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Gleaning

glean, field, allowed, ing, poor and practice

GLEANING. The practice of glean ing in corn-fields what the reapers of the harvest leave behind is vulgarly supposed to be a legal custom which the " owner or occupier of the field has no right to pro hibit, and that the poor who enter a field for this purpose are not Fuiltyof trespass ;" but the only authority in support of this view is an extra-judicial dictum of Lord Hale. Blackstone, in his' Commentaries,' book iii. c..12, remarks that this humane provision seems borrowed from the Mo saical law (Lei it., C. xix. v. 9, and c. xxiii. v. 22, &c.), and apparently adopts Lord Hale's opinion. The question has, how ever, twice been tried in the Court of Common Pleas. In the first case the defendant pleaded that he being a poor, necessitous, and indigent person, entered the plaintiff's close to glean ; and in the second the defendant's plea was the same, with the addition that he was an inha bitant legally settled within the parish. Mr. Justice Gould gave a judgment in favour of gleaning; but the other three judges clearly decided that the claim had no foundation in law, and that " it was a practice incompatible with the exclusive enjoyment of property, and was produc tive of vagrancy and many mischievous consequences." (1 H. B1., Rep. 51, quoted in Christian's ed. Blackst., Corn., vol. iii. p. 213.) The general custom in all parts of England is to allow the poor to glean, in some cases before the harvest is carried, but more generally perhaps not until afterwards. Persons who are not actually necessitous sometimes avail themselves of permission to glean, and by commencing their labours as soon as it is daylight, they gain as much as they would have done from the wages which they would have earned if they had been employed by the farmer to secure the crop. In this case the privilege is abused, atd the com munity not benefited. In some districts

the flirmers meet together and establish rules for regulating the practice of glean ing, with a view of protecting themselves, and likewise of confining the privileges to the necessitous poor of the neighbour hood. The following are rules which were agreed upon at a meeting of farmers in Hertfordshire, 11th August, 1845:— 1, That no person shall be allowed to glean in any field, until the day after the corn shall have been carted and the field cleared ; 2. That no person be allowed to enter the fields for the purpose of glean ing until after eight o'clock in the morn ing, or to remain therein after six o'clock in the evening; 3, That no able-bodied labourer above sixteen years of age and under sixty shall be allowed to glean in any of the fields situated within the pa rishes [above named] ; 4, That any per son or persons found breaking the rules laid down in the foregoing resolutions shall be considered a trespasser, and pro secuted accordingly. In some cases the only restriction is as to the hours when gleaning is allowed ; and this is a very proper one, as in the absence of any rule gleaners have been known to commence before three o'clock in the morning, that is, before daylight, and while the crop was still in the field.

The following table is from a paper prepared by Dr. Kay Shuttleworth, on the earnings of agricultural labourers in Norfolk and Suffolk (Journal of Statisti cal Society of London, vol. i., p. 183), and it professes to show the value of corn gleaned by 388 families :— The total value of gleanings of the 338 families was 423/. 12s., and the average for each family 1/. Is. 10d., which was one-fifth of the average harvest wages of each of the same number of families.