany exported almost thirty millions of pounds of raw wool to England, where it was subjected to a duty of twelve cents per pound for the privilege of passing through the machinery there provided for its manufacture into cloth. Since that time, the product has doubled, and yet not only has the export almost ceased, but much foreign wool is now imported for the purpose of mixing with that produced at home. The effect of this has, of course, been to make a large market for both food and wool that would otherwise have been pressed on the market of England, with great reduction in the price of both; and woollen cloths are now so cheaply produced in Germany, that they are exported to almost all parts of the world. Wool is higher and cloth is lower, and, therefore, it is, as we shall see, that the people are now so much better clothed.
At the date of the formation of the Union, the total import of raw cotton and cotton yarn was about 300,000 cwts., but so rapid was the extension of the manufacture, that in less than six years it had doubled, and so cheaply were cotton goods supplied, that a large export trade had already arisen. In 1845, when the Union, was but ten years old, the import of cotton and yarn had reached a million of hundredweights, and since that time there has been a large increase. The iron manufacture, also, grew so rapidly that whereas, in 1834, the consumption had been only eleven pounds per head, in 1847 it had risen to twenty-five pounds, having thus more than doubled; and with each step in this direction, the people were obtaining better machinery for cultivating the land and for converting its raw products into manufactured ones.
In no country has there been a more rapid increase in this diversification of employments, and increase in the demand for labour, than in Germany since the formation of the Union. Everywhere throughout the country men are now becoming enabled to combine the labours of the workshop with those of the field and the garden, and the social and economical results of this cannot, says Mr. Kay
Be rated too highly. The interchange of garden-labour with manufacturing employments, which is advantageous to the operative, who works in his own house, is a real luxury and necessity for the factory operative, whose occupations are almost always necessarily prejudicial to health. After his days labour in the factories, he experiences a physical reinvigoration from moderate labour in the open air, and, moreover, he derives from it some economical advantages. He is enabled by this means to cultivate at least part of the vegetables which his family require for their consumption, instead of having to purchase them in the market at a considerable outlay. He can sometimes, also, keep a cow, which supplies his family with milk, and provides a healthy occupation for his wife and children when they leave the factory.
As a necessary consequence of this creation of a domestic market, the farmer has ceased to be compelled to devote himself exclusively to the production of wheat, or other articles of small bulk and large price, and can now have a succession of crops, says Mr. Howitt
Like a market-gardener. They have their carrots, poppies, hemp, flax, saintfoin, lucerne, rape, colewort, cabbage, rutabaga, black turnips, Swedish and white turnips, teazles, Jerusalem artichokes, mangelwurzel, parsnips, kidney-beans, field beans, and peas, vetches, Indian corn, buckwheat, madder for the manufacturer, potatoes, their great crop of tobacco, millet all or the greater part under the family management, in their own family allotments. They have had these things first to sow, many of them to transplant, to hoe, to weed, to clear off insects, to top; many of them to mow and gather in successive crops. They have their water-meadows of which kind almost all their meadows are to flood, to mow, and reflood; watercourses to reopen and to make anew; their early fruits to gather, to bring to market, with their green crops of vegetables; their cattle, sheep, calves, fowls; (most of them prisoners,) and poultry to look after; their vines, as they shoot rampantly in the summer heat, to prune, and thin out the leaves when they are too thick; and any one may imagine what a scene of incessant labour it is. Rural and Domestic Life in Germany, p. 50.
The existence of a domestic market enables them, of course, to manure their land. No means, says Mr. Kay
Are spared to make the ground produce as much as possible. Not a square yard of land is uncultivated or unused. No stories are left mingled with the soil. The ground is cleared of weeds and rubbish, and the lumps of earth are broken up with as much care as in an English garden. If it is meadow land, it is cleaned of obnoxious herbs and weeds. Only the sweet grasses which are good for the cattle are allowed to grow. All the manure from the house, farm, and yard is carefully collected and scientifically prepared. The liquid manure is then carried, in hand-carts like our road-watering carts into the fields, and is watered over the meadows in equal proportions. The solid manures are broken up, cleared of stones and rubbish, and are then properly mixed and spread over the lands which require them. No room is lost in hedges or ditches, and no breeding-places are left for the vermin which in many parts of England do so much injury to the farmers crops. The character of the soil of each district is carefully examined, and a suitable rotation of crops is chosen, so as to obtain the greatest possible return without injuring the land; and the cattle are well housed, are kept beautifully clean, and are groomed and tended like the horses of our huntsmen. Vol. i. 118.
The labours of the field have become productive, and there has been excited, says Dr. Shubert
A singular and increasing interest in agriculture and in the breeding of cattle; and if in some localities, on account of peculiar circumstances or of a less degree of intelligence, certain branches of the science of agriculture are less developed than in other localities, it is, nevertheless, undeniable that an almost universal progress has been made in the cultivation of the soil and in the breeding of cattle. No one can any longer, as was the custom thirty years ago, describe the Prussian system of agriculture by the single appellation of the three-year-course system; no man can, as formerly, confine his enumeration of richly-cultivated districts to a few localities. In the present day, there is no district of Prussia in which intelligence, persevering energy, and an ungrudged expenditure of capital, has not immensely improved a considerable part of the country for the purposes of agriculture and of the breeding of cattle.
Speaking of that portion of Germany which lies on the Rhine and the Neckar, Professor Rau, of Heidelberg, says that
Whoever travels hastily through this part of the country must have been agreeably surprised with the luxuriant vegetation of the fields, with the orchards and vineyards which cover the hillsides, with the size of the villages, with the breadth of their streets, with the beauty of their official buildings, with the cleanliness and stateliness of their houses, with the good clothing in which the people appear at their festivities, and with the universal proofs of a prosperity which has been caused by industry and skill, and which has survived all the political changes of the times. *** The unwearied assiduity of the peasants who are to be seen actively employed the whole of every year and of every day, and who are never idle, because they understand how to arrange their work, and how to set apart for every time and season its appropriate duties is as remarkable as their eagerness to avail themselves of every circumstance and of every new invention which can aid them, and their ingenuity in improving their resources, are praiseworthy. It is easy to perceive that the peasant of this district really understands his business. He can give reasons for the occasional failures of his operations; he knows and remembers clearly his pecuniary resources; he arranges his choice of fruits according to their prices; and he makes his calculations by the general signs and tidings of the weather. Landwirthshaft der Rheinpfalz.
The people of this country stand untutored, says Mr. Kay, except by experience; but, he continues
Could the tourist hear these men in their blouses and thick gaiters converse on the subject, he would be surprised at the mass of practical knowledge they possess, and at the caution and yet the keenness with which they study these advantages. Of this all may rest assured, that from the commencement of the offsets of the Eifel, where the village cultivation assumes an individual and strictly local character, good reason can be given for the manner in which every inch of ground is laid out, as for every balm, root, or tree that covers it. Vol. i. 130.
The system of agriculture is making rapid progress, as is always the case when the artisan is brought to the side of the husbandman. Constant intercourse with each other sharpens the intellect, and men learn to know the extent of their powers. Each step upward is but the preparation for a new and greater one, and therefore it is that everywhere among those small farmers, says Mr. Kay, science is welcomed. Each, he continues
Is so anxious to emulate and surpass his neighbours, that any new invention, which benefits one, is eagerly sought out and adopted by the others. Vol. i. 149.
The quantity of stock that is fed is constantly and rapidly increasing, and, as a necessary consequence, the increase in the quantity of grain is more rapid than in the population, although that of Prussia and Saxony now increases faster than that of any other nation of Europe.
The land of Germany is much divided. A part of this division was the work of governments which interfered between the owners and the peasants, and gave to the latter absolute rights over a part of the land they cultivated, instead of previous claims to rights of so uncertain a kind as rendered the peasant a mere slave to the land-owner. Those rights, however, could not have been maintained had not the policy of the government tended to promote the growth of population and wealth. Centralization would have tended to the reconsolidation of the land, as it has done in India, Ireland, Scotland, and England; but decentralization here gives value to land, and aids in carrying out the system commenced by government. Professor Reichensperger says
That the price of land which is divided into small properties, in the Prussian Rhine provinces, is much higher, and has been rising much more rapidly, than the price of land on the great estates. He and Professor Rau both say that this rise in the price of the small estates would have ruined the more recent, purchasers, unless the productiveness of the small estates had increased in at least an equal proportion; and as the small proprietors have been gradually becoming more and more prosperous, notwithstanding the increasing prices they have paid for their land, he argues, with apparent justness, that this would seem to show that not only the gross profits of the small estates, but the net profits also, have been gradually increasing, and that the net profits per acre of land, when farmed by small proprietors, are greater than the net profits per acre of land farmed by great proprietors. Kay, vol. i. 116.
The admirable effect of the division of land, which follows necessarily in the wake of the growth of population and wealth, is thus described by Sismondi:
Wherever are found peasant proprietors, are also found that ease, that security, that independence, and that confidence in the future, which insure at the same time happiness and virtue. The peasant who, with his family, does all the work on his little inheritance, who neither pays rent to any one above him, nor wages to any one below him, who regulates his production by his consumption, who eats his own corn, drinks his own wine, and is clothed with his own flax and wool, cares little about knowing the price of the market; for he has little to sell and little to buy, and is never ruined by the revolutions of commerce. Far from fearing for the future, it is embellished by his hopes; for he puts out to profit, for his children or for ages to come, every instant which is not required by the labour of the year. Only a few moments, stolen from otherwise lost time, are required to put into the ground the nut which in a hundred years will become a large tree; to hollow out the aqueduct which will drain his field for ever; to form the conduit which will bring him a spring of water; to improve, by many little labours and attentions bestowed in spare moments, all the kinds of animals and vegetables by which he is surrounded. This little patrimony is a true savings-bank, always ready to receive his little profits, and usefully to employ his leisure moments. The ever-acting powers of nature make his labours fruitful, and return to him a hundredfold. The peasant has a strong sense of the happiness attached to the condition of proprietor. Thus he is always eager to purchase land at any price. He pays for it more than it is worth; but what reason he has to esteem at a high price the advantage of thenceforward always employing his labour advantageously, without being obliged to offer it cheap, and of always finding his bread when he wants it, without being obliged to buy it dear! Kay, vol. i. 153.
The German people borrow from the earth, and they pay their debts; and this they are enabled to do because the market is everywhere near, and becoming nearer every day, as, with the increase of population and wealth, men are enabled to obtain better machinery of conversion and transportation. They are, therefore, says Mr. Kay
Gradually acquiring capital, and their great ambition is to have land of their own. They eagerly seize every opportunity of purchasing a small farm; and the price is so raised by the competition, that land pays little more than two percent interest for the purchase-money. Large properties gradually disappear, and are divided into small portions, which sell at a high rate. But the wealth and industry of the population is continually increasing, being rather through the masses, than accumulated in individuals. Vol. i. 183.
The disappearance of large properties in Germany proceeds, pari passu, with the disappearance of small ones in England. If the reader desire to know the views of Adam Smith as to the relative advantages of the two systems, he may turn to the description, from his pen, of the feelings of the small proprietor, given in a former chapter; after which he may profit by reading the following remarks of Mr. Kay, prompted by his observation of the course of things in Germany:
But there can be no doubt that five acres, the property of an intelligent peasant, who farms it himself, in a country where the peasants have learned to farm, will always produce much more per acre than an equal number of acres will do when farmed by a mere leasehold tenant. In the case of the peasant proprietor, the increased activity and energy of the farmer, and the deep interest he feels in the improvement of his land, which are always caused by the fact of ownership, more than compensate the advantage arising from the fact that the capital required to work the large farms is less in proportion to the quantity of land cultivated than the capital required to work the small farm. In the cases of a large farm and of a small farm, the occupiers of which are both tenants of another person, and not owners themselves, it may be true that the produce of the large farm will be greater in proportion to the capital employed in cultivation than that of the small farm; and that, therefore, the farming of the larger farm will be the most economical, and will render the largest rent to the landlord. Vol. i. 113.
Land is constantly changing hands, and people of all classes, says Mr. Kay
Are able to become proprietors. Shopkeepers and labourers of the towns purchase gardens outside the towns, where they and their families work in the fine evenings, in raising vegetables and fruit for the use of their households; shopkeepers, who have laid by a little competence, purchase farms, to which they and their families retire from the toil and disquiet of a town life; farmers purchase the farms they used formerly to rent of great land-owners; while most of the peasants of these countries have purchased and live upon farms of their own, or are now economizing and laying by all that they can possibly spare from their earnings, in order therewith as soon as possible to purchase a farm or a garden. Vol. i. 58.
We have here the strongest inducements to exertion and economy. Every man seeks to have a little farm, or a garden, of his own, and all have, says Mr. Kay
The consciousness that they have their fate in their own hands; that their station in life depends upon their own exertions; that they can rise in the world, if they will, only be patient and laborious enough; that they can gain an independent position by industry and economy; that they are not cut off by an insurmountable barrier from the next step in the social scale; that it is possible to purchase a house and farm of their own; and that the more industrious and prudent they are, the better will be the position of their families: [and this consciousness] gives the labourers of those countries, where the land is not tied up in the hands of a few, an elasticity of feeling, a hopefulness, an energy, a pleasure in economy and labour, a distaste for expenditure upon gross sensual enjoyments, which would only diminish the gradually increasing store, and an independence of character, which the dependent and helpless labourers of the other country can never experience. In short, the life of a peasant in those countries where the land is not kept from subdividing by the laws is one of the highest moral education. His unfettered position stimulates him to better his condition, to economize, to be industrious, to husband his powers, to acquire moral habits, to use foresight, to gain knowledge about agriculture, and to give his children a good education, so that they may improve the patrimony and social position he will bequeath to them. Vol. i. 200.
We have here the stimulus of hope of improvement a state of things widely different from that described in a former chapter in relation to England, where, says the Times, once a peasant, a man must remain a peasant for ever. Such is the difference between the one system, that looks to centralizing in the hands of a few proprietors of machinery power over the lives and fortunes of all the cultivators of the world, and the other, that looks to giving to all those cultivators power over themselves. The first is the system of slavery, and the last that of freedom.
Hope is the mother of industry, and industry in her turn begets temperance. In the German and Swiss towns, says Mr. Kay
There are no places to be compared to those sources of the demoralization of our town poor the gin-palaces. There is very little drunkenness in either towns or villages, while the absence of the gin-palaces removes from the young the strong causes of degradation and corruption which exist at the doors of the English homes, affording scenes and temptations which cannot but Inflict upon our labouring classes moral injury which they would not otherwise suffer. *** The total absence of intemperance and drunkenness at these, and indeed at all other fêtes in Germany, is very singular. I never saw a drunken man either in Prussia or Saxony, and I was assured by every one that such a sight was rare. I believe the temperance of the poor to be owing to the civilizing effects of their education in the schools and in the army, to the saving and careful habits which the possibility of purchasing land; and the longing to purchase it, nourish in their minds, and to their having higher and more pleasurable amusements than the alehouse and hard drinking. Vol. i. 247, 261.
As a natural consequence of this, pauperism is rare, as will be seen by the following extract from a report of the Prussian Minister of Statistics, given by Mr. Kay:
As our Prussian agriculture raises so much more meat and bread on the same extent of territory than it used to do, it follows that agriculture must have been greatly increased both in science and industry. There are other facts which confirm the truth of this conclusion. The division of estates has, since 1831, proceeded more and more throughout the country. There are now many more small independent proprietors than formerly. Yet, however many complaints of pauperism are heard among the dependent labourers, WE NEVER HEARD IT COMPLAINED THAT PAUPERISM IS INCREASING AMONG THE PEASANT PROPRIETORS. Nor do we hear that the estates of the peasants in the eastern provinces are becoming too small, or that the system of freedom of disposition leads to too great a division of the fathers land among the children. *** It is an almost universally acknowledged fact that the gross produce of the land, in grain, potatoes, and cattle, is increased when the land is cultivated by those who own small portions of it; and if this had not been the case, it would have been impossible to raise as much of the necessary articles of food as has been wanted for the increasing population. Even on the larger estates, the improvement in the system of agriculture is too manifest to admit of any doubt.... Industry, and capital, and labour are expended upon the soil. It is rendered productive by means of manuring and careful tillage. The amount of the produce is increased.... The prices of the estates, on account of their increased productiveness, have increased. The great commons, many acres of which used to lie wholly uncultivated, are disappearing, and are being turned into meadows and fields. The cultivation of potatoes has increased very considerably. Greater plots of lands are now devoted to the cultivation of potatoes than ever used to be.... The old system of the three-field system of agriculture, according to which one-third of the field used to be left always fallow, in order to recruit the land, is now scarcely ever to be met with.... With respect to the cattle, the farmers now labour to improve the breed. Sheep-breeding is rationally and scientifically pursued on the great estates.... A remarkable activity in agricultural pursuits has been raised; and, as all attempts to improve agriculture are encouraged and assisted by the present government, agricultural colleges are founded, agricultural associations of scientific farmers meet in all provinces to suggest improvements to aid in carrying out experiments, and even the peasant proprietors form such associations among themselves, and establish model farms and institutions for themselves.Vol. i. 266.
The English system, which looks to the consolidation of land and the aggrandizement of the large capitalist, tends, on the contrary, to deprive the labourer
Of every worldly inducement to practise self-denial, prudence, and economy; it deprives him of every hope of rising in the world; it makes him totally careless about self-improvement, about the institutions of his country, and about the security of property; it undermines all his independence of character; it makes him dependent on the workhouse, or on the charity he can obtain by begging at the hall; and it renders him the fawning follower of the all-powerful land-owner.Vol. i. 290.
The change that has taken place in the consumption of clothing is thus shown:
Per head in 1805. In 1842. Ells of cloth....... 3/4 1-1/5 " linen........ 4 5 " woollen stuffs.. 3/4 13 " silks..... 1/4 3/8
The Sunday suit of the peasants, says Mr. Kay
In Germany, Switzerland, and Holland rivals that of the middle classes. A stranger taken into the rooms where the village dances are held, and where the young men and young women are dressed in their best clothes, would often be unable to tell what class of people were around him. *** It is very curious and interesting, at the provincial fairs, to see not only what a total absence there is of any thing like the rags and filth of pauperism, but also what evidence of comfort and prosperity there is in the clean and comfortable attire of the women. Vol. i. 225, 227.
In further evidence of the improvement of the condition of the female sex, he tells us that
An Englishman, taken to the markets, fairs, and village festivals of these countries, would scarcely credit his eyes were he to see the peasant-girls who meet there to join in the festivities; they are so much more lady-like in their appearance, in their manners, and in their dress than those of our country parishes.Vol. i. 31.
The contrast between the education of the children of the poor in Germany and England is thus shown:
I advise my readers to spend a few hours in any of our back streets and alleys, those nurseries of vice and feeders of the jails, and to assure himself that children of the same class as those he will see in [these] haunts dirty, rude, boisterous, playing in the mud with uncombed hair, filthy and torn garments, and skin that looks as if it had not been washed for months are always, throughout Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Holland, and a great part of France, either in school or in the school play-ground, clean, well-dressed, polite and civil in their manners, and healthy, intelligent, and happy in their appearance. It is this difference in the early life of the poor of the towns of these countries which explains the astonishing improvement which has taken place in the state of the back streets and alleys of many of their towns. The majority of their town poor are growing up with tastes which render them unfit to endure such degradation as the filth and misery of our town pauperism. Vol. i. 198.
As a natural consequence, there is that tendency toward equality which everywhere else is attendant on real freedom. The difference, says Mr. Kay
Between the condition of the juvenile population of these countries and of our own may be imagined, when I inform my readers that many of the boys and girls of the higher classes of society in these countries are educated at the same desks with the boys and girls of the poorest of the people, and that children comparable with the class which attends our 'ragged schools are scarcely ever to be found. How impossible it would be to induce our gentry to let their children be educated with such children as frequent the 'ragged schools, I need not remind my readers.P. 101.
This tendency to equality is further shown in the following passage:
The manners of the peasants in Germany and Switzerland form, as I have already said, a very singular contrast to the manners of our peasants. They are polite, but independent. The manner of salutation encourages this feeling. If a German gentleman addresses a peasant, he raises his hat before the poor man, as we do before ladies. The peasant replies by a polite 'Pray be covered, sir, and then, in good German, answers the questions put to him. P. 159.
With growing tendency to equality of fortune, as the people pass from slavery toward freedom, there is less of ostentatious display, and less necessity for that slavish devotion to labour remarked in England. All classes, says Mr. Kay
In Germany, Switzerland, France, and Holland are therefore satisfied with less income than the corresponding classes in England. They, therefore, devote less time to labour, and more time to healthy and improving recreation. The style of living among the mercantile classes of these countries is much simpler than in England, but their enjoyment of life is much greater.Vol. i. 303.
As a consequence of this, the amusements of their leisure hours are of a more improving character, as is here seen:
The amusements of the peasants and operatives in the greater part of Germany, Switzerland, and Holland, where they are well educated, and where they are generally proprietors of farms or gardens, are of a much higher and of a much more healthy character than those of the most prosperous of similar classes in England. Indeed, it may be safely affirmed that the amusements of the poor in Germany are of a higher character than the amusements of the lower part of the middle classes in England. This may at first seem a rather bold assertion; but it will not be thought so, when I have shown what their amusements are.
The gardens, which belong to the town labourers and small shopkeepers, afford their proprietors the healthiest possible kind of recreation after the labours of the day. But, independently of this, the mere amusements of the poor of these countries prove the civilization, the comfort, and the prosperity of their social state. *** There are, perhaps, no peasantry in the world who have so much healthy recreation and amusement as the peasants of Germany, and especially as those of Prussia and Saxony. In the suburbs of all the towns of Prussia and Saxony regular garden, concerts and promenades are given. An admittance fee of from one penny to sixpence admits any one to these amusements. *** I went constantly to these garden-concerts. I rejoiced to see that it was possible for the richest and the poorest of the people to find a common meeting ground; that the poor did not live for labour only; and that the schools had taught the poor to find pleasure in such improving and civilizing pleasures.
I saw daily proofs at these meetings of the excellent effects of the social system of Germany. I learned there how high a civilization the poorer classes of a nation are capable of attaining under a well-arranged system of those laws which affect the social condition of a people. I found proofs at these meetings of the truth of that which I am anxious to teach my countrymen, that the poorer classes of Germany are much less pauperized, much more civilized, and much happier than our own peasantry. *** The dancing itself, even in those tents frequented by the poorest peasants, is quite as good, and is conducted with quite as much decorum, as that of the first ballrooms of London. The polka, the waltz, and several dances not known in England, are danced by the German peasants with great elegance. They dance quicker than we do; and, from the training in music which they receive from their childhood, and for many years of their lives, the poorest peasants dance in much better time than English people generally do. Vol. i. 235, 237, 240, 244.
How strikingly does the following view of the state of education contrast with that given in a former chapter in relation to the education of the poor of England!
Four years ago the Prussian government made a general inquiry throughout the kingdom, to discover how far the school education of the people had been extended; and it was then ascertained that, out of all the young men in the kingdom who had attained the age of twenty-one years, only two in every hundred were unable to read. This fact was communicated to me by the Inspector-General of the kingdom.
The poor of these countries read a great deal more than even those of our own country who are able to read. It is a general custom in Germany and Switzerland for four or five families of labourers to club together, and to subscribe among themselves for one or two of the newspapers which come out once or twice a week. These papers are passed from family to family, or are interchanged. *** I remember one day, when walking near Berlin in the company of Herr Hintz, a professor in Dr. Diesterwegs Normal College, and of another teacher, we saw a poor woman cutting up in the road logs of wood for winter use. My companions pointed her out to me, and said, 'Perhaps you will scarcely believe it, but in the neighbourhood of Berlin poor women, like that one, read translations of Sir Walter Scotts novels, and of many of the interesting works of your language, besides those of the principal writers of Germany. This account was afterward confirmed by the testimony of several other persons.
Often and often have I seen the poor cab-drivers of Berlin, while waiting for a fare, amusing themselves by reading German books, which they had brought with them in the morning expressly for the purpose of supplying amusement and occupation for their leisure hours.
In many parts of these countries, the peasants and the workmen of the towns attend regular weekly lectures or weekly classes, where they practise singing or chanting, or learn mechanical drawing, history, or science.
As will be seen afterward, women as well, as men, girls as well as boys, enjoy in these countries the same advantages, and go through the same, school education. The women of the poorer classes of these countries, in point of intelligence and knowledge, are almost equal to the men. P. 63, 65.
These facts would seem fully to warrant the author in his expression of the belief that
The moral, intellectual, and social condition of the peasants and operatives of those parts of Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and France where the poor have been educated, where the land has been released from the feudal laws, and where the peasants have been enabled to acquire, is very much higher, happier, and more satisfactory than that of the peasants and operatives of England; and that while these latter are struggling in the deepest ignorance, pauperism, and moral degradation, the former are steadily and progressively attaining a condition, both socially and politically considered, of a higher, happier, and more hopeful character. Vol. i. 7.
The extensive possession of property produces here, as everywhere, respect for the rights of property. In the neighbourhood of towns, says Mr. Kay
The land is scarcely any more enclosed, except in the case of the small gardens which surround the houses, than in the more rural districts. Yet this right is seldom abused. The condition of the lands near a German, or Swiss, or Dutch town is as orderly, as neat, and as undisturbed by trespassers as in the most secluded and most strictly preserved of our rural districts. All the poor have friends or relations who are themselves proprietors. Every man, however poor, feels that he himself may, some day or other, become a proprietor. All are, consequently, immediately interested in the preservation of property, and in watching over the rights and interests of their neighbours. P. 249.
How strongly the same cause tends to the maintenance of public order, may be seen on a perusal of the following passages:
Every peasant who possesses one of these estates becomes interested in the maintenance of public order, in the tranquillity of the country, in the suppression of crimes, in the fostering of industry among his own children, and in the promotion of their intelligence. A class of peasant proprietors forms the strongest of all conservative classes. *** Throughout all the excitement of the revolutions of 1848, the peasant proprietors of France, Germany, Holland, and Switzerland were almost universally found upon the side of order, and opposed to revolutionary excesses. It was only in the provinces where the land was divided among the nobles, and where the peasants were only serfs, as in the Polish provinces, Bohemia, Austria, and some parts of South Germany, that they showed themselves rebellious. In Prussia they sent deputation after deputation to Frederic William, to assure him of their support; in one province the peasant proprietors elected his brother as their representative; and in others they declared, by petition after petition forwarded to the chamber, and by the results of the elections, how strongly they were opposed to the anarchical party in Berlin. Vol. i. 33, 273.
It is where land acquires value that men become free, and the more rapid the growth of value in land, the more rapid has ever been the growth of freedom. To enable it to acquire value, the artisan and the ploughman must take their places by the side of each other; and the greater the tendency to this, the more rapid will be the progress of man toward moral, intellectual, and political elevation. It is in this direction that all the policy of Germany now tends, whereas that of England tends toward destroying everywhere the value of labour and land, and everywhere impairing the condition of man. The one system tends to the establishment everywhere of mills, furnaces, and towns, places of exchange, in accordance with the view of Dr. Smith, who tells us that had human institutions never disturbed the natural course of things, the progressive wealth and increase of the towns would, in every political society, be consequential and in proportion to the improvement and cultivation of the territory and country. The other tends toward building up London and Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham, at the cost of enormous taxation imposed upon all the farmers and planters of the world; and its effects in remote parts of the United Kingdom itself, compared with those observed in Germany, are thus described:
If any one has travelled in the mountainous parts of Scotland and Wales, where the farmers are only under-lessees of great landlords, without security of tenure, and liable to be turned out of possession with half a years notice, and where the peasants are only labourers, without any land of their own, and generally without even the use of a garden; if he has travelled in the mountainous parts of Switzerland, Saxony, and the hilly parts of the Prussian Rhine provinces, where most of the farmers and peasants possess, or can by economy and industry obtain, land of their own; and if he has paid any serious attention to the condition of the farms, peasants, and children of these several countries, he cannot fail to have observed the astonishing superiority of the condition of the peasants, children, and farms in the last-mentioned countries.
The miserable cultivation, the undrained and rush-covered valleys, the great number of sides of hills, terraces on the rocks, sides of streams, and other places capable of the richest cultivation, but wholly disused, even for game preserves; the vast tracts of the richest lands lying in moors, and bogs, and swamps, and used only for the breeding-places of game, and deer, and vermin, while the poor peasants are starving beside them; the miserable huts of cottages, with their one story, their two low rooms, their wretched and undrained floors, and their dilapidated roofs; and the crowds of miserable, half-clad, ragged, dirty, uncombed, and unwashed children, never blessed with any education, never trained in cleanliness or morality, and never taught any pure religion, are as astounding on the one hand as the happy condition of the peasants in the Protestant cantons of Switzerland, in the Tyrol, in Saxony, and in the mountainous parts of the Prussian Rhine provinces, is pleasing upon the other where every plot of land that can bear any thing is brought into the most beautiful state of cultivation; where the valleys are richly and scientifically farmed; where the manures are collected with the greatest care; where the houses are generally large, roomy, well-built, and in excellent repair, and are improving every day; where the children are beautifully clean, comfortably dressed, and attending excellent schools; and where the condition of the people is one of hope, industry, and progress. Vol. i. 140.
The artisan has ever been the ally of the farmer in his contests with those who sought to tax him, let the form of taxation be what it might. The tendency of the British system is everywhere toward separating the two, and using each to crush the other. Hence it is that in all the countries subject to the system there is an abjectness of spirit not to be found in other parts of the world. The vices charged by the English journals on the people of Ireland are those of slavery falsehood and dissimulation. The Hindoo of Bengal is a mean and crouching animal, compared with the free people of the upper country who have remained under their native princes. Throughout England there is a deference to rank, a servility, a toadyism, entirely inconsistent with progress in civilization. The English labourer is, says Mr. Howitt
So cut off from the idea of property, that he comes habitually to look upon it as a thing from which he is warned by the laws of the great proprietors, and becomes in consequence spiritless, purposeless.
Compare with this the following description of a German bauer, from the same authority:
The German bauer, on the contrary, looks on the country as made for him and his fellow-men. He feels himself a man; he has a stake in the country as good as that of the bulk of his neighbours; no man can threaten him with ejection or the workhouse so long as he is active and economical. He walks, therefore, with a bold step; he looks you in the face with the air of a free man, but of a respectful one. Ibid.
The reader may now advantageously compare the progress of the last half century in Ireland and in Germany. Doing so, he will see that in the former there has been a steady tendency to the expulsion of the mechanic, the exhaustion of the soil, the consolidation of the land, and the resolution of the whole nation into a mass of wretched tenants at will, holding under the middleman agent of the great absentee landlord, with constant decline in the material, moral, and intellectual condition of all classes of society, and constantly increasing inability on the part of the nation to assert its rights. Seventy years since the Irish people extorted the admission of their right to legislate for themselves, whereas now the total disappearance of the nation from among the communities of the world is regarded as a thing to be prayed for, and a calculation is made that but twenty-four more years will be required, at the present rate, for its total extinction. In Germany, on the contrary, the mechanic is everywhere invited, and towns are everywhere growing. The soil is being everywhere enriched, and agricultural knowledge is being diffused throughout the nation; and land so rapidly acquires value that it is becoming more divided from day to day. The proprietor is everywhere taking the place of the serf, and the demand for labour becomes steady and man becomes valuable. The people are everywhere improving in their material and moral condition; and so rapid is the improvement of intellectual condition, that German literature now commands the attention of the whole civilized world. With each step in this direction, there is an increasing tendency toward union and peace, whereas as Ireland declines there is an increasing tendency toward discord, violence, and crime. Having studied these things, the reader may then call to mind that Ireland has thus declined, although, in the whole half century, her soil has never been pressed by the foot of an enemy in arms, whereas Germany has thus improved, although repeatedly overrun and plundered by hostile armies.
1 The Social Condition and Education of the People of England and Europe, i. 256.
2 Handbuch der Allgemeinen Staatskunde, vol. ii. 5, quoted by Kay, vol. i., 120.
3 Until recently, the increase of Great Britain has been slightly greater than that of Prussia, the former having grown at the rate of 1.95 percent per annum, and the latter at that of 1.84; but the rate of growth of the former has recently much diminished, and all growth has now probably ceased.
4 Die Agrarfrage.
5 Etudes sur lEconomie Politique.
6 Page 51, ante.
7 In no other country than England would the editor of a daily journal inflict upon his readers throughout the kingdom whole columns occupied with the names of persons present at a private entertainment, and with the dresses of the ladies. Where centralization has reached a height like this, we need scarcely be surprised to learn that there is but one paying daily newspaper for a population of more than seventeen millions.
8 Rural and Domestic Life in Germany, 27.