The Comparative Method

From: Origin of Property in Land
by: Fustel de Coulanges

IV. On the application of the comparative method to this problem.

It is impossible to deny that the comparative method is not only of use but also absolutely indispensable in dealing with a subject of this kind. In order to discover the origin of property in land among mankind it is plain that every nation must be studied; at any rate every nation that has left any trace behind it. Some part of this work of comparison had already been attempted by Maurer; but he had limited himself to the Slavonic and Scandinavian countries. A great and powerful writer, Sir Henry Maine, has applied the comparative method to India. But the first to attempt what I may call “universal comparison” is, if I mistake not, M. Emile de Laveleye, in his work, “On Property and its Primitive Forms” published in 1874. His theory is that the agricultural groups of the whole world, from India to Scotland, for a long time cultivated the soil in common and that “the history of all lands reveals to us a primitive condition of collectivity.” M. de Laveleye is an economist; but it is by historical evidence that he endeavours to support his thesis, and it is this evidence that I shall now proceed to test. His reputation either as economist or moralist can receive no injury from a purely historical discussion.

He passes in review one after the other (I am following the order of his chapters) the Slavs of Russia, the island of Java, ancient India, the German Mark, the Arabs of Algeria, the ancient Moors of Spain, the Yoloffs of the coast of Guinea, the Afghans, the ancient Greeks, the ancient Romans, England, the Southern Slavs, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Here we have peoples of every race, every degree of latitude, and every age; yet this list does not include all nations. To mention only some of the ancient world, we do not find here the ancient Egyptians, the ancient Jews, or the ancient Assyrians, peoples which, nevertheless, are much better known than the Yoloffs, the Javanese, or the ancient Germans. Why are they not here? Can it be because all the documents concerning them, however far back we may go, bear witness to the custom of private ownership, and do not show a trace of community in land? It is certain that the history of Egypt shows the existence of property from the remotest times. It is certain that contracts for the sale of land have been discovered upon Babylonian bricks. It is certain, also, that the sacred books of the Jews refer to property and the sale of land as far back as the time of Abraham (Genesis XXIII.) Was it for this reason that they were omitted in the universal comparison of all nations? But as our author was seeking a general rule for the whole human race, and says that he has found it, he ought not to pass over a single people of whom we know anything. When one seeks to construct a general system, the facts which contradict it must be presented as well as those in its favour. This is the first rule of the comparative method.

Having insisted on this omission, of which every one will see the importance, I shall consider one by one the nations spoken of by our author, and verify his assertions.

  1. Among the Slavs of Russia M. de Laveleye observes the mir, i.e., a village dividing its soil annually or every few years among its members. In this mir he recognises an association with common ownership of the soil. “The mir alone” he says, “owns the land, and individuals have nothing more than the enjoyment of it, turn and turn about.” On this I have two observations to make. In the first place, the Russian mir is only a village and a small village, the population rarely exceeding two hundred souls; it always cultivates the same land; so that if this be a communistic group it is at any rate one which is confined to a narrow radius. The mir by no means represents a “tribal community” still less a “national community.” One cannot conclude from the mir that the Russian nation follows a system of agrarian communism, or that the soil is the property of the whole nation, or that the soil is common to everyone; so that the example departs widely from the thesis that is sought to be maintained.

In the second place, if we examine the mir as it was before the reforms of the last Czar but one, we discover that the mir is not owner of the soil, but is itself owned by some one else. In the mir, lands and men alike belong to a lord; and lord and land-owner are one. M. de Laveleye does not deny this fact; he even recognises “that the mir pays the rent to the lord collectively.” This single fact makes the whole theory fall to the ground. Since the soil belongs not to the mir, but to some one else, the mir does not represent agrarian communism. It is a village, like all our villages of the Middle Ages, which is the private property of a single individual; the peasants are only tenants or serfs; the only peculiarity about it is, that these peasants who pay rent for the land collectively also cultivate it collectively.

It is true that there are certain theorists who say: “It is probable that there was a time when the landlord did not exist, and when the land was possessed in common by the peasants.” This is precisely what would have to be proved. They ought first to prove that the landowner or lord at one time did not exist, and next that the peasants then possessed the land in common. Now these are two propositions in support of which no one has ever been able to bring forward proof or even an appearance of proof. On the contrary, according to M. Tchitcherin and other writers who have studied the subject, it has been proved that the association of the mir has only been in existence for three hundred years; that it was created in the year 1592; and that far from being the result of a spontaneous and ancient growth, it was instituted by the act of a despotic Government, by an ukase of the Czar Fédor Ivanovitch. Before this epoch land in Russia was an object of private property; so one is led to believe by the documents of donation and bequest quoted by M. Tchitcherin. I am aware that the question is still warmly discussed and remains obscure; but so long as documents proving the existence of the mir before the 16th century are not produced, we must continue to doubt whether the mir is an ancient institution at all. So far as we know at present, it only came into existence with the feudal period; it forms one of the wheels of the feudal organisation in Russia—a group of serfs, which the Government requires to cultivate its land m common, so as to be more sure of the payment of the rent. Far from being collective ownership, the mir is collective serfdom. That, at any rate, is what appears from the material in our possession. Theorists are at perfect liberty to hope that new documents will come to light which will show the contrary. Till then, it is impossible to bring forward the mir as a proof that the human race once practised agrarian communism.

  1. M. de Laveleye passes on to the island of Java, and describes the condition of things there in a chapter full of interest; in some places the soil is cultivated in common, it is in others annually divided. But I cannot help noticing that throughout he is speaking of the present time. He describes the condition of things as they are now. He makes use of the regulations of the Dutch Government, of laws of 1853, of parliamentary reports of 1869. The furthest date to which he goes back is to certain regulations of 1806. And yet, since he is dealing with the problem of the origin of property, what one wants to hear about is the ancient state of things. I am aware that some people will at once say such a system must be old;” but a student who has any critical instinct will rather say that the present existence of such a system proves nothing at all in relation to earlier times. And, indeed, we read in one of the reports on which M. de Laveleye relies, that “this system began with the cultivation of indigo, sugar and coffee for the benefit of the Dutch Government.”[1] The sort of communism we are now considering would in this case be but a recent institution, a creation of the European conquerors. It is true that others make it commence earlier, with the cultivation of rice.[2] This is easily explained: “Rice growing in water requires a system of irrigation, which would be impossible without association; and this necessity gives rise to the practice of common cultivation.” It has been ascertained how these villages arose. “Several families agree to establish a system of irrigation in common. As the water has been brought by the co-operation of all, the result is that the land irrigated by it is cultivated by all.”[3] But it is apparent that the soil does not belong to the nation or the tribe; it belongs to a group, an association. An association of proprietors is not communism; it is one of the forms of property.

We must also observe that private property does exist in Java. In six out of the twenty provinces of the island that alone is to be found, and association is unknown; in eight the two methods are practised side by side; in six association is only practised on the rice fields and irrigated lands, and the rest of the land is held entirely as private property. From these facts I cannot draw the conclusion that community in land was a primitive and natural institution in the island of Java. We meet with it only under modern circumstances, and even here we must recognise that it is less a community than an association.

  1. Our author next devotes a few words to ancient India, and here I shall imitate his brevity. He gives but one reference; a sentence from Nearchus, the officer of Alexander the Great. I shall give it first as translated by M. de Laveleye, and then as it really is. “Nearchus informs us that in certain districts of India the land was cultivated in common by tribes, which, at the close of the year, divided the crop among them/’ Now the Greek signifies: “In other parts the work of agriculture is carried on by each family in common, Kara o-vyyevetav KOLvy-} and when the crops have been gathered each person takes his share for his support during the year.” [4] We see that M. de Laveleye had overlooked the words [Kara o-vyyevetav]. He has mistaken a community of the family for a community of the tribe. I know that many people only too readily identify the two things; but a little attention will show that they are essentially different. When a family, even though it may form a large group of persons, cultivates its land in common, this is not agrarian communism; it is merely an undivided family and undivided family property.
  2. M. de Laveleye next speaks of the Germanic mark. Here he does not do more than reproduce Maurer’s theory, on which he relies without apparently having verified a single one of his references.
  3. Then follows a chapter on agrarian communities amongst the Arabs of Algeria, the Moors of Spain, the Yoloffs of the coast of Guinea, the Mexicans, the Caribeans, the Afghans and the Tchbrbmisses. A story or sentence from some traveller is quoted about each of these nations. As to this I have one remark to make: there is nothing rarer or more difficult than an accurate observation. This truth, which is recognised in all other sciences, ought also to be recognised by every one who is dealing with history; for history is precisely that one of all the sciences in which observation is most difficult and demands the greatest attention. A traveller makes the general statement that amongst the Caribeans or the Yoloffs he has seen a partition of land, or has been told that such a thing was customary. But has he observed between whom the partition took place ? Was it amongst the members of the same family, or amongst all the inhabitants of the same village, or between the villages and all the various parts of the tribe or nation? These are shades of differences that a hasty traveller cannot notice, and that an historian equally hasty refrains from inquiring into. And yet, the character and consequences of the partition depend altogether upon the answer to this question. The study of a social system is a serious undertaking, and one not often to be met with in travellers’ tales.

And then we must ask whether, side by side with certain facts reported by travellers, there are not others which contradict them. You see common land among certain Arab tribes; but it must also be noticed that the Koran recognises private property, and that it has existed among the Arabs from time immemorial.[5] There are other nations where you may meet with examples of land held in common, but where, nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that private property greatly preponderates. In Spain, for instance, we are told that “in certain villages the land is divided anew each year amongst the inhabitants.”[6] In how many villages? Two ardent inquirers, whose only desire was to find proofs of this community in land, M. Oliveira Martins and M. de Azcarate, found it in onty four villages in the whole Iberian peninsula.[7] Perhaps you will think that these are vestiges of an earlier state of things that may once have been general. Not at all. It has been proved that in these four villages the system of common ownership did not appear until the twelfth or thirteenth century, A.D.; and the particular causes which led to its appearance are well known. This kind of community was, therefore, neither general nor ancient. M. de Laveleye also mentions a village community in Italy; but it is one which was only created in 1263. A certain estate of about 5000 acres had till that date belonged to a private owner; that is, it had been precisely the opposite of common property. In 1263 the owner, who happened to be a bishop, gave it to the tenants, on condition that they held it in common. Can a few isolated facts like this prove that mankind used to hold land in common in primitive times?

  1. M. de Laveleye’s theory would be incomplete and insecure if he did not manage to bring in the Greeks and Romans. He does little more than repeat the authorities used by M. de Viollet. Like him, he believes that the legend of a golden age—of an age, that is, when man did not till the soil (for this is the distinctive and essential point in all these legends),—is a proof that nations held land in common at a period when they did till the soil; he even adds that “he is forced to arrive at the conclusion that the ancient poets depicted in the golden age a state of civilisation (sic) of which the recollection had been handed down to later times.”[8] Like M. Viollet, he quotes the passages from Virgil, Tibullus and Trogus Pompeius without looking to see whether these passages describe a condition of civilisation or one of barbarism. He tells us what Porphyrus says about the 2000 disciples gathered together by Pythagoras in his phalanstery. He quotes the sentence from Diodorus about the Lipari isles; without seeing that it distinctly describes the institution of private property. Trusting in M. Viollet, he borrows his pages on the copis and the Spartan [crvcro-iTia]; for, like him, he believes that these common meals, from which Aristotle tells us that the poorer Spartans were excluded, were “a communistic institution.”[9]
  2. de Laveleye also believes that the division of land at the founding of each city implies an earlier stage in which the city cultivated the land in common. He does not notice that this division, taking place at the very moment when the city is founded, is not the result of an earlier state of communism. It is the earliest fact to which we can go back. So soon as a band of emigrants have made themselves masters of a territory, they parcel it out in lots with complete and hereditary ownership. With very rare exceptions, a Greek city did not hold or cultivate land in common for a single year.

These lots were called [KXrjpoi] in Greek, sortes in Latin, because they were originally drawn by lot. M. de Laveleye, noticing these two words, at once concludes that the drawing by lot took place every year (p. 85). This is a mistake. Out of all the cases where you find mention of a partition, you will not find one in which it was annual or periodical. In every case the division referred to takes place once and for all, in perpetuity.[10] Each portion is henceforward hereditary in the family to which it has fallen by lot; and this is the reason why [kAtj/sos] had the meaning of inheritance and sots signified patrimony.

The prohibition against selling the land, i.e., against separating it from the family in order to transfer it to another family or even to bestow it on the State, appears to M. de Laveleye a proof that the land belonged to the State (p. 166). It is merely a proof that according to the ideas of the ancients it ought always to belong to the same family. M. de Laveleye reproaches me with having, in the Cité Antique, attributed this prohibition of sale “to the influence of ancient religion.” The phrase gives an incorrect idea of my meaning. What I showed was that family property was closely bound up with family religion. Sale outside the family was not permitted because ancient law and ancient belief connected the land with the family. The land belonged to the family, not to the individual. It was the same, in my opinion, amongst the ancient Germans and the Slavs; and hence it was that amongst all these nations ancient law did not permit the sale of land.

For the same reason bequest was prohibited among the Greeks, Italians, Germans, and Slavs in the early period of their law. The land must pass to the son or the nearest relations. For the same reason, again, the daughter did not inherit; because by her marriage she would have carried the land out of the family. All these facts, which it is now impossible not to admit, are unmistakable signs of a condition in which property belonged to the family. They are all directly contrary to a condition of communism.

  1. de Laveleye also lays great stress upon Sparta; only he omits to mention that private property was established there from the first beginning of the city, and that every [nXrjpos] remained attached to the same family down to the revolution of Cleomenes, i.e., for eight centuries.[11] To make up for that, he tells us of certain imaginary brotherhoods, “which must have played an important part in the social body;” a statement for which there is no authority. He adds that Sparta “had a wide extent of common land;” for which also there is no evidence: and that “this common land was used to provide for the public meals;” which is directly opposed to the definite evidence we do possess.

He accumulates quotations, but they are inexact. He refers to Aristotle (Polit. vii., 10); but all Aristotle says is that men began by being hunters and shepherds; does that imply that when they became agriculturists they held the soil in common? He quotes Virgil, who in the Æneid (xi. 315) says that “the Aurunci tilled the land in common;” turn to the passage; the expression “in common” is not there; M. de Laveleye has unconsciously added it himself. Every writer does this who is under the influence of a fixed idea.[12] Speaking of Rome, he declares “that he sees a proof of primitive community in the common meals of the curiæ and he does not notice that these repasts of the curia only took place on certain festivals, and that they were sacred feasts, as we are expressly told by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who witnessed them. “The curiæ” he says, “with their priests, perform sacrifices and eat together on feast days.” This is not an agrarian community; it is a religious communion. Suppose that a stranger, seeing a number of good Christians communicating in our churches, declared that he saw in this a proof that the French held their land in common! A little farther we read: “The law of the Twelve Tables preserves a trace of common ownership; for in default of the proximus agnatus the gens is preferred to the other agnates.” There is nothing resembling this in what we have of the law of the Twelve Tables; the gens was never preferred to the agnates. Our author quotes, it is true, the following sentence, which he attributes to Gaius: in legitimis hereditatibus successio non est: gentiles familiam habento, which is said to be in Gaius iii., 12; but look in Gaius for this extraordinary sentence, and you certainly will not find it. Thus, alike for Greece and for Rome, M. de Laveleye has got together a number of authorities; but there is not a single quotation that is exact, or that has the meaning he attributes to it.

  1. We now come to the Southern Slavs, i.e. the Bosnians, Servians, and Bulgarians, who, in their turn, have to furnish arguments in support of the theory.[13] This chapter of M. de Laveleye’s is the most interesting in the book, the most curious, and, in my opinion, the most exact. Only I do not see how it bears upon the problem with which we are occupied. It is very true that the Servian or Bosnian village often cultivates its land in common. But this village is composed of a small group of from twenty to sixty- persons, who dwell in four or five houses built within a single enclosure; and the land belonging to it seldom exceeds sixty acres. Look at it closely, and you will see that this little village is nothing more than a family. M. de Laveleye recognises this (p. 204). The brothers as a rule keeping together and the family continuing to form one undivided body, the property remains united like the family. The land is cultivated in common and the produce is consumed in common, under the direction of the head of the family. This is described by M. de Laveleye with zest and ability; but it is not community in land; it is the common ownership of the family. We have seen it amongst the ancient Greeks; in the most ancient Roman law; amongst the Germans; and now we find it amongst the Servians. The family forms a small village; it keeps to itself on its own land; and this land is a common possession which has belonged to it from time immemorial. It must be added that all the characteristics which accompany family ownership amongst the Greeks and Germans are to be found here. The custom of bequest does not exist, nor does that of gift or sale. All the members of a family are common owners of the soil, and consequently they alone are the heirs. Anyone leaving the family loses his rights over the land; anyone entering it by adoption has the same rights as those who were born into it. Except that the chief is no longer the eldest member or the son of the eldest, but the one whom the rest elect—a change which naturally came about in the course of time—this family resembles in every other respect the ancient Greek family. But that the soil belongs to the nation or the tribe there is not the slightest evidence.
  2. M. de Laveleye now comes to the allmenden of Switzerland. He tells us “that never was there a more radical democracy than that which was to be found in primitive Switzerland” and he describes the landgemeinde, “which goes back to the earliest times” (pages 270 et seq). “The Allmend,” he says again, “presents the ancient type of true justice, which ought to serve as the basis for the society of the future” (p. 282).

I should like to learn, however, whether these allmenden really do come down from remote times. Our author tells us so, but without bringing forward any kind of proof. He declares “that they go back to the patriarchal period” (p. 291), “that they have lasted for thousands of years” (p. 281). It is easy to say this; but on what evidence does it rest? Private property exists in Switzerland, and our author cannot point to any epoch in which it did not exist. If we examine the law of the Burgundians and of the Alamanni, by which the country was first governed, it is private property we find, not common ownership. If we examine the charters down to the 12th century, we still find private property. The allmenden of today certainly date back some six or seven centuries. Can they be traced farther back than that?

And what exactly are these allmenden? Do we see in them a system of non-division of land, a system, that is, under which the land, being considered the common property of the whole people, is not supposed to belong to anyone individually? By no means. Private property is in full force in Switzerland, side by side with the allmenden. The allmenden are only a part of the land of each village and indeed the smallest part, a tenth, or, at most, a fifth. They are usually forests, mountain pastures, or marshes, and include very little land capable of cultivation. Private property is accordingly the dominant fact; common ownership only concerns accessories.

The allmenden are just what is to be found in every country; they are the village commons. It would be interesting and instructive if we could discover their origin, just as it is interesting to inquire into the origin of the commons in France. But village commons do not in any way prove a general system of common ownership; and no one has yet been able to prove that they are the outcome of such a system. We know that when the Romans founded a colony, they instituted private property from the very first; but at the same time they reserved a portion of the soil, which was to be the common possession of the new city. And to go farther back, we know that Rome herself, from the time she first appears in history, had an ager publicus at the same time as agri privati, and that the Greek cities also had a [yrj hgxoa-ia]. This public land was in no way an indication that the people lived a single day without individual estates. The allmenden of Switzerland are commons of the same character as we find everywhere else. Each village has its own; and they are the property of the village, which sometimes sells them, lets them to the highest bidder, or sells the wood upon them, to defray the expenses of its school or church. Frequently the commons are left for the inhabitants to use as they like; and they get wood from them, graze their cattle there, or cultivate small portions. But it is important to notice that only those who own land in the village have any rights of enjoyment over the allmend. I refer chiefly to the condition of things before the last forty years; for only quite recently have such rights been extended to mere residents and the inhabitants generally. In essential characteristics the allmend is not common property; it does not belong to all; it is held in common by people who are already owners of land. It is an appendage of private property.

  1. de Laveleye has written some beautiful passages on the usefulness of these commons, on the mistake which has been made in France in their general alienation, and on the happy results produced by them in Switzerland, both in almost entirely preventing the growth of absolute destitution and in attaching the poorest peasant to his native soil. These considerations are just, profound, and inspired by generous feeling, although but little applicable to modern society. But we are now considering them in relation to the supposed common ownership of land; with that the allmenden have nothing to do, and they prove nothing as to its earlier existence.
  2. M. de Laveleye finally refers to the Scotch townships as a proof of primitive community.[14] In the more distant parts of Scotland, especially in certain islands lying to the north-west, we find groups of people who hold the land of a village in common and divide it amongst themselves in separate lots every year. Is this a system of land communism, or, as it is called, collective ownership? At the first glance one would think so. But if you are not satisfied with a first glance and look further, you will observe that the village belongs to a single person, the landlord. The peasants are nothing more than the cultivators. M. de Laveleye cannot help recognising this: “The land of the village” he says, “is let to them by the owner.” Again: “The land does not belong to them; it is the property of a landlord to whom they pay rent for it.” The cultivators act together as an association “with the consent of the landlord;” and there are villages in which the landlord does not allow this collective system of occupation. “They have a head who is generally appointed by the landlord.” The rent is paid collectively. We have a description of the township in a work published recently. The house of the lord, the domus dominica of our charters, stands in the centre of the village, by the side of the church.[15] It is built of stone; and around it, at a little distance, stand the dwellings of the “villeins” built of mud and thatched with straw. The villeins owe their lord rent and certain personal services.

We see from this that the Scotch or English township is not a community which owns its own land; it is the property of an individual owner, and the only thing about it which is collective is the cultivation. The township is really a private estate; and the group of peasants who till it in common are the tenants. Ownership and tenancy are two distinct things, which must not be confused. To be owners in common is very different from being tenants in common under a landlord. We find in France also, throughout the Middle Ages, instances of tenancies in common; and I know that there are writers who are quick to identify them with ownership in common.[16] But this is a mistake which no one can make who has any accuracy of thought; for it is quite evident that whilst the land was cultivated by a common group of peasants, it belonged to a lord who stood above them. The Scotch township has no connection whatever with an ancient system of community in land.

M. de Laveleye puts forward an hypothesis; he supposes that there was an earlier period in which the township belonged to the peasants themselves, and the lord, whom we find in later times, did not exist. But this is a mere hypothesis unsupported by a single document or a single fact. He goes further and maintains that this system of village communities was in force throughout the whole of England in the Saxon period. But there is no evidence for this in the Anglo-Saxon laws; they give not the slightest indication of it. The tuncipesmot is not community in land; nor is the folcland. We must never lose sight of the fact that history is based upon documents, and not upon hypotheses or flights of the imagination. When M. de Laveleye says that “the English manor has destroyed the old village community” he makes an entirely hypothetical generalisation. To imagine the manorial lord of the Middle Ages as a warrior who has forcibly set himself over a community of free men, is to show that one knows nothing of the documents from the fifth to the tenth centuries, and that one has an altogether childish idea of the origin of feudalism.

To come back to the comparative method. I believe that it is infinitely fruitful; but only on condition that the facts which are compared have a real resemblance to one another, and that things which are widely different are not confused. When you bring together the Scotch township which is nothing more than an association of tenants, the Russian mir which seems to have long been only an association of serfs, the Servian village which, on the other hand, is a household community, and the allmend or commons which are a consequence and accompaniment of private property, you confuse things which are absolutely different, and which, moreover, are very far removed from the system of community in land that you are anxious to prove.

It is needful to come to an understanding as to what the “comparative method” really is. I have observed that, during the last fifteen years or so, there has been a strange misapprehension on this point. Some writers maintain that to compare any facts, no matter what, is to apply the comparative method. They search all over the world for peculiar usages; they cite the legend of the golden age amongst the ancients as if it were an historical fact; they seize upon a trifling circumstance which occurred in the Lipari Isles as if it related to the entire Greek world; they seize upon some custom, such as public repasts or the festivals of the curia; thence they pass to the Russian mir and talk of it as if they knew all about it; then they describe a township or an allmend; and, in short, whenever they find an instance of anything that is done in common, at once they suppose that they have discovered community in land. They pretend they have discovered the most wide-spread institutions of the human race by the help of some few instances that they have sought for far and wide, and that they do not take the trouble to observe accurately. And, what is a more serious matter, they omit and leave out of their consideration facts which are constant, normal, well-authenticated, which are engraven in the laws of all peoples, and which have made up their historical life. They give us a few isolated facts and turn our thoughts away from permanent institutions. This is not the comparative method.

If you wished to employ the comparative method it would first of all be needful to study each nation in itself, to study it throughout its history, and above all in its law. Should you wish to know if the ancient Greek cities held their land in common, you must study Greek law. For the Romans, you must go over the whole history of Rome; for the Germans, you must take German law. M. Viollet and M. de Laveleye make frequent references to ancient India; why do they not mention that in all the ancient Hindoo law that has come down to us the rights of private property are sanctioned, although, of course, the holding of property in common by co-heirs is also recognised? Why has no one quoted the old maxim: “The land belongs to the man who first clears it, as the deer belongs to the man who first wounds it”? They prefer to quote certain customs, whose importance they enormously exaggerate, rather than present to us the rules which were constant and normal. The comparative method does not consist in discovering amongst fifteen different nations fifteen little facts, which, if interpreted in a certain manner, unite in the construction of a system; it consists in studying a number of nations in regard to their law, their ideas, all the circumstances of their social life, and in discovering what they have in common and wherein they differ. I greatly fear that this comparative method, when it shall he seriously applied, will give very different results than those that MM. Viollet and de Laveleye believe they have obtained from the comparative method as they understand it.

[1] M. de Laveleye, De la propriete collective du sol, in the Revue de Belgique, 1886, p. 60 of the reprint.

[2] Ibidem, p. 49.

[3] Ibidem, p. 65.

[4] Strabo, xv., 1., 66, edit. Didot, p. 610: [nap’ aXXo»y de Kara ovyyeveuiv KOtvrj tovs Kapnovs ipyacrapevovt, enav avyKoplauiatv, atpeodat eieaa tov els diarpo<pf)v tOv erovs]. If one reads the whole chapter, one sees that Nearchus, who distinguishes between general and exceptional institutions, [vopovs, tovs pev koivOvs, tovs 8* Id lovs], includes this among the exceptional.

[5] See the work of M. Eug. Robe, Origines de la propriPe immobiliere en Algeria, 1883—a volume which is full of facts.

[6] Em. de Laveleye, De la propriété, p. 105.

[7] Id., La propriété collective, in the Revue de Belgique, 1886. pp. 2-24 of the reprint.

[8] Em. de Laveleye, De la propriété p. 152.

[9] Ibidem, p. 161.

[10] Save in the exceptional case described by Diodorus in the Lipari islands.

[11] This is shown by Heraclides of Pontus in the Fragmenta this, græc., of Didot, vol. II., p. 211; and by Plutarch, Life of Agis, 5. To this can be added the other texts cited in my Etude sv/r la propriety a Sparte, 1880. See also the work of M. Claudio Jannet.

[12] In the same way he cites Ailian, Y. 9, as saying that the inhabitants of Locri and Rhegium cultivated the land in common. What Elian says is that “the cities of Locri and Rhegium have made a treaty which permits the inhabitants of the one town to settle on the territory of the other.” Of common cultivation there is not a word. These authorities are given in the article by M. de Laveleye, in Revue de Belgique, 1886, pp. 9 et seq. of the reprint.

[13] De la propriété et de ses formes primitives, p. 201.

[14] La propriété collective du sol, in the Revue de Belgique, 1886. He repeats the argument in the Revue socialiste, 1888, p. 452, and in the Revue d’économie politique, July, 1888.

[15] Isaac Taylor, in the Contemporary Review, Dec., 1888, referred to by M. de Laveleye.

[16] E.g., M. P. Viollet in all the latter part of the article already referred to.