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Page:Economic Development in Denmark Before and During the World War.djvu/34

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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN DENMARK

an act of 1854. There followed, in 1861 and 1872, two acts introducing various improvements in the leases of those who remained leaseholders, and several others concerning sales. It was provided that a landowner who sold land in lease might freely dispose of a part of it, in order, for instance, to form new estates. The result was that in a short time only a few thousand leaseholds were left, while still a large number of houses were rented or let. For freeholders no legislation was necessary. The times were good, the prices of grain were high and the value of land was increasing.

Less favourable, however, were the circumstances of the farm labourers, who were very poorly paid. Wages rose about the middle of the century, to be sure, but not rapidly enough to keep pace with the increasing cost of commodities. The farmers helped their hands along to some extent by their customary gifts, but the condition of labourers in general was little to be envied; and when old age came, the poorhouse was often their only recourse. But to all this the legislature paid little attention. In 1854 it passed a Servants' Act which protected the servants in various ways and abolished the earlier regulation whereby children of peasants were obliged to enter into service. Shortly before the introduction of the Free Constitution an ordinance had been issued (1848) which was designed to improve the condition of cottars and lodgers and abolish the master's right of punishment. The owner of a house was thereby prevented from exacting any work of a person who rented his house but was not in his regular service. But beyond this the legislature did not go.

As the populations of the towns increased, the living conditions of the lower classes grew worse and worse. In the middle of the century the housing question in Copenhagen as most discouraging. Little attention was paid to the unhealthy condition of the overcrowded tenements in some quarters of the city, and still less to other evils resulting from it. The cholera epidemic in 1853 created some alarm, to be sure, but did not lead to the adoption of any vigorous