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Following its traditional policy of rewarding unsung patriots,--peasant families of more than sixteen children for example,--the French government through the Ministry of Agriculture has undertaken to glorify honest and persistent toil by awarding to any farmer-proprietor who can prove that his forbears have cultivated the same plot of land for over a hundred years the order of "la Merite Agricole". Somewhat to the consternation of the Ministry the number of applicants who have come forward with proofs is relatively overwhelming. Some families claim that they have won the award several times over. One peasant has presented proof that his ancestors have remained possessors and in constant occupation of the same piece of land since 1023; which would give him a lineage going back to the time of the second of the Capets, rivalling the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry II, in Germany and having a generation's headstart on William the Conqueror.
Small wonder that the Ministry of Agriculture is alarmed. Here is a peasant aristocrat, overturing at one blow all pretensions of such upstart houses as Bourbons, Hapsburgs, Hohenzollerns, and Plantagenets to antiquity. Renan's famous remark that if the rights of ownership were religiously observed, Alsace-Lorraine would belong to the aboriginal apes, is nearly true to a lesser degree in this French farmer with his nine hundred year old ancestry. As far as, claims to aristocracy are concerned the line of this peasant proprietor going back over three hundred years before the rhyme.
"When Adam delved and Eve span Who was then the gentleman" was thought of, is the most distinguished on earth.
If nine hundred years of unremitting reaping and sowing are not as good a claim to nobility as exists anywhere, at least he deserves the Merite Agricole and a couple of Legion d'Honneurs besides!
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