Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

an area so minute that even with incessant toil he cannot produce sufficient to live on. These obstacles can be, and often are, overcome by education, voluntary co-operation, and state assistance. If the small man is to succeed he must know the latest devices in agriculture, and be able to take advantage of them. Agricultural education does the first, and the success of Holland, Denmark, and Western Germany is due largely to the splendid organization of agricultural education. But what is the use of up-to-date knowledge if one has not the capital with which to take advantage of that knowledge? Here co-operation has stepped in, and ihe manifold varieties of agricultural co-operative societies have enabled the peasant to buy in bulk, to use the best methods and machinery, to draw on the rural bank for his capital, and to sell his produce to the best advantage. (See Chapter XXVII.) Finally the state, by providing good roads, railways, canals, and cheap freights, enables the small man to get his goods to the market cheaply and quickly. Belgium, with her canals and light railways; Germany, with her canals and navigable rivers; Russia, with her daily butter train, which used to bring 500 tons every trip from the heart of Siberia—all opened the way to prosperity for their peasant owners. The success of which small owners are capable, when assisted by education, co-operation, and the state, manifested itself in the efficiency with which the agriculture of Germany was able to defy the British blockade during the war; and every European nation is agreed that the peasant proprietor class must be preserved at all costs.

The Exploitation of New Countries. The chief new areas which have been called into service to meet the wants of mankind are America and Australasia. When the United States established its independence in 1783, its 4,000,000 people were nearly all living near the eastern seaboard. Gradually, with the discovery of the vast plains of the Mississippi basin, population began to How westward. Gold took men to California (1848), and the construction of transcontinental lines had opened up most of the country by 1880. The Americans quickly devised effective means for producing and selling grain and cattle to the best advantage, and elaborate machinery and the elevator became part and parcel of American agriculture. The rapid progress of farming was due to the adoption of modern methods, scientific work, irrigation, agricultural education, and also to the fact that the country drew its rural population from the best European stock. The desirable immigrant was eagerly welcomed, and by the Homestead Act of 1862 was given 160 acres free on condition that he lived and worked on them for five years.

This scheme attracted a high class of settler, who took his 160 acres and worked thereon, aided by his family and labour-saving machinery. Hence the average size of farms in America to-day is about 160

For many years America exported vast quantities of wheat and meat, but with the rapid growth of her population all her produce was needed for home consumption. As most of her land is now occupied, the American farmer is compelled to turn from extensive to intensive culture in order to increase the yield from his soil. The wasteful methods of the past are being abandoned, and under the leadership of the government and the agricultural colleges America is finding a way to conserve her resources to the utmost. Afforestation, irrigation, artificial manures, intensive culture, dry farming, are now the order of the day in the United States. The problem of the emancipated negro is still unsolved, but with better educational facilities the negro is being more fitted for independent work in cotton production, and

acres.

are common,

the present century may see the creation of a race of negro peasant proprietors in the Southern States.

Meanwhile, the Argentine has been called upon to do her bit. Like Australia a land of vast possibilities, she quickly attracted European settlers and capital. The country was gradually covered with a network of railways, wheat-growing became a staple industry, and since the discovery of refrigerating possibilities the cattle trade has made immense progress. Unfortunately, in her development the Argentine looked little to the future. She gave away her best lands in big blocks, and estates of 150 square miles

The “eyes” of the country were speedily picked out, and the poor immigrant who goes there to-day has little chance of obtaining good land cheap or becoming an independent farmer. The Argentine has paid a big price for her development, and now finds herself faced with a mass of big landed proprietors, who strenuously resist any attempt to find room for the smaller man. The Argentine to-day is in the grip of the worst form of landed plutocracy.

Books Recommended. Ashley, W. J., “Economic Organization of Eng. land,” chap. 6; Prothero, R. E., English Farming, Past and Present”; Johnson, A. H., “Disappearance of the Small Landowner”; Levy, H., “Large and Small Holdings”; Dawson, W. H., “Evolution of Modern Germany,” chaps. 12-14; Ogg, F., “Economic Development of Modern Europe"; Baring, M., “Mainsprings of Russia''; Leroy-Beaulieu, P., “United States in 20th Century''; Hammond, J. L. and B., " The Village Labourer''; Clapham, J. H., “Economic Development of France and Germany."

[ocr errors]

66

CHAPTER III.

LAND SETTLEMENT, LEGISLATION, AND TENURE IN

AUSTRALIA.

The key to most of Australian history is the land, its exploration, use and tenure. The vast empty spaces have drawn population here; the produce of the soil has helped to build up our export trade and supply the wants of mankind; droughts, pests, and diseases have provided our scientists and engineers with big problems; the devising of satisfactory land laws has confronted governments with a difficult task. Our agrarian history falls under two headings—the use of the land and the system of land tenure. Let us begin with the former.

The Pastoral Age. When the first settlement was made in 1788 there was no intention of developing a big export trade in agricultural produce. So long as the land around Sydney supplied the wants of that community and freed the colony from dependence on tood-ships from overseas, little more was expected. But this policy became insufficient when the extent and possibilities of the country began to be realized. Macarthur's sheep and the discoveries of the early explorers opened the way for bigger things. On the one hand was the land, on the other a possible occupant, and so from 1800 for at least half-a-century wool was king. All the circumstances combined to favour a pastoral policy. Wool was wanted in unlimited quantities for the new power-looms of Yorkshire. It was the easiest commodity to produce;

the climate was suitable, the food supply adequate, and little labour was required. Therefore Macarthur's highly successful breeding experiments from 1794 onwards laid the foundations of our first great industry. In 1807 245 lb. of wool were sent to England; in 1912, 621,000,000 lb. left Australian ports. The ready market for wool soon diverted agriculturists from all other occupations. Wheat-growing was neglected in New South Wales, and Tasmania for a time became the granary of Australia. Olives, vines, flax, all were left aside; even cattle-rearing received scant attention. Wool ruled the country, shaped the land laws, fashioned society, determined men's occupations. By 1850 there were nearly 16,000,000 sheep in the continent, but so little land was cultivated that flour had to be imported.

The gold discoveries caused temporary dislocation, and brought permanent changes into rural life. For a time the scarcity of labour caused a reduction in the number of sheep and in the area under crops. But on the other hand the big increase in population expanded the demand for meat and wheat, and when the gold era ended (about 1864) many of the ex-miners turned to the land for a living. Wool still remained king, and the 20,000,000 sheep of 1860 had increased to 93,000,000 by 1911. So important had the clip become that instead of being sent to London for sale, it began to pass under the auctioneer's hammer in Australia, and buyers from all parts of the world came here to make their bids. In 1913 nearly 90 per cent. was sold locally before export, and in 1920 the local wool sales were revived.

Diversity of Production. After 1860 the supremacy of wool was challenged. The character and extent of our rural production depends on

and gave

three things—the size of the home market, the overseas demand, and the facilities for export. The industrial expansion of Europe produced the demnand for wool. It also created a vast demand for meat, but until refrigeration became commercially possible in 1882 that demand could not be met from Australia. To Australasia and the Argentine refrigeration was a godsend, for henceforth meat, butter, and fruit could be sent a six weeks' journey across the Equator and arrive ir Europe in an edible condition. Hence new big land industries were possible. The number of cattle rose from 4,000,000 in 1860 to three times that number in 1914, Queensland grew up as a cattle state, and the export of meat trebled between 1905 and 1912. Dairy farming grew popular, especially in the southern areas after 1880, while orcharding and wine production found widespread favour.

More important still was the development of agriculture. In 1818 less than 400,000 acres were being tilled; by 1871 2,350,000 acres were under the plough, and by 1916 nearly 17,000,000. This expansion was due chiefly to the rise of wheat-farming, which gradually occupied more and more of the area of the south-eastern states, and pushed the zone of cultivation into regions once regarded as the permanent preserve of sheep. The coastal belt of Queensland became a sugar plantation, while, hay, potatoes, and other crops were profitably cultivated elsewhere. Thus Australia no longer has all her eggs in one basket, and her primary products are capable of meeting practically all local requirements, with a substantial surplus for export.

Pests and Problems. The trials of the early settlers, due largely to the blacks, bushrangers, and native animals, gradually passed away, place to others no less serious. Every branch of rural production has its pests. Cattle tick, nodule worms, and tuberculosis cost Queensland alone £8,000,000 a year in cattle losses. Blowflies and footrot take heavy toll, rabbits devour vast areas of grass, etc., the prickly pear spreads over a million new acres every year. The wheat farmer has to face rust, the vigneron phylloxera, the orchardist bitter pit or codlin moth, the potato grower Irish blight. All these pests have been imported; they call for more scientific research and for energetic collaboration between the scientists and the rural producers.

The arable farmer has had two special problems to cope with. How could he counteract the scarcity and high cost of labour, and how renew the strength of the soil? The early farmers answered the first question by adopting a two-field system of alternating crop and fallow, but even then the ground became exhausted. In the nineties hard proof converted them to Mr. Lowrie's gospel of superphosphates, and to-day the application of “super’’ to wheat land is general. Crop rotations gradually became better understood, and the investigations of Farrer and Marshall led to the production of wheats which were more prolific, held the grain more firmly in the ear, and were rust-proof.

The scarcity and high cost of labour was partly overcome by the invention of agricultural machinery. The stripper-harvester made by John Ridley, an Adelaide mechanic, in 1842, enabled ten to twelve acres to be reaped in one day by one man, and reduced the cost of harvesting by threefourths. Vast improvements have since been made, and the modern Australian machine, which strips, threshes, cleans, and bags, is well known across the Pacific. Local conditions have also been responsible for the invention of the stump-jump and other ingenious ploughs.

6

The most valuable recent developments are the efforts made to overcome climatic effects. The land of Australia can be divided into two classes. (1) Land which has a sufficient rainfall in good years, but is liable to periodical droughts; (2) land which even in good years has an insufficient rainfall or an excessive evaporation. For a long time nothing was done to improve the first class; the droughts were accepted as a natural order, for which Providence compensated by sending superabundance in the following year. The second class was called “ desert”; it was neglected, or used for a few sheep. This passive acquiescence began to be abandoned about 30 years ago, and every recent drought has stirred men to make better provision against the next. Hence the formulation of irrigation schemes, the borings for artesian water, and the development of “dry farming. Irrigation, which has become a partner of closer settlement, began with Mildura (Vic.) in 1887, and in spite of initial misfortune caused by faulty equipment and salty soil this colony grew steadily, until in 1916 a population of over 6,000 was living on 12,000 acres, and producing fruits to the annual value of £680,000. Other places were similarly treated, and to-day over 20,000 square miles in Victoria are artificially supplied with water. Renmark (S.A.) began in 1893, and the 5,200 acres which then would scarcely sustain 500 sheep, now hold a population of over 3,000. The terrible drought of 1902-3 gave a strong impetus to irrigation, and the big scheme for the Murrumbidgee area was decided upon 'in 1908. This plan, when carried out, will make available sufficient water for 1,000 square miles, and provide land for over 50,000 people. In Tasmania irrigation and hydro-electricity will probably work in conjunction, while the Murray River is at long last being more thoroughly dealt with in order to irrigate large new areas, estimated at 3,000,000 acres, now of little use. Meanwhile the value of reafforestation is being recognized, and increased plantations may do much in some parts to prevent erosion and check evaporation.

But irrigation is impossible in those enormous tracts of Central Australia where rainfall is slight and rivers virtually non-existent. Here it was soon discovered that some water could be obtained from subterranean sources, and in 1879 the first artesian bore was made in New South Wales. Others quickly followed, and up to the present about 4,000 bores have been sunk, of which two-thirds are in Queensland. The deepest bore goes to 5,000 ft., and the biggest yield for one well is 4,500,000 gallons per day. Artesian work has not always proved successful, for many bores have failed to draw water, while in other cases the water is so heavily charged with chemicals as to be useless. Still, the artesian well has been a great boon, and along with irrigation has increased the area of "safe" lands and reduced the terrors of drought.

The Tropical North. The treatment of the tropical north is the least successful feature of Australian settlement. Climatic conditions, the scarcity of labour, the absence of means of transit, and the preoccupation of development work further south, all are responsible for the neglect of the north. For nearly fifty years (1863-1910) the Northern Territory was in the hands of South Australia, but proved too big a problem for an already busy state to solve. A railway was constructed and much experimental work done; low rents, easy entry and cheap land were offered, but all with little result. In 1911 there were only 1,370 Europeans in the whole Territory, and the land lay practically idle. The transference of control to the Federal

« AnteriorContinuar »