ePub 版

Yale University


1850.JJAN 2 '40


of life, depends the success of every other employment. It is agriculture that builds up our crowded cities, covers our fields with yellow grain, and diffuses life and vigor throughout the land. It is agriculture that supports our gigantic manufactories, ringing from their basement to their attic with the music of free labor, and causes our ten thousand ships to dance upon every rolling billow, and spread their sails to every propitious gale. Says Lord Erskine, in his political romance called Armata, “ You might as well hope to see the human body in active motion, when palsy had reached the heart, or a tree flourishing after its roots were decayed, as expect to see manufactures, or arts, or industry of any description, progressive, when agriculture has declined.” Paralize it, and you weaken the pulse of enterprise, stiffen the fingers of machinery, and clip the wings of commerce. Destroy it, and you bury in one common grave, national power and individual prosperity

Having thus briefly noticed the paramount importance of agriculture, let us next consider its transcendent influence in fostering a spirit of patriotism. It has been well said, that " a prosperous agricultural district is not without patriots to defend it.” The occupation of the farmer seems to be peculiarly adapted to bind men by the strongest ties to their country. “ All history tells us, that those who till the soil

, are the first to defend it, and the last to desert it. Others, in case of invasion, may collect their property and flee, but the farmer is compelled to beat back the enemy, or witness the devastation of his home and fields. In every nation where unfettered agriculture is the employment of the mass of the population, there the fire of patriotism burns bright. Who has not admired the attachment of the hardy Swiss to their smiling rocks and valleys! Whenever the tide of devastation has rolled towards the Alps, and the foeman's cannon thundered among her eternal cliffs, her sons, like the wild chamois, have bounded from their mountain homes, to fight to the last in defense of their "green craggy land.” And in our own country, whenever the rough clarion of war has sounded, our unterrified farmers have removed the clouds that hung over our destiny, as the morning sun dispels every noxious vapor!

But this is not the only salutary influence arising from agriculture. What other occupation is so well calculated to preserve unimpaired the functions of the body! The husbandman engaged during the greater part of the day in the most healthful labor, is generally free from the diseases incident to a sedentary life. No nightmare disturbs his

repose, no narrow workshop, amid the dust and smoke of the “pent city füll,” plants the destroyer in his frame, but rising with the lark and inhaling the fragrant breezes of the morn, he retires to sweet sleep, after invigorating toil.

“ Ye who would wear a body free from pain,
Fly the rank city.

The rural wilds
Invite, the mountains call you, and the vales,
The woods, the streams, and each ambrosial breeze,
That fans the ever undulating sky.”

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

It can be affirmed, without fear of contradiction, that agriculture, of all vocations, is best capable of yielding pure and solid enjoyment. While numerous vexations attend professional life, while the mechanic pants but for one breath of the fresh air, and while every storm that howls over the ocean reminds the merchant of his tempesttossed property, nothing occurs to ruffle the temper and disturb the feelings of the farmer. Free from the cares and perplexities of other pursuits, his is a quiet existence, surrounded by purity and independence. He has no favors to solicit—no flattery to bestow-no degrading duty to perforin. The intrigues of trade, the plots of politics, and the quiddets and quillets of law, do not occupy his mind. Encompassed by nature in her beauty and grandeur, with peace within and comfort without, happy is the farmer's life, amid the green grass, the bright blossoms, and the glorious sunshine! Says the Hon. Robert C. Winthrop, in a speech delivered at an agricultural dinner at Dedham, Mass., last fall, “ There is no more striking evidence of the estimation in which agriculture is held among the arts of life, than that all men, of all sorts and conditions, seem with one consent to look forward to it, as the occupation of their latter and better years. We rarely hear of a farmer coming down from the country, to exchange his pure air, and clear skies, and ample elbow room, for the smoke, and dust, and din of a crowded city. The footsteps are all in another direction. The mechanic at his bench, the merchant in his counting room, the physician and the clergyman in their studies, the lawyer in his office, the statesman in the Senate Chamber, all seem to indulge a common hope. At the end of the cherished vista of each one of them alike, may be seen a snug farm, a few trees, a strawberry bed, a flower garden, a potatoe patch, and, above all, a quiet, independent, rural home.”

Another benefit proceeding from agriculture, is, its tendency to promote virtue and religion. What other employment is so fitted to subdue the storms of passion, so exempt from evil influences, and so preëminently conducive to the acquirement of that wisdom which surpasseth all understanding! The farmer, remote from scenes of vice and dissipation, free from the rivalships and jealousies which beset most pursuits, and unenticed by the allurements of the race-ground, the gaming-table, and the theatre, meets comparatively few temptations to lead him from the path of virtue. In cities where large bodies of men are thrown together in constant intercourse, vice is apt to spread like a contagion, finding its way to many hearts weakly prepared to resist its insidious advance; but in rural districts, corruption of morals among the mass of cultivators is a phenomenon seldom witnessed, from the fact that agriculturists, for the most part, pursue their labors singly, and are at the same time surrounded by the most beautiful and sublime of Nature's works, which ever coöperate to inspire sentiments of piety, to fill the mind with ennobling reflections, and elevate the soul far above the perishable things of time. In short, there is no other calling in which we are so often referred to the Great Giver of all things, and reminded of our dependence upon Him, whose rain enriches the soil, and whose sun ripens the fields.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


It has frequently been urged against a rural life, that it is incompatible with mental improvement. There is, it is true, a great amount of ignorance among our agricultural population, but this is owing, not to their employment, but to their own culpable negligence. Farming prevents no one from cultivating his intellect; on the other hand, it affords ample leisure to acquire rich stores of knowledge. Instead of contracting, it expands the mind, and instead of narrowing it down to one idea, presents an inexhaustible field for observation and reflection. Agriculture has been too generally considered as a merely physical pursuit, having little or nothing to do with the principles of natural science. Nothing can be more fallacious than such a supposition. There is no avocation more intimately connected with science-none which offers a wider range for the exercise of talent and capacity. The true farmer labors not as a slave at the oar, or the sailor before the mast, but employs his mind, as well as his body; and instead of jogging along in the same track his ancestors trod before him, moves forward in a path illumined by the light of knowledge. The nature and composition of the soil—its adaptation to particular crops--the processes of vegetable development—the inuprovement of breeds of domestic animals--subsoil plowing-fermentation--manures, and numberless other subjects worthy of scientific investigation, all come under his special attention. How then can it be supposed that the husbandman, living in the very "treasure-house of wonders," and engaged in a pursuit in which many of the laws of nature must be consulted and understoud, is unfavorably situated for mental culture ? Have not men, in all ages, distinguished in the Senate, in the Council Chamber, and in the Field, yearned towards agriculture, and gloried in being ranked among the tillers of the soil ? What American has not heard of the farmers of Mt. Vernon, Monticello, Marshfield, Ashland, and Fort Hill, and who, recurring to the far past, is not reminded of the beautiful allusion of Thomson ?

“In ancient times, the sacred plow employed
The kings and awful fathers of mankind;
And some, with whom compared, your insect tribes
Are but the beings of a summer's day,
Have held the scale of empire-ruled the storm
Of mighty war—then, with unwearied hand,
Disdaining little delicacies, seized

The plow, and greatly independent lived.” We had intended to point out a few other advantages resulting from agriculture, to dwell at some length upon the many inducements it offers to all, and to look more closely at its moral, political, and national influence. But the extent to which our remarks have already been drawn out, renders this im sible. Let us next briefly advert to its present condition, and enumerate some of the obstacles which impede its general progress.

Until within a comparatively recent date, but little had been done for the improvement of agriculture. No one who has lived half a cen


tury, can contrast its former with its present state, without being astonished at the beneficial changes which so short a period has wrought. Indeed, some of our most common agricultural implements, as the fanning-mill, the corn-sheller, the cultivator, the horse-rake, and the reaping and threshing machines, are the inventions of the last forty years. Nor is the time long gone by, when a large portion of the land in our older States, instead of increasing in productiveness, was yearly deteriorating, and many a farmer, ignorant of science and unaccustomed to the use of manure or compost, pursued a most exhausting system of husbandry, until an impoverished farm compelled him to “pull up stakes" and turn his face towards the generous soil of the West. But a new era has dawned upon agriculture.

On every side we behold indications of an awakening interest in its prosperity. The clouds which have hitherto enveloped it are now rolling away, and the spirit of improvement, under the impulse of Science, is rapidly developing itself both on this and the other side of the Atlantic !

Of the various causes which are combining to effect this improvement, it

may be well here to mention some of the most prominent. The application of Botany to tillage has contributed, in a considerable degree, to the success of husbandry. Chemistry, too, is rendering essential service to the tiller of the soil. In the hands of men of the highest attainments, it is pushing forward into regions hitherto unexplored, and elucidating the mysteries which, for ages, have surrounded vegetable physiology. Geology, also, the most modern of sciences, is throwing its light upon the pursuit of the farmer.

Its teachings have given, as it were, a new value to the very ground we tread upon. By revealing to men the structure and present condition of the globe, it has done much to eradicate bad habits of cultivation, developed the internal resources of the earth, and, more than all, greatly aided in maturing that system of rotation of crops, by which our lands have been increased three-fold in fertility, and an entire revolution accomplished in agriculture. Nor has Natural History been backward in offering a helping hand to the husbandman. In ascertaining what birds are useful, and therefore to be protected and encouraged, in devising remedies against the ravages of insects, thus saving immense losses, and in many other

ways it has conferred most important benefits, not only upon ourselves, but coming generations. In fact, in these days, Science, in all its departments, has been rendered subservient to the interests of the farmer; and, judging by the brilliant results of the past,

; we have good reason to hope, that it will continue to shower down the healthful waters of improvement, until agriculture, " the art of arts," shall attain the position to which it is entitled.

Agricultural Societies are also producing a happy effect. Of their incalculable power to do good, the tillage of our own country and of Europe abounds in illustrations. By association of mind, labor, and skill, they excite a spirit of generous emulation, bind the freeholders of the soil in closer ties, and diffuse among the agricultural community the results of experience, the lights of science, and the productions of art. On this very subject, Washington thus forcibly expressed

[ocr errors]

himself, in his last message to Congress : “ This species of establishment contributes doubly to the increase of improvement, by stimulating to enterprise and experiment, and by drawing to the common centre the results everywhere of individual skill and observation, and spreading them thence over the whole nation.” The opinion of the Father of our Country has since been fully confirmed, and such societies existing on both hemispheres, are now mighty levers, which, working day by day and all day long, are making themselves felt in every part of the civilized world.

In connection with associations of this character, an Agricultural Literature, both at home and abroad, is giving a great impulse to the cultivation of the soil. It is but a few years since the first agricultural periodical was issued from an American press, to astonish for awhile the public gaze, and then die away, for want of adequate support. That time is past

. Magazines and treatises devoted to the interests of the plow, are now scattered through the length and breadth of our land, awakening the dormant energies of our farmers, bringing the rays of science to a focus, placing the results of competition in direct comparison, extending the knowledge of every useful improvement, and adding millions upon millions to our national wealth and prosperity. In fact, no language can describe, no powers of calculation estimate, the wide-spread influence of such a literature. Under the fostering care of our free institutions, it has already caused the wilderness to blossom as the rose, while, in the future, it points to an unparalleled career of agricultural achievement—to a country extending from ocean to ocean, covered with farms of unsurpassed fertility.

Having now spoken of the principal sources of improvement in agriculture, we next come to the consideration of the causes which are contributing to depress it. Of these causes, we shall allude but to the most important one- -the lack of mental culture among the great mass of our rural population.

It is a lamentable fact that many, very many of our farmers are deficient in education. This, indeed, is the grand obstacle to the progress of agriculture, and against which it is the duty of every true patriot most earnestly to labor. To remove it, to disperse the mists of ignorance and prejudice, to enlighten the planter of the South, the farmer of the North, and the woodsman of the West, is to give free course to the tide of improvement, and to elevate the social position of the tiller of the soil. As long as clouds obscure the mental vision of the men who tread in the furrow, so long will their noble employment be deprived of the advantages of Science, even though the light of knowledge flash on every side, and intelligence circulate as free as the air we breathe. It is education, and education alone, that can raise our agriculture to a heighth of prosperity unexampled in the annals of the world, and cause our yeomanry to stand forth, in every sense, the bulwark of their native land, and the terror of her foes!

But we have already exceeded our limits. It remains only for us to say a few words respecting the influence of the husbandman

the welfare of the republic. When we reflect that in the United States


« 上一頁繼續 »