페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

which has of late found more ways than one of uttering itself, • Neither the enjoyment nor the capacity of producing musical notes are faculties of the least direct use to man in reference to his ordinary habits of life'?

ART. VI.-1. Village-Communities in the East and West.

Sis Lectures, delivered at Oxford, by Henry Sumner Maine, Corpus Professor of Jurisprudence in the University, &c.

London, 1871. 2. On the Agricultural Community of the Middle Ages, and

Inclosures of the Sixteenth Century in England. Translated from the German of E. Nasse, by Colonel H. A. Ouvry. Published under the sanction of the Cobden Club. London,

1871. 3. Les Ouvriers Européens. Études sur les Travaux, la Vie

Domestique et la Condition Morale des Populations Ouvrières de l'Europe, fc. Par M. F. Le Play. Paris, 1855. A VILLAGE-COMMUNITY may be roughly defined as a A group of families, settled on a tract of land which maintains them, and which they hold on the principle of common ownership, more or less fully in practical operation. Recent researches have shown that society, becoming consolidated in the agricultural stage, began in very early ages to organize itself into such village-communities. To investigate the history of this now unfamiliar social institution is no profitless antiquarian task, but a problem of practical importance. The beginnings of the inquiry lie, indeed, in dark places of ancient history, but its ends reach into the midst of our modern life. The peasantry of ancient England habitually lived in village-communities, and our land laws cannot be rightly understood without the consideration that this early state of society underlay what is called the feudal system. Our dominion of India is still, in no small measure, organized in villagecommunities, so that á knowledge of their constitution is essential to a sound judgment in Indian affairs. Moreover, the history of these ancient agricultural associations bears stringently on certain modern projects of a communistic possession and cultivation of land-schemes confidently advocated as a cure for the evils of our present social system. From this point of view it is a matter of no slight or distant interest to observe that a large fraction of mankind has been engaged for many centuries in experimenting, in the strictest practical way, on the social and

economic economic results of a more or less communistic land-tenure. It is not to be thought, however, that because the theory of villagecommunities is important to professional lawyers and statesmen, it must be obscure or dull to laymen. It is high time that Sir Henry Maine's reproach against his countrymen, as exceptionally wanting in knowledge of and popular interest in law, should be done away with. He himself, in his lectures on · Ancient Law,' published ten years since, has done much-more than he thinks, perhaps—to remove it. Neither he, nor any other writer equal to the task of tracing the development and expounding the philosophy of law in the plain language of the historian, is likely to complain henceforth that readers are either few or careless. Sir Henry Maine's present course of lectures on · VillageCommunities' has, indeed, little of the conventional technical character of a law-book. Printed much as they were delivered, his discourses are lightened by frequent digressions, always instructive and sometimes most brilliant. Far from overloading his arguments with heavy details, he even goes too far in suppressing them; so that it may be fairly suggested that in future editions a larger appendix should give positive particulars of village organizations in such typical districts as Russia and India-details which actual students require to have before them, but which are as yet by no means easy of access. Still, as to the general theory of the subject, the treatise, as it stands, is perfect in its scope. Bringing compactly together the results of researches by Maurer, Nasse, and others, the author connects them with his own work into a whole. He offers a rational explanation of the origin of the village-community, a history of the process of 'feudalization' which has so generally modified it, and a sufficient statement of the causes which have everywhere tended to supersede it by social arrangements more suited to advanced civilization. afterwards erected with the consent of the town. The commoners thus became a kind of aristocracy, and the common lands were gradually divided up. Sir Henry Maine aptly winds up his argument by citing this remarkable case as typical of the history of village-communities in ancient Europe and modern India, illustrating at once their origin, their arrangement, and the causes which lead to their ultimate dissolution.

In speaking of an explanation offered by Sir Henry Maine for the origin of the barbaric village-community, it is not meant that he advocates the views of the influential modern school of ethnologists, who seek the origin of society in an utterly low primitive condition of man, whence a course of simply natural development, acting through a vast period of time, is supposed to have raised him to higher social levels. Our author's startingpoint, in defining the primitive family tie, differs extremely from that taken by Mr. J. F. M‘Lennan, in his · Primitive Marriage,' and accepted in a modified form by Sir John Lubbock, in his ‘Origin of Civilization. Readers of Sir Henry Maine's • Ancient Law' are aware that he receives the patriarchal theory of the primeval state of man in society. In his present Vol. 131.—No. 261.

lectures

point, ken by Mr. J. F.modified form els of Sir Henry

N

lectures he puts prominently forward, as the very basis of his argument, the patriarchal family—'a group of men and women, children and slaves, of animate and inanimate property, all connected together by common subjection to the paternal power of the chief of the household.' Far from accounting for the existence of this complex social group by evolution from a lower state, he declares that, if the patriarchal family is really to be accepted as a primary social fact, the explanation assuredly lies among the secrets and mysteries of our nature, not in any characteristics which are on its surface. Not to enter on the discussion of doctrines of the primitive condition of societydoctrines which, whether right or wrong, are not to be disposed of by a passing touch of criticism-we will here only express surprise that Sir Henry Maine should be so little inclined to simplify his theory of early society as to include (or seem to include) slavery as one of its primitive institutions. Surely, starting with the existence of simple families, then war between them, and the capture of prisoners, furnish an obvious natural cause capable of converting the earlier and simpler clan of kinsfolk into the later and more complex group of freemen and slaves. Within the present special subject, however, diverse theories of the origin of society scarcely clash. If it be disputed how patriarchal families arose in the world, it is admitted on all hands that they have existed from the remotest historic ages, and exist still. Thus Sir Henry Maine sets a firm foot on ground common to all schools of ethnology, when, taking for granted the patriarchal family, he makes his next step by treating it as the unit of a larger natural group—the village-community.

The patriarchal family, on the death of its chief, tends to separate into a group of families, each under its head of the next generation. Let a patriarchal family, occupying a tract of land in pasture and tillage, thus in a few generations separate naturally into a group of households, but without dividing the common-land. Or, let several households emigrate together to occupy in common an outlying tract. The result, in either case, is a village-community, and the circumstances and needs of a simple agricultural life are so similar, that a fairly general definition may be given of its arrangement. It is not an unexampled custom even now, and it may have been frequently a transitional stage, for the arable land to be tilled jointly for the common profit. But it is usual to find the arable land more or less permanently apportioned out in plots among the households, while the ground left in forest and waste remains enjoyed in absolute commonty by the villagers. Such arrangements, though especially prevalent among nations of the Aryan race,

[ocr errors]

onomy

on the bee origir

are not confined to them. To show the general likeness among these simple associations, founded by whatever race, in whatever country, and at whatever period of history, we may briefly cite two accounts, describing the settlements of Tatars in East Russia at the present day, and of English yeomen colonizing North America in the seventeenth century. In the magnificent treatise of Le Play (a collection of evidence on the various conditions of industrial society which we commend to the study of all political economists) * will be found a description of the social economy of the Bashkir village-communities in the forest clearings on the eastern slopes of the Ural. As belonging to a Tatar race whose original character is that of pastoral nomades, these Bashkirs represent, in an interesting manner, an early stage of settled life. During half the year they follow, on the mountains, their ancient pastoral habit, not wandering indeed at large, but the villagers of each settlement keeping to the summer pasture which now belongs to it.

The other half year is spent in the home village, and here each household has attained to absolute property in its house and immediately adjacent garden. But the arable land and the hayfields are in the intermediate state. It is true they are parcelled out among the families, but their original condition of common land is shown by the village council not only assigning to new families new plots from the village reserve, but actually taking away and throwing back into the reserve any plots on which a family has for several years raised no crop. With the social scheme of these simple and lazy half-nomade barbarians may be compared that which arose among a people of vastly different type. So well did the principle of the village-community seem adapted to the needs of new agricultural settlements, that it was adopted by the English emigrants who colonized New England. When a town was organized, the process was that the General Court granted a tract of land to a company of persons, who then proceeded so far to divide it as to assign to the individual proprietors their house-lots and tracts of meadow, while they retained the woodland and outlying pasture as the common property of the company. In the barbaric world, village-communities thus set on foot might have lasted for ages. But in New England the disintegrating influences of our modern social scheme, with its pressure of population, its tendency to change, and its habits of individuality, were fatal to this antique constitution. Within half a century the law had to limit the privilege of commonage to houses already in being, or to be

[ocr errors][merged small]

Now in these modern accounts we find the key to one of the greatest facts of European history. The ancient Teutonic agricultural settlement of Northern Europe was, on the whole, made on the principle of the village-community. How it took shape in Scandinavia is well described by Hyltén-Cavallius, the Swedish ethnologist, in his account of the ancient land-tenure: From the oldest times, he says, and so long as the Gothic tribes remained half-nomade clans, all the land taken up remained as common and undivided clan-land. But when in time permanent agriculture came to be added to cattle-breeding and the shifting tillage of patches of fire-cleared land, they began gradually to divide that part of the tract which had previously been tilled as a whole as odal-land, but which, now separated into lots, became the heritage of the different households, what was not odal-land remaining undivided as the common pasture and woodland, and the enclosed but still undivided land likewise retaining the character of common property. The Scandinavian .by,' or township, is a relic of the old Teutonic community. The village-commoners were originally a family, gradually formed into an independent group or tribe, and their whole enclosed tract was the tribe-land. This was long enjoyed in common, but at last was parcelled out in lots according to the number of households, which lots became heritable within the family, and were extremely subdivided. The out-mark of the township, on the other hand, continued to be used in common by the townsmen for pasture and supply of wood, and the bys, with their subdivided in-fields and undivided out-mark, took a character of partly maintained and partly broken-up commonty, which they have often kept to our own day.* Years ago Sir Walter Scott met with remains of this old Scandinavian land-tenure in Shetland, and it is curious to see how the able lawyer and antiquary was puzzled by them, wanting, as he did, the key to decipher them by, the knowledge that they were relics of a primitive state of society fast falling away. Sir Henry Maine quotes an extract from his journal :

• I cannot get a distinct idea of the nature of the land-rights. The Udal proprietors have ceased to exist, yet proper feudal tenures seem

* G. O. Hyltén-Cavallius Wärend och Wirdarne, ett försök i Svensk Ethnologi.' Stockholm, 1863-8, part ii., p. 290.

« 이전계속 »