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Large Farms and the Peasantry of the Scottish Lowlands


1. Agricultural Labourers as they were, are, and should be in their Social Condition. By the Rev. Henry Stuart, A.M. Minister of Oathlaw.
2. Statement as to the Mode of Erection and Tenure of Cottages for Labourers and Tradesmen on the Estate of Annandale, belonging to J. J. Hope Johnstone, Esq., M.P. By Charles Stewart, Esq., of Hillside; with remarks by the Rev. Peter Hope, Minister of the Free Church of Johnstone and Wamphray.
3. The Right Condition of an Agricultural Community. A Paper read before the Social Science Meeting of 1860, by the Rev. Peter Hope.
4. Sir John Sinclair's Report. 1814.
5. Scotsman Newspaper: October and November, 1860.
6. Newspaper Report of Public Meeting on the Condition of Rural Labourers, held in Edinburgh, January, 1861.

Last Autumn, Sir John Pakington, when addressing a meeting of Worcestershire farmers, gave them the impressions he had just brought with him, from a journey a few days before through the celebrated farming district between Forth and Tweed. He dwelt on the splendid farms, with large fields and small hedges, the steam engines attached to every steading, the long leases, and the high rents. After drawing a splendid picture, and trying to provoke his audience to emulate it, he confessed that there were things in it which he would not like to have imitated. He should be sorry to see the beautiful elms, and wide-spread oaks, and rich apple orchards of Worcestershire, all felled, and their country as treeless as that he had just left between Forth and Tweed, where he saw many chimneys, but looked in vain for a lofty tree. Had Sir John been able to look more closely, he might have seen some other things to regret besides the loss of trees. High farming is no doubt unlovely to the eye that longs for natural beauty; but this defect, if it were the only one, might well be borne. But the magnificent system of scientific farming, in which Scotland justly prides herself has other and more serious drawbacks,—serious at least, in the eyes that look not only for lofty trees, but for thriving and intelligent men. And while we look willingly at its bright side, and freely own all that Scotland owes to her scientific husbandry, we must not shut our eyes to the fact, that, socially regarded, it has a doubtful, we had almost said a dark side. The large farm system has long since spread not only from Forth to Tweed, but more or less throughout all the eastern counties of Scotland. By it the landlords, the capitalist farmers, and the general community, have no doubt been gainers; but it may be doubted whether those by whose hands the result has been achieved—the farm labourers—have been fair sharers in the gain. That division, which is apt to pervade all branches of modem industry, and out of which so many social troubles come—the division into large capitalists who are employers, and poor workmen—has gone great lengths here. Throughout all the eastern counties, which have been the nurseries of high farming, on the one side stand the wealthy, enterprising, gentlemen farmers, living in a style of comfort, offer elegance, which nearly equals that of the laird, and which lairds fifty years ago did not dream of,—active, energetic men, quick to avail themselves of all the newest inodes of husbandry, and intelligent in the ordinary topics of the day, but in genuine worth and wisdom not superior to the old-fashioned race of small farmers whom they have put out. On the other side, but with a vast distance interposed, are the ploughmen and other labourers, who do the work of the farm. Between these the gap is immense in social rank, way of living, and general feeling. Many of the ploughmen are the sons or grandsons of the small tenants whom the new system has swept away; and it would almost seem, that as the large farmer has risen in the scale above the small tenants of last century, the ploughmen and labourers, at least in prospects and opportunities of rising, have sunk below them.

The workers on these large farms are either married or unmarried men. The former, the married ploughmen, are the best off. They live in their own cottage with their wife and family, that cottage being in most cases situated on the farm, held of the farmer, but provided, like the other farm buildings, by the landlord. Where there are not enough of cottages for all the married ploughmen—and on many farms there are not enough—some one or more of these must seek for a house in the nearest village. But take it at the best. Suppose a lad married at four-and-twenty, and settled in a cottage on the farm, with his wages of from L.20 to L.23 in money, four bolls of oatmeal, four do. of potatoes, with free house and coals driven. He has nothing more to look to as long as he lives. He is as well off when he starts in life as he can hope to be when he ends it. When, oat of the above wages, a wife and family are supported, children reared and educated, there is no margin left for frugality to work on. And even if thrift were to do its best, what is there for him to look to! By no amount of saving can he ever hope to be able to lease any of the large forms he sees all around him, which require a capital of several thousands to start with. The utmost that is open to him, in the high farmed districts, is to become a foreman on a farm, with a rise in wages of a few shillings a-week; or if he be too pushing a man to be contented with this, then he can but emigrate. But the great mass of ploughmen become neither foremen nor colonists. They spend the strength of their prime, as they began their married life, neither better nor worse, going with their pair of horses, and doing their allotted day’s work. And when they have reached their threescore years, they for the most part cease following the plough, give up their pair of horses to younger hands, and either become the “orra” man—that is, the man for extra jobs on the farm—or take to breaking stones for the roads, or whatever other day labour they can find. Not a very bright existence certainly, nor one which we would willingly look upon as the best estate possible for a great portion of our countrymen, however we might acquiesce in it, if it be indeed inevitable. It wants the great, the only healing this world can offer to toil-worn man,—the hope of bettering himself, of some day rising above the ten hours’ daily drudgery, owning something he can call his own, and being able in some small measure to shape the destiny of his children, and give them a better start in life than be himself had. With this state of things have come other evils, the sundering of all kindly ties between master and servant, too frequent changes of service, the want of any sense of responsibility for their welfare on the one side, and of personal or local attachment on the other, as if all duties were fulfilled and ended when the one had done his ten hours’ work, and the other paid down the week’s wages. Modern society, throughout all its classes,has freed itself entirely from the old feudal bonds and restrictions; but it is a sad thought, sometimes forced upon us, that with these it has rid itself of the natural and kindly attachments with which they were more or less entertwined, and has relapsed into a state in which all relations between men begin and end with money payments.

But if such be the case with the best part of the farming population—the married ploughmen—it is still worse, and the problem becomes more difficult, when we turn to the young unmarried men. That some such must be maintained on every large farm, as well as some married ones, is clear. How these should be fed, housed, and tended, is the great practical difficulty, and those who have had most experience in rural affairs feel it most. It were well if we could look at it calmly, without passion or controversy, most of all without fierce denunciations, which tend only to embitter class against class. The thing has arisen out of circumstances for which no one class is exclusively to blame, —out of the growth mainly of high farming, which is now a national glory, and by which all ranks of the people have more or less benefited. Blame will be then only just, if, seeing clearly one evil side to what is, on the whole, a great national gain, we do not honestly own and face it, and do our best to find a remedy.

That there must be many lads, from sixteen to two or three-and-twenty years— ‘halflin callants,’ as they are called—employed in farm-work is clear, not only for the convenience of the farmer, but in order that you may have a supply of men coming forward to fill the place of regular ploughmen. What is to be done with these? how are they to be accommodated and looked after? In two ways this is practically answered: the one way common in large farms in the west of Scotland; the other mainly confined to the eastern districts. In Lanarkshire and the other western counties, the unmarried ploughmen have their meals in the farmer’s kitchen, and their bed in the stable-loft or other outhouse. During the long winter evenings they are admitted to the kitchen, and sit round the fire; but the talk of these raw lads is, as might be believed, not edifying, but such as ‘corrupts the female servants, until the one sex will talk as plainly and coarsely as the other.’ Besides this, it is alleged that they are often so troublesome and exacting about their food, and so difficult to please, as to become a serious practical annoyance to the master and mistress of the house. Indeed, so real is this inconvenience, that we know one very enterprising farmer who, although he had more than one large farm in the west, and was looked up to by all his neighbourhood, yet, for no other reason than to get rid of this evil, when his farm fell out of lease, left his native district, and took a farm in the east, where he could accommodate all his men in cottages on the farm, or close at hand. So disgusted was he with the troublesomeness of the unmarried ploughmen, and the nuisance he had found them to be, when boarded in his own house.

For accommodation of the same class, the eastern county farmers have adopted the bothy system, of which so much has been heard of late. It is now somewhat more than ten years since Mr. Stuart, the minister of Oathlaw, brought this system under public notice, and laid bare the evils which had arisen out of it, in a pamphlet which no one who read it can ever forget. He spoke of things he had long seen and known, in a tone of calm, clear, impartial, yet humane wisdom, which contrasts strongly with much of the discussion which the subject has since called forth. The appearance of that statement forms an epoch in the history of our rural economics, and the force with which it told is proved by the immediate formation of a society for improving the dwellings of farm labourers, which has seen among its members many of the best landlords in the bothy districts. We mention the rise of this society, not as believing that it can cure even half the evils which Mr. Stuart’s pamphlet disclosed, but because it proved that he had indeed laid his finger on a sore place. The discussion has of late drifted into a spirit of partisanship, in which fierce denunciation of classes and extravagant statements, founded on extreme cases, are met by too dogged denial of the evil, and refusal to admit the extent of it. From both of these we should desire to keep clear, believing that, if a remedy is to be found, it must come from an honest examination of the facts and their causes, equally removed from the exaggeration of the impugners, and the special pleading of the defenders, of the system.

We may take for granted, in the first place, that some large farms are necessary to maintain a high state of farming; and if large farms, then the existence, throughout the country, of a number of unmarried ploughmen. What, then, is to be done with these ploughmen? How are they to be fed and boarded? This is the question which we must look at steadily. That the west country plan of their living in the farmer’s kitchen and sleeping in the stable-loft is not satisfactory, we know by the testimony of those best acquainted with it. That the eastern plan of bothies is, as hitherto worked, at least equally unsatisfactory, we have abundant evidence. To prove this, we need not ransack the country for cases of flagrantly neglected and immoral bothies; we need not go to the northern barbarian and his Caithness bothy, in which unmarried men and women are said to sit, cook, and eat their food together, to pass the long winter nights, without any ‘light but the flickering peat fire, in the room where the lads dress, undress, and sleep, while the females sleep in an off closet entering from the lads’ apartment, and, in some disgraceful instances, the beds of both sexes are in the same apartment.’ Such things need no comment. But they may be said to be singular and exceptional cases, and we would willingly believe them to be so. But from what we know of human nature, and especially of ploughman nature, it needs but small evidence to prove, that if you place some half-dozen or more young raw lads, rough and undiscipline4» in one house, barely and coarsely furnished, there to cook their own food, with no one to make their beds, clean the house, or in any way superintend their life during other than working hours, the result will be coarseness, filth, and rapid degradation to most of the inmates. Cast ploughmen, cast any set of men out from the comforts and civilities of home, to herd, eat, and sleep wholly by themselves, without discipline or surveillance, and it needs no prophet to foretell the result. And there is abundant evidence to show that facts verify anticipations, founded on the knowledge of what men are. One of the ablest defenders of the system admits that, having been himself a farm servant for upwards of ten years, he 'had lived in bothies that had not been swept for years, where the cooking utensils were never washed, and where the beds were not made up for weeks together.’ The writer of these words may have escaped contamination from such a life, but forty-nine out of every fifty men will be degraded by such treatment. We remember ourselves visiting a bothy a few years ago, not a picked specimen, but taken at random, in the richest, most highly farmed part of East Lothian, of which the above would seem to be a very fair description. It was a place for dirt, discomfort, and desolation, fit to harbour no human being. We know, too, that the lads, in the bothy district, too often spend their evenings after dark in 'raking about the country,’ in those secret interviews, to the prevalence of which among our peasantry Dr. Struthers attributes so much immorality. And so untended and coarsening is their life, that we are assured that many lads who have left their homes for service, with a fair parish school education, able to read and write, have ere long, in the bothy life, unlearnt and forgot both. But we are spared the trouble of going more deeply into the results of the system, and proving its evils in detail, by the indirect admission of its ablest recent defender, who gives it as his opinion that the late controversy about bothies will result in their improvement, and their more general adoption, when improved. Here, then, we find even their advocate allowing the need of improvement, though as to the extent and kind of it he and we might not agree.

We should think it not too much to ask of every landlord that he should provide cottages enough on each farm to allow from one-half to two-thirds of the ploughmen employed on it to be married men, who might dwell there with their families. To ask more than this—for instance, a cottage for every plough, so as to have all the ploughmen on a farm either married, or able to marry if they choose seems more than is required. For among ploughmen, as in every trade or profession, there must and ought to be young men coming on who must bide their fair time to marry, and whom it is not desirable to drive to too early marriage, by opening for it too great facility. Supposing, then, that on every farm there are about one-third of the workmen unmarried, and that, in the altered mode of living in large farmers’ houses, it is undesirable to have these men boarded in the kitchen. A few of them will probably be the sons of the married ploughmen, and will lodge with their parents. Supposing that some cannot be lodged in the cottages of the married men, either from their small size, or from the unwillingness of the occupants to lodge lads who may be strange to them, then it is clear that you must have an abode apart, devoted to the single men, call it a bothy, or what you will. The conditions to be observed in order to prevent such a dwelling from sinking, as so many bothies have done, into inhuman filth and wretchedness, are, first, that the house should be given over to the farmer fit for a human dwelling, not a wretched outhouse; secondly, that the farmer, either of himself, or, it may be, by the young men contributing something, should furnish it in a style which should secure decency and comfort; thirdly, that no such cottage should have more than say four or, at most, five inmates; fourthly, that it should be under the charge of the grieve’s wife or some other respectable married woman, who should have the care, not only of making the beds and cleaning the house daily, but of making the young men’s meals. No house into which a woman never enters can be in a fit state for man’s habitation. To these conditions we may add, that the grieve himself should be charged with the survey of these single men’s cottages, see that they keep hours, and do not stay abroad or sit up to an unseasonable time of night. And if to these were added some of the social charities—the kindly visit of the master of an evening or at mid-day, and the furnishing the young men’s table with a newspaper and some books, entertaining or instructive—the bothy might soon be changed from a byword into a scene of comfort. Such do exist here and there in favoured places, under considerate masters. And there is no reason why they should not exist on every large farm, if only all concerned would lay the evil to heart, and do their share towards its removal.

This would imply that landlords should be willing to erect, not one rude bothy, no better than a byre, on each farm, however large, but two or more, where needed, well built houses, capable of being dwelt in with comfort; that tenants should furnish them in a way fit for the decencies and conveniences of life, should put them under good regulations and superintendence, and themselves see that these are carried out; lastly, that the men themselves should be willing to co-operate, to submit to some rules, to take care of good furniture if once supplied, and to lend themselves to clean and tidy habits. These last conditions, which lie with the men themselves, are far from the easiest to get fulfilled; for often they resist any efforts made for their comfort—resist it as an infringement on their freedom—and prefer to pig and brutalize uncontrolled, to being any way interfered with. Ministers, too, might do more than in many cases they have done, by not shrinking from laying honestly before all clashes in private, and, if need be, publicly too, their responsibilities in this matter. But several causes have hitherto kept most of our Scottish ministers from meddling with the social habits of their flocks, though on these, to a very great degree, depends even their spiritual well-being. The proneness to divide too sharply between things religious and things secular; a tendency to dwell on high abstract doctrines, without bringing these down to the details of men’s daily lives, and thus vitalizing them; and the not altogether manly fear of giving offence by bringing religious teaching to bear on the social and personal habits of men,—these, and like causes, have been at work to keep ministers from declaring to all alike—landlord, tenant, and ploughmen— their respective duties. A faithful minister, if respected in his parish, who would not shrink from speaking, privately or publicly, as he might deem best, to those concerned, would surely do something to make men feel it to be a Christian duty to extirpate this evil; and if he would, by friendly visits at mid-day or in the evening, or by whatever other means might occur to him, show a real interest in these lads, who have often none near to care for them, he would do still more. We are quite aware how easy it is to admonish others of their duty; but the suggestions here given are not offered from any wish to dictate to others, but from the belief that this and other public evils are gradually undermined by open discussion and by each man speaking out honestly what seems to him light. If, however, farmers will not take the trouble proposed, and men will not submit to any interference or control, even for their good, then we say that bothies are a moral nuisance, which, as it cannot be mended, ought to be destroyed.

On the whole, then, we fully acknowledge that some large farms are desirable in all districts, more in some districts than in others; and that, ever since Cockburn of Ormiston, 'the father of Scottish husbandry,’ let to Robert Wight, in the year 1718, The Murray’s (Muirhouse) farm on a long lease, up to a quite recent date, large farms, let on long leases, have contributed much to the advance and present perfection of Scottish husbandry, benefiting farmers by good returns, landlords by high rents, and the community by increased produce. But we must not, on the other hand, shut our eyes to the fact that the peasantry have not, on the whole, shared equally in their benefits. Even if they have shared somewhat in the general gain and improved mode of living, they have not, we conceive, improved on their forefathers in intelligence and morality so much as other classes have done. While repudiating altogether such exaggerated statements, as that they have become ‘a hissing and a byword,’ or that they are ‘sinking to the lowest moral level,’ we do believe that there is much of good in them which large farms, if they do not positively depress, at least allow to lie fallow. Our Scottish ploughmen will still, we believe, stand comparison for shrewdness, honesty, and industry with those of any other country. But, whatever they may be relatively, it cannot be doubted that absolutely they would be better if they were not subjected as single men, to the rough, coarse, bothy system as it now exists; and if, as married men, they were not, by the exclusiveness of the large farms, shut out in many districts from all hope of bettering themselves, and condemned to a lifelong routine of day labour.

In all human nature, and especially in the pushing Scotch nature, there must be a vast reserve fund of energy, thrift, and perseverance, of which such a life never unlocks the springs. Those same natures which, transplanted to colonial or foreign soils, put forth such latent energy, subduing nature, overcoming all kinds of circumstance, everywhere rising to the top —for travellers remark that, in every town of Europe, the chief banker, or merchant, or tradesman, is sure to be a Scotchman—to those same natures, while they continue in the high-farmed counties, the path upward is closed. This is surely an evil, worthy the careful regard of patriotic landlords. Even in the large farm counties—the Lothians, Berwickshire, Roxburghshire, and all the eastern straths and seaboards north of the Forth—landlords, if they really saw and felt the evil, might do something to meet it. In many parts even of these districts it might be possible, even prudent, to let an industrious man—mason, say, or wright, or dairyman— have a portion of land on lease, which he and his family might cultivate at their bye hours, evening or morning. By such a plan, a deserving man might be encouraged, something done to bridge the gulf and break the social monotony of the few wealthy farmers and their many hired hinds, while the landlord would find his rent-roll not a whit less by the change. No doubt the large farmers would eye such a procedure with jealousy; for they, like every other class, resent the appearance among them of any interloper either from a poorer district or a lower social place; and agricultural doctrinaires, who look on the necessity of large farms as a law of nature invariable as gravitation, would be ready to threaten any innovating landlord with the old bugbear—tenantry reduced to the state of Irish crofters—as the sure result of any return to small farms. To such impugners it might be replied, that the lowland Scotch small tenant of the present day is a very different being from the Irish crofter; that the whole system of farming and of leases is different in Scotland and in Ireland; that, even if there were any tendency to excess of population on small farms from over subdivision, the landlord has the thing in his own hand, and can check it; that in those parts of the lowlands where small farms still exist, no such evils have arisen; that so far are the native lowland peasantry from overpopulation, that, in many landward parishes, the Gibeonite part of labour, such as draining and quarrying, has of late years fallen to be done chiefly by Irishmen, for lack of Scots; lastly, that it is not a truth valid for all places and all times, that large farms are the only arrangement that will ensure the highest state of husbandry. They were necessary during last century, when farming was yet in its rude infancy, to give it the first impulse onward. They were necessary during the earlier part of this century, to carry it forward to its present perfection; but it does not follow from this, that now, when the true principles of farming are so generally understood, and the farming intelligence of the peasantry so much greater, and practical knowledge and improvements so much quicker in spreading, that the large farm system might not well be modified even in the eastern counties, and such a proportion of small farms admitted as would give scope for all grades of agricultural capital and enterprise. Sir John Sinclair, in his Report, published in 1814, when the rage for large farms was at its height, after showing the advantages of these at a certain stage of a nation’s husbandry, goes on to observe that a time may come when the large farms may require to be modified, if when by competition the rent of land increases, and when from various causes many competitors appear. 'The size of farms,’ he says, ‘must thus depend on the circumstances of a country; what is proper in one district is not so in another; and what is a proper size at one time is not so at another, even in the same district. For this reason, a proprietor should not allow his buildings and fences to go to ruin; he himself may have little need of them, but his successor may require them.’

These considerations, taken together with the undoubted fact of the social gap which necessarily arises in exclusively large farmed districts, might well make any wise landlord reflect whether it is well to have none but wealthy tenants and large farms, even in districts where these are now wholly paramount They ought certainly to make him pause, before transplanting into the southern and other counties, where a graduated scale of farms still exists, the exclusive system of the eastern counties with all its disadvantages. To this an advocate of large farms might reply—In proof of our plan we point to the present advanced state of Scottish husbandry as its undoubted fruit; in defence of the plan of mingled large and small farms, you urge only suppositions and general principles, which have failed in other countries, and might not succeed here. Such arguments, however, we are able to meet not only with a priori reasonings, but with ascertained facts and experiments.

There lies before us a paper by Charles Stewart, Esq., of Hillside, Dumfriesshire, on the mode of providing cottages with pendicles of land for labourers and tradesmen, which has been carried on under his care on the Annandale estate. The paper is made up of two separate reports; which, originally printed in the Transactions of the Highland Society, 1844 and 1859, have since been reprinted. Along with this we must notice a paper by the Rev. Peter Hope, Free Church minister of Wamphray, read before the last Social Science meeting, in which he gives what he has seen of the social and moral results of the experiments Mr. Stewart describes. Mr. Stewart, the author at once of the pamphlet and of the experiments, has for many years had charge of the estate of Annandale, belonging to J. J. Hope Johnstone, Esq., M.P., and of other extensive properties, and has had much opportunity of becoming acquainted with the present state and past history of farming and rural economy throughout Scotland. To those who know him, every statement and opinion of his will be sure to come with no common weight. To those who do not, we need only say, that as for nearly half a century he has been among the foremost promoters of every agricultural improvement and of all useful progress in the south of Scotland, and as his natural sagacity and wisdom have been enriched with a wide and varied experience, his word on all rural matters is of rare authority. The following statements are taken from the above named reports:—In upper Annandale, the labourers and country tradesmen used, for the most part, to hold their houses from the tenant. About fifty years ago, as most of these houses had become ruinous or incommodious, a new plan was adopted. A lease of twenty-one years is given of a homestead and large garden at a moderate rent. The landlord supplies and saws timber and hewed freestone, needed for doors, windows, jambs, etc., etc., at a cost to himself of about twenty-two pounds. The rest of the cost of building the homestead falls on the tenant, and, besides his own labour, ranges from twenty-one to thirty-five or even forty pounds. The proprietor reserves to himself the right of resuming possession on six months’ notice—a right, however, which as it would only be put in force in case of bad conduct, is said to have been in no case, as yet, exercised. None but persons of the best character, natives, or well known in the neighbourhood, are granted these leases. They are most of them, either men who have been ploughmen, have saved something, and wish to settle with their families; or elderly men or widows, with well-doing children, who help them; or country tradesmen, carpenters, masons, shoemakers, etc., etc. Great care is taken not to place any without certain prospect of future work, and an eye is kept on the state of population in each parish, with a view to keep the numbers rather under than above the natural demand for labour. This scheme can, of course, be best carried out on great estates, where the care of large woods, draining, fencing, and other improvements, afford a steady supply of work for these cottar tenants. Almost all these occupancies lie in the parishes of Kirkpatrick-Juxta and Johnstone, on a tract of eight or nine miles, stretching along the west side of the river Annan. The houses are generally placed singly, along the turnpike and cross parish roads, and care is taken that they shall not be grouped into hamlets or villages.

The second Report (1859) states that the demand for such leases is greatly on the increase; that the more recent houses are better built, and more roomy than the original ones; that pendicles of land from two to six acres, or grass for a cow, are greatly desired and now generally granted. The land being often coarse, the landlord, besides enclosing, helps to drain and lime it. It is improved till it affords not only summer grazing for one cow, or perhaps two, but green crop and corn, sometimes meadow hay. The rent charged is the same as it is worth as part of a farm, from ten to twenty shillings per acre. It increases the interest of the cottar, and gives scope to the intelligence which is generally possessed, and to the industry of the family, without materially encroaching on the tenant’s time for earning his regular money income. He can buy turnips, meadow hay, and corn from farmers at hand. A good supply of milk is secured for the family, and the ready sale of the pork, butter, and perhaps a calf a young beast, meets any outlay as well as rent, which last is paid with perfect promptitude. All the above statements are taken almost word for word from Mr. Stewart’s pamphlet. After nearly a lifetime’s trial of the system, he expresses his perfect conviction of its success. He has found it advantageous alike to the tenants themselves, the landlord, and the community at large. In parishes where these tenants form a third or a fourth of the whole population, none of them ever come on the poor roll, and pauperism scarcely exists. While this or a like system may be most easily carried out on large estates, owing to the supply of home timber, saw-mills, etc., etc., and the power of regulating the number of such tenancies by the demand for labour; yet Mr. Stewart maintains that much may be done in the same or a like way by smaller proprietors, if they would give the cottar an interest and security in his house, by allowing him to pay more or less of the original cost, and to hold his lease directly from themselves, and, above all, by furnishing him with a pendicle of land. And it is cheering to learn that the experiment is not now confined to the estate where it originated,but is being tried by other liberal landowners, who understand and esteem the character of our peasantry.

While Mr. Stewart has given the statement of facts, Mr. Hope points the moral. He remarks that, in recent discussions on these topics, it is usual to notice only three orders in an agricultural community—landlord, farmer, and farm-servants, either hired, or cottars holding of the farmer. But he observes there is a fourth class intermediate between the small farmer and the hired labourer, not so high as the former, but higher than the latter, which ought not to be overlooked. This class, consisting of country tradesmen, retired ploughmen, etc. —a class having its own place in a well-ordered rural economy—mainly occupy the small tenancies on the Annandale estate. And Mr. Hope is convinced, by what he has seen, that the system above described has succeeded in elevating this class without burdening either landlord or farmer, but with benefit to both, and has fostered small holdings without depressing agriculture or retarding improvement. Its advantages, as stated by him, are such as these:—

1. The fact that such leases are granted only to men of good character and orderly conduct, acts as a bounty upon these qualities, which make for the public not less than the individual welfare.

2. The system encourages thrift and industry both before and after obtaining such a tenancy; before, to save means to meet the necessary outlay, and after, to make the most of the allotment. What labour the cottager expends on his small holding, does not hinder his ordinary work; it is done at by hours or by his family. And the wife, with her cow to keep, milk for her household, butter and eggs to take to market, calf and pig to care for, becomes quite another woman from what she would have been had her husband been only a day labourer, renting a bare house from a farmer, and removeable at every term. She becomes managing and thoughtful, fertile in resources, feels that she is respected and that much is looked for from her; she can do much for the support of her family, and she is put to her mettle to do it. The children, too, early take part in the field work, and so are trained to useful labour, and to habits which stand them in good stead when they go out in life.

3. Let no one compare this with the Irish crofter system.- All the special evils of the latter are absent here. Character and conduct are well looked to before a lease is granted; security of tenure is combined with moderate rent; there is no middleman between landlord and cottar; the balance between population and demand for labour is carefully attended to. In Ireland, everything tended towards tbriftlessness and idleness; here, all motives are at work to produce thrift and diligence.

4. The security of these small holdings is a mighty charm. The tenant feels sure that when his lease expires it will be renewed, that he himself will end his days in the house his own hands have helped to build, and that when he dies his tenancy will go to some one of his family. Of the advantages of this permanency of abode we need hardly speak. The children brought up at the same school, the family worshipping in the same church, known and respected by the neighbours, and bound by ties of affection to their native district; these, the very best outward influences for forming character, how few of the labouring class are blest with them!

One does not wonder on being told that for these cottar homes and small farms in Anandale a very large number of youths have received a more than a poor man’s education, and arisen afterwards to eminence. From such abodes it is that the purity and energy of the towns is recruited, and the Scotch character maintained throughout the world. There is scarcely a small farm in Annandale which has not one or more members of its family doing well in other countries and quarters of the globe, in every position, from the farm grieve in England or Ireland to the merchant millionnaire in India or China. This comes, in part, from the old border spirit of enterprise which two centuries of peace have not extinguished, but still more it is due to the existence of a class of working farmers. In the Lothians and Berwickshire, where the rural population consists of a few gentlemen farmers and a large number of mere servants, no such proportion make their way upward. The latter see little chance of rising, and the former have no call to make the exertion. This, however, though the most palpable, is by no means the highest moral effect of the system of cottar tenancy and small farms. It is not from the few who rise that it should be estimated, but from the numbers not known nor heard of in the world, who live on these holdings industrious, moral, and contented, and die leaving a good name throughout their neighbourhood. But while such is the solid good that accrues to the cottar tenant, how, it may be asked, does the landlord fare? It is well that we can answer this query on the authority of Mr. Stewart, who certainly has the best means of knowing. He informs us that these cottage leases and small holdings are not only not a pecuniary loss to the landowner, but are in the long run a decided gain. He gets interest for his original outlay on the cottage and field, and fully as good a return as he would have got for the same land included in a large farm. Besides these, there are other advantages of this system which few proprietors will think lightly of. It keeps in check and reduces the poor rate, for rarely have any of this cottar population fallen on the poor-roll. And it peoples his property with a set of industrious, sober, well-to-do workmen, themselves and their fathers native to the soil, men bound to himself who has befriended them, and to the land that has reared them, by the best and strongest ties.

This system of cottage tenure, with small portions of land held directly from the landlord, might, we are convinced, be in some measure introduced by liberal and patriotic landlords, even into exclusively large farm districts, with safety and advantage. It would do much to relieve the hopeless condition of the hinds, of which we have already spoken and something to lessen the social gap, though it could not bridge it. But it is only where there exists a graduated scale of farms, from those of one plough, or about 60 to 70 acres, through every size, up to the large farm, that the system of cottage tenure can have full scope. The existence of these small farms is a wonderful stimulus to the cottar tenants. They know, that if they hain and husband well the pendicle, this may lead in time to the small farm. In the parish of Johnstone, for instance, out of thirty-six farms, there are six or seven held by men who were themselves once cottar-tenants, and as many more held by men whose fathers rose from that class. When a small farm in a neighbouring parish, of about L.100 a-year rental, was lately out of lease, of fourteen eligible offers, four came from men who had once been labourers. To illustrate what is meant by small farms graduated upwards, take the above-named parish of Johnstone. It contains from 7000 to 8000 acres of mixed arable, improveable, and pasture land. Under the too prevailing system of lumping land into the largest farms possible, it would probably be parcelled out into half a dozen farms, rented from perhaps L.800 to L.1000 a-year each. On these would live a number of hired servants in cottages held of the farmers. Under the system we advocate, it is at present laid out in thirty-six farms, yielding a total rental of nearly L.5000 a-year. Some of the farms pay as much as L.350 to L.400 a-year of rent; while at least twenty farms, of from 70 to 130 acres, and affording tillage for one plough, pay a rental of from L.50 to L. 150 each. Besides these small farms, there are the numerous cottar tenancies we have above described. It can easily be imagined how powerfully the existence of the former must tell on the occupants of the latter. The way upward is open; persevering industry may travel it; and the small farm once attained, there is the large farm beckoning, if not the man himself, then his children. Such a prospect acts far beyond the small circle of those who succeed in realizing it. It tells on the whole body of working men. They see their neighbours and equals rise to better things. They know that they themselves may do likewise, and this feeling has a heartening, healthful influence on many a man, who may never change his original condition.

This, then, would seem to be the type of a well-ordered rural polity. Beginning with the mere day labourer, passing upwards through the cottar tenant, the small farmer, to the large farmer, it would culminate in the landlord,—a social order as perfect as our country, with all its antecedents, would seem to admit of,—an ideal, which is not only an ideal, but has in some places begun to be realized; and that not by sentimentalists or dreamers, but by the most practical of men. And there is no reason why it should not be still further realized, if landlords and others, who have power over land, would but all look at the matter with the same careful foresight, the same humane wisdom, as the landlords and their agents above named have done. By such a course they would help to heal those social sores which in many places have become serious; they would go far to fill up the social gap, which disguise it as you will, is a great, if it be an inevitable evil in many high-farmed districts; and they would help to build up a rural polity, in which, as in our good British constitution, all orders of men are linked closed to each other, and rank passes so insensibly into rank, that you can scarce tell where one ends and another begins.

It may be impossible greatly to alter things in the eastern counties and elsewhere, where large farms have been too long established as the universal rule. But might we not hope that, if landlords would examine closely the experiments made in Annandale, they would see it to be their true wisdom to stay the progress of enlargement, where, as in the western and southern counties, it is only entered on and not yet consummated. Let us not be misunderstood. We would not exclude some large farms from any district. They are prizes for enterprise, and they act as a stimulant on the small farmers around them. And, to some districts, a larger number of them is suitable. To wide plans, or easy undulations of equal soil, and under thirty inches of rain, the large farm with thirty or forty acre fields is more naturally adapted. But in the western counties the ground is broken, the soil unequal, the climate moist and uncertain. To these varieties of soil and weather, the small farmer, working with his own family, without many servants or high kept horses, better suits himself; and in bad years or low prices he can save and curtail consumption and expense in a way the large farmer cannot do. He bends more to the blast, where the other breaks. During the last fifty years, says one who has watched country matters closely, '1 have seen three or four crises, in which the large, farmer on poor soil went to the wall, while the small ones stood.’ One argument for large farms, once unanswerable, has now lost its force. There was a time when they were rightly encouraged as the only means of bringing capital, enterprise, and intelligence to embark in agriculture, and raise it from its low primitive condition. But it is so no longer.

Knowledge now spreads so much faster, every new discovery so soon finals its way, and is adopted by all kinds of husbandmen, that the skill of the small is already nearly on a level with that of the large farmer. In some points it is even greater, at least better in details of management.

In Mr. Mill’s Political Economy there are two well-known chapters on the subject of Pheasant Proprietors. He there shows, at great length and with abundant evidence, how largely this mode of life prevails in Norway, Germany, Belgium, France, and with how beneficent results. After passing in review the working of the system in these countries severally, he sums up by showing, first, that far heavier crops are produced on these small farms than in the best tilled large farm districts of Scotland and England. Such is the spirit of thrift and industry it engenders, that every spare hour, every odd moment of the small proprietor and his family, are devoted to the improvement of their ground Secondly, be dwells on the educating effect of these small properties— that, not less than books and schooling, though in a different way, they draw forth and discipline the mental powers. The mind of the proprietor is always active, and therefore is being elevated, while that of the day labourer is passive, and therefore depressed. Thirdly, it is not only an intellectual, but also a moral training. It cultivates the virtues of prudence, temperance, self-control. And if in some cases these qualities are carried too far, and the small landowner becomes saving even to niggardliness, this he esteems a small evil compared with the temptations of the day labourer, living from hand to mouth, and hopeless of ever bettering himself—recklessness and improvidence. Lastly, he shows, at length, that such a system cultivates habits of comfort and ways of life which are the surest checks to over population—an evil to which Mr. Mill seems sensitively alive. To conclude with his own words, 'I conceive it to be established, that there is no necessary connection between peasant properties and an imperfect state of the arts of production; that it is favourable in quite as many respects an it is unfavourable to the most effective men of the powers of the soil; that no other existing state of agricultural economy has so beneficial an effect on the industry, the intelligence, the frugality, and prudence of the population, nor tends on the whole so much to discourage an improvident increase of their members; and that no existing state, there-is on the whole so favourable, both to their moral and physical welfare. Compared with the English system of cultivation by hired labour, it must be regarded as eminently beneficial to the labouring classes.’

Most of this holds, in measure, of cottar tenants and small farmers, when organized with such checks and restrictions as have been mentioned above. This last system is the nearest approach which the present state of landed property in our country admits of. And we have seen that Mr Stewart and Mr. Hope together bear witness that it draws forth and cherishes the same habits and virtues, as Mr. Mill’s authorities attribute to the peasant landowners of foreign countries. No doubt the tenancies have one great drawback, from which the proprietorships are free. They presuppose, for their beneficial working, landlords liberal and wise enough to have regard to the interests of the people on their estates, and to see that the prosperity of these is one with their own. And the same sage political economist warns us, that ‘it is never safe to expect that a class or body of men will act in opposition to their immediate pecuniary interest.’ As an abstract maxim, this is no doubt true. But, looking at facts, no one can help seeing that the happiness or misery of a peasantry on any estate always have been, and probably always will be, in some real measure dependent on the presence or absence in the landlord of the will and the wisdom to befriend them. And therefore we can but appeal to their sense of enlightened self interest, of patriotism, and of duty. We can but ask them to look earnestly at the condition of the rural population, and to consider whether they have not been suffering one of the worthiest peasantries on earth to go to the wall, and the fashionable rage for exclusively large farms, which bring to them no present advantage but easily collected rents, and must in the end entail sure and irreparable loss, by driving the best blood of the rural districts to foreign lands, and deteriorating what remains.

Since these remarks were in type, a public meeting has been held in Edinburgh, under the highest auspices, for considering the condition of the rural labourers of Scotland. All the speeches, whether of landlords or tenants, delivered at that meeting, as well as the letter of Lord Kinnaird published since in the newspapers, confirm the views which have been advanced in this paper, so far as the houses of farm labourers are concerned. But better houses, though very important, are but one step towards the elevation of the farmer. The necessity of a proportion of small holdings was hardly hinted at; and even the remarks made by Mr. Stewart on the Annandale scheme, fell flat on the meeting, and did not strike home. We feel it therefore more than ever a duty to appeal to the landowners of the country in favour of a scheme which shall give scope to the latent worth and industry of the men who live and die toiling on their estates It was on cottage holdings and on small farms, not in dwellings of day labourers, that the men were reared, who, for generations, have been the very salt of our land. And who can tell how much of that worth was bound up with these very tenures and the permanency of these homes? For, as was well said at the Edinburgh meeting, 'a man’s house is not merely his shelter from the elements and the scene of his affections, but it is also the mould from which his social habits and, in a great extent, his moral feelings, are cast.’ To help, in some measure, to form that mould, in which the moral being of immortal men is cast, is the high privilege and deep responsibility with which landlords are for a while entrusted. A grave enough stewardship it is to exercise in any country and over any human beings; more grave in our land, when we think from what ancestry these poor men are sprung, and of what stuff they themselves are made. These are they whose forefathers in old time kept Scotland free. Among them were born those stern sons of the Covenant who made good for us another, a not less noble freedom. These are the men from whose hearts and homes were breathed our old Scottish songs, and who were the first to sing many of our sweetest melodies. From them were sprung Burns and Carlyle, and many more of lesser name—men in whose inmost hearts were graven the virtues of their order, transfigured by the light of genius. Among these it was that Scott found the originals of all his best and most lifelike protraits—those which will longest survive and go farthest to immortalize his name. And in such little farms and permanent cottage holdings, all Scotland over, more than anywhere else, there has lived and there still lives, dumb and inaudible, the great mass of worth and wisdom, of which some small samples only have yet found utterance in books. Is it nothing that such a race should be swept ruthlessly away, depressed into mere day’s-wagemen, or driven to foreign lands?

The landlord who lumps his land into a few large farms, and merely lives on their rents, whether at his own seat or at a distance, throws away a noble opportunity of usefulness, and converts himself into a mere superfluous functionary—a veritable ‘burden on the land.’ But he, who regulates the distribution of his farms on wise and humane principles, holding an even balance between the great tenant and the small, and giving scope to the energies of each, not only secures his own permanent interests on a surer basis, but adds something at least to the sum of those healing and benign agencies which both brighten and better the condition of mankind.


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