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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 Tieglo:
its advanorigin, and has done more than any other circumstance tages and to mitigate the severity of slavery amongst them. It ev 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 corvée, 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 1 increase.1 The land allotted to the peasants is not divided sen, Stud.
“ uber Russinto separate portions as it would be in England, where, land, i. 160,
? 178; Tegob. in some places, “each rood has its man, but is all put i. 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'empêcher de trouver un grand charme à l'ignorance, lorsque j'en vois le fruit dans la physionomie céleste des vieux paysans russes. Ces patriarches modernes se reposent noblement au déclin de leur vie : travailleurs exempts de la corvée, ils se débarrassent de leur fardeau vers la fin du jour et s'appuyent avec dignité sur le seuil de la chaumière qu'ils ont rebâtie plusieurs fois, car sous ce rude climat la maison de l'homme ne dure pas autant que sa vie. Quand je ne rapporterais de mon voyage en Russie, 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 créatures si différentes de tous les autres paysans du monde. La noblesse de la chaumière m'inspire toujours un profond respect."-DE CUSTINE,Voyage en Russie, iv, 10.-Would the inmates of our workhouses present an equally agreeable spectacle ?
CHAP. at the disposal of the entire village community, which, in
its turn, becomes responsible for the whole charges and obligations incumbent on its members.
A certain number of the elders of the village make the 30.
partition of the lands among all the householders, and it which it is carried
à 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 ; 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
bp Dhe the
secures to them all the means of living and bringing up CHAP. their children. In some instances it has been given up, and the land permanently allotted to each inhabitant; but 1812 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 , u. approximation that ever has been made in modern Europe sen, i. 164,
178; Tegob. to the visions of the Communists, is amidst the serfs, and i. 330, 331. 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- Russian culers in England are, for the most part, strangely misled on 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
CHAP. open fields, during the greater part of the winter, he is
doomed to inactivity during eight months in the year by three or four feet of snow upon the ground, and compelled to make the most of a brief summer to gather stock to live on during a long and dreary winter. How are animals to be fed, the wages of freemen paid, markets found, or freemen to exist, under such circumstances? Withdraw the capital of the landowners; throw the slaves upon their own resources, or the imaginary wages of labour in the present state of society, and the human race would perish,
in a great part of Russia, as fast as, from the want of 1 Haxthau- some similarly protective system, it has recently melted sen, i. 178,
away in Ireland. The first winter would gather many millions to their fathers.1
M. Haxthausen, whose very interesting work has thrown Opinion of such light on the rural economy and agricultural populahausen on tion of Russia, has enumerated three particulars in which and their the peasants of that country differ from those of western enfranchise- Europe, and which render any general and compulsory
enfranchisement of the serfs extremely perilous, if not impossible. 1. The mass of disposable capital available to carry on cultivation by means of free labourers, paid by day's wages, bears no sort of proportion either to the wants of the inhabitants or the immense extent of arable land which requires to be cultivated. 2. In a great part of the empire the existing value of the product of the soil, if sold, so far from enabling the cultivators to pay any rent, would not even cover the expenses of cultivation. 3. In the remoter provinces, or where seaports are distant and money scarce, the only possible mode of paying a rent is by rendering forced labour legal, for there are no means of turning the rude produce into money. A similar necessity has been felt in similar circumstances in other countries. Witness the services in kind, and obligations to render rent in labour, formerly universal, still known in the remoter parts of Scotland. Accordingly, it has been often found in Russia that peasants whom the proprietors, from
motives of humanity, or in imitation of the emperor, CHAP. have put under the obrok system, and who enjoy the entire fruits of their labour after paying a certain annual sum, are much less at their ease than the old serfs, and they in general leave the cultivation of their fields to seek a less laborious existence in towns. In many instances, such has been their suffering from having incurred the destitution of freedom, that they have returned to their masters, and requested to be again made serfs. In general, it has been observed that emancipation has not succeeded, except in circumstances where easy modes of earning subsistence in other ways exist; and hence M. Haxthausen judiciously, concludes that the liberation of the serfs should never be sen, i. 174,
178; Tegob. made a general or compulsory measure in Russia, but i. 323, 327. should be left to the wants and interests of each locality.1
It is not to be supposed from this, however, that slavery . in Russia is not both a very great social evil, and emi- Evils of the nently dangerous to the rest of Europe, and that he would self sistem. not be the best friend of both who could devise and establish a method for its gradual and safe abolition. Probably that method is to be found only in the progressive rise of towns and spread of manufactures, which, by rendering the obrok system more general, should give the slaves the means of purchasing and the masters the desire of selling freedom to them. It is not easy to see, however, how this safe and wise method, which is analogous to the way in which it imperceptibly died out in the states of western Europe, is to spread generally in a country of such enormous extent as Russia, possessing eighteen times the area of Britain and Ireland, in Europe alone, intersected by few rivers, and for the most part so far distant from the sea-coast. Its inhabitants seem chained by their physical circumstances to the system of compulsory labour for an indefinite course of years. This system provides amply, and better than any other under such circumstances could, for their subsistence, and the gratification of the animal wants of life ; but it provides for