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statement is, of course, only a generalisation, subject to many local variations and qualifications; but it gains in significance if we remember that at this very period when the commons were disappearing, the domestic industries carried on in so many rural districts were being destroyed by the advent of machinery.
We are now in a position to understand the relationship between the Agrarian Revolution and the rural exodus. It has often been contended that rural depopulation was the price paid for agricultural progress, and the defence of large-scale farming made by some of its chief contemporary advocates has seemed to support this view. Arthur Young, for instance, in his Political Arithmetic, wrote : The soil ought to be applied to that use in which it will pay most, without any idea of population. A farmer ought not to be tied down to bad husbandry, whatever may become of population.' Enclosures, in particular, have been regarded as a direct cause of depopulation. The careful investigation, however, which this contention has received in recent years leaves little doubt that the balance of evidence is against it. It is true that when enclosed land was put for the first time into permanent pasture, local depopulation was sometimes the result, but the main purpose of the enclosures of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was improved tillage, and at that period, previous to the introduction of agricultural machines, arable farming on a large commercial scale, and stock-rearing, when associated with the extensive cultivation of root-crops, demanded a great deal of labour. In many instances, as, for example, in the classical case of Coke's Holkham Estate, the new improvements clearly provided employment for a much larger number of labourers than before, when the land was badly cultivated or not cultivated at all. The majority of the districts most affected by the changes show a large increase of population between 1801 and 1851.
But indirectly the Agrarian Revolution was unquestionably one of the vital factors in the rural exodus of the second half of the century. It profoundly altered the structure of agricultural society. It greatly reduced the number of independent or semiindependent cultivators. It enfeebled, and in some districts almost eliminated, the class of yeomen and small freeholders, who at an earlier period had been considered the bulwark of rural England. It increased the number of landless labourers, and made the money-wage the sole measure of their interest in remaining in or leaving their native district.
The ultimate effects of these changes were certainly intensified by the vicious poor-la'w policy in vogue during the forty years or so previous to the Act of 1834. The system of supplementing wages out of the rates, which originated in a philanthropic desire to assist the poor in a period of exceptionally high prices, had far
reaching consequences on the constitution of rural society. Its main features are so well known that it is only necessary here to emphasise three results which very materially concern the present inquiry. (1) The class most adversely affected was precisely that which had been hardest hit by the agrarian revolution-viz. the yeomen and small farmers. The large farmers not only for the most part escaped injury, but in many cases derived actual benefit from the “ Allowance System.' Under that system a wages-scale was fixed on the basis of the price of bread and the size of the labourer's family, and when the money-wage fell short of the required standard the deficit was made good out of the rates. The reduction of wages and the employment of paupers in preference to free labourers were the natural consequences. The employers of paupers,' says the 1834 report, ‘are attached to the system, which enables them to dismiss and resume their labours according to their daily want of them; to reduce wages to the minimum of what will support an unmarried man, and to throw upon others the payment of a part. The small farmer and yeoman, who
' employed little or no labour, gained nothing by the reduction of the wages bill, but had, on the other hand, to pay their full share of the rates, gradually reaching a colossal figure; they were, in fact, actually assisting to pay for the labour of the large farmer, with whom they were already competing on unequal terms. Thus was the class of small, independent cultivators still further depleted.
(2) Almost equally serious were the consequences for the free labourer, who suffered not merely from the high rates, but from the reduction of wages, and who, indeed, in cases where subsidised labour was present in such quantity that it could meet the whole demand, was unable to find employment at all.
(3) While life was becoming increasingly difficult for the free labourer it was becoming increasingly easy for the pauper. He was now secure of maintenance whatever the quality of his work, and as a result of the allowance system all motives tending to restrain his early or improvident marriage, or his rearing a large family, were removed. There naturally followed from this policy not only a marked deterioration in the morale and capacity of the labourers in the pauperised districts, but also an increase in their numbers, which bore no relation to the opportunities for employment in agriculture. But the drastic reform of the poor law in 1834, involving the virtual withdrawal of outdoor relief, threw the majority of these labourers upon their own resources, and made their continuance in the country districts depend entirely upon the demand for their services. There was now nothing to prevent the effects of the Agrarian Revolution in severing the ties which had once attached a large proportion of the peasantry, whether small yeomen or cottiers, to the soil of a particular locality, from
becoming apparent. Agricultural labour from this time forward was certain to migrate freely under any economic pressure.
It was precisely this pressure which the forces affecting the general position of English agriculture in the middle of the nineteenth century supplied. As the system of large farming, brought into existence by the changes already described, became gradually stereotyped, the demand for labour ceased to increase. The transitional period, affording additional employment in connexion with the bringing of new land into cultivation and the adoption of the new methods of cultivation, was over. Improvements indeed continued to be made, but after the Repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 and the withdrawal of agricultural protection, they were mainly in the direction of reducing expenditure. Even before the great crisis of the 'seventies, before America had yet begun seriously to threaten our staple forms of production, foreign competition was sufficiently severe to limit the further expansion of English agriculture and to compel the utmost economy of labour. But at this very period the field of industrial employment was being immensely widened. Industries of every kind were feeling the benefit of Peelite finance and of the removal of duties which, by limiting the introduction of foreign agricultural produce into England, had deprived most European countries of the power of purchasing our manufactures. The hungry forties 'gave place to the roaring fifties.' The relative remuneration of agricultural and industrial employment rapidly changed. The power of the towns to absorb and maintain wage-labourers was increased at the very time that several causes had combined to limit the number which could be supported in the country. The removal of the surplus implied the beginnings of rural depopulation. The census of 1851 showed that it was imminent. The census of 1861 recorded the first definite decrease in the majority of rural districts.
THE VARIATION IN THE RATE AND DISTRIBUTION OF THE DECLINE
IN THE POPULATION OF THE RURAL DISTRICTS
The aspect of the problem indicated by the above heading is one which deserves considerably more attention than it has usually received, for in the direct relationship which can be shown to have existed between a particular type of agricultural organisation and a particular movement of population we have an important clue to what is likely to happen in the future. The tables on page 177 are intended to illustrate this relationship, and frequent reference will be made to them in the course of the following argument.
English agriculture had, of course, never presented a uniform appearance over the whole country, but the Agrarian Revolution,
by permitting the land to be put to the uses for which it was best fitted, had led to much greater specialisation than before, so that, as the nineteenth century progressed, the leading types of agricultural economy became more clearly differentiated, both in distinctive characteristics and in distinctive localisation.
We have, firstly, the corn-growing type, predominant in the Eastern plain of England, which, as a geographical region, includes the greater part of Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, and the East Riding of Yorkshire. This region, by virtue of its soil, its dry climate, and relatively high proportion of sunshine, is as a whole distinguished for its adaptability to arable farming, and is unsuited for pasture. It was precisely the region where large-farming and the reclamation of waste land had been most in evidence, and where the class of small cultivators had been most depleted. Moreover, the region as a whole is so far removed from the great urban centres that, even if its physical conditions were other than they are, it could not easily compete with districts like Cheshire in large-scale dairyproduction.
Thus circumstanced, the counties of the Eastern plain have maintained in all essentials their original form or type of rural organisation, through all the great changes in the general position of English agriculture which the development of the New World and the revolution in the means of transporting foodstuffs over the ocean have produced. Unlike the Midland or Western counties, they could not easily change their agricultural system in response to the new conditions. Consequently no other region in England was so adversely affected by the great fall in the price of wheat and barley, which became more and more pronounced through the third and fourth quarters of the nineteenth century, for it still continued to grow these cereals as its principal commodities, and indeed at the present time produces about two-thirds of the wheat raised in the British Isles.
In these facts we have the key to the particular status and movement of agricultural labour in the Eastern counties. Before the introduction of labour-saving machinery, the demand for workers on the large arable farms in this region was considerably greater than in predominantly pasture districts like Leicestershire, but it varied much more with the seasons. The type of production which prevailed made labour employed for very limited periods, or for particular pieces of work, more economical than labour emploved by the year or half-year. Hence in the middle of the century this was very significantly the region of gang-labour. The gangs were bands of labourers, mostly women, boys, and girls, collected and organised by a contractor with whom the farmer made all the necessary arrangements. It was not a very moral
system, but from the farmer's point of view it was a very convenient one, for it enabled him to employ labour exactly as he required it. The extensive use made of the labour of women and children at this period is very significant of the conditions obtaining where this type of agriculture prevailed. It was pre-eminently characteristic of the economy of the large arable farm, and was to a great extent the result of the low wage of the normal adult male labourer-a wage insufficient to support his family, now that the allowance system was at an end, unless he sold also the labourpower of his wife and children. The average weekly wage in the middle of the nineteenth century was about 98. in the arable counties of the East, as compared with 10s. in the pasture counties of the West, and 11s. 6d. in the Northern counties. Thus even in the 'fifties and 'sixties, when the old form of husbandry was still relatively prosperous, the economic position of the labourers in the districts where it prevailed was insecure and unsatisfactory. It was to be still further undermined. The 'seventies brought the beginning, the early ’nineties the climax, of an agricultural depression which threatened the corn-growing districts with ruin. In some localities, as, for instance, in certain parts of Essex, whose derelict wheatfields were a byword twenty years ago, the land went almost completely out of cultivation, in others the farmers survived only by making use of the new agricultural machinery then coming on to the market, dispensing with hand-labour to the utmost extent.
For these reasons the rural exodus from the Eastern and Eastern-Midland counties between 1851 and 1901 assumed larger proportions than in counties where a different type of agriculture was possible. Of the five English counties whose population in which that of the towns situated in them is included) actually decreased between 1851 and 1861, three belonged to the corngrowing Eastern plain--namely, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, and Suffolk. It is interesting to notice that in this same decade, while the population of Cambridgeshire decreased by 5 per cent., that of Durha'm increased 30 per cent., and that of Glamorgan 37 per cent. In the decade 1871-1881 Cambridgeshire again showed a decrease of 5 per cent., and Huntingdonshire of no less than 8.3 per cent.
Of the registration districts whose movement of population between 1851 and 1901 is shown in the tables, the first two have been selected to illustrate what occurred in the predominantly corn-growing districts. The Kimbolton table shows the exodus at its maximum in a poor arable district. The population of a group of thirteen parishes in West Huntingdonshire, mostly situated on heavy clay land, actually decreases from 9349 in 1861 to 5991 in 1901. The Bungay figures, on the other hand, illustrate