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PEONAGE (Span. peon; M. Lat. pedo (pes)

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Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 125 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PEONAGE (Span. peon; M. Lat. pedo (pes), primarily a foot-soldier, then a day-labourer), a system of agricultural servitude common in Spanish America, particularly in Mexico. In the early days the Spanish government, with the idea of protecting the Indians, exempted them from compulsory military service, the payment of tithes and other taxes, and regulated the system of labour; but left them practically at the mercy of the Spanish governors. The peons, as the Indian labourers were called, were of two kinds: (1) the agricultural workman who was free to contract himself, and (2) the criminal labourers who, often for slight offences, or more usually for debt, were condemned to practical slavery. Though legally peonage is abolished, the unfortunate peon is often lured into debt by his employer and then kept a slave, the law permitting his forcible detention till. he has paid his debt to his master. several smaller streams, while the Moksha and Sura are important means of conveyance. The climate is harsh, the average temperature at the city .af Penza being only 38°. The population consists principally of Russians, together with Mordvinians, Meshcheryaks and Tatars. The Russians profess the Orthodox Greek faith, and very many, especially in the north, are Raskolniks or Nonconformists, The chief occupation is agriculture. The principal crops are rye, oats, buckwheat, hemp, potatoes and beetroot. Grain and flour are considerable exports. The local authorities have established depots for the sale of modern agricultural machinery. There are several agricultural and horticultural schools, and two model dairy-farms. Cattle breeding and especially horse-breeding are comparatively flourishing. Market-gardening is successfully carried on, and improved varieties of fruit-trees have been introduced through the imperial botanical garden at Penza and a private school of gardening in the Gorodishche district. Sheep-breeding is especially developed in Chembar and Insar. The Mordvinians devote much attention to bee-keeping. The forests (22 % of the total area) are a considerable source of wealth, especially in Krasnoslobodsk and Gorodishche. The manufactures are few. .Distilleries come first, followed by beet sugar and oil mills, with woollen cloth and paper mills, tanneries, soap, glass, machinery and iron-works. Trade is limited to the export of corn, spirits, timber, hempseed-oil, tallow, hides, honey, wax, woollen cloth, potash and cattle, the chief centres for trade being Penza, Nizhni-Lomov, Mokshany, Saransk and Krasnoslobodsk. The government is divided into ten districts, the chief towns of which are Penza,Gorodishche, Insar, Kerensk, Krasnoslobodsk, Mokshany, Narovchat, Nizhni-Lomov, Saransk and Chembar. The present government of Penza was formerly inhabited by Mordvinians, who had the Mescheryaks on the W. and the Bulgars on the N. In the 13th century these populations fell under the dominion of the Tatars, with whom they fought against Moscow. The Russians founded the town of Mokshany in 1535. Penza was founded in the beginning of the 17th century, the permanent Russian settlement dating as far back as 1666. In 1776 it was taken by the rebel Pugashev. The town was almost totally destroyed by conflagrations in 1836, 1839 and 1858.
End of Article: PEONAGE (Span. peon; M. Lat. pedo (pes)

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