صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

paper on it by Mr. George Campbell, now Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, will be found in the volume of Systems of LandTenure' already referred to. Looking only to the essential constitution of our Indian villages, it appears that they mainly correspond with the mark of old Germany or England. There is the arable land divided into household-lots, but cultivated on a plan which all must conform to, there are sometimes the reserve-meadows, there is the village waste, the undivided pasture-ground of the community. In hundreds of cases there is nothing to prevent our accepting the view that a single family went out ages ago into the jungle and founded a settlement which grew by mere throwing off of young households into such an organized village as this; into which were also taken up aliens, whether of the founder's race or of other stocks even ethnologically different, so that an Indian community may include men of several castes, higher and lower. Nor is it a mere cooperative farm, with its weavers, and potters, and smiths to make it complete and self-dependent, but an organized political society, with its functionaries to regulate the levying of taxes and the administration of justice and police. Tradition, real or fictitious, of founders and ancestors, constitutes the theoretical bond which holds these communities together. In that the village consists of households, each ruled absolutely by its patriarch, and so far as the council of village elders settle disputes by reference to ancient custom, the guiding rule of Indian life, so far we seem to see the village-community in its primeval form. But the process of feudalization has had more or less part in shaping the actual constitution of the Indian villages. Sir Henry Maine has not found a single community under the unmodified collective government of the heads of households, but there is a headman, whose office is under various conditions hereditary within some particular family or families. Let a powerful central Government like ours recognize such privileged families as, even in a limited sense, owners of their villages, and let these be settled with as the class bound to collect the taxes and pay them to the treasury, this is one of the various courses of events which increase the tendency to feudalization. And while neither extreme of the feudalizing process, neither the primitive democratic community, nor the medieval feudal manor with its lord, can be seen in India, yet in complex varieties of the intermediate stages the transition from the village-system to the manorialsystem is to be studied as matter of modern history.

Turning from Asia to Europe, in the Slavonic districts which on the whole represent the most backward state of European civilization, and taking no notice of changes within the last few


years, we find in a social system of which the village is the basis, at once instructive illustrations of the primitive cultivating group, and of the feudalization which has more or less transformed its nature. Perhaps the most striking known examples in the world, of communistic agriculture as an ancient political institution, are the villages of Servia, Croatia, and Austrian Slavonia, brotherhoods of persons who are at once co-owners, and, at least in theory, kinsmen. These communities not only hold their land in common, but they actually cultivate it by the combined labour of all the households, among whom the produce is divided yearly, sometimes according to their supposed wants, sometimes according to rules which give fixed shares to particular persons. This extreme socialistic scheme, in which the land is not even theoretically divisible, may be contrasted in this respect with the Russian agricultural village. Here the common arable land is parcelled out among the households, but only for a term of years, sometimes only three, after which it is thrown together and re-apportioned. In certain villages we find that social adjustments of this kind are practically inade by the village council of elders, and in general it may be said that the ancient organization has maintained itself through the great political change, made within historical times, which assigned the village to a noble proprietor, whose serfs, working in corvée for his benefit, the freemen became. The assertion is even current that serfdom was introduced in order to prevent the peasants from breaking up the co-operative village system, on which depended the ancient order of the land.*

Far different from this has been the historical fate of the village-system in Western Europe. The growth of the feudalsystem so changed its ancient constitution, that, to take the phrase now accepted as the rough expression of this social revolution, the mark became transformed into the manor. Among the varied and complex causes of this vast change must be counted the development of that germ of aristocracy which was recognized in the old German as in the modern Indian communities, the existence of certain families within the community whose descent tradition traced from the primitive ancestor, and from whom was chosen the chief, general in war and governor in peace; this tendency to form a nobility headed by a King being naturally accompanied by the practice of assigning lands, especially lands carved from the territory of conquered tribes, to become the King's spoil and the warrior's reward. It would be vain to take up as in a parenthesis the huge and intricate problem

* Maine, “ Ancient Law,' p. 267. See the works of Haxthausen, Tengoborski, and Le Play.


of the feudalization of Europe, yet with due reservation as to views not yet brought to absolute proof, it may be admitted that these and kindred causes go far toward explaining it. Whether it was seldom or often that the old mark or village-community was actually transformed into the manor with its feudal lord, the historical succession of the manor-system to the mark-system is at least plausibly inferred by Sir Henry Maine. The tenants retained in some degree the old commoner's rights of pasture and taking firewood, but the waste or common-land became the lord's waste, and in time it came to be assumed by legal authorities that the commoners had obtained their rights by sufferance of the lord.* In later ages the decay of the feudal-system, far from re-establishing the ancient agricultural institution of the mark, still further obliterated the traces of its past existence, so that the claim to explain as its relics our village-commons as well as our remaining open-fields and lammas-meadows, sounds to most Englishmen somewhat startling at the first hearing, though admitted on consideration as not at all unreasonable in itself.

We cannot show in modern England anything approaching the remarkable case of actual maintenance of the old village-community, which might be studied in Central France within a quarter of a century. In Mons. Le Play's volume will be found a description of the village of Les Jault, the last survivor of a number of communities which existed in the Nivernais. These were considered to have been established by feudal seigneurs some centuries ago, but with our present information we must come to the somewhat different conclusion that they represented more ancient village-settlements, which in the course of history came under the authority of feudal lords, but continued to exist after the abolition of the feudal-system. About 1840, the little community of Jault consisted of seven partial families, whose heads were kinsmen and bore the same name. The land, buildings, and cattle were held in common, each family having a separate dwelling-compartment in the common building, furnished principally at the common cost, and the members taking their meals in the common hall, where the chief and his second had the distinction of a separate table. The community, industrious and moral in its habits, prospered till, in the present century, the spirit of individualism' among the young people began to undermine the patriarchal authority. They were no longer content, as in the good old days, to work with good-will and obedience under the master who knew what was right better than they did, who treated them as his children, and divided the produce of the common labour according to the wants of each. Now they wanted to lead the old folks, to work for their own private gain, to have accounts and interfere in the division of proceeds. Thus it came to pass that the members quarrelled and went to law, and the society was broken up in 1846.

* It is a fair instance of the currency of the feudal view that the origin of manors lay in grants of territory to lords, to find it generally accepted in Six Essays on Commons Preservation : written in Competition for Prizes offered by Henry W. Peek, Esq.' (London, 1867). Mr. W. P. Beale, however, in his acute Essay (No. 2), traces common-rights from the mark.


Looking, from a political point of view, at the system of communities which has thus had so important a place in the history of the world, we see in it an institution eminently suitable for the agricultural settlement of new countries by barbaric clans, and for the permanence and extension of barbaric society. The life is favourable to patriarchal virtues, to simplicity, sobriety, obedience, family attachment. The value of the villagesystem is excellently shown in India, where observers who judge most severely the moral condition of the individual Hindoos speak with favour of the institution which binds them together with a bond of mutual goodwill and justice. Where our legislators have to deal with such communities, deep-rooted in the present national life of India, they, no doubt, do well to take the ancient organization as in present fitness with the character of the races who have been shaped for ages under its influence, and to maintain it as the basis of social order. It is true that, under the influence of English ideas, the native political standards are changing. The change is inevitable, and in many ways desirable; nor is it to be expected that the primitive village-organization will for ever escape in India the fate to which progressive civilization seems everywhere to doom it. Its virtues are great, but its practical defects seem insurmountable. While a country is only cleared in isolated patches by a scanty population of simple habits and moderate desires, the emigrant families who have obtained their titles, each to its village-tract, by a right compounded of conquest and collective squatting, may long continue to grow into communities, large, prosperous, and closely knit within themselves. But as they more and more occupy the land, and come too near to close contact, their intensely quarrelsome habit will lead to intertribal war, one of the effects of which is to give to individual chiefs that uncontrolled possession of large estates which is fatal to the very scheme of the village-community. And where the tendency to war is restrained, the peaceable increase of such villages tends to determine their limits of existence by intensifying the causes of their dissolution. Better agricultural methods are required to obtain subsistence from the more crowded land;


and it need scarcely be said that a peasant-viļlage, governed by old men whose supreme authority is ancestral custom, is not a society with progressive tendencies. Socialistic cultivation of land is an institution which village-communities have existed long enough to condemn as practically objectionable ; for in most districts the parcels of tilled ground apportioned among the several households are well on their way to become individual holdings. We must guard against a certain ambiguity of terms, which


lead to the erroneous inference that the villages classed as communities are always or even generally communistic in the extreme sense as to their practical working. Their state is, in fact, much more instructive, seeming, as it does, to show the tendency to break down socialism into individualism. Even the weaker remains of the community-system are likely to disappear altogether in countries where they come into competition with the larger capital and superior management which belong to individual ownership. The necessity of conforming to a rude traditional tillage made the open-field-system in England utterly contemptible even to old-fashioned judges of agriculture. Three hundred years ago, Tusser, in his “Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandry,' gave his own experience of the remains of the old community-system, still to be studied on a large scale in many parts of the country, where the question between it and the inclosure-system was being fought out in a practical way. His verdict was absolutely against the old village-husbandry, with its bad produce, and its idle, thieving, poverty-stricken population. It was absolutely in favour of inclosure :

The country inclosed I praise,
The t'other delighteth not me,
For nothing the

wealth it doth raise
To such as inferior be.

[ocr errors][merged small]

More plenty of mutton and beef,
Corn, butter, and cheese of the best;
More wealth anywhere to be brief,
More people, more handsome and prest,
Where find ye, go search any coast,

Than there, where inclosure is most.' Even the right of common pasture in lammas-meadows and the like-picturesque relic of old English manners as it is—is unprofitable from an economic point of view. The late history of a single estate, burdened with such rights, may serve as a general example. It consisted of several hundred acres of pasture and woodland, on which a number of persons, the representatives,


« السابقةمتابعة »