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they are always forced to dispose of their annual produce in a hurry, in order to realize the necessary sum of money; and they seldom have in any degree the means of attempting to reform their system of management. I am speaking here of people of moderate fortune ; where the property is very great, the case is often still worse, and the revenue is entirely absorbed by the luxury and expenses of the capital, without any benefit to the provinces, or to agriculture.
However full of grain of all kinds our storehouses may be, it is clearly impossible, as you see, to check the production; we cannot dismiss our people when we do not want them, as if they were hired labourers; and in spite of the superabundance on hand, they must continue to produce, were it only by way of employment. But since our hopes rest not on our mode of cultivation, but on the fertility of the soil, and the rain from heaven, let the rain, as is not unfrequently the case, fail, or a frost in the middle of summer utterly ruin our crops; then prices rise, and every one is in a hurry to empty his barns, and to dispose of the stock on hand; for since the case is out of the common way, no one calculates on its recurrence; on the contrary, the chances are always in favour of the crop. But suppose a second year like the former, then prices become extraordinarily high, and the most prudent profit by it, and hasten to sell their produce. Under these circumstances, let there be a third year such as the two pre
ceding it, and you have a complete famine, the more likely to be general, since our system of husbandry and the want of variety in the produce is common to all Russia. Owing, moreover, to our total deficiency in the means of internal communication, it sometimes happens that while in one part of the country there is a superabundance, another part is suffering from dearth. Our province of Tamboff is, it is true, fortunately circumstanced with respect to means of communication; since it possesses a central port (of inland navigation), connecting it by the great navigable rivers, the Occa, and the Volga, with Petersburg and Moscow. This port is Morscha, a small district town, which carries on a considerable trade, and where there is also a very fine flour-mill, constructed by the mechanician Ruodebort, and belonging to Count Koutaisoff. In spite, however, of these advantages, our rye almost always sells for less than five roubles (about four shillings) the chetvert or measure of two hundred and sixteen pounds, and this renders our taxes, though nominally small, extremely burdensome in reality. The tax, with us, which presses on agriculture, is purely personal ; it is levied on every male once in three months; and is paid into the chest of the government of the province: the collectors are officers of the crown, elected by the nobility. There is also another local tax for the district (pour la commune); but these two taxes are so essentially personal, and levied on the indi
vidual, and not on the property, that there are immense landed estates belonging sometimes to nobles, but more often to traders and others not privileged to possess serfs, which absolutely pay no tax at all: this is a defect in our system, for the burden of course falls on the shoulders of the poor instead of the rich.
I have told you that these taxes, though nominally small, are burdensome; and I will show you why. A peasant's family, on an average, consists, we will suppose, of a father in the prime of life, three children, and an infirm old man; these compose the males, and we may
reckon three of the other sex: of all the family, the father alone is an able-bodied labourer, and the rest (since no branch of industry is exercised in the village which is suited to their strength) can do little or nothing towards gaining a livelihood. The labour of the father must, therefore, maintain eight persons, and pay the tax for five (the supposed number of males); four roubles per head per annum for the crown, and two roubles for the district, which gives six roubles per head, or thirty roubles in all. But the tax must be paid in bank assignats, while produce of every kind is sold for money; the latter currency being here worth eighteen per cent. less than the former. We must, therefore, add five roubles for this difference, and the result is, that the tax amounts to thirty-five roubles per annum, practically falling on one individual; and to raise this sum,
he must sell the produce of two out of his four acres of arable land, and with the remainder he must support his family. Half the year then is occupied in working for his master, and half the remainder, as we see, must be employed in raising the means of paying his taxes, which at first sight appear so small : the peasant, therefore, on the whole, has but three months in the year to labour for his family. The dues paid by the crown peasants are three times as great, but he has all his time and all the land to himself, in place of dividing both with a master: this is an advantage; but to counterbalance this, the crown estates are in general worse managed than those of private individuals. In the latter case, the master aids and supports the poor peasant, and defends him from usurious exactions at the hands of the rich, and from all vexatious treatment; while on the crown estates, the peasant, who is rich, increases his wealth, while the poor man is entirely ruined, besides being subject to every sort of vexation. This state of things has become so intolerably bad as to demand a complete reorganization, with which General Kissileff has been charged.
Besides the poll-taxes which I have mentioned, there are two other imposts which press on the agriculturist; these are the duties which are laid on salt and vodka, or home-made brandy, by the government monopoly of these two articles. Salt indeed is not very dear, but the price of the brandy
is exorbitant. This liquor, which is distilled from rye, is sold in the spirit shops at eight roubles the vedro, or measure of four gallons, while its primé cost is but one rouble and a half. This impost, however, is at least indirect, and it depends upon the choice of every individual to be affected by it, or not. In fact, though drunkards are to be met with, this is by no means the general character of the people, a fact which I can prove statistically. The district of Tamboff, with the town, comprises a peasant population male and female, of 180,000 souls, while its consumption of spirits amounts to 120,000 vedros. Deduct for the consumption of the nobility and trading class, 20,000 vedros : and of the population, suppose one-fourth, or 45,000 to consist of women and children who never drink spirits, and you will have 100,000 vedros to be consumed by 135,000 peasants, which amounts to but two little glasses of spirits for each per week, reckoning about a hundred glasses to the vedro, and this is certainly not much. Every gentleman and person in easy circumstances takes in general twenty-one glasses a week, according to our ordinary custom of drinking a small glass of spirits or liqueur before dinner, another as a chasse café, and a third before supper, and yet no one thinks of calling them drunkards. The peasant, however, has gained this character, by drinking quass all the year round, excepting on two or three days, when he varies his monotonous existence by a fit of excessive