Page:The Economic Journal Volume 1.djvu/92

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72

THE ECONOMIC JOURNAL

which allows him no room for free and independent action, which subjects his nominal proprietorship to constant communal control, and his husbandry to the jealous oversight of neighbours whose strips of land are intermixed with his own and whose cattle have common rights over it during part of the year. He still lives on in a sort of serfdom to immemorial usage enforced by sanctions the penalties of which he dare not brave. He lacks the spirit and the independence of the typical peasant proprietor, and therefore remains what he is from generation to generation.

Bearing this in mind, the question is not, I think, an unimportant one in French economic history. To what factor is mainly to be attributed the strange tenacity of feeling and of purpose which binds together the French peasantry in each commune in a solidarity so perfect that it has survived for a hundred years the legislation of the French Revolution?

Was it the long-continued manorial control, which, when abolished, left the peasantry free only in name, and still subject in habit and feeling to the restraints of what once had been serfdom? Or was it not much more the result of the open field system of husbandry, which, arising out of the peculiar needs and methods of earlier tribal life, was adopted under Roman and Frankish manorial management, and perpetuated itself in spite of the removal a hundred years ago of surviving manorial elements?

Surely the answer to this question must mainly rest upon another question, viz. to which system did these elements belong which have survived?

The answer is, the two elements which survive, and which to this day are perpetuated by the custom and common feeling of the peasant communities, are the two main elements of the ancient open field system, viz. the scattered ownership in the strips forming a holding and the vaine pâture over them after the removal of the crops, to the prevalence of which the communal maps and the Usages Locaux of the corn-growing districts of France so generally testify.

F. Seebohm