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THE PROGRESS OF GREECE.
“ A STRUGGLE, equal in duration to the war which Homer sung, and in individual valour not perhaps inferior, has at last drawn to a glorious close ; and Greece, though her future destiny be as yet obscure, has emerged from the trial regenerate and free. Like the star of Merope, all sad and lustreless, her darkness has at length disappeared, and hei European sisters haste to greet the returning brightness of the beautiful and long-lost Pleiad.” These are the closing words of a book which, since the appearance of Finlay's work, bas probably had few English readers, Emerson's " History of Modern Creece;" when they were written in 1830 Capodistria was still President of the new State, and three years were yet to pass before King Otho should arrive at Nauplia. During the half-century which has nearly elapsed since then,
" the European sisters ” have not always been so gracious to “the long-lost Pleiad;" indeed they have sometimes been on the verge of hinting that the constellation which they adorn would have been ncarly as brilliant without her. But at least there can no longer be any excuse for alleging that Greece has been a failure without examining the facts. Her record is before the world. The necessary statistics are easy of access to any one who may desire to form an independent judgment. The last few years have been especially fertile in works replete with information on the political, social and economical condition of the country. Among these may be mentioned the work of M. Moraitinis, “La Grèce telle qu'elle est;" the work of M. Mansolas, “La Grèce à ! Exposition Universelle de Paris en 1878;" the essay of M. Tombasis, "La Grèce sous le point de vue agricole ;” and an interesting little book, full of information and of acute criticism, by Mr. Tuckerman, formerly Minister of the United States at Athens, “The Greeks of To-day." It is often instructive to compare Mr. Tuckerman's observations with those made more than twenty years ago by his countryman, Mr. H. M. Baird, who, after residing for a year at Athens and travelling both in Northern Greece and in the Morea, embodied the results in his “Modern Greece.” Lastly, Mr. Lewis Sergeant, in his “New Greece," has essayed a double task-to show statistically how far Greece has advanced, and to show historically why it has advanced no further. Detailed criticism would be out of place here. Mr. Sergeant's book cannot fail to be useful in making the broad facts concerning Greece better known to the British public. It is the only compendium of recent information on Greece which exists in English ; and we welcome it accordingly.
In the following pages only a few of the salient points in the condition of modern Greece can be noticed. The facts and views presented
here are derived both from study and from personal observation. They are offered merely in the hope that some readers may be induced to seek fuller sources of knowledge regarding a people who, by general consent, are destined to play a part of increasing importance in the East.
The prosperity of Greece must always depend mainly on agricul. ture. No question is more vital for Greece at this moment than that of recognising the causes which have checked progress in this direction, and doing what can be done to remove them. It was with agriculture as with every other form of national effort in the newly estab. lished kingdom; it had to begin almost at the beginning. The Turks had left the land a wilderness. The Egyptian troops in the Peloponnesus, after burning the olives and other inflammable trees, had cut down those which, like the fig-trees, could less easily be destroyed by fire. There was scarcely a family in the country which had not lost some of its members. The Greek peasantry was too poor and too wretched to aim at mors than a bare subsistence by the rudest methods of husbandry. It should never be forgotten in estimating what Greece has done in this department, as in others during the last forty years, that in the earlier part of this period progress was necessarily very slow. The first workers had to construct everything for themselves, or even to undo the work of the past before they could get a cleaż start. Hence, when the rate of recent progress is found to have been rapid, the favourable inference is strengthened. Including both the Ionian and the Ægean islands, the Kingdom of Greece contains about fourteen millions and a half of acres. Nearly one-half of this total area is occupied by forests, marshes, or rocky tracts, and is not at present susceptible of cultivation. An inquirer who asks what proportion of the total area is actually under cultivation is surprised at first sight by the discrepancy of the different answers. Thus, to take two extremes, M. Mansolas says "nearly one-third,” Mr. Tuckerman says “one-seventh," though it must be remembered that Mr. Tuckerman is writing six years earlier than M. Mansolas. The chief source of such discrepancies is that the higher estimates include the fallows, while the lower exclude them. M. Tombasis, who has written specially on Greek agriculture, is probably a safe authority on this point. According to him, one-fourth of the total area is under cultivation, but of this nearly one-half is always fallow. Hence not much more than one-seventh of the total area is productive at any given time. One-fourth, therefore, of the territory which might be cultivated is not under cultivation at all. But it is satisfactory to learn from M. Mansolas that some 500,000 acres have been brought under cultivation within the last fifteen years. The population of the-Kingdom is about a million and a half. It is computed that from one-third to one-fourth of this population is engaged in agricultural or pastoral pursuits. The increase since 1830 has been large in all the staple agricultural products, and in some it has been remarkable. The cultivation of olives has increased about three-fold since 1830; of
figs, six-fold; of currants, fifteen-fold; of vines, twenty-eight-fold. The progress of the currant trade has been tolerably steady since 1858. M. Moraitinis puts the area occupied by currant-vines at nearly 40,000 acres; M. Mansolas, at even a higher figure. The average yearly pro duction of currants, before the Greek War of Independence, was about ten million pounds weight. It has lately risen to upwards of a hundredand-fifty million pounds weight. The produce from arable land is stated to have increased fifty per cent. in the last fifteen years.
Creditable progress has been made, then, by Greece in all the chief branches of her agriculture; in some branches, even great progress. And yet competent observers are generally agreed that Greek agricul. ture is still very far from doing justice to the natural resources of the country. The causes of this defect deserve the earnest attention of all who wish to see the prosperity of Greece set on a firm basis. Mr. Ser. geant touches on every one of the separate causes : but he does not prosent them, perhaps, quite in the connection or in the proportions best fitted to make the general state of the matter clcar. Want of capital is unquestionably the great want of all for Greek agriculture. But, if abundant capital were forthcoming to-morrow, it would still have to con. terd with a special set of difficulties created by the want of capital at the critical moment nearly fifty years ago. After the War of Inde. pendence the Greck lands which the Turks had left-on receiving a large compensation at the instance of the Powers—became the property of the Greek State. Few walthy purchasers were found. Part of the land was granted by the Government in small lots to peasant holders, subject to taxes on the produce. A great part was left on the hands of the Government and remained
unproductive. The system of small Lold. ings, the petite culture, has lasted to this day--the partition of land being especially minute in the mountainous districts and in the Ægcan islands. This system has been a constant bar to the introduction of scientific farming. The average agriculturist has been too poor and too ignorant to attempt it. The mode of taxation-a mod'Sication of the old rayah system-is such that, as IIr. Tuckerman says, "the husband. man suffers delay in bringing his crop to market, -losos by deprecia. tion while awaiting the tax-gatherer's arrival, -and finally in the tax to which it is subjected.” The importance of encouraging better methods of farming has been recognised from the earliest days of Greece. Capo. distria, when Presidert of the Republic, founded in 1831 an Agriculte...] School at Tirynth. This was, on the whole, a failure, and was closed in 1865. “It was replaced,” IIr. Sergeant says, “by a more technical rohool, which seems to have had no better fortune than its predecessor." II. Mansolas, however, gives a somewhat more encouraging account of the new institution, and it may be hoped that it will yct do good work. But the case of Greece is widely different from that of a country in which the land is occupied chiefly by an educated class of large cr con. siderable land-holders. In Greece each several holder of one or two acres has to be converted to scientific farming before agricultural ro. form can make way. And the natural conservatism of an agricultural population is intensified by the fact that in these matters every man has hitherto been his own master, with no obligation beyond the payment of his taxes to the State. It is not even the ambition of the peasant farmer to get as much out of the land as he can. The difficul. ties of communication limit his market, and he is usually content if he can satisfy the wants of his household, with perhaps a narrow margin of profit. Tradition and the influi nce of climate combine to make thesa wants few and simple, and so to restrict the amount of energy employed. In Greece, as elsewhere, it is in one sense a misfortune that the peasantry are contented with so little. Again, the population of Greece is thin-excluding the Ionian Islands, it has been computed at fifty-eight to the square mile—and the system of small holdings increases the dearth of agricultural labour. The destruction of the forests in Greece has been due mainly to the long unrestrained recklessness of the peasants and to the depredations of the wandering shepherds with their flocks of goats. The destruction of the forests has in turn injured the climate and helped to dry up the rivers. The Greek government has not been insensible to these evils, but it has had to contend against deeplyrooted prejudices and traditions—those, namely, which were engendered by Turkish rule. Good results may be anticipated from a law lately passed, which permits the tax-paying tenant of public land to buy it from the State, and to pay the purchase-money by instalments spread over eighteen years. This should tend to bring in a better class of agriculturists, and also by degrees to enlarge the cultivated area.
The want of roads in Greece has been an obstacle to agricultural industry, as to enterprise of every kind. Seaboard towns sometimes import their wheat when there is an amplo supply at a distance perhaps of a day's journey inland, simply because the transport by mules or horses would be too expensive. Mr. Tuckerman computes that there are about two burdred miles of “good highway" in Greece Proper; and if by “good” is meant "thoroughly practicable for carriages," this is perhaps not far from the mark.* The fact is that there has been no great demand for roads on the part of the unambitious agricultural class
, and the country, with its already heavy burdens, has felt no sufficiently strong incentive to proceed vigorously with a work of such heavy cost. Roadmaking is expensive in a country so full of rocky tracts and intersected by frequent chains of hills : the average cost for Greece has been estimated at 6001. a mile. The pressure which must ultimately compel Greece to complete her road-system will come, not from the agriculturists, but from commerce. Already the exigencies of the currant trade and the silk trade are beginning to open up the Morea. Last summer, in going from Laconia into Messenia, I came on the still unfinished road
Mr. Sergeant states, on official anthority, that "thr ronds of the mainland have an aggregate length of 889,933 kiloinetrcs.” Liead 889 kiiometres, 933 metres: i.e, about 550 miles,
which is being made from Kalamata to Tripolitza, and followed it for some way. A few more such first-rate highways would be the greatest of boons to the country. There is still no continuous road between Kalamata and Patras; there is nothing worthy to be called a road between Tripolitza and Sparta. The poet tells us that, when Apollo passed from Delos to Delphi,
The children of Hephæstus were his guides,
Making a wild land smooth; and every modern tourist will echo the wish that the rising Polytechnic School of Athens may produce some more “road making sons of Hephæstus.” But it would be a mistake to infer, from the deficiency of roads which is still felt, that Greece has been inactive in public works. Some dozen harbours have been constructed or restored, lighthouses have been erected at all the dangerous points in the Greek seas, drainage works have been executed in several places, eleven new cities have arisen on ancient sites, more than forty towns and more than six hundred villages have been rebuilt since the war.
The manufacturing industries of Greece have made rapid progress within the last few years. According to M. Moraitinis, the Peiræus* did not contain a single steam manufactory in 1868. It has now more than thirty such establishments; and the kingdom contains in all no less than 112 steam factories. Most of these have been established within the last ten years. There are, besides, about 700 factories which do not use steam. The number of artisans employed is about 25.000, and the annual products represent a value of about six millions sterling. At the Great Exhibition of 1851 Greece was represented by thirty-six exhibitors. At Paris last year it was represented, according to the list of M. Mansolas, by 533. He notes the progress of cotton-spinning, which since 1870 has diminished the importation of that article by nearly two-thirds. The export of Greek wines has also increased very largely. The first building that the traveller sees as he enters modern Sparta is a silk manufactory, and the large mulberry plantations in the valley of the Eurotas attest the growing importance of this industry. Though Government patronage has never been wanting, the rapid progress of recent years has been due, M. Mansolas thinks, chiefly to privato enterprise and to the power of association. This power is gradually overcoming the obstacles long presented by a thin population, by the want of capital, by the absence of machinery, and by the slender demand for luxuries. It is a good sign that whereas in 1845 Greece was importing twice the value of her exports, the ratio of imports to exports has lately been less than three to two. Forty-seven years ago Lord Palmerston predicted a
Sixty years ago the Peiræus–Porto Leone, under the Turks-had well-nigh ceased to be even a port. The traces of its ancient dignity were few and modest. There was a piece of deal boarding, projecting a few feet into the sea, to serve as a landing stage for small boats ; and there was a wooden hut for a guard.