The finances of Rumania are in a more satisfactory condition than those of most other states of Europe
The peasantry will doubtless no longer be haunted by these hallucinations, for the moral and intellectual progress of the nation has kept pace with its material prosperity since the peasant has cultivated his own land. Officially made a freeman in 1856, but held for several years afterwards in a kind of limited bondage, the peasant now owns at least a portion of the land. By a law passed in 1862, each head of a family is entitled to a plot of land from seven to sixty-seven acres in extent, and ever since that time the peasants have gained immensely in self-respect. His land, though still cultivated with the ancient Roman plough, and deprived of manure, produces immense quantities of cereals, the sale of which brings wealth into the country and encourages progress. Rumania is now one of the great corn-exporting countries of Europe, and in favourable years, when the crops are neither eaten up by locusts nor destroyed by frosts, its exports exceed those of Hungary. In less than ten years the export of wheat, maize, barley, and oats has doubled, and the sum annually realised varies between £4,000,000 and £8,000,000 sterling.
Unfortunately the peasants eat but little of the corn they grow. They are content with the maize, from which they prepare their mamaligo and the detestable spirits which cheer their hearts on a hundred and ninety-four annual fête days. The cultivation of the vine, which was altogether neglected formerly, is likewise making progress, and the produce of the foot-hills of the Carpathians is justly esteemed. The time is past now when "Wallachian" and "herdsman" were synonyms throughout the East. Still, nearly one-fourth of the area of the country remains uncultivated, and the soil is allowed to lie fallow every third year. Moldavia is better cultivated, upon the whole, than Wallachia, and this is principally owing to the fact of the Moldavian boyards residing upon their estates, and taking a pride in their management. Progress, however, is apparent throughout the country, and there is hardly a large estate without its steam threshing-machine. Even the small proprietors are gradually introducing improved methods of cultivation, and in many villages they have formed co-operative associations for the cultivation of extensive tracts of country. (Of the area of Moldo-Wallachia 6,000,000 acres are corn-lands, 600,000 acres produce wine, tobacco, 6,000,000 consist of forests, 9,000,000 of pastures and meadows, and 8,000,000 are uncultivated. In 1874 there were 600,000 horses, 2,900,000 head of cattle, 100,000 buffaloes, 5,000,000 sheep, 1,200,000 pigs, and 500,000 goats.)
Rumania is essentially an agricultural country. The ores of the Carpathians are not utilised, for there are no roads which give access to them. The petroleum wells only supplied 3,810,000 gallons in 1873. Four of the principal salt-works are carried on by Government, partly with the aid of convict labour, and yield annually 80,000 tons of salt. The fisheries are of some importance. The inhabitants on the Lower Danube salt the fish which abound in the river and the neighbouring lakes, and prepare caviare from sturgeons. There are no manufactories excepting near the large towns, and the country is noted only for its carpets, embroidered cloth and leather, and pottery. The housewives are famed for their confectionery.
Commerce is annually on the increase. Its only outlet in former times was the Danube. Nearly the whole produce of the country was carried to Galatz, at the bend of the river, upon which the principal routes of the country converge. For many years to come the Danube will remain the great commercial highway of the country; the Pruth, too, is navigable for small steamers as far as Sculeni, to the north of Yassy; whilst the numerous rivers descending from the Carpathians will always prove useful for the conveyance of timber. New outlets have been created by the construction of railways. Rumania is now joined to the railway systems of Austria and Hungary, and the proposed bridge across the Danube will place it in direct communication with Varna, on the Black Sea. The level nature of the country facilitates the construction of railways, but its inhabitants look upon their extension with a feeling of apprehension, for they fancy that a commercial invasion may bring in its train a military one. (Railroads, 1,800 miles; high-roads, 2,650 miles; telegraphs, 2,500 miles; steamers on the Danube, 29, of 7,620 tons burden.)
The acquisition of the Dobruja has provided the country with another outlet for its produce, for a railway connects Chernavoda, on the Danube, with the port of Kustenje, on the Black Sea, from which more than half a million quarters of wheat are exported annually, and at which the mail-boats from Constantinople call regularly. Formerly, whilst the delta of the Danube was in the hands of the Turks, Rumania had no direct access to the Black Sea, except by means of small vessels, for the mouth of the northern or Kilda branch of the Danube is obstructed by a bar. French engineers proposed to overcome this difficulty by constructing an artificial harbour at some distance to the north, and connecting it with the river by means of an artificial canal. But no necessity exists now for so costly an enterprise, since Rumania has been placed in possession of the Sulina mouth of the Danube. The town at the mouth of that branch has sprung into existence since 1850, at which time only a lighthouse and a few huts of fishermen occupied its site. It is now one of the busiest grain ports of the Black Sea, frequented annually by 2,200 vessels, amongst which those sading under the British flag occupy the foremost rank. The depth of the bar averages 20 feet.