enumerators; these schedules were circulated amongst the occupants of land ; and when filled up, they were returned to the enumerators, who examined and returned them to Mr. Maxwell, by whom they were tabulated. But here a difficulty at once presented itself. The farmers, although willing to send the filled-up schedules to Mr. Maxwell, whom they respected as one who had rendered many disinterested services to the agriculture of Scotland, manifested great repugnance to place the schedules under the ken of any neighbouring farmers, whether called enumerators or committee-men. This jealousy was exhibited everywhere, but particularly in the pastoral or grazing districts—as if the stock-farmers wished to conceal from each other the numbers of their live-stock. Mr. Maxwell, in communicating to the Committee of the House of Lords the results of his experience, pointed out another difficulty which beset his path among the Scotch graziers :-" In the Schedule there was no question put to any tillage-farmers with regard to the produce of his crops, the acreage of these crops being taken as a basis for their yield; but for the sake of getting the information I required, I was obliged to ask the sheep-farmer to tell the number of his sheep, which is the measure by which his rent is supposed to be tested. I had, therefore, more trouble with him than with his low-country brother. I had to hold meetings in various parts of Roxburgh and Haddington, and I had to go to Golspie in Sutherland. Until the matter was explained, there was a strong disposition against affording the information ; but this disappeared when farmers were assured that individual returns would not be published, and that the printed Report would indicate the gross stock --not of one estate, or one parish—but of a large district comprising many parishes." ;

Mr. Maxwell found that the farmers, and especially the graziers or stock-farmers, were so much more willing to communicate with him than with any of their farming neighbours, in this delicate matter, that he modified his plan in 1854, abandoning the mode of passing the schedules through the hands of the enumerators. The schedule itself was thus made out :- The occupant was asked to state, first, the total number of acres on his farm; then the number of these which were arable. Another entry was to indicate the manner in which the farm was subdivided that is, the acreage of every crop, of fallow, grass, sheep-walk, waste, roads, fence, &c. The return of timber on each farm or holding was obtained from the landowners, and not from the occupiers. The schedule also contained columns for the entry of stock, where the property was held by a stock-farmer. The difference between the tillage-fariner and the stock-farmer in this respect may be thus expressed—the tillagefarmer, by giving the acreage under each kind of culture, affords the means for estimating approxiniately, if not exactly, the amount of crop; but the acreage of a sheep-farm tells nothing concerning the number of sheep on it; and on this account the stock-farmer was asked to schedule the number of his live-stock. Many of those persons are ignorant of the number of acres which they hold—so unimportant are a few acres, or even a few hundred acres, in a large sheep-farm in a low-rented district. If there was more difficulty in

winning the good will of the stock-farmer than the arable-farmer, there. was less to do when once the schedule was filled up; for the computer had merely to add up the individual returns in each district, and to put the results of different details together, in order to show the stock of a county. But a more onerous duty presented itself in respect to the schedules from the tillage-farmers. Mr. Maxwell wished to arrive at the average yield of crops. Although he had received from every occupant a return of the acreage of his holding, and of the mode in which that acreage was subdivided into wheat, barley, oats, &c.—such a return did not state how many bushels per acre had been raised. After much consideration Mr. Maxwell decided, that as he was not armed with legal right to demand information, it was better to abstain from all direct questioning of the farmer on this delicate point. What was to be done? The bushels of crop per acre were the very items which were most desirable of attainment, and unless details on this point could be obtained, the statistics would lose half their value. An aggregate of indirect means was employed as a substitute for simple direct means. The enumerator of a district, and his committee, received instructions “ to keep their eyes open” during the summer; to observe how the crops were looking; to inspect their respective parishes ; and to ascertain their neighbours' opinions as to the prospects of the harvest. By such a course of inquiry, commenced while the crop was growing, continued when it was cut, after it had been stacked, and down to the time when it was thrashed and weighed, each committee-man was enabled to form an estimate, more or less correct, according to circumstances, of the probable average yield per acre of each grain and root crop in the parish. The enumerator then summoned his committee or jury together; they compared notes for the different parishes, struck an average for the district, and finally placed in the hands of Mr. Maxwell the result of their opinions on the whole subject.

This plan was peculiar, and could only be applicable among intelligent men, who placed much confidence in the person who had the management of the inquiry ; it would scarcely be suited to a regular systematic statistical inquiry. For the office of enumerator was selected a farmer of knowledge and experience, supposed to possess influence with his brother farmers. Mr. Maxwell was empowered by the Government to remunerate the enumerators aird committee-men for their services. The schedules were issued on the 1st of May; the report for acreage and stock was made on the 25th of July; and the report for crops on the 19th of November,

The experience of 1853, while it pointed out certain defects in the mode of proceeding, unquestionably showed the importance of such inquiries; and arrangements were made for a furtherance of the same work in 1854. Early in that year, the Duke of Buccleuch, Mr. Maxwell, and other members of the Highland Society, had an interview with Mr. Cardwell and other members of the Board of Trade, and agreed on a plan of proceeding. A calculation was made, that to put into operation over the whole of Scotland, an inquiry similar to

at which had been tried experimentally in three counties, would

entail a cost of about 60001.—a sumn which the Government gladly placed at the disposal of the Society, and which would assuredly be well laid out if the statistics obtained were at all trustworthy. Two changes were introduced in the mode of proceeding. In the first place, the schedules were issued directly by, and made returnable to, Mr. Maxwell, without the detailed contents becoming known to other persons. In the second place, the limit of inquiry was somew hat changed; in 1853 the schedules had been sent to all occupiers down to the holders of two acres each ; but in 1854 it was deemed more useful to establish the limit by rental rather than area ; and this liinit was—201. per annum rental for holdings in seven Highland counties; and 101. in twenty-six Lowland counties. It was not deemed necessary to go below these figures. But then the question arose-shall the very small holdings be omitted altogether? This would obviously render the statistics incomplete. Mr. Maxwell afterwards found that there are no fewer than 42,000 of these small occupiers, below the rank of those to whom schedules were sent; and it was plainly necessary to get at some sort of estimate concerning them, rough though it might be. Mr. Maxwell found this the hardest part of his task. “I obtained information,” he says, “ in various ways. I desired every enumerator to lodge a list of all the landowners in his district on whose estates such small occupants were located; I wrote to those proprietors or to their factors in cases where I knew that the proprietor was non-resident-having a general acquaintance all over Scotland, I had the means of doing so. I collected a great number of returns from cstate books, estate plans and agents, and from the proprietors themselves; and likewise from the parochial inspectors of the poor, where the legal assessment was in operation. Sometimes I collected them by means of the enumerators and committee-men."

The results were obtained " with considerable expense and much · labour;" but Mr. Maxwell “ is quite satisfied with the sufficiency of

the agency, whatever it might be, in the different districts, which was employed for the purpose.” He thinks it will not be necessary to make such an investigation again, at least for several years; and that the produce of the small or croft-holdings of Scotland in 1854 may be used as a basis for 1855 and other years.

We come now to the inquiry made by the Committee of the House of Lords in 1855. All parties being of opinion that voluntary statements will go but little way towards the embodiment of agricultural statistics throughout the whole country, a question arises—in what way can the Government or the Legislature most effectively take up that subject? Shall there be an Act of Parliament; and if this be necessary, what shall be its provisions, how far shall it extend, and by what body shall the agricultural statistics be collected ?

Not the least important part of this inquiry is—Will the farmers give honest returns concerning their crops and holdings ? Farmers have the reputation, at least among the traders in many towns, of being slow to shake off old prejudices; and it yet remains a doubt how far they would receive in a friendly spirit, applications which might appear too inquisitive as regards meum and tuum. The Committee deemed it important to ascertain whether the slight statistics hitherto obtained had been given willingly and cheerfully by the farmers; and it may be interesting to group here a few of the results of experience in this matter.

Mr. Farnall, one of the Poor Law inspectors, was employed in 1854 to collect agricultural statistics in the county of York, under the orders of the Poor Law Commissioners. He found such a general disposition to assist him, on the part both of the landed proprietors and the occupiers, that he obtained 993 per cent, of all the returns for which he applied ; the Board of Guardians were willing to assist, in so far as the inquiry was a matter of temporary experiment; but many of the guardians considered that, as a part of a permanent system, some other machinery than those boards should be employed. Mr. Farnall found that many of the agriculturists had an impression, that one purpose of obtaining such statistics is to enable the Governa ment to impose fresh taxation on them; and he points out that, to remove this impression as much as possible, the collection of the returns should not be intrusted to the tax-gatherer--a course adopted in some instances. Mr. Miles, M.P., stated that he deemed it " ridiculous to attempt to get agricultural statistics voluntarily;" he had found that “ among the higher class of farmers, and those even of small holdings, there has been no objection whatever evinced to what they call a fair showing of their holdings, yet, when you came to inquire particular details, they have the greatest objection to give them." When the Board of Guardians of the Devizes Union appointed a Committee to collect the statistics, the Committee “ entered their protest against any inquiries respecting agricultural stock and produce, as unjust and injurious to the cultivators of the land, unless conducted in such a manner as to prevent the exposure of their private affairs." The Committee appointed by the Marlborough Union gave like expression to the unwillingness to submit to minute inquiries :-" If the several occupiers could have been assured that the returns of individuals would have been destroyed here when the aggregate of the parishes should have been made up, nearly the whole would have been completed by the occupiers themselves.” In the same Union a meeting of influential farmers was held, in which a very strong feeling was expressed against making any public return of separate holdings; there was “ no objection to have a private meeting (at which the enumerators might attend) in their respective parishes, and to make a joint return for the whole parish in one schedule, or for three or more persons to make their return in a joint schedule.” Mr. Miles pointed out a particular limit beyond which the farmers would “kick,” even though the inquiry were officially made ; supposing you obtain a return, about Mayor June, of the number of acres under each kind of crop in each farm; you may make your own estimate, if you please, of the probable quantities to be obtained for these crops at the next harvest, but you must not expect the farmer to give you his estimate-he would reply, “ It is impossible to form any estimate which may be relied upon; and next, we object not only that the public should know the produce of our farms, but likewise that our landlords should know it." Mr. Miles, himself. a landowner in an agricultural district, puts into the following words

the thoughts which would prevail in the minds of farmers, if too much at once were attempted by the Government :-“Bless my soul ! this will lay open to our landlords immediately whether we have sufficient stock, or too little stock, on our holdings; it would show the landlord what the length of our purse is; and on that account, in all probability, we shall not be so well treated as we should be if our landlord's were perfectly ignorant of the quantity of stock which we possess.” A fear of the landlord seems to be much more powerful than a fear of the public, in deterring the farmers from making explicit returns. Indeed, this is a monetary question in the eyes of the farmer, although he may not always be accurate in drawing his inferences respecting the advantages of ignorance. Mr. Peirson, a gentleman-farmer of Suffolk, who endeavoured to obtain agricultural statistics among his neighbours, found a rooted objection among some of the larger farmers. He stated, in answer to a question by the Committee, “I am quite aware of their objections. An increased outlay of capital upon their farms, and perhaps the adoption of many of the more recent improvements in agriculture, had increased their stock during the last ten years to a great extent, and they did not like that to be generally known.”

“ You found upon their part an apprehension that if the real state of the circumstances should be made known, advantage would be taken of that knowledge by their landlords?

" There is no doubt of it.”

Mr. Pigott, Poor Law Inspector, met with just the same kind of difficulties in Berkshire. "I might instance," he says, “ the district round Wantage, which is one of the best cultivated districts, and the most important in an agricultural point of view, in central England; there the failure was greater than in any other part of the county of Berks, from the absolute unwillingness of the occupiers to lend themselves to the measure at all. There seemed to be a jealousy, a fear, probably, that the return might be used, either by the landlords or by the Government, to their prejudice ; certainly there was a vis inertia, which defeated the most strenuous efforts on my part, and, I believe, on that of my colleagues.”

It is needless to accumulate further proofs of the prevalent feeling among the farmers of England. The general impression is, that any agricultural statistics, to be at all complete and trustworthy, must be compulsory, that is, must be in accordance with some statute expressly passed for the purpose. If the farmer may select whether he will be communicative or not, the number of those who hold back will be so considerable as to diminish greatly the value of the returns generally. Supposing the returns to be compulsory, there yet remains to decide by what machinery they shall be collected, and to what degree of minuteness they shall descend; but that the system must be made governmental, and not left merely to the operation of any society or non-official individuals, was the opinion of nearly all the witnesses examined by the Committee. This belongs to the class of subjects which England has been called upon to consider very frequently during the last twenty years—whether the central government shall take the reins and control all cities and all

« ElőzőTovább »