Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

engaged in the labours of agriculture, are substantially in Chap. the same situation; they pay their obrok or capitation- Ym' tax, and enjoy the whole remaining fruits of the soil they 18i5, have cultivated, or of the manual labour. Their number is very great; it amounts to no less than 7,938,000 individuals of the male sex. The trading classes are all arranged in separate guilds or corporations, in which they enjoy considerable privileges—in particular, those of being exempt from personal chastisement, and the obligation to serve in the army, and to pay the capitation-tax, and having courts of their owu, where their matters in dispute are determined, as in the Saxon courts of the Heptarchy, by a jury of their peers. This arrangement of the trading classes in separate guilds or fraternities, enjoying certain privileges, and bound together by community of interest, is the very best that human wisdom ever devised to improve the condition and habits of the industrious classes, because it tends to establish an aristocracy among them, which at once elevates their caste and protects their labour, and tends to prevent that greatest of all social evils, equality among the poor; which, as it de- ^M»ue stroys their influence, inevitably ends in the equality of 412, lib. despotism.1

The last class in Russia is that of the Sebfs or

27.

peasants, the property of their masters, who are*by law The serfs:
attached to the soil, and, for the most part, engaged in ber aud
the labours of agriculture. Their number is immense :condltlon-
they amounted in Russia in Europe alone to 10,865,993
males in 1834, and in 1848 they had increased to
11,938,000, being as nearly as possible one-half of the
entire population engaged in the cultivation of the soil.*

* Peasants in Russia slaves in 1848, . . . 11,938,182
Free peasants, viz.:—

Free peasants and Odnovostry, . 2,395,070

Crown peasants, .... 9,209,200

Crown colonists, .... 150,000

Newly emancipated, . . . 146,550

11,900,820

Tegobobski, i. 320.

Chap. It is a total mistake, however, to suppose that this immense body of men are slaves in our sense of the word

VIII.

1815. —^ jQ state in which the negroes till recently were in the West India islands, or as they still are in the Southern States of America. They are the property, indeed, of their masters; they are sold with the estate, and cannot leave it without his consent; and the property in them, as in the West Indies till of late, consti'Schnitzier, tutes the chief part of its value. But they enjoy several ti^ai?"*" important immunities, which go far to assuage the bitterTe'oborek; ness or" servitude, and render it doubtful whether, in the i. In, 312.' existing state of Russian society, they could be so well off under any other circumstances.1

They are sold with the estate, but they cannot, without Privileges their own consent, be sold without it—a privilege of intages they calculable value, for it prevents the separation of husband CDJoy" and wife^ parent and child, and the tearing up of the slave from the home of his fathers, which constitutes the last drop in the cup of his bitterness. By a ukase of the Emperor Paul in 1797, who, in this instance at least, proved himself a real father to his people, every slave or peasant subject to forced labour on his master's account, is permitted during three days in the week to work on his own. By a ukase of the present emperor, slaves arc even permitted to hold small pieces of land on their own account, though in their master's name ; and if he attempts to interfere with their enjoyment of the fruits, he is liable to be restrained by an order from the governor of the province. In addition to this, the master is obliged to maintain the slave in sickness or old age—an obligation which is always and willingly discharged, for a very sufficient reason, *^fi6 220?' *na' *ne great extent of waste land in his possession, or surPma produce in his hands, in general enables the masstn£en 'ter to discharge the duty without feeling it as a burden.2 hausen It results from these circumstances that the condition of land, 1.174. the serf is, generally speaking, so far as rude comfort goes, equal or superior to that of any peasantry in Europe, and that even the best-conditioned cultivators in its western Chap. states would find something to envy in the constant food

and secure position of a Russian serf.* 1815,

There is a very curious institution, almost universal among the serfs of Russia, which betrays their Eastern The Ti'egio: origin, and has done more than any other circumstance t£gm ana to mitigate the severity of slavery amongst them. IteT'1*' savours of the village system so firmly rooted in all the northern parts of Hindostan, and recalls the days when the whole lands of Palestine were allotted afresh every half-century to the Jews in ancient times. It is called the Tieglo, and consists in this: All the peasants of Russia or of Spain live in villages; isolated cottages, the glory and mark of English and Swiss freedom, are unknown. Each village has a certain portion of land allotted to it by the'emperor, if the lands hold of the Crown, or by their lord, if of a subject, and which they labour on their own account for the subsistence of themselves and their families. Another portion of the estate is cultivated by the serfs, under the corv4e, on their master's account. As the waste land in general bears so great a proportion to that under cultivation, both portions are very extensive, and there is room and to spare for future i Haxthauincrease.1 The land allotted to the peasants is not divided '^.V Ru£into separate portions as it would be in England, where, 11*n8d.,^2' in some places, "each rood has its man," but is all put *. 328,331.

* The Marquis Custine, anything but a eulogist of Russian institutions and manners, gives the following account of the appearance of the old serfs, released from labour for life, sitting at the doors of their cottages: "Je ne puis m'empécher de trouver un grand charme a l'ignorancc, lorsque j'en vois le fruit dans la physionomie céleste des vieux paysans russes. Ces patriarchefl modern en se repOsent noblement au déclin de leur vie: travailleurs exempts de la corvee, ils se débarrassent de leur fardeau vers la fin du jour et s'appuyent avec dignité sur le seuil de la chaumièro qu'ils ont reb&tie plusieurs fois, car sous ce rude climat la maison de l'homme ne dure pas autant que sa vie. Quand je no rapportcrais de mon voyage en Hussie, que le souvenir de ces vieillards sans remords, appuyés contre les portes sans serrures, je ne regretterais pas la peine que j'ai prise pour venir voir des creatures si differentos de tous les autres paysans du monde. La noblesse de la chaumiero m'inspiro toujours un profond respect."—De Custine, Voyage en Runic, iv. 10.—Would the inmates of our workhouses present an equally agreeable spectacle 1

Chap, at the disposal of the entire village community, which, in YUI* its turn, becomes responsible for the whole charges and 1815. obligations incumbent on its members.

A certain number of the elders of the village make the Way in partition of the lands among all the householders, and it uarriJd is generally done with great care and circumspection, into effect, according to the necessities and capabilities of each inhabitant. The lot awarded to each is in proportion to the numbers which he has to feed, and the arms he can bring to aid in the cultivation of its furrows. When a son marries during the lifetime of his father, he applies for and obtains a separate portion for himself, which he labours on his own account, and which is augmented in proportion as his family increases. On the other hand, if it declines, his lot is proportionally contracted j and if he dies without children, it is given to some other by the little senate of the village. Inequality in the richness of the soil, or difficulties in its cultivation, are carefully weighed and compensated by the grant of a larger or smaller portion of ground. If the land at the disposal of the community exceeds the wants of its inhabitants, the surplus is divided among such of her peasants as have the largest stock of cattle and implements of husbandry, who are proportionally burdened with a share of the charges of the community. On the other hand, if the land falls short, a portion of the community hives off like a swarm of bees, and settles in some government or province where there is enough, and where they are always sure of a cordial welcome, for they bring with them industry, wealth, and cultivation. So firmly is this system established in Russia—as, indeed, it is generally in the East— and so suitable is it to the circumstances of the people, that, although it has many inconveniences, and checks the improvement of agriculture by the sort of community of land which it establishes, and its frequent repartition, the peasants resolutely resist any attempt at its removal and limitation, and cling to it as the great charter which secures to them all the means of living and bringing up Chap. their children. In some instances it has been given up, VIIL and the land permanently allotted to each inhabitant; but 1815, they have almost always recurred to the old system, as the only one fitted to their circumstances. It is so: it almost realises the aspirations of the Socialists of Paris, as it did those of the Spartans ; and it is a curious circumstance, indicating how extremes meet, that the nearest, Haxth approximation that ever has been made in modern Europe ^i6*. to the visions of the Communists, is amidst the serfs, and i.'33'o, under the Czar of Russia.1

A very simple reason chains the peasants in the greater part of Russia to the conditions of feudal servitude: it Contrast of is necessity. Slavery is the condition of existence. Writ- Rufl'iMcuL era in England are, for the most part, strangely misledtlT*torson this subject by what they see around them. They behold their own farmers living in comfort, often rising to affluence, each on his own possession, and they ask why should not a similar state of things arise in Russia? They forget that the English farmer has a county bank near him, to furnish him with the means of improvement; a canal or a railway at his door, to transport his produce to market—an unfailing vent in numerous great towns for its disposal; ample means of purchasing the most approved implements, and learning the best methods of cultivation in the publications to which he has access. In all these respects the situation of the Russian peasant is not analogous, but a contrast. Situated in the midst of a vast and thinly-peopled wilderness, he is fortunate if he is only three or four hundred miles from any seaport, thirty or forty miles from any considerable town. Canals or railways there are none; banks are unknown, and if established, he has no security to offer for advances; his capital is confined to the axe which he carries on his shoulder, and the plough which he steers with his hands. Instead of the mild climate which enables country labour to go on, country animals to pasture in the

« ForrigeFortsett »