« AnteriorContinuar »
ART. I.—1. L'Administration de l'Agriculture, 1785-87. Par
3. La Vie Rurale dans l'ancienne France.
Par le Baron A.
Par A. BABEAU.
4. Le Village sous l'ancien Régime. Par A. BABEAU. Paris: 1878.
5. Statistique Internationale. Ministère de l'Agriculture de France. Nancy: 1876.
6. Le Morcellement. Par A. DE FOVILLE. Paris: 1885. 7. Rapports sur l'état intellectuel, moral et matériel des populations de la Bretagne et de la Normandie. Par H. BAUDRILLART (Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques).
8. La France Economique. Par A. DE FOVILLE. Paris: 1887. E NGLAND draws her supplies from the civilised world, while France is self-sufficing, and might be self-supporting. England concentrates her agriculture on bread and meat; the produce which is raised in France is as varied as it is abundant. No comparison between the two countries in respect of fertility is fair if it is based solely on the products of which our farmers have made a speciality. While variety is the essence of French husbandry, quantity and quality within a limited range is the characteristic of English farming.
Within her own borders France produces not only the necessaries but the luxuries of existence, all that is required
VOL. CLXVI. NO. CCCXL.
to enjoy as well as to support life. No finer horses are bred in England for their respective purposes than the AngloNorman carriage-horse, the sturdy Percheron, the heavy animal of the Boulonnais, or the mettled race bigourdane of the plain of Tarbes. France is justly proud of her cattle. The white Charollais-Nivernais cattle are unrivalled for their precocity and their power of work. The golden-hued cattle of the Parthenais, with their delicate heads, large soft eyes, and black points, fill the markets of Cholet, or are bought up by Norman graziers for the rich pastures of the Vallée d'Auge; like the Limousin cattle, they are excellent in the plough, but are slow in arriving at maturity. No finer beef is sent to market than that of the Manceau breed crossed with the Durham which the Comte de Falloux has brought to perfection; and England cannot dream of competing with the veal of Champagne. The cows of the Cotentin have no superiors as milkers. The bright-coloured red Salers or Auvergne cattle, with wide-open, backward-sloping, tapering horns, or their rivals of the D'Aubrac breed, with their white muzzles and badger-coloured hides, or the race femeline of Franche-Comté, are praised for their excellence in meat, milk, and work. Agriculturists in the south again have their special breeds, such as the race gasconne or the race ariégeoise, the strongest workers of the districts south of the Garonne, the races bigorraise, tarentaise, agenaise, and basquaise. The department of the Aisne, and especially the neighbourhood of Soissons, holds its own with its merinos and métis-merinos against the English Leicesters, while the mutton of the Berrichon or the Solognot is as famed for its delicacy as that of Clun Forest or Wales, and the ewes of the Larzac breed, on the pebbly causses of Aveyron, produce the celebrated Roquefort cheese. The mules of Poitou, of Barcelonnette (Basses-Alpes), and of Hautes-Pyrénées are famous for their size and strength. The long-necked, wallsided, round-backed, long-legged white pig, once so familiar in rural districts, is improved by judicious crossing; and the Craonnais breed or the matelin or Baugé (Loire-Inférieure) are not to be despised. In the production of milk, butter, and cheese the Vallée d'Auge, the terre classique de l'herbe, where grass is literally the bras d'or, or the districts of Isigny and Gournay, are unrivalled by the richest pastures of which this country can boast. The eggs and poultry of the_basses-cours of Western Normandy supply food both to France and England. The northern departments not only feed thousands of cattle on the pulp of the beetroot,
but manufacture enough sugar for home consumption and foreign exportation. The mulberry plantations of Gard or Hérault, the wool of the Aisne, and the flax of the Pas de Calais supply the raw material of the textile fabrics of France. Les arbres de Normandie,' as Bernardin de St. Pierre called the apple trees, produce cider in abundance; wines and spirits of all kinds and qualities are manufactured from vines, beetroot, or potatoes; hops supply the wants of her people, though the loss of the Alsatian provinces has reduced the growth; olive-yards and walnuts produce oil for domestic use. France supplies the English markets with her early vegetables, the asparagus of Argenteuil, the artichokes and broccoli of Roscoff, and the kitchen-garden produce of the environs of Paris or the hortillons of Amiens. Every grocer's shop in Europe contains her almonds, her preserved fruits, her dried apples, or her tinned vegetables. According to the season she floods Covent Garden with her strawberries, cherries, pears, apricots, and plums; her chasselas grapes from Thomery, her peaches from Montreuil, or her melons from Vaucluse. Angers sends her flowers, famous since the days of King René, and Grasse her perfumes to every part of the country. Nor is France deficient in the more solid sources of national wealth. She has coal, iron, lead, stone, timber, slate, and clay for earthenware in rich abundance. La Belle France fairly earns the enthusiasm of her patriotic inhabitants by her natural fertility.
France is, in fact, a country of varieties and of differences; her climate, her soil, her scenery, her agricultural practices, her land tenures are no less diversified than her crops. Every climate, except that of the tropics, is represented in the country. Her soil is, on the whole, superior to that of England, and in one respect she has a marked advantage. Berri has its brandes, Gascony its landes, Champagne its bald, dusty chalk hills; but throughout the length and breadth of the country there are none of those stubborn clays which break the heart of the English farmer. Her scenery is said to be monotonous; yet every district, even of those which bear no marked features, differs from its neighbour. The rolling, treeless, unenclosed plains of Picardy are totally unlike the small, well-wooded, doublehedged fields of Normandy, or the closertes of Anjou, or the copse-clad labyrinth of short, choppy hills and valleys of the Vendean bocage, where the peasantry could literally fulfil the command s'égailler, and disperse themselves like dew. The uniformity of English agriculture, land tenures, and
civilisation imprint monotony on much of her rural economy. But throughout France diversities of climate, landownership, and land tenure have left their mark. Here farm labourers are hired by the year, and are lodged and fed in the farmhouse; here they have their separate homes-houses which they have purchased with their savings-and small properties that supplement their weekly wages. Here each flock of sheep is the property of single owners, here of many Provençal sheepmasters; here, as in Champagne, the common herdsman leads the flocks of the villagers to the pastures. Here is a métayer or a maître valet; here a peasant proprietor, or a Picard, holding under the droit de marché; here a rack-rented tenant farmer, or a Breton domanier à congément. Each different system of land tenure affects the grouping of the rural population. In Seine-etMarne or Somme, large farms and farmsteads, isolated from one another, are the rule, as on a smaller scale they are in Brittany. In Champagne, Picardy, or La Brenne the cultivators of the soil are grouped together in villages; a palisade of hedge and trees marks the clusters in which, on the high tableland of the Pays de Caux, the Cauchois congregate; in Marche the farmers are clustered together in village communities of peasant owners, each village group consisting of members of the same family. Architectural peculiarities mark the differences of climate or of soil; the white, flat-roofed, red-tiled houses of the south, the Norman farmsteads standing in the midst of pastures and orchards, the Pyrenean dwellings built of flints intersperse with courses of brick, the whitewashed buildings of Saintonge, the brick walls and slated roofs of the Ardennes, the black, lava-built dens of the Auvergnat, the sombre granite houses of the Breton, the thatched cottages of the Marche, the cave dwellings burrowed into the chalk cliffs of the Loire, each tell their own, and each a different, story.
Variety is at once the charm and the solid advantage of France. It is by her diversities of soil and climate that her peasant proprietary thrives. By the same diversity she is protected against foreign competition or adverse seasons. As in England the relations of landlord and tenant farmer constitute practically the only system of land tenure, and corn-growing and cattle-feeding her only agricultural industry, so her districts are purely agricultural or purely manufacturing. It is not so in France, and too much stress can hardly be laid on the contrast. On the one hand her land tenures are more flexible and more elastic, and her
modes of cultivation more diversified, so that all her eggs are not stored in a single basket; on the other hand, agriculture and manufacture are not separated into distinct districts. The squalid haunts of English trade are surrounded at the best by blackened wastes; in French Flanders dense population and high farming advance hand in hand. At the doors of factories, at the brink of coal-pits, is some of the best cultivated land in the world, land which affords recreation and profit to thousands of artisans. The importance of this feature in its bearing on the happiness of the industrial population and on the alleged pulverisation of the French soil can hardly be exaggerated.
To attempt within the limits of a single article a detailed picture of the varied rural economy of France would be an impossible task. We propose first to sketch the history of her agricultural progress; and, secondly, to glance at the existing condition of the cultivators of the soil, in order to see whether the varied relations of labour with land which prevail in France have stood the strain of agricultural depression better than the uniform system of landlords and tenant-farmers with which we are familiar in England. On some future occasion we hope to point out some of the features of her farming practice which may interest English agriculturists.
Traces still linger of the primitive method of common field husbandry upon which, in France as well as in England, was superimposed the feudal system. In Marche, for instance, the border country of no man's land' which separated the roitelet of Bourges from his English rival in Aquitaine, are to be found family communities grouped in villages consisting of from ten to twenty houses, inhabited by men of the same name who farm their private properties and enjoy the use of common lands. The Department of the Creuse, which represents part of this district, contains about 3 million acres. Of this, 1,900,000 acres are owned by peasant proprietors, and 650,000 acres are held in common. Interesting as it would be to trace the growth of this system out of the primitive viilage community, and to follow the steps by which it was almost universally exchanged for some form of feudal tenure, our present object is rather to sketch the growth in importance and efficacy of the despised practice of agriculture.
At first in France, as well as in England, the monks were the only pioneers of good farming. The North of France owes some of its agricultural pre-eminence to the start which