Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/604

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
584
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

But as there has been no cessation in the growth of the mechanical industries of the United Kingdom, or in her transportation service by land or sea, or in her production of coal and iron, or in the consumption of her staple food commodities—such growth, although not increasing as it were by "leaps and bounds," as in some former periods (as during the decade from 1865 to 1875), being always in a greater ratio than her increase in population[1]—it would seem that any increase in the number of her necessarily unemployed must have been mainly derived from the one branch of her industry that has not been prosperous, namely, agriculture, in which the losses in recent years on the part alike of landlords, tenants, and farm-laborers, from decline in land and rental values, in the prices of farm products, and through reduction of wages, has been very great.[2] Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace inclines to the opinion that twenty thousand English farm-laborers, involving, with their families, a population of from sixty to eighty thousand, were, between 1873 and 1887, obliged to quit their homes, and mostly drifted to the larger cities, in consequence merely of substituting, through the increasing unprofitableness of grain-culture, pasture for arable land; and this substitution is reported as at present continuing at the rate of two hundred and sixty thousand acres per annum.

We have in these facts, furthermore, a clew to the cause of the increased discontent in recent years in Ireland. If the Irish tenantry could pay the rent demanded by the landlords, and at the same time achieve for themselves a comfortable subsistence, there would be no necessity for extraordinary governmental interference on their behalf; and this was what, prior to the years 1873-'75, the prices of farm products—especially of all dairy products—enabled the better class

    do,'" the meaning of which was that every occupation in London, in the opinion of the speaker, was full.

  1. The ratio of increase in the population of the United Kingdom between 1875 and 1885 was about 10 per cent. During the same period the increase in the production of coal was 20 per cent; in pig-iron, 16 per cent; in railway receipts from goods-traffic per head of population, 18 per cent; in shipping engaged in foreign trade, 33 per cent; in consumption of tea per head, 131/2 per cent; in sugar per head, 19 per cent.
  2. "The agricultural returns for Great Britain tell us that, from 1873 to 1884, the quantity of arable land in the country has decreased considerably more than a million acres. The reason of this is chiefly that landlords haring farms thrown on their hands, and being unable to obtain fresh tenants, find it the most economical method to lay down the land in permanent pasture, which requires the minimum of labor, superintendence, and expenditure to work. This in part explains the forced exodus of the agricultural laborers no longer required to cultivate the land thus laid down. About twenty-five laborers are required on an arable farm of one thousand acres, while probably five would be ample on the same quantity of pasture; and we should have a diminution of twenty thousand laborers from the change of cultivation which has taken place, or, with their families, a population of sixty or eighty thousand, which, from this cause alone, have been obliged to quit their homes, and have mostly drifted hopelessly to the great towns." In addition, a large number of farms "are now, and have been for some years, lying absolutely waste and uncultivated."—Bad Times, Alfred Russel Wallace, London, 1885.