Page images
PDF
EPUB

could not but produce an immediate effect upon the labour of the country, since the enfranchised peasant will certainly not, in his present state of civilization, work for hire if he can supply his few wants by working on his own account. Two causes, therefore, which are operating simultaneously, threaten to deprive England of no inconsiderable portion of those supplies of food for which she must now look to foreign countries. The plains of Hungary are formed by nature for the growth of corn. Their present production can be increased immensely, and all that is wanted is a cheap communication with the sea and a moderate rate of freight. A railroad running from Pesth, and connected with the Trieste and Vienna line, was opened for traffic in 1861, and the exports of grain from Hungary were immediately quadrupled. Hungarian wheat is not inferior to the best Odessa wheat; and in a most interesting and instructive paper on the resources and trade of Austria which was read before the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce in November last by Mr. Somerset Beaumont, one of the representatives in Parliament for that borough, it was stated that Count Edmund Zichy, whose wheat always obtains the preference in foreign markets, had offered to sell the whole of his crops for a period of five years for 33s. per quarter, delivered at the railway station.

There is another aspect in which the importance of increased supplies of grain from the Austrian provinces may be regarded, namely, the very probable diminution of cereal cultivation in England, in consequence of the preference now given by many farmers to the rearing of stock. This subject has for some time created much discussion among our agriculturists, and a paper was recently read before the London Farmers' Club,* strongly recommending a change in the traditionary system of farming. The special fitness of our climate for the growth of green crops, grass, and roots, was especially dwelt on, together with its unsuitableness for grain-crops, compared with those countries with which the farmer has to compete. The propriety of laying down all inferior arable land, especially on the western side of the island, in grass, was strongly urged. Exposed to all the boisterous winds and rains of a northern climate, our island, it was said, is placed under very unfavourable conditions for the production of wheat, a fact amply confirmed by the uncertain yield and frequent failure of our harvests. The cereals, it was remarked, are natives of a warm climate. Wheat, requiring a high temperature to bring it to perfection, thrives best on the dry continental plains; and the best samples of grain which we are ever able to show are invariably the produce of a hot summer. The mean summer temperature of the British Islands varies from 54°. to 64o. On the

* By Mr. R. Smith, of Emmett Grange, South Molton.

best

great Hungarian plains, and other districts of the Austrian empire, the average summer temperature is from 73° to 77o. England is therefore placed relatively under very disadvantageous conditions for the production of corn, while she need fear no rival in the raising of stock. The demand for meat by a rapidly increasing population is enormous ; it costs less to produce; grazing and feeding require a smaller capital than arable farming, and they involve less risk. A change in the present character of our husbandry, by laying down a larger proportion of the land in artificial grasses, pasture, and green crops, seems therefore highly probable. The profits of stock-feeding must necessarily increase, while the gains from the production of wheat will probably diminish. The British farmer has to compete in cereals with the most highly favoured countries of both hemispheres; as a breeder of cattle and sheep he may challenge the competition of the world.

The forests which clothe the sides of the great mountainranges of Bohemia, Styria, Croatia, Transylvania, parts of Hungary, Dalmatia, and the Tyrol, have at last been turned to profitable account. We have observed that in 1856 Austria imported fire-wood; she now exports it. Hungary is rich in oak timber, much of which is well adapted for shipbuilding; and whenever the port of Fiume is connected by railway with the interior, the export of one of the most important staples of the country will doubtless be largely increased. England has hitherto received the greater portion of her materials for ship-building from the Baltic; but, although the tendency now is to build the larger ships of our mercial marine of iron, a valuable trade may be expected to spring up in an article which will always be in demand. The hemp of Hungary is quite equal to that of Russia. It was used in our dockyards while the supplies from the Baltic were suspended during the Crimean war, and it gave unqualified satisfaction. The importance of obtaining a regular supply of an article so necessary for our navy, from a country with which our relations are never likely to be otherwise than friendly, need not be insisted on. Hungary is well adapted for its growth, and it supplied us at a time of need with a considerable quantity, although, the demand being unexpected, there was no increased cultivation to meet it. Its growth could be greatly extended in Hungary. The same may be said of flax, for the Vol. 114.-No. 227.

production

com

с

Magyars retain to a considerable extent their Asiatic character. Their country now constitutes nearly one-half of the Austrian empire; and from the day that the leader of a nomadic tribe subjugated the country, it may be said that Hungary until towards the middle of the eighteenth century did not enjoy ten years of uninterrupted peace. The introduction of an Asiatic element into the very heart of Europe has necessarily considerably affected the material condition of the territory thus occupied. The Magyar is still essentially a Tartar in his habits, his occupations, and his tastes. He is a herdsman by descent and by inclination; and the peasant shepherd as he stalks over the illimitable plains in his white sheepskin robe might, from his noble bearing and majestic step, be mistaken for a prince of the desert. The magnanimous nature of the Magyar, his language, his Oriental pride, and more than Oriental hospitality, his natural dignity, and even his occasional languor and listlessness, all unequivocally denote his Asiatic derivation and proclaim him of a peculiar race. The Hungarian is rarely a merchant, neither is he by preference an agriculturist, as the steppes of Thibet seem almost reproduced in the great Hungarian plain; to rear horses and tend cattle and sheep are the principal occupations and enjoyments of the Magyar. The villages almost look like encampments, for the houses are built low and apart from each other like tents.

If these people are so distinctly marked, even among the many diversified races of the Austrian empire, the same may be equally said of much of the remarkable country which they inhabit. Hungary is a vast plain sloping to the south, and is surrounded on every side by mountains of different degrees of elevation. The greater part of the country consists of two levels—one 36,000 square miles in extent, or 4000 square miles larger than Ireland. No one portion of this great tract rises 100 feet above the level of the Danube ; and, with the exception of a few sandy districts, it comprises some of the richest soil in Europe. The territory which extends from Pesth to the borders of Transylvania, and from Belgrade to the vine-clad hills of Hegyalja, is an almost unbroken level with boundless capabilities of production. The delta of the Nile does not surpass it in fertility. In the hands of a people more advanced in the arts of life it would have long since swarmed with population, and have presented an unexampled picture of agricultural wealth. A large portion of it yet remains the most neglected, the most inadequately peopled, and, with the exception of Turkey, the least improved portion of Europe. The Magyar, even when he applies himself to agriculture, displays chiefly his Asiatic indolence

and

and carelessness. No ploughs were used in Hungary until lately but those of the rudest description ; harrows were formed from the branches of trees; and the grain is trodden out by horses or oxen in the open field, and then stored in holes dug in the earth. Much of Hungary presents at the present day almost a virgin field for agriculture, and a moderate application of capital would speedily convert it into one of the finest corn-producing districts in the world.

The Austrian empire comprises, since the loss of Lombardy, an area of 11,252 Austrian square miles; and, Switzerland excepted, it is the most mountainous state in Europe. The mountain regions constitute indeed full three-quarters of its area. Austria thus maintains the third rank in geographical importance among the nations of Europe, Russia containing 75,150, and the united kingdoms of Sweden and Norway 13,760, geographical square miles. The Alps, the Carpathians, and the Transylvanian mountains enclose the great Hungarian plain, screening it from the chilling winds of the north, and giving to it some geological features which differ from those of Poland. The Adriatic washes 250 miles of the coast. The geological characteristics of so vast a country are, of course, extremely diversified, and include almost every kind of rock, and every quality of soil. The greater part of the empire lies within the temperate zone.

The last Census of 1857, which did not include the army, shows a population of 34,439,067 souls; but it is computed that in the beginning of the year 1862 the empire contained 35,795,000 inhabitants, of which Hungary possessed rather more than 10,000,000, nearly one half of whom are Magyars. This large population is thus divided in respect of race and language : Germans

8,200,000 Bohemians, Moravians, and Slovacks 6,300,000 Poles ..

2,200,000 Russians

2,800,000 Slovenians

1,210,000 Croats

1,360,000 Servians

1,470,000 Bulgarians

25,000 Magyars

5,050,000 Italians (inclusive Ladins and Friauls) ) 3,050,000 Eastern Romans ..

2,700,000 Members of other races

1,430,000 A large proportion of the population (24,874,000) profess the Roman Catholic faith ; about 6,600,000 are members of the Greek Church and its branches; while the remainder are chiefly Protestants and Jews.

The

The comparative cultivation of Great Britain, France, and Austria is exhibited in the following table, derived from a trustworthy source :

[blocks in formation]

This table, which, however, was formed before the separation of Lombardy from Austria, suggests some important considerations. The proportion of land altogether uncultivated is nearly equal in Austria, Great Britain, and France; the mountains and commons of England, Scotland, and Wales, and the bogs of Ireland, corresponding to the Alpine provinces of Austria and the marshes and sandy districts of Hungary. In Austria the proportion of land in tillage is about equal to that in Great Britain, and the produce of the most fertile districts of Lower Austria is certainly not less than that obtained from similar soils in England; but in an estimate of comparative value of the agricultural produce of the three countries we have the following results :Approximate value in francs

Austria. of agricultural produce (not

6,900,000,000 4,000,000,000 including live stock) in Bri

3,000,000,000 tain, France, and Austria The area in tillage, either continuously or by rotation, is 3582 square miles, of which the alluvial district of the Danubian valley, a portion of Moravia, the north-east of Galicia, part of the Bukowina, and pre-eminently the great Hungarian plains, are the most prolific. The quantity of oats produced is considerably greater than that of any other grain, being about double that of wheat; the proportions of wheat, and barley, and

Britain.

France.

+ The calculation having been made before the separation of Lombardy from the Empire, the proportions would vow of course be considerably more unfavourable to Austria.

« PreviousContinue »