Roumania Past and Present eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 315 pages of information about Roumania Past and Present.
debt, and this fact speaks volumes for the industry of the peasants.[59] The change did not, however, end there.  About five or six years since State lands were allotted to about 50,000 of the peasants who were too young in 1864 to profit by the emancipation; and this was done on still more favourable terms, the land being sold at the old prices of 1864, although it had risen greatly in value, and the purchase-money repayable in fifteen years.  Now, to all intents and purposes, every peasant is the proprietor of his holding, and one of the wisest things done by the Roumanian Government was to pass an act before the expiration of the ‘obligations rurales,’ which prevented the alienation of their holdings by the peasantry for a period of thirty years; otherwise a portion of the land would have fallen to usurers and harpies who were speculating on being able to secure it when it came into possession of the nominal proprietor, by advancing loans upon it, as they do upon that of the improvident landlords.

But this leads us to the dark side of the picture.  The industrious peasantry, who form the large majority, have paid for their allotted lands, and a great many continue to buy from the indigent boyards.  Many are, however, still embarrassed, and some even in virtual servitude, this being the result of their own indolence and misconduct.  For a large number of idle or destitute peasant holders, being unable to pledge their land in consequence of the act just named, are forced to sell their labour for one, two, or more years in consideration of money payments by their landlords, such contracts being permitted by the State and enforced by the local authorities and by custom and public opinion; that is to say, the breach by a peasant would reduce him to starvation, as no one would supply him with the necessaries of life.  As nearly as we have been able to ascertain, about one-third of the whole peasantry are owners of their holdings without hypothecation, are doing well, and buying up additional land; about the same proportion are in possession of their holdings, but find it necessary to pledge their labour for one year, or perhaps a somewhat longer period, whilst the remaining third are practically serfs on their own farms.[60]

[Footnote 59:  For exact particulars of peasant tenure see Appendix IV.]

[Footnote 60:  Comparing this statement with the fact that the ‘obligations rurales’ were almost extinguished in 1880, it is clear that the embarrassed and idle peasants must be only small holders.  The information was given to us by the gentleman best acquainted with the history and effect of the land emancipation.]

IV.

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