LANDED PROPERTY IN EGYPT AND TURKEY.
Landed property has undergone many vicissitudes in Egypt;(1) and yet the cultivation has hardly altered under the various systems. Under the Pharaohs,(2) the soil seems to have belonged to the sovereign. The Koran sanctions the same principle: nevertheless the Caliphs for the most part respected the hereditary transmission of its occupation or enjoyment. After the Turkish conquest, the Sultan Selim applied the principle of the Koran more rigorously. He formed many lands into a domain, and appointed a Defterdar to administer them. The old occupiers were henceforth only regarded as usufructuaries. The successor had to purchase the continuation of the tenancy by a tax arbitrarily determined. The mamelukes took advantage of their power to seize possession of lands, and the class of moultezins was thus formed. They were about six thousand in number; and their right was nearly that of absolute ownership. The lands of the moultezins were of two kinds. In one the fellahs had a right of hereditary occupancy, paying a tax to the State, and a rent to the moultezins: the others were cultivated directly by the proprietors; these were the oussieh lands. They had to pay a very high duty on alienation, otherwise they returned to the State. The property of the mosques, waqfs, was very considerable, and constantly extending. Lands were devised or given to the mosques, the right of occupation being reserved, because by this means the State exactions were avoided. For the same reason at the commencement of the middle ages, the allods were transformed into benefices and fiefs. The State, to put a stop to this practice, made its consent necessary to the validity of every gift or legacy to a mosque.
Mehemet Ali applied the principle of the Koran even more strictly than Selim. He endeavoured to bring all the soil into the hands of the State. He took hack the lands of the mamelukes and moultezins, allowing them a certain compensation and a temporary usufruct of the oussieh lands. He also took possession of the waqfs property, except gardens and houses. Mehemet All is known to have treated all Egypt as his private property. He regulated cultivation; established manufacturies and places of instruction; and himself engaged in commerce.(3) It is perhaps the most curious instance of communistic centralization which history tells of. From that time, private property has been gradually reconstituted by the grants of the sovereign or the tolerance of the State. Finally, the edict of Saïd Pasha in 1858 accords to the precarious possession of the fellahs, though theoretically subject to the eminent domain of the State, rights which border on absolute property. Hereditary succession is recognized, even for females. Lands never return to the State except in default of heirs, and, in this case, the village can claim them in precedence of the State.Mortgage is recognized under .the form of a sale à réméré, that is liable to redemption; but notice must be given to the authorities.Whoever reclaims uncultivated land becomes proprietor of it. The government cannot eject anyone, except on payment of a fair indemnity. It must, however, be added that by means of the tax, the government effectually takes rent from the lands of the fellahs; who, both in person and property, are really in its hands.
Lands are divided into two classes, the moulk lands, over which the occupiers have full power of disposition; and the mirieh lands, the occupiers of which are mere usufructuaries. Theoretically, the latter cannot be transferred without the authority of the sovereign. The greater portion of the soil is mirieh.
There is also a distinction between acherieh lands of Mussulman origin, subject to the tithe in virtue of the Koran, and the kharadjié lands, formerly conquered, but left in the hands of the vanquished inhabitants, conditionally on the payment of tribute. The sovereign at one time made grants of lands on condition of military service. These were the zimmets and timars, or great and little fiefs. They were only descendible in the male line. These fiefs have been abolished. As in the Mark or in Java, when the cultivation is abandoned, the soil returns to the State. Cultivation is the condition of occupancy and of ownership.
The constitution of property in Turkey is similar to what it is in Egypt. We here transcribe a sketch of it, as given in some interesting letters, which appeared in the Economiste français (September, 1873).
With the exception of the Mulk lands which are private property, the soil has but one proprietor,the State. This, however, is the classification of land as established by the old law (Multequa), the principal provisions of which have been re-enacted in the law at present in force, that of June 21, 1868:
1. Mulk lands, the absolute property of individuals;
2. Emirié land, the domain of the State, granted by it, on certain conditions, to individuals;
3. Vacoufs, property that is tied up. The vacoufs cannot be compared to what we understand in Europe by lands in mortmain, because, besides the grants made for a religious object, they comprise a great quantity of individual property tied up with an entirely different motive, and on a peculiar system which will be explained;
4. Metrouké lands, belonging to the State, and granted by it for public use;
5. Mevat (dead) lands, belonging to the State, and granted to individuals at its pleasure.
MULK LANDS.One might suppose, from the meaning of the word mulk, that these lands were all free, and that there was no difference between them. Such a conclusion would, however, be incorrect.
These lands are, in fact, divided into four classes; and the rate of taxation is not the same for all. Thus there is the melkiiet, the uchriiè and kharadjiiè. Melkiiet land is that of which the ownership is governed entirely by the rules of the religious law. Uckriiè, or tithe land, is that which was divided, at the time of the conquest, among the conquerors, and given them in full ownership. Kharadjiiè lands are those which, at the same time, were left, on recognized titles, in the possession of the natives (non-Mussulmans). These kkaradjiiè lands are subject :some to the kharadji-mouquaumè, that is the proportional tax, which, according to the importance of the produce, may rise from one-tenth to one-half of the harvest; the others pay the kharadji-muvazzat, a fixed tax on the land. Uckriiè and kkaradjiiè land, on the death, without heirs, of the owner, returns to the State domain, and becomes émirié laud.
Thus there exist even for mulk lands, legal intricacies, which in practice are an impediment to their free alienation.
EMIRIE LANDS.Emiré lands, constituting the larger portion of the territory of the Empire, belong to the State. They are derived, in great measure, from the old fiefs, which were granted to military chiefs, on condition of their rendering personal aid, at the head of a certain number of horsemen, in wars offensive or defensive. These fiefs were of two sorts: the Timar (in Persian, to nourish or tend) and the Ziamet (from zaim, chieftain).
The law of April 21, 1858, abolished these fiefs. It declared that they were to return to the State; and that the lands dependent on them were to be granted to the inhabitants severally. The provisions of the law have been observed, and the present state of things is as follows:
The grantees received titles (tapou) establishing their right of grant (teçarruf). The explanation of these two terms will shew that in reality the holder of lands so allotted has no right of ownership. What, then, is the teçarruf and what is the tapou?
The teçarruf signifies a mode of grant, which gives the holder, it is true, the right to take the fruits of the property, and even, in some cases, to sell it, but under the express condition of annually paying a specified rent to the State. Moreover, the tributary nature of émirié land is still indicated by the fact that, in certain cases, the holder is obliged to obtain a new title of possession, which, stating precisely the origin and nature of this land, renews, so to speak, the act of vassalage.
The name tapou, which the title of possession bears, also calls attention to the dependent nature of émirié land. Tapou is derived from the verb tapmaq (to render homage, or worship), and hence it bears the sense of act of servitude, or vassalage. In practice, the tapou is a title of possession delivered on the payment of a certain sum, by means of which the right of enjoyment and transmission is secured to the holder and his heirs, on conditions determined by law.
Vacouf lands, that is lands tied up for religious purposes, are very extensive in Turkey. They comprise a large portion of the whole territory, and are administered by a special minister, the Eveaf. Vacouf lands are let on lease, but they bring in a very small income, as the law enacts that the lease shall always be granted at the same rent, and will allow of no increase, even where from competition a higher price is offered. The rents having been fixed long ago, the revenue is almost nothing in consequence of the depreciation of money. The holders of vacouf lands have, therefore, a hereditary lease at a nominal rent.
There are two kinds of vacoufs. The religious vacouf, granted or devised for a pious object; and the customary vacouf, which is very similar in its origin to certain benefices of the middle ages.
The customary vacouf is land obtained by the mosques at a price very much below its real value. By a sale of this description, the proprietor grants his land to a mosque, for a stipulated price. The peculiarity of this contract is that the proprietor retains the enjoyment of the land, paying an annual rent (idjarè), regulated by the amount of the purchase-money. Conventions of this kind were subject to no restriction, but were framed simply and absolutely at the will of the parties. Formerly, these conventions were very common, as the grantor derived numerous advantages from them. In reality, he remained master of the property, and occupied it or let it, as he pleased; in case of debts, the property, being vacouf was protected from judicial procedure. On his death the vacouf returned, it is true, to the Evcaf, if he had no heirs in the first degree; but he could in some measure obviate this inconvenience by assigning his rights to another person. Finally, by this means, he withdrew his property from liability to the Chefâia, or "retrait vicinal," exercised by every proprietor over land contiguous to his own, and giving him precedence, in case of its sale, over every other purchaser. The mosque, on its part, found the following advantages in the arrangement:a safe investment for its funds, guaranteed by the land; exemption from repairs, which the tenant had to execute; the benefit of all repairs and improvements carried out on the property; the duties which had to be paid to the mosque on the proprietor disposing of his rights in favour of a third party (droits de Moukatea); finally, the right of succession to the property, which devolved absolutely on the mosque, on the death of the tenant without children.
Vacouf lands as well as émirié land were in no way set free by the laws of May 21, 1858, and of June 18, 1867. Since the promulgation of these laws, as well as before, they have borne in the highest degree the character of "immobilisation' and dependence from the State.
The following are briefly the restrictive provisions, which in actual practice encumber émirié lands, as well as the greater portion of vacoufs.
The meadow land on these domains cannot be broken up and brought into cultivation without permission of the authorities. The occupiers are forbidden to work these lands for the manufacture of bricks or tiles, without similar permission. On contravention of thin rule, they will have to pay the price of the land so used, according to its value in the district. No occupier may plant, on his authority, any vines or fruit trees to form a vineyard or garden. In case of contravention, the Treasury has, for three years, the power of removing the trees. After that time, the use of the fruit trees belongs to those who planted them, subject to an annual payment of tithe. In any case, trees, whether fruit-bearing or not, belong to the State, the occupier only taking the produce. No new buildings may be raised on émirié land, without previous permission from the proper authorities. If this rule is infringed, the administration may order the destruction of the buildings. The holder of land by tapou (émirié property) may sell it to whomsoever he pleases, subject however to the express condition that he has previously obtained permission of the competent authority. Without such sanction, any sale of émirié land is null and void. If the occupier of an estate, on which there are mulk trees, sells it to any other than the owner of such trees, the owner of them shall be entitled for six years to claim the land, and to recover it on payment of its value at the time he makes his demand.Land sold to an inhabitant of another village may be recovered, any time within a year, by the inhabitants of the village in which the land is situated, on re-payment of the purchase-money. This communal retrait has existed everywhere. All land, which shall not be cultivated directly by the holder, or indirectly by way of loan or lease, and which shall remain idle for three consecutive years, shall be submitted to the formality of tapou, whether the holder be present or absent. Such land shall be put up for sale, and adjudged to the highest bidder.
The holders of émirié and ineveoufé lands are not entitled to mines discovered on the property of which they are usufructuaries, nor to claim any share in them.Mussulman land cannot pass by descent to non-Mussulman relatives. The sale and grant of émirié lands on conditions held to be illegal by the religious law shall not be valid. This sanctions all kinds of arbitrary and vexatious proceedings against non-Mussulmans, the religious law being very severe against them.
1. The data in this chapter are borrowed from a note of Colucci Bey on property in Egypt, in the Bulletin de l'Institut égyptien; from a treatise of the advocate Gatteschi on the same subject, and from notes collected in Egypt in 1869.
2. Herodotus relates (Bk. ii. c. 109) that "Sesostris divided the soil of Egypt among the inhabitants, giving each a portion of land of equal extent, and deriving his principal revenue from the rent which the occupiers had to pay every year."
3. Histoire de l'Égypte sous le gouvernement de Mohamnzed-Ali, by F. Mengin.